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


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

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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

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Win a book: last call

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Greetings, sports fans!

Thank you to those who have entered the competition to win a signed copy of Alan Dunn’s book, Gospel Intimacy in a Godly Marriage.  Good to see a little zest in the entries (sportive accusations of cheating included!).

There is still time to enter, so please do – we need at least one more entry to make it truly a competition, and at least two to make it a healthy competition.  The deadline is close of play this coming Monday (Mon 30 Nov) so you have a good three days left in which to make your play.

So, leap across to THE COMPETITION and meet the challenge:

Please identify a particular marriage – either in your own experience or one from church history – which you believe demonstrates true gospel intimacy.  Please briefly explain how this is manifested in the marriage, and what you have learned (e.g. of Christ and his church, the nature of gospel love, how to demonstrate a genuinely Christlike love, etc.) as a result of learning about or observing this marriage.

Please leave answers in the comments section of the original post.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Saturday 28 November 2009 at 08:42

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Competition update

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I am running a competition to win one of five signed copies of Alan Dunn’s book, Gospel Intimacy in a Godly Marriage.  So far, it has failed to rouse much in the way of sporting blood.

Friends, this is a first rate book.  Is it profound?  Yes.  Does it demand thought?  Yes.  Will it let you quickly off the hook?  No.  Will it call you to prayer in repentance over sin and for grace to press on?  Yes.  Will it bring a savour of Christian grace to the marriage of anyone prepared to pray it in and work it out?  Assuredly.  Is it worth having?  Indubitably.

So, please, head over to THE COMPETITION and get your well-oiled typing fingers moving at blistering speeds.  If you want to get thinking immediately, here is the challenge:

Please identify a particular marriage – either in your own experience or one from church history – which you believe demonstrates true gospel intimacy.  Please briefly explain how this is manifested in the marriage, and what you have learned (e.g. of Christ and his church, the nature of gospel love, how to demonstrate a genuinely Christlike love, etc.) as a result of learning about or observing this marriage.

So yoicks and tally-ho, etc.  The deadline is Monday 30 November.  Please leave answers in the comments.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Monday 23 November 2009 at 13:07

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“Gospel Intimacy in a Godly Marriage”: an interview with Alan Dunn

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Gospel Intimacy in a Godly Marriage (Dunn)Please read to the end of this interview for an opportunity to win one of five signed copies of Alan Dunn’s book.

Alan Dunn is a good friend, and one of the pastors of the Grace Covenant Baptist Church, Flemington, New Jersey, and has been since the church’s inception in 1985.  He is married to Patricia, and they have three sons and one daughter.  He has recently authored the book Gospel Intimacy in a Godly Marriage: A Pursuit of Godly Romance (Pillar & Ground Publications).  He has previously written a book on masculinity and femininity called Headship in Marriage: In Light of Creation and the Fall.

impressive clergyman
Alan Dunn in full flow . . . or not?

Gospel intimacy . . . hmmm.  To borrow a phrase: “Is this a kissing book?”

No, and yes.  It is a “wuv, twue wuv” book.  I use the term “intimacy” to speak of the all-inclusive nature of the one-flesh relationship.  Marital intimacy entails a profound knitting of soul.  As we pursue soul intimacy with our spouse, we will inevitably foster physical intimacy as both kinds of intimacy feed into each other.  The book focuses on relational intimacy.  However, sexual intimacy, which is integral to marriage, will emerge from a wholesome relational intimacy.  If you’re asking, “Is this a book about sex?” I would say, “Yes, but it will improve that area of a relationship only as a result of cultivating a deeper intimacy of soul.”

Thank you for the explanation.  That being so, please can you give us a précis of the book?  What can we expect to find?

I’ve attempted to look at marriage in the light of who we are as men and women created in the image of God and as those redeemed by Christ and indwelt by His Spirit.  I consider marriage against the backdrop of the Bible’s large emphases on God, Creation, the Fall, and Redemption.  After I define the couple in terms of creation and redemption, I then consider the greatest challenge to marital intimacy: our sin.  Only the gospel can address the threat that sin poses to our marital intimacy, so we need to learn how to give each other “gospel love.”  We face other challenges to intimacy as well, such as who will take the lead, how to overcome our innate selfishness, how to cultivate wholesome communication patterns, and how to grow more intimate as we age and face the prospect of death.

For whom is this book written?

I believe that couples at every stage of their relationship would benefit from this book.  Since marriage is treated in the context of theology and the issues addressed are fundamental, it will speak to couples of all ages.  The concern of applying the gospel to our marriages is perennial.  When do we outgrow the liability of sinning against each other?  We need to gain competence in giving each other “gospel love” throughout the course of our marriages.  Each stage along the way confronts us with persistent and unprecedented challenges that can only be met by a believing application of the gospel.  So, couples who are contemplating marriage, young, middle-aged and seasoned couples will find help and gain perspective from the book.

Alan Dunn
The real, well-seasoned Pastor Dunn

I like the idea of a well-seasoned couple – a little salt and pepper, with a few mixed herbs, perhaps?  But, moving on, could or should a single Christian bother with this book?

Admittedly, I wrote the book for Christian couples, but that is not to say that our single brethren would not benefit from it.  Let marriage be held in honour by all (Heb 13:4).  I endeavour to profile marriage with biblical honour which is a concern for all Christians, married or single.  Also, the crux of the book deals with the practical matter of how to love with gospel love.  All of our relationships in the family, the church and elsewhere, are to express gospel dynamics.  Christian singles will find encouragement to love others by seeing how the gospel is to operate within a marriage relationship.

With many books on marriage in the marketplace, even from a Christian perspective, what does yours add that others lack?

I make no claim to know the state of “the marketplace” or what might be the dominant emphases prevalent in books about marriage.  Gospel Intimacy emphasizes the theology of marriage as well as the practical importance of conditioning the marriage relationship with the gospel.  Rather than a “kissing book,” it is more a “thinking book.”  It lays foundations in creation and the gospel and then asks the reader to think through such issues as marital leadership and communication between two believing sinners living in a fallen world.

What does your lovely and longsuffering wife think of the book?

She is lovely, isn’t she?  And, as you well know, she is longsuffering having put up with me for these thirty-two years.  As for the book . . . she appreciates the biblical instruction that undergirds the book, but she is less than enthusiastic about those occasions when I make explicit reference to our marriage.  Yet she understands that it would be unrealistic for a married man to write about marriage and not refer to his own marriage or to his own wife.  She’s longsuffering and realistic – which makes her all the more lovely to me.

Are there particular ways in which discovering and applying these principles has affected you and your marriage?

As many of us, Tricia and I entered marriage with naive expectations, few commendable examples, in a time of rampant confusion regarding gender and marital roles.  The confusion has only gotten worse since we married.  We were forced to delve into our Bibles to ascertain who we were to be as male and female, husband and wife.  We’ve had to make sober assessments of our own upbringing and come to terms with our own sins which have obstructed our growth in intimacy.  Gaining the skills necessary to be honest and to communicate is invaluable.  We have come to know each other more intimately over the years, and we’re still learning how to apply the gospel to our relationship.  Each stage in life presents its own challenges and set of temptations.  But as we learn to live by gospel principles, we are hopeful that, by God’s grace, we can face what is in store for us and find Christ to be ever faithful.

In your experience, are women more likely to read books on marriage?  Given that this book is primarily addressed to husbands, why would you particularly encourage a man to read this book, and what counsel would you give him as he does so?

I think it is true that women are more likely to read books on marriage.  Certainly they are welcome to read this one as well.  I mention in the preface that I write from the vantage point of a man and, in many ways, address male readers.  My approach is “masculine,” if I can be so bold as to assume that there is such a thing as masculinity and femininity.  A godly man is responsible to know and apply biblical definitions to his life and relationships.  As I said, this is a “thinking book,” which considers biblical definitions and seeks to apply them in a number of areas.  I think this approach has biblical warrant since the husband is given the responsibility to lead by loving and by communicating truth.  If the marriage is going to be a demonstration of the gospel, the husband must lead the relationship to that end.  It will not happen by accident.  It will not just happen.  Godly marriages are shaped by couples who are intentionally determined to work together to make their marriage serve Kingdom priorities.  The leadership of the man, his prayers, his example, especially his communication of the truth in love, is indispensible.   It is not surprising to discover that our distinctive masculine sins are those which render us either negligent or abusive as domestic leaders.  It is not surprising to discover that the enticements of our culture align with our vulnerabilities as men and debilitate us as godly leaders.  The only solution is for us to rise up and be men of God and lead our families biblically.  I hope my book will stimulate men to be godly leaders in their homes.

Why gospel intimacy?  Does it have to be a godly marriage?  Could you remove either or both of those adjectives and still have a book to write?

The enemy of relational intimacy is sin.  Only the gospel can rectify the damage sin does to our relationships.  Hence, my advocacy of gospel intimacy: the intimacy obtained by the benefits of the gospel believed and holding-handsapplied to the marriage.  In advocating gospel intimacy I of necessity advocate godly marriages because the gospel is God’s gospel.  The gospel not only brings intimacy with our spouse, but primarily with God, so that in fellowship with Him we and our marriages become godly.  It is only as we learn to love each other with God’s gospel that we protect our relationships from the offensive, deadening, and severing effects of sin.  Sadly, we all know couples and families who live at an emotional distance from each other, who do not respect each other’s integrity, who have little if any spiritual commonality and little if any affectionate delight in each other, in spite of being married and living in the same house.  Were it not for the gospel and the blessings God gives to the godly, I really wouldn’t have a book to write.

You root a right understanding of true marital intimacy in the doctrines of God, creation, the fall and redemption.  How important is this doctrinal foundation to practical godliness in marriage?

These crucial doctrines give us our essential definitions.  God is the foundational essence of reality.  In the beginning, God . . . This is God’s creation.  We are made in His image.  We are fallen sinners.  We have fallen through sin, into death.  Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.  If we fail to define ourselves in relation to all of these biblical truths, we will deceive ourselves and discover that our myths are not sufficient to endure the realities of life and the inevitability of death.  These doctrines form the structure of a biblical worldview.  They answer the big questions of who we are, why we’re here, what is wrong with us, and how things can be made right.  All men have a worldview, a set of values which issue forth from what is supreme in their life: their god.  Their god determines their values, and their values determine their choices, and their choices determine how their lives are lived in practical ways.  If a man serves mammon, then he will lead his family according to the values of mammon and he will make choices designed to get as much money as he can.  He will find his identity in his possessions.  His solution to what he senses is wrong in life is to get more money.  He thinks that more wealth will fix his problems.  He will then lead his family into the service of money.  They will learn to make commitments and sacrifices, to form habits and find enjoyment in terms of Dad’s value system of amassing wealth.  His wife and children will follow him as he does what is practically necessary to make as much money as he can.  So too, if Dad’s God is Jesus Christ, then the family will learn the values of the Kingdom and take the practical steps required to uphold the worship of Jesus, to learn the truth as it is in Jesus, to serve others in Jesus’ strength, and to give gospel love to all in Jesus’ name.  Such a life will require the practice of godliness, the devotion of time and money, and the sacrifice of self – for Jesus’ sake.

What do you think are the particular pressures that the Western culture (or, indeed, other cultures) is placing upon gospel intimacy in a godly marriage?  Does your book address these?

When men fail to assume their place as husbands giving loving leadership, two perverse results ensue, and one appears dominant in the West while the other is more evident in the East, although these are only generalizations and both perversions are rampant in both hemispheres.  The first is what I call “the wedding handsperversion of inversion.”  This twisting of the God-ordained order inverts the roles of the husband and the wife and puts her into the role of leader and puts him into the role of helper.  The result is a marriage that resembles the mother-son relationship.  She inevitably leads as a mother and discovers that she has married her son.  Both soon come to resent the unnatural dynamics of this perversion.  Bitterness and estrangement choke intimacy.  This perversion pervades Western culture.  The other marital deformity, often found in Eastern cultures, is what I call “the perversion of extremes.”  Here the man takes his role as leader to an extreme and becomes a tyrant while the wife takes her duty to submit to an extreme and virtually effaces herself and assumes a diminished role in the home, in some cases even lower than the children.  Against both deformities stands the morally beautiful marriage of two believers who, in the integrity of their respective masculinity and femininity, display and adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour.  A godly marriage is a powerful witness to the gospel in the midst of the perversions evident in both the East and the West.

What particular individual sins and shortcomings does your book expose and address?

The central concern addressed by the book is our unbelieving reluctance to put the gospel into practice in our marriages.  If we would triumph over the sin that so easily besets us, we have to exercise a courageous faith that believes that the Spirit can and will actually change us and conform us more and more to Christ.  We must believe that the power of the God who raised Jesus from the dead is at work in us to enable us to break away from past sins, character flaws, deficient parental influences, cultural assumptions and whatever else would prevent us from learning how to replicate Jesus’ relationship to His church in our marriages.   As Christians, our expertise is the gospel.  We should be the best repenters, forgivers, believers, and lovers on the planet.  These are the rudiments of the gospel and our failure to practice these gospel essentials exposes our shameful sin of unbelief.

Does your book have anything to say to a couple in which one or the other party was unconverted, or both were unsaved?  In the light of what you have written, what would you say to them?

Certainly a believer who is married to an unbeliever can find help and encouragement in Gospel Intimacy if only by gaining a more cogent biblical perspective on who they are as married Christians.  The unbelieving spouse may be oblivious to the gospel that is being communicated by the believing spouse, but the Lord may also work through “gospel love” to bring the unbeliever into saving union with Christ.  If an unbelieving couple were to read the book, I would hope that the foundational perspectives on God, Creation and the Fall would draw them to the beauty of what is presented to us in Genesis 2:24-25 and that they would be enabled by the Spirit to see there a picture of Jesus and His Bride, the Church.  Were an unbelieving couple to read the book, I hope they would appreciate my attempts to be honest with the realities of married life and, recognizing that measure of honesty, they would then be receptive to my witness to Christ and the gospel as the only provision for us as sinners.

You make much of genuine forgiveness and repentance in an atmosphere of love as a means of maintaining and restoring a relationship.  Can you briefly spell out the issues for us?  Why is it so important to understand and apply these things in marriage?

If we are going to become intimate with our spouse, we will inevitably encounter our remaining sin.  The sins which we might otherwise conceal in our more superficial relationships will surface in the intimate realism of married life.  Who we truly are becomes evident, and although we truly are believers, we are yet sinners as well.  The more intimate we become with our spouse, the more opportunities there are for sin to erupt and threaten our love.  As married couples, we are always together.  We see each other in ways others don’t.  The true moral quality of our core character becomes obvious.  Both our capacity to love and our capacity to sin are discovered in the crucible of marital intimacy.  We are confronted with our own personal defects and relational weaknesses as the pressure of intimacy brings our remaining sin to the surface.  If we are committed to love our spouse deeply from the heart, we will be compelled to address our own deep-seated heart sins which inevitably emerge from the pressure of intimacy.  A Christian couple must be equipped to address the eruption of sin and not be naive to it.  They must be committed beforehand to love each other with the gospel and to stand together against each other’s sin.  They must be resolved that they will remove the intrusion of sin with gospel tools: repentance, confession, faith in Christ, forgiveness, restoration and maturation in grace.  With a commitment to Christ, our marriages can be used by the Spirit to sanctify us and to display the gospel.

What changes would you hope to see in the marriage of two Christians who began to understand and apply the truths of your book?  What might that look like within the marriage, or to those outside it?

I think we all can sense when we are with a couple whose marriage is vital and loving.  Their love is comforting, pleasant, refreshing.  They generate a climate of peace and joy.  We also know the discomfort of being with a couple who are sniping at each other, being critical and circling around each other at an intimacyemotional distance.  You feel as though you’ve entered a place where you do not belong, certainly where you do not want to stay.  The couple are not comfortable with each other and their diseased intimacy makes you uncomfortable as well.  Such a deformed display of love is unattractive, discomforting, and even repulsive.  You’d just rather not be with such couples.  It is unpleasant to be with a couple who are not pleasant with each other.  But when you’re with a couple who love each other, their love emanates and envelops you and your soul is refreshed and renewed by their love.  Back in the eighties, I remember reading about a serial killer, Charles Sobhraj (Serpentine, by Thomas Thompson).  Sobhraj murdered and robbed wealthy travellers in Europe and Asia in the seventies.  At one point, he met an American couple and was seducing them with his charismatic charm, having a meal with them and planning to get himself invited to their hotel room where he would then, as usual, murder and rob them.  But this particular couple in their sixties (I wonder if they were Christians) were so obviously in love, that during the meal, they won the respect of this most hardened killer.  They didn’t have a clue that the “The Serpent” was coiling about them, but in the innocence and beauty of their love, they fended off incarnate evil as Sobhraj uncharacteristically saw them to their room and bade them goodnight.  There is spiritual power in gospel love that does more good than we can ever know this side of Final Judgment.

The last chapter of your book is about death.  Why?

We’re dying.  As a couple moves through the stages of life, encroaching death becomes more evident.  The outer man decays.  My doctor tells me that I’m deteriorating right on schedule.  You confront weakness, sickness and the inevitable separation of death.  One of you will stand next to the graveside of the other.  There is only one thing more powerful than death: our risen Lord Jesus and His conquering love for us.  If we live together, giving His love to each other, sanctifying each other with gospel grace, we are already overcoming death which threatens to sever us because of our sin.  As we experience the victory of the gospel over sin in this life, we taste of the good things to come and fortify our faith to face the inevitable onslaught of death when one of us will be taken to be with Christ and the other will remain in this life for a time.  The life of love and faith will enable us to continue to believe in the victory of the gospel and have an undying hope that, although separated for a time, we will forever be together with the Lord.  We will discover in the resurrection that our godly marriage was used by the Lord to prepare us to take our place in the glorified society of eternal love.  We will discover that our marriage was a preliminary practice for life as the Bride of Christ in a glorified society in which our relationships to all the redeemed will exceed anything we can merely approximate in this age even in the best of marriages.  A godly marriage given to gospel love is an eschatological phenomenon, already tasting of the good things to come and pointing men to eternal glory.  The more we enjoy such love, the more we triumph over death.

Are there any other resources that you would particularly recommend to a couple trying to develop gospel intimacy in a godly marriage?

Over the years I’ve read some very helpful things from Wayne Mack, R. C. Sproul, Jay Adams, Tremper Longman, Martha Peace, and others.  Many people have much to say about marriage and many voices are seeking to fend off the numerous attacks being made on marriage in our culture.  We can certainly benefit from exposing ourselves to the counsel of the wise.  I would urge, however, that we verify that they are, in fact, wise.  I am more receptive to those writers who are determined to instil biblical truth and anchor my mind and practice to Scriptural counsel than those who present arguments based on psychology, sociology, and pragmatism.  I’m confident that biblical doctrine is profoundly practical when it is embraced and pursued in faith and obedience.

How can we get your book?  I looked on Amazon, and – unless you have a lucrative sideline in making sugarcraft flowers – the fruit of your labours is not there.

I just looked on Amazon to verify that I am, in fact, in the sugarcraft flower business.  I was unaware of that and I have no idea what “sugarcraft” might be.  I imagine that that Alan Dunn would be surprised to discover that he has written a book about the gospel and marriage.  It might be just as well for his peace of mind that the book is not listed on Amazon – yet.   Meanwhile the book can be obtained through the publisher: Pillar and Ground Publications, 5510 Tonnelle Ave., North Bergen, NJ, USA 07047-3029 (  The book is also available here from the Trinity Book Service.

Thank you, my friend, for taking the time to write these careful and insightful answers.  I hope that your labours will be a means of investing in multiple marriages for the blessing of godly men and women and all those in connection with them, and the advance of the gospel in every sense.


I have five signed copies of Alan Dunn’s Gospel Intimacy in a Godly Marriage to give away.  The competition is open to all readers from Europe only.  (Sorry, others – the book is currently more easily available in the US, and the books were given for a competition on this side o‘ the pond.)

I did think of asking why you need this book, with the most persuasive answers obtaining a copy, but then I thought that – under those circumstances – ‘desperate’ would easily become a synonym of ‘persuasive’, and things could get messy, so I canned that idea.

The actual competition is as follows:

Please identify a particular marriage – either in your own experience or one from church history – which you believe demonstrates true gospel intimacy.  Please briefly explain how this is manifested in the marriage, and what you have learned (e.g. of Christ and his church, the nature of gospel love, how to demonstrate a genuinely Christlike love, etc.) as a result of learning about or observing this marriage.

Please leave your suggestions in the comments section of the blog (as they might be a means of encouragement, edification and stimulation to other readers, even if you are geographically ineligible for the competition itself [just put in a line to that effect]).  Although the comment thread will be left open, competition entries must be posted within two calendar weeks of the date of this post (i.e. no later than Monday 30th November 2009).  Please make sure you enter a valid and current email address with your comment, as I will need this to track you down and obtain your address for posting if you win.

I will then ask Pastor Dunn to read through the comments/entries, and to select five enlightening and encouraging entries that he believes chime with the spirit and intent of his book.  I will send the books out as soon as the selection has been made, and hopefully get them to you in time for Christmas (this would be an excellent book, for example, for couples to read together as the new year begins).

Thank you in advance for your contributions.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Monday 16 November 2009 at 12:27

A little more of Lot

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Written by Jeremy Walker

Monday 16 March 2009 at 21:11

Finally Dunn

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I finally sit down to write a further update after some pleasantly busy days.  There has been plenty of regular pastoral business over the last ten days or so to fill in the gaps between other demands.

A week or so ago, my friend Alan Dunn and his son Jeremy returned from their trip to Sicily, and I collected them after a day slaving over the keyboard to get a particular writing project more accomplished.  That evening we had our monthly Bible study, Stepping Stones.  It was well attended, including a couple of new faces, and we worked through the last few verses of Mark 9 and the opening sections of Mark 10 on marriage and divorce and the blessing of the young children.  There was much that was illuminating and necessary in an age when there is so much confusion.  Reading Christ’s words on divorce, and comparing the situation today to the one which he faced, we are reminded that there is nothing new under the sun.  The hearts of men are what they ever were, and though the circumstances may change, the fundamental assault of the sinful heart upon the designs and purposes of God are not new.  The abiding relevance of God’s gospel is plain.

isleham ferry dunnsThe next day I took the Dunns into London and we spent the day wandering the capital before visiting our friend Pastor Achille Blaize in the evening.  On Saturday we went out to Andrew Fuller and Charles Spurgeon country, briefly visiting Waterbeach, Wicken Fen, Soham, Isleham and Cambridge.  I took my eldest son, Caleb, and he was delighted to be a part of the gang.  On the Lord’s day, Pastor Dunn gave a report in our Sunday School hour on some of his overseas ministry before preaching twice from Romans 8:38-39 on What threatens us and on being Convinced of God’s love.  Both sermons were excellent, and our souls were well fed, and much good was done.  They were the kind of sermons that a pastor benefits from personally, while also rejoicing to hear certain issues and needs addressed for the benefit of the flock as a whole.

beachy head treebirling gap beachOn Monday we headed down to the south coast – no major historical sites of profound significance visited, just enjoying the glory of God’s creation.  We took scenic routes around and visited Beachy Head and Birling Gap and wandered up and down before heading into Brighton to pick up some gifts.  That night was a little slower.

On Tuesday we hosted our regular pastors’ fraternal, the Ministerium, at Maidenbower.  We had an excellent turnout as over twenty men gathered to hear Pastor Dunn preach from Revelation 6.9-11 on the cry of the martyrs from the altar before the throne.  The morning session was given over to considering the context of the prayer, the description of the martyrs, the prayer itself, and the martyrs’ hope.  It was sobering, both challenging and encouraging as we considered a plea for the glory of God in his manifest justice.  The afternoon was a stunning overview of Revelation, showing us how the prayer of the martyrs – witnesses to God’s truth – is one of the ongoing elements of God’s outworked purposes of judgment, victory and renewal.  It was one of those sermons in which, for an hour or so, you are seeing things with clarity and profundity that you know will last in that degree for only so long as the preacher is preaching.  Friends came from Italy and Northern Ireland for the occasion, as well as from around the south-east and further afield.

The day did not end there.  We had a good congregation in the open evening service, where Pastor Dunn preached from Romans 8.35-37 on The victory of slaughtered lambs.  The Lord has consistently met with us at these open meetings, and this was no exception.  I strongly recommend listening to this sermon: we were shown how the Christlike trajectory of such a life is the very one in which we realise the triumph of being loved by Jesus.  Our souls were stirred, and we belted out the last hymn with some zest and vigour:

Lo! round the throne, a glorious band,
The saints in countless myriads stand;
Of every tongue, redeemed to God,
Arrayed in garments washed in blood. . . .

So may we tread the sacred road
That saints and holy martyrs trod;
Wage to the end the glorious strife,
And win, like them, a crown of life.

Early Wednesday morning I was back on the road toward Heathrow to see my friends off, getting back home in time to get a reasonable day’s work in, mainly odds and sods, catching up on various administrative and other necessary tasks before heading out to the prayer meeting in the evening.  It was obvious that our brother’s ministry had captured people’s hearts, for the truths he brought to us spilled out readily in the praying.

Today I am preparing for the coming days and doing a few writing tasks and some church administration.  Tomorrow I am speaking at a school assembly: it being Friday 13th, I shall be speaking on “bad luck,” I think.  I then have a couple of other appointments in the day.  On Saturday, I am due at London Theological Seminary for an open day, and then we are spending some time with a family from the church.  I have the Sunday School and one service on the Lord’s day, when I hope to begin a brief series outlining critical points in Christian experience (drawing on the recent ministry from Holland).  I am preaching in Wivelsfield one Thursday evening, and have Good Friday services in Crowborough.  In a couple of weeks time I also anticipate participating in a programme on Genesis TV called Simply the Truth, in which we shall be considering the importance of theology.  The programme is a live discussion programme which airs/streams on Thursday 26 March from 1pm to 3pm GMT, so feel free to join in.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Thursday 12 March 2009 at 12:41

Scooting about

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I have been enjoying a holiday with my wife and sons for the last week or so.  I have stacked up all my leave from the last year or so, and we are taking it in one mighty chunk, visiting my wife’s family in the US, and dropping in on various friends as we have opportunity.  I am enjoying the chance to kick back, do a fair bit of reading, spend time visiting and talking with various friends, and even taking my wife out on a couple of dates, which is nice.  The boys settled in slowly, and are doing well for the most part.

I have also had the opportunity to serve some of my friends by preaching for them.  The holiday from pastoral and administrative responsibilities has been delightful, but preaching rarely feels like a burden.  Rather, I get to spend time with friends and to hopefully lighten their load to some degree.

So, the first weekend we were visiting Pastor & Mrs George McDearmon of the Ballston Lake Baptist Church.  We arrived on Saturday afternoon, our journey having been somewhat threatened by malfunctioning windscreen wipers on my sister-in-law’s car (she was travelling in convoy with us to visit her in-laws, members of the church there).  We arrived to discover that our visit had been timed by God to provide some breathing space for Pastor McDearmon, who was due to take a funeral on the following Monday.  While that cut short our time together, it at least emphasised the value of our visit.

At my friend’s request, and in consultation with him as to the texts and topics, I preached three times on the Lord’s day, beginning with Far and Near from Ephesians 2.13.  This was essentially a straight comparison between what we once were and what we have now been made by the blood of Christ.

I then preached a more seasonal message from Matthew 1.23 on God With Us.  I was concentrating simply on our Lord’s title, Immanuel, and considered the matchless mystery, matchless condescension, matchless honour and matchless mercy of this glorious reality of God drawing near to men as a man.

In the afternoon, in company with about forty friends from the church, I was trudging through the increasingly deep snow (eighteen inches or so over the weekend) singing hymns to the neighbours and handing out invitations to church services.  In the evening, I preached on our Kingdom Resource for kingdom labours, the Holy Spirit.  Working from Luke 11.13, we considered the grace assured, the gift requested and the good that is encompassed in asking the Father for the gift of the Holy Spirit.

We left for New Jersey on Monday morning, and most of the rest of the week was spent with various branches of the family and various Christmassy meetings and activities.

Then, yesterday, I had a chance to visit Pastor Alan Dunn and his family at Grace Covenant Baptist Church of Flemington.  I took the Sunday School there, bringing an outline biography of John Calvin (which I hope to deliver in a Sunday School at home in the new year, giving us a sense of what this 500th anniversary of his birth is all about and why he is a man worth remembering).  Then, in the morning service, I preached on The Pearl of Great Price from Matthew 13.45-46.  We followed the merchant of the parable seeking, finding, selling and buying, all related to the pearl of great price.  There were a number of the regular congregation out of town, but many visiting family and friends balancing out the absences, and I got the sense that it was a good sermon for those who were unconverted to have heard.  We spent the afternoon with the Dunn family, enjoying good food and fellowship and the usual stimulating conversation, before heading back to Trinity Baptist Church in Montville for their evening service, where Pastor Gordon Cook of the Grace Baptist Church of Canton, Michigan, was preaching.  He dealt very faithfully with our hearts in asking whether or not we were truly dead to the law through the law, and become alive to God in Christ.  I have been invited to preach at Trinity next Lord’s day evening, and that is likely to be the only other preaching engagement I have while I am here.

Today is a little more relaxing, and I hope to crack on with a bit more reading.

The victory of slaughtered lambs

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Alan Dunn reflects on the deaths of Pastor Arif and Mrs Kathy Khan, missionaries to Pakistan and dear friends with whom he served on several occasions.  He points us to the death of the Lamb of God as the only way to make sense of the suffering of his flock, and the only security for the sheep of his pasture in life and in death.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Tuesday 26 August 2008 at 13:24

More on “The Shack”

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Written by Jeremy Walker

Monday 18 August 2008 at 17:06

The faulty foundations of “The Shack”

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In what looks to be the beginning of a review, but reads like a short review in its own right, Alan Dunn provides an irenic but penetrating perspective on The Shack by William Young.  It does look like there is more to come, and I imagine that you will learn as much as you need to know to assess this volume carefully, Scripturally, and fairly.  As far as I can tell, the furore hasn’t really reached British shores yet, but this will be good preparation for if and when it does.

That said, remember the furore about The Passion of the Christ?  Remember the great waves with which that broke upon our culture?  Yeah, neither do I.  It begs the questions about the respective differences between our cultures that what seems to enrapture the American mind sometimes repulses the British, and vice versa.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Monday 11 August 2008 at 13:57

Dry-eyed polemics

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Paul could not engage in dry-eyed polemics. The dogs and false circumcision who so abused him, discredited his ministry and threatened the church were indeed enemies of the cross of Christ. But Christ had taught Paul to love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you (Luke 6:27,28). Here is a standard attained by Paul which measures me as being yet quite immature. I’m still waiting to grow up in my knowledge of Christ to where I can genuinely, consistently weep for the enemies of the cross.

Can you engage in dry-eyed polemics?  Or do you weep over the enemies of Christ even as you resist them with all your might?  If you – like me – are not yet mature enough to love your enemies as you ought, and to do good to those who hate you in a Christlike fashion, read what Alan Dunn has to say here.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Wednesday 9 July 2008 at 14:54

Gospel ministry and gospel confidence

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My father and fellow-pastor was away this past Lord’s day, taking a well-deserved holiday. As a result, I had the privilege of all three ministries.

In the Sunday School hour, we continued to consider the distinctive roles of men and women. As we completed our consideration of the role of women, we paused at the point of transfer to studying out the role of men to look at the various abuses of male headship and female submission to which we are prone. Because the distinctive roles of men and women are grounded upon their essential equality (in terms of created dignity, native depravity and redemptive reality), there ought to be no sense of inferiority or superiority engendered by considering what man is as man, and woman as woman, and what they are in relation to each other. However, men – in the exercise of loving leadership – should not err either by abdication nor tyranny, and women – in the pursuit of positive submission – should not err either by way of domination nor effacement. In considering this, I basically employed material from my friend and mentor Alan Dunn, drawing from his excellent and insightful if occasionally technical little volume, Headship in Marriage (in the Light of Creation and the Fall).

Then, in our morning worship, I continued a long-standing series in Colossians. We are now in the last two verses of the first chapter. Here, we see Paul as a fellow-labourer with God. As one would expect from such a man, there exists a full and precise correspondence between Paul’s activity and God’s stated purposes.

In Colossians 1.28-29, Paul identifies the gospel minister’s tools, task, and toil. The first sermon was on The gospel minister’s tools, which he uses constantly, comprehensively and specifically. The first tool is proclamation. This is the authoritative declaration of Jesus Christ, his glorious person and saving work.
This mighty river contains two currents, two subsidiary tools: admonition and instruction. The first is putting something in the mind of men, getting something laid to their hearts, driving into the will and affections, to awaken and arouse, stimulating reflection and promoting action. The second works on the understanding, definite truth and clear direction being imparted to the inquiring mind, guiding sinners to Christ and directing the child of God in faith and life to the glory of Christ. I hope to go on to consider the task and the toil in due course.

Then, in the evening, we celebrated the Lord’s supper. With the aim of preparing our minds and hearts, I preached on Romans 8.34, under the title, Uncondemnable! We set out the four pillars of Christian confidence, upon which a Christian can stand and ask heaven and earth and hell, “Who is he who condemns? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” Paul offers four answers, any of which is sufficient, all of which together are simply unassailable: it is Christ who died; it is Christ who furthermore is also risen; it is Christ who is even at the right hand of God; it is Christ who also makes intercession for us. It was, I trust, a good day in the house of God, with the morning’s message more of a challenge, and the evening’s more of a consolation.

One particular pleasure in the evening was to have Andy and Sallyann Owen visiting with us. Apparently, my parents had been God’s means of doing good to Sallyann before she was married, and they had hoped to catch up with her. Andy heads up a ministry to the Deaf at the Metropolitan Tabernacle. Andy has also authored three books assisting in this work: Signs of Life, Not Hearers Only, and Jesus Used Sign Language (all of which can be ordered through the Tabernacle Bookshop). Having recently taught through Christ’s healing of a deaf and mute man in Mark 7 at our Stepping Stones bible study, having had a substantially deaf father, and having had the privilege of being interpreted for the Deaf by a man with whom I subsequently have had fascinating conversations, it was a delight to speak with Andy and to gain some of his wisdom and insight into this challenging yet rewarding sphere of ministry.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Monday 5 May 2008 at 20:39

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