The Resurrection-The Litmus Test of True Faith

Nearly everyone will celebrate Christmas in some fashion. Most religious people will acknowledge during the Christmas season the birth of a baby named Jesus. Very rarely will you hear of someone arguing the birth of Jesus.

Many will recognise Jesus on the cross. The cross, with Jesus portrayed on it or not, receives recognition in much of the world and certainly it permeates the West. For the most part people accept the death of Jesus.

The vaguely religious have little invested if they simply accept the birth and death of the man Jesus.

Where the religious/superstitious forever part ways with those of true faith occurs at the tomb.

True believers see not just the birth of a baby at Christmas, but the incarnation of God Himself.

True believers see not just the death of a man on the cruel, Roman tool of the cross, but they see the vicarious suffering and death of the Messiah on behalf of His creation.

And at the tomb true believers see not a missing body, or imagine the abducted body of a substitute, but we find the bodily resurrection of Jesus by the action and power of our Triune God.

Celebrate Christmas with me if you will. Acknowledge Jesus Christ on the cross. But if you would be my brother or sister in Christ, if you would journey with me to the presence of God, if you would be a true believer and know the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, then meet me at the empty tomb and worship our risen Saviour.

“Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.

Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.

For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.

If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.

For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”

- 1 Corinthians 15:12-22

Waiting for Revival

Here are some comments on preparing and waiting for revival by Arthur Augustus Reese:

Some short-sighted people imagine that because as yet there has been no great noise amongst us, nothing has been accomplished-but has the farmer done nothing when he has tilled the ground, and sowed the seed? Are all prayers lost that are not at once answered?

Wait till the autumn, and you will see that tilling and sowing are not to be despised. Says the apostle James-“Behold the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruits, and hath long patience for it”.

I have no wish to run before God, and so catch the shell, I prefer to walk behind him, and so get the kernel.

Ultimate Preaching Rules

I have been having a digital clear out this spring of nearly two decades of collected material. One file was labelled “Ultimate Preaching Rules”. I did not write them and have no idea where I found them, but they made me smile. I thought some others might enjoy them too:

Ultimate Preaching Rules

  1. According to your congregation, there are bad sermons and short sermons but there are no bad short sermons.
  2. A life saver mint will last 22 minutes exactly if left lying between the cheek and gum during the normal course of talking. This is a helpful hint to time your sermon. Just don’t make the mistake of putting a button in your mouth instead of a life saver before you get up to preach.
  3. It never fails that when an “Awesome Sermon” is preached, members of the congregation cannot remember the scripture citations or what the sermon was about when the service is over.
  4. When you reach a weak point in the sermon, raise the pitch and volume of your voice to compensate.
  5. Have the congregation stand for the last hymn before the message, to assure everyone starts out awake.
  6. Have a good opening. Have a good closing. The middle with take care of itself if you quote enough scripture.
  7. Every good sermon must contain two good parables and a scripture, or two good scriptures and a parable.
  8. The number of faithful tithers in a congregation and the amount in the offering plate is in direct inverse proportion to the number of sermons the pastor delivers on stewardship and tithing.
  9. The likelihood that someone will walk the isle drops by a value of 10 percent for each minute the sermon goes into overtime.
  10. The louder the congregation sings the longer the preacher should preach.
  11. It is a well kept secret among Music Ministers that the offering total goes up 5 percent each time the third verse of a hymn is skipped (so, that’s why they do that).
  12. Contributions to “special” or “dedicated” funds go up and contributions to the “general” fund go down in direct proportion to the pastor’s popularity.
  13. Almost everyone is capable of being a Pharisee from time to time.
  14. The purpose of a great sermon is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. The latter is preferable to the former.
  15. No matter how hard you have studied and prayed, some sermons seem to barely get out of your mouth before they drop on the floor in front of the first pew.
  16. Whatever scripture you quote and whatever your sermon outline, remember that your verbs HAS to agree with their subjects.
  17. If you wear a big shiny watch, when the congregation starts to doze off you can wake them up by catching light from the back window and reflecting it into their eyes (with a little practice). For extra amusement with some additional skill you can get an extra bounce off of bald heads.
  18. When the congregation starts to lose interest and doze off you can awaken them by saying loudly, “And Finally” or “In Conclusion.” This will only work about four times per sermon.
  19. A good sermon should NEVER generalize.
  20. No matter how hard you may try, sometimes a scripture just will not fit in the sermon you wanted to use it in.
  21. Analogies in a sermon sometimes fit like feathers on a snake.
  22. Murphy must have been a preacher, but at least he was an optimist.
  23. When you lose your place in your sermon notes, a well placed prayer can help distract the congregation and give you time to get things back on track.
  24. If you have repeated yourself more than three times in a given sermon it is time to quit.
  25. Have a good opening point. Have a good closing point. Keep the two as close together as possible.
  26. The quality of a sermon can be judged first by the number of people who walk the isle, and second by the number of people who are willing to stand in line for 15 minutes after the service to shake hands with the preacher and tell him what a great sermon he preached.
  27. You can judge the length of your sermon by the length of response from your SPOUSE to the question, “How was my sermon, honey?” Examples: ”Fine” means Way too long, ”It was okay” Means A bit lengthy, ”It was really good this week, I gained a blessing dear!” means Just about right
  28. If you’re going to preach on Sunday morning, do not eat onions on Saturday night.
  29. Take advice from the rooster. One day, a hen expressed the ultimate ambition of her life, which was to lay an egg in the middle of a busy express way. So the rooster took her there. When they got to the edge of the road, and traffic was whizzing by, the rooster gave her this advice: “All right now! Make it quick, and lay it on the line!”
  30. You know your sermon is not connecting when the choir begins their final number and you haven’t reached your last point yet!
  31. Always remember, those nods of agreement from our silvery-haired friends may just be nods!
  32. A good sermon is similar to a good sandwich. It has two ends: the bread and lots of meat in the middle. However, unlike a sandwich, the two ends of a good sermon should be as close together as possible.

Special Music by Ashleigh and Rebekah

Tonight was a very proud moment for me as a father and pastor. My daughter, Ashleigh (8) and one of her friends in the church, Rebekah (7), sang a special in church. They have been practising for weeks and have asked repeatedly if they could sing together.

Ashleigh and Rebekah were saved at a similar age and baptised in the same service. They love God and as they sang this evening I know it was a blessing to everyone. Click the link to hear them sing:

 

God has given us
a book full of stories,
Which was made for
His people of old,
It begins with the tale of a garden,
And ends with the city of gold.

But the best is the story of Jesus,
Of the babe with the ox in the stall,
Of the song that was
sung by the angels,
The most beautiful story of all.

There are stories
for parents and children,
For the old who are ready to rest,
But for all who can
read them or listen,
The story of Jesus is best.

For it tells how He came
from the Father,
His far-away children to call,
To bring the lost sheep
to their Shepherd—
The most beautiful story of all.

- Maria Penstone

It is an old and wonderful hymn from one of the hymn books we use.

Cubits, Curtains, Sockets and the Mercy Seat

Do you ever sit down and open a set of architects drawings and read them for enjoyment? Have you have opened the local phone directory and started reading the names to relax? No. Neither have I.

Unfortunately this is the way some people approach their reading of certain parts of the Bible. I am currently reading through the description of the Tabernacle given to Moses. You could say these are God’s architectural drawings for the building of the Tabernacle, and even worse for most men, it seems to cover interior design too.

But is that all this is about? And later when I reach the lists of names, is that just like a phone directory?

If that were the case then why not skip those bits? Why do we need to know about cubits, curtains and sockets?

Well, when you read carefully, and when you read devotionally, you will see that this is not just about architecture or just lists of names. Each element of the tabernacle featured for a reason. Each name in a list demonstrates what John MacArthur describes as a “Genealogy of Grace”.

I encourage new believers to start with certain books of the Bible, such as John, or Ephesians. But if we are to grow in grace and knowledge then, if we are able, we must read every book, chapter, verse and word.

Here are just two reasons to keep reading:

  • Hidden Treasures

Sometimes there will be a treasure hid among a list. There will be a name you recognise and connect with another story that adds depth or understanding. Among the curtains, and types of materials used, you see the Holiest place, and you remember the description in the New Testament of that curtain of separation being torn when Christ died on the cross. Or perhaps you read something you have read a thousand times before, but on the 1001st time the chapter or verse opens up like never before. Sometimes you have to dig for treasure.

  • Habit Forming

If you determine to read every book, chapter and verse it begins a good habit – that of daily reading God’s Word. If you start to skip verses and chapters you establish a habit of skimming through passages and in so doing you will miss many blessings. You have also established a habit of judging what God should and should not have included in His Word. Just imagine this thought process when you break it down. You read a few verses, figure there is nothing in it for you and so move on to the next chapter. In essence you have said, “Why did God include this in the Bible? It doesn’t need to be there. God got it wrong. I am smarter than God.”

So, let me encourage you keep reading, every book, every chapter, every verse and ever word. It will be worth it.

Why Christian Workers to the UK Struggle to Raise Support – 2 of 2

Yesterday I began a post on why Christian workers struggle to raise support and get to the UK. As I prepared to write the post I took an unofficial survey of some missionaries I know and asked them what struggles they faced in raising support to come and work here. Most of the responses included similar items, and many included struggles of the missionaries own making. Today I want share 6 more reasons why Christian workers struggle to get to the UK. Some of these reasons are applicable for missionaries going to any field.

1. Because supporting churches or pastors opposed the missionary working as part of a team

This may or may not be something unique to Christian workers coming to the United Kingdom. The New Testament does not lay out direct commands on the process for planting churches. However, by example it does seem to demonstrate a good practice-working as a team. Paul very often worked with another individual, a couple or a group. But for some reason missionaries today often face opposition when they attempt to follow the same practice as the Apostle Paul.

Numerous missionaries shared that when they expressed the desire to work as part of a team a pastor opposed them. Some churches give the impression that US churches can have a pastor, assistant pastor, song leader, treasurer, cleaner, Sunday School teachers, treasurer, deacons and secretaries, but the missionary overseas must do it all alone.

Do you realise everything your missionary does in a new church plant? He evangelises, preaches and teaches, yes. But with the support of his family he also has to do everything else. Many missionaries become talented in graphic design because they have to design their own materials to use in evangelism. They constantly learn new skills because there is no one else to take on the labour (there’s maybe a point there for supporters to get more involved in a practical way, check here for some practical ideas: http://www.pioneersenders.org/).

One missionary shared with me that he would love to work as an evangelist for an established church in the UK, but that his supporting churches would not support that. They wanted him to be the pastor.

Teamwork on the field, amongst other things, can provide fellowship and encouragement for your missionary, it provides a division of labour to allow more to be accomplished and it promotes accountability.

2. Because circumstances at the local church hinder them from supporting more missionaries

Sometimes a missionary schedules a meeting with a church months in advance. The pastor speaks positively about taking them on for support and the missionary looks forward to the visit. But then a week before the scheduled meeting a tornado destroys the church’s buildings, the pastor dies, a national tragedy such as 9/11 puts the country into turmoil or a business meeting goes bad and the spirit of the church is distracted. Sometimes a missionary visits a church and the church just is not in a position to take on a new missionary.

Other times it is not the timing of the visit, but a case of secondary separation. It becomes known that a missionary did or did not graduate from a particular Bible school, or they have books on their shelf by a certain author, or the missionaries sending pastor once had a falling out with the pastor the missionary is visiting, or the church the missionary is visiting does not like something about your mission board.

Let me encourage pastors and churches to support the man and his family. Judge each man on his own merits and not on people with whom he has a connection. Of course there may be exceptions, but as a rule, judge the man before you and nothing more.

Lastly, sometimes if a church faces a trial or general busyness around the time of the missionaries visit, the missionary ends up forgotten. It is not about an inability to support the missionary or any malicious intent, but in an almost administrative error the church forgets about the missionary that made a visit.

Some of these reasons for not supporting a missionary are unavoidable, but others can be avoided. What could your local church do to ensure you take on the missionary that visits regardless of some current events in your church or community?

3. Because of unrealistic expectations on missionaries and their families

Sometimes a church hesitates to support a missionary because the family does not seem to support the husband/father.

Now, some families thrive on deputation and furlough. You know them when you see them. As the van rolls up to the church you can hear them singing their favourite hymns. As the family unload you can hear the children reciting memory verses. You hear the husband praising his wife for teaching their teens calculus during their 16 hour drive that day. One of the children accidentally drops their suitcase on a sibling and the sibling lovingly forgives them and they move on. During the service the family sing a special and all the children play a different instrument. Then the father shows a flawless presentation of the country to which he is going with just the right combination of statistics and moving human stories. Then he preaches and expounds the Word, demonstrating an extensive knowledge of the Scriptures and a deep, personal walk with the Lord.

Others do not thrive quite so well. This time as the family roll up to the church car park you only hear the rattling of the exhaust that partly fell off on the way there. As they unload nobody says a word to each other. In fact, you catch the occasional glare between the husband and wife. As the husband steps out he does so straight into a puddle and lets out one of those Christian swear words “Good grief!” or “Good night!”. You know the ones. Then a sibling bumps into another sibling and they start to fight and fuss. They manage to get into the church and the service begins. The youngest child starts to cry and so the mother takes the child out. Now with dad in the pulpit there’s nothing to stop the little pagan children in the pew from whispering and rustling papers as the service continues. Then the presentation starts… and then stops. The software the missionary used to make the presentation is not compatible with the church’s computer. The sermon is adequate, but nothing to write home about.
Sometimes churches expect every missionary family to be like the first family described, but then how do you respond to the second? This could be the same family, just on a different day.

Understand the pressures on your missionaries on deputation or furlough. Sometimes the family stay at home because the children’s education is suffering due to all the travelling. As their time to move to another country arrives perhaps they need to spend some visits with grandparents. Normally they have just taken a step of faith and financially they are struggling. I have heard numerous stories of missionaries who only had enough money to purchase the fuel to get them to their next meeting, but they had no way of paying to get home. They simply trusted the Lord.

Have you read any books on parenting or education? How many recommend spending hours in a car every day? How many recommend using a hotel room or the back seat of a car as the class room? Yet this is the life your missionaries may have for several years.

Missionaries on deputation face trials and struggles most people could not imagine. I want to encourage you not have unrealistic expectations of your missionaries and their families. Instead try to anticipate their needs, provide them with an ideal environment and I guarantee that will go a long way toward enabling them to be the family you hope they are.

4. Because of a lack of training on how to raise support

Do you know there are books on the deputation process and on how to raise support? I did not. Not until I had learned many hard lessons anyway. Some missionaries struggle to raise support simply because they do not know the process. They do not know that once all the material (introduction letters, prayer letters, website, bookmarks, display table material, etc.) is designed and printed they to need send out an introduction packet to the churches they want to contact. Then they need to start making phone calls. They need to make dozens and dozens of phone calls. Everyday. They need to keep a record of the conversations. They then need to send out letters acknowledging the contact they had with the church. If a meeting was booked they will sometimes send out a letter the week before the meeting. Then they have the meeting and include all the elements required and expected of modern missionaries. After they leave they send a thank you letter. I did not know any of that.

Sometimes they have a good process, but they are just not good fund raisers. They do not communicate their burden effectively to the congregations and pastors. They can preach and teach and evangelise, they just do not seem to be able to grip pastors and churches with their need.

Maybe a church can compassionately and constructively give feedback to the missionary on what would have helped them. Certainly the missionary must constantly evaluate his means and methods and always be ready to learn.

A good resource by Pastor Austin Gardner is ”The Deputation Manual for Missionaries” and I would highly recommend it.

5. Because missionaries have returned discouraged and defeated

Sometimes a church is deterred from supporting missionaries to the UK because of previous bad experiences. Maybe one missionary raises support but then does not go. Maybe around the same time one who has raised support reaches the UK, but then shortly thereafter returns home. Maybe another family you support seems to be taking a long time to complete their goal. There could be valid reasons all these missionaries did not go or did not stay. Each situation must be judged on its own merits.

I would encourage churches to express understanding. Do not turn your back on a whole country because of what you may decide are bad experiences. Perhaps it should show you that you should redouble your efforts to the UK and similar countries. Perhaps where you see discouragement and defeat you should make a determined effort to contact missionaries there and encourage them. Seek out missionaries going to that difficult field and truly get alongside them.

6. Because of red tape – the UK Border Agency

All I will say is this. Red tape exists, but it is not stopping missionaries from entering the country. It is another layer of administration, but it is not a barrier to entering the country.

In Conclusion

There is much a missionary can do to improve their chances of raising support and reaching the field. But there is much more that potential supporting churches and pastors could do to help them. I trust these two articles would have been a help to supporters in understanding missionaries trying to raise support to come to the UK, or any other nation.

Why Christian Workers to the UK Struggle to Raise Support -1 of 2

Recently I wrote an article on why the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland still needs foreign Christian workers. Thankfully many still labour here and others are on their way. However, almost universally they are facing obstacles. Having corresponded with several Christian workers in the UK they surprised me with the similarities in their responses. I want to deal with a few of those here.

I want to thank each of the men who shared their hearts with me on this matter. Due to the number of responses I received I felt it best to divide them up into two posts. This first part focuses almost entirely on the obstacles raised by pastors and churches. The second post spends most of the time on difficulties that missionaries bring on themselves. And yes, most of those who responded to me recognised the failings of missionaries which make it harder for them to reach the mission field.

DISCLAIMER: I am blessed by and love each one of our supporters and I know the missionaries that corresponded with me feel the same. Neither they nor I are complaining about our supporting churches, but simply trying to highlight the struggles that they have faced. These men and their families love God and love people and long to see sinners saved. Any delay they face in reaching the field breaks their heart. This post is not meant to exonerate missionaries from their failings, as they of course exist. Lastly, the intention of this post is not to complain or encourage self-pity, I hope to encourage an examination of what hinders a missionary reaching the field to which God has called him and to consider what we can do to change some current practices.

So, why do foreign Christian workers struggle to raise support to get here?

1. Because churches/pastors do not see the need

I think all the missionaries I wrote to included this reason in their response. They find that prospective supporters judge Britain on what it used to be, and not on its current, spiritual condition. If you believe this then please refer to my earlier article on this theme: Does Britain Still Need Foreign Christian Workers?

2. Because of the cost of living in the United Kingdom 

No one would deny that to live in certain parts of the United Kingdom costs a lot of money. In many population centres you can easily pay £1000/$1700 a month simply renting modest sized home for your family (in some places this can be more or less). When a missionary arrives at a church and makes it known that, due to the cost of living and the exchange rate, how much they need a month they immediately see raised eyebrows.

It has been known for some churches to drop missionaries or put pressure on their missionaries for taking so long to get to the field.

Some would argue the necessity for such a high figure. At times a mission board, in trying to act prudently, sets a very high financial goal for the missionary to reach before approving their departure to the field. When a large part of this goal goes toward private health insurance in the US, that will not be useful in the UK, it can become an obstacle to reaching the mission field. I understand the need for insurance while on deputation and furlough, but is there another way perhaps than the current setup?

Due to the high amounts required the missionary must travel great distances for long periods of time to raise the funds. A great deal of money is involved in travelling, meal and accommodation expenses. Now, most missionaries I know are, out of necessity, very frugal. They act as wise stewards of the funds made available to them. And the generosity of some churches they visit has overwhelmed some missionaries.

But maybe it is time churches considered how much money is required to simply get a missionary to the field? How much faster could a missionary reach the field and invest missions money on the field if so much time and travelling were not required to get to the field?

A last word under this heading is a much more sensitive one. Some missionaries commented that at times the pastor seems to compare what is being raised with their own personal salary in the US and feel like they are on a lower income.

One missionary expressed the concern that some pastors made it feel like a competition as to who had the larger salary. Although this stems from a misunderstanding on the behalf of the prospective supporter, I do understand their feelings. I do not believe that the majority of men in these rare cases are carnal and envious. But if it seems that a missionary will receive tens of thousands of dollars a year when they are on considerably less, then I am sure anyone could understand their perspective.

What pastors and churches need to remember about that seemingly high figure is that it not only goes toward their family’s expenses, but must also serve as the start-up fund and cover the initial running costs for the new church. As well, missionaries do not get an annual salary increase from most supporters (and nor do many supporters it can be argued) despite the ever-increasing costs of living. So the amount they raise has to factor in the costs of living over the next several years.

Obviously not every church should or could support every missionary to the UK that passes through. But the reasons for not supporting any missionary should be carefully and prayerfully considered.

A last note, missionaries are well aware of the sacrifices that others make to get them to their field of ministry, and are very thankful. Genuine missionaries are not looking for a life of ease or a get-rich-quick scheme.

3. Because a church already supports a missionary in the United Kingdom

Some missionaries have essentially been turned away at the door because the church they have approached already support a missionary in the UK. I can partly understand that a church may want to spread their money around by supporting missionaries in as many countries as they can. But that reason alone should not decide a pastors’ or church’s use of missions funds.

This can come down a well-thought out philosophical position, but I believe it is one that requires careful consideration as to its Biblical and logical foundations. Again, is there a better way to support the Great Commission.

4. Because There seems to be little fruit from existing missionaries and other fields of ministry seem more exciting

This was one of the responses that came up most often.

In some circles salvation is nothing more than a shallow prayer repeated by an individual, they have little or no understanding or true conviction. It is “123-repeat-after-me congratulations you’re saved”. When that model is followed then a missionary can report scores of salvation decisions. Those missionaries who do not follow the model look bad when they report that just a few have made professions of salvation.

A missionary must carefully explain the doctrine of salvation, and then they should allow the Holy Spirit, and not a clever formula, bring a sinner to the place of repentance. When a profession is made then we should rejoice with the angels in Heaven! But let us be careful to wait and watch for fruit in their lives. It is no good reporting dozens saved if the church attendance/membership never reaches anywhere near the same levels as those making professions.

The Great Commission is not just about getting people to make decisions, it is about making disciples, investing our lives in the lives of others to see them become life-long followers of Jesus Christ.

When multitudes are not seen being saved then some supporting churches question the missionary’s effectiveness, sometimes it is just pressure and stress put on the missionary, sometimes they are dropped.

A part of the problem comes with the focus on the 10/40 window and Third World countries, which is something I understand. The numbers of people who have never heard in that region is staggering.

I would not say that any Christian ministry is easy. Spiritual warfare is spiritual warfare. But if honesty prevailed which would you chose,

  • 7 years of lonely labour without a single convert (such as with William Carey)
  • or a ministry where within months there are multiple professions of salvation and shortly after Bible schools, orphanages, schools and other ministries are begun?

Time for some more brutal honesty, what makes more exciting prayer letters?

On some fields you can offer a free dental check-up and other medical helps and literally thousands will come. In the Gospel service that follows it may be hundreds that receive Christ as their personal Saviour. In a very short time, several churches are started and let by national pastors. That is wonderful and I praise the Lord for every saved soul on any field.

But then you may have a missionary in the UK who distributes literally tens of thousands of pieces of literature, they advertise in every way imaginable, they have attractive material and plan a Gospel service and when the day arrives perhaps just a handful of people visit. Of that handful of people, in the long term, only one person or one family continues to attend the church. Sometimes there is more or less of a response, but I do not know of any outreach or church plant in the UK that equals what is seen on some other fields.

Some missionaries feel a pastor sometimes looks at supporting missions in a purely dollar-per-soul formula. When they see that per USD you will see more people saved outside the UK, it feels they make their decision based on that factor.

A lack of sharing the great things that the Lord is doing in the UK could be a contributing factor here. Better communication from the missionaries, as well as an adjustment on supporters expectations, could be helpful for all parties involved.

Part Two to Follow…

Walking in the Word – 3

In two previous posts I have briefly written about how the Bible is our basis for our knowledge of God, how important the Bible is and why we can trust it. Now I want to continue by discussing more about what the Bible is. This is important as often what we get out of something is in proportion to our expectations of it.

The Bible is a collection of 66 books, written over 1600 years by more than 40 kings, prophets, leaders and followers of Jesus; in three languages over three continents. In Hebrew Bibles some of the Old Testament books are in a different order and historically some had a different layout. For example, 1 and 2 Samuel were considered 1 book. However, the content remains the same.

Those are some dates and numbers, some bare facts. But we must understand it to be more than that if we are to gain the full benefit from it:

We have the obvious division into Two Testaments, the Old and the New Testaments. Broadly speaking these reflect God’s dealings with the nation of Israel in the Old Testament and then God’s establishment of the Church in the New Testament. 

Henry Halley summarised it this way,

“The Old Testament is an account of a Nation. The New Testament is an Account of a Man. The Nation was founded and Nurtured of God to bring the Man into the world.”

(Jeremiah 31:31-34, I Corinthians 11:25, Hebrews 9:1-11)

The New Testament does not all-together replace the Old, but rather continues and completes it. The Old Testament focused upon beginnings, the Law, the development and history of the nation of Israel through which the Messiah would come.

The New Testament completes the Old in that

  • the Promised Messiah comes
  • the plan of salvation is fulfilled
  • some parts of the law which were but shadows of that to come ceased,
  • other parts of the law which rest upon God’s righteousness and not temporary out workings of His plan, continue
  • the beginnings, the growth, the principles and patterns for the Church are demonstrated and instructed
  • and God’s last plans for this world are prophesied and explained

Traditionally the Old Testament is broken down into the following categories

  • Books of the Law
  • Books of History
  • Books of Poetry
  • Books of Prophecy (the Major Prophets and the Minor Prophets, so called not because of importance but because of the size of their respective writings)

Traditionally the New Testament is broken down into the following groups

  • Gospels
  • History
  • Epistles
  • Prophecy

There are other ways of categorising the books of the Bible to emphasise certain elements of God’s revelation. And several categories can be broken down into more specific categories. But this simply gives a beginning point to base further studies.

We must also consider God’s Design in Revelation

While we speak of the practical design of the Bible we must also consider God’s design in revelation.

God did not give complete revelation of His character and plan all at once. Revelation means a revealing. God gradually and progressively revealed His character and plan

The revelation was gradual because it would be impossible to do so other wise. This is perhaps why we find some thing in Israel’s history that we find disturbing, but when understood of God’s gradually dealing with them it makes more sense.

The revelation was progressive in that each revelation built upon and developed the earlier teachings. We must understand that the later revelations never contradicted the earlier ones.

Titles for the Word

When we look at how God’s Word refers to itself and titles we attribute it gives a further insight into what the Bible is:

The Word of God/ of the Lord - Occurs 255 times. Individual occurrences were recorded together and eventually the Bible become known as the Word of God.

Scriptures – (Mark 12:10 & II Timothy 3:16) - A document, Holy Writ

The Bible - Basically means a book. It could refer to an authoritative book in a particular field. We have the Holy Bible

Sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17) – The Christians only weapon, wielded not by ourselves but by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.

Titles from Psalm 19

  • The law of the LORD
  • The testimony of the LORD
  • The statutes of the LORD
  • The commandment of the LORD
  • The fear of the LORD
  • The judgments of the LORD

Using Psalm 19 as our guide we can show some characteristics and actions of the Bible. We will look at these in the next post.

Church Member #37

Members Record Book

I would like to introduce you to the 37th member of Brimpton Baptist Church, Charles. Charles is not a new member who recently joined, in fact, his membership seems to have ended sometime before 1875. He joined the church by baptism, which means he mostly likely heard the Gospel from the founding minister of this fellowship, Charles Rixson.

From what we know of other historical records the 37th member of this church was a farmer. Many of the members in those days farmed or worked manual jobs of some kind. Either he or one of his brothers farmed Burnell’s Farm, a farm not more than 2 miles from the church as the crow flies. Most days I drive past it.

We do not know anything about the man himself. But in 1850 we know the church was still a struggling church plant. Up until the 1840′s groups of believers that met to worship outside of the Anglican denomination had to register as non-conformists. In years past non-conformists faced oppression and at times imprisonment.

So those early believers who gathered at Brimpton Baptist Church did so out of conviction. For many church attendance was, and still is, little more than a cultural excursion, something done to satisfy the expectations of others, to bring about business opportunities or to make contacts in society and politics. It was somewhere to be seen.

Not so for Charles and others. They gathered and most likely suffered loss for their efforts. They were a minority. They were poor in the eyes of the world. Yet, in God’s eyes, they were rich.

I can only hope that Charles was a man of conviction and of prayer. I would like to imagine that his efforts, combined with those other early believers, sustained this fellowship and helped the beacon of Gospel light to remain shining and then be passed to the next generation.

I am interested in and grateful to all those early believers. But I have a vested interested in Charles, Charles Wickens, my ancestor. I have yet to find out the exact connection, but it seems he may have been my grandfather’s grandfather, or perhaps an uncle.

You do not know what impact you will have on future generations, but never doubt that your faithfulness can count today and for eternity. Perhaps in 170 years time one of your descendants will attend the church you now support and where you worship, perhaps they will be the pastor. If the Lord tarries His coming your descendants may only have your name on a list, all else may be forgotten. Perhaps they will look back and imagine and hope you were a person of conviction and prayer. Will they be right?

Members Record Book

Members Record Book