The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

Posts Tagged ‘Alan Dunn

Reporting in

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I am starting to catch my breath after returning from the US where I spent a few days travelling around with a few appointments in my calendar.

Arriving at Newark airport on a Friday afternoon, I was kindly loaned a car for a few days by a couple of the esteemed in-laws in Montville and instantly headed south and east to Flemington, where Pastor Frank Barker was formally taking his leave of the Grace Covenant Baptist Church and heading south for the sun, leaving his fellow-elder Alan Dunn and the rest of the church to fend for themselves. The church there, together with a number of friends from a variety of places, had gathered to testify of God’s blessing to them through Pastor Barker’s ministry. It was a wonderful evening with many warm testimonies of Pastor Barker’s wisdom and earnestness in ministering to the saints, and a pleasure to be present and to see some of the good things that God gives to his faithful servants before they hear his own, “Well done!”

I stayed over with Alan Dunn and his family, heading back to Montville early the next morning for the memorial service of Mrs Helen Driesse, who had died only a few days before. I know various members of the Driesse family reasonably well, and it was one of those sorrowful pleasures to hear Mrs Driesse so warmly spoken of and fondly remembered. In particular, Pastor David Chanski of the Trinity Baptist Church, Montville, spoke briefly and pointedly from Psalm 139, including the verses on which Mrs Driesse thought every time she took her medicine: “Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.” When I thanked him afterward, he told me that the substance of the address had been provided by Helen’s husband, Gerry. It was good and deep stuff. I was particularly struck by something else that was attributed directly to Mr Driesse. He told his friends after his wife died in his arms words to the effect that, “I have now completed the main thing that God has given me to do,” namely, the bringing of his wife safely to and through the river to the Celestial City.

Following a reception at which I had the pleasure of meeting various friends who had gathered for the occasion, I then headed back south and east once more, past Flemington and out into Pennsylvania, this time heading for Downingtown with Mitch & Nancy Lush. Pastor Mitch cares for Grace Church, Downingtown, and had invited me to speak in the adult Sunday School class on the new Calvinism, and then to preach morning and evening taking that context into account. It was again a delight to catch up with a few old friends during the day and once the work of the day was done, as well as to spend a delightful day on Monday at Longwood Gardens with the Lushes and mutual friend, the Reuthers, from Covenant Baptist Church, Lumberton.

Later that Monday, I headed back to Flemington, where I spent an evening chatting over Chinese food with Pastor Dunn and some of his family, which included a splendid few miles on Ethan’s motorbike enjoying the wind in the Walker hair. Tuesday morning Alan and I chewed the fat for a few hours before I headed back to Montville to spend a couple of days with one of my wife’s sisters, Priscilla, and her husband, Rich. I took the opportunity to pick up a few gifts for my own family back home, and also managed to get in a couple of P90X exercise sessions with Rich, while Priscilla threw in some additional torture from the sidelines. Aching all over, I eventually left New Jersey for Kentucky on Thursday evening.

Arriving in Louisville for the bulk of my labours while in the US, I was picked up by Darrel Whiteley, who – together with his delightful family – were my first hosts from the Reformed Baptist Church of Louisville, the church which was hosting the family conference at which I was due to preach. Pastor Bill Hughes, another of the preachers at the conference, arrived on Friday evening, and I enjoyed a breakfast with him and with Pastor Jim Savastio of RBC Louisville (who blogs at Main Things) and Pastor Brian Croft of Auburndale Baptist Church (and Practical Shepherding fame) on Saturday morning. I had originally been scheduled to preach at RBC Louisville on that Sunday and at Auburndale the following Lord’s day, but – due to a mix-up, humanly speaking – there was a double-booking, and Brian was able to accommodate me at Auburndale the first Sunday instead. The Lord’s most wise superintendence was immediately evident, in that during that Sunday Brian was suddenly called away to Nashville to minister to the family of one of his closest friends from college, and my presence gave him additional freedom to do so.

Brian in his study

Sunday morning therefore found me en route to Auburndale Baptist Church, in the south of Louisville, where I had a delightful time worshipping with the friends who gathered, preaching on the salvation of the man who had been born blind. Spending the day with Brian and his family, we heard another brother preach in the evening and then gathered from some informal question-and-answer with some of the folks from the church. Brian drove me home through the night of 3rd July enjoying the slightly premature Fourth of July fireworks. On Monday I spent the day at the home of other friends from RBC Louisville, enjoying the evident buzz in anticipation of the conference beginning the next day.

Heading for the Alumni Chapel

Alumni Chapel begins to fill up

I was sleeping unusually badly, getting little more than four or five hours a night, perhaps feeling something of the buzz myself. Most of my days in Louisville were filled with some sort of preparation for the conference, and a few periods of relaxation, and it was good to finally get to the conference itself. Pastor Hughes kicked off on Tuesday evening in the Alumni Chapel on the beautiful campus of the Southern Baptist Seminary. Sitting there that first night with several hundred people singing their hearts out I did wonder if I had bitten off more than I could chew.

My first sermon was on Wednesday morning in the Heritage Hall, on the theme ‘The Way Forward: Encouragements for a Future, Faithful Generation.’ I preached all three sessions from 2 Kings 13No-one could find the air conditioning, and that – combined with the theatre-style lighting, left me in something of a lather by the time the sermon was over. Bill Hughes followed, preserving his gentlemanly demeanour partly on account of the fact that someone had by then found the air conditioning on-switch. I then preached Wednesday night in the Alumni Chapel, swapping over again with Pastor Hughes for our final two addresses on Thursday morning. Then Pastor Stu Johnston took up the baton, preaching Thursday evening and Friday morning on contemporary challenges, and Pastor Jim Savastio earthed the conference on Friday just before lunch. Around the sermons (all available here) there were some excellent meals, some pleasant fellowship, and some vigorous recreation, and I also had opportunity to meet up again with Brian Croft and some other friends. All too soon, it was over, and I moved on again, this time to the home of Charlie Hall and his family. Charlie is another of the pastors at RBC Louisville, and I had a great few days with the Halls, not least in helping some friends who were moving to the area unpack their truck, and a Sunday lunch that morphed from a get-together for a couple of families to a gathering of about thirty or forty in the space of as many minutes. I preached at RBC Louisville all day on the Lord’s day, kicking off with a brief introduction to John Bunyan and his books in the Sunday School, before preaching in the morning on the joining in the death and resurrection of Christ of God’s mercy and truth, righteousness and peace and in the evening on the commissioning of the Gadarene demoniac to go home and speak of the great things the Lord had done for him, and how he had compassion on him.

Heritage Hall after they heard that I was preaching next

The Halls graciously closed the day by lobbing bits of fried egg into my by-then-drooping mouth when I was breathing in the right direction, and I packed my bags and dropped into bed. Jim pitched up early doors on Monday, and I spent a morning with him before arriving at Louisville airport where I headed back home via Newark. I arrived safe and well, although tired (not least on account of the gent sitting behind me who spent the small hours playing some kind of game on the touchscreen nestling in the back of my seat headrest, a game which involved punching the touchscreen every few seconds for about four hours straight), and made it home to my family soon afterward.

Since then, it has been mainly catching up and getting back into the swing of things, my heart warmed by the fellowship of the saints and the evident working of God in the advance of Christ’s kingdom in so many places.

Zambia: Copperbelt Ministerial College

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Part one: arrival and first Lord’s day

Part two: Copperbelt Ministerial College

Part three: Lusaka, the compounds and Kabwata

As mentioned in part one, Alan Dunn was in Zambia to teach the doctrine of salvation, and I was there to introduce the Gospels and the Acts. We began on Monday morning, enjoying a slightly slower start to allow the men travelling a distance to arrive. They began to trickle in, and slowly we reached the point at which we had enough present to begin. After singing and praying, we got down to business.

I was first up, with three morning sessions, in which I gave a brief introduction to introduction, before looking at the intersection of the three cultures – Roman, Greek and Jewish – which created the God-ordained environment of the New Testament. Then we headed straight into Matthew’s Gospel. As we came toward the end of the allotted time, the excellent college administrator, Katongo, slipped me a note: “No food. Keep going.” I did, enabling me to get ahead of the game for the first morning. When the food arrived, I had finished Matthew’s Gospel, giving me a good start for the week. After an excellent meal (you could not fault the quality, only the timing), Alan got to grips with soteriology, hogging the blackboard with a diagram of such intricacy that I felt it would be churlish to wipe it off and make him re-create it every day. He managed three of his four planned sessions before the day drew to a close.

Heading back to our lodgings, we got ready to head out to the home of one of the church families. These were delightful evenings, and this was the pattern of our week. Each night one of the families invited us into their home, hosted us graciously, spoke to us kindly, and fed us splendidly. We would arrive back at the Phiri home afterward, negotiate the guard dogs, and get fairly soon to bed.

The next morning would begin with us up at around 0600 or 0630. I would head for the bathroom, and do laps round the bath, dashing repeatedly under the cold shower to allow for lathering and rinsing. Meanwhile, Brother Dunn would prepare a boiled egg or four. I would emerge gleaming, we would partake of some cereal and eggs, and I would clean up while he performed his ablutions. Then we would be about ready for the day. Picked up promptly by one of the young ladies from the church who lived nearby, we drove through Ndola to the church building, to be met by our eager students, who realised by day three that we intended to start on time unless genuinely providentially hindered. After a brief devotional time of singing and prayer, we would forge ahead, alternating mornings and afternoons on the two topics, and generally getting in about eight hours of fairly intense lecturing every day.

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I honestly could not think of forty men in the UK who would gather for such a week four times yearly, and give themselves so intensely and earnestly to study, their main complaint at the end of the week being that insufficient time had been given to the teaching and subsequent discussion. Each day closed, where possible, with a brief question and answer session, in which the questions demonstrated that these blokes were really wrestling with the material.

As the week drew on, Pastor Kabwe Kabwe of Grace RBC, Northrise, arrived back from leave, and it was good to meet him. Lazarus Phiri dropped in a couple of times to give us the once over as we taught. Toward the end of the week, the Phiris invited us back to their home, with a special guest for the evening: Conrad Mbewe was passing through (heading for the wedding which he discussed here), and he and Lazarus Phiri go way back. So we enjoyed an evening listening to these two men reminisce and banter, and chatting about all manner of things.

On Friday, we arrived for our final two sessions each, and both of us dropped a couple of lectures from the planned fifteen, having had to manage our material around the late and occasionally extended lunches. The men gave us some splendid gifts – sandals for our wives, and chitenge shirts for us (Alan’s was zebra print, mine adorned with calabashes) – and expressed warm appreciation. We ate our last meal together, and posed for a few photos.

Alan and I then headed back to the Phiris once more, taking a couple of hours to get our stuff together before spending our final evening in Ndola with Kabwe Kabwe and his family, an enjoyable and relaxing end to the week before heading down to Kabwata on the Saturday. Of that, and of life in the compounds, more will follow . . .

Part one: arrival and first Lord’s day

Part two: Copperbelt Ministerial College

Part three: Lusaka, the compounds and Kabwata

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 27 May 2011 at 16:44

Zambia: arrival and first Lord’s day

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Part one: arrival and first Lord’s day

Part two: Copperbelt Ministerial College

Part three: Lusaka, the compounds and Kabwata

It has, I know, been a little quiet on the blog in the last few weeks. The main reason for that is a recent trip to Zambia.

The silence descended a few weeks ago, when – after recovering from a bad illness, and the arrival of a daughter some days later than expected, and wrestling with an uncooperative computer – the upcoming visit began to loom large. It was time to get the head down and cause smoke to pour from the tortured keyboard and the ears venting the tortured brain of yours truly.

I had been asked, together with Alan Dunn, pastor of Grace Covenant Baptist Church of Flemington, New Jersey, and a long-time friend (by which I mean he is both, as opposed to Alan Dunn together with another chap that I happen to get on with), to go and teach at the Copperbelt Ministerial College, housed at Grace Reformed Baptist Church, Northrise, in Ndola, in Zambia. The request came via James Williamson (see his Lion of Zambia website), who had travelled with his family from the Reformed Baptist Church of Louisville, Kentucky, to serve the Zambian churches, particularly in the matter of church-planting and pastoral training. At first, I was due to teach soteriology, but Alan played a pity card and I agreed to let him have that topic as he had taught it before, and I selected an introduction to the Gospels and the Acts.

Thus it was that, with a couple of weeks before I was due to fly, I looked with some horror at the piles of books that had been growing in my study over the previous months, and realised it was time to try and get some of that stuff on to paper ready to be delivered in Zambia. And so began the groaning of mental gears and the scorching of keyboards that resulted, about a week before I was due to leave, in a set of lectures at last in a state to be delivered.

And so, with bags packed and heart light-ish, I boarded flight BA0255 for Lusaka on the Friday evening of the royal wedding (no traffic on the roads – marvellous!) and settled down to read. The night passed as my nights usually do on long-haul flights, rather slowly, substantially uncomfortably and largely sleeplessly. I arrived early Saturday morning with the kind of bruised knees that arise only when a substantial gentleman in the seat in front has dropped said contraption into a sleeping position and made it a full eight hours of pressure on the patella. Springing from my seat, I came to a flying stop for an hour or so in the immigration line before making my way out into the dull humidity of that Lusakan morning. I spent a couple of hours hanging around waiting for the arrival of Alan (who had been in country a couple of days before me). He duly arrived and we boarded a flight for Ndola, enjoying some splendid views on the way.

We arrived just before midday, picked up by Katongo, the college administrator, and David Wagener, a Presbyterian working with another local theological school. They dropped us off at the home of Lazarus Phiri and his family. Lazarus is missiologist-at-large for a missionary organization called Pioneers, and he and his family gave us splendid care during the course of our stay.

We were taken out for a bite to eat for lunch, spent a couple of hours settling in (and, in my case, getting an hour or so of sleep to make up for the lost night) before Arnold Kapembwe, one of the elders of the Grace Baptist Church of Northrise, took us out for an excellent dinner.

Returning home and negotiating Lazarus’ splendid guard dogs, we collapsed into our respective beds, having been briefed for the following day’s labours.

We woke bright and early, Alan heading a little way north and west to preach at the Trinity Baptist Church of Kitwe, and me to remain in Ndola for the day. Alan left first, and I was picked up soon after. I was the last one left in the property, and my departure was slightly complicated by the fact that, when I let the guard dogs out, one of them, probably using some kind of astral travelling trick as far as I could tell, teleported through the gates and tried to eat a passerby. I kid you not! I was later informed that it was not the first time that this had happened, as the dog had learned how to open the gate (note to self: always buy a guard dog with enormous teeth, proven savagery, and poor dexterity). When I had finally recovered the dog and smiled kindly at the slightly agitated passerby, I collapsed sweating into the vehicle of Mr Kapembwe, and we left for church. There I met the three deacons, and was able to hear Mr Kapembwe’s Bible class considering the character of Cain, as well as seeing the new buildings going up for the housing of future modules of the Copperbelt Ministerial College.

I preached to a good-sized and attentive congregation in the morning, having a more evangelistic focus, as directed, and then enjoyed a delightful repast with Mr Kapembwe, heading back to our lodgings for a rest (though I generally can’t do rest while the sun is up) and then heading back to the church in the evening. There were far fewer out on that occasion when I preached on John 11, drawing some lessons from Christ at the tomb of Lazarus. I had a great time chatting with people afterward, and we set up the building ready for the arrival of the students on Monday morning.

Before heading back to the lodgings, Twande, one of the deacons, invited us back to his home, where his wife had prepared a feast. Alan and the friends from Kitwe arrived before too long and we were invited to the table in Zambian fashion, by our hostess dropping to one knee: traditionally, it is the height of rudeness to invite guests to the table while standing, we were given to understand. Back to the lodgings once more, where we spent a while chewing the fat before hitting our respective sacks in order to be in good shape (or at least, as bad shape as possible) for the rigours of the module from Monday to Friday, of which more to come . . .

Part one: arrival and first Lord’s day

Part two: Copperbelt Ministerial College

Part three: Lusaka, the compounds and Kabwata

Written by Jeremy Walker

Monday 23 May 2011 at 16:10

Resurrection hope in a tsunami world

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My friend Alan Dunn has penned a brief piece trying to make Biblical sense of the tsunami. Does the Bible have anything to say about such disasters? Is there any hope in a world wracked by such tragedies? Alan’s answer, drawn from the Bible, is a resounding “Yes.” For a longer and more developed argument, you can download Catastrophes. I am grateful to Alan for his permission to make these available.

Existentialists have a word for the feeling of disconnection, the free-fall into the void of subjective meaninglessness, the disorienting bewilderment of detachment from everyone, everything and even from self. The word is “anomie:” without law, without order; chaos and confusion caused by a disconnection from everything secure, and familiar. All points of reference are gone and existence is intrinsically strange. The pictures coming from Japan depict anomie as people meander through once familiar neighborhoods now strange and severed from any point of connection. Anomie is the feeling of death, the severance of the unities that God created to constitute the fabric of life.

Does Scripture have anything to say to men when an earthquake and a tsunami so alter the landscape of life that one no longer has points of connection to the very earth upon which we walk? What do we say to people whose very relationship to the ground itself is severed?

First, we need to understand that God established a relationship between our bodies and the earth. God created man from the dust of the ground and named him “Adam,” meaning “red earth” (Gen 2:7-9,20). This “very good” creation is one in which Adam is essentially united to the earth. He is made of the same material. He lives in a symbiotic reciprocal relationship of mutual interdependence with the  earth. By his labor, Man would cultivate and keep the earth (Gen 2:15) and the earth would respond, yielding sustenance for man’s life. Man is not man apart from his union with the earth. For man to be man there must be a cosmos, a physical world over which he has dominion. God relates to the earth through the headship of the Man and as goes Adam‟s relationship with God, so goes earth’s relationship to God. But realize is that man is not man apart from the earth. He is red earth, animated dirt, made of the dust of the ground: he is Adam.

Second, we must understand the impact of the Fall on man’s relationship to the earth. When Adam sinned, he brought the earth under the sentence of the curse (Gen 3:17-19). In grace, God salvaged the original created order, but the dynamic of death now conditions man’s relationship to the earth. Man still exercises dominion, but the life-union between him and the ground is broken. The earth was subjected to futility (Rom 8:20,21) and although by his labor Man still obtains his food, he also harvests thorns and thistles, and experiences physical dissolution as his relationship to the earth disintegrates and he returns back to dust. The earth likewise is in slavery to corruption – not to moral corruption, but to decomposition, entropy, decay, rot. It will wear out like a garment (Isa 51:6). The ground has been judged through Adam with the sentence of death. Therefore from one perspective, earthquakes and tsunamis are evidence of the Fall: a world broken, convulsing in the throes of death; a world bound to the destiny of its Adam – for as it goes with Adam, so it goes with earth. Adam and his planet live or die together.

Thirdly, we hasten to bring to bear the grace of God, for this fallen earth is yet the stage upon which God’s redemptive love and saving purposes are being worked out. Immediately after the Fall, the planet was salvaged from total death. God intervened and sustained the original order of creation and announced that He would send the promised Seed who would crush the head of the Serpent and deliver the fallen cosmos from the curse (Gen 3:15). That Seed has come. He is Jesus Christ: the incarnate God/Man. His incarnation is crucial to the salvation that He has wrought for this tsunami world. Jesus taught us to see earthquakes and tsunamis not only as visitations of judgment, or as precursors to the great earthquake which characterizes Final Judgment (cf. Rev 6:12; 8:5; 11:13,19: 16:18). Jesus also spoke of earthquakes using a hopeful metaphor, albeit a painful one: the metaphor of a woman writhing in birth pangs. Earthquakes are part of those things which are the beginning of birth pangs (Mat 24:8; Mk 13:8; cf. Jn 16:20-21; 1 Thes 5:3). With the coming of Jesus, this present order of creation has been impregnated with the life of the age to come and is in the agonizing process of giving birth to what Jesus calls the regeneration (Mat 19:28; cf. Acts 3:21): the renovation of this fallen creation into the new physics of the age to come. Throughout this age earthquakes, like labor contractions, will erupt and relax in limited ways and progressively intensify until the climatic contraction which will grip the whole world in a final hour of testing (Lk 21:34-36; Rv 3:10). That hour will entail the purging fire of judgment (2 Pt 3:3-7) during which the present order of things will be destroyed (2 Pt 3:10): loosed, untied, unhinged – when the unities of creation are finally severed in a cosmic death brought on by death-cursed Adam.

But there is hope for this tsunami world: resurrection hope, glorious hope!

In 1 Cor 15:44,45 Paul calls the resurrected Jesus, the last Adam. In resurrection victory, He has obtained a new order of human existence: life-giving Spirit – resurrected human life, a body alive with the vitality of God‟s Spirit as its animating principle. This is in contrast with Adam, the first man’s natural body. Paul not only contrasts our resurrection body with our post-Fall, sin-riddled, perishable, dishonored, weak body. He also contrasts Jesus’ resurrection body with Adam’s natural body which became a living soul (citing Gen 2:7 concerning Adam’s pre-Fall body). Jesus‟ resurrection body is more glorious than Adam’s original created body! The point is this: by His resurrection, Jesus has become the last Adam. Now remember, Adam is not “Adam” without the earth, the dirt, the planet which must be bound to him. Without the ground, Adam is not man. For man to be man, he must have earth. Therefore Jesus, the resurrected last Adam, must have a resurrected earth! This tsunami world has hope because Jesus was resurrected and His resurrected body is the guarantee of the resurrected earth. Originally the earth was created then Adam was taken from it and placed upon it. In the new creation, the last Adam is resurrected and the recreated cosmos of necessity follows in His train. Jesus’ physicality is this planet’s only hope. Jesus is the incarnate enfleshed Son of God. He was physically conceived in the womb of a virgin by the power of the Spirit. He physically lived in sinless obedience to God and succeeded where Adam failed. He physically died on the cross bearing the punishment of death that Adam incurred. He was physically buried in the tomb. He physically rose from the grave. He physically ascended to the throne of God. He will physically return at the end of this age to transform our bodies and all things into conformity with His resurrection glory (Phil 3:20-21). Ours is a flesh and blood salvation, a water and mud salvation, a space and time salvation. All who are in Christ inherit His Kingdom of unimaginable glory: a recreated cosmos depicted in the final chapters of Revelation as a pristine Edenic garden in which a resurrected humanity begins again, only now remade in union with the last Adam, gloriously conformed to the first born among many brethren (Rom 8:29).

God made the earth and then He made Adam from the earth and then Adam went through death back into the dust. Jesus, incarnate sinless Man, went through death into the dust and conquered death as He bodily rose again, and as the last Adam, He pulls the dirt which is this planet with Him out of its grave into resurrection glory. Death into resurrection. It is the paradigm of redemption, a redemption for which this planet eagerly longs: the redemption of the bodies of the sons of God (Rom 8:18-23) and the cosmic regeneration. The way to that glorious regeneration is the way of the cross. It is the way Jesus went. It is the way we who will populate the new heavens and new earth must go, and with us, at Christ’s return, so too it is the way our planet will go. But as the earth undergoes its own sentence of death, it will convulse and give us anomie. At times it won’t look familiar to us, and we’ll feel separated from it, as though it has turned against us. Yes, we’re being judged. But we who are in Christ have no condemnation and we’re being saved! We see the earth’s convulsions as eschatological contractions which will result in the birth of a new and glorious cosmos of resurrection life. This world has been impregnated with the life of the age to come. The Spirit of the risen Christ has been given to His spiritually resurrected people, and the world writhes in labor pains, awaiting the birthing of our resurrected bodies so that with us, it too will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God (Rom 8:21).

If we would experience that glory, we must get into Jesus. Jesus, the resurrected Lord, the last Adam, is our only physical connection to the world to come. This world and its works will be burned up, but all who are in Jesus, as those who were in Noah’s ark, will be saved to populate this same but revitalized cosmos where we will live and labor for eternity, making the entire universe the temple of our covenant keeping God.

So next time you sense anomie, that bewildering sense of disconnection from this world and this life, exercise faith in your risen Lord. The Spirit in you will give you a sense of being securely connected to the resurrected Jesus and assure you that your connection to Him is more solid than the ground beneath your feet. Lift up your head and know that your redemption is drawing nigh. And begin singing: “On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand; all other ground is sinking sand.”

Written by Jeremy Walker

Thursday 17 March 2011 at 13:21

“Gospel Intimacy in a Godly Marriage”

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Gospel Intimacy in a Godly Marriage by Alan Dunn

Pillar & Ground Publications, 2009 (168pp, pbk)

The greatest threat to genuine intimacy in marriage, even when two redeemed sinners become one flesh, is sin.  Alan Dunn’s book on gospel intimacy is intended to help identify and overcome those barriers and hindrances to genuine closeness.

The author navigates the journey in the light of the doctrines of God, creation, fall and redemption.  He then addresses the grace of gospel love, and it is here that facing sin in a relationship comes to the fore.  Only the gospel can teach us to love our spouse in the face of remaining sin.  Realistically facing our sins, cultivating a disposition of forgiveness and forbearance, and the nature of those ‘gospel transactions’ that enable married sinners to press on together are all helpfully explained.  In the third part, the specific challenges of headship and submission, selfishness, unbiblical communication, and unavoidable death are assessed in the light of Scripture, with instruction, counsel and encouragement wisely and graciously offered.  The author’s experience as a pastor and husband is helpfully evident.

Clearly, the book is directed primarily to Christian couples (married or contemplating marriage).  Slightly unusually, but rightly, the weight of application is toward husbands as those called to set the tone of gospel love in a marriage (the section on headship brings out the nuances of this).  At the same time, Christians in various situations will find rich principles that will guide them not just with regard to marriage, but in understanding their environment, their hearts, their relationships with others, and the gospel realities which underpin peace and unity not just in marriage but in friendships, in the family more broadly, and in the church.

There are many books on marriage, but few that deal with the heart of the matter – in terms of sin and the gospel grace in Christ that overcomes it – with the brevity, clarity and profundity of this volume.  Practical on the deepest level, it is warmly recommended as a gospel recipe for repairing damage and developing and maintaining true intimacy in a godly marriage.

in a Godly Marriage

Alan Dunn

Pillar & Ground Publications, 2009

168pp, pbk, $10.95

ISBN 978 1 932481 19 8

The greatest threat to genuine intimacy in marriage, even when two redeemed sinners become one flesh, is sin.  Alan Dunn’s book on gospel intimacy is intended to help identify and overcome those barriers and hindrances to genuine closeness.

The author navigates the journey in the light of the doctrines of God, creation, fall and redemption.  He then addresses the grace of gospel love, and it is here that facing sin in a relationship comes to the fore.  Only the gospel can teach us to love our spouse in the face of remaining sin.  Realistically facing our sins, cultivating a disposition of forgiveness and forbearance, and the nature of those ‘gospel transactions’ that enable married sinners to press on together are all helpfully explained.  In the third part, the specific challenges of headship and submission, selfishness, unbiblical communication, and unavoidable death are assessed in the light of Scripture, with instruction, counsel and encouragement wisely and graciously offered.  The author’s experience as a pastor and husband is helpfully evident.

Clearly, the book is directed primarily to Christian couples (married or contemplating marriage).  Slightly unusually, but rightly, the weight of application is toward husbands as those called to set the tone of gospel love in a marriage (the section on headship brings out the nuances of this).  At the same time, Christians in various situations will find rich principles that will guide them not just with regard to marriage, but in understanding their environment, their hearts, their relationships with others, and the gospel realities which underpin peace and unity not just in marriage but in friendships, in the family more broadly, and in the church.

There are many books on marriage, but few that deal with the heart of the matter – in terms of sin and the gospel grace in Christ that overcomes it – with the brevity, clarity and profundity of this volume.  Practical on the deepest level, it is warmly recommended as a gospel recipe for repairing damage and developing and maintaining true intimacy in a godly marriage.

Jeremy Walker

Written by Jeremy Walker

Saturday 19 December 2009 at 10:25

Posted in Reviews

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“Gospel intimacy” competition results

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OK: the results are in.  Again, thank you to all those who entered.  I shall be contacting you shortly to obtain a mailing address for your prize.  Alan Dunn, who wrote Gospel Intimacy in a Godly Marriage, has perused and pondered over the entries, and here is his response:

I’d like to thank all who took the time to read Jeremy’s interview.  I thought his questions were very good and I hope my answers were helpful.  I especially thank those of you who took the time to write responses to the competition question.  I enjoyed reading each response and have had to settle on the winners who will receive a copy of Gospel Intimacy. Most of the responses tended toward “sacrificial love,” as stated in several of the essays.  Such sacrificial love was profiled against the backdrop of extended affliction – especially the failing health of one spouse who was ministered to with Christlike sacrificial love.  Certainly such love is a display of forbearance and patience, all of which are integral to giving each other the kind of love we’ve received in Jesus.  However, I was looking more particularly for “gospel love,” a love that contends with the emergence of sin and overcomes it with the grace of forgiveness and then through the power of the gospel, works to bring spiritual change and maturation in both spouses.

So having said that, here are the results of the competition.  I’ve awarded four books.  I identified the four winners but found that three of the other essays each equally focused on “sacrificial love” in the midst of protracted affliction, and I was therefore unable to distinguish fairly between them.  Since the other four more closely approximated the matter of the gospel overcoming sin, they were selected as winners.

In fourth place: Dan.  His response concerned a sacrificial love that overcame the challenge of post-natal depression.  Although he doesn’t specifically state it, I would think that the husband in his account was faced with temptations to sin as he dealt, not with physical sickness per se, but the emotional distress of his wife.  The need to forgive sin rather than to forebear under suffering would be that much more likely.

In third place: Sarah.  She describes the gospel’s power to overcome class distinctions and social barriers.  Again, although contending with sin was not prominent between William Carey and Charlotte, they certainly were faced with the need to forgive others of their prejudice against them.

In second place: Guy Davies, if only because his response was eight pages long!  Guy brought out the fruit of the gospel evidenced in Jonathan and Sarah Edward’s marriage.  Their harmony and peaceable dynamics were the result of their mutual resolve to overcome sin with the gospel tools of repentance and forgiveness.

And finally – in first place: Cath, whose second submission specifically targeted “gospel intimacy” and “gospel love.”  Cath gave an account of the martyrdom of John Brown of Priesthill.  She then reflected on how his marriage to Isobel evidenced the harmony and unity borne of the gospel and that the couple’s love for Jesus was the supreme impetus in their lives and marriage.  Cath’s essay specifically enlarged upon “gospel intimacy” and “gospel love.”  Congratulations Cath!

Let me conclude with a submission of my own, and since I already have a book, it will not be considered as a contender in the competition.  It’s an example of gospel love from a marriage that I know about.  When the couple first married, both were professing Christians, albeit young and somewhat untaught.  It was not too long, however, before the husband started to drink and soon departed from any association with the things of God.  The wife however, continued to persevere in her love for Christ and faithfulness to the worship of God among the Lord’s people.  She took a stand for Christ and with her husband’s acquiescence, took her two boys to church as they grew into young manhood.  Over the years there were tumultuous times.  On a couple occasions, divorce was not out of the range of possibility and, some would say, even justified.  But the wife/mother persevered as a woman of faith and prayer, demonstrating obedience to 1 Peter 3:1-6.  In the midst of it all, she owned his conscience, and the consciences and love of her two sons.  In her early sixties, she was diagnosed with cancer.  She grew strong in the Lord as she drew near to death, while her husband became increasingly frantic with the fear of facing life without her.  In his desperation, he remembered the God of his youth who his wife had served all her life, and in his mid sixties, he repented and sought the Lord.  Before she went to be with Christ, she saw her husband saved, her marriage brought into alignment with the gospel, and both her sons in the pastoral ministry, having married godly women.  The power the gospel triumphed through a lifetime of gospel love.  The sin that would have otherwise destroyed her marriage and her sons was conquered by her faithful loving adherence to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  My brother and I are eternally grateful to the Lord for having given her to us as our mother and using her to bring us into God’s eternal family where we, with Dad, are now eternally brothers and sister in Christ. I didn’t use my Mom as an illustration in my book, but the Lord used her to teach me the power of gospel love in a marriage.

Perhaps this exercise has confirmed for me that the book could very well meet a real need among believers.  We need to make the gospel itself much more effective in our marriages.  We need to purposefully, intentionally, conscientiously bring the gospel to bear upon our dealings with each other’s sin.  We need to believe and expect that, as we give each other gospel love, the Spirit will work effectively in and through us to conform us to Christ and use our marriages to display the gospel and bring glory to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Thank you, Alan, for your careful and thoughtful response, and for the book as a whole.  To summarise:

The winners:

Cath ~ Guy ~ Sarah ~ Dan

Congratulations!

The others: thanks and commiserations, and I hope you will not be put off trying again next time.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Monday 7 December 2009 at 12:37

Posted in Competitions

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Competition closed

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With a late flurry of entries, the competition to win a copy of Gospel Intimacy in a Godly Marriage is now closed.

Many thanks to those who have clearly thought long and hard and carefully about the entries, not just for making it a competition, but for the genuinely profound and often moving examples of godly marriage that you have put before us.  I was particularly glad to see entries from men as well as women, and that many of the examples were flesh-and-blood ones from the present era.

These entries will now be drawn to the attention of Pastor Dunn, and I shall ask him to adjudicate.  Results will be forthcoming soon.

Thanks once again.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Tuesday 1 December 2009 at 09:44

Posted in Competitions

Tagged with ,

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