The Marathoners

A team from the church successfully took part in the Deep RiveRock Belfast Marathon (7th May). Alison did the 13 mile Marathon Walk and the rest of us took part in the Team Relay Event. We did so to raise money for CLIC Sargent who looked after one of our families so very well when their son Cameron (see photo) was diagnosed with Leukaemia in 2010. To date we have raised over £1500. Well done all (competitors and supporters). Here’s a photo of the team and the man  himself

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L-R Sam Gordon, Robert Taylor, Alison Colgan, Nicola Rea, (Cameron on front), Ady Rea and Paul Wallace.

It was wet, cold but enjoyable day! Finish time for Team was 3:59:00 and we were 482nd out of 2067 teams.

Preparations for the Lord’s Supper

It’s our Lord’s Supper this Lord’s Day evening. It is a special means of grace and the Apostle Paul commends careful preparation for it and in participation in it (1 Cor. 10:16ff. and 1 Cor. 11:23ff.). I have never found better counsel on how to think about it and participate in it that those questions and answers from the Larger Catechism. I reproduce them here for your meditation.

Q. 168. What is the Lord’s supper?
A. The Lord’s supper is a sacrament of the New Testament, wherein, by giving and receiving bread and wine according to the appointment of Jesus Christ, his death is showed forth; and they that worthily communicate feed upon his body and blood, to their spiritual nourishment and growth in grace; have their union and communion with him confirmed; testify and renew their thankfulness, and engagement to God, and their mutual love and fellowship each with other, as members of the same mystical body.

Q. 169. How hath Christ appointed bread and wine to be given and received in the sacrament of the Lord’s supper?
A. Christ hath appointed the ministers of his word, in the administration of this sacrament of the Lord’s supper, to set apart the bread and wine from common use, by the word of institution, thanksgiving, and prayer; to take and break the bread, and to give both the bread and the wine to the communicants: who are, by the same appointment, to take and eat the bread, and to drink the wine, in thankful remembrance that the body of Christ was broken and given, and his blood shed, for them.

Q. 170. How do they that worthily communicate in the Lord’s supper feed upon the body and blood of Christ therein?
A. As the body and blood of Christ are not corporally or carnally present in, with, or under the bread and wine in the Lord’s supper, and yet are spiritually present to the faith of the receiver, no less truly and really than the elements themselves are to their outward senses; so they that worthily communicate in the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, do therein feed upon the body and blood of Christ, not after a corporal and carnal, but in a spiritual manner; yet truly and really, while by faith they receive and apply unto themselves Christ crucified, and all the benefits of his death.

Q. 171. How are they that receive the sacrament of the Lord’s supper to prepare themselves before they come unto it?
A. They that receive the sacrament of the Lord’s supper are, before they come, to prepare themselves thereunto, by examining themselves of their being in Christ, of their sins and wants; of the truth and measure of their knowledge, faith, repentance; love to God and the brethren, charity to all men, forgiving those that have done them wrong; of their desires after Christ, and of their new obedience; and by renewing the exercise of these graces, by serious meditation, and fervent prayer.

Q. 172. May one who doubteth of his being in Christ, or of his due preparation, come to the Lord’s supper?
A. One who doubteth of his being in Christ, or of his due preparation to the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, may have true interest in Christ, though he be not yet assured thereof; and in God’s account hath it, if he be duly affected with the apprehension of the want of it, and unfeignedly desires to be found in Christ, and to depart from iniquity: in which case (because promises are made, and this sacrament is appointed, for the relief even of weak and doubting Christians) he is to bewail his unbelief, and labor to have his doubts resolved; and, so doing, he may and ought to come to the Lord’s supper, that he may be further strengthened.

Q. 173. May any who profess the faith, and desire to come to the Lord’s supper, be kept from it?
A. Such as are found to be ignorant or scandalous, notwithstanding their profession of the faith, and desire to come to the Lord’s supper, may and ought to be kept from that sacrament, by the power which Christ hath left in his church, until they receive instruction, and manifest their reformation.

Q. 174. What is required of them that receive the sacrament of the Lord’s supper in the time of the administration of it?
A. It is required of them that receive the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, that, during the time of the administration of it, with all holy reverence and attention they wait upon God in that ordinance, diligently observe the sacramental elements and actions, heedfully discern the Lord’s body, and affectionately meditate on his death and sufferings, and thereby stir up themselves to a vigorous exercise of their graces; in judging themselves, and sorrowing for sin; in earnest hungering and thirsting after Christ, feeding on him by faith, receiving of his fullness, trusting in his merits, rejoicing in his love, giving thanks for his grace; in renewing of their covenant with God, and love to all the saints.

Q. 175. What is the duty of Christians, after they have received the sacrament of the Lord’s supper?
A. The duty of Christians, after they have received the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, is seriously to consider how they have behaved themselves therein, and with what success; if they find quickening and comfort, to bless God for it, beg the continuance of it, watch against relapses, fulfill their vows, and encourage themselves to a frequent attendance on that ordinance: but if they find no present benefit, more exactly to review their preparation to, and carriage at, the sacrament; in both which, if they can approve themselves to God and their own consciences, they are to wait for the fruit of it in due time: but, if they see they have failed in either, they are to be humbled, and to attend upon it afterwards with more care and diligence.

Why so much about Christ?

B.B. Warfield explains (with thanks to Carl Trueman for reminding us all of this superb statement).

It belongs to the very essence of the type of Christianity propagated by the Reformation that the believer should feel himself continuously unworthy of the grace by which he lives. At the center of this type of Christianity lies the contrast of sin and grace; and about this center everything else revolves. This is in large part the meaning of the emphasis put in this type of Christianity on justification by faith. It is its conviction that there is nothing in us or done by us, at any stage of our earthly development, because of which we are acceptable to God. We must always be accepted for Christ’s sake, or we cannot ever be accepted at all. This is not true of us only “when we believe.” It is just as true after we have believed. It will continue to be true as long as we live. Our need of Christ does not cease with our believing; nor does the nature of our relation to Him or to God through Him ever alter, no matter what our attainments in Christian graces or our achievements in Christian behavior may be. It is always on His “blood and righteousness” alone that we can rest. There is never anything that we are or have or do that can take His place, or that can take a place along with Him. We are always unworthy, and all that we have or do of good is always of pure grace. Though blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ, we are still in ourselves just “miserable sinners”: “miserable sinners” saved by grace to be sure, but “miserable sinners” still, deserving in ourselves nothing but everlasting wrath. That is the attitude which the Reformers took, and that is the attitude which the Protestant world has learned from the Reformers to take, toward the relation of believers to Christ

Redemption and Suffering

The death of Jesus was qualitatively different from any other death. The physical pain was nothing compared to the spiritual experience of cosmic abandonment. Christianity alone among the world religions claims that God became uniquely and fully human in Jesus Christ and therefore knows firsthand despair, rejection, loneliness, poverty, bereavement, torture and imprisonment. On the cross he went beyond even the worst human suffering and experienced cosmic rejection and pain that exceeds our as infinitely as his knowledge and power exceeds ours. In his death God suffers in love, identifying with the abandoned and godforsaken. Why did he do it? The Bible says that Jesus came on a rescue mission for creation. He had to pay for our sins so that some day he can end evil and suffering without ending us.

Let’s see where this has brought us. If we ask again the question: ‘Why does God allow evil and suffering to continue?’ and we look at the cross of Jesus, we still do not know what the answer is. However, we now know what the answer isn’t. It can’t be that he doesn’t love us. It can’t be that he is indifferent or detached from our condition, God takes our misery and suffering so seriously that he was willing to take it on himself.

Timothy Keller, The Reason for God, page 30

The Lord’s Supper and Children

No I don’t believe children should take the Lord’s Supper but I do believe it is important for our children to be present. Here are some words from John Brown (of Haddington) on the subject.

“About the eighth year of my age, I happened in the crowd to get into the church on the Sacrament Sabbath, when it was common for all but intended communicants to be excluded. The table or tables which I heard served, before I was put out, were chiefly served upon Christ, and in a sweet and delightful manner. This captivated my young affections, and has made me since think that little one should never be excluded from the church on such occasions. Though what they heard may not convert them, it may be of use to begin the allurement of their heart.” (quoted in Robert Mackenzie biography of Brown and from an autobiographical fragment).

Preliminary Notice – Spring Conference

We look forward (D.V.) to Pastor Jim Domm visiting us from Friday 4th-6th May 2011 to minister at our Spring Conference. Our plan is to run it as a kind of ‘mini-Family Conference’ – with some activities during some of the preaching sessions for children who attend with with their parents.

The subject I believe will be one we’re not very familiar with but which will undoubtably encouraging and edifying -‘The Kingship of Believers’.

The proposed schedule will be as follows:

  • Friday 4th 8pm 
    •  ‘Introduction’
  • Saturday 5th 9:30am-1:30pm
    • ‘The Fact of our Kingship’
    • ‘The Renewal of our Kingship’
    • ‘The Nature of our Kingship’
  • Lord’s Day 6th11:30am & 6:30pm
    • ‘The Present Implications of our Kingship’

Born and raised in New York State, Jim was converted in the summer of 1974. He has served as a pastor at Englewood Baptist Church in Englewood, New Jersey for the past 17 years. He and his wife, Brenda, have been married for 32 years. They have one daughter and one granddaughter.

More details to follow.

Encouraging Words to Sinners Engaged in Worship

This should carry us through our duties with much cheerfulness, that, if we hate our corruptions and strive against them, they shall not be counted ours. ‘It is no more I that do it,’ says Paul, ‘but sin that dwelleth in me’ (Rom. 7:17). For what displeases us shall never hurt us, and we shall be esteemed by God to be what we love and desire and labour to be. What we desire to be we shall be, and what we desire truly to conquer we shall conquer, for God will fulfil the desire of them that fear him (Ps. 145:19). The desire is an earnest of the thing desired.

Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed.

The Priority of Preaching, Christopher Ash – A Review

Christian Focus Publications kindly sent me a copy The Priority of Preaching by Christopher Ash for review, and I’m very glad they did!

There are plenty of books about preaching, and I’ve read a fair few. Most of them I have appreciated and found helpful. It is no different with this little book. It is a little book but its content is weightier, more profound and much more important than its size would suggest. Furthermore there are a few features that make this book interesting and impressive.

One of the first things I noticed about this book was not it’s content but the way it was written. Christopher Ash writes well. Something I have noticed, but only really recently thought about is just how well Anglicans write, I mean that to be taken as commendation not as an expression of surprise! Think Stott, Packer and to them I would now add Ash. His writing is erudite, one feels one is learning something, indeed much, in the reading of this book (as should be the case). The author’s knowledge not only of his subject, but of culture, history and literature is obviously extensive, though at no time does he come across as pompous in the presentation of this knowledge. He quotes frequently from a wide range of authors, not just spiritual greats, but ‘secular’ authors too. All this makes the book a joy to read.

A second feature that makes this book stand out from the crowd is that the author bases each of the chapters upon a section of Deuteronomy. This has two important benefits. Firstly the book puts into practice what it preaches, though obviously not a sermon, it was based on sermons, and being rooted in the Word, it is a kind of literary test-case of the thesis of the book itself. Secondly, and obviously, it means that much, if not all of what the author says is firmly rooted in the authority of Scripture itself, this again harmonizes well with the theme of the first chapter, the author is not so much writing his own message but God’s. Not many books about preaching expound Scripture throughout in a systematic way, this one does, and it is all the more persuasive for it.

The book is made up of three chapters. Chapter One, ‘The Authority of the Preached Word’, is a fantastically countercultural commendation of preaching as a God-ordained authoritative act. It draws on the the prophetic motif  found throughout Scripture; prophet not as the forecaster but as the deliverer, the herald of a message from God to man. Chapter Two ‘ Preaching that Transforms the Church’ seeks, and succeeds in my opinion to prove that preaching, done right, is still effectual, but also exhorts us as preachers to ‘do it right’, and especially not to be satisfied with merely ‘teaching’ but preaching with clarity, urgency and passion to real people, dependent upon God’s grace. Chapter Three, ‘Preaching that Mends a Broken World’ extends the author’s faith in preaching beyond the walls of the Church, unto the world itself, to the bringing in, and keeping in, of the disparate peoples, and the broken people who will make up the people of the New Creation. Finally there is a Appendix; ‘Give God the Microphone! Seven Blessings of Consecutive Expository Preaching’

All through the book Ash, communicates to the reader his belief in, and enthusiasm for, what he is writing, and he does so convincingly because he bases what he is writing on Scripture.

I highly recommend this book for all ministers of God’s Word, but would also happily commend it to anyone who sits under preaching. In a day when the Church is so sadly given to drama, and endurance singing sessions, ‘talks’ and any number of other activities (anything other than preaching), this book is a breath of fresh air. I look forward to reading the rest of the series as it is issued.