Daily Bible reading

In our Sunday morning worship this week we heard Bible readings from Psalm 15, Mark 7.1–8, 14, 15, 21–23 and James 1.17–27. I based my sermon mainly on James 1 particularly verse 17: “Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights . . .” and verse 22: “But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves”.

Although I hoped to emphasize doing rather than merely hearing the word, I did recommend daily Bible reading as one of the ways we might hear. Afterwards, I was asked privately about my thoughts on Bible-reading plans and notes so I decided to include a few here.

Having used many different Bible-reading notes through the years, I now find the publications from IBRA to be the most helpful. I regularly use Words for today and also see Light for our path. Available here, I recommend them both as well as the daily reading scheme on IBRA’s website. I like the fact that they contain a full year’s readings and notes so I don’t have to think about or keep receiving extra booklets every month or quarter.

The daily lectionary readings for morning and evening prayer are also very useful.  These consist of Bible readings for every morning and evening of the year. These can be accessed on the Internet either as independent sets of readings here or and as part of the Church of England’s daily prayer service here. These are excellent resources that you can bookmark for daily viewing.

Why Christians grieve

It has been suggested to me that my title (below) for the announcement of the death of a friend is inappropriate. The death of a friend is not sad news, I am told, but a cause for rejoicing that God has taken a believer home. Well, there is some truth in this way of thinking. Certainly, I rejoice in the “sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life through Jesus Christ” but I do not think this obliterates all sadness. The sadness lies in the fact that a friend is now gone. Perhaps the sadness of separation and loss might be thought of as selfish but it seems to me that it is present most where love is greatest. Did not Jesus weep when his friend Lazarus died even though he knew he was about to raise him up? Christians do not grieve as those without hope but they still grieve. I am firmly of the opinion that even when hope is abundant there is sadness in the death of a loved one.

Sad News

I am sorry to announce that Bert Ford, long-time friend and member of our congregation, died on Wednesday evening. Bert was getting on in years and had been ill for the last six months. He was spending increasing amounts of time in hospital and it was there that he died. Our condolences go out to his family and friends. Bert will be greatly missed. He was a real character: friendly, gregarious, considerate and kind. The funeral will take place on Friday 4 September at 11.30 a.m. at Stockport Crematorium.

Gearing up for Didsbury Fun Run

2008funruners01Pirates, super-heroes, fire-fighters, runners, marshals and run organizers are gearing up for the annual Didsbury Fun Run. Scheduled for Saturday 12 Sept, there will be 5k and 1.5k courses. Find out more at www.didsburybaptistchurch.org.uk. Download a registration form, sign up, and join us for a great day. Pictured above are some of last year’s younger runners arriving at the event.

Canoe trip on the Mersey

Yesterday, a  group from Didsbury Baptist Church enjoyed a canoe trip down the Manchester Mersey. I couldn’t join them but I got a few shots of them passing as my wife and I were out walking by the river around Didsbury. They are not the best photos but they’ll do for a simple montage. The person who organized the trip is in the process of setting up a canoe business to lead groups and hire out boats on the Mersey. He can be found at www.messingaboutonthemersey.co.uk. Sunday’s canoeists certainly looked like they were having a good time. Here they are:

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Bullfrog Brown at Didsbury Baptist Church

Do you live anywhere near Didsbury and fancy a summer concert? The Estonian blues band Bullfrog Brown will be performing at DBC (School Lane / Beaver Road, Didsbury, Manchester, M20 6SX) on Sunday 30 August at 7.30 p.m.bullfrog_didsbury

Books on Revelation (5)

My fifth and final recommendation for reader-friendly books on Revelation is Michael Wilcock’s The Message of Revelation (IVP, 1991) originally published under the title I Saw Heaven Opened, 1975. wilcockI have the ’75 edition and do not know whether the ’91 edition is revised in any way. My comments here relate to the ’75 edition.

This book is now dated. It is written so obviously for  Evangelical Anglicans that if you are not one you feel a bit like you are eavesdropping. Its gender specific language is annoying. (“Nor does the scheme of divine truth, embracing time and eternity and announcing itself to men, fail of its effect . . .” [218]). Nevertheless, this is probably the most accessible commentary on the book of Revelation. It clearly influenced Peterson’s book (recommended below). It was the first, sensible, non-technical book on Revelation I ever read and it remains unsurpassed for clarity and simplicity. If you are lost with Revelation but would like to give it a chance, try reading through Revelation with Wilcock as your guide. I certainly would not have described Revelation as a “gorgeous picture book” and I don’t like the suggestion that it is the one biblical book we could do without. Yet, Wilcock’s exposition of Revelation as a drama in eight scenes is full of insight and good sense. This is still a great place to begin a study of the Bible’s final book.

Books on the Book of Revelation (part 4)

Towering behind the work of both Woodman and McKelvey is the influence of Richard Bauckham. Written for an academic audience, his books may be less accessible to the general reader. bauckamtheologyEven so, his The Theology of the Book of Revelation (Cambridge University Press, 1993, 169 pages) is a brilliant introduction to the themes and issues and to the overall theology of the book of Revelation. Bauckham sees Revelation as a Christian prophecy, an apocalypse and a circular letter. It “does not predict a sequence of events, as though it were history written in advance” (150). Rather it is interested in the nature and meaning of history in the time before the end. It is a call to the church to live a counter-cultural life in imitation of Christ.

Worship, which is so prominent in the theocentric vision of Revelation, has nothing to do with pietistic retreat from the public world. It is the source of resistance to the idolatries of the public world. It points representatively to the acknowledgement of the true God by all the nations, in the universal worship for which the whole creation is destined (161).

The only problem with this book is that it is almost better than the real thing. If it is difficult to understand, it reads more easily than the book of Revelation itself! It transformed my understanding of the millennium and restored my appreciation of Revelation as not only palatable but vital for the church’s witness in the world today. This book is brimming with insight and understanding.

Revelation (3)

For me, the best, new, accessible and comprehensive treatment of the Book of Revelation is Simon Woodman’s The Book of Revelation in the SCM Core Text series (SCM, 2008, 259 pages).

woodmanrev02Written to bridge the gap between the scholarly and the populist, this book is written with the second and third year university student in mind. I think it is more accessible than that but it is a serious book that rewards careful reading. It is perfect for ministers and local church leaders preparing sermons or studies on Revelation. It is written by a Baptist whose blog can be found at baptistbookworm.blogspot.com.

Favorite aspects of this book for me are  its thumbnail sketches of all the major ‘characters’ of revelation and its excellent use of tables. Its treatment of ‘the beast’ and 666 (slightly marred by a couple of unfortunate typos) is worth the price of the book alone.  It also takes seriously the objections leveled against the book of Revelation and interacts with them helpfully and sensitively. I will be buying a copy of this for the church library and recommending it to anyone who wants to begin a serious study of the book of Revelation.

Revelation (continued)

MCKelvey coverMy second Revelation book plug is The Millennium and the Book of Revelation by R. J. McKelvey (Lutterworth, 1999, 109 pages). Written in preparation for the dawning of the year 2000, it is, in that sense, already dated. However, its approach and message continues to be relevant and I think the book deserves to be better known. It is a brief, sensible and well-considered introduction to the book of Revelation and its concept of the millennium.

The author, Jack McKelvey, is a former principal of Northern College, Manchester and is well-known among the churches of Didsbury. I thoroughly enjoyed his book on Revelation and I recommend it heartily.

McKelvey’s book is very accessible provided you are prepared to handle a few technical terms like ‘eschatology’, and ‘apocalypticism’. Such terms are usually explained when they first appear in the book but I suspect some readers will still find their use off-putting.  (One of the reasons why wild and wacky treatments of Revelation tend to be the most popular is because they peddle their nonsense in language everybody understands. It seems that good books on Revelation require a basic theological vocabulary).

McKelvey thinks the  concept of the millennium is essential to the book of Revelation and that it provides a way for Christian believers to hold together a heavenly hope and life-affirming social engagement in the here and now. He shows the book of Revelation to be a subversive critique of the culture of its day that provokes us to think and act Christianly in relation to our world today. Here’s a taster:

What was true of John’s time is also true of ours. In its mission to the world the church has to develop a critical edge on culture. . . John’s vision offers us an alternative to the prevailing ideology. . . A world like ours, which is in danger of being worn down by evil or opting out of programmes and movements of reform, is thus offered the one thing which it needs more than anything else – hope. . .

The Book of Revelation is an essential part of the New Testament. Without it we would be less prepared and equipped for Christian life and discipleship today. Of all the New Testament writings it is the most systematic exposé of evil and its power to deceive and enslave . . . If John seems to overdo the danger facing his readers this is only because he aims to help them appreciate more fully the nature and scope of God’s triumph and the important role which they themselves are called to play in it. (52)

Hmmmmm., this taking longer than I anticipated. The rest of my top five will have to continue tomorrow.

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