Day 321

Day 321 – Fri 21 July – The kids didn’t lie in much to my disappointment. I made my way to Ballyclare to get a haircut – I’d waited till I was over here as it’s only £4!! The lady remembered me from last year and asked for the kids. It’s ever so slightly different to London.

On the reading front I’m finally getting round to Scott Manesch’s ‘Calvin’s Company of Pastors’ and 100 pages in it’s wonderful. David  and Ange Gibson and the kids came round for the afternoon and it was lovely to catch up. The evening was spent just chilling out.

“Dedication’s what you need if you want to be a Covenant breaker”

I like David Robertson, he’s a Mr Valiant for Truth and I absolutely love his work amongst Atheists. He’s also a controversialist which I particularly enjoy. There are times though when I slightly despair of some of his material.

The latest piece that has got on my goat is his piece on why he does Baby Dedications at St Peter’s, Dundee. It’s been lauded by the FIEC as a piece of generosity by a paedo Baptist, my fear would be that David is selling the farm from us.

It would seem to me that David is conceding to the supposed demands of the religious market-place (give the customer what he wants). David and his preaching teams are very able men and I rejoice in the growth that St Pete’s has known in Dundee, because of the quality of the ministry I am sure that many believers of all sorts of ecclesiastical persuasions are coming to the church. This is a wonderful thing, however they are coming to a confessional Presbyterian Church. There is no mention of baby dedications in the confession, the public directory of worship makes no mention of such things.

From a Biblical perspective the Reformed position is that there are two sacraments commanded of believers, the Lord’s Supper and Baptism. Baptism is to be administered to Believers and their children. It is a sign and seal of God’s promises to us. In fact the Confession of Faith that both David and I subscribe to states that is a great sin to neglect this Ordinance (WCF28:5). The argument that is often made by Baptists is that they can’t see Infant Baptism commanded in the Bible, the simple response surely must be where do we see Baby Dedications commanded?  I would want to argue John Murray’s view that Infant baptism is not merely an option for Christian parents but a divine ordinance ‘Put the sign of the spiritual covenant on the physical seed’.

Infant Baptism according to the Reformed perspective is about what God has done and the promises of God – ‘I will be your God and you will be my people’. Baptism is not about my profession and what I am doing.. Baby Dedications put the emphasis in the opposite place, our ‘human dedicating’. If we see Baptism as the covenant sign of entrance to the church, I’m not sure what sign Baby Dedication is a sign of, apart from wanting Baptists to feel welcome in the church.

The issue with doing both is you are saying the bible can mean either,  so surely the next time you are preaching on the subject you have undermined people’s confidence that the bible is clear about your own confession of faith. If you take the approach, “this is one interpretation and feel free to disagree”, then to be consistent on this will mean taking the same approach on Spiritual gifts, complementarian/ egalitarian,   …  so the issue here is not having folks in church membership who have different views (this is good) but rather having those different views being exercised in corporate worship. Why not, logically, allow speaking in tongues or a woman preaching even if your own Confession of faith doesn’t mandate it? Realistically in the next 5 years our churches will have people who apply to membership who would claim faith in Christ but have a different view on the bible’s teaching on homosexuality and yet expect to be welcomed in. The role of a full confession of faith which we hold to and teach will be even more vital in the decades to come.

Our church membership is open to all baptised believers in Jesus Christ, we have Baptists in our congregation of which I’m glad. I joke that I want Baptists to feel welcome but not comfortable! We are a Presbyterian Church as is St Peter’s and those who come to our congregation surely need to understand that. We can give thanks for their children, we view them as Covenant Children even though they do not have the sign but we long to see their parents coming to a Reformed understanding of the faith and bringing their children in obedience to be baptised.

Day 320

Day 320 – Wed 20th July –  We were up first thing for flights from Heathrow, an army of builders arrived who were eager to see us leave, they were tearing out the old kitchen, knocking through the back wall, and tiling the extension.

Whenever I leave for holidays I’m reminded of Phil Crowter’s joke about the minister who was going on hols who prayed in the car before setting off ‘ Lord, Please look after the church while I’m away’, the Lord shouted back from heaven ‘Who do you think looks after it when you’re here’.

Noah and I went on the train and Chuck gave the girls a lift. BA were terrific, no queuing. We were in Ballyrobert for lunch and then chilled out all afternoon and evening. My holidays are remarkable boring, we stay at my father in laws and there’s masses of space for the kids. I’ve got a load of reading I hope to do but we’ll see. The blog will be even more boring than usual as hard as that is to believe.

Day 319

Day 319 – Wed 19 July – The day before holidays is always pretty relentless, we had team meeting then little admin things. I was at the Drayton Court for lunch with Gethin, trying to do some more prep and finish off various things. I got to see Peter Lofthouse who is doing well and then was back for all the moving things round the house. I had a quick meeting with one of my prospective elders, Gethin led the prayer gathering and then I took one of our new young guys out for a drink with some others.

Day 318

Day 318 – Tue 17 July —  I had a meeting in Westminster with a good friend first thing so I was up before 6. The tube in the morning is an interesting study of people, at first there are the  workmen in their luminous vests, followed by the gym monkeys and thereafter suits. I had an encouraging meeting then headed out to Whitton to have breakfast with Alun Ebenezer before coming back to Ealing. All the time on Public Transport enables reading, at the moment I read better on the tube or bus than I do at home.

Hristo spoke very well at the lunchtime talks on the Rich Man and Lazarus, then I got together quickly with Chris and Gethin to chat through the summer before a meeting with a lad from Cornhill who is considering his options for the future. We had a meeting with our builder early evening and then it was packing things up, moving boxes to get things out of rooms in preparation for their work while we’re away. I popped in on the 5 a side lads curry which led to some really good conversations. The painter and decorator who plays with us said to me  that he doesn’t go around on a Sunday preaching sermons so why I have been painting.

Day 317

Day 317 – Mon 17 July – The day started with a conversation Pastorally with someone for an hour and then it was a whirlwind of carpet fitters, chimney sweepers, plain old builders and some reading on the Heidelberg Catechism. My study has slowed down to a snails pace but I begun to do some work for a sermon on Deuteronomy 6 – the greatest commandment. In the afternoon I had a pastoral visit and then some more thinking ahead for next year.

In the evening I took Gethin along with me for a pretty lengthy Pastoral Visit that I hope might bear some fruit but we’ll see.

Day 316

Day 316 – Sun 16 July – We’ve finished Sunday Schools for the year, so it was a pretty relaxed morning. I was leading and a good number of visitors were out. Chris Roberts preached very well again from Haggai 1:12-2:9. I thought initially it would be too big a chunk but he handled it well with lovely lines, ‘the one thing you need is the one thing you have’. We had communion afterwards which was a great way to end after such a sermon.

We had a house-group BBQ at Lesley’s which was a really good time with  our group, then back home for a bit before evening service. Gethin was preaching on 1 John and made a good start. lots of good insights into the text. I popped in on Peter Lofthouse who has not recovered as quickly as he thought he would, then Matt and Rach were back at ours to chat.

I enjoyed sitting with Noah during both sermons, he does the fact finders in the  morning and then in the evening now doesn’t take notes. It’s fascinating to see what makes him sit up and take notice.