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Showing posts from October, 2014

Why Pentecostals and Charismatics have all the more reason to rejoice on Reformation Day (A Reformation Day Re-Post)

Today is Reformation Day. Admittedly, it’s not the biggest of non-official holidays (there even happens to be another unofficial holiday taking place today that’s getting all the attention, which explains why there were ghosts in the shop this evening instead of hammer wielding monks), but it is the unofficial holiday of which I am most fond. You see reformation day isn’t about cards or presents or activities (and hopefully never will be!), but rather it’s simply a reminder in the year of one of the greatest events in the history of Europe, the Protestant Reformation, and what it stood for (helpfully summed up in 5 Solas). It’s an annual reminder of the power of God’s Word and of the glory of the gospel that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone. For some reason though, Reformation Day doesn't seem to be all that big a deal in Pentecostal and charismatic circles. Now, I’m sure that part of that is that we just tend not

Help, the Arians are Coming!: Now Even Statistics Show Our Desperate Need of Catechesis

Fulgentius might not be the most famous of figures in the history of the church, but he was a very interesting chap. Not only was he a significant theologian, but he was also remembered as a great preacher. (Apparently his Archbishop was moved to tears every time he heard Fulgentius preach and publicly gave thanks to God for the gift of such a preacher to His Church.) But one of the most interesting things about Fulgentius is really more a feature of the times in which he lived. For, you see, Fulgentius spent much of his ministry in exile from his church. Why? Because Fulgentius believed that Jesus is God, but the church had been overrun by the Arian heresy. Fulgentius was on my mind after reading an article in Christianity Today this week which showed that Arianism lives today – and I don’t mean in the extremes of liberal theology or among well-known cults. No – Arianism lives today among evangelical Christians. Apparently 31% of Evangelicals either think the Father is more divi

Love Stronger than Death: A Law-Gospel Wedding Sermon on a special anniversary

Scripture Readings: Ps. 121; Cant. 8:6; Col. 3:12-17 Everybody loves a wedding. All the best stories end with weddings: ‘And they got married and lived happily ever after.’ But why do we love weddings so much? Well that’s easy, because they’re all about love. We’ve read about love from the Song of Solomon this morning: ‘Place me like a seal over your heart ... for love is as strong as death ... love flashes like fire, the brightest kind of flame’ (Cant. 8:6). Song of Solomon is a love song right in the middle of the Bible. The very first verse of the Song tells us that it’s the Song of Songs which is Solomon’s (Cant. 1:1). Song of Songs – that means the greatest song of all. So the greatest song is a love song! And this verse that we’ve read, Cant. 8:6, is a conversation between a bride and a bridegroom. The Bride needs to know that she’s loved. She needs to know that it’s not just that she’s quite useful to have around – it’s not a marriage for a political alliance, it’s not a marri

Proclaiming Jesus from the Very Beginning: 11 Sermons on Genesis 1-11

Today (23rd October) is the anniversary of the creation of the world (well, at least according to Archbishop Ussher's early 17th Century calculations). So in celebration, I thought it would be good to go back to the very beginning. So here are 11 sermons from the first 11 chapters of the Bible: from Creation to the Tower of Babel. Of course, Archbishop Ussher and 23rd October don't actually feature in these sermons. Instead Jesus does, because the whole Bible, right from the very beginning is a book about Jesus. And Jesus is present and active right from the outset.

On my youthful eschatological fear of Crocodiles: Some thoughts on the Resurrection of the Dead

When I was very young I was fascinated by crocodiles. Yet I was also terrified of them. Now, I lived in Northern Ireland, so there wasn’t all that much risk of encountering a crocodile in the village and thus meeting a grizzly end. But that didn’t matter, because, you see, my fear was not of the grizzly end – for, as rather a young child I had little concept of how horrid such a grizzly end would really be - but rather, my fear was of what would come next, after said grizzly end. So, it wasn’t so much a risk assessment terror I had of crocodiles, as an eschatological terror. And then one day the unthinkable happened. Our pastor was called as a missionary to South Africa, which meant that his two children – my friends – would be moving to a land where there actually were crocodiles. This led to two things: 1) excitement that they would be able to send me a postcard of a crocodile from South Africa (which they duly did), and 2) the great fear that my friends could possibly be eaten

On the Church and On Sin: With a (former) Tory MP and a Catholic Priest

What with the Extraordinary Synod going on in Rome this week, the Roman Catholic Church has been in the news a bit of late. And as a result of all this pre-synod hype in the media, two Roman Catholics wrote two of the best articles I read last week. One was an article in the Catholic Herald by a priest. The other was an article in the Spectator by a former MP. You should read both of them. (But if you're not going to read both, then please at least read the second one!) Now, maybe that seems a bit odd. I am, after all, both a Pentecostal pastor and an Ulster Protestant. And as such, I'm convinced that very significant aspects of Roman Catholic theology are seriously wrong. I still believe that justification by faith alone is the article on which the church stands or falls. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't read, and even learn from, Roman Catholics. Although we are justified by faith alone, it is by faith in Christ alone, not faith in the right formulation of t

These are the Bones of Elisha (Declaring the Word of the Lord)

One of the most curious events in all of Scripture is found in a single verse in 2 Kings 13. That chapter records the death of the prophet Elisha, and yet, there’s still one more story of Elisha here some time after his death. 2 Kings 13:21 tells us: So it was, as they were burying a man, that suddenly they spied a band of raiders; and they put the man in the tomb of Elisha; and when the man was let down and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived and stood on his feet. Elisha was dead. And yet when a corpse was thrown into his tomb hastily in an attempt to hide from marauding bands of Moabites, the man came back to life simply by his corpse touching Elisha’s bones. Even as miracles go, that one’s quite impressive.

Money, Money, Money (Must Be Funny, in a Rich Man’s World!)

‘Not the Pentecostals! Watch out – they’ll be trying to get all your money.’      – The reaction when a new Christian told her Muslim uncle that she’d got saved and           started attending a Pentecostal church.  ‘Hello, I’m calling from [“Christian” TV channel]. We have some great deals on advertising during our broadcasts and wondered if the church would be interested.’      – A phone call yesterday.  ‘$11,150’      – the amount one American church is appealing to raise to produce a worship album  $750 plus expenses      – an American amount recommended as a gift for visiting preachers  ‘US pastors paid up to $300,000 - are Church of England vicars getting a raw deal?’      – recent Headline in Christian Today £5.75 million      – the amount of money an evangelical church down south is trying to raise for               building improvements. $25,000      – the amount two American pastors are raising to produce a six minute teaching video Money has been on m

Walking on Water Redux: Darkness and Water

I’ve been writing about Jesus walking on the water at the Easter before Easter – the Passover before the Crucifixion . So let me just wrap this up today (and then I promise I'll change the subject). At that second Passover of His earthly ministry Jesus fed 5000 people, then He walked on water,and then He told everyone that He is the Bread of Life (Jn 6:35) and that ‘unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you’ (Jn 6:53). So, we’ve got 2 of Jesus’ most famous miracles and one of His most difficult sermons. But what on earth does that have to do with the ultimate fulfilment of the Passover the next year on Good Friday? Lots. For example the Passover Sacrifice is connected to His flesh given for the life of the world (Jn 6:51). But what I want to focus on is the walking on water. So how does that fit in with Passover and Good Friday? John 6:17 tells us that ‘it was already dark’ (Jn 6:17). Now, we’ve just been told that it was ‘evening’ (

Who Knew Not Walking on Water was so Controversial! (A Bit of a Response)

My post from earlier in the week about walking on water (or not, as the case may be), has proved to be the most controversial thing I’ve ever written, and lots of people have been in touch in various ways either to critique it or ask questions. (To be fair, it's probably also the post that's had the most encouraging feedback as well.) Now, of course in writing a short blog post, I didn’t show all my exegetical working (after all, it’s not a maths exam), but as it’s raised questions, let me show a bit more of the background thinking and respond to some of the objections. This post is really written as a reply to some comments from Chris Anthony which ended up being far too long for the comments section (so that’s why it looks like a response to an individual, because in a sense it is). However, as Chris raised some of the common points brought up by several others elsewhere, I thought it would be helpful to post this reply in its own right. You can see Chris’ comments at th