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Stewardship of Money and Living in London on a Student Budget

September 30, 2014 1 comment

It’s that time of the year when sunny days get colder and the student hordes throng the streets of London. I’ve had a good time meeting the first arrivals, urging them to make the most of their few years abroad.

rocket, fig, proscuitto, mozzarella salad with linseed vinaigretteIt’ll be a sad thing if all they had to show at the end of their degree was, erm, a degree, selfies in front of tourist attractions, signed menus from Michelin restaurants, and a life partner to eat in said restaurants with. There’s much more to life, boys and girls! Away from the usual societal crutches of home, this is the perfect opportunity to think carefully and independently about life – to investigate properly what truth is and so set valid life goals according to that truth. After thorough investigation, Christian claims, as set out in the Bible, seemed overwhelmingly true:

  1. the deadly problem we all face is that we are all under the wrath of God for failing to acknowledge him;
  2. nothing we can ever do or say will be able to turn away God’s wrath on the Last Day;
  3. but God sent his Son Jesus to save us from this – if we trust that what God promised is true – ie. that Jesus’ death is sufficient to save us from the consequences of our sin.

Because this is such an important thing for this life and the next, I would highly recommend everyone to research this for themselves. A Christianity Explored course is a great place to start! And London universities are well served by good churches like St. Helen’s Bishopsgate and Euston Church.

While the important stuff gets sorted, there are also daily necessities to consider. (Ah but, really, who ultimately provides us with money to buy food with, enables food to grow as they should, regulates the seasons, gives us breath?) As a student at a Bible course, living off my own savings, I had to be careful about spending, but also not let frugality be an idol; to be so able to work the budget as still to be generously hospitable about housing and feeding people. We usually think that “good stewardship” of God-given money consists merely of avoiding conspicuous consumption, but miserliness too fails to properly invest God’s money for his work.

Food
Because the United Kingdom produces its own food and local food is more likely to be less expensive, it is best to eat the season.

Street markets are your best bet for fresh food. I don’t mean the organic hipster places but the “ethnic” sort in East London – for example, along Whitechapel or in Shadwell. Vegetables are usually sold by the bowl – £1 for whatever is in the bowl. And I have managed to bargain for more to be stuffed in the same bowl…

Check London Farmers Markets for more English/continental produce. Although basics are on the whole more expensive, this is for you if you care about provenance. And there are some bargains at closing time or on things that don’t usually figure in the modern London kitchen – like duck hearts, other offal, pork bones for ramen bases. Even the more posh farmers’ markets are worth checking out: I’ve gotten good bags of pesticide-free fruit and vegetables for £1 each at the Marylebone Farmers’ Market and chicken carcasses for stock (but with enough flesh left on it for a meal for one or two) for 25p each at Borough Market.

It’s also worth being a regular at your local butcher and fishmonger who may throw in stuff for free once they get to know you.

wild blackberries wild blackberry tart

Foraging has saved me a bundle on fruit and herbs. But obviously you need to be sure not to poison yourself, especially with the mushrooms. Check out recipes and advice at Forage London.

Marked Down GroceriesIf you really need to use a supermarket, you can compare prices at mysupermarket.co.uk. There isn’t a particularly generally cheap(er) mainstream supermarket: Tesco and Sainsbury’s might sell different goods more cheaply. Lidl, Aldi, and ASDA, although not known to be upmarket, have own-brand products that stand up to more expensive own-brands: like olive oil and charcuterie. Check for Great Taste Awards as well. There are also treasures in Lidl’s wine bins (eg. Bordeaux second growths).

Waitrose does really deep discounts on well-kept but expiring food. I usually snap these up for the freezer – good for lazy evenings and unexpected guests. It’s also worth signing up to be a Waitrose member for free coffee (espresso, cappuccino, latte) and tea daily, additional discounts, and a free well-written magazine every month.
Marked Down Groceries Marked Down GroceriesThe other great thing about Waitrose is that it applies original bulk-buy discounts to stickered items. In this instance, Waitrose technically paid me £0.11 to buy 18 sausages off them!

Marked Down Groceries Marked Down Groceries
Marked Down Groceries Marked Down Groceries
Marked Down Groceries Marked Down Groceries

Marks & Spencer stores tend to clear out their bakery sections at a good yellow-stickered discount about 6.00 p.m. (store-dependent) every day so you can get proper bread/pastry your dinner/breakfast there. The city center stores are also good for discounts on dairy items like milk and cheese.

Approved Food has a bit of a niche selling food near or past its best before date at good reductions.

Coffee
Brewing your own probably gives you a better cup and saves you loads off Costa lattes. Worth checking out online coffee companies for promotional discounts – eg. Pact Coffee delivers your first order for only £1.

Clothes
By the fact that everyone can tell me a mile away by my clothes, it is clear that I don’t really have much experience in this area. But for fig leaves that don’t look too cheap, TK Maxx has good stuff. There are loads of charity shops around. Also look out for clothes swaps.

For camping/hiking/walking clothes, footwear, and accessories, try the Army Surplus Store

Hair Cuts
Get them free by being a real live model for hairdressing students or juniors. Have a look at this Time Out article for details.

Cookware, homeware and home electricals
Check first if anyone has anything to give away on London Freecycle or Gumtree or a whole list of alternatives on the Guardian Green Living Blog or on the London Re-use Network. Otherwise, compare prices at:
Robert Dyas
Argos
Lakeland
Poundland, 99p shop, 98p shop…

Reuse, Reuse, Reuse
Reuse jars as cups and for storage. Reuse can and coffee cups as pen and pencil holders. Reuse fruit crates for shelves. Reuse wine cases for bookshelves.

Transportation
Cycling around London is free, though you’ll need to acquire a bicycle and an all-important bicycle lock.

Bicycles
Freecycle, Gumtree, . Or ReCycling and other sites listed on Bike Hub. Cycle training, if you live in Tower Hamlets, is free.

bicycle maintenance club bicycle repair and maintenance tools

You’ll want to keep your ride in good shape, so pop down to the free bicycle maintenance workshops.

Trains
The Man on Seat 61 has good advice about this.

Leisure Activities
It helps to live in areas that the government thinks need a leg up. In Tower Hamlets, for example, there is free tennis and relatively cheap admission to swimming pools.

For theatre, opera, concerts, check out the TKTS website for discounts, or (if appropriate) hunt for student standby tickets or platform seats.

Lots more tips at moneysavingexpert.com.

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Summer Camp, More Goodbyes

August 18, 2014 Leave a comment

Mid-goodbye-hug, I was bundled into a moving car and whisked to the rail station by the coast, where a train was about to depart for London. I yearned to linger and prolong 11 days of magnificent gospel partnership…but there was a Glaswegian-Norwegian wedding to witness and celebrate.
defrosting a fridge in the sunIf the same team would have me, I would fly any where in the world to work with them. They were a fantastic mix of commitment to God and his word, godliness, Protestant work ethic, absolute craziness, humility, creative problem-solving, ruthlessness in dealing with sin, patience, sportsmanship, prayerfulness, servant-(arm-down-a-blocked-loo)-leadership. And all this in the extraordinary context of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians (authentic gospel ministry looks weak and so brings glory to God alone), which we were studying for the week.

Burgers and duck fat roast potatoes

Breaded and deep-fried pork loin

Meringue and lemon tart
After the wedding, a week of last meals with good friends and neighbours. I never thought I’d be the one at the door, sending off people going to do work amongst the Chinese in some other bit of London, amongst the posh people in the West Country, amongst the prosperity-gospel-deluded in Africa, amongst the youth in Australia…

Hainanese chicken rice dinner - very good with John Crabbie's Traditional Cloudy Ginger Beer

This dinner was sponsored by the Duck: duck confit with duck eggHow do you say goodbye? Would that we could squeeze all that love and respect, and all those memories of fierce arguments and of sitting around in companionable silence, all the serious conversations and nonsensical banter, all the snuggling comfortingly in similar weaknesses and navigating our differences, into a small locket and carry that, warming our hearts, for the rest of our lives.

But we can’t. So we eat, and drink, and chat, and take selfies, and wash-up, then someone says,”Sorry, but I need to go. Otherwise, no one gets a sermon on Sunday”. And we part, and life goes on, because there is so much more to be done, and God will give us other partners for the work and companions for the journey. Until we meet again in the new creation.

Smashed meringue and lemon tartOur not-very-smashed version of Massimo Bottura’s Oops I Dropped The Lemon Tart.

Clarity in Epistemology, Theories of Truth, Precision in Communication, Facets of Reality, and More Photos of Food

July 20, 2014 Leave a comment

Sunday lunchIn between the innumerable barbecues (the English sort requiring shielding with brollies from the London rain) and having people round for dinner, have been pondering the necessity of clarity in thinking about things and precision in communication. (The Tutor first raised it when we were chatting a few months ago about the setting up of apprenticeship schemes in churches. Female Tutor thought this was one of my (very few) strengths, i am not so certain as most of this blog demonstrates… Was also talking about this with Online Bookshopkeeper and wife last month.)

ox cheek, green beans with hazelnuts, sweet potato mash, grilled aubergines and tomatoes with mozarella

Clarity in Epistemology

Possibility of Clarity
But before we even consider the subject, the question should surely be whether there is even the possibility of epistemological clarity*, both for the unbeliever with his unregenerated mind and for the believer living in this fallen world?

One of the most common presuppositions in modern thinking is that the human mind and all it generates (theories in various sciences, humanities) should have the utmost claim to the authoritative interpretation of reality. But if Scripture is right**, human brain power cannot be the ultimate in the process of evaluation, because it is corrupted by sin:

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honour him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonouring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever! Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonourable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s decree that those who practise such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practise them. (Romans 1:18-32)

  • If God has established objective reality (“truth”), and
  • humans because of their refusal to acknowledge God as God by worshipping him or thanking him,
  • have suppressed the truth about God, then
  • they have become so corrupted in their thinking that they are unwilling and unable to know the truth and act accordingly.

This is why Jesus didn’t say that we just need to try a little harder to be good or to turn over a new leaf, but that we need to be born again to see the kingdom of God (John 3:3) – we need a whole new existence.

For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
11     no one understands;
    no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
    no one does good,
    not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
    they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14     “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16     in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18     “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:9b-18)

However, as human theories in the sciences and humanities attest, mankind has not been completely blinded to the truth. We have still been made in the image of God (though now flawed), have still been allowed to live in God’s world, and can still observe, dimly, consistencies in the way the world works and, with what we have termed as chemistry, physics, biology etc, have attempted to categorise and explain these consistencies and so predict the outcome of things.

The sad fact is that in our arrogance, we assume that this common grace, this cataracted view of reality should then be the basis on which we judge God. We are ignorant that we are like blind men feeling bits of an elephant.

beef bone marrow with panko and gentlemen's relish, blue sirloinPresuppositions
“How can you believe in God when science says otherwise?” is the usual question thrown about. But this challenge is founded on shaky presuppositions**.

Fundamental to all human thinking, whether in the sciences or in economics or philosophy is that which we call logic and reasoning. However even these are merely epistemological theories following the use of the human mind or human perceptual apparatus. While it is possible that the existence of synthetic a priori stuff or observable phenomena may point to the self-consistency of the Creator, our theories about them cannot limit him, since he alone has established reality and we are merely poor half-blind observers of it. Good try, Descartes, Kant et al.

Further, in logic theory, most science is based merely on inductive reasoning – that is, that its conclusions are merely possible or probable, given the truth of the premises. So its conclusions are actually a not-completely-adequate subset of a not-completely-authoritative theory. To base one’s evaluation of the truth on “what science says” is therefore quite erroneous.

Even further, the scientific method is only one of many ways that humans have come up with to acquire knowledge and analyse the truth. We do not consider the truth in a court of law or in a history book (or even in a newspaper) by requiring similar empirical or measurable evidence.

a forest of carrot and beetroot greensa forest of carrot and beetroot greens

grilled aubergines and tomatoes with basil leaves

Clarity
So then, clarity. There is a sense in which we can and should engage people’s minds in pointing them to the truth. Jesus, the prophets, and the apostles all used language and argument to communicate the truth.

Wonder how many apologetic strangleholds can be broken (humanly at least) by attending to, and interacting with, the other party’s theory of truth. Most of the time, the other party relies on some background in his thoughts but is not yet aware of (i) his truth presuppositions; and so (ii) the diverse methodologies proposed by humans for determining the different sorts of truths. For example, he may assume that all truth must be proved by the narrow epistemological method that pertains to proof of scientific hypotheses, and so neglect the whole school of historiography and historical method in determining the veracity of an account of an event in the past.

But ultimately of course, a change of mind that comes with re-birth, is the work of the Spirit, who is likened to the wind – it blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes (John 3:8).

stack of grilled tomatoes, aubergines, mozarella with basil leaves and balsamic reductiongrilled aubergine, tomatoes, with mozarella

Precision in Communication

There is a need for clear thinking in the minds of believers too in their theology and doctrine. (For further discussion.)

Additionally, since we should already be of the same mind, there should be precision in our communication with each other (as well as in apologetics of course). How many good-faith arguments (cf. bad-faith trolling) might have been nipped in the bud by parties:

  • having clarity on the exact definition of terms used in the argument – most of the time i find i have been arguing at cross-purposes with someone because we’d neglected to first lay out the contents of the package we called “faith” or “gospel” or “God’s sovereignty” or “reading the Bible for ourselves”;
  • not succumbing to the false bifurcation that so besets so many political rallies; humbly considering that differing views may be complementary rather than contradictory.

Note that none of this suggests that reality is relativistic (in the sense that there is no objective reality, or that such objective reality cannot be determined). Rather, it wonders whether objective reality is so faceted and our human understanding so limited that the same thing needs to be described in several ways that are complementary and not contradictory to each other. We should not quarrel over the priority of one Scriptural facet over another, if Scripture itself does not prioritise one over the other.

rhubard and pear compote, fromage frais and double cream, shortbreadcompote of rhubarb and pear, shortbread crumble, fromage frais and heavy cream

strawberries and cream

*disregarding for the moment questions as to the absolute value of clarity
**how a fallen mind can establish this is a whole other discussion, Münchhausen et al

For own reference, currently reading:
Vern Sheridan Poythress’ Logic
Vern Sheridan Poythress’ Symphonic Theology

Kitchen Experiments and Hermeneutics

June 29, 2014 Leave a comment

Now that School is finally over, have been using rainy days to consolidate and masticate on things. Naturally, this has required the presence of Activities of Minor Distraction – like cooking and baking, the products of which have been greatly appreciated in the innumerable socials that have mushroomed now that summer is really here.

Just like a sustained period of playing around with food gives even an amateur like me some sense of the flavours and textures of ingredients and an idea of how they might fit together, so the last two years of having to handle and teach the Bible daily have been very useful for getting a tiny feel of how God’s word in Scripture works.

So a re-look at my hermeneutics, with loads of chatting with great people in both the Local Church and wider family – not a major revamp but a tidying-up and ordering of material. Hermeneutics isn’t just the preserve of biblical scholars and pastors and teachers – it is essential to understand what God is saying in his word because God’s word is essential to the life of his people; every debate in Christian history would, at least in part, be concerned with hermeneutical issues.

smoked tuna
smoked tuna on Poilâne sourdough bread

Untitled
tenderstem asparagus, rocket leaves, broad beans, Pomo Dei Moro tomatoes, mozarella cheese on Poilâne sourdough bread

rump steak, candied radishes, rocket leaves, baby carrots
rump steak, candied radishes, rocket leaves, baby carrots

ox cheek with red wine and port sauce, on wasabi mash potato
ox cheek with red wine and port sauce, on wasabi mash potato

Parking some transitional thoughts here for the moment (to be demonstrated at a later time: how each of these points should be backed up by Scripture):

  1. Assumptions: (i) that the original text of the Bible is God’s word to humankind; (ii) that God has a message that he wanted communicated to its original hearers/readers (as the case may be) and also to his people thereafter; and (iii) that there is therefore a primary meaning to the text (that must be adhered to, precluding postmodern subjective personal “I like to think that this is saying” interpretation) and it is comprehensible to humans.
  2. Original languages and translation issues. The first step in biblical hermeneutics would be to understand God’s word in its original languages – mainly Hebrew and Ancient Greek. This isn’t something that most of us can do, given that we do not have working knowledge of those languages. But if we are reading the Bible in another language, then we need to keep all the issues of translation (see Robert Stein on The History of the English Bible.) in mind as we exegete (one version of) the English Bible: for example, many words in one language may not have an equivalent in another language, so translators would have to make a decision how to render the meaning of the word without inserting it too awkwardly in the sentence. As a poor alternative, D.A. Carson suggests reading several good (query: good) versions in the destination language.
  3. Comprehension skillz. The basic toolkit laid out in books like Nigel Beynon and Andrew Sach’s Dig Deeper (and its very imaginatively-named siblings) is useful, but the tools themselves need to be wielded with discernment and finesse in different passages and books of the Bible, without accidentally taking anyone’s eye out. Experience is needed to know which tools to use together and which ones might take precedent over another in each context. Then there are other more specialised instruments generally useful in comprehending any text, eg. understanding the use of rhetorical devices.
  4. Logic and textual context. Beware errors of reasoning and inference (see Carson’s Exegetical Fallacies and Must I Learn to Interpret the Bible). Remember also that meaning is linked to context. Consider the concentric circles of context: immediate context (eg. in an epistle, its place in the argument), book context (how that particular human author uses language, themes), biblical theological context (eg. covenantal – words might be used differently in the two covenants), canonical context (“analogy of the faith” – Scripture is its own interpreter, because behind the whole of Scripture is one Author – see Michael S. Horton’s (am i the only one who feels compelled to scream “Horton hears a Who” everytime i see his surname?) Interpreting Scripture By Scripture). Beware “canon within a canon” (see Carson’s Biblical Interpretation and the Church).
  5. Historical and cultural context. God has not given us a culturally or historically-neutral textbook. Beware erroneous generalisations. In relation to injunctions: (i) beware absolutising one-off commands; (ii) understand God’s rationale behind command – what God wants and so how to apply in different cultural context.
  6. Beware presuppositions. Be aware of how your own historical, cultural, theological presuppositions are affecting your reading of the Bible.
  7. Getting to Christ. In respect of point (4) on biblical theology and canonical context and point (6), consider (i) the Biblical evidence for Jesus Christ being the controlling factor in all exegesis; and (ii) what this actually means! Consider law and gospel, redemptive-historical, covenantal, typological, anti-type, kingdom of God (God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule), promise-fulfilment etc perspectives. See Graeme Goldsworthy’s Biblical Theology and Hermeneutics.
  8. Remember that it is God’s word: therefore, any exegesis is done reverently, with a view to sitting under his word.
  9. Reality check. Remember that we are fallen creatures – therefore our intellect is imperfect. Yet, remember also that we who are God’s children have God’s Spirit within us.

homemade scones scones with homemade strawberry jam
afternoon tea from scratch – homemade scones with homemade strawberry jam

raspberry bakewell cakes
raspberry bakewell cake

deconstructed apple pie
deconstructed apple pie – apple confit, crushed Digestives, homemade caramel, whipped double cream, cinnamon dust

strawberry watermelon gluten-free cake
strawberry rosewater watermelon gluten-free cake

strawberry cheesecake
stacked strawberry cheesecake

John Frame, Doctrine of the Word of God

 

Hand-painted Cards, Tarts and Cakes, Preaching from the Old Testament

May 30, 2014 Leave a comment

This last May bank weekend has been fantastic: three couples got engaged, then we had a crazy birthday celebration in the church office, and several more planned for the next few weeks, together with many engagement parties. So much happiness all around.

Have been ordered to rest completely today, and was even given money with strict instructions that the notes must be used for “relaxing and having fun”. The argument that meeting up with people and reading the Bible with them was really my idea of fun was universally scorned.

hand-painted hand-lettered naif art thank you cardIt’s been difficult to dismiss the nagging feeling that i should to get on with writing a talk for next week, as well as thinking about what to say when leading the whole church body in corporate prayer this Sunday…But i’ve given my word not to work. So am casting around for things to do. Used the money to purchase a Winston & Newton bamboo box of half-pan watercolours and have thus far painted a card for a family, complete with pirate paraphernalia for the 4-year-old, and another that turned out to resemble (but did not attain to) the naif art of Rifle Paper Co. and Quill & Fox (eek, look at the somuchfail word spacing and the horrible hand-lettering!).

raspberry and blueberry fruit  tartHave also made a raspberry and blueberry fruit tart, garnished with leaves from our house’s mint plant, for Associate training this afternoon.

Raspberry Ground Almond and Semolina Bakewell CakeExperimented substituting semolina for ground almond in raspberry bakewell cakes. Interesting how traybakes of this cake x jam variety (think Victoria Sponge) are favoured by the British, compared to the sweeter sheetcakes favoured by the Americans.

And the story about eating the cake was this:

people eating the cake: this is really good cake!
me: can you taste the salmonella in it?
people who suddenly stopped eating cake: what?!
me: the salmonella
people: *silence*
me: no wait, i meant that thing that doesn’t kill you!
people: you mean semolina…
some wise guy: i was wondering if salmonella had a distinct taste

Apple Sheet CakeNot something done today but for the record, words cannot describe how mundane and ordinary, and even ugly, this traybake is. Fortunately, the apple and caramel cake went down well with tea-drinkers after last Sunday’s morning meeting.

I’ve been thinking lately about preaching from the Old Testament narrative. Amongst evangelicals, there seems to be two main views:

  • the hodge-podge of lecturers at the School leap very quickly to Christ either via biblical theology (covenant, promise-fulfilment, shadow-reality-thanks-to-Hebrews) or by typology (though not allegory). If you don’t get to Christ, they say, you would not be preaching a Christian sermon. The Principal is fond of quoting Charles Spurgeon on this: “Don’t you know…that from every town and every village and every hamlet in England, wherever it may be, there is a road to London? So from every text of Scripture there is a road to Christ. And my dear brother, your business is, when you get to a text, to say, now, what is the road to Christ? I have never found a text that had not got a road to Christ in it, and if ever I do find one, I will go over hedge and ditch but I would get at my Master, for the sermon cannot do any good unless there is a savour of Christ in it”. After all, all Scripture is fulfilled in Christ…; and
  • the Tutor at the Local Church likes to train people in the somewhat converse view (an issue of emphasis perhaps?) – that the Old Testament text must first and foremost and primarily be read in its historical context, unless there is a clear line to Christ. Dale Ralph Davis, i think, holds the same view –  that not every text speaks of Christ directly.

Winston & Newton Watercolour Half-Pan Bamboo Box SetListening to many of my coursemates’ sermons though, make me wonder about the first view – in practice, they miss alot of the detail of the Old Testament text and sometimes appear to shoehorn the cross into the sermon, making it predictable and not an entirely honest exegesis of the passage. Within my practice groups, I am quite alone in this opinion. Of course, bad disciples don’t discount the validity of a theory.

Perhaps the better way is not to attempt to navigate between these views but to commence by considering:

  • how the New Testament treats the Old Testament – the New Testament is infused with the Old Testament and the Old Testament was incomplete, awaiting the New Testament. What Sidney Greidanus says in his Preaching Christ from the Old Testament: a contemporary hermeneutical method seems most reasonable: the Old Testament must be interpreted not only in its own context but also in the context of the New Testament. Given the unity of the two Testaments, we are left with a hermeneutical circle where one can only really understand Old Testament passages in light of the New Testament and its testimony to Jesus Christ, and also, one cannot really understand Jesus Christ until one knows the Old Testament.
  • what it means to “preach Christ” – preaching sermons that authentically integrate the message of the text with the climax of God’s revelation in the person, work, and/or teaching of Jesus Christ as revealed in the New Testament (more than 10 words, Mr. Greidanus!)

So Greidanus suggests:

  • first understand the passage in its historical context;
  • next, understand the  message in the contexts of canon and redemptive history (redemptive-historical progression, promise-fulfilment, typology, analoygy, longitudinal themes, contrast).

I don’t think either of the above viewpoints would disagree. The issue is really linking the testaments as the Spirit intended. Loads more to be read/said/discussed. But now to pack for the weekend away!

Also:
Sinclair B. Ferguson, Preaching Christ from the Old Testament
David Helm and John Woodhouse at The Proclamation Trust’s Senior Ministers’ Conference 2014

Bluebell Woods, Foraging for Wild Garlic in Cemeteries, Tweed Run 2014, Integrity in Ministry

May 20, 2014 Leave a comment

carpet of bluebells, Church Wood
carpet of bluebells, Church Wood

How time flies (when you’re having fun)! You blink and find yourself, somewhat dismayed, in the middle of May.

Church WoodInundated with:

  • prep for the two Bible study groups i help lead – a mixed group of young workers and a women’s group of City professionals;
  • meeting up with the 15 people from both groups who have the misfortune of being under my care;
  • shakily training up new leaders;
  • loads of controversial experimental practice talks at the School; and
  • next month (only two weeks away!) travelling up north(ish) to do a real talk.

The last worries me most – the organiser called today to say how they “loved” hearing me previously and that they’re now moving to a new venue because of the number of people coming. Truly dislike upfront ministry – to stand there feeling the weight of expectation, cringing from the full force of critical stares, is not my idea of a good time. Being neither a competent speaker, nor possessing any natural charm or charisma, the chances of it all going horribly wrong are very good. Am thinking of taking a wingman/woman along who will hopefully so outshine me that they’ll spare me the next time!

rump steak with portobello mushrooms and wild garlic leaves wild garlic omelette

wild garlic leaves (they grow plentifully in parks and cemeteries) with rump steak and in an omelette

Still, perhaps there is an important lesson here: do i rely heavily on God only because i don’t think i have the skills for the job? Shouldn’t i rely on God all the time for all things because any small amount of skill could only have been given by Him, and he, being sovereign, is in charge of how everything turns out regardless of how wonderfully gifted i might (not) be?

Tweed Run in London 2014 Tweed Run in London 2014
Tweed Run in London 2014
Tweed Run in London 2014 Tweed Run in London 2014
Tweed Run in London 2014
Tweed Run in London 2014 Tweed Run in London 2014
Tweed Run in London 2014
Tweed Run in London 2014 Tweed Run in London 2014

Tweed Run, London 2014

Lee Gatiss’ church history exposé on the real reason why Wesley was allegedly told by a church warden after he had preached at St. Helen’s Church on Bishopsgate “Sir, you must preach here no more” (his unbiblical denial of the complete sovereignty of God and the unbecoming manner in which he made that known (“[predestination] is a doctrine full of blasphemy”) – see page 35 of Gatiss’ The True Profession of the Gospel), the George Whitefield and John Wesley spat, and Wesley’s later meanness to Augustus Montague Toplady (love that name and also his tunes) and his deliberate and devious altering of Toplady’s pamphlets, was talked about amongst friends for some time. Could John Wesley plead an unhappy marriage to Molly Wesley as the reason for his ranting and outbursts and inability to think clearly (see Clare Heath-Whyte’s Old Wives Tales)?

Few of us will be famous enough for people in later centuries to want to study our lives, but if they did would they find our good reputation unjustified or would false charges against us be dropped and our persons vindicated?

And does it really matter? It is not a state of equanimity that is proposed, but the clear realisation that it is only before our master that we stand or fall.

yuzu poppyseed loaf cake
yuzu poppyseed loaf for a very hot day

We’ve been working our way through the Book of Revelation in our Sunday morning meetings. Last Sunday’s passage on Sardis was a very good reminder that success in ministry doesn’t look like having a great reputation:

“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.

“‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ (Revelation 3:1-6)

Whatever reputation we have amongst our peers, whatever the history books say, whatever fruitfulness or lack thereof we might see in ministry, whatever accolades or criticisms, it is Jesus’ opinion of us that we should be concerned about. God alone sees all things (“I know…” he says), and will therefore be the just judge of all.

Sinclair Ferguson’s Best Lessons from A Lifetime of Pastoring

April 28, 2014 Leave a comment

Was about to settle down to Richard Sibbes’ The Bruised Reed and C.H. Spurgeon’s An All-Round Ministry, when the Principal posted a link to this video of Sinclair Ferguson speaking on his Best Lessons from A Lifetime of Pastoring, at the Desiring God Conference for Pastors 2014. He was only given 8 minutes?! Gimme 8 hours!

Some hopefully accurate notes:

Ourselves and our church family

The most important thing I’ve learned is absolute centrality of love for God’s people (1 Timothy 1:5 – the goal of our charge is love drawn out of a faith without a mask and a good conscience). This is more important than our gifts because gifts without love is like a clanging gong. This is especially important for younger men who go into ministry for the truth (without love) – the only people who will gather around us then will be people who have been poorly taught (because there is no concept in the Bible of truth without love) and cranks.

Love is not a virtue we work out but the first fruit of the fruit of the Spirit which the Spirit brings us. So you would say,”I cannot but love them.”

Love understands the dimness of people, the slowness of people, and is willing to be patient with them.

C.S. Lewis said:
To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.

This is the really costly thing about ministry. Preparing sermons can be very painful, but love is even more painful.

Ourselves and our preaching ministry

Listen to our own preaching – not listening to the recording but listening while we are preaching. When we are preaching, there is no one more under this ministry of the Word than we are. And it is that that will communicate to the congregation that it is not that we are masters of preaching but that we are mastered by it.

Edward Clowney asked Martyn Lloyd-Jones,”When do you know that you are preaching in the power of the Spirit? Is there some elation?” The reply,”You know you are preaching in the power of the Spirit when you are conscious that you are sinful and hopeless and weak.” And this is will be evident to the congregation in the manner of our preaching.

And this is important for this slightly scary reason: over the long haul, people will start to associate us with the Lord Jesus, and they will begin to associate the way what Christ is like with the way we preach his Word. This is why you will notice that often congregations who have sat for a long time under a strong ministry of the Word will begin to take on the personality of the minister. Why should that happen when we are being transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ? Because people associate the style of the minister’s ministry with the master’s ministry. Because his is the voice and the person through whom that ministry most frequently comes to them.

Ourselves and our walk with God

The privilege of living the whole of our lives in the presence of our triune Lord.

As a teenager, in quick succession, I encountered three things: (1) “The Practice of the Presence of the Lord” by Brother Lawrence – it is a slightly better title than it is a book; (2) my minister William Still said to me that I should always keep in my heart a sanctuary for the Lord that is hermetically sealed from everything else; (3) John Owen’s “On Communion with God the Trinity“.

The outward activity of God the Trinity to his creation linked to what the early fathers called Appropriations – in Scripture, while the whole Trinity is involved in activity towards us, one member will take the lead. If this is true, then our fellowship with God is not with God the monolithic block but it is fellowship with God that Father who has designed creation and adopted us into his family and there are things that we praise God the Father for particularly; the Son who has died for us; the Spirit who dwells in us and makes our hearts a home for his Son.

Personally, this was the most important of these three lessons out of which the other two flow: conscious that I am not alone, conscious that I am an adopted child of the Creator, conscious that I am one for whom Jesus was not ashamed to die and call brother; conscious that the Spirit transforms our lives into light in the Lord. So we are not spending our lives sticking pastoral elements on to them, but because of the Trinity, we have actually become pastors.

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