The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

Posts Tagged ‘spirituality

The deal

with 7 comments

“I’m just not being fed,” s/he said. “This is not a very friendly church. No one really speaks to me. I am not the only one who feels this way. There are lots of people who are struggling. I’m just not sure that this is the right place for me. Why can’t we be more like Broadstreet Evangelical? I really think that I would be better off there.”

“I am very sorry to hear that,” said the pastor. “Might I suggest a deal? I recommend that you go to Broadstreet Evangelical for six months, but on the following conditions:

  • You must not arrive more than two minutes before any service begins. If possible, slip in just afterwards. You should leave as soon as it is over, or – ideally – just before it is properly finished.
  • Please do not attend more than one service a week, certainly not more than once on any given day. When you are able, miss occasional days altogether.
  • Please minimise all contact with others who attend the church. Avoid face-to-face communication at all costs, but – if possible – filter out any notes, cards, texts, emails, or any other such interaction. Cut right down on meaningful conversation.
  • You should not go to anyone’s home, nor invite anyone to yours.
  • Under no circumstances must you engage with the elders. Don’t call them or answer the phone if they call. If you can, wait until they are looking the other way or engaged with someone else before you leave. If necessary, find an alternative exit. Make all conversation as perfunctory as possible. Do not come to them for counsel, consult with them in difficulty, seek them out when distressed, or listen to their advice.
  • Cultivate a healthy sense of resentment (passive-aggressive behaviour is fine) toward anyone who might even begin to suggest that you could make some sort of contribution to the life of the church. Maintain the stance that your occasional presence is quite sacrifice enough.
  • If you must engage with others, seek out the least spiritually healthy in the church. As soon as possible, steer the conversation round to the faults of the church, her members, and her elders.
  • Maintain a healthy circle of worldly friends. Spend as much time with them as possible, going to all the places they attend, engaging in all the chatter they pursue, indulging in all the activities they embrace. Keep up a lively social media engagement with such.
  • Put the advice of friends, family, doctors, self-help books, and anything else really, above and before the advice of any spiritually mature Christian.
  • Should anyone seek to reach out to you to minister to you, cultivate unreliability: assure them of your best intentions, but evade, postpone, or cancel all such interaction with varying degrees of notice. Train them to expect you to seem vaguely positive but never actually available.
  • Sleep through some sermons.
  • Don’t read. Just don’t.
  • Don’t push yourself. You’re worth it!
  • Minimise private devotion, especially private prayer. Make sure that you are at least as busy with other significant demands as you have been for the last couple of years. Don’t read any ‘tricky bits’ from the Bible, and don’t overdose on the obvious stuff.
  • Take long holidays, and give yourself plenty of time on your return to ‘get back into the swing of things.’
  • Never volunteer. Avoid being nominated.
  • Under no circumstances make meaningful eye contact.
  • Look out for others now at Broadstreet who left this congregation for the same reasons as you are giving. If they are speaking, you might want to listen.
  • Also, if anyone at Broadstreet tries to pin you down, I would recommend an occasional visit to Gaping Lane Community Church. By all means be subtle, but make clear that if Broadstreet is becoming a little narrow, the open-minded congregation over at Gaping Lane might be the place for you.

“There’s some other stuff,” said the pastor, “but that should do for starters. It should not take a great deal of investment – no new skills to learn, no additional duties to embrace. Perhaps if you would be willing to give it a go for six months, and then come back and let me know how your soul has prospered and your walk with the Lord has developed? Then we can chat again. Deal?”

Written by Jeremy Walker

Thursday 25 January 2018 at 17:21

“The Pure Flame of Devotion”

leave a comment »

Many readers of this blog will doubtless know the name of Michael Haykin. In November last year, Michael reached his 60th birthday, and was presented with a festschrift to mark the occasion, The Pure Flame of Devotion: The History of Christian Spirituality. It is a fine volume, and the hardback is currently available slightly cheaper than the paperback at Amazon.com, and pretty much at the same price through suppliers at Amazon.co.uk.

With a rich selection of contributors (Douglas Adams, Peter Beck, Joel R. Beeke, Nathan A. Finn, Keith Goad, Crawford Gribben, Francis X. Gumerlock, David S. Hogg, Erroll Hulse, Clint Humfrey, Sharon James, Mark Jones, Sean Michael Lucas, Tom J. Nettles, Dennis Ngien, Robert W. Oliver, Kenneth J. Stewart, Carl R. Trueman, Austin R. Walker, Donald S. Whitney, Malcolm B. Yarnell, and Fred G. Zaspel) and such a fine theme, this is certainly worth looking into. Enjoy!

Written by Jeremy Walker

Saturday 15 March 2014 at 21:13

STOP!

with one comment

As some readers will know, David Murray, with whom I have been enjoying a growing acquaintance, was recently struck down with multiple pulmonary emboli. Others may remember that a few weeks ago, I was battered with something called Ramsay-Hunt syndrome in conjunction with a few other trials. Like David, I felt that I was getting something of a wake-up call; like David, I wrestled with the profitability of trying to work through some of the challenges in public, before breaking cover with a few thoughts; unlike David, I was not particularly cogent.

David has now posted the key lessons from his own experience of being laid aside, and it is necessary reading for all Christians, and perhaps especially for pastors. In particular, David identifies a frightening but ever-present danger for the busy Christian:

Let me summarize where I believe I erred: ministry without spirituality. Perfunctory and spiritual disciplines and going from one ministry activity to another to another to another, with hardly a moment to feel dependence upon God, cry for help, and seek the Lord’s blessing before, during, or after. Cramming every waking moment with “productive” activity. And certainly not a second in the day to “be still and know that I am God.”

But now, in the enforced stillness, I hear a loving and concerned God say, “My son, give me your heart.” Not your sermons, not your lectures, not your blogs, not your books, not your meetings, etc. But your heart. YOU!

Again, like David, I had a wake-up call; sadly, I forget too quickly. I now have the benefit of David’s wake-up call as a reminder of the lessons I had not properly learned or fully remembered. Do read it all.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Wednesday 1 June 2011 at 12:33

Biblical spirituality

leave a comment »

Michael Haykin draws our attention to what looks like an interesting new site on Biblical spirituality:

Dear Brothers,

We have launched a new website called biblicalspirituality.wordpress.com especially devoted to the study of biblical spirituality (Puritan, reformed, and evangelical spirituality in particular).

One purpose of this website is to provide unpublished papers that deal with the subject of spirituality for researchers. Thus, if you have written any paper on the subject that has not yet been published, we encourage you to submit it to us, and we will have it posted here, so that others can also benefit from your work. The paper can be e-mailed to Brian G. Najapfour at najapfour@gmail.com

The ultimate goal of this site is to cultivate holiness in the lives of the believers, especially of pastors. We are convinced that the greatest need of many churches today is the holiness of their pastors. As Robert Murray M’Cheyne (1813-1843) says, “My people’s greatest need is my personal holiness.”

Please join us in this endeavor. Your contribution will be greatly appreciated . Many thanks!

Written by Jeremy Walker

Tuesday 4 May 2010 at 20:06

Posted in Christian living

Tagged with

Wider reading

leave a comment »

pile-of-books-2

Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation (Volume 1: 1525-1552) compiled and introduced by James T. Dennison (Reformation Heritage Books, 2008) is not cheap, but serious historians and those interested in the confessional heritage of the church will enjoy this first in an intended series of three volumes.  Several of the thirty-three texts included are here in English for the first time.  Each is simply and clearly set out, preceded by a brief introduction.  If nothing else, it gives a rich and encouraging sense of one’s inheritance as a Christian confessor.  This volume carries us from Zwingli’s Sixty-Seven Articles of 1523 through to the Consensus Genevensis of 1552.

From the same stable comes A Sketch of the Christian’s Catechism by William Ames, translated by Todd Rester (Reformation Heritage Books, 2008).  This is a translation from Ames’ original Latin of his exposition of the Heidelberg Catechism.  It is not a systematic treatment of its questions and answers, but rather an exposition of a Scripture passage that corresponds to and buttresses the conclusions of what was often called ‘the Christian’s Catechism.’  Simple, brief, rich chapters give us spiritually stimulating insights into the genuinely practical piety of this seminal Puritan.

Pierced For Our Transgressions: Rediscovering the Glory of Penal Substitution by Steve Jeffery, Mike Ovey, Andrew Sach (IVP, 2007).  In even starting this book, I had to overcome my innate distrust of any book that demands ten (yes, ten) pages containing forty-five (no joke!) separate endorsements designed to appeal to the broadest possible spectrum of readers and any number of groupies of Christian celebrities.  On reflection, this should probably be taken as an indication of the seriousness of the subject.  The book divides into two, the first section positively setting forth the doctrine of penal substitution (Biblical foundations, theological framework, pastoral importance and historical pedigree), and the second answering the critics (the issues of Scripture, culture, violence, justice, God, and Christian living are addresses).  It is a clear and robust statement of this essential doctrine, responding to current assaults and fads, and will be appreciated as much by thoughtful believers in various walks of life as it will by pastors and preachers.

Nothing in My Hand I Bring: Understanding the Differences between Roman Catholic and Protestant Beliefs by Ray Galea (Matthias Media, 2007) is by a Maltese man whose Roman Catholicism was deeply ingrained but became more nominal as he matured.  Then, seeking substance in his life and reading the Bible, he was converted.  The book tells his story briefly, but concentrates on a comparison between traditional Roman Catholicism and fundamentally Biblical Protestantism.  Written with an insider’s insights and a Christian’s convictions, this would be helpful to those wrestling with similar issues, or helping others who are doing so.

In Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World, edited by C. J. Mahaney (Crossway, 2008), several Sovereign Grace Ministries pastors address the matters of the media, music, stuff, and clothes, beginning with the principle that worldliness (and its absence) is fundamentally a matter of heart obedience to the word of Christ, and also teaching us how we should love the world in a Godlike fashion.  The basic principle is sound, though its application here is interesting.  Curiously prescriptive at some points, at others it allows for (and even promotes) a broadness that will cause proponents of an older evangelicalism to raise at the very least a quizzical eyebrow. The so-called “New Calvinist” view of culture is, I think, the underpinning one.

Preachers and teachers will appreciate Look After Your Voice: Taking Care of the Preacher’s Greatest Asset by Mike Mellor (DayOne, 2008).  Although the “greatest asset” subtitle could be argued on theological grounds, this is a brief but helpful treatment of an important but easily-ignored topic.  Simple, clear and helpful, it is written by a preacher for preachers (rather than by voice-production specialists for the stage, for example) and so takes some account of spiritual aspects as well.  A good investment for preachers, and includes three appendices on voice exercises, voice physiology, and care of the voice (this last by Spurgeon).

Tim Shenton is in the same congregation as the subject of this book, Audrey Featherstone, I Presume?: The Amazing Story of a Congo Missionary (Evangelical Press, 2008).  It chronicles the dramatic conversion, wartime experience, and labours in the Congo – often in the midst of extreme dangers – of a woman of faith who would be considered in many respects unremarkable.  Bringing us right up to her present circumstances as a widow still serving her Lord, this book will be an encouragement to those who consider that they have little to offer their Saviour in serving him.  The book contains a brief history of the Regions Beyond Missionary Union (RBMU).  The legitimacy and terminology of missionary agencies and female missionaries are both assumed rather than questioned.  The 20th century setting is a helpful reminder that such work is not the relic of a more distant past.

Faith Cook has written several compendiums (compendia, if you are so inclined) of Christian mini-biography, and her latest – Stars in God’s Sky: Short Biographies of ‘Extraordinary Ordinary Christians’ (Evangelical Press, 2009) – ranges through time and space to consider the work of God’s grace in the hearts and lives of men and women sometimes associated with brighter stars in God’s galaxy and sadly overlooked by Christian astronomers.  Here we find the lives of such as John Foxe and John Gifford, Susanna Harrison and Fanny Guinness, briefly sketched out for edification and enjoyment.  A good and stimulating read, as one has come to expect.

Growing Leaders in the Church: The Essential Leadership Development Resource by Gareth Crossley (Evangelical Press, 2008) can sometimes feel like a curious combination of theological textbook and business manual.  A format busy with diagrams, text boxes, question sheets is not always easy on the eye, but there is lots of good matter to appreciate.  The aim of the book is to provide a resource for training present and future church leaders in a practical way.  While at points there is a degree of absoluteness in the instruction given, at others one has the sense of several options up for grabs, all considered legitimate – a little more pragmatism in evidence.  Good men will differ on whether these lines are drawn in the right places.  The book raises a good number of the right questions, and offers stimulating and practical answers, though some will wish to emend or extend them.

We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry by G. K. Beale (IVP/Apollos, 2008) begins at Isaiah 6 before traversing the Old and New Testaments to demonstrate, support and apply the thesis that “What people revere, they resemble, either for ruin or restoration.”  Insofar as it reaches its intended audience, a thorough treatment of a vital topic, well and carefully argued.  The topic is fascinating, but the handling of it is not popular: the style is a little ponderous and lofty, the substance dense, and the aim high, the whole tone being of the academy.  Perhaps Professor Beale could be encouraged to craft a more accessible and engaging treatment of the same topic on such a necessary theme for those not accustomed to the language and tone of the theological lecture hall?

The New Creationism: Building Scientific Theories on a Biblical Foundation by Paul Garner (Evangelical Press, 2009) will appeal to Christians of scientific skill and interest, as well as others more broadly concerned about the nature and implications of the teaching of creation.  The author deals with the issues of origins in clear and pithy style, not avoiding the hard questions nor fudging on the answers, building a scientific model that will assist Christians being assaulted with regard to their doctrines of origins and practice of science.  As a non-scientist, it seems to me fascinating and useful, not above the head of the untrained, though probably of greater value to those who understand the technical issues.  For Garner, Genesis presents us with the facts of history, provides a framework for good science, and establishes a foundation for the gospel itself.  Some details and emphases might doubtless be challenged, but the whole seems sound and helpful.

The Profiles in Reformed Spirituality series from Reformation Heritage Books includes volumes on Alexander Whyte, Jonathan Edwards, Hercules Collins, Horatius Bonar, Lemuel Haynes, George Swinnock and John Calvin.  A growing interest in ‘spirituality’ (which some believe has been for too long a dirty word in Reformed circles) has led Joel Beeke and Michael Haykin (the editors of this series) to turn to the past to find particular models of Biblically-informed, Spirit-impassioned piety as a spur and guide to modern Christians.  Varying in style, wide-ranging in subject, popular in approach, this is a colourful and profitable series.

If you are visiting Edinburgh, A Spiritual History of the Royal Mile by Paul James-Griffiths (Latent Publishing, 2008) will serve you well.  It is broad both in its temporal scope and its theological sense, with the chapters on the Reformation and the Covenanters probably being of most interest, together with the Enlightenment period and the time of the Great Awakening (where Chalmers and Finney are made to sit alongside each other).  The chapter on 21st century Edinburgh is sobering.  One should not forget that Edinburgh is also home to the offices of the august publishing house, the Banner of Truth, though it is not on the Royal Mile; bargain hunters have been known to head to the Banner warehouse to pick up some damaged stock at good prices, as a help on their own spiritual journey.

True spirituality?

leave a comment »

Written by Jeremy Walker

Wednesday 11 February 2009 at 15:17

Three things

leave a comment »

Three posts worth checking out:

Each of these requires significant and careful self-evaluation and self-examination.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Thursday 2 October 2008 at 14:05

%d bloggers like this: