The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

Posts Tagged ‘deaf

Challenges, joys and comforts

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Yesterday was an interesting day.  We started off in the adult Sunday School with very few present: holidays, sicknesses, and unexpected absences knocked us for six.  Given that we are in the midst of a section on parenting in dealing with the Christian family, and given that there was only one other parent with young children present, I knocked the scheme on the head, and went with something else.  Using the idea of the parent as having functions of a prophet, priest and king, we distinguished between mere behaviour and heart obedience.  Merely external conformity is not our goal; we desire to see salvation.  I took up the notion of Christian determinism from Tedd Tripp’s excellent Shepherding a Child’s Heart, and then we expanded our thinking to our witness as a church.

We can very easily make our evangelism self-referential – looking or feeling good before self or others; we can aim at mere social acceptability (the prostitute off the streets, the drunkard no longer beating his wife); we can aim at good citizenship (honesty, diligence, integrity, responsibility in the domestic and civic spheres); we can aim at good churchmanship (commitment and faithfulness in matters of respect, attendance, contribution) – but all of these can be accomplished (in our children or friends, other family members, neighbours and colleagues) without the heart.  We can constrain behaviour by instruction, command, and example, and still miss the mark of salvation.  We can preach, witness, and parent a mere moralising, and secure churches and families of well-trained Pharisees.  So, in our testifying of Christ, in any sphere, we must aim at the heart, pray for the heart.  This does not mean that we should neglect obedience, for this is the life to be lived by the true child of God, but we must not aim at the merely external and ignore or bypass the internal.  You can put a steam engine on rails at the top of the hill, and it will run down them, but it will not run far on the flat, let alone up the hill.  So you can create the form of godliness, and – in the right context and environment – the sinner will run on the rails.  But – once an atmosphere conducive to good behaviour is removed, or a challenge faced – how quickly the momentum disappears.  Fire up that engine with a good coal fire, and build up a head of steam, though, and the engine will fly down hills and climb up them, and maintain its pace on the flat.  We must construct our engines well, and plead with God for fire in the belly!

This was in part to set us up for our morning service.  In the middle of last week, our friend Andy Owen (who heads up the ministry to Deaf people at the Metropolitan Tabernacle), got in touch to say that he would be visiting again on the Lord’s day, and offering to sign the service for us, if we could get in touch with our Deaf friends.  We contacted friends, and tried various other means of advertising the services, including an online plug with Action for Deafness, a local group working with Deaf people.  I spent Saturday collecting a few bits and pieces, printing hymns on large sheets, and building an easel for the ease of those singing and signing (and it wouldn’t take more than one or two understandable typing errors for that sentence to blow off course!).  Sadly, in the event – and perhaps understandably, given the relatively short notice – no-one from the Deaf community was able to come, although one or two personal contacts expressed genuine interest and regret.  Andy and Sallyann, his wife, were able to spend the day with us, and we enjoyed good fellowship together (not least over our regular church fellowship meal), and we hope that we might be able to invite Andy to sign for us one Lord’s day in the future, perhaps with a little more lead time.  Still, it was a good dry run.  I recommend Andy’s books on ministry to Deaf people very warmly.

In the morning, and with a view to new visitors and some of the unconverted always among us, I preached from Matthew 13.45-46 on The one pearl.  We simply followed the merchant in his seeking, finding, selling and buying, and made application to the obtaining of the kingdom of heaven.  With regard to seeking, we observed the deliberate act of looking for something, the definite object in view, and the worthy object pursued, commending such an earnest and thoughtful attitude, while noting that the merchant was still not looking for the ‘one thing needful.’

Then we considered his finding of a unique and precious treasure, the one pearl.  This is like finding Christ, in whom are hidden all treasures of wisdom and knowledge.  All the sinner needs is in the altogether lovely one.

Then there is the selling.  This is not to suggest that salvation is a commercial transaction, but rather the giving up of all to obtain rightful possession of Christ Jesus.  Helped by Matthew Henry and C. H. Spurgeon, we noted that men must sell their wrong ideas and false beliefs, their sinful pleasures, their reputations, honour, prospects and aspirations, and their own efforts to please God.  The world might call this insanity, but the man who gives up all for Christ knows he is the gainer by so doing.

Finally, there is the buying: we cannot be satisfied with a Saviour, or even the Saviour – he must be my Saviour.  So the merchant gives all to obtain the prize for himself, immediately, willingly, cheerfully and finally.

This is how the sinner lays hold on Christ Jesus, and this is how the saint goes on esteeming his Saviour.

Then, in the evening, my father and I swapped over.  He had been preaching in the morning at Grace Baptist Church, Stratford, where Pastors Achille Blaize and Jack Hampshire are Christ’s under-shepherds.  Pastor Blaize has been stricken – hospitalised – with a mystery condition of excruciating pain over the last couple of weeks, and we have made ourselves available to assist as our own duties demand.  So, this last Lord’s day we took turn and turn about.  I preached in the evening from Psalm 71.3a, on God our hiding place.  I wanted to offer some simple, Scriptural encouragements, and so sought to demonstrate God to be a place of peaceful security – a habitation to which we entitled, with whom we are familiar, with whom we can be transparent, and who welcomes us in love.  God is the saint’s place of present safety – our habitation is strong, designed by omniscience and guarded by omnipotence.  God is also a place of permanent welcome, our Lord to whom we resort continually.  Such continually turning to God is both preventative and restorative medicine: it both keeps us in healthy spiritual condition and prevents the arrival of a crisis, or – should a crisis come – he keeps us from being overwhelmed.  It is Christ who opens the door into the presence of God for us in this way.

It was good to spend time with my friends there, and to enjoy the fellowship of the saints.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Monday 11 August 2008 at 15:16

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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