Monday, 24 November 2014

The Gospel In Leviticus

Leviticus - it's such a strange book.
Is it really worth another look?
It speaks of the God who's holy.
It tells us that He loves us.
It points us to the Lamb of God.
He takes away our sin.

The Gospel In Numbers

Walking around in the desert,
It seems such a waste of time,
Or, was there someting more than that?
Is there a way out of the wasteland?
Yes! There is the promised land.
The Lord is with us in the desert.
He will not leave us there.

The Gospel In Amos

Amos was a herdsman,
Looking after sheep.
Do we catch a glimpse of Someone else,
the Shepherd of our souls?
Jesus is there, just behind the scenes.
He loves us with the best love -
It's better than all the rest.

The Gospel In Jeremiah

He was just a young boy.
Jeremiah was his name.
He had something to say to the people,
Something that they would not forget.
This was more than the word of man.
This was the Word of the Lord.

They may not respond to the Word of the Lord.
They would never forget that they heard it.
What did Jeremiah say to them?
Did he say something new?
No! He said, "Go back to the beginning.
Get back to the Word of the Lord."


The Gospel In Exodus

What an exodus it was!
Was it really a deliverance?
Was it more than a departure?
Departure? - Yes. it was.
It involved the peoples' choice.
They had to follow God's direction.
Deliverance? - That's what it was.
It required the power of God.

The people made their choice.
The power came from God.

God said, "I will do this."
God said, "Will you follow?"
It came from the people.
It came from the Lord.
They called on Him.
He answered them.
"This is what we want."
"This is what I'll give to you." 

The Gospel In Genesis

When I was writing these words, I was thinking of some of the stories in the book of Genesis (the book of beginnings). I was thinking about Adam, Abraham and Joseph - and I was thinking about Jesus!
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It was the genesis of my life.
Things were looking so good.
Then, it all went badly wrong.
What could be done about this?
Could things be turned around?
The devil was running the show.
Where was God in all of this?
Was He there? or Had He gone?
The more I thought about this,
The more I came to see,
The Lord was watching me,
Waiting for me to come home.

It was the genesis of my faith.
What must I do to be saved?
Look away from myself.
Put my trust in Jesus Christ.
Things are looking so good.
They're on the up and up.
The sun  is shining in the sky.
It's not just the sun that's in the sky.
It's the Son who's shining on me.
It's the Saviour. He loves me.
It's the Saviour. He changes me.
It's Jesus. All praise to His Name.

It was the genesis of my calling.
The Lord loves every one.
He calls me to show His love,
To show them His love is real
It's not a love for some of us.
It's love for every one.
Let His love show. Let His love flow.
Let it reach out to every one.

Life is never easy.
Egypt's never far away.
In fact, it's all around us.
It rises in our hearts.
Is there something better?
We may never escape.
We're stuck in the place where we are,
But God is there beside us.
He's with us all the way.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Book Reviews: Christopher Wright, "Deuteronomy"; Scripture, Pannenberg, Bloesch, Bavinck, Eschatology

This link will take you to a number of book reviews.
To find my review of Christopher Wright's Commentary on Deuteronomy, scroll down to near the end of the reviews.
To find my review of Frank Hasel's book, "Scripture in the Theologies of W. Pannenberg and D. G. Bloesch", keep on scrolling down past the review of Wright's book.
To find my review of Hermann Bavinck's book, "The Last Things: Hope for this World and the Next", keep on scrolling down past Hasel's book.  

Book Review: "New Dictionary of Christian Ethics and Pastoral Theology"

This link will take you to a number of book reviews. To find my review of  the "New Dictionary of Christian Ethics and Pastoral Theology", scroll down to the second review.

Book Review: Basil Meeking and John Stott (eds.), "The Evangelical-Roman Catholic Dialogue on Mission"

This link will take you to a number of book reviews. To find my review of Basil Meeking and John Stott (eds.), "The Evangelical-Roman Catholic Dialogue on Mission", scroll down to the fourth review.

Book Review: George Carey, "The Meeting of the Waters"

This link will take you to a number of reviews. To find my review of George Carey, "The Meeting of the Waters", scroll down to the third review.

Book Review: Elizabeth Templeton, "The Strangeness of God"

This link will take you to a number of book reviews which were published in the Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology. To find my review of Elizabeth Templeton, "The Strangeness of God", scroll down to the second review.

Book Review: Donald Bloesch, Holy Scripture

I wrote this review article for the Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology
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Holy Scripture: Revelation, Inspiration and Interpretation Donald G. Bloesch Paternoster Press, Carlisle, 1994; 384pp., £19.99; ISBN 0 85364 589 2 

Reading this book caused me to look back over my own theological journey. In this extended review, I share some of its key elements. They may help others to think about the issues involved in our approach to Scripture as well as stimulating interest in the writings of Donald G. Bloesch. I first became aware of his name when, as a divinity student in the mid-1970s, I read his book The Evangelical Renaissance. Bloesch's approach to Scripture differed from the view I had become acquainted with through reading E.J. Young's Thy Word is Truth: Some Thoughts on the Biblical Doctrine of Inspiration. Bloesch presented a perspective which aimed at being evangelical without being fundamentalist. This is the approach he now argues in much greater detail in this latest book. He distinguishes from both liberalism and fundamentalism. In The Evangelical Renaissance, Bloesch listed a number of theologians who could be associated with this position, among them, G.C. Berkouwer. My reading of Berkouwer's Holy Scripture led me into a thorough-going study of Berkouwer's writings, later published under the title, The Problem of Polarization: An Approach Based on the Writings of G. C. Berkouwer ( 1992). This concern with the problem of polarization lies at the heart of Bloesch's Holy Scripture: 'This book is designed to build bridges between various parties in the church but also to show where bridge building would be a venture to futility'. I was naturally inclined to make connections between Berkouwer's work and Bloesch's 1994 volume of the same title. Noting Bloesch's helpful combination of optimism and realism, I was reminded of Bloesch's statement in an earlier work, The Ground of Certainty: Toward an Evangelical Theology of Revelation (1971): 'The great theologians from Paul and Augustine to G.C. Berkouwer and Karl Barth ... have been able to explain what the faith does not mean as well as what it means.' This commendation can also be applied to Bloesch himself. He is a theologian who will help the reader to discover fruitful pathways while avoiding spiritual cul-de-sacs. In The Crisis of Piety (1968), Bloesch expressed his concern that there should be a healthy balance between devotion and doctrine, which is echoed in Holy Scripture, where he warns against 'reducing revelation to rational information' and 'misunderstanding revelation as an ecstatic experience devoid of cognitive content'. Seeking to maintain the proper balance between faith's rational and experiential elements, he points out that while he does 'not wish to downplay or deny the propositional element in revelation', he seeks to emphasize that 'this element is in the service of the personal'. While I was in the U.S.A. in 1978-9, we heard much about 'the battle for the Bible', revolving especially around Harold Lindsell's The Battle for the Bible (1976), and Biblical Authority (1977) edited by Jack Rogers. This debate lies in the background of Bloesch's Holy Scripture. He has listened to what various people have been saying over the course of the years. Now he makes his own significant and substantial contribution. Following my year in the U.S.A., I had an article published in Reformed Review (1980), 'The Reformation Continues: A Study in Twentieth Century Reformed Theology' (comparing Berkouwer and Louis Berkhof), alongside one by Bloesch, 'The Sword of the Spirit: The Meaning of Inspiration'. The two impressively complemented each other. Bloesch's theme emerges on the first page of his 'preface' to Holy Scripture: '[the Bible's] worthiness as a theological guide and norm does not become clear until it is acclaimed as the sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6: 17), the divinely chosen instrument by which the powers of sin and death are overthrown in the lives of those who believe'. A few years later, in 1987, following some heated debate in Life and Work, my small booklet entitled The Bible laid particular emphasis on the vital connection between the Holy Spirit and the Holy Scriptures, echoing Bloesch. In discussing the difficult and controversial subject of biblical inerrancy, both of us have referred to Berkouwer. Here, under 'The Question of Inerrancy', Bloesch cites Berkouwer: 'G.C. Berkouwer rightly asks "whether the reliability of Scripture is simply identical to that reliability of which we frequently speak concerning the record of various historical events. Frequently, terms such as 'exact', 'precise', and 'accurate' are used for it.. .. Such a modern concept of reliability clearly should not be used as a yardstick for Scripture"'. Seeking to interpret the concepts of infallibility and inerrancy creatively, my booklet also quoted Berkouwer: 'The Holy Spirit in His witness to truth does not lead us into error but into pathways of truth (11 Jn.4). The Spirit, with this special concern, has not failed and will not fail in the mystery of God-breathed Scripture.' Like Berkouwer, Bloesch highlights the profound truth contained in the concepts of infallibility and in errancy. Uncomfortable with the term 'inerrancy' because of its association with 'a rationalistic, empiricistic mentality that reduces truth to facticity', Bloesch insists that he 'wish[es] to retain what is intended by this word - the abiding truthfulness and normativeness of the biblical witness', a truthfulness which is grounded in 'the Spirit who speaks in and through this witness'. In Holy Scripture, Bloesch discusses a wide range of important issues, e.g. 'Scripture and the Church', 'The Hermeneutical Problem', 'Rudolf Bultrnann: An Enduring Presence', 'The Bible and Myth'. I have highlighted his discussion of the  inerrancy debate, whose importance is emphasized by the fact that Bloesch returns to this issue in the concluding section of the book - 'The Current Controversy'. Donald Bloesch is not well known in the U.K. He is the author of over twenty other titles and this volume is the second in his comprehensive seven-volume systematic theology. The first is A Theology of Word and Spirit: Authority and Method in Theology. Holy Scripture (published in the U.S.A. by InterVarsity Press) has Name, Subject and Scripture Indexes. What does this important voice from the U.S.A. have to say to us in our situation? He is concerned about the growing polarization between liberals and Evangelicals - a matter which must surely concern us also. He seeks to be both conservative and progressive: 'I believe in forging a new statement of orthodoxy that stands in continuity with the past but addresses issues and problems in the present'. Bloesch identifies the pitfalls we must take care to avoid: 'We must be wary of a sectarianism that elevates peripherals into essentials, but we must also beware of falling into an eclecticism that draws on too many disparate sources of truth and does not adequately discriminate between truth and error'. I hope that the voice of Bloesch will be a significant one among our students and teachers of theology. 

Thursday, 20 November 2014

The Question And The Answer

 * Our Question: “If a man die, shall he live again?” (Job)
 * God's Answer: "He (Jesus) is risen."

Angels

The words angel or angels appear more frequently in the New Testament than the word sin. They appear more often than the word love. Put the scissors to angels and you are engaged, not in biblical criticism, but in biblical vandalism.

Sproul, R. C. (2009). Who Is Jesus? (Vol. 1, p. 60). Lake Mary, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing.

The Participation Of God's People

John 1:29-42
"Like a mighty army moves the Church of God" - What a great challenge there is in these words from the well-known hymn, "Onward Christian soldiers."
How are we, in the Church, to move forward into the future? How are we to march forward - with God and for God?
Let's look together at three men - John the Baptist, Andrew and Peter (especially Andrew).
As we look at these three men, we'll also look beyond them to Jesus.
Each of these men say to us, "Keep your eyes on Jesus. We are only servants. Jesus is the Saviour."
John and Peter are two towering giants in the New Testament story.
What do we learn from John the Baptist and the Apostle Peter? We learn about the preaching of God's Word, and we learn about the power of God's Spirit.
John and Peter were great preachers. their preaching brought many people to the saviour. When John and Peter preached, the Spirit of God was doing a mighty work in the hearts of many people.
we need the preaching of God's Word, and we need the power of God's Spirit. there is, however, something else that we need. It is something that must never be overlooked. It is something that we learn from Andrew. We need the participation of God's people.
Andrew is rarely mentioned in the New Testament. he wasn't so well-known as his brother, Peter. Andrew could, very easily, be overlooked. He could, so easily, become the forgotten man.We must not forget Andrew. He was the link in the chain. John had told Andrew about Jesus - "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). Andrew told Peter about Jesus - "We have found the Christ" (John 1:41).
When you think of Peter's preaching, bringing 3,000 souls to Christ on the Day of Pentecost, don't forget Andrew. It was Andrew who brought Peter to Jesus.
In today's world, we need people like Andrew. He wasn't like John the Baptist. He wasn't like his brother, Peter. Thousands of people were talking about John's preaching. Thousands of people were talking about Peter's preaching. What about Andrew? Andrew didn't preach to thousands of people, but he did lead his brother, Peter, to Jesus.
 - Andrew heard what John had said.
 - Andrew followed Jesus.
 - The first thing that Andrew did was to find his brother, Peter, and tell him, "We have found the Messiah (Christ)."
 We need the participation of God's people.
You may never preach to great crowds of people, but you can share the love of God with the people you meet. You can tell them that you love Jesus. You can invite them to come to Church. you can invite them to come to the Saviour. You can bring them to Church. You can bring them to Jesus. You can give them a friendly welcome. You can introduce them to the greatest Friend of all - our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.
How do we get from the preaching of God's Word to the participation of God's people? - We need the power of God's Spirit. When the Spirit of God is at work among God's people, things start to happen.There is change, real change - people get changed: changed by God. When God is changing us, we become more like Jesus. we want to live for Him. we want to serve Him. We don't hang back. we get involved - worshipping God, doing His will, working for Him, bringing His Word to others.
In the work of the Lord, there is something for every one of us. This is the great lesson that comes to us from Andrew, Simon Peter's brother.
We began with a memorable phrase from an old hymn: "Like a mighty army moves the Church of God." There's a modern hymn that tells us something else about this mighty army. It's something we must never forget - This mighty army is "an army of ordinary people." What an encouraging phrase this is! We must never say, "We're just ordinary people." We may be ordinary people, but we have an extraordinary God.
How does "an army of ordinary people" become "a mighty army"? - The extraordinary God is working in us. He is changing us. The extraordinary God is working through us. He's giving us something to do for Him. You may wonder, "What can I do for God?" The best answer I can give you is this:
"There's a work for Jesus, ready at your hand.
 'Tis a task the Master just for you has planned.
 Haste to do His bidding. Yield Him service true.
 There's a work for Jesus, none but you can do." (WEC Youth Crusade Songbook, 61).
We may be intimidated by people like John the Baptist and the Apostle Peter. thousands of people were brought to Christ through their powerful preaching (Matthew 3:5-6; Acts 2:41).
When we look at Andrew, we see someone who is very ordinary, and we begin to think, "I could do what Andrew did."
What did Andrew do? Is it within the reach of ordinary people? When we look at Andrew, we say, "This is for all of us." Bringing his brother, Peter, to Jesus - Was this the only time Andrew brought people to Jesus? No! It wasn't. It was the first time that he brought someone to Jesus, but it wasn't the last time. On two other occasions, he brought people to Jesus.
 * Do you remember the wee bit who had 5 loaves and 2 fishes? - It was Andrew who brought him to Jesus (John 6:8-9).
 * Do you remember the Greeks who said, "We want to see Jesus"? - It was Andrew who brought them to Jesus (John 12:20-22).
Andrew may not have been preaching to great crowds of people - but he was doing the work that God had given him to do. He was bringing his family, friends and neighbours to Jesus. He was bringing children to Jesus. He was being a friend to strangers. He was introducing them to the greatest Friend of all - Jesus, our Saviour. Bringing people to Jesus - This is something all of us can do.
Leading people to Jesus is not only our great responsibility. It is also our great privilege.
May God help each of us to be more like Andrew. Andrew was filled with the joy of the Lord. It was an overflowing joy. Let this joy fill your heart and ask God to give you opportunities to share His joy with others. Say to God, "Lead me to some soul. Teach me, Lord, just what to say" (WEC Youth Crusade Songbook, 140).