Category Archives: Discipleship

Little-Faith: Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress”

According to my blog is seems like we were reading through Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress as a family four years ago. I can’t actually remember how many times we’ve read through this book together as a family, but we are again!

A section that really struck me this time through is the story of “Little-Faith”. I found his story such a wonderful encouragement. Here it is in full.


Then said CHRISTIAN to his fellow, “Now I call to remembrance that which was told me of a thing that happened to a good man hereabout. The name of the man was LITTLE-FAITH; but a good man, and he dwelt in the town of Sincere . The thing was this: at the entering in of this passage, there comes down from Broadway gate a lane called Deadman’s Lane; so called because of the murders that are commonly done there. And this LITTLE-FAITH going on pilgrimage, as we do now, chanced to sit down there, and slept. Now there happened, at that time, to come down the lane from Broadway gate three sturdy rogues, and their names were FAINT-HEART, MISTRUST, and GUILT (three brothers); and they, espying LITTLE-FAITH where he was, came galloping up with speed. Now the good man was just awaked from his sleep, and was getting up to go on his journey; so they came all up to him, and, with threatening language, bade him stand. At this, LITTLE-FAITH looked as white as a clout; and had neither power to fight nor fly. Then said FAINT-HEART, ‘Deliver thy purse;’ but he making no haste to do it (for he was loth to lose his money), MISTRUST ran up to him, and thrusting his hand into his pocket, pulled out thence a bag of silver. Then he cried out, ‘Thieves! thieves!’ With that, GUILT, with a great club that was in his hand, struck LITTLE-FAITH on the head, and with that blow felled him flat to the ground; where he lay bleeding, as one that would bleed to death. All this while the thieves stood by; but at last, they hearing that some were upon the road, and fearing lest it should be one GREAT-GRACE, that dwells in the city of Good-confidence, they betook themselves to their heels, and left this good man to shift for himself. Now, after awhile, LITTLE-FAITH came to himself; and getting up, made shift to scrabble on his way. This was the story.”

Hope. But did they take from him all that ever he had?

Chr. No; the place where his jewels were they never ransacked, so those he kept still; but, as I was told, the good man was much afflicted for his loss, for the thieves got most of his spending money. That which they got not (as I said) were jewels; also he had a little odd money left, but scarce enough to bring him to his journey’s end;

“And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” 1 Peter 4:18

nay (if I was not misinformed), he was forced to beg as he went, to keep himself alive (for his jewels he might not sell). But beg, and do what he could, he went (as we say) “with many a hungry belly” the most part of the rest of the way.

Hope. But is it not a wonder they got not from him his certificate by which he was to receive his admittance at the Celestial Gate?

Chr. ‘T is a wonder but they got not that, though they missed it not through any good cunning of his; for he being dismayed with their coming upon him, had neither power nor skill to hide anything: so ‘t was more by good providence than by his endeavour that they missed of that good thing.

“That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.” 2 Timothy 1:14

“The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:” 2 Peter 2:9

Hope. But it must be a comfort to him that they got not his jewels from him.

Chr. It might have been great comfort to him, had he used it as he should; but they that told me the story, said, That he made but little use of it all the rest of the way; and that because of the dismay that he had in their taking away of his money: indeed, he forgot it a great part of the rest of the journey. And besides, when at any time it came into his mind, and he began to be comforted therewith, then would fresh thoughts of his loss come again upon him; and those thoughts would swallow up all.

Hope. Alas, poor man, this could not but be a great grief unto him.

Chr. Grief! Aye, a grief indeed; would it not have been so to any of us, had we been used as he, to be robbed and wounded too, and that in a strange place, as he was? ‘Tis a wonder he did not die with grief, poor heart! I was told, that he scattered almost all the rest of the way with nothing but doleful and bitter complaints. Telling also to all that overtook him, or that he overtook in the way as he went, where he was robbed, and how; who they were that did it, and what he lost; how he was wounded, and that he hardly escaped with life.

Hope. But ’tis a wonder that his necessities did not put him upon selling or pawning some of his jewels, that he might have wherewith to relieve himself in his journey.

Chr. Thou talkest like one upon whose head is the shell to this very day; for what should he pawn them? or to whom should he sell them? In all that country where he was robbed his jewels were not accounted of, nor did he want that relief which could from thence be administered to him; besides, had his jewels been missing at the gate of the Celestial City, he had (and that he knew well enough) been excluded from an inheritance there; and that would have been worse to him than the appearance and villainy of ten thousand thieves.

Hope. Why art thou so tart, my brother? Esau sold his birthright, and that for a mess of pottage; and that birthright was his greatest jewel:

“Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.” Hebrew 12:16

and if he, why might not LITTLE-FAITH do so too?

Chr. Esau did sell his birthright indeed, and so do many besides; and by so doing, exclude themselves from the chief blessing, as also that knave did. But you must put a difference betwixt Esau and LITTLE-FAITH; and also betwixt their estates. Esau’s birthright was typical; but LITTLE-FAITH’S jewels were not so. Esau’s belly was his god; but LITTLE-FAITH’S belly was not so.

“And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me?” Genesis 25:32

Esau’s want lay in his fleshly appetite; LITTLE-FAITH’S did not so. Besides, Esau could see not further than to the fulfilling of his lusts: “For I am at the point to die,” said he; “and what good will this birthright do me?” But LITTLE-FAITH, though it was his lot to have but a little faith, was by his little faith kept from such extravagances, and made to see and prize his jewels more than to sell them, as Esau did his birthright. You read not anywhere that Esau had faith, no, not so much as a little: therefore no marvel, if where the flesh only bears sway (as it will in the man where no faith is to resist), if he sells his birthright, and his soul and all, and that to the devil of hell; for it is with such as it is with the ass, who in her occasion cannot be turned away.

“A wild ass used to the wilderness, that snuffeth up the wind at her pleasure; in her occasion who can turn her away? all they that seek her will not weary themselves; in her month they shall find her.” Jeremiah 2:24

When their minds are set upon their lusts, they will have them, whatever they cost. But LITTLE-FAITH was of another temper, his mind was on things divine; his livelihood was upon things that were spiritual, and from above: therefore, to what end should he that is of such a temper sell his jewels (had there been any that would have bought them), to fill his mind with empty things? Will a man give a penny to fill his belly with hay? or can you persuade the turtledove to live upon carrion, like the crow? Though faithless ones can, for carnal lusts, pawn, or mortgage, or sell what they have, and themselves outright to boot; yet they that have faith, saving faith, though but a little of it, cannot do so. Here, therefore, my brother, is thy mistake.

Hope. I acknowledge it; but yet your severe reflection had almost made me angry.

Chr. Why, I did but compare thee to some of the birds that are of the brisker sort, who will run to and fro in trodden paths with the shell upon their heads; but pass by that and consider the matter under debate, and all shall be well betwixt thee and me.

Hope. But, CHRISTIAN, these three fellows, I am persuaded in my heart, are but a company of cowards: would they have run else, think you, as they did at the noise of one that was coming on the road? Why did not LITTLE-FAITH pluck up a greater heart? He might, methinks, have stood one brush with them, and have yielded when there had been no remedy.

Chr. That they are cowards, many have said; but few have found it so in the time of trial. As for a great heart, LITTLE-FAITH had none; and I perceive by thee, my brother, hadst thou been the man concerned, thou art but for a brush, and then to yield. And, verily, since this is the height of thy stomach now they are at a distance from us, should they appear to thee, as they did to him, they might put thee to second thoughts.

But consider again – they are but journeymen-thieves, they serve under the king of the bottomless pit; who, if need be, will come in to their aid himself, and his voice is as the roaring of a lion.

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:” 1 Peter 5:8

I myself have been engaged as this LITTLE-FAITH was; and I found it a terrible thing. These three villains set upon me; and I beginning like a Christian to resist, they gave but a call, and in came their master: I would, as the saying is, have given my life for a penny; but that, as God would have it, I was clothed with armour of proof. Aye, and yet though I was so harnessed, I found it hard work to quit myself like a man; no man can tell what in that combat attends us, but he that hath been in the battle himself.

Hope. Well, but they ran, you see, when they did but suppose that one GREAT-GRACE was in the way.

Chr. True, they have often fled, both they and their master, when GREAT-GRACE hath but appeared; and no marvel, for he is the King’s champion: but I trow, you will put some difference between LITTLE-FAITH and the King’s champion; all the King’s subjects are not his champions; nor can they, when tried, do such feats of war as he. Is it meet to think that a little child should handle Goliath as David did? or that there should be the strength of an ox in a wren? Some are strong, some are weak; some have great faith, some have little: this man was one of the weak; and therefore he went to the wall.

Hope. I would it had been GREAT-GRACE for their sakes.

Chr. If it had been he, he might have had his hands full: for I must tell you, that though GREAT-GRACE is excellent good at his weapons, and has done – and can do, so long as he keeps them at sword’s point – well enough with them; yet if they get within him, even FAINT-HEART, MISTRUST, or the other, it shall go hard but they will throw up his heels. And when a man is down, you know – what can he do?

Whoso looks well upon GREAT-GRACE’S face, shall see those scars and cuts there, that shall easily give demonstration of what I say. Yea, once I heard that he should say (and that when he was in the combat), “We despaired even of life.” How did these sturdy rogues and their fellows make David groan, moan, and roar? Yea, Heman and Hezekiah too, though champions in their day, were forced to bestir them when by these assaulted; and yet, that notwithstanding, they had their coats soundly brushed by them. Peter, upon a time, would go try what he could do; but, though some do say of him that he is the Prince of the Apostles, they handled him so that they made him at last afraid of a sorry girl.

Besides, their king is at their whistle, he is never out of hearing; and if at any time they be put to the worst, he, if possible, comes in to help them. And of him it is said, “The sword of him that lays at him cannot hold: the spear, the dart, nor the habergeon. He esteems iron as straw, and brass as rotten wood. The arrow cannot make him flee; slingstones are turned with him into stubble. Darts are counted as stubble; he laughs at the shaking of a spear”.

“The sword of him that layeth at him cannot hold: the spear, the dart, nor the habergeon. He esteemeth iron as straw, and brass as rotten wood. The arrow cannot make him flee: slingstones are turned with him into stubble. Darts are counted as stubble: he laugheth at the shaking of a spear.” Job 41:26-29

What can a man do in this case? ‘Tis true, if a man could at every turn have Job’s horse, and had skill and courage to ride him, he might do notable things. For “his neck is clothed with thunder; he will not be afraid as the grasshopper; the glory of his nostrils is terrible. He paws in the valley, rejoices in his strength, and goes out to meet the armed men. He mocks at fear, and is not affrighted, neither turns back from the sword. The quiver rattles against him; the glittering spear, and the shield. He swallows the ground with fierceness and rage; neither believes he that it is the sound of the trumpet. He saith among the trumpets, Ha, ha; and he smells the battle afar off, the thundering of the captains, and the shouting”.

“Hast thou given the horse strength? hast thou clothed his neck with thunder? Canst thou make him afraid as a grasshopper? the glory of his nostrils is terrible. He paweth in the valley, and rejoiceth in his strength: he goeth on to meet the armed men. He mocketh at fear, and is not affrighted; neither turneth he back from the sword. The quiver rattleth against him, the glittering spear and the shield. He swalloweth the ground with fierceness and rage: neither believeth he that it is the sound of the trumpet. He saith among the trumpets, Ha, ha; and he smelleth the battle afar off, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting.” Job 39:19-25

But for such footmen as thee and I are, let us never desire to meet with an enemy, nor vaunt as if we could do better, when we hear of others that they have been foiled; nor be tickled at the thoughts of our own manhood, for such commonly come by the worst when tried. Witness Peter, of whom I made mention before. He would swagger, aye, he would: he would, as his vain mind prompted him to say, do better, and stand more for his Master, than all men; but who was so foiled and run down by these villains as he?

When, therefore, we hear that such robberies are done on the king’s highway, two things become us to do; first, to go out harnessed, and to be sure to take a shield with us; for it was for want of that, that he that laid so lustily at Leviathan, could not make him yield. For, indeed, if that be wanting, he fears us not at all. Therefore he that had skill hath said, “Above all, take the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked”.

“Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.” Ephesians 6:16

‘Tis good also that we desire of the King a convoy, yea, that he will go with us himself. This made David rejoice when in the Valley of the Shadow of Death; and Moses was rather for dying where he stood, than to go one step without his God.

“And he said unto him, If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence.”Exodus 33:15

Oh, my brother, if he will but go along with us, what need we be afraid of ten thousands that shall set themselves against us? but without him, the proud helpers fall under the slain.

“I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the LORD sustained me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about. Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God: for thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek bone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly. Salvation belongeth unto the LORD: thy blessing is upon thy people. Selah.” Psalm 3:5-8

“The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell. Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.” Psalm 27:1-3

“Without me they shall bow down under the prisoners, and they shall fall under the slain. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.” Isaiah 10:4

I, for my part, have been in the fray before now; and though (through the goodness of him that is best) I am, as you see, alive, yet I cannot boast of my manhood. Glad shall I be if I meet with no more such brunts; though I fear we are not got beyond all danger. However, since the lion and the bear hath not as yet devoured me, I hope God will also deliver us from the next uncircumcised Philistine.

Then sang Christian:

“Poor LITTLE-FAITH! hast been among the thieves?
Wast robbed? Remember this: whoso believes,
And gets more faith, shall then a victor be
Over ten thousand, else scarce over three.”


Should I Join a Church? or Is Church Membership Biblical? – My Thoughts

Why join a church? I saw a friend recently tweet something like, “Trying to convince someone to enter into membership at church is like trying to convince a man he should kiss his wife. Why wouldn’t you?”

I think he was trying to communicate that church membership for him is “just obvious” – of course you should become a member.

However, when I considered the idea I thought, “That’s part of the difficulty.” At least for me, I find it very difficult to explain something to someone that I find simple or that “I have just always understood.”

Church membership is like that for me. I have always attended churches that practiced formal church membership. I have gone through the membership process and joined several churches in my life. I have studied the subject and taught the subject. However, even still when someone says to me, “Why should I become a member?” I still fumble over my words. So, here is an attempt to think through this subject in an organised fashion. Clearly none of these points will carry the weight of the argument alone, some are stronger than others, and they are best when understood together.

  • The concept that God would have a particular people called out for Himself and a way to identify them from others is common to all of Scripture. This isn’t just a New Testament concept.

In the Old Testament God called particular people from particular families and then gave circumcision as a sign that certain people belong to His covenantal family and not others.

Even among the circumcised there were times in Israel’s history when God would separate the faithful from the unfaithful. Were you going to be on Moses’ side or Korah’s? Were you with Joshua & Caleb or against them? Were you with David or Saul? Just being circumcised wasn’t enough.

After the destruction of the Temple, during the time known as the Inter-testamental period the Jews established Synagogues. Any town where there were 10 adults, Jewish males would establish a Synagogue. To be a Jew and not part of the Synagogue was disobedience and see as public shame.

I say this, because today some will say, “I’m a Christian isn’t that enough?” Throughout the Old Testament claiming to be a Jew wasn’t enough. I would suggest we should expect to see something similar in the New Testament. Just claiming to be a Christian or a follower of Christ isn’t enough.

  • The term “Christian” was not a term that was used in the New Testament to describe or identify individual/independent followers of Christ. We first see this word being used to describe the disciples who were part of the “church” in Antioch (Acts 11:26).
  • One will be hard pressed to find a follower of Christ in Acts who is not part of a particular local church. I am not saying there are none (the Ethiopian Eunuch for example, though tradition holds that a church in Ethiopia was formed about this same time), I am saying the overwhelming evidence suggests that when a person became a follower of Christ they became part of a church or established a church.
  • Most of the New Testament is letters (including the seven letters in Revelation) to local churches.
  • In the selection of deacons (Acts 6) the Apostles instructed the people to “choose from among yourselves” certain men. There seems to have been a way for the people in the church to know who was “a part of them” and who was not.
  • When the first missionaries are sent out (Acts 13) this is an activity of the church, not just a group of independent Christians who think sending out Paul and Barnabas is a good idea.
  • In 1 Timothy 5:9-16, Paul gives instruction on “enrolling” certain widows and not “enrolling” others. There seems to be some kind of system where a list is kept of which widows from the church (this group would need to be identifiable) should be on the list of those who are to be cared for by the church and which are not.
  • In the instruction on Church Discipline both Jesus (Matthew 18) and Paul (1 Cor. 5) give the final responsibility for the enforcement of discipline to the church. In 1 Cor. 5 Paul speaks of a particular action the church is to take when they “gather together” and that this man is to be “put out from among them”. There seems to be some why of identifying who is “among them” and who is not. We learn from 2 Cor. 7 that this man repented and was later added back into the church!
  • In Paul’s teaching on the church and the Spirit’s gifts to the church he uses the analogy of a body and even states, “Now you are all the body of Christ and individually members of it.” (1 Cor. 12:27). This is contained in a letter to a particular local church. The analogy of the body would make no sense if there wasn’t a way of knowing which body I am connected to.
  • In the selection of Elders and Deacons in 1 Timothy 3, Paul says he is giving this instruction so that Timothy might know how things are to be conducted within the church (1 Tim. 3:15). These offices are church offices.
  • In Hebrews 13:7 we are instructed to remember our leaders and in verse 17 to obey them. Surely this doesn’t mean Christians are to obey and “remember” any Christian anywhere who is a leader of some kind.
  • Also in Hebrews 13:17 the leaders are said to give an account for the souls of these people. Surely the leaders are not held accountable for jus anyone who enters their church on occasion. How are the elders to know with clarity who they are accountable for?

Some might say here, that’s all good and well, Joe but still the New Testament doesn’t give any clear command or instruction to individual Christians to “officially” join a particular local church. I agree that’s true.

However, there are a lot of things churches do which are not specifically commanded in the New Testament. What time do we have our services? How long should they be? Should we have children’s Sunday School? Should there be a Youth Group? Do we have Communion every week, once a month, once a quarter? What musical instruments do we use? Do we use hymnals or PowerPoint? Can we use PowerPoint for preaching?

A question is do we find in the New Testament any instruction that clearly prohibits the practice of formal church membership? A second question is do we find in the New Testament principles or practices that point us in the direction of some kind of formal church membership?

I would suggest there are no commands or instructions in the New Testament which prohibit the practice of formal church membership. Furthermore, I am suggesting that the 12 points above (and more could be given) are principles and practices which do point in the direction of some kind of formal church membership.

At this point I would like to suggest another principle that, I think plays a part in this. That is the overriding Biblical principle of deferring to others and seeking others interests over my own (Phil. 2:1-4).

Clearly a church having a formal church membership process isn’t sinful; the New Testament in no way prohibits this. There do seem to be some New Testament principles and practices which open the possibility that a church having a formal membership process might be a good thing. Therefore, am I going to insist that a church which I am attending because I am benefitting from its ministries (teaching/preaching, mercy ministries, evangelism, discipleship, music ministries, etc.) and which has historically established a formal process of church membership change their practice (even though I cannot point to any New Testament teaching which prohibits this) or that they make an exception just for me? Or, will I joyfully set aside my preferences, defer to others in an area which is clearly not sinful, setting others interests above my own and therefore join the church?

Three final points which are related to the practical aspects of modern churches:

  1. As church leaders, I believe we must ensure all those serving in positions of leading and teaching especially understand the gospel have repented of their sins and are demonstrating clear faith in Jesus Christ. A formal membership process is a helpful tool to provide orderliness and clarity in this.
  2. As church leaders, I believe we are responsible to ensure, to the best of our ability the safety of the children under our care. Therefore it seems wise to use membership as the first bar of evaluation for anyone who would work with children. Before someone is allowed to work with children we have tested them to know of their testimony of repentance and faith in Christ. In addition we would insist on police background checks, not due to a lack of trust, but to wisely seek to eliminate potential dangers for our children.
  3. In the 21st century a church will often own assets as well as other legal responsibilities before the government.  We are told (Romans 13) to submit to our earthly authorities. Due to these legal requirements it is often necessary to have a way of formally identifying who is a member of the church and who is not for the purpose of voting, decision making, and legal liability.

Much more has been said by others (see some links below). I will stop here. I do pray this is helpful to some.

A Sermon Series:

Sermon Mini-Series: Church as Family, Body, and Building

Some additional online reading:

Twelve Reasons Why Membership Matters

Is Church Membership Biblical?

Helpful Books:

Church Membership: How the World Knows Who Represents Jesus

Stop Dating the Church

Life in the Father’s House: A Member’s Guide to the Local Church


A Church Statement on Christian Marriage and Sexuality – in light of New Zealand’s Same-Sex Marriage Law

For any congregations considering how to clarify their position and practice with regard to same-sex marriage, the following may be helpful:

PDF Download

Word Document Download

CHURCH NAME: A Statement on Christian Marriage and Sexuality – in light of New Zealand’s Same-Sex Marriage Law[1]

  1. God made human beings as male and female to reflect his image within creation (Gen. 1:27). It is the complementary relationship of a man and a woman that is foundational to marriage in the created order (Gen. 2:23-24). The creation account affirms that monogamous heterosexual marriage expresses God’s will and purposes for his good world.
  2. In Scripture marriage bears a significance which goes beyond the regulation of sexual behaviour, the bearing and raising of children, the formation of families, and the recognition of certain economic and legal rights, all of which are important. Throughout the Bible, marriage is a covenant relationship grounded in promises between a woman and a man which establishes a “one flesh” union (Gen. 2:23-24; Matt. 19:5), which in turn signifies the mystery of the union between Christ and his body, the Church (Eph. 5:22-33). The work of redemption affirms that monogamous heterosexual marriage pictures Christ’s relationship to the Church.
  3. All of human existence, including our sexuality, has been deeply damaged by the fall into sin (Gen. 3). We all are sinners, broken in some measure by this fall. Though Christians are rescued, reconciled, renewed and in the process of being transformed, this brokenness also affects us in that we groan, as the whole creation, eager to experience final redemption knowing at present we live in a not-yet-glorified state (Rom. 8:22-23).
  4. Everything, from our environment to our bodily genetic code, has been damaged by sin and the fall. Whether the same-sex attraction people experience is the product of their environment, their genetics, or another source, it is not what God intends and so does not render homosexual behaviour legitimate.
  5. We must carefully distinguish between same-sex attraction and homosexual acts. Temptation, including sexual attraction, is not sin. Sin is yielding to temptation. Jesus himself was tempted, yet without sin (Matt. 4:1-11, Heb. 4:15). It is not a sin to be tempted in the area of same gender sex. Jesus sympathises with our weaknesses and promises to provide a way of escape in every temptation (1 Cor. 10:13).
  6. The Scriptures have much to say about sexual behaviour. The Apostle Paul affirms that among believers “there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality” (Eph. 5:3). All homosexual behaviour is specifically condemned as sin in both the Old Testament and the New Testament (Gen. 19:4-11 [cf. 2 Pet. 2:6-7; Jude 7]; Lev. 18:22; 20:13; Judges 19:22-25; Rom. 1:24-27; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; 1 Tim. 1:8-11). Some heterosexual acts are sinful, but all homosexual acts are sinful according to Scripture.
  7. Scripture grants two options for sexual behaviour: monogamous marital relations between one man and one woman (Gen. 1:27-28; 2:18, 21-24; Matt. 19:4-6; Mk. 10:5-8; cf. Heb. 13:4) or sexual celibacy (1 Cor. 7:7; Matt. 19:12). Either is a gift from God, given as he wills for his glory and the good of those who receive and rejoice in his gift to them.
  8. The gospel is full of grace and truth. It is an offer of grace and forgiveness to all sinners, including homosexuals, as well as a call to live a holy life. It empowers us in the struggle to resist sin, including the sin of homosexual practice (1 Cor. 6:9-11; 1 Thess. 4:3-8; Tit. 2:11-13).
  9. The church is to be a new community that resembles a family of brothers and sisters united in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit displaying deep relationships of love. Celibacy and singleness are to be celebrated and affirmed within the church family.

Implications: a)     All sexual relationships outside of monogamous heterosexual marriage are forbidden because they are a corruption of God’s created order and a misrepresentation of Christ’s relationship to the Church. b)     Biblically, same-sex marriage is illegitimate and immoral. Neither the pastors nor buildings of CHURCH NAME will be used to officiate or facilitate a same-sex marriage. c)      We sympathise with those who struggle with same-sex attraction, and with their families, even as we continue to encourage all Christians to live godly lives that conform to the clear teachings of Scripture.

[1] A statement crafted by Paul Davison, Senior Pastor of Hastings Baptist Church, New Zealand. Adopted by the congregations of Hastings Baptist Church & Howick Baptist Church, New Zealand.

The Fleeners and family worship (interview)

Recently, I answered some questions for William Chong’s blog regarding the practice of “family worship” in our home. This is part of a very helpful series he is doing, which I highly recommend.

You can find my contribution here.


Ryle – Called to Preach?

Commenting on Mark 5:1-20

I cannot help remarking, in connection with our Lord’s words in this passage, that it is questionable whether people do not sometimes act unadvisedly in giving up a secular calling in order to enter the ministry of the Gospel. In plain words, I doubt whether men who have been suddenly convened to God in the army, the navy, the law or the merchant’s office do not sometimes desert their professions with undue haste in order to become clergymen.

It seems to be forgotten that conversion alone is no proof that we are called and qualified to become teachers of others. God may be glorified as really and truly in the secular calling as in the pulpit. Converted people can be eminently useful as landlords, magistrates, soldiers, sailors, barristers or merchants. We want witnesses for Christ in all these professions. Colonel Gardiner and Captain Vicars probably did more for the cause of Christ as military men than they would ever have done if they had left the army and become clergymen.

In steering our course through life, we should carefully look for the call of providence as well as the call of inclination. The position that we choose for ourselves is often that which is the worst for our souls. When two conflicting paths of duty lie before a believer, the path which has least of the cross and is most agreeable to his own taste is seldom the right one.

I write all this with a due recollection of many eminent Christians who began in a secular profesion, and left it for the office of the minister. John Newton and Edward Bickersteth are instances. But I sense that such cases are exceptions. I sense moreover that in every such case there would be found to have been a remarkable call of providence as well as an inward call of the Holy Spirit. As a general rule, I believe that the rule of St. Paul ought to be carefully observed: “Each man, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation God called him to” (1 Corinthians 7:24).

J. C. Ryle, Mark (The Crossway classic commentaries Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1993), 70-71


"I want to show you how a Christian man dies."

A stirring challenge to all Christians who desire to be used by God in the lives of other believers.

“I want to show you how a Christian man dies.”

Leave a comment

Posted by on 06/08/2009 in Discipleship, Gospel, Teaching


Resources for Singles – Dating/Modesty

We started a mini-excursus-series last week in our Singles’ Home Group on Relationships.

I have put together this PDF which I will hand out tonight to the group and thought others might find it helpful.


The Gospel Frees Us to Be a Joy to Our Leaders

I had the wonderful privilege of ministering God’s Word to the folks at our home church, Riverbend Bible Church, this past Sunday.

You can download the MP3 here.


Thursday Morning Men’s Group – Canon of Theologians

I meet with a group of men on Thursday mornings from 6 to 7am.

Over the past year or so we have worked though several different things together and it has been a real joy.

Begining next week we are going to start a “Canon of Theologians.” I have unashamedly stolen this idea from Mark Dever!

Here is my yearly “Reading List Through the History of the Church”:





Clement (1st Century)


Justin Martyr

The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians

The Encyclical Epistle of the Church at Smyrna Concerning the Martyrdom of the Holy Polycarp

The First Apology of Justin


Augustine (354-430)


The City of God


Martin Luther (1483-1546)

The Ninety Five Theses

Bondage of the Will

Table Talk


John Calvin (1509-1564)

Institutes of Christian Religion

Sermons on the Ten Commandments


Richard Baxter (1615-1691)

Reformed Pastor

Saints’ Everlasting Rest


John Owen (1616-1683)

John Bunyan (1628-1688)

Of The Mortification of Sin in Believers

Pilgrim’s Progress

Holy War


Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)

Philip Doddridge (1702-1751)

Religious Affections

Sermon: Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

Sermon: God’s Sovereignty in the Salvation of Men

Rise and Progress in Religion in the Soul


C. H. Spurgeon (1834-1892)

Treasury of David

Lectures to My Students

Morning and Evening


J. C. Ryle (1816-1900)


Upper Room


Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981)

Preachers and Preaching

Spiritual Depression


C. S. Lewis (1898-1963)

Mere Christianity


John Stott

J. I. Packer

Iain Murray

Timothy Keller

The Cross of Christ

Knowing God

Evangelicalism Divided

The Reason for God

You will see some authors and a selection of their writings for each month of the year. There is more reading listed than we can realistically do in one month, so this is just to serve as a starting place. I will give specific details of the sections of each work we will read in a given month.

Why do this?

  1. To expose ourselves to godly men of ages past who have wrestled with the teaching of Scripture and its application. It will remind us of our humanity and need for humility. “We are standing on the shoulder’s of giants.” “Make sure your heroes are dead heroes – they wont let you down.”
  2. We will come to see ourselves more and more as simply falling into our place in history. Christianity didn’t start with our generation, the church didn’t start with our generation and (baring the Lord’s return) neither will end with our generation.
  3. We will be stretched to think “theologically” rather then “practically.” There is nothing wrong with the practical questions – they do need to be asked and we do need to know how to apply God’s Word to our lives. However, God’s Word is not, first and foremost a manual for living, but The Revelation of Jesus Christ. God’s greatest passion is to glorify Himself and we will be the most satisfied as we grow to delight in Him for Who He is.

So for the two weeks left in April – the 23rd and 30th we will read part of one part of one of John Calvin’s works OF PRAYER—A PERPETUAL EXERCISE OF FAITH. THE DAILY BENEFITS DERIVED FROM IT. It is 40+ pages long so we will not likely get through all of it in two weeks. That is OK. We will get a good exposure to it. I am convinced it will challenge and encourage our hearts toward prayer.

In May we will begin Richard Baxter. We will be reading sections from The Reformed Pastor (pages 3-27) and Saints’ Everlasting Rest (pages 7-39 & 88-109).


Friday Luchtime "Theology Reading Group"

Last Friday I started a new activity over lunch.

I have invited a few folks who I thought would be interested to join me for lunch on Friday’s. The plan was simple:

  1. Bring your lunch.
  2. We will meet from 12 – 1pm and be very strict on the time.
  3. We will read aloud together from Robert Reymond’s New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith
  4. We will only read for 25 or 30 minutes
  5. We will then spend the next 30 minutes or so discussing what we have read.

Word of mouth spread a bit and 8 folks showed up last week!

It is a “come when you can” kind of thing. There is no preparation as we are all reading each portion together as I or someone else reads aloud.

Last week we read through the introduction. This Friday we will start on the doctrine of Scripture.

It is not complicated, but is intended to be very challenging and a wonderful opportunity to focus our minds and hearts on our Great God, His Word, His Son/Our Saviour, and the fullness of the Gospel.
We are praying that the Lord will grant us wisdom, understanding and hearts that are overwhelmed with His glory!

We are looking to grow in our ability to “think theologically” as we interact together over this material.

%d bloggers like this: