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Keep Preaching The Word

This is not really a new-year’s resolution, but an all-year, every-year resolution.
The other pastors in town know that I’m committed to preaching from the Bible. They also know of my disapproval if visiting speakers at combined services here teach their own wisdom and illustrate it with Bible texts, generally removed from context, or take a Bible text and then use it to say whatever they want it to say.
We’ve had a lot of that lately, and many of them just don’t seem to spot the difference between preaching what a Bible text means and using the Bible (or not) to deliver a message based on your own ideas.
But I think we’re making progress.

Anyway, Mockingbird has a year-end round-up of their “top seven picks for “heretical crazy-talk video of the year”.
They are all YouTubes, so you can get it all in context.
All the usual names feature: Warren; Hybels; Hinn; Wilkinson and the following omnibus feature about the prosperity gospel that is just loaded with grabs of breath-taking theological error and goofiness.

This all just serves to underline how important it is to keep the Bible central. So, as a new year begins, the vital nature of preaching the word will always be forefront in my pastoral work.

HT: White Horse Inn.

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I Think I Know Which Suburb In Melbourne Has The Best Praying Pastors?

I enjoyed a post on Stuff Christians Like entitled “Secretly hoping your city’s NFL team stinks so people will come to church.”
This pertains to the reply which a church pastor gave when someone offered him sympathy over the lowly standing of his town’s football team:
“Without missing a beat, upon being reminded of how lousy the pro football team in his town was, the pastor laughed and said, “To tell you the truth, church is great when they have a horrible year. More people come and are more engaged. So it’s actually a good thing for the church.”
Jon Acuff, the post’s author then goes on to suppose three other things which he imagines pastors pray for, in addition to poor performances by local football teams.
These include: “That grumpy members will visit and fall in love with other churches.” and “That parents with screaming kids will take them to Sunday School.”
Acuff then asks if there are any other ‘secret pastor’s prayers’.
My desire is for children to stay in for the duration of worship services, though we do have a Sunday School available during some parts of the year. Our folk gladly support parents with children because they know many churches have not noise from young people because they have no young people.

I have to confess to taking some pleasure when inclement weather in our region interferes with large outdoor activities which occur on Sundays.
We also have a horse-racing track which cannot be used if twenty-five millimeters (an inch) of rain falls on it any time in the seven days before a planned meeting, as often happens during late autumn and winter. Sometimes in summer temperatures will soar into the high thirties (over 100 degrees fahrenheit) with strong northerly winds. I am never sad that these weather patterns disrupt the race meetings.
People in a large country town are extremely committed to sporting clubs and musical and cultural pursuits. Only injury or an extreme lack of talent will curtail these from competing with Christian worship and fellowship.
I don’t actually pray for these things.
My prayer is for people to come to worship in response to God working saving faith in them.

I do sort of pray that Mount Gambier Sunday morning traffic will abate so that the poor folk who have trouble arriving on time Sunday after Sunday aren’t delayed.

Of course, apparently, the pastors of churches in Collingwood must be especially fervent in prayer. Surely that explains the record of their team.

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Humble Calvinism

There are some who read the words ‘Humble Calvinism’ and think it an oxymoron, a phrase that contradicts itself, like ‘dry rain’ or ‘hot ice’. Rather, it should be a tautology, a phrase that repeats itself.

On Pyromaniacs, among a group of year-end book reviews, Phil Johnson commends a new publication of ‘The Marrow Of Modern Divinity’. It is an old book that seeks to teach the biblical view of justification against that of the legalist and antinomian errors.
Johnson introduces the book as:
“the book that sparked the Marrow Controversy in eighteenth-century Scotland. That’s one of my favorite episodes of theological controversy ever, and it continues to be one of the most important intramural debates among Calvinists. Thomas Boston and the Erskine brothers were on the angels’ side in that debate, in my assessment. They and their allies are sometimes known as “The Marrow Men.” Their opponents were high Calvinists of a severe and anti-evangelistic sort. The high-Calvinist group held to a cluster of ideas that to this day surface and resurface in Internet forums and tend to breed hyper-Calvinism. I wish more of today’s Calvinists had studied the Marrow controversy. I think a lot more gracious, tender-hearted, and evangelistic brand of Calvinism would be the result.”
There are numerous editions available, mine is part of the Works Of Thomas Boston.

In addition Martin Downes pointed to a pastoral letter by Ian Hamilton in which he exhorts his readers against succumbing to pride:
“Of all the dangers that can overtake a Reformed church, pride is surely the worst and most serious. There is, of course, a right kind of pride, a thankfulness to God for our history and heritage. But the pride I am thinking of, is that ugly, self-righteous, self-preening brute that says with the Pharisees, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men” (“We are not like other churches”!). Such self-regarding censoriousness, is particularly the preserve of the privileged and blessed. You see it often in the lives of the great and the good. Sadly, tragically, such pride can also be seen in the very circles where it ought never to be seen, in the circle of Christ’s disciples.

Of all people, Christians, and Reformed Christians in particular, have the least to be proud about. In rebuking some Christians in Corinth for their pride, Paul exclaimed, “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” What have we indeed to boast about? Were we not “dead in trespasses and sins” when God in his grace sent his Son to save us? Were we not guilty, hell-deserving sinners, God’s very enemies, when he “commended his love towards us” and gave up the Lord Jesus Christ to die that sin-bearing, wrath-quenching death of the cross to deliver us from a ruined eternity and bring us ultimately to glory? Total depravity and unconditional election are not merely doctrines to confess, they are truths to humble us to the dust. And yet, how easily, only too easily, can we allow our vast gospel privileges and blessings to turn us into self-regarding, narrow-hearted men and women.”
Read the rest of the letter here.

I know the blackness and sin of my own heart and am distressed to the point of despair, yet I do not know myself as well as God does.
That He has called me into His family and His Son gave up His life for my salvation does not engender pride or a sense of superiority.
Just awe, thankfulness and a desire to live as part of God’s family and help others to know Him.

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New Directions – December/January

The Presbyterian Church of Queensland has posted the December/January edition of New Directions on their website. (Downloadable in four parts) Make it part of your summer reading.

Articles include:

  • a report on the ‘Flourish’ women’s ministry conference;
  • a ‘Family Day’ that was provided free of cost to their local community by Gateway Presbyterian church;
  • an article about ‘Culture and the Christian’ by Don Geddes;
  • progress on the renovations of the church offices;
  • a short piece on attitudes to death and funerals by Bruce Winter;
  • a paragraph noting the death at age 102 of William White, servant of the Gospel;
  • a page on the ‘Outback Tagalong’ led by Laurie and Gwen Peake;
  • a report on the 150th anniversary commemorations of Springsure Presbyterian;
  • a couple of letters giving advice on how best to compose letters of comment for newspapers or participate on talk-back radio, written people with professional backgrounds in these mediums;
  • updates on the work of PresCare;
  • a report on the South-East Fun and Adventure Camp;
  • along with many other news items.

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Presbyterian Pulse – December/January Issue

The December/January edition of Presbyterian Pulse has been posted for on the website of the Presbyterian Church of New South Wales for awhile, but with December being so busy it makes good holiday reading.

Articles of interest include:

  • commentary on the negative aspects of the proposed Australian Charter of Rights;
  • a report on the ‘Flourish’ women’s ministry conference;
  • a profile of David Hann manager of the Reformers Bookshop and Presbyterian Social Services Student Residences;
  • a ‘snapshot’ of the Minister’s Family Camp;
  • a feature report on Rhonda Daley and her work as Chaplain to both the Allowah Presbyterian Children’s Hospital and The Children’s Hospital Westmead. The recently renovated Allowah Presbyterian Children’s Hospital is the only hospital in NSW that provides expert care to babies and young people up to 18 with physical and intellectual disabilities;
  • Christmas themed articles by Peter Moore, Bryson Smith and Nerida Shimizu;
  • background material on the plans for METRO ministry internships in 2010;
  • an article on ‘How Presbyterians Should Approach Christmas Day’ by Chris Balzer;
  • and lots of other regular columns as well.

Good reading for relaxed summer days.


All Hail The Power Of Jesus Name – Sunday Songs

This morning at mgpc we sang ‘All Hail The Power Of Jesus Name’.
There are three well known tunes to which this hymn is sung.
Each tune renders the words of the verses differently. In the first verse there also does not seem to be consistency as to the use of the words ‘and’ and ‘to’ in where it reads ‘and crown Him’.
I grew up with the tune ‘Miles Lane’. To fit this tune the words of the first verse are:
All hail the power of Jesus’ name!
Let angels prostrate fall;
bring forth the royal diadem,
and crown Him, crown Him, crown Him,
crown Him Lord of all.

When the Rejoice hymnbook was published it retained ‘Miles Lane’ but as a second choice to ‘Diadem’. For this tune the words to the first verse are rendered in this way:
All hail the power of Jesus’ name!
Let angels prostrate fall,
let angels prostrate fall.
Bring forth the royal diadem,
to crown Him,
crown Him, crown Him, crown Him
to crown Him Lord of all.

Diadem is very challenging to sing, particularly over five verses.
The third tune is my personal favourite. ‘Coronation’ shares some elements with ‘Miles Lane’ but is more interesting to sing without the contortions of ‘Diadem’. I think the first time I encountered this tune was on the vocal group Accapella’s CD ‘Hymns For All The World’. To fit ‘Diadem’ the words for the first verse are:
All hail the power of Jesus’ name!
Let angels prostrate fall;
bring forth the royal diadem,
and crown Him Lord of all.
Bring forth the royal diadem,
and crown Him Lord of all.

Here are the remaining verses from hymnsite. I had not encountered the fifth verse here and it seems to be omitted from just about every hymn collection.
Ye chosen seed of Israel’s race,
ye ransomed from the fall,
hail him who saves you by his grace,
and crown him Lord of all.
Hail him who saves you by his grace,
and crown him Lord of all.
Sinners, whose love can ne’er forget
the wormwood and the gall,
go spread your trophies at his feet,
and crown him Lord of all.
Go spread your trophies at his feet,
and crown him Lord of all.
Let every kindred, every tribe
on this terrestrial ball,
to him all majesty ascribe,
and crown him Lord of all.
To him all majesty ascribe,
and crown him Lord of all.
Crown him, ye martyrs of your God,
who from his altar call;
extol the Stem of Jesse’s Rod,
and crown him Lord of all.
Extol the Stem of Jesse’s Rod,
and crown him Lord of all.
O that with yonder sacred throng
we at his feet may fall!
We’ll join the everlasting song,
and crown him Lord of all.
We’ll join the everlasting song,
and crown him Lord of all.

All three tunes from YouTube.
Miles Lane. (Organ only, no vocal)

Diadem. (Orchestral/choir)

Coronation. (Praise band)