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All articles in category Guest column

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March 2019
Articles > Guest column

Humour in the Bible

Different parts of the Bible affect us in different ways. Reading Isaiah 6, we tremble before the majesty of the transcendent Lord. Studying the New Testament passion narratives, we are moved by the sight of our suffering Saviour. Poring over the book of Revelation, our minds reel at this kaleidoscope of lurid imagery. But there is another response which Scripture can evoke. There are passages which make us smile. We may even at times find ourselves chuckling. Why is that? The Bible is not a piece of light entertainment. It is the weightiest of books, dealing with the most serious matters of all. Why then,...

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February 2019
Articles > Guest column

Healthy Christianity: Transformed Life and Conduct

In previous articles we have been looking at the importance of balance in the Christian life, following the lead of William Williams, Pantycelyn (1717-91) who wrote a letter at the end of his life in which he said, ‘I have come to see that true religion consists of three parts: first true light respecting the plan of salvation; … [second] intimate fellowship with God … Lastly, … life and conduct, such as would reveal to the ungodly that there is a great difference between us and them’. This month, I want us to consider the third element Williams identifies, the practical character of the Christian...

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December 2018
Articles > Guest column

Healthy Christianity

Christianity is to affect the whole of life, and one of the great dangers Christians face is that of imbalance. They must always be on the lookout not to overemphasise some things and underemphasise others. Church history teaches us that imbalances not corrected can lead Christians away from the faith altogether. If Christianity is predominantly in our heads (intellectual understanding of the faith), with little emphasis on the heart (what we experience and feel) or hands (how we live from day to day), then we are in danger of a dry or dead orthodoxy. Balance If we overemphasise experience and feeling, it can lead to...

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November 2018
Articles > Guest column

The means of grace (3)

When you are weak in your faith, where do you go for strength? When you are discouraged, what are your sources of encouragement? When you doubt, struggle and need God’s help, when and where and how do you find it? Our world, and even the church, offers many and varied solutions to our problems: self-help therapy; entertainment; mindfulness; family and friends; Charismatic experiences. We could go on. Some of these may help, yet many either offer only a sticking plaster to our deeply felt problems, or are just so un-biblical as to be dangerous. The triune God has clearly given us the ‘means’ by which...

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October 2018
Articles > Guest column

GUEST COLUMN: The means of grace (2): baptism and the Lord’s Supper

Have you met with God recently? Did you enjoy his presence and bask in his glory? Was your faith strengthened as Christ himself ministered to your needs? Would you even know where to go to find these things? Or perhaps you have given up looking for that elusive experience of God that evangelical Christianity so craves?  Maybe that sensational personal encounter with Christ, so prized in many church circles today, is something you despair of ever having? The reality is that God continues to speak to us, and Christ can easily be found and experienced. The problem is that we are looking for him in...

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August 2018
Articles > Guest column

GUEST COLUMN: A wide open door

In the two previous Guest Columns, I extended C. H. Spurgeon’s famous caged-lion allegory by suggesting that freeing the lion (the Bible) to defend itself involves three steps. We must: (1) find the key to the cage door (adopt a biblical doctrine of Scripture); (2) lubricate the door hinges (employ biblical apologetics and argumentation, as did Christ and his apostles); and (3) open the door wide enough for the lion to get out. The problem with lions is that you can’t let them out of a cage paw-by-paw. It has to be the whole lion or nothing. Opening the door just a little won’t work....

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July 2018
Articles > Guest column

GUEST COLUMN: Oiling the hinges of the lion’s cage

C. H. Spurgeon famously likened the Bible to a caged lion. To defend it, he said, all we need to do is let it out. But this requires us to open the cage door, and that is no trivial task. Last month (extending Spurgeon’s allegory) I suggested that to open the door involves three steps; (1) we must find the key; (2) we must oil the hinges; and (3) we must open the door wide enough for the lion to get out. In the first Guest Column we saw that the key is the Bible’s own doctrine of Scripture, namely, that ‘all scripture is breathed...

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June 2018
Articles > Guest column

GUEST COLUMN: Spurgeon and the caged lion

Asked how he would defend the Bible, C. H. Spurgeon famously likened it to a caged lion. He declared: ‘Open the door and let the lion out; he will take care of himself … He no sooner goes forth in his strength than his assailants flee. The way to meet infidelity is to spread the Bible. The answer to every objection against the Bible is the Bible’ (at British and Foreign Bible Society meeting, 5 May 1875). Let me say immediately that I agree totally with the great preacher, but his wisdom is misapplied if we respond with passive inaction when the Bible comes under...

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May 2018
Articles > Guest column

GUEST COLUMN: A Christ-centred pastor

Charles Haddon Spurgeon was a man who went at all of life full-on. He laughed and cried much; he read avidly and felt deeply; he was a zealously industrious worker and a sociable lover of play and beauty. Christ and the Bible Spurgeon was soaked in scripture. You can pick almost any sermon — and most of his letters — to prove the point: scriptural images, idioms, and references crowd Spurgeon’s every paragraph and seemed to spill out of him in an entirely natural and unforced way. It was really the natural consequence of having the highest and warmest view of the Bible. For Spurgeon,...

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April 2018
Articles > Guest column

GUEST COLUMN: A man full of life

Charles Haddon Spurgeon was a man who went at all of life full-on. He laughed and cried much; he read avidly and felt deeply; he was a zealously industrious worker and a sociable lover of play and beauty. He was, in other words, a man who embodied the truth that to be in Christ means to be made ever more roundly human, more fully alive. Mr Great Heart It takes no great insight to see that Spurgeon in his ministry was a big-hearted man of deep affections. His printed sermons and lectures still throb with passion. At times the emotional freight of his sermon would...

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March 2018
Articles > Guest column

GUEST COLUMN: Spurgeon’s fainting fits

It comes as a surprise to some that Charles Spurgeon had a lifelong battle with depression. His reputation as a famed and powerful preacher, his cheery wit, and his sheer manliness might lead us to imagine there could never be a chink in his Victorian Englishman’s armour. It shouldn’t be a surprise, of course: life in a fallen world must mean distress, and Spurgeon’s life was indeed full of physical and mental pain. Aged 22, as pastor of a large church and with twin babies at home to look after, he was preaching to thousands in the Surrey Gardens Music Hall when pranksters yelled ‘Fire!’...

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February 2018
Articles > Guest column

Benjamin Morgan Palmer

In writing about Christians and slavery (Guest column, ET January 2018), I suggested that men and women from an earlier era were, like us, people of their time. Therefore, cultural and social factors affected their view of many things, including slavery. So, we should not judge them by 21st century standards. Some were eminently godly Christians, even though they defended slavery. We can understand why some today find that hard to accept, since slavery is wrong and the slave trade wicked in the extreme. In an attempt to explain this apparent contradiction, I offer this brief sketch of one such man, Benjamin Morgan Palmer. Pastor...

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