Unwarranted Guilt by Paul Ritchie

There is a difference between feeling guilty and being guilty. People may suffer from a sense of guilt that is unwarranted. As Tony Ward (not the rugby player) points out:

When our consciences are oversensitive, or inaccurate, then we can end up emotionally whipping ourselves with false guilt. The cause is usually that our consciences have been overly conditioned by our parents, our society or the type of education we received. Legalistic homes and churches which put an undue emphasis on rules and regulations, dos and don’ts, tend to breed people with hypersensitive consciences and resultant emotional damage.

A person whose parents were quick to condemn other Christians who consumed alcohol may feel guilty when having a drink, even though their firm conviction may be that Christians are free to consume alcohol in moderation. A son or daughter who had a parent that regularly claimed they did not care for them could later feel guilty having that parent admitted to a nursing home, even though they are acting on best advice. A child runs onto a road chasing a ball, the driver who hits them feels guilty even though the police said it was not their fault. A teenager fears that they are somehow to blame for their parents’ divorce, even though the parents had been fighting for years. A member of a disapproving church feels guilty partaking in innocent hobbies they enjoy.

guiltHow do we help people suffering from unwarranted feelings of guilt?

Firstly, by being patient. It might take a person a long time to unlearn years of disapproving parenting. If they have a distorted view of God it may be a struggle for them to accept true beliefs about his character. If the consequences of an action were serious they may find it difficult to let go and move on. While they may agree that their guilt is unwarranted it may take time for their feelings to catch up with the facts. They might make progress in letting go of unwarranted feelings of guilt and yet may relapse at times.

Secondly, we need to be willing to listen well. They may actually know that their sense of guilt is unwarranted. As they talk through the issues, with someone who shows them understanding, they will be assured and grow in confidence.

Thirdly, we need to help them in trying to separate emotions. For example they may need to learn to distinguish between sorrow and guilt. While it may be right for them to work through some emotions false guilt serves no good purpose.

Fourthly, we may need to allow them to confess. While we may be sure that their sense of guilt is unwarranted they may remain unconvinced. In such situations we can encourage them to bring their feelings of guilt to God and remind them that God readily forgives his people.

~

Used with permission. For more blog posts by Paul Ritchie check out his blog: To Whom It May Concern.

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The Community Bible Experience: A Review (Part 1)

This year my home church embarked upon Biblica’s Community Bible Experience which is a reading plan that takes you through the New Testament in 8 week (39 days: 5 readings per week plus a grace day at the end).

CBElogo_blackLast week was the 8th week from the beginning of the year which marks the end of the reading plan for those of us who began in the first week of January. I just finished on Friday past and so I’d like to share my thoughts on the experience and in the process encourage you to consider trying something similar in your home church, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

I found the Experience to have two separate yet complimentary dimensions: The Bible Dimension and The Community Dimension. This week we will consider The Bible Dimension and next week we will conclude by looking at The Community Dimension.

The Bible Dimension

The Community Bible Experience is more than just another Bible reading plan. It is quite a peculiar plan because you need to purchase a specially formatted Bible in order to take part. This specially formatted Bible has a single column of text with all the headings and chapter and verse numbers removed as well as having the books in a different order. Biblica have aptly named this Bible format: The Books of the Bible in order to emphasise a return to the original literary nature of the books in the Bible. The reasoning behind this move is that, according to their research, less and less people are reading the Bible, especially those unfamiliar with the traditional formatting of the Bible (double column with headings, chapters and verse numbers). The Books of the Bible is a way to reengage Christians, and non-Christians, with the Bible as a book of many books and to help them immerse themselves in the storyline of the Scriptures.

As a great lover of books I applaud the tremendous effort on Biblica’s part to return the Bible to its rightful place as a wonderful piece of literature from its exile as a mere book of references. Of course, the Bible is more than just great literature but it is not less, so why shouldn’t it be presented as such? As a big fan of single column formatting (and an avowed dissenter of double columns) I am very supportive of this move. The practice of double column formatting can largely be traced back to the early days of the printing press when, due to the immense amount of text to be contained in each Bible, it was not cost effective to print in single column format. That day, thankfully, is over and we can now easily print Bibles in a single column format, though granted, they are considerable bulkier. My preference for single column formatting is purely aesthetic but shouldn’t beauty be a factor in Bible design?

This return to presenting the Bible as literature to be read and enjoyed, as it comes in whole books, rather than harvested for a verse for today here or a daily promise there is further promulgated by a change in book order. This is, for me, one of the best features of The Books of the Bible because the way the books are ordered seems much more logical than the traditional ordering which was generally based on book length more than anything else (e.g. the major and minor prophets and Paul’s letters). For example, Luke and Acts are rejoined to form one book, as they were originally intended to be read, instead of being divided by the Gospel according to John. Another change is that all Paul’s letters are now in chronological order (according to the most recent scholarship) so you begin with 1 and 2 Thessalonians rather than Romans which allows the reader, in some ways, to experience the life of Paul through his letters from his second missionary journey up to his impending death in Rome (2 Timothy). Similarly, the books of the Old Testament have been reorganised into three sections: Covenant History, Prophets, Writings. Like Luke-Acts, 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings have been consolidated into one book: Samuel-Kings. The Prophets have been placed in chronological order (or as close as scholars can tell, anyway) which I find personally helpful as I always feel a little lost in terms of chronology when reading the Prophets. (I will include a list of all the books and their orders at the end). I really appreciate what Biblica have done here. I find their book order to be very helpful as it contributes to a significantly more enjoyable reading experience, especially in how they have shaped the New Testament around the Gospel accounts rather than having them one after another. I would love if all Bible’s adopted this kind of ordering in which books of the Bible are brought together according to genres/corpora and, when possible, chronologically (see below).

Furthermore, by removing headings and chapter and verse numbers the reader is better able to discern the flow of the text which was previously obscured (however much or little). I have certainly found this to be true of headings which needlessly break up the text into manageable chunks thereby disconnecting what is said from what has already been said and functioning as an unhelpful and unnecessary interpretive lens through which to read the passage. Of course, the designers of The Books of the Bible have left gaps between sections to indicate breaks in the narrative or shifts in the thought of the author. In some ways these function in much the same way that headings do and at times I found myself guessing what heading might have went in the space between sections. However, I believe a blank space is better than an inserted heading because it doesn’t presume to interpret what is about to be read but at the same time allows the reader to stop and reflect on what they’ve read without making it seem that the next section is somehow disconnected from what came before.

The same argument applies to the removal of chapter and verse numbers, though I feel less strongly about this. It is all too easy to isolate verses and make them mean what we want them to mean rather than what the author intended them to mean. However, it does pose problems for ease of location in a church setting or for study purposes (e.g. books, Bible studies, etc.). Isaiah is a nice place to start but trying to find anything in there without a map (i.e. chapters and verses) would be quite difficult! That being said, the bottom of each page does contains the chapter and verse range so it is not impossible to find a passage in a book like Isaiah so it could conceivable be used in a church or Bible study setting. However, for anyone who needs to make reference to a specific passage (e.g. in a book, Bible study, blog, etc.) it would prove problematic. I suppose with Google we no longer need to memorise chapter and verse numbers because they are just a click away if we know how a particular sentence reads which would solve the problem of referencing for writers. I don’t know that this kind of Bible could ever replace the traditional Bible (with its chapter and verse numbers) because referencing will always be necessary in books but I think it meets a definite need in the church today and so for that reason, I believe, it has a bright future.

Overall, I am very impressed with this new Bible format and I would highly recommend having a Bible that allows you to read it unobscured by headings and chapter and verse numbers because it does allow you to follow the flow of books much easier than the traditional formatting.

~

For those of you who favour the ESV Crossway are bringing out their own version of The Books of the Bible in May called the ESV Reader’s Bible, beyond removing headings and verse numbers (chapter numbers will remain in the margin apart from the text) I don’t know if it will share The Books of the Bible’s book ordering.

~

Covenant History

Genesis
Exodus
Leviticus
Numbers
Deuteronomy
Joshua
Judges
Ruth
Samuel-Kings

Prophets

Jonah
Amos
Hosea
Micah
Isaiah

Zephaniah
Nahum
Habakkuk

Jeremiah
Obadiah
Ezekiel

Haggai
Zechariah
Joel
Malachi

Writings

Psalms
Lamentation
Song of Songs

Proverbs
Ecclesiastes
Job

Chronicles-Ezra-Nehemiah
Esther
Daniel

New Testament

Luke-Acts
1 Thessalonians
2 Thessalonians
1 Corinthians
2 Corinthians
Galatians
Romans
Colossians
Ephesians
Philemon
Philippians
1 Timothy
Titus
2 Timothy

Matthew
Hebrews
James

Mark
1 Peter
2 Peter
Jude

John
1 John
2 John
3 John
Revelation

Leadership: Old Testament Style

Who are the greatest examples of leadership you can think off?

Image by Craig Parylo
Image by Craig Parylo

Barack Obama, Margaret Thatcher, Ian Paisley, Adolf Hitler?

Martin Luther-King, Rosa Parks, Thurgood Marshall?

Martin Luther, John Calvin, Thomas Cranmer?

John Piper, Mark Driscoll, John MacArthur?

Moses, Joshua, Nehemiah?

These are all people I have come across in books, seminars and blog posts on leadership.  Sometimes referencing them has helped, sometimes it has hindered.

But throughout all this material on leadership I have never come across any discussion on perhaps the most significant passage in the Old Testament to deal with leadership – laws concerning the king in Deuteronomy 17.  This is surprising because theologically the king was perhaps the most important leadership position in ancient Israel.

Three leadership lessons can be briefly drawn from Deuteronomy 17:14-20.

1. Lead like minded people

The nation of Israel was permitted to place a king over them at some point in the future (v14-15).

Obviously being God’s people it had to be someone that God had chosen (v15), but there was an additional stipulation.  That additional stipulation was that the Israelites had to appoint someone who was a brother to the position of king – ‘One from among your brothers you shall set as king over you.  You may not put a foreigner over you who is not your brother’ (v15).

The reason for Israel adhering to this stipulation was to protect their religious uniqueness.

The surrounding cultures in the ancient Near East worshipped a plethora of gods – not Yahweh the one true God.

Therefore, Israel could only have a king who worshipped the God of Israel.  In other words, they needed a leader on the same theological wave length.

For those of us who seek to lead people we must ensure that we seek to lead like minded people.

Now, this does not mean that we will find a group of people who think exactly like us, or whose ideas on certain issues will be as developed or formulated as ours.  Rather, this means we must ensure that we lead a group of people who are sympathetic to where we want to take them; a group of people who will gather around and behind us as we point the way.

2. Trust not in yourself

In the middle of this passage are three prohibitions that the king is to observe.

The king is not to acquire many horses, acquire many wives and acquire much gold or silver (v16-17).

In the ancient Near East horses equalled military strength, wives equalled political agreements (and a significant distraction) and gold and silver equalled wealth and status.  If the king of Israel acquired all these things he might be convinced that he could win any battle, he could barter with any nation and he could support himself financially.

This is not what Yahweh wanted from his vice-regent.

Yahweh wanted the kings of Israel to know they were dependant on him so they wouldn’t rely on their own perceived strengths.

The heart issue in these two verses is trust.  The king was not allowed to accumulate possessions in case he trusted in himself.

So too we must not trust in ourselves.  No matter what gifts and talents we possess, what effort we exert and what opportunities we can make the most of in leadership, we must never fall into the trap of trusting in ourselves.

We must trust in God, and him alone.

3. Submit to the Word

The final verses of this passage are undoubtedly the most important.

‘And when [the king] sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests.  And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel’ (v18-20 ESV).

The king was to be completely subject to the law, to the Torah.

The Torah was the Word of God for the Israelites, this was the revelation God had given of himself and the demands he placed on his people at that stage of redemptive history.  For us today the equivalent is clearly Scripture in its entirety.

This is an important lesson for us to learn as leaders, especially those leaders charged with teaching God’s word.  We must submit ourselves to the Word.

D. A. Carson asserts “To our shame, we have hungered to be masters of the Word much more than we have hungered to be mastered by it” (Collected Writings on Scripture, pg. 108).  While this is true for each Christian individual, it is an all the more acute danger for the leader.  Carson continues “Our finiteness and our sinfulness continue to guarantee that our knowledge is always partial and frequently faulty, and therefore we need to walk humbly” (pg. 178).

Therefore, it is wise to submit to the infallible, inerrant Word of God.

There we have it, leadership: Old Testament style!

Are these characteristics in your leadership?

As you look at the week that lies before you will there be opportunities to exercise these three principles?  This past week have there been times in which you have failed to exercise these principles and need to seek forgiveness?  Is there someone who you should pray for, or encourage to, put these lessons into practice?

iFAQ 3: Why Do We Love The Church?

We here at Gospel Convergence love the church, and specifically the local church. We hope this has come through both in our iFAQs as well as in all the posts you find on our blog.

question markThe reason we love the church is, first and foremost, because Jesus loves the church (Ephesians 5:25). Jesus values the church immensely and so do we. This is why we have decided that only those who are committed members of their local church will be illegible to join us as co-authors. Practically, this fleshes itself out in the form of church membership because the greatest expression of our love for Jesus and his church is through the public commitment of church membership.

Even though church membership has fallen out of vogue in recent years, especially among younger Christians, we remain committed both to the church and the practice of church membership because we believe both are important to Jesus. We do not believe it is enough for someone to simply say they love the church because a feeling without a commitment is worthless. The best way we can express our love for the church is in coming under the authority of our local church through church membership.

We stand alongside pastors and theologians throughout church history who likewise placed a high value upon the church (local and universal) and church membership such as Cyprian of Carthage who wrote, “He can no longer have God for his Father, who has not the Church for his mother” (On The Unity of the Church, 6). And John Calvin, “to those to whom he [God] is a Father, the Church must also be a mother” (Institutes 4.1.1).

Furthermore, we heartily agree with John Stott when he says, “The church lies at the very centre of the eternal purpose of God.  It is not a divine afterthought.  It is not an accident of history” (The Living Church, pg 19).

For these reasons, and many more, we love the church and believe her to be important.

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansingher by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church — for we are members of his body.” (Ephesians 5:25-30 NIV)

~

Check out our iFAQ Page for all of our iFAQs.

The Suffering And Comfort Of God

Some days I wake up lethargic, totally unmotivated and feeling pretty miserable.

Maybe you can resonate with me. The day just starts off with a shadow hanging over it like an overcast day in December that tells you it has no intention of changing and instead may add injury to insult by raining on your parade.

Image by Asif Akbar
Image by Asif Akbar

Some days that’s it.

No sun breaks through. The clouds remain, dull and miserable: greedily ready to devour every scrap of potential cheer. Other days there isn’t a cloud in the sky. But most days, typical of Northern Ireland, the clouds clear and the sun comes out bringing with it life and joy, at least until the clouds return later in the day.

Maybe you could chalk it all up to seasonal effectiveness disorder. Though personally I enjoy days with overcast weather: listening to the pitter-patter of rain against my window, the wind howling to be let inside and the trees waving to cars and pedestrians as they pass them by.

Give me Winter over Summer any day.

But I don’t enjoy feeling overcast.

There is a dullness, a weariness, to those days. Every movement is laboured. Every thought comes through a mire.

Some don’t survive the journey.

 

We’re all different.

(Just like everyone else)

So your experience is probably different to mine which is why I won’t presume to tell how to turn your frowny day upside down. I haven’t even figured out how to break through my own clouds to reach the sun, who am I to give you advice?

If platitudes and Bible verses, positive thinking and proactive doing, were enough to clear the sky so we could feel the sun on our skin wouldn’t everyone do it?

Don’t we have enough prosperity preachers already?

I couldn’t preach any kind of prosperity gospel anyway, my teeth aren’t white enough.

 

Sorry if I’m beginning to sound like the Teacher from Ecclesiastes: in need of a hug.

“Meaningless! Meaningless!”
says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
Everything is meaningless.”
What do people gain from all their labours
at which they toil under the sun?
Generations come and generations go,
but the earth remains forever…
All things are wearisome,
more than one can say.”
(Ecclesiastes 1:2-4, 8 NIV)

“What’s the point? Why bother? Nothing changes. I’m just so tired of all this…”

Maybe he’s right.

Maybe it’s time to give up and give in.

Maybe it’s time for that hug.

 

The world is often a very dark place, full of despair and ceaseless tears. Jesus tells us that the blessed are those who enter into the mourning of this life because they know their comfort comes from God (Matthew 5:4). The blessed are those who mourn the brokenness in the world around them and their own inner brokenness.

They don’t run away from it.

They don’t awkwardly avoid eye contact.

And they don’t numb themselves to it.

They embrace it. They mourn for it. They enter into the suffering of the world, the suffering of others and their own personal suffering because their comfort comes from a God who has himself entered into the mourning and suffering of this world.

Truthfully though:

We don’t want dark days with overcast skies and promises of rain.

We don’t want to enter into and embrace our own mourning and suffering, not to mention that of others.

We don’t want our comfort to come from God, we want God to makes us comfortable as we are.

 

But suffering is both inevitable and unavoidable. Dark days and overcast skies are going to come. Maybe they’re already here. Maybe they’ve been here for a while.

What are we to do?

Did we really sign up for this?

Isn’t God supposed to make everything better?

Sometimes the darkness lifts does not lift and there is no happy ending. At least not the happy ending we might want or expect. Sometimes God calls us to live in the darkest valley but our comfort is that he has been there himself and is with us in the midst of it, right this second (Psalm 23:4). In these seasons of life our comfort is threefold:

God Is Not Immune To Suffering

When things went badly wrong in the Garden God could have scrapped the whole thing and begun again and saved himself a lot of pain. It would have been just for him to do so because sin deserves to be punished but instead he showed grace and patience (what was once so aptly called longsuffering). As we move through the Genesis narrative we see a God who is “deeply troubled” in his heart that he ever created us so great had our sin become upon the earth to the point where he “regretted that he had made human beings on the earth”, but even in the punishment of sin he showed grace by sparing some to preserve our prodigiously wayward race (Genesis 6:5-8).

The Old Testament repeatedly shows God’s longsuffering with his self-emancipating children who through their continual prostitution to every kind of idol brought more suffering upon themselves and upon the God who longed to be their Father. In punishment he extended grace knowing that though he suffered long things would not always be this way.

God Suffered For Us

“At just the right time” (Romans 5:6-8) God entered fully into the suffering of his world and of his people by becoming a man. Throughout his life Jesus suffered in every way as we do, he wasn’t spared anything. He didn’t look for an easy way out, though he could easily have avoided suffering had he so desired. Instead he,

“Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very natureof a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!” (
Philippians 2:6-8 NIV)

The Son of God suffered in life and in death to identify with us and to bear God’s just wrath against us for our sin to make us the adopted, legitimate, children of God once again. He embraced suffered in its fullest extent. The suffering was excruciating but his comfort was that God loved him: indefinitely, perfectly and unchangeably. By trusting his Father in the midst of suffering his circumstances were in no way altered but his experience of them was indelibly changed because he knew God was with him and far better things were ahead than what he had left behind.

“For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:2-3 NIV)

A World Without Suffering

A day is coming when our King will return to finally and for all time put his enemies and ours under his feet.

Death will die.

Suffering will cease.

Pain will give way to joy unending.

Tears will be no more.

As we eagerly anticipate this day we catch glimpses of this world to come like beams of sunlight breaking through dark clouds in the sky. Heaven is coming to earth. Jesus is the King who has suffered for us, who is with us in our suffering and who is coming again to bring an end to all suffering and make all things new.

Suffering now takes on new meaning in the light of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and return,

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV)

In the midst of very real suffering let us not lose heart or lose sight of our reigning and returning King who is coming to make all the sad and painful things untrue.

~

Suffering is a huge and emotionally fraught topic which is impossible to deal with adequately in something so limited as a blog post, though I hope what I’ve written has been helpful. For this reason I would recommend the follow resources as an aid to understanding suffering and to help us suffer well as Jesus did:

Prayer: God has experienced and overcome suffering and he invites us to share our suffering with him.

Reading the Bible: Specifically Lamentations and the Psalms but for a holistic understanding and approach to suffering we need to read the whole Bible.

Share with your spouse and/or a trusted friend(s) what you’re going through so they can intentionally walk with you through suffering.

Speak with your pastor and your doctor. Sometimes we need specialist help, whether spiritual or physical, to help us (and possibly to alleviate our suffering).

The list of books on the topic of suffering is practically endless and there are many excellent titles but I’d recommend:

When the Darkness Will Not Lift by John Piper (free pdf here). It is very short (79 pages), assessable and helpful. I highly recommend it.

Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering by Timothy Keller. This is much longer (322 pages) and so deals with suffering in greater depth. It is spilt into separate sections that deal with suffering philosophically (Part 1), theologically (Part 2) and practically (Part 3) so whether you’re going through suffering, wanting to prepare for it or want to help others there is something here for everyone.

A Grief Observed: Inwardly humbled, Visibly reformed

“We must grieve more for offending God than for the loss of dear relations” (Thomas Watson, The Doctrine of Repentance).

Image by Asif Akbar
Image by Asif Akbar

How does that statement strike you?

As I read that sentence in Watson’s book I experienced a number of different thoughts and emotions.

“This is an overstatement.”

“No, actually it is just reckless.”

“In fact, I think it is just completely wrong!”

However, the point Watson was making was an important one, sin must be grieved.  So the question follows to us, do we grieve our sin?

Perhaps we feel like we do grieve our sin.  But then there is a second question we must ask ourselves, is it a godly grief that overcomes us when we sin?

The Apostle Paul says this, when he writes to the Corinthian Church, ‘I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting.  For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us.  For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death’ (2 Cor. 7:9-10 ESV).

Frighteningly, it is possible to feel a worldly grief over our sin.  This is a grief borne out of selfishness – we feel sorrow due to our sin, we feel shame because we got caught in our sin, or we grieve because there are consequences to our sin.  However, this simply leads to death, Paul tells us.

Rather, we need a godly grief which leads to repentance.  A grief which is borne out of a great sense of ownership of sin, an acknowledgment of the disgust of sin and the horror that sin is before God.

What we must recognise though, is that godly grief is not the only thing needed for repentance.  Throughout Scripture repentance is never separated from faith.  These aspects are two sides to the one coin.

We must come to a realisation that “there is no sin so small but it deserves damnation” (The Baptist Confession of Faith 1689 15.5).  This is grief, and perhaps even godly grief which leads to repentance.  But this repentance must be coupled with faith as expressed in the Confession, “yet there is no sin so great that it shall bring damnation on them that repent” (The Baptist Confession of Faith 1689 15.5).

These truths are often connected to conversion, and somehow while faith remains necessary in the Christian life repentance gets left behind at conversion.  At conversion many of us felt and expressed sorrow over sin committed and faith in Jesus Christ’s work.  Presently, however, we only express our faith in Jesus Christ’s work.  Perhaps a good example of this would be the prayers offered by seasoned Christians at prayer meetings – godly sorrow is not always absent, but it is certainly lacking.

Rather, as Watson puts it, “Repentance is never out of season”.  In other words, repentance is to continue throughout our Christian lives (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology pg. 717).

As we know from passages such as Romans 7:15-20 we are in a constant war against sin.  As Christians we are not exempt from this war, and repeatedly we lose battles in that war.  Consequently, “it is every man’s duty to repent of his particular sins particularly” (The Baptist Confession of Faith 1689 15.4).  It is our responsibility to continue to identify individual sins in our lives, to experience godly sorrow over those individual sins, bringing us to repentance, because we have faith in Jesus Christ and his work.

What does that look like?  Well, we turn again to Thomas Watson who explains it like this “Repentance is a grace of God’s Spirit whereby a sinner is inwardly humbled and visibly reformed”.  Repentance is an inward disposition and an outward display.  It is a godly grief which leads to a godly life.  Continually as Christians we must be inwardly humbled and visibly reformed, we must continually repent.

Undoubtedly, “Till sin be bitter Christ will not be sweet” (Watson, The Doctrine of Repentance).  That is as true today in our Christian lives as it was at our conversion.  May we resolve then to find sin bitter and Christ sweet?

Summer Teams: Baptist Youth

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What is Baptist Youth?

Baptist Youth is the youth department of the Association of Baptist Churches in Ireland with the vision of “working together … transforming a generation”  Essentially we are a vehicle for the Baptist churches across Ireland to work together strategically to see the coming generation of children and young people transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  We do this through a variety of events, activities, schools ministry and training.  Our summer programme of camps and teams provides opportunities for young people to serve God, share the gospel, make friends and impact communities.

Camp Programme

God uses camp to change lives!  We have seen evidence of this down through many years of running children’s and youth camps.  The camp programme is designed to give children an unforgettable holiday in a Christian environment.  We are very clear to make the gospel a priority in our teaching sessions and when the example of the leader is on display 24/7 it is a powerful combination.  Camps range from ages 8-16 and are located from Armagh to Coleraine to Edinburgh. We are always in need of more leaders to help out at camp.  If you are over 18 and have some free time in the summer we would love to have you along as a leader on camp.  You will have a very encouraging time having input into the life of a young person.

Summer teams

God can accomplish so much, even through giving up one week of summer holidays specifically for evangelism.  When you get involved in a team God will work on your relationship with him, teaching you new things, challenging you about your values and giving you a glimpse of His great purpose for the world.  You will be motivated to pray and you will be stretched and develop abilities you never imagined you could have.  You will work with and learn from a team of leaders who themselves experience the privilege responsibility and excitement of serving God in His work.  We have 10 teams taking place across Ireland for anyone aged 16 or over.  We have two over 18 teams taking place in London and Spain. Are you ready to have you faith tested on the streets of Ireland, London and Spain?

Full details of the summer programme can be found at byouth.org

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Dave Ramsey is the Director of Baptist Youth for the Association of Baptist Churches in Ireland. He has a passion to see the coming generations set their hope in God and be transforming through trusting in Jesus.

Book Review: Are You Ready To Ride The Tilt-A-Whirl?

I recently finished reading N.D. Wilson’s book Notes From The Tilt-A-Whirl and I loved it! So much so I really wanted to review it here on the blog but I had no idea where to begin because it’s like no book I’ve ever read before. It really is a phenomenal book that I cannot recommend enough (I’ll be giving copies to my all friends for their birthday’s this year) and so to give you a taste of what you can expect from it I’ve asked my friend Cherith to write a review because she read the book before I even knew it existed and loves it enough to have read it more times that I’ve read any other book. Enjoy!

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The scent of candyfloss and hot dogs are heavy on the night air and you’re feeling adventurous. Have you got your ticket stubbed, checked you’re tall enough to ride? Step right up, step right up and enjoy the ride.

notes 2Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl by N. D. Wilson (Nathan Daniel, in case you were wondering) somehow manages to emulate the spinning and tilting effect of an actual Tilt-A-Whirl ride while at the same time arguing coherently for a world that is entirely God breathed.

And I quote, “Tree, I say, and you know what I mean. You see one in your mind, or glance out your window and remember the much-needed pruning. Tree, God says, and there is one. But He doesn’t just say the word tree; He says the tree itself… His voice is its existence.”

This book is an apologetic but not the great white shark variety that you might be used to. Where you might expect shouting and the loss of a limb, you will find laughter and possibly a sprain. But at least you’ll have fun.

Some people have compared this book to stream of consciousness and I can easily understand why, but really it follows a logical, intentional path. Granted the path isn’t exactly straight – “This is not a road in Wyoming” – but it does make sense. N D Wilson begins with the question “What is this world?” and “Where did it come from?” He moves on to the question of God, specifically, “Does He exist?” and if He does “What kind of God is He?”. The conversation progresses to questions such as, “If God does exist why do bad things happen?”, “What about evolution?” and finally, “Does hell really exist?”.

Throughout these important and serious questions, Wilson will reignite your wonder at this created world. If you’re feeling numb and apathetic towards God’s spoken world, this improbable sphere that spins on a just-so axis around a much larger, burning ball of gas that is far enough away to warm us without burning us alive, then you need to read this book. Get reacquainted with God the Creator-Artist-Poet-Playwright who is madly in love with His creation, His art, His masterpiece. Open your eyes and see the world as you’ve never seen it before.

And if that isn’t enough of a sales pitch then try this on for size. You’ll gain a fresh understanding of evil, basic philosophy, advanced physics and the fascinating activities of ants. Feeling intimidated by the scope of these topics? Fear not! There are three hiatuses placed at intervals throughout the book to give your brain a chance to catch up, zone out or consider a career as a BBC cameraman. Or camerawoman.

This is a ride you can’t afford to pass up.

And the carnies will take offence. You wouldn’t want to upset them now, would you?

Go on, let the pages flick your fingers.

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Cherith Martin is an English Literature graduate from Queen’s University Belfast and is currently working as a phlebotomist for the NHSCT. She is a member of Carrickfergus Baptist Church where she serves as a leader in the children’s ministry and the youth fellowship. Cherith also loves book having read many, and is an aspiring author so keep an eye out for her name at your local bookshop!

Review – Sounding the Depths: When Jesus prays for his people by Michael Milton

Today I am fulfilling something of a dream!  Albeit a sad one.

Due to my love of books I often find myself day dreaming about how great it would be to get paid for reading books.  Unfortunately I am not getting paid for this, but Evangelical Press did send me a free book to review for their ‘Sounding the depths book review blog tour’ from 10th-14th February.

Content

sounding the depthsSounding the Depths is a short collection of six expository messages on John 17 (Jesus’ High Priestly prayer) preached by Dr. Michael Milton at First Presbyterian Church of Chattanooga, Tennessee.  Rather than moving through the passage verse by verse however, Dr Milton moved through the passage topically as displayed by the chapter titles – Jesus’ prayer of compassion, If the truth be known, Four myths about submission in the Christian life, Five facts of true Christian faith, Humbled to death and Trusting in the Christ who prays for you.

Milton is both a scholar and a pastor, having served in a number of seminaries and churches.  Currently he is the teaching pastor for Truth that Transforms, a Christian radio programme.

Weaknesses

Initially, I must say I was disappointed with ‘Sounding the Depths’.

To begin with I was a bit letdown by the chapter titles.  They are perhaps some of the driest chapter titles I have read – especially on the back of the intriguing title ‘Sounding the Depths’.  This does not encourage you to read further.

Secondly, ‘Sounding the Depths’ read very much like a sermon manuscript at times.  It appeared like there was little to no editing.  It read as it would be said.  This irritated me and if I had purchased the book I would feel somewhat robbed.  I would not want to purchase unedited sermon manuscripts.

Finally, some sections were excessively repetitive.  Philippians 2 made an appearance in most chapters, and naturally more than once or twice in chapter five (Humbled to Death).  While there is no harm in appealing to a passage which complements the current passage, a consistent appeal to one other passage in particular muddies the water so to speak.

Strengths

However, having continued to read, I am glad I did so.

Jesus prayer for his disciples (both the 12 and all who follow) is a magnificent portion of Scripture.  To consider the fact that Jesus prayed for us, to have an extended insight into the Son praying to the Father and to have someone with the pastoral heart of Milton walk you through it is edifying.

The first strength of ‘Sounding the Depths’ was Milton’s use of illustrative material.  He begins chapter one by speaking about knowing the words of a song, but forgetting the tune.  We have all had that experience – knowing the words of a particular song but forgetting the tune, forgetting how it goes.  This, Milton says, happens all too often in the Christian life – we know the ‘words’ but forget the tune, melody, music of it all.  This continued as throughout Milton makes use of excellent illustrative material which draws us into his message and strikes home his application.

Secondly, each chapter ends with some discussion questions and a short prayer.  These facets of the book are much appreciated.  The questions always push you to think beyond what has been stated in the chapter and the prayers consistently show the pastoral heart of Milton.  Both these aspects, when time is given to them, impress upon the reading the central truths of the chapters.

Thirdly, there are several excellent sections within the book that touch on significant issues in today’s culture.  In particular I found his discussion on truth in chapter two, submission in chapter three and Jesus praying for his disciples in chapter six of benefit.  I appreciated greatly Milton displaying the glory of submission and felt keenly my reluctance to submit in all areas of my life to God.  Although, as chapter six explains, to have Jesus pray for you is undoubtedly the pinnacle of the prayer, and indeed this book.  The book is probably worth its price for chapter six alone.

Recommended?

In the introduction we are told by Rev. John Guest, “It is an amazing thing to hear the Lord Jesus praying to the Father when you realise that ‘He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature’ (Heb. 1:3)”.  And it is.

On a number of occasions, Milton says that we are only in the foothills of God’s glory with his study, and we are, but it is worth taking that journey, even to the foothills.

This is not the best book I have ever read.  Nonetheless, it was worth the read, even if only it reminds us once again of Jesus’ High Priestly prayer for his Saints.  To be reminded that Jesus not only consistently intercedes for us, but while on earth prayed for us before we existed, warms the heart inexpressibly.

So, if you are a keen reader this book won’t take long and you should probably read it.  If you aren’t such a keen reader, find something else to read that will be more rewarding for the time invested in reading it.

iFAQ 2: Can I Write For Gospel Convergence?

question markAt Gospel Convergence we want to have a broad range of voices from different denominations all over Northern and Southern Ireland. So we would encourage you to get in contact if you would be interested in joining with us.

That being said we have several conditions that must be met by all our contributors and their content:

  1. All our contributors must be in agreement with our Confessional Statement and Theological Vision.
  2. All our contributors must be members in good standing of the church to which they belong.
  3. All our contributors must care about our country. The majority of our contributors will be people who are living here but all of them have an interest in the well being of our country and the expansion of the gospel on our island.
  4. All our content aims to be constructive. We love the church and want her to be built up, not torn down. Therefore all of our content must be shaped with this in mind (1 Corinthians 14:26).
  5. All our content aims to be excellent. We don’t simply want to provide content but excellent content. We hold our content to high standards through a thorough editing process which means published content is always reviewed and often revised in order to produce the best quality content for publication.

If you satisfy these criteria we’d love to hear from you. You can contact us directly via Gospel Convergence or use our Contact Us page.

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Check out our iFAQ Page for all of our iFAQs.