Get ready for Romans

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On January 17th 2016, Andy will be starting a new Sunday morning sermon series on Paul’s letter to the Romans. I don’t know about you, but I am very excited to be going through Romans because it’s arguably the most theologically profound book in the New Testament and definitely one of my favourites. How can we as a congregation prepare for this new sermon series?

 

What do we need to know about Romans?

Have you ever read through Romans from start to finish? If you have, you may have reached the end and found it extremely difficult to remember much of what you read, or perhaps you didn’t understand much of it at all. For me, the experience of reading Romans for the first time was a little bit like watching The Matrix for the first time. It left me thinking, “What on earth just happened?” – but the more times I watched The Matrix, the more sense it made. Reading Romans is like that. The more times I read it, the more sense it makes and my understanding of various doctrines deepens. Hopefully, we won’t get discouraged if the going gets tough, but will investigate further and battle on to grasp the difficult bits.

I have a certain friend who, when watching a film together keeps interrupting by asking me things like, “So what’s going on now?”, “Who is he again?”, or “If that happened, why did he do that and where did she come from?” Very annoying! However, reading Romans may force you to be just like my friend because you might need to pause and investigate a particular section of the book further before moving on.

Having said all that, here is a little head-start:

The Book of Romans was written by the Apostle Paul around A.D 57 and was intended for all the believers in Rome (1:7). The book has 16 chapters and 433 verses, so it’s not a lengthy book to read – it is estimated that the average person will take around 47 minutes to read the whole book through. Romans is widely regarded as the most complete summary of the gospel message and Christian doctrine found in any single biblical book and has been regarded as one of the most important books in the New Testament by the likes of St. Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin and William Tyndale, to name just a few.¹

The whole point of Romans is to demonstrate in an immense way the meaning of the gospel of Christ. So, the next time you read through Romans, notice the amount of times it mentions the nouns ‘God’, ‘Law’ and ‘Christ’. Once you’ve done that, pay particular attention to how those three nouns relate to one another. I have found that Romans really opens up the Old Testament and shows how Christ fulfils the Law of God – something no-one else has ever been able to do. Much of Romans is dedicated to showing how Old Testament themes relate to Christ and the gospel.

Please don’t get overwhelmed by the big words or any of the theology that at first seem complex because it’s not a text book for university professors, rather it’s a letter written by a great pastor to a church. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones who preached 366 sermons on Romans reassured his congregation by saying, “I do not propose to consider this great Epistle in a merely intellectual or academic manner. It was written as a letter by a great pastor. It is not a theological treatise, written to experts and to professors. It is a letter written to a church, and like all other New Testament literature it had a very practical aim and end in view.”² Romans is a book that can be understood by everyone.

 

How can we prepare for the Romans sermon series?

My first suggestion is that we read through the whole book. Not just once, but a few times so that we begin to get a feel for the the book as a whole.

Secondly, we need to pray. Pray for Andy – that God would be with him, help him and would speak to us through him by the power of the Holy Spirit; and for ourselves – that God would help us to understand the book and to be transformed by what is written in it.

Thirdly, depending on how eager you are, you could read a commentary or a book on Romans that explains it to you so that as you hear Andy’s sermons, they will encourage you and bless you all the more by the great truths that Romans contains. Here’s a short list of some books you could buy:

  • Timothy Keller, Romans 1-7 For You and Romans 8-16 For You
  • Jarred C. Wilson, Romans: a 12 week study
  • F. F. Bruce, Romans (TNTC)
  • John Stott, The Message of Romans (BST)
  • R. C. Sproul, Romans (St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary)
  • Richard Longenecker, The Epistle to the Romans (NIGTC)
  • Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans (NICNT)
  • Colin G. Kruse, Paul’s Letter to the Romans (PNTC)

 

My Interview with Andy

I had a few questions on my mind and wanted to ask Andy some of them. Below are the questions I asked and the answers he gave, so I thought I’d share them with you.

 

Me: Have you ever preached through Romans before?

Andy: No. I’ve been quite daunted in the past! It is such a wonderful display of the gospel message.

 

Me: Why have you decided to preach through Romans now?

Andy: I want to preach through it before I retire – and as it took 7 years to go through John’s gospel, I thought I’d better start. I also believe it will be a helpful and appropriate Sunday morning series for believers and those not yet converted.

 

Me: Elaborating on what you just said, how are you hoping the church will benefit from Romans?

Andy: The letter has a simple message on the surface – “How can a person get to heaven and be right with God?” – and yet it is also so very profound and sounds the depths of the mercy, grace and love of God towards us! My prayer in going through Romans is that as a church we would clearly understand what God has done, is doing and will do for His people to bring glory to His Name!

 

Me: Could you summarise the book of Romans in just a few words for us?

Andy: The gospel, pure and simple!

 

Me: How can we as the church serve you as you preach through Romans?

Andy: Pray! For the preparation, preaching, reception and fruit.

 

Bibliography

¹ John Stott, The Message of Romans, BST (Nottingham, England: IVP, 1994),19-20.

² D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans: Exposition of Chapter 1 (Murrayfield Road, Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1985), 1.

 

Written by: Gwydion Emlyn, Assistant to the Pastor and member of St. Mellons Baptist Church

Pastor’s New Year Letter

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I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart;

I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.

I will be glad and exult in you;

I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

– Psalm 9:1-2

 

So David begins what we have as the ninth Psalm. He looks back on events and sings praises to the Most High!

As we start this new year, we look back and raise our thanksgiving to the Most High. Have we come through difficulties? Are we still being kept IN difficulties?! How wonderful, how marvellous if we can say “hitherto has The Lord been my help.”

 

When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,

When you are discouraged thinking all is lost,

Count your many blessings name them one by one,

And it will surprise you what The Lord has done.

– Johnson Oatman Jr.

 

Have we grown in grace? As we look around have others in our church family grown in grace? Then we give thanks to God, the Most High – for it is God that works in us, to will and to do according to His good pleasure!

How marvellous when we can look back and give thanks to The Lord for bringing salvation to a soul! Are there folks you know who have come to faith? This is the most remarkable event that occurs on planet Earth! Give thanks to Him, for “Salvation is of The Lord”!

The final church prayer meeting before Christmas was one at which I anticipated maybe 10 to a dozen to attend. We had already had “Carols at the Bay” and it was Christmas week. In the event around 40 gathered for prayer! – For this wonderful mercy, I gave thanks to The Lord. Just Wednesday night too, it was wonderful to hear of many at the home study groups.

Looking ahead into 2016, without Him, we can do nothing. Let us believe this and acknowledge this. Let us therefore together display our utter dependence on Him. Individually, let us begin each day with Him in prayer and in the word. As a church, let us each as members make every effort to be at a prayer meeting during the week. Sunday morning at 10am, Wednesday morning at 11.30 am or Wednesday evening at 7.30 pm. are the opportunities. For those late home from work on a Wednesday, can you make it for 8.30 perhaps?

 

“This Jesus the first and the last,

Whose Spirit shall guide us safe home,

We’ll praise Him for all that is past,

And trust Him for all that’s to come!”

– Joseph Hart, “No prophet, nor dreamer of dreams”

 

Written by: Andy Christofides, Pastor of St. Mellons Baptist Church

Everything we need for life

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Last year we were told that we needed a television that was 3D – this year they are hardly mentioned. Now we need 4K or curved screen TVs. What do we really need? The Apostle Peter gives his answer: His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness’ (2 Peter 1:3 NIV). That is, all we will ever need, both for this present life and our spiritual life now and after in eternity.

 

How do we get our needs met?

The fact that you are reading this and have a desire to find out more about satisfying your real inner needs is due to God working in you by his Spirit and gently calling you by his goodness to himself. Peter says that it is through knowledge about God that we begin to fulfil our needs. This knowledge comes through reading the Bible, hearing it explained in church, talking to Christians, and reading books explaining God’s word. But it is more than acquiring knowledge about the Bible. We need to both believe it and act upon it.

 

Our basic need

As unpalatable as it seems, we have to admit that we have strayed from God’s perfect law from the very beginning of our lives. We are living in a morally polluting world and also contributing to it in some way or other. We are guilty before God and first need forgiveness and then a fresh start with a clean slate and God’s power to help keep us clean. We need to repent and believe the gospel. The gospel, or good news, is that Jesus died in our place, suffering for our sins so that, if we believe and trust in him alone, we might have the free gift of eternal life. This he will give us out of his goodness and for his own glory.

 

God’s great promises

Peter goes on to say that God backs up his gracious dealings towards us with very great and precious promises (2 Peter 1:4) which allow us to participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption that is in the world. Peter quotes one of these promises in Acts 2:21: Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Jesus said of his ‘sheep’, those that believe in him, I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no-one can snatch them out of my hand (John 10:28).

 

Make every effort

If we have committed our lives to Christ, there remains much to do in response. James tells us that faith without deeds is dead (James 2:26b), and Peter gives us a good New Year resolution, Make every effort to add to your faith … (2 Peter 1:5a). He then lists 7 things to add to our faith: goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness brotherly-kindness and love. He says, if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (vs 10&11). What a prospect! There is nothing so cheering when visiting a friend or family member as to be received with a warm welcome, and this is what Jesus promises to all who have loved and tried to obey him, albeit often failing.

 

Peace with God

As Peter finishes his epistle, he underlines that in the prospect of the new heavens and earth, we should make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him (2 Peter 3:14). This, then, is the way to get this deep inner peace with God, our consciences and with our friends: we need to come to Christ for forgiveness for all the sins of our past, ask him that we might be reborn by the Holy Spirit, and that we will have the daily strength to make every effort and live for him. Peter said in his previous epistle that: If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen (1 Peter 4:11b). We will fail in our own strength, but God will enable us. Peter had once denied his Lord, but he was forgiven, and afterwards made every effort to obey his Master’s command, Feed my sheep (John 21:17b). Let us make every effort to live for God in the coming year.

 

Written by: Nigel Faithfull, member at St. Mellons Baptist Church

What does the Bible say about Facebook?

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Are you thinking that the Bible, written thousands of years before the invention of the internet, has nothing to say on the subject of social media?  It may surprise you to learn that it does! The Bible contains plenty of teaching about how we should behave, our speech, our friendships and our motivation for all that we do.  These principles should be applied to how we act online as much as to any other area of life.

 

1. Remember that as Christians we are ambassadors for the Lord Jesus Christ, and people will be watching the way we behave.
Jesus tells us that the two greatest commandments are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbour as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31).  These commands apply to how we behave on social media – everything that we choose to post or share should be done in a spirit of love towards others, and in a way which honours God.

There is a temptation in the world of social media to hide behind a computer screen and say things that we would not say in person, but if we are seeking to represent Christ to the world around us, we must be consistent in what we say and how we express it to others.

 

2. We need to be wise in what we choose to post

Social media websites are a great way to keep in touch with friends and family, to share information and enjoy good discussions.  However there are a number of dangers that can trip us up if we are not careful about what we post.

The Bible, especially the book of Proverbs, has much to say about our speech and what God thinks of our conversations with others.  We are warned repeatedly not to be people who gossip or break confidentiality (e.g. Proverbs 11:13), and this is especially relevant in what we choose to say online, where our audience is far larger than it is in the rest of life, and where what we say will potentially remain visible for many years to come and can be shared and seen by people for whom our comments were not originally intended.

When using the internet we are bombarded with all sorts of information from a wide range of sources, and we need to be aware that not everything we read is true!  Before we share something we have read online, we should be checking to make sure that what we are saying is both true and fair.

However, the Bible teaches us that God isn’t just concerned about what we do and say, but also about our motives. When we post on social media, we should be examining our reasons for doing it – are we boasting, are we seeking the approval of others, are we seeking revenge, are we showing the love to others that should characterise us as followers of Christ?  Remember that Jesus said that we will have to give an account to God for every idle word that we speak (Matt 12:36).  That is quite a challenge!

 

3. When confronted with a difference of opinion

The Bible warns us not to be people who deliberately stir up conflict (Proverbs 16:28) but to be peace-loving. That is not to say that we should never get involved in online discussions about controversial issues, but we shouldn’t purposefully provoke negative reactions from people, and when we are in a situation where opinions differ, we need to be wise in how we respond.

We should take the time to listen to other people’s viewpoints.  Proverbs 18:2 tells us that it is the fool who finds no pleasure in understanding, but delights in airing their own opinions.

We should also be people who think before we post (Proverbs 29:20). We should be slow to speak, slow to anger (James 1:19), and when we do find ourselves reacting angrily we need to remember that we are commanded to not let that anger lead us into sin (Ephesians 4:26).

If we spend any length of time on social media sites, we will have times when we are offended by something that someone else has said.  When that happens we should be careful not to respond by insulting the other person.  1 Peter 3:9 tells us “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”  We need to remember that a gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger (Proverbs 15:1).

Jesus also taught his disciples that if someone offends them, they should deal with it by speaking to them privately (Matt 18:15). Facebook and Twitter (and other social media sites) are not the places to air our grievances or to confront those who have hurt us!

 

4. Be wise in your use of time

The Bible teaches us that our lives are short, and that time goes quickly.  We are accountable to God for how we spend our time here, and encouraged to be wise in making the best use of that time (Ephesians 5: 15-16).

It is easy to waste lots of time on the internet, especially on social media, and we should not allow this to replace real relationships or fellowship with one another (Hebrews 10:24-25).

 

5. Be aware of temptation

The dangers of social media are many and varied.  We can find ourselves wasting time, becoming envious of the lives we see other people living, becoming bitter about our own lives, and getting angry at things we read or see.  We can end up boasting, obsessing over how other people respond to us, and isolating ourselves from real life as we focus on our online interactions. Then there is the danger of watching videos that we shouldn’t really watch, reading articles which are not helpful, and allowing the world to influence our thinking more than the Bible does.

The Bible tells us that we are in a spiritual battle, and that the devil will do whatever he can to tempt us to sin and to damage our witness to others.  We need to be aware of our own weaknesses, and if we find that our use of social media is leading us into sin, we need to take strong action!  (Matthew 18:9)

If you have read through this far, you may be feeling quite depressed about all the potential pitfalls and dangers of social media!  However, social media is not all bad, and the Bible says much about how we can use our time and our speech for good too.

We can use our time online to encourage and build others up (1 Thess 5:11), to help bear one another’s burdens (Gal 6:2), to weep with those who weep and to rejoice with those who rejoice (Romans 12:15).  Social media helps us to be more aware than ever of the challenges that our friends are facing, which should inform our prayers for them and give us the opportunity to help them practically too.

If we are wise in how we use social media, we have the potential to share God’s love with far more people than we would otherwise reach just in our daily lives, and to bring honour to Him through that.

What a challenge!


Written by: Lis Rowe, member of St. Mellons Baptist Church

Hymnspiration

Following the recent funeral of my wife’s mother, a believer, my mind was filled with thoughts of the temporal nature of life and the futility of the materialism which drives so much of people’s ambitions. The things of this life are so transient – if they do not break down, rust or rot, we will have to leave them all behind when we depart this life. Our Lord left behind his heavenly glory and continual presence with his Father to enter this hostile world in order to save all those who would come and put their trust in him, and ask his forgiveness for their sins. He had created the universe, yet owned nothing apart from his single tunic. He loved the world, yet his own people cruelly crucified him. He knew beforehand that this would happen, yet he went through with his mission in order to purchase for himself a bride with his own blood. He was driven by his love for us and out of obedience to his Father. He rose from the dead and ascended to heaven and is now preparing an eternal home in glory for his bride – the church. What should our response be? Should we not desire to offer ourselves as living sacrifices upon the altar of service to Christ, and should we not have a proper perspective on the things of this world and be joyful at the prospect ahead of us?

After retreating to our caravan for a period of refreshment following the bereavement, these thoughts began to crystallise in the form of a hymn, which is given below. Over the next few days I was inspired to write two further hymns. This has only happened previously on a couple of occasions, so it was not a common event for me.

I am going there to prepare a place for you. (John 14:2b)

 

L.M.
1. As I kneel down beneath the cross,
I count the world a happy loss;
If Christ had nothing when He died,
How can I grasp at wealth or pride?

2. My Lord has gone to make a place
For us to dwell with Him in peace;
He shall with us His riches share;
Our lasting bliss shall be His care.

3. With such a prospect, why can I
Be sad the world is passing by;
So turn my eyes, behold His face,
And praise Him for His matchless grace.
(To the tune Llef)

 

Written by: Nigel Faithfull, author and member of St. Mellons Baptist Church

A New Year Begins

September is here, and with it the start of a new year in the life of the church. [Read more…]

Responding to Sin – Luke 18:9-14

(This is a summary of a sermon preached on Sunday evening 16/08/15)

Read Luke 18:9-14.

Morally, both the Pharisee and the Tax Collector began at the same place; that is, recognising that they were sinners. The Pharisee must have recognised at some point that he was a sinner before he could begin to try and earn his place in Heaven. However, knowing you’re a sinner isn’t enough. There needs to be a response – and the two have very different ways of responding to the knowledge of their sin:

  1. The Pharisee tries to undo his sin by being the best he can be. By doing this, he expects to be accepted by God because of his efforts and thinks he is better than everyone else. Salvation must be earned.
  1. The Tax Collector recognises that his sins are far too great to be dealt with by his own actions. So, he turns to the only hope he has left which is God and His mercy. Salvation must be given.

The one who goes home justified (key word in v.14) is the one who humbles himself. Remember, humbling ourselves is not something we can just decide to do. Ultimately, it is God who humbles us by bringing us to a point where there’s nothing else we can do but submit to Him. Humbling ourselves is a selfless response to God’s work of regeneration in us. Therefore, we cannot be self-righteous and think we have responded better than others. God gets all the glory because He humbled us through the conviction of sin and by graciously providing a way for redemption – through Christ alone.

It wasn’t the act of humbling himself that saved the tax collector – he could do nothing but be humbled by such a merciful God. It was irresistible grace. All of our praise therefore goes to God, and our hope is that because Christ has been exalted; He will exalt those whom He has humbled (v. 14b). Christ first humbled Himself by becoming a Man, and was humiliated by being crucified.

As He humbled himself, He humbles us. As He died on the cross, our sins died with Him. As He rose from death, we have been raised from our spiritual death. As He ascended into Heaven and is exalted, we too will be exalted with Him because of who He is and what He has done. It’s not our humility that saves us, but God’s mercy (v.13) expressed through sacrificing His Son.

 

Written by: Gwydion Emlyn, Assistant to the Pastor and member of St. Mellons Baptist Church

Where am I from? Why am I here?

Where have we come from? Why are we here? It’s interesting that as human beings we can and we do ask such questions.

My dog, Pip, is, as far as I know, totally unconcerned about such matters. His level of thinking revolves around his next meal, his next walk, or how to see off George the horse who lives in the field next door! But we do ask these questions and we desire answers.

 

Where are we from?

As far as we can learn from cosmologists (those who study ultimate origins of the physical universe), something quite awesome happened around 14 billion years ago. There was, it seems, a singularity, a minuscule dot with a diameter of 0.00000000000000000000000000000001m.

Everything we now know and see was in that dot. Although very small, it was very very hot in there! Outside the dot, there was nothing – not even space, and certainly no time.

Then, it all happened – the Big Bang as it has come to be known, happened. The dot rapidly expanded to form, billions of years later, all that we now see and know. There is good science to support this theory which you can read at your leisure online. But! The question remains unanswered. Where have we come from? What formed the dot?!

To get around this glaring problem, many cosmologists now propose something called “the multiverse”. Our universe, they say, could be but a tiny part in a whole series of universes! So, we came from something far grander than that singularity mentioned earlier. But this too fails to answer the question … It only pushes it further back and into a deeper fog. And that is it. In a few lines I have summed up cosmological answers to the question, “where are we from?”! As a scientist myself, I am not knocking science, but I am recognising its limits in being able to give an answer to such a fundamental question!

 

Why the hostility to God?

If I were to describe God as the First Being – of supreme intelligence, is that a problem?

There is no doubt that intelligence exists, the very fact that you are able to read this is amazing ( even more amazing if you are understanding it!!). An atheistic scientist would believe that The Big Bang, pure energy, eventually condensed to form matter (stars, planets) and riding on at least one of those planets, intelligent life formed. So, such scientists would say, pure energy produced intelligence … but the intelligence it produced cannot yet explain where the pure energy came from. All I am doing here is turning the argument around – is it not at least logically possible that in actual fact it is pure intelligence that has produced the energy and matter we now see and know?!

This is the clear statement of the Bible, ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.’

So, who made God? Ah, well here is a question that at least has a logical answer. By definition God is eternal. Being a pure Spirit, this is not a problem. Whereas matter and useful energy cannot be eternal (laws of thermodynamics), God can be and is. By definition He is also all powerful. This being so, He can create a universe. The language of Genesis is interesting, it states that God created the universe “out of nothing” the book of Hebrews in the New Testament confirms this (Hebrews 11:1-3).

So, in the Bible, in God, we have a logical, cogent answer to our most fundamental question. I can and do live with this – it satisfies. Science operates and rides on this. Good science can be done because God has created, by an act of pure spiritual power, a universe that can be observed, probed and explored.But that leads logically onto the other fundamental question.

 

Why are we here?

From a pure scientific viewpoint, there is no answer apart from “because we are.” This means we are simply an outcome of The Big Bang. We might not have been, but we are. We are hideously, pathetically small – and hideously vulnerable. One asteroid wipes us out … and then, would the universe even exist anymore without life to observe and appreciate it? The Bible gives a much brighter, more upbeat answer!

God made us “in His image”. That is, we have spirit. We think, plan, decide, ponder. We are creative, we communicate … There are reflections in every human being on a minuscule scale, of what God is on an unfathomable scale! And God made us in his image for one supreme purpose, a purpose which is beyond the grasp of my dog Pip – God made us to know him. Not simply to know about him (that would be dark religion) but to know him in a living, vital relationship.

Now, this too just rings so true! There are so many good things on planet earth. But, whatever we have and possess leaves us hungry for more. We would all admit that, above possessions, our greatest sense of fulfilment and happiness comes from loving relationships. When they are right, they are wonderful – when they go wrong, we are devastated. But even human relationships leave is unfulfilled – it seems there is always something missing. Well, the missing piece is the most vital piece … God. A great church leader once said, ” Our hearts are restless and have find no rest till they find their rest in Thee.”

 

The Answer to our Problem

The God who made us to know Him is clean, pure, righteous, holy, utter moral absolute perfection. We, however, are wrong on a most fundamental level. Genesis three gives the source of the problem. Sin. Sin separates us relationally from God. It has spoiled everything. It means we cannot know God, and our ultimate home, heaven is barred to us. All we have is this world … and a judgement to come.

Religion and morality are expressions of mankind’s desire to get back to God – but they fail miserably!

Into this bleak reality comes the astonishing goodness and mercy of God. He has provided the way. Not a way, The Way. Jesus Christ alone has succeeded in doing that which no human effort could ever achieve. He has dealt with human sin. He is Immanuel, God with us. In the One Person of Jesus we are presented with one who is fully God and yet fully man. As a man, he can deal with mankind’s problem. As God, there is infinite worth in what he did!

He lived a pure, perfect life – he did it for us! He died on the cross and in dying he suffered the eternal death that our sin deserves. His resurrection proves he is who he claimed to be, and that his work, WORKS!

Why are we here? To know God! How can we? Through his son, Jesus Christ. Repent and believe the good news!

 

Written by: Dr. Andrew Christofides, Pastor of St. Mellons Baptist Church

Used with permission by EMW. Original article published in EMW Magazine –  www.emw.org.uk/magazine

Just a Mum?

One thing I learned very quickly after becoming a mum is that there is no universally acceptable job title for the parent who gives up paid employment in order to care for their children, as every term offends someone.

“Full-time Mum” – this is offensive because it implies that mums who go to work are only part-time mums, and therefore somehow inferior.

“Stay-at-home Mum” – apparently this implies that all mums do is stay at home and watch Jeremy Kyle all day.

“Housewife”  – too old fashioned.

“Homemaker” – are you kidding me?

Other people say we should forget trying to describe/define it at all, I’m just “a mum”.

Whatever description is chosen, someone on some parenting forum somewhere will explain exactly why that term is so offensive to them. But it’s my job and I (mostly!) love it.

I’m not going to deny that there are days when I push my children through the school gates and run in the opposite direction, or days when I have actually hidden in the bathroom and locked the door because I just want 5 minutes to myself. There are also days when I have cried when looking at my overflowing ironing baskets (yes, that’s plural), or I’ve rung my husband to tell him to pick up a takeaway on his way home from work because I’ve had a difficult day and the thought of cooking dinner is pushing me over the edge.  (I’ve really sold you on this full-time-stay-at-home-housewife-homemaker-mum role now, haven’t I?!)

But when the kids are asleep/in school and I have the time to step back and look more objectively at my life, I feel privileged to be able to do this.

Some women feel that they lose their identity as an individual when they become a mum, as everything they do suddenly revolves around their child. I can honestly say that I have never felt that way. Being a mum can be all-consuming and exhausting, but I was given one valuable piece of advice early on, and that is to remember my primary identity is as a Child of God. I may no longer be a nurse, no longer contributing financially to the home, but my primary identity is always as one of God’s children – He has loved me from before the foundation of the world, He has forgiven my sins, He cares for me, He provides for my needs, and He listens when I pray to Him. My chief purpose in life is not to be a Mum, but to love and to serve my God – and I can do that whether I am out at work, or at home with my children.

It’s very easy to feel de-valued by the society around us when you are “just” a mum. When we meet someone new, one of the first questions we are asked is what job we do – and it can be difficult to admit that you’re not in paid employment any more. But as a Christian I’m called to serve God wherever He sends me, and although I may no longer be in a workplace surrounded by adults who I can share my faith with, for now my mission field is my home (my children, and the friends that I make through my role as a mum). That is just as important as any other mission field He could send me to, because that is where He has placed me.

All of us as Christian parents have the same responsibilities – to provide for our children’s physical needs, to teach them the skills they need for life, but also to teach them about God. As a stay-home parent I have the privilege of having extra time available to me to do this. In Deuteronomy 6 we’re told that talking to our children about God should be something that happens naturally during the day, as much a part of life as teaching them to count, or helping them learn to read, or how to tie their shoelaces. It’s not just about taking them to church on Sunday and reading them a Bible story at night, it’s about bringing God into the everyday situations that we face – showing them the greatness of the Creator as we look at the beauty of the world around us, teaching them to be thankful for even the smallest of blessings, praying with them about the things that worry them. All of us have the opportunity to do this as parents, but when we’re home with them all day we have the privilege of having even more time to teach them these things.

Some days are better than others. We have days when we feel good about our role as parents, the kids are happy, we’ve not made too many mistakes and the house doesn’t resemble a bombsite (well, not all of it anyway). Thank God that we do have those days!  But there are times when we feel like complete failures as parents – we are Christians, but we’re still sinners and we do lose patience with our children and over-react to little things, we get tired and stressed and at times feel completely overwhelmed by the responsibility of bringing up our children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord”. What can we do then? I’ve learned over the last ten years that we have to bring it all to God – the good times and the bad, in parenting as much as in every other area of life. We need to ask for wisdom to make the right choices in the small decisions as well as the big ones, we need strength and grace for each new day, and we need the humility to admit it when we get it wrong.

Everyone tells me that the teenage years are even harder than the toddler years. I feel totally inadequate for the task ahead of me, but I know that I have a Father who is willing to give wisdom, grace and strength – and I plan to ask Him for them daily!

 

Written by: Lis Rowe, member of St. Mellons Baptist Church

Lessons from the Life of Thomas Boston

Thomas Boston (1676-1732) was a man of melancholic disposition allied to a fearless spirit when it came to defending Biblical truth. One continuing trial was from the church system of presbyteries and patrons in which he was serving, and which coerced rather than called him to a church. His first appointment was at Simprin, where the manse lay in ruins, so he settled in an old house. This was also in such a bad state of repair, that in a storm he had to leave his own bed and sleep with his father “lest the house should have fallen on me”. The manse at Ettrick, his other charge, was also in a ruinous state. While it was rebuilt his family had to live in the stable and barn, where his son Ebenezer was born, who died shortly after. Altogether, Boston buried six of his ten children.

When he first met his wife he says that he “discerned the sparkles of grace in her”. Twenty years later, aged forty-six, his wife was afflicted with a schizophrenia which lasted the remainder of their married life. It confined her to bed and was often accompanied by fevers, and once she was tempted to suicide.

 

Health problems

Boston’s physical health was a sore trial. While a student, to economise he ate but little, and often fainted and appeared to be dying. His condition, probably exacerbated by a lack of Vitamin C, was so severe that his teeth blackened and gradually dropped out. He subsequently kept them in a box ‘for conversation’! His lack of teeth caused much pain and embarrassed him with difficulty in pronunciation.

 

Publication problems

Boston reluctantly agreed to publish some sermons and writings, but there were many setbacks and delays, lost manuscripts, and on one occasion he ‘was greatly confounded to see the book pitifully mangled, being full of typographical errors, and besides, Mr Wightman had so altered it in many places, that he had quite marred it.’

 

Congregational problems

The congregation of Ettrick was also a trial to him. They often deserted his ministry, neglected worship, and despised the message he preached, so he could say, “The crown is fallen from my head, and I am brought very low! The approaching Sabbath, that sometimes was my delight, is now a terror to me.”

 

Growth in grace

Boston’s path to new life in Christ was a difficult one. He rarely heard gospel preaching, there was no sudden conversion, and he had to shed his legalistic attitudes. His early preaching at the age of twenty-one was so much on the wrath of God, that a minister advised him, ‘if you were entered on preaching of Christ, you would find it very pleasant,’ which he afterwards remembered as ‘the first hint given me by the good hand of my God towards the doctrine of the gospel.’ Once ordained and settled at Simprin, Boston enjoyed a ‘more clear uptaking of the doctrine of the gospel,’ and a vision of ‘Christ’s fullness, his being “all and in all”‘. He resembled the Welsh preacher Daniel Rowland in this transformation.

Being hampered by a lack of commentaries and other books, Boston was deeply hurt when a visiting minister smiled condescendingly at seeing his little library. At times throughout his life he would spend hours in prayer and fasting, searching his heart for unrepented sins in order to confess them, and then he would draw up a fresh covenant with God. He could say two years before he died, ‘I have a measure of confidence, that I will get complete life and salvation.’

 

Praying and preaching

Boston’s great strengths were to be filled with a sense of the majesty and grace of God, and to hold the Scripture in great esteem, applying himself to its study in the original languages. He disciplined himself in prayer, with certain days appointed for personal, family and church fasting, and spent the time between services in prayer and meditation. He would never preach on a text until he had assurance on the subject, which could be obtained with ‘more wasting and weakening to me, than the study of my sermon thereon.’ Boston timed himself with a pulpit hourglass. Once he had a job to stretch his sermon to the hour, but at another time he forgot how many times he had turned the glass over. He records that at one Lord’s Supper, ‘The sermon was more than two hours, which I think was too much. A certain gentleman said, it was above his capacity … I resolved to be shorter.’

 

Providence

Boston ascribed all events to the sovereign providence of God, but should occasionally, have also seen a lack of common sense as the human cause of a misfortune. For example, on one occasion after saddling his horse he was informed it had a swelling, but he still rode it to a communion at Penpont. There the blacksmith came to see it and advised that it was more swollen than before – ‘I was obliged to leave my horse behind me at Penpont under care, and he died’. Not only that, but he himself was unwell, so an elder accompanied him, who subsequently died at Penpont, to his great grief.

Yet his other afflictions, especially his wife’s mental illness, were unavoidable. He wrote ‘I think I have thereby obtained some soul-advantage; more heavenliness in the frame of my heart, more contempt of the world, as the widow that is desolate trusteth in God … more carefulness to walk with God, and to get evidence for heaven; more resolution for the Lord’s work, over the belly of difficulties.’

 

Benevolence

Boston records that although his ‘stipend was small students continued with us at times; so that we ate not our morsel alone’. His salary was subsidized with income from a house he rented and from his office as synod-clerk, so that ‘things honest in the sight of men were readily, by the kind disposal of Providence, laid to hand’. On receipt of his stipend he would lay aside certain amounts, and he kept these in a box in his left-side pocket and gave them out for benevolences and Sabbath offerings. In addition, he fed the poor who called at his house. In all his ministry he used to pray that he “might attain to habitual cheerfulness in the Lord”.

 

The man and his Guide

Like his Lord, Boston had ‘nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.” Yet he would say, “If we suffer with Him, we shall reign with Him’. To Boston, the Lord was the Great Leader, and the Sovereign Manager; and of his Word he writes, ‘all is comprehended in the word, Prov. 3:6; both the promise and the precept take in all. You are neither to look for impressions, nor anything else of that kind, whatever indulgence the Lord makes to some of His people in some circumstances, and … set yourself as a Christian man to perceive what in the circumstances appears reasonable to be done’. He was careful that he “might not make a fortune-book of the Bible,” dipping into it at random for guidance, rather he resolved to read it systematically and “though my case should not be touched there, I would wait on God”. Thus he was safely, if not easily, led to his eternal rest.

How soft we are! How easily we grumble at the slightest difficulty or affront which we encounter! Did our Lord meet with less? Are we going to leave the church in a huff over some disagreement in a church meeting? What about the unity of the church? Do we feel overburdened with duties and family pressures and hardships? Are we going to stay at home on the Lord’s Day because of a headache? Would we rather read a devotional book at home than attend the prayer meeting? Shortly before his death, in much pain, lame and so very weak he could not go out to the church, he yet opened the manse window and, with an all but toothless mouth, declared the glorious gospel of Christ. Do you have problems?

“When I am weak, then am I strong.” (2 Cor. 12:10)

Written by: Nigel Faithfull, author and member of St. Mellons Baptist Church

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Memoirs of Thomas Boston, Banner of Truth, 1988 (First pub. 1899)