Route 66 – navigating life with the Bible (book review)


ROUTE 66
A crash course in navigating life with the Bible
By Krish Kandiah
Monarch. 192 pages. £8.99
ISBN 978 0 85721 018 0

What a very clever and useful little book this is. Krish Kandiah has produced a series of daily Bible readings which, taken over the course of eight weeks, would introduce a sample of all the main biblical genres, with the plot and the gospel in place too.

Each day has simple but well-constructed comments on how we read the different genres, the passages to be read, and then some questions for reflection and stretching application. So this is a set of daily readings, to take a quick drive through the Bible
But in addition, there is weekly group discussion material, and this makes for a good home-group series, integrated with the members’ daily quiet times. Throw in at the back a challenge to read the whole Bible in eight weeks and some resources to help take a reader’s Bible knowledge to the next level, and this is a very good little package.

I’m going to be recommending it for our groups at church. A little more work from us, and it could be co-ordinated with the preaching programme over a couple of months as well.

I expect every EN reader would benefit from this book, but I suspect we are not the target readership. Kandiah is trying to reach the people who have never read, or tried and struggled with, the Bible, and to help them. This is a basic book, and much needed. It is consistent with his work in Evangelical Alliance, and the Biblefresh initiative it is promoting, and if this is typical of the level and quality of resource they are producing, we should be very grateful. If it is not for you, there will probably be plenty of people in your church who need such a starting guide, and would use it.

The title, Route 66, obviously builds on the idea of the 66 biblical books, and just as obviously it uses the metaphors of driving and travelling consistently throughout, although I am not sure if the subtitle is a joke or a mistake. A gentle warning: if the phrase ‘Route 66’ means nothing to you, do a bit of research before you introduce it in conversation at church. People might start to have very high expectations of the band.

Chris Green,
Vice Principal, Oak Hill Theological College, London

Prayer fuel: News in the UK


Here are a handful of news-bites from around the UK included in the August issue of EN. May these spur us on to pray for our country and issues we all are facing.

Curbing internet porn
Parents are to be asked whether internet pornography should be automatically blocked on computers, Government ministers revealed in June, with Children’s Minister Tim Loughton saying that the internet industry needs to do more to help families control what their kids see online.
On June 28, the Government launched a ten-week public consultation, proposing three possible solutions, one of which would involve a default ban where users who wished to access adult material would need to ‘opt in’ to do so. The Christian Institute

Banking code of conduct
On July 3, the Association of Christian Financial Advisers (ACFA) expressed support for a mandatory code of conduct for the banking industry in the UK.
Barclays, and other banks, submitted false figures to the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR), a body that charges interest on loans taken out by one London bank from another leading London bank. Bob Diamond’s resignation has been regarded as ‘honourable’ by the ACFA and a call to go back to basics — to eradicate such issues as collusion, an acceptance of doubtful practices and a sales mentality which puts high value on bonus maximisation, and to have ethics put back high on the list of priorities. Christian Today

Olympic recording?
An exhibition on the life of John Newton is being held from July 30 to August 10 at St. Mary Woolnoth, London, EC3V 9AN.
Newton was educated in Stratford, Essex, close to the site of the Olympic stadium, which seems fitting, as his hymn, ‘Amazing Grace’, holds the world record as the most recorded song in history. www.johnnewton.org

For more news and prayer fuel from around the UK, subscribe to EN for monthly updates.

Editors commentary: Soft-pedalling hell?


In late June, the latest banking scandal concerning the rigging of market rates erupted in Britain.

At around the same time, a sociological study was published with the title Divergent Effects of Beliefs in Heaven and Hell on National Crime Rates.1 When corruption and antisocial behaviour is evident at every level of society, from the MPs’ expenses fraud, to phone hacking journalists, to the rioting and looting in our cities last summer, the article makes interesting reading.

Supernatural punishment
The paper, by authors from the Universities of Oregon and Kansas, begins by affirming that research across the social sciences supports the long-held claim that religious belief generally benefits society. However, investigations show that not all religious beliefs are equal in this respect. In particular, their data indicates that ‘the degree to which a country’s belief in heaven outstrips its rate of belief in hell significantly predicts higher crime rates’.

The authors affirm: ‘The same pattern emerges in three out of the four continental zones for which there is sufficient data — namely, Africa, South and Central America, Europe plus Canada and America, Australia and New Zealand’.

The authors recognise the limitations of their research. The findings are only correlational and have not established that belief in hell causes less criminality. However, they say that numerous other laboratory tests point in that direction.

They explain that the threat of supernatural punishment tends to be a more effective deterrent than that of human punishment towards antisocial behaviour. Human monitors cannot see all transgressions, human judges are fallible, human police forces cannot apprehend every transgressor. Divine punishment, especially that of the omnipotent and omniscient God of Scripture, does not suffer from any of these deficiencies.

Thus, it seems that an atheistic society, which believes in no life beyond death and no future punishment, is more likely to see higher rates of lawbreaking and antisocial behaviour. Sound familiar? Furthermore the research would also appear to imply that, where religious belief majors on heaven but minimises the reality of hell, there will also be higher rates of offending.

The human condition
The first thought which occurs is that, although we are dealing with generalisations, this research underlines the Bible’s teaching about the depth of rebelliousness of fallen humanity. Though idealists tell us that people ought to do good for its own sake, the outlook of the human heart is evidently very far from that. If the thought of benevolence to others had the greatest effect in curtailing criminality, perhaps we could entertain the idea that mankind is basically good. But, when we find that it is none other than the threat of the severest form of punishment imaginable which makes the largest difference, we must surely see that there is something desperately wrong with mankind. ‘The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so’ (Romans 8.7). Perhaps this research concerning the threat of hell actually indicates something of the justice of hell? How much mankind needs the Saviour!

The second thought is that besides misleading people about their eternal future, any toying with universalism, or annihilationism damages society. This is as true for evangelicals as it is for anyone else. In 2011 a study showed that undergraduates who believed in a God who only forgives were more likely to cheat than those who believe in a punishing God. Another, by Harvard University in 2003, found that gross domestic product was higher in developed countries when people believed more strongly in hell. Perhaps the bankers at Barclays and many more of us would benefit from some hell-fire preaching.

1. Shariff, A.F., Rhemtulla, M. (20122), Divergent Effects of Beliefs in Heaven and Hell on National Crime Rates, PLoS ONE journal 7(6)

31 things to pray for your children… and a few other things!


Enjoy the following links!

Gospel Coalition – What should when we start going to a new church?

The Good Book Company – 31 Things to pray for your children

A Faith to live by – Is it really wrong to want what others have?

Desiring God – For the wives and mothers… “What if I had stayed in the workforce?”

Tim Challies – 5 reasons to read ‘Lit’ … and for EN’s review on the book click here.

Same-sex marriage: stability or disaster?


In Sweden, where same-sex marriage is legal, family life is slowly dying.

According to Stanley Kurtz, Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Policy Center in the US, ‘Same-sex marriage (SSM) has locked in and reinforced an existing Scandinavian trend toward the separation of marriage and parenthood. The Nordic family pattern — including ‘gay’ marriage — is spreading across Europe. And by looking closely at it we can answer the key empirical question underlying the ‘gay’ marriage debate. Will same-sex marriage undermine the institution of marriage? It already has. More precisely, it has further undermined the institution. The separation of marriage from parenthood was increasing; ‘gay’ marriage has widened the separation. Out-of-wedlock birthrates were rising; ‘gay’ marriage has added to the factors pushing those rates higher. Instead of encouraging a society-wide return to marriage, Scandinavian ‘gay’ marriage has driven home the message that marriage itself is outdated, and that virtually any family form, including out-of-wedlock parenthood, is acceptable’.*

UK warned

We in the UK should be warned. But the central problem with the government’s proposals for SSM lies with their irrelevance — to the institution of marriage, and also as a political issue for something like 98% of the British electorate as opposed to the tiny minority of ‘gay’ activists. The real debate is about the nature of marriage itself, and whether it should be redefined.

Firstly, and as it has been pointed out, when the Attlee Government legislated to regulate marriage, ‘it simply presupposed that it could only ever be the union of one man and one woman. No one said anything, because it was so obvious’.

Secondly, as others have noted, the SSM proposals are essentially deviations away from all long-held and universal understanding of marriage. The whole ethos of marriage beginning with the process of friendship, to courtship, engagement, to normal heterosexual marriage, sex and the gift of children, cannot by definition be extended to the artificial concept of a same-sex couple. Thus, on the basis of biological compatibility alone, it must be wrongheaded. At best, the minute proportion of potential SSM marriages, even within the ‘gay’ community, will be so small as to be statistically negligible. Why then this massive political, social, legal (and costly) revolution, when there is already civil partnership available?

Other kinds of ‘marriage’

Mr. Cameron has the impossible self-inflicted task of trying to explain away the normality of traditional marriage — one man, one woman for life, in order to attempt forcing into it a fictional meaning that will make little sense or relevance to the great majority of men and women who habitually marry in the traditional way.

In doing so, he will attempt to smuggle into Parliament and then the nation the Trojan Horse of SSM, telling us that it really is a very normal sort of a horse. But be warned, it may well give birth to some strange and unwanted creatures in years to come, as polygamists, bigamists, bisexuals, polyamorists (multiple sexual partners) and others clamour to be recognised as eligible for ‘marriage’. Toleration of these would be entirely destructive of the family values which this and all governments profess to support. That is the inescapable logic of legalised SSM and the hypocrisy behind the proposed legislation.

Children?

However, what is more alarming is the failure by government to understand the impact of this upon the most vulnerable of all, namely children. For them there are all manner of complications in store if SSM is legalised — not least that they may well be separated from their own biological parents through a complex minefield of legal interpretations of new marriage laws.

This potential plight of children in a sexual free-for-all appears to be the very important but missing element in the government’s thinking. So the central and natural place of children in a normal marriage would be replaced by the unnatural and artificial rights of the homosexual community in a new state-created concept of marriage.

To think about

Fortunately, many opponents of SSM have thought through the issues rather more clearly than the government, and prominent among these is Dr. Jennifer Morse of the Ruth Institute (USA). Dr. Morse gives some sound reasons why SSM is both irrelevant to real marriage, and particularly, as she reasons, for its largely forgotten and potential child victims. Here are a few of some excellent points made by Dr. Morse and edited for application in the UK context in the light of these proposals. These might be useful to readers as they meet with or write to their MPs on the issue.

She states first of all the basic and foundational premise:

* The essential public purpose of marriage is to attach a mother and a father to their children and to one another. Given this, then every child is entitled to know and be known by both parents.
* Adult society must protect the child’s right to affiliation with both parents. Without man/woman marriage there will be no institution specifically protecting the rights of children to be in relation with both parents.
* Research shows that children have the best life chances when they are raised by their biological married parents.
* Man/woman marriage provides children with access to their genetic, cultural and social heritage. By contrast SSM changes marriage from a child-centred institution to an adult-centred institution.
* SSM is a creation of the state. Man/woman marriage is an organic institution built into nature and specifically ordained by God.
* SSM, once instituted as legal, affects everybody because the legal definition applies to everyone with all the immense changes implied, not just the tiny minority of homosexuals.
* SSM amounts to a hostile take-over of civil society by the state on ideological grounds. But we do not vote MPs into office for them to impose their own private ideological beliefs on the majority of the population.
* SSM leads to relational chaos and opens the door to children having more than two legal parents.
* SSM and the redefining of marriage will be an extremely difficult concept for children themselves to grasp, and especially for the very young. Why should they be made to grapple with such newly-created problems of adult making? And why muddy the clear waters of the familiar ‘mum and dad’ figures, which for them are normal and natural — well established in our Christian based culture?

Indoctrination

Further, why should parents and children be forced to abandon a traditional view of marriage, and children be indoctrinated into an alien SSM ideology, when their parents may wish to teach them according to their own values and worldview? Is there a single sound reason why our Christian, or for that matter traditional secular, or educational cultures should all be abandoned at the whim of politicians?

Finally, SSM is yet another frivolous, unnecessary and expensive piece of social engineering for which the government has been given no mandate by the electorate.

* Published by the Catholic Education Resource Centre

Acknowledgements to Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse and the Ruth Institute, USA, http://www.ruthinstitute.org

Graham Wood

Never give up on your dreams (book review)


NEVER GIVE UP ON YOUR DREAMS
By Mary Weeks Millard
Day One. 102 pages. £5.00
ISBN 978 1 846 252 716

A gifted nine-year-old’s dreams of becoming an Olympic swimming medallist are dashed after a serious accident, but her recovery is so wonderful that she is able to participate in the Paralympics.

Did she win a medal? This is a gripping read for children in Years 3 to 6, which includes a strong presentation of the gospel. Maybe Mary Weeks Millard is a natural successor to Patricia St. John?

Those looking for children’s books would do well to look at this latest addition to the Day One ‘Fact Finders’ series.

Val Maidstone, 
pastor’s wife and former teacher, Dorking, Surrey

The Bible and Our Daily Work: Work and the Fall


In the garden of Eden work was always a joy. Obviously, today, work and mankind’s attitude to work is very different. Man’s disobedience to God and the entry of sin into the world brought about a profound disruption in the world God had made, Genesis 3.1-11; Romans 5.12-21; Romans 8.19-21.

WORK AND THE FALL – Genesis 3
God’s judgement and the consequences of sin affected every area of human life, including work, Genesis 3.17-19. We briefly note seven points.

  1. God’s creation purpose that humanity should work to subdue the earth. Genesis 1.28, is unchanged by the Fall. God does not change his commands to suit our sin. Man is still to be a worker, Genesis 3.17.
  2. As a result of man’s rebellion, God cursed the ground, 3.17. The ground, the dust, is what Adam is made of, Genesis 2.7. By this God shows is wrath without directly cursing Adam. Adam was the head of creation and as the head of creation falls because of sin, so all creation falls with him, Romans 8.20.
  3. As a result of man’s rebellion, our work becomes ‘painful toil’, Genesis 3.17. God does not directly curse Adam, but curses the ground from which Adam was made, Genesis 2.7, and on which he labours.
  4. Also, Adam has now changed. He has become a sinner, with an innate antipathy to obeying God’s commands including the command to work. Thus Adam and his descendents now tend to perceive work in a negative way, Proverbs 6.6; 2 Thessalonians 3.6.
  5. As a result of sin, nature is set against man, Genesis 3.18. It is the weeds and the thistles which will grow effortlessly and need no cultivation. Thorns and thistles are eloquent signs of nature untamed and encroaching; in the OT they mark the scenes of man’s self-defeat and God’s judgement, Proverbs 24.30, 31; Isaiah 34.13.
  6. As a result of man’s sin, work becomes necessary in terms of a struggle for human survival, Genesis 3.19; Proverbs 10.4.
  7. As a consequence of man’s rebellion, although man was created by God to subdue the ground, Genesis 1.28, now it is ultimately that the ground will subdue man – he will die, Genesis 3.19. ‘Dust you are and to dust you will return.’

After the Fall man’s need to work remains but the nature of it has changed. While work can still be a source of blessing, it has now become something of an onerous task which always has a tragic end, Ecclesiastes 2.17-23.

TWO LESSONS

  1. The difficulties we find in the workplace and the dislike we experience towards work is a revelation to us that we are sinners before a holy God. Though mankind may work as hard as it likes and produce all kinds of amazing technology we can never build heaven on earth or get ourselves back into paradise through works. This points us to our need of God’s grace in the gospel and of the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, Revelation 21.5.
  2. The Fall has brought enormously destructive tensions within the sphere of work. It particular, historically, the heightened need for efficiency has often assigned the worker a task which reduces him / her to little more than an unthinking machine. Many people have ‘jobs’ but what they do has little fulfilment and is hardly what God intended work to be. ‘The Christian has to argue that until it is accepted that the quality of the workers who leave the factory doors each evening is a more important thing than the quality of the products it delivers to its customers, the employment experience is likely to continue to violate the dignity and humanity of many workers.’ Carl F. H. Henry

This series on ‘The Bible and Our Daily Work’ is taken from a sermon series given by Dr. John Benton at Chertsey Street Baptist Church in 2012.

Part 1 in the series is ‘Work and Creation
A related post ‘7 Tips on handling stress in the work place’ can be found here.

Should you move and join another church?


After rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, ‘the city was large and spacious’, but there were few people in it (Nehemiah 7.4).

There is a similar situation in many churches in our inner cities. There are small congregations in buildings that quite simply need more people. It would be wonderful if these were filled through conversions, but that is not happening. No doubt some churches are in-grown, but most churches I know are actively evangelistic. What these churches need is more people with the attitude, gifts and money that will strengthen them in their mission.

The answer is not simply church planting. One of the most encouraging developments in recent years is the planting of new churches. While sometimes I think this is a bit of a fad that is seen as a cure all, there is a tendency, at least in London, for many of these plants to be the ecclesiastical equivalent of a boutique hotel with a niche congregation of people of all one type. Nevertheless it is good news that churches are being planted.

However, church planting is not the whole answer for the inner city. So what can be done to help older churches there? In some cases church restarts work, but that is not possible for all. They have their own congregations that simply can’t be disbanded or shoved aside. While in some churches there are some deep problems that may need to be addressed, many are relatively healthy spiritually, though small. One reason for this is that the demography of their communities has changed dramatically. Not least, for over a century evangelical Christians have been moving out of the centre of cities.

The relocating option

I have no comprehensive answer to this problem. However, one thing that could help is if some Christians would seriously consider relocating to the inner city. I wholly understand why some may not consider doing so. Some families need larger homes and parents understandably want to send their children to good schools. On the latter I think schools have improved recently and things are not as bad as people think. However, affordable housing is a problem and getting worse. But some people could think of relocating church and home.

1. There are wealthier Christians who can afford to live in the inner city and if necessary send their children to independent schools. Why follow your colleagues to the idyll of a salubrious suburb?

2. There are childless Christians for whom education is not an issue. Childlessness is a heartache for many couples, but in the providence of God it may allow them to use his gifts in a church where they may not otherwise.

3. There are retired Christians who can downsize after children leave home and they no longer need to live near their work. Why not use a decade or so of retirement supporting a church in the inner city. Cities are great places for retired people with an array of cultural and recreational opportunities.

4. There are comfortable Christians who simply want a challenge. You don’t have to go abroad, but simply move into an inner city neighbourhood where you can make a difference. Take a risk for the kingdom.

5. There are suburban Christians who can’t relocate their home, but could move church. Some who have been attending relatively big churches could, in agreement with the church leadership, attend and even join an inner city church. They would become a kind of missionary.

Are you in one of these categories? Please give serious consideration to relocating.

Kenneth Brownell, 
East London Tabernacle

Born of God (book review)


BORN OF GOD
Sermons from John, Chapter 1
By D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
The Banner of Truth. 479 pages. £17.50
ISBN 978 1 848 711 259

‘Do you know what is the matter with us? I will tell you. We none of us really believe in the Lord Jesus Christ!’

This was the bold statement made by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones to his congregation in Westminster Chapel, London, in the opening sermon of a series on the first chapter of the gospel of John in October 1962 (the beginning of his final series in John which ran at intervals until his retirement in 1968).

This series of 32 sermons is not, as in most of his other sermon series, a verse-by-verse exposition of John 1, but, rather, he explains, ‘to pick out the application to the state and condition of the Christian in the world’. The focus of the sermons is on two main themes and verses: ‘The relationship between law and grace’ (ten sermons on John 1.17) and ‘The assurance of salvation’ (18 sermons on John 1.12-13).

You might think 500 pages of such sermons preached almost 50 years ago might be both tedious in style and dated in application. But you would be wrong on both counts. They are both readable in their language (apart from occasional words like ‘concupiscence’ and ‘marasmic’) and relevant (for example, just substitute ‘Iraq’ for ‘Cuba’ in the sermon preached during the missile crisis on October 28 1962).

Focus on Christ

Read again the opening statement and ask yourself if, half a century later, it is any less true of Christians today. The timeless teaching of these sermons on our desperate human condition and the glorious gospel of Christ might still fulfil the original aim of the preacher to challenge us to focus again on Christ. ‘Look to him, look at him, and stay there until you have seen him and know him and are amazed and astonished. And you will find that you will be filled with life, life anew, life that is life indeed, life that is life eternal.’

Peter J. Grainger,
pastor of Charlotte Chapel, Edinburgh, 1992-2009, & Director of ‘2 Timothy 4’ — ‘strengthening Scottish preaching’

How to visit holiday churches


You’ve probably heard about the minister who was about to go on holiday. He was told by one of his church members, ‘The devil doesn’t take a holiday, pastor’. He quickly replied, ‘And if I don’t take a holiday I will end up just like him!’

The fact is, we all need to take time out for rest with an annual holiday of some kind. But, for most of us, going away is also an opportunity to visit another church and meet believers we have never met before.

For this reason, it is helpful to have the EN list of holiday churches to find a local evangelical church. But let me offer some suggestions about visiting holiday churches.

1. Be prepared

Firstly, decide which church you are going to attend before you go away. Find out the times of its services and where it meets. Don’t rely on your SatNav to get you there on time, if it means finding somewhere to park and then walking to the church. If we are honest, how many of us have arrived five, ten, 15 minutes into the service because we didn’t think ahead? For those of us who regularly preach, it can be off-putting when people consistently walk in late. While you might be on holiday, remember that the church you are visiting isn’t. For them it might be a regular Sunday. So show them due respect by arriving at the service in good time, just as you would in your home church.

2. Be prayerful

Secondly, pray before going to the service. Ask the Lord to help you as you listen, and guide you in all your conversations while you are there. It may be that you will find yourself sitting next to another holidaymaker who is unconverted. Here’s an opportunity for you to share the gospel with them. In a different church, and in a holiday mood, perhaps they will be more open to listen. You might be sitting next to someone living locally who has come to church for the first time. Or you might be sitting near a regular but unsaved attender of the church — and be enabled to talk to them about the Lord in a fresh way. So pray about these things before the service.

3. Be encouraging

Thirdly, go with the aim of being an encouragement to the church you are visiting. If the service and the preaching has been a blessing to you, tell those you speak to afterwards. If they have refreshments after the service, why not stay behind to talk rather than rushing back to your holiday accommodation for lunch? Some of them will be keen to know who you are and where you are from. If there are encouragements in your church, share those things with them, if appropriate. If the Lord has helped you through difficult times, maybe they will be comforted by this too. And perhaps there are other things you can do to encourage them.

Last summer my wife and I joined the local church on a Sunday afternoon for a short open-air service. It was led well by an elder, and a clear presentation of the gospel was given on the sea front, with many people near enough to hear it.

4. Be teachable

Fourthly, be teachable. God’s word is relevant to us, whether we are on holiday or in our own congregation.

Sometimes we proudly come as critics to judge the preaching rather than as humble hearers. This is especially true for those of us who regularly preach. Instead of listening to what the Lord is saying to us through his word, we are more concerned about the structure of the sermon, the length or the accuracy of the exposition. While those things might be important, primarily we are there to hear what God is saying to our souls.

The late preacher, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, once said of listening to other preachers: ‘I can forgive a man anything, so long as he gives me something for my soul’. That should be our attitude as we listen. Last summer, we were visiting a church on holiday in North Wales and one of the elders preached that morning. His text was Joshua 24.15: ‘Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve’. The message was a faithful explanation of the text, and it was full of application. For me, it was a very timely message, and a blessing. At the end of the service I was eager to tell him how helpful the preaching had been, and to thank him for his ministry that morning.

So the lesson for us is simple — even on holiday, think carefully about the churches you visit. Plan ahead. Pray. And seek to be an encouragement — even as you seek to be encouraged.

Paul Williams, 
Swindon Evangelical Church