Tuesday, 22 July 2014

The day I met John Piper

So there Maggie and I were on a hot day in Florida in June on holiday when who should walk past us but Dr John Piper. He is one of my modern day heroes of evangelicalism, the former pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, and I have enjoyed his books and also watched some of his sermons.  His book on marriage called “This Momentary Marriage is an absolute classic that every married couple should read. Why? Because it affirms marriage as the deeply biblical covenantal relationship that it is and elevates marriage to its proper lofty heights as an earthly depiction of the relationship between Christ and his bride, the church.

But Piper’s real contribution to evangelicalism is in the term  “Christian hedonism” – which was coined in his classic book  “Desiring God.”  In its most succinct form he summarises it like this 

"God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him"

Our  greatest pleasure and our greatest treasure is to be found in Christ. He is the centre of the gospel as well as its outcome and everything in our lives should be determined by the gospel. God’s highest pursuit ("his glory") and man's deepest and most durable happiness come together in one pursuit—namely, the pursuit of joy in God. That’s it in a nutshell!!

Christian hedonism is diametrically opposed to the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, who argued that an action is only moral if you have no desire to perform it, nor gain any benefit from it. By contrast, Piper argues...

But not only is disinterested morality (doing good "for its own sake") impossible; it is undesirable. That is, it is unbiblical; because it would mean that the better a man became the harder it would be for him to act morally. The closer he came to true goodness the more naturally and happily he would do what is good. A good man in Scripture is not the man who dislikes doing good but toughs it out for the sake of duty. A good man loves kindness (Micah 6:8) and delights in the law of the Lord (Psalm 1:2), and the will of the Lord (Psalm 40:8). But how shall such a man do an act of kindness disinterestedly? The better the man, the more joy in obedience”
Anyway, we couldn’t believe that this formidable Christian scholar and preacher should be in our vicinity, so we did what any self respecting admirers would do – we followed him (!)  until we were sure it was really him and then thanked him for his work and contribution to the kingdom. We were pleased that we were able to do that personally this side of eternity.

He graciously allowed us to be photographed with him. As you can see, Maggie and I were in real holiday mode!! But it made our day!!

Here’s another one of his quotes I read recently......

“One of the great uses of Twitter and Facebook will be to prove at the Last Day
that prayerlessness was not from lack of time.”

Think about it!!

Sunday, 29 June 2014


Well, we’ve just had a brilliant two week family holiday and one of the highlights for me every year is getting some time away from the normal hustle and bustle to read a few interesting books and get my mind stretched. 

So I thought you might like to know what I read this year...

REAL MARRIAGE by Mark and Grace Driscoll.
I read this a few years ago in preparation for our Love, Sex and Relationships” series and wanted to go through it again more slowly because I passionately believe that the whole area of Christian marriage is one of the key spiritual battlefields today. And no wonder for marriage is a glorious drama, reflecting the amazing love between Christ, the heavenly bridegroom, and his bride the church. Driscoll, in his usual style pulls no punches. He writes along with his wife Grace about the real challenges and sets them into a biblical context. It is a direct, hard hitting book. No subtlety is neededwhen it comes to this area and he does not use euphemisms or woolly language, he speaks directly but with tremendous force. Every married person (men especially) should read this book.

I love books like this – books which challenge to live life with purpose to remind us of how short life is and to make sure that moments count, Ortberg uses the analogy of  a board game – we love to bin control but we cant be. Things happen but we need to have clear priorities and specific purposes or else life – like the game- will just slip away and we will be left with many, many regrets. This is a powerful reminder to us of what life is all about and Ortberg creatively and imaginatively expounds various scriptures on the theme (and also use heaps of humour – so you will laugh a lot!)

I love Swindoll. I feel he’s one of my mentors, though I’ve never met him. This was written many years ago (I first read it in the 80s) and I read it again in preparation for the newSunday morning series coming up called “Soarin” (more on that in a later blog!”) He uses the picture of an eagle soaring and shows again, like Ortberg, that its possible to live well and finish well for the glory of God. But it requires personal hard work, sacrifice and clear choices in our lifestyle.
Finally I started to read a couplof leadership books which ipicked up in a secular bookshop in the airport. 

HOW SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE LEAD by John Maxwell and MINUTE MOTIVATORS FOR LEADERS by Stan Toler.  Anything I can find on leadership to help me a better leader is a good investment.

I also brought with me THE BUSY CHRISTIAN’S GUIDE TO BUSYNESS by Tim Chester. 

Ironically, I never got round to reading it!!

Id love to know what’s on your summer reading list and anything you can suggest to bless me with. Email me ontrevor@newtownbredabaptist.com

Tuesday, 3 June 2014


This was the strapline for a message I preached last week about giving called “The Success Factor” (check it out online)– part of our Treasure Hunt series. I found it uncomfortable because money is such a touchy subject in church. But the problem with many of us is not that we dont WANT to give to God’s work, we just don’t know HOW TO. Thats why we need to get organised.

Most of run our lives on the basis of SPEND – SAVE - GIVEin decreasing amounts for each of those categories. In fact,there is so much to spend on, often little is saved or given, no matter how much we earn. Financial institutions and lending bodies recognise this as your pattern; thats why they absolutely INSIST that you repay your mortgage or your car loan by direct debit. They don’t just allow you to decide how much to pay back by how much you’ve got left over at the end of the month. No, they insist you make the regular commitment and give them access to your bank account to take the money!

To organise means to turn your list – to run your life on the basis of GIVE – SAVE – SPEND. Paul wrote to the Corinthians to encourage them to give to the special collectionfor the believers in Jerusalem. He encouraged them to “set it aside” (ch 16 v1) i.e. to plan, decide, agree, have a plan – not just to rummage around in a pocket or purse to see what is there. Organise it. Likewise in his great chapter on giving in 2Corinthians  9 he urges them to “decide” in their hearts. Thatswhy a standing order or direct debit is such a great thing. Money comes in and then you give it without hardly noticing.  And if you Gift Aid it also, then the government will give back to your chosen recipient another big whack on top to be used for God’s work (Don’t take this for granted – it wont last forever) Many think its unspiritual to think like that – but its actually incredibly WISE and prudent and God-honouring.Its practical discipleship.

Most Christian organisations and churches suffer from a lack of praying and a lack of giving, which hinder the fulfilment of vision. Our own 60 for 60 appeal in Newtownbreda is a simple yet challenging concept. An extra £60,000 to celebrate 60 years of our life and witness. And to enable us to go forward in the areas of missions, childrens work, facilities,evangelistic  events and to give us a financial buffer so that when sudden unexpected needs arise, we can respond quickly.  Thereby, we believe we honour the Lord.  Spread over 2014 and spread between our entire congregation, the target becomes possible. But we all need to organise , not to agonise.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Pastor McConnell, The Christian Faith and the Challenge of Islam

Well Christianity and Islam are back in the news again. Pastor Jim McConnell’s sermon in the Whitewell Tabernacle on “One God – One Faith” certainly drew a lot of media attention particularly because of what Jim had to say about Islam and its followers.

As preachers, one of our tasks is to teach truth. In order to do that sometimes we have to expose error.  We need to point out truth and error forcibly and clearly.  In a confused, mixed-up world words have to be used clearly and unambiguously and sometimes people might be offended by that.  Remember, even religious people were furious at some of the teachings of Jesus.  Paul upset people.  Both were persecuted and hounded because of what they taught. Persecution comes with the territory.
But also as preachers our words have to be weighed carefully, chosen wisely and delivered compassionately.  We must never appear to have mixed motives or personal agendas.  Do preachers always get that right?  Absolutely not – and in the online world and live stream and so on, the pressure is all the greater.

We live in a very PC world where tolerance is heralded as a virtue.  To appear intolerant of others beliefs or religion or sexual orientation, is regarded as the ultimate sin.  Preachers cannot bow to this pressure.  We must obey God rather than men.  Whatever the consequences

So what of Islam then?

It has 6 basic beliefs

Belief in Allah as the one and only God, in angels, in the holy books, in the Prophets... e.g. Adam, Ibrahim (Abraham), Musa (Moses), Dawud (David),Isa (Jesus), Muhammad is the final prophet.  Belief in the Day of Judgement.. and belief in Predestination...

Simply, when you analyse Islam it is diametrically opposed to biblical Christianity.  In practice therefore its most fervent and misguided advocates often see Christianity as an ‘enemy’ and that sometimes leads to persecution and, in extreme cases, death.  This is the outworking of Sharia law.

Wikipedia in an impartial but factual way reports this about Sharia law.

“According to scholars of traditional Islamic law, the applicable rules for religious conversion under Sharia are as follows:

  • Leaving Islam is a sin and a religious crime. Once any man or woman is officially classified as Muslim, because of birth or religious conversion, he or she will be subject to the death penalty if he or she becomes an apostate, that is, abandons his or her faith in Islam in order to become an atheist, agnostic or to convert to another religion. Before executing the death penalty, Sharia demands that the individual be offered one chance to return to Islam.'
In other words if a Moslem converts to follow Christ, the death penalty may be applied.
But following Jesus means loving people, including our Moslem neighbours, caring for people and urging people of all creeds and religious beliefs to follow Christ.  Without fear or favour.  The pagan protestant and the religious Moslem – both equally need Christ.
As the mighty Peter once said, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” Acts 4 v12

Friday, 16 May 2014

The Road to Success

Great night at the Ramada Hotel.  When was the last time you saw hundreds of people queuing to get into a Christian event and the police having to manage the traffic?  God just amazed us with his blessing.  I thought they might have been coming to hear my preaching (??) but I guess the real draw was the rugby boys and the great venue.

Nevertheless, if you missed it, and even if you didn’t, here’s a summary of my brief message on the night.  What is the real Road to Success?

If anyone knew how to spell SUCCESS it was him. He had it all as the leader of a vast empire. In fact, it was so good that when a rival leader arrived to see him, she exclaimed “I knew it was good but the half hasn't even been told me”  Like many successful people, he wrote a book about SUCCESS and warned against some of the things he had tried that REALLY LED TO NOWHERE!  Cul-de-sacs' and dead end roads that petered out and weren’t success at all. 

Wealth?  He had that.  But that wasn’t the road to success.

 Pleasure?  Misguided hard work?  Learning?  Wisdom? 

All good in themselves but not the road to success.  The man’s name was Solomon and the book is in our Bibles.  It’s called Ecclesiastes.  His answer is simple “Remember Him” That’s right.  Acknowledge God – the Creator God, who hung sun, moon and stars in the sky; who created plants and rivers and mountains and trees and flowers and monkeys and donkeys and kangaroos!  Remember him before you get too old before all the cul-de-sacs of life crush you and leave you disappointed and hopeless.  Don't exclude him from your life.

1000 years later along came that very God who said “What does it profit a man or woman if they gain the whole world and lose their soul?”  You could have everything and yet be a failure.  So he went to a cross and died for people like you and me to give us real hope and a new beginning.

SUCCESS?  Here it is...






SINNERS like us !!

Friday, 18 April 2014

Unforgettable Good Friday

Good Friday!  What’s so good about it?  Well for those who were or are part of it, it’s not only good – it’s unforgettable.

Unforgettable for those involved - I've read again this morning Mark’s wonderful detailed account of those last hours of the life of Christ.  Some say that the longer you live the more cynical you get; but the more you read these wonderful accounts the more unforgettable it all becomes. 

Unforgettable for Pilate – the hard, cynical,  twister of a politician who was ‘amazed’ at Jesus silence in the face of unjust accusation.  Yet in the face of all his judicial instincts he handed Christ over to be executed.  He would never forget that day.

Unforgettable for Simon of Cyrene - plucked from the crowd and forced to carry the cross. His name immortalised on the pages of Holy Scripture – an obscure country dweller, father of two boys.  He would never forget that day. 

Unforgettable for the soldiers – experts in the art of crucifixion but never a prisoner had died like this one, who breathed his last with a loud cry and seemed confident of his future. They would never forget that day.

Unforgettable for the thief on the cross – from certain death to glorious entrance into paradise. He could never atone for his sins, yet was remarkably saved, by simple faith alone. He would never forget that day.

Unforgettable for Joseph of Arimathea – a member of the Jewish ruling council who dissented from the decision of his fellow leaders, who boldly went to Pilate and asked for the body and then buried Jesus in his very own new tomb. He went against the crown and he would never forget that day. 

Unforgettable for you – if you have trusted the man on the cross and given him your life. There is no turning back from this life. We should never forget this day.

“Bearing shame and scoffing rude
In my place condemned he stood
Sealed my pardon with his blood
Hallelujah what a Saviour”