Friday, 27 March 2015

Sabbatical Update - Week 11

You may notice the word 'hell' in the titles of many of the books above. When reading one of these books on a train down to London a few weeks ago, the man sitting opposite me said jokingly that he didn't approve of the book I was reading! It does appear to be a rather unpleasant collection.

Yet studying hell has been far from unpleasant. It would be wrong, I think, to study this doctrine without a sense of burden for those who do not know Christ, but this should not distract us from what it tells us about God, namely his holiness, his justice and his unfailing dedication and love for his people. It has been a privilege to immerse myself in study these past nine weeks.

I have one week to go. I have a lot of things I want to finish up and I pray that what I have studied will be of benefit to the people of God when I return to active ministry in less than two weeks.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Sabbatical Update - Week 12

Pastor Josh Roberts preached a fine sermon at our evening communion service this last Sunday on the ordinances, namely, Baptism and the Lord's Supper.  I was particularly encouraged when we sang a Joseph Hart hymn, as I had seen his grave at Bunhill Fields the previous week. Read these amazing words:

A Man there is, a real man,
who once on Calvary died.
His blood for guilty sinners ran
from hands and feet and side.

2 This wondrous Man, of whom we tell,
is true Almighty God;
He bought our souls from death and hell;
the price, His own heart’s blood.

3 That human heart He still retains,
though throned in highest bliss;
and feels each tempted member’s pains;
for our affliction’s His.

4 Come then, repenting sinner, come;
approach with humble faith;
owe what you will, the total sum
is cancelled by His death!

5 His blood can cleanse the sin-stained soul,
and wash our guilt away;
He will present us sound and whole
in that tremendous day.

Joseph Hart*, 1712-1768

There is nothing new to report regarding the Sabbatical.  I keep reading, writing, thinking and praying.  I have been thinking about the best way to present this material to the church when I return. It makes sense to me not to do a topical study on hell say in four or five sermons.  I think this would be too heavy.  Rather, I am planning to preach through a book of the Bible and speak about these difficult matters as they come up in the Scriptures, reasoning from the Bible and showing how this difficult doctrine is clearly taught in the Word of God.  So, Lord willing, when I return to preaching, I am going to work through the Ten Commandments in Exodus in the morning service, and then preach through the Gospel of Matthew in the evening.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Sabbatical Update - Week 11

Grave of John Bunyan,
author of Pilgrim's Progress
Before catching my train back to Wrexham from London last Friday I spent a couple of hours walking around Bunhill Fields. This was a moving experience, for as a wise Christian pastor said to me, 'We don't believe in holy places, but visiting places such as these [Bunhill Fields] brings home that the Lord worked in real people in real places.'  Notably, at Bunhill Fields, one will see the graves of John Bunyan (see picture), John Owen, Susannah Wesley (mother of John and Charles), John Gill, Isaac Watts, Joseph Hart and many more.  I thought it was great that in church this last Lord's Day, we sang at least three of Watts' hymns!

I had a very good time at the John Owen Centre last week.  I was able to discuss some issues that had been troubling me, or which were difficult to understand.  I now have some clear direction for the final weeks and to summarise what I will be doing in the weeks ahead, all I can say is, more of the same!  Reading, thinking, praying, writing...

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Sabbatical Update - Week 10

Last night I sent some work off to the John Owen Centre.  I will be down in London on Thursday and Friday to discuss the work I have done so far and talk about what I should focus on in the final weeks.  I cannot believe that it is Week 10 already!

The last two weeks of writing have been challenging.  I had forgotten how different writing something for people to read is to preparing a sermon for people to hear.  The discipline of writing has shown me the importance of being precise.  This skill of precision is something I need to work on when preparing and delivering sermons.

Thanks for all the support, encouragement and prayers!