Friday, August 22, 2014

Relaxing on Holiday

At Pembrey Country Park reading Ten Cities that Made an Empire, by Tristram Hunt. Next up, a bike ride.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Sunday, August 17, 2014

At Carmarthen

We're spending the second week of our hols in Carmarthen. Due to some confusion or other, it became evident that the visiting preacher booked this Sunday for Carmarthen Evangelical Church wasn't going to turn up. Meaning that the pastor, Chris Rogers, who's also meant to be on holiday, had to speak in the morning. I offered to preach in the evening. Off to Tenby, one of our favorite places in Wales, if not the world tomorrow.  

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Butter on Welsh Cakes?

Etiquette query: Is it right to put butter on Welsh Cakes? I say that doing so would be as culturally appropriate as using a love spoon to stir your tea. Thoughts?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Don Carson on Christ's gifts to the church

DAC's final conference address was on Eph 4:1-16. His theme was 'Captured by Christ: A Life Worthy of the Calling we Received'. 

Walking worthy of our calling involves 'keeping the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace' (Eph 4:1-3). Paul's appeal is grounded in three theological reasons:

1. Christian unity (Eph 4:4-6)
2. Christian diversity (Eph 4:7-12)
3. Christian maturity (Eph 4:13-16)

Under the second heading Carson considered Paul's use of Psalm 68:18 in Eph 4:8. The Psalm says 'you have received gifts from among men', while in the apostle's citation it reads, 'gave gifts to men'. Carson justified Paul's use of the Psalm by referring to the background to David's statement in Numbers, where the Levites are given to the Lord, who in turn gives them to the priests (Numbers 8:15-16, 19, 18:6). In one sense the believer has been taken captive by Christ, who 'receives us from among men'. In another sense, as with the Levites, Christ gives those who are his to the church for the building up of his body. Christ takes us to give us. We are captive to him and freely poured out by him to bring the church to maturity. Understanding that will help us keep the 'unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace'. 

This message brought Carson's series on 'The Church of God & the Clash with the Culture' to a fitting conclusion as the preacher challenged us to find freedom in serving the church as slaves of Christ. Counter-culturally we are not to approach the church as consumers, for what we can get out of it, but as servants for what we can give so that others are built up in Christ. I was reminded of John Donne's Holy Sonnet 14, 

Batter my heart, three-personed God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurped town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but Oh, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betrothed unto your enemy:
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.
(John Donne, 1572-1631)

See the conference videos here

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Atop Constitution Hill

Rain was forecast.
Always rains in Aber
according to the BBC.

But in defiance of Aunty,
the Lord decreed sunshine
to warm the breeze
atop Constitution Hill.

Don Carson on the church as the new temple

A workmanlike exposition of Eph 2:11-22 from DAC this morning, under the headings:

1. Our pre-Christian past Eph 2:11-12
2. Our transforming Saviour Eph 2:13-18
3. Our Christian present Eph 2:19-22.

We were once far off from God, strangers to the blessing of the old covenant. But Christ has not only reconciled us to God, but also reconciled Jews and Gentiles as one new humanity. The church is the new temple that is founded upon Christ and in which the glory of God is disclosed by his indwelling Spirit. Some good applicatory hints on how the gospel destroys racism and that our churches should repent from a divisive spirit could have been worked out more thoroughly. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Don Carson on the glory of God's omnipotence

In his second Aber Conference address, Don Carson spoke on Paul's prayer in Eph 1:15-23. He began by reflecting on the interrelationship between God's sovereignty and human responsibility in prayer. Prayer 'changes things' not by persuading the Lord to change his mind, but because it is the divinely appointed means by which the Lord fulfills his eternal purposes.

There is a tight relationship between Paul's praise in Eph 1:3-14 and his prayer in Eph 1:15-23. What God has purposed for his people, such as knowledge of 'the mystery of his will' (Eph 1:9) is precisely what Paul prays for on behalf of the Ephesian church in Eph 1:17. His prayer is in sync with God's plan for his people and is a means by which the Lord's plan is richly fulfilled in his people.

In the last petition of the prayer Paul prays for power for the Ephesian believers, Eph 1:19. As God is omnipotent, no task is either more easy or more difficult for him. Creating a universe requires no more effort for him than creating the most wisp-like of sub atomic particles. His mightiest works require no expenditure of divine energy. 'He can act when he reposes and reposes when he acts.' (Herman Bavinck). However, to illustrate the power of God that Paul prays will be at work in the believer, the apostle does not refer to the creation of the world by divine fiat. Rather, he speaks of 'his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand...' Eph 1:20. 

It took no greater 'effort' for God to raise Jesus from the dead than to create the vast universe from nothing. But the resurrection of Jesus revealed more of the glory of God's omnipotence. His glory is supremely revealed in the work of redemption, at the heart of which is the death and resurrection of Christ. The reason why God displays his glory in saving lost sinners is not because he needs our approval or praise to complete him in any way. From eternity God was superabundantly satisfied in the loving communicative action of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In redemption, the truine God acts to draws alienated sinners to himself that we may enjoy restored communion with him and so glorify his name. He wants us to glorify him because that is what is best for us. Our lives can have no more higher or satisfying end than to worship the God of the gospel and be enclosed in his love. 

Conference meetings are live broadcast here at 11am & 7.30pm.