Upcoming seminar on the prophet Isaiah, to be held at Mowbray Baptist Church, 20 February, booking essential. More details below.
Upcoming seminar on the Gospel of Mark, featuring our own Dr Paul Hartwig. Held at Connect Church in Meadowridge, 1st August, booking essential. More details below.
Many thanks once again to all who made the Revelation Seminar possible. As promised, here's our speakers recommended reading list arranged according to difficulty. If you're just starting out, remember: Revelation, like the rest of Scripture, is all about Christ!
JUST STARTING OUT:
The ESV Study Bible by Crossway
Includes a 10 page introduction to Revelation and verse by verse commentary. A great resource for the whole Bible.
How to Read the Bible For All its Worth by Gordon Fee & Douglas Stuart
This is very readable and a good introduction to the basic principles for understanding Revelation. If you've never read Revelation or other books dealing with Revelation, start here.
The Returning King by Vern Poythress
This book is an easy introduction to the book of Revelation, written in a simple, even humorous style. Best of all: it is available for FREE on his website: http://www.frame-poythress.org/ebooks/the-returning-king/
The Message of Revelation by Michael Wilcock (BST Series)
Wilcock gives us a very accessible commentary on the whole of Revelation which deals openly and honestly with the difficulties and differences. This is a good guide to anyone who is attempting Revelation seriously for the first time.
Revelation: the Spirit speaks to the churches by James Hamilton
A slightly thicker volume compared to Wilcock, but it is very accessible and helpful. Each chapter focusses on a new section of Revelation and is written in the form of a sermon - which might frustrate some more serious readers, but will help those starting out.
The Book of Revelation (NIGTC Series) by G.K. Beale
Beale's commentary on Revelation is grounded in the Old Testament and will challenge and inform. It is a larger and more detailed volume that will probably interest students and pastors more.
The Theology of the Book of Revelation by Richard Bauckham
The Theology of the book of Revelation is a goldmine of insights into the book . Readers are richly rewarded with insights on how the original listeners of the Revelation letter would have been impacted by the book. This is not a commentary.
Revelation: Four Views by Steve Gregg
A Parallel Commentary covers the traditional views in an even-handed fashion. Four parallel columns present the information you need on these key views, and inform you about outstanding commentators on the book of Revelation. No other book gives such extensive coverage of how the church has understood Revelation over the centuries.
Reading Revelation Responsibly by Michael Gorman
Gorman writes with a very informal style, which makes the book an easy read. What makes the book useful is Gorman insistence that the book be taken for what it is: a Revelation of Jesus Christ which should have a profound impact on how we live. Not recommend as a first read, but to those preaching through Revelation it might just help to keep the main thing the main thing: the Lamb who was slain.
The Book of Revelation (NICNT series) by Robert H Mounce
Clear and very comprehensive commentary. He interacts with the traditional interpretations very well, so that the reader gets acquainted with the landscape of diversity in interpretation.
For those who were challenged by Bradley Trout's Greek insights, have a look at 'Basics of Biblical Greek' by William Mounce.
Courses available online at: https://www.teknia.com/classes
Though the book of Revelation appears last in our Bibles, it is sadly first in being the most abused book in that divine library. It is often loved for all the wrong reasons, with readers divided between those who never bother to venture into the book and those who never care to get out of it. Yet it remains a very important book for the church today and God has placed it in our personal Bibles in order to be read, understood and obeyed.
YOU ARE INVITED TO OUR SATURDAY SEMINAR, open for anyone who wants to get to grips with the meaning of this book given to the church in the first century. The format will include both individual presentations and discussion. Speakers: Dr Paul Hartwig (host) with Bradley Trout (pastor), Dr Gideon Beukes (lecturer) and Pieter Pienaar (pastor).
WHEN / WHERE:
31st Jan 2015 at Strand Baptist, 121 Church Street Strand, 09:30am-16:30pm.
RSVP Heather email@example.com by the 28th Jan.
R30 for light lunch provided.
PROGRAM FOR THE DAY:
Hope you can join us!
Dear Strand Baptist and friends
I do hope that you are all enjoying some down-time with your family during this season. What a grace it is that many of us do not have to go into work but can rather leisurely enjoy ourselves at home. No matter what many say about 'Christmas', it is still a season of blessing to so many. Long may it last!
As many of you may be expecting, this is my last Pastor's Weekly. This is because this coming Sunday will be my last Sunday as pastor of Strand Baptist Church - and you are all invited to attend as I take my leave as pastor of SBC (9:30am -). Starting from January, I will be taking up a lecturing position at the Cape Town Baptist Seminary. So for us this is a very significant season of transition. Regarding our whereabouts, Heather and I will be staying in our home in the Strand at present and I will be commuting into Cape Town. From living right next door to my work to now working 35 km away from home is rather different, but the travelling is still worth while for us, since we love our home, church and location. Yet we are not our own and we look to our Lord to lead and guide us forward.
As mentioned, the Pastor's Weeklies will not be continuing. However I will probably still be writing some similar weekly reflections of some sort. If you are interested in still receiving something from me ('Paul's Pondering' ?, not sure yet what I will call it), please would you let me know via email. Just say something like: please include me in your future reflections. If you do not do this I will not be putting you on the new mailing list. I also need to let you know that I now have my own website, which is very much in embryo at present. It is aimed at hosting some of my thoughts & reflections in general. It will also be a resource for my students at the Seminary. See www.logia.co.za.
Well, what can I say about my Pastor's Weekly? I think it fitting to mention to you what I said in my first Pastor's Weekly (the message is pasted below in its entirety). The date is lost on me, but it was written somewhere at the end of 2010 (ps, thanks to Ann in the SBC office who has faithfully printed and documented all 80 of these pastoral emails). That first email was about crafting a personal life-motto that could encapsulate the motive of one's life. This is important for as Christians we are called to live for something greater than our own survival. My crafted motto was "One for all, and all for One", as per 2 Cor 5:14-15. In that text the wise apostle reasons that since Christ died for all, we are called to live for Him. Since He has redeemed us from eternal death we are eternally obligated to Him and should respond by letting the short little current of our ebbing life flow out and spend itself on the Person of our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. So after 3 years of my emails would you not join me is saying "Yes" to Christ, and through all our failures, weaknesses and times of stubbornness and through all that you have experienced in the passage of time, by His sheer mercy, let us continue to direct our life's flow into the Alpha and Omega of all things. There is no other besides Him!
May Jesus ever be the joy and hope of your soul.
In that Name,
Hello SBC and friends
On Friday morning, all South Africans awoke to the not-so-unexpected-news of the death of the first democratically elected president, Nelson Mandela. In this one man the political hopes and ideals of millions of South Africans have converged and found an articulate expression. Not only nationally, but also globally, Madiba has been the icon for the ideals of much of the Western World: political freedom and personal equality for every citizen, regardless of gender, race and religion. Thus the flood of a public and deeply felt sympathy that we witnessed today is truly fitting for all that he stood for in this painful yet beloved country of ours. Only the most hardened can not offer up a heartfelt prayer to God for giving the country such a leader at her most important hour. I hope you have done that already.
As Christians we know that the real problem remains and that Mandela has not been able to accomplish the ideals for which he stood for. New laws can be in place (as needed as they are) and a new South African anthem and flag can carry high in the sky our deepest longings for this country yet without the root problem being eradicated. Let me remind you again that what we will always need is not a new South Africa but new South Africans. Neither Mandela nor any man can do. We are all aware that the great gains ushered in in the 1990's have also been accompanied by newer problems. Sexual and violent crime now characterizes our society, and though racial segregation is outlawed infant-murder (abortion) is legislated in the new South Africa . So in one very real sense the sins of the country are as ever present with us though their appearance has changed.
This reality that we daily face reminds us that Mandela is not Messiah. We are led to ask then: who then will truly bring lasting and effectual moral change to South Africans? Well, there one:
So as we pause today and reflect upon the life of Mandela, let us give thanks to God for giving us such a leader to inaugurate the new era in the history of South Africa. But let us also remember the limited and small place that he plays in the things that ultimately matter. Let us remember that Mandela was not able to give us what we need most. Only in the Christ of God will all our deepest and dearest longings find rest and fulfillment. We 'honour the king' as the apostle Peter told us to do in his first letter, but we also declare with him to the Crucified One who was rejected of men: "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God".
Dear Strand Baptist Church and friends
The City of Man stands today as a memorial to all the achievements of what human beings have done and can do. For everyone who is reading these words, whether on a computer or on A printed out office-copy, the reason why you can do that is clearly because someone has worked hard to produce these methods of communication. We are conveyed from point A to B by the collected wisdom of over 100 years of automobile expertise and industry. We are all borne along in all that we do by the hard earned achievements of previous generations. They have made us what we are today. And then comes Romans 9: 16 and says:
"So therefore it does not depend on the one who wills or the one who runs but on God who has mercy"
The perspective and work of God is deeper and broader than any of us can fathom. The famous Christian thinker and bishop, Augustine brilliantly said: "God is more truly imagined than expressed and He exists more truly than imagined" Here in Romans the inspired apostle plainly declares that the ultimate Person who is behind everything in this world of ours is God. Just as all the activity of human beings and all their accomplishments depend absolutely upon invisible nitrogen, oxygen and argon, so we are dependent upon the invisible God more than we are aware of. Here is the very important fact:
Without God dealing with each person alive on this earth today through His mercy, the entire human race would cease to exist. If the pure and holy justice of God were to come directly to us without going via the Cross, every human being would be damned in Hell forever. We are not worthy to be on God's good creation in the light of how we treat Him. 'All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God'. If God had to recall His spirit dealing in each human being, there would be no accusation of injustice from the council of heaven. This is a sobering truth that should cause us to walk humbly all our days.
Since the above is true all that is allowed to exist exists only because of the merciful pleasure of God. Since our appeal to rightness and fairness would only land us all in a place of banishment, that we are not there is because He has tempered His justice by His mercy. 'He has not treated us as our sins deserve'. Paul said earlier in Romans that this mercy and forbearance of God toward the world is meant to lead us to repentance (2:4). Sadly, it does not but only makes human beings doubly guilty. But the benefits of the Cross of Jesus still remain with every human being for God chooses to temporarily suspend His justice - which cries out for immediate fulfillment - on the godless for every second of their existence. Praise God for the Cross of Jesus Christ! It is the divine origin of the active mercy of God toward us right now. It only the world was more aware that it is not lungs that are allowing them to draw their next breath, but a merciful God!
How much more is it an act of mercy and grace that we should be called sons of God! How come we, who are more adept at sin than righteousness and are the ones who still go on eating the forbidden fruit, how come we are in such a place of grace with God? How can it be that we are the elect of God, the apple of His eye? This cannot be! Oh, but in Jesus Christ it is so! By grace alone and through the kind intention of God in every aspect of our faith in Christ, God has been forming and planning good things for us - by grace ALONE. As much as dead Lazarus was given new life through the word of the merciful Christ, so Christians have been given new life through the gift of another.
It all depends upon the MERCY OF GOD. How in debt are we to that Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ! Come, and receive light and life under its shadow!
See you Sunday, God willing.
Dear SBC and friends
What doe the word 'inheritance' bring to your mind? Rather than a dictionary definition, we most likely think of patrimony and what was or will be left to you of your parents possessions. Most generally, the word refers to all that is legally passed on to the children after the death of their parents. It speaks of a great loss to one and a great gain to another, of great cost and great grace. So it is a very richly textured word that we all can relate to, though into different degrees.
Did you know that the Bible, in both the OT and NT, speaks much about inheritance? In the book of Joshua we see Israel receiving the inheritance of land from God. He gave them the land as a gift after they had come out of Egypt. All the tribes, except Levi, received a portion of Palestine. God was to be Levi's inheritance. In the NT there is also an inheritance that the church receives. Since a death has taken place, the people of Christ receive an inheritance from Him. This inheritance is one of salvation, in the most comprehensive sense of the word. Our inheritance is all the rich blessings that Christ died to bring us, from initial salvation to the final salvation of our bodies at the resurrection: the entire fruits that bequeath to us from His death. It is all that is in Jesus for us.
Yet Scripture is very clear that your spiritual inheritance is not automatic. It needs to be possessed and made ones own. This is clearly seen in the book of Joshua, where the tribes had to go into the land and dispossess the Canaanites, and make their own by faith what God had legally promised to them by His word. Likewise in the NT. Paul thus says:
"And now I commend you to God and the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified" (Acts 20:32)
Here Paul states that God's Word is the vehicle to bring us into all that He has for us. The Word is able to give something to you, able to give you your inheritance. As it richly abides in us and as we know all that Christ died to bequeath to us, so we can respond in faith and obedience. Oh what a blissful idea! Our great Heavenly Father has an earmarked inheritance for you now that His Son has died! It is a divine gift that waits to be appropriated. It includes intimacy with God, experiences of His Spirit, fellowship with Christ, victory over sin, opportunities of service in the Royal Household, the replication of the image of Jesus in you.. and so much more. Notice here that it is not through meritoriousness or moral goodness that we quality but through 'the Word of His grace'! - for inheritance is all about a gift of grace from another. That's good-news (Gospel) for all of us.
May you know that in Christ Jesus and in His cross - and only through them- you have a special inheritance from God. No matter how much you know you don't quality through sin, through His Son's death 'the Father has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light' (Col 1:12). Knowing this, we need to press into it and 'to press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me' (Philip 3:12).
The Promised Land lies before you - and their is a piece of it allotted just for you! Go up and inherit it in Jesus Name!
Under the greater Joshua,
Dear brothers and sisters.
A good few years ago I preached a series of messages called 'Cultural Chameleons', in which I pointed out some cultural values that expose us to the risk of a fatal contamination.
The Word of God exhorts us to keep ongoing vigilance against the ungodly and dangerous assumptions of our culture, saying in 1 John 2:15 'do not love the world or the things in the world'. What this well know Bible verses says is one thing, but what it means for us today is another. In the past few Pastor's Weekly's I have been pointing out some aspects of our culture that we need to sit up and take note of, and immunize ourselves against. The cultural trend I want us to briefly consider is The Time of the Spectator.
Are you not aware of how much today entices us into the position of passive viewing? Consider a filled stadium crowded with observers waiting to be entertained by some event. Today, that spectator-experience is now delivered on-tap for us in our own homes and wherever we go (without the inconvenience of having to physically be at any event). We have access through a variety of media (internet, TV, smart phones etc) to a whole world full of engrossing activities whenever we want. What a time we are living in! I do not so much want to judge what is available for us to watch today, but I want the spotlight of your awareness to fall on how much we are tempted today to take up the posture of the irresponsible spectator before modern media.
This particular temptation is not new (the exponential bombardment is!). In the book of Proverbs the same temptation appeared in a different form. In chapter 7 and 8 the father warns his son not to be enticed by the 'grass-widow' seductress but rather to dearly embrace and follow Lady Wisdom. The 'simple' fool naively follows the attraction that is before his eyes, listens to her promises of 'entertainment' and passively follows where she leads. The father urges his son to choose rather to follow Lady Wisdom, 'who dwells with prudence and possesses knowledge and discretion' (8:12). 'Don't just follow passively what your eyes see son', the father says, 'but rather listen to the voice of wisdom and wise counsel. Guard your eyes and and choose to follow in the path of wisdom'. Though a different time and example, the urgent call of Lady Wisdom for us to responsibly follow in the paths of prudence and discernment is what we so need to hear and obey in our time.
I think that in all that is brought before our eyes today, we need to have 'minds that are alert and fully sober' (1 Peter 1:13) so that 'we may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ' (Philippians 1:10). This translates into subjecting all the media into the position of a good servant, and not allowing ourselves to passively take up the posture before it as a master. It will mean saying No to mind-filleting viewing and Yes to viewing that helps us to better understand our world and our responsibility within it. I personally believe that this must entail more active reading and less passive viewing. Unnecessary 'spectatoring' enfeebles the mind and leads it down the comfortable and wide road that leads to destruction. Necessary reading cultivates and strengthens the mind and leads down the road of life; it engages us in a way that makes us more human not less.
So friend, consider the temptations that are on offer today. Be aware that you need to make a daily responsible choice to engage your faculties more than pamper them. Let us keep our focus on loving and serving real other people in Christ's name, engaging with our families over Scripture and good literature, and keeping vital contact with our Father in prayer. Let us embrace with call of Lady Wisdom today.
This morning I posted a quote on our church facebook page by Al Mohler, the current President of the Southern Baptist Seminary. In this email, I would like to attempt reflect with you on the truth of his statement:
"In the end, the biggest problem with prosperity theology is not that it promises too much, but that it promises far too little"
First, what is the prosperity theology/gospel? It is teaching given by many pastors, authors and many TV preachers who use the Scriptures to state that God's wants each of His children to experience physical health and financial wealth. The corollary of this is that if His children are not experiencing this, there is a problem in their relationship with the Lord. The word 'gospel' is used since 'gospel' in the Greek means 'good news'. Christianity thus becomes the 'good news' of God's promise of your spiritual, physical and financial well being.
Secondly, we need to be aware that this is another 'cultural moment' we are experiencing in the history of Christianity, and is strikingly different to what has been preached over the centuries in the church. Today our religious expectations have piggy backed the gains of the world (which offers health and wealth to us all), and even if we do not hold to the prosperity teaching, at bottom most of us assume that if God had His way with us He would heal our bodies and fill our wallets. Are not most of our testimonies of God's work in our lives about how we have been provided for in these realms? His faithfulness or goodness commonly translate to mean health and wealth. This is also the reason why many people serve God and believe in Him: to be spared physical and financial suffering.
What Al Mohler was wanting to point out was that if we believe that our health and wealth are the main concerns of God in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we have an impoverished perspective of His work and are missing the heart of what is on His agenda for our lives.
Traditionally (and correctly) God's main intent for us now in this life is not our health or wealth but our holiness, i.e., to be like Him. The greatest gift and the most urgent work of God is simply not physical blessing; This is clear to all in their most sane moments when they ponder what their greatest needs are. What is the greatest thing that a Christian would want for her children? Is it not to know Christ, and for them to reflect His character,and to live a life pleasing to God Almighty? Because of the fleeting and temporal nature of our present bodily experience, it is not ultimately their best life now that we want for those we love but their best life in eternity that we want for them! Does not the entire New Testament warn us that if we aim at beautify bodies and bounteous bank balances, we will move away the Gospel and not closer to it? Consider the words of Jesus in Mark 4:18-19 and also those of His apostle in 1 John 2:15-17:
Still others are like the seeds sown among the thorn bushes. These are the people who hear the word, but the worries of life, the deceitful pleasures of wealth, and the desires for other things come in and choke the word so that it can't produce a crop.
Stop loving the world and the things that are in the world. If anyone persists in loving the world, the Father's love is not in him. For everything that is in the world—the desire for fleshly gratification, the desire for possessions, and worldly arrogance—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world and its desires are fading away, but the person who does God's will remains forever.
Of course we trust God for our provision in every area of our lives, and we ought to testify to His faithfulness in caring for us in the material areas of our lives. BUT, we must know that there is a higher purpose that He has with us in this life. He wants us to 'share His holiness' (Hebrews 12:10). His purpose is for us to be like Jesus (Romans 8:29). He want us to not settle for temporary things but rather be willing to 'accept joyfully the plundering of our property, since you know that you yourselves have a better possession and an abiding one" (Hebrews 10:34).
When we consider 'the prosperity gospel' in the light of the New Testament, it is revealed as a devilish and deceitful distraction to the people of God.
For Christians passing through Vanity Fair on his way to Celestial City, they are always tempted to stay and enjoy all the blessings of the world. Some have mistakenly thought that this was God's voice that beckoned to them, but it is not. Rather, may we, like John Bunyan's Christian, also 'set our eyes on the things that cannot be seen' (2 Cor 4:18) and aim at the 'pleasures which are in His right hand' (Psalm 16:11).
In His priceless Name,