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20/06/2010 / John Hanna

The Bible

This is what Charles Spurgeon said about the Bible in his 1855 sermon entitled ‘The Bible’:

The Bible is God’s Bible; and when I see it, I seem to hear a voice springing up from it, saying, “I am the book of God; man, read me. I am God’s writing; open my leaf, for I was penned by God; read it, for he is my author, and you will see him visible and manifest everywhere.

~ Charles Spurgeon


For more on Spurgeon’s life and ministry, check out John Piper’s biography of Charles Spurgeon from Desiring God’s 1995 Pastors Conference.

Related Internet Links

  • Desiring God Home / Blog / Charles Spurgeon’s Birthday and Bible
17/06/2010 / John Hanna

Should churches train their own ministers, or should they be sent to seminary?

This is what John Piper said when asked ‘Should local churches support and equip young men in their congregation who feel called to ministry, or should they be sent to seminary?’

Topic: Education

Related Internet Links

  • Desiring God Home / Resource Library / Ask Pastor John / Should churches train their own ministers, or should they be sent to seminary?
14/06/2010 / John Hanna

Team Talk – England v USA

This talk was at Dungannon Baptist Church at the World Cup Outreach on 12 June 2010.

England 1-1 USA

12/06/2010 / John Hanna

England Lions

England Lions

I can’t get to South Africa to see the lads this summer, but I’ll be watching at Dungannon Baptist Church’s World Cup DBC/World Cup Outreach and I’m supporting… Eng-er-land!

Here’s two videos to get you fired up for the match:

Umbro’s Tailored by England Anthem

Bringing the country together ahead of the action in South Africa, this short film from Umbro celebrates the moment when England comes together ahead of a big match. Young and old, whatever your background, both fans and players come together in unity before a game to sing the national anthem.

‘Bring It Back to Blighty’ – World Cup Song 2010

Stronger than a Lion and Hotter than a Vindaloo! By the people for the people. A Brass Band and 26 devoted fans known as ‘The Clear Champions’ send this plea straight to the hearts and feet of Fabio and the boys. The song echoes the sentiment of millions of England fans. What a day of rejoicing it will be when they Bring It Back To Blighty.

Related Internet Links

10/06/2010 / John Hanna

Doctor Who, Learning Disability and Mental Illness

The new series of Doctor Who is an example of the BBC as a public service in action.

In two recent episodes entitled The Hungry Earth (18:15, Saturday 22 May, BBC One) and Vincent and the Doctor (18:40, Saturday 5 June, BBC One) the subjects of learning disability and mental illness were briefly, but conclusively dealt with.

For many children and teens watching these programmes, this may well have been the first time these two subjects have been introduced to them.

In The Hungry Earth, Elliot says he’s dyslexic and the Doctor replies, ‘Oh, that’s all right. I can’t make a decent meringue!’, and followed up on the Doctor Who minisite with a post entitled ‘Find Out More About Dyslexia’.

In Vincent and the Doctor the topic of Van Gogh’s mental illness is dealt with, with the Doctor pointing out that depression is ‘complicated’, and followed up on the Doctor Who minisite with a post on ‘The Real Vincent Van Gogh’.

More please!

Related Internet Links

  • BBC Doctor Who / News & Features /Find Out More About Dyslexia
  • BBC Doctor Who / News & Features / The Real Vincent Van Gogh
10/06/2010 / John Hanna

Am I Called to the Ministry?

This is what David P. Murray about being called to ministry:

Dr. David P. Murray is Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Murray blogs regularly at Head, Heart, Hand: Leadership for Servants and serves as a contributing writer at TGC Reviews, the book review site of The Gospel Coalition.

I’m often asked, “How can I know if I am called to pastoral ministry?” Here is a very quick checklist of questions I would want to ask in any discussion about a call to the ministry.

1. Do you have a holy desire (1 Tim. 3:1)?

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be a pastor. In fact, when God calls a man, he usually implants a strong desire for the work in his heart.

A holy desire for the pastoral ministry will be motivated by a passion for the glory of Christ and the salvation of precious souls. To a certain degree, every Christian should have these desires. But potential pastors should have them to an unusually high degree.

Sadly, many want to be pastors for unholy reasons: these include a love of books, an ambition to make a name for yourself, or wanting to become a Seminary professor. On that last point, I know there are exceptions, but I get quite worried when Seminary students start expressing a desire to be a teacher of pastors without having spent even a day in pastoral ministry.

2. Do you have a Christ-like character?

Do you have the fruits of the Spirit in your life (Gal. 5:22-24)? Do those who know you say that you are being conformed to the image of Christ? No one is strong in all areas of character. But if I was to give a top three of non-negotiable character traits, they would be (i) love, (ii) love, and (iii) love. Of course, holiness, integrity, patience, and wisdom are all vitally important too. But without a love-filled heart you will never be a shepherd of sheep.

3. Do you have spiritual maturity (1 Tim. 3:6)?

When young men are converted, they or others often start talking about the ministry. There are exceptions to this rule, but in general it is best that young men spend some time working as Christians “in the world” before pursuing a call to the ministry. They will develop spiritual maturity there in a way that they won’t by going straight into Seminary. Even a few years of working among unconverted people has a rapid ripening effect on Christian character. It also helps to build empathy with Christians who are called to be salt and light in factories, offices, etc.

4. Do you have the necessary gifts (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:6-9)?

One of the most useful exercises I’ve given in my class on the Christian ministry was to ask the students to write up a job notice based on the characteristics and gifts found in the passages above. (Maybe I’ll ask some of my students for permission to post their responses in a future blog.) I noticed that one of the recurring gifts in these lists is self-control, or self discipline. This is so utterly indispensable for time-management in pastoral ministry, when we have no boss or professor to keep us on track. If you have a record of being late for work or appointments, or if you are regularly late in submitting assignments, what reason is there to think that you are suddenly going to change when you have to preach a sermon every Sunday at 9.30 am?

Another vital gift is simplicity. Are you able to preach or teach simply? I’m not talking here about “dumbing-down.” I’m talking about taking profound truths and translating them into simple, clear language (as Jesus did). Some men seem to have the opposite gift, the ability to make the simple complicated and confusing. If that’s your gift, then please don’t burden the church of Christ with it.

5. Proven track record

This is related to (3) above. However, I want to make this a separate point to stress the importance of having proven oneself in “less public” forms of Christian service. If a young Christian man will not teach a children’s Sunday school class, or won’t join the “yard clean up team,” or excuses himself from the congregation’s evangelism program, then he is not fit for the ministry of the Word. If he is not faithful in the “little” things, he is not ready for the “bigger” things.

6. External confirmation

Before pursuing the ministry, or studies for the ministry, you should seek input from your local church. You should ask your pastor and elders to examine you in points 1-5 above and give you their own more objective opinion of whether you have the marks of a man called to the ministry. You should seek their prayerful and practical support in going forward. If they express doubt or disapproval, you should usually view that as the voice of God speaking through His Church.

This list is not exhaustive, but it is a useful starting point for anyone wanting to examine and test their “call” to the pastoral ministry.

Related Internet Links

10/06/2010 / John Hanna

Sunday Prep

This is how Charles Spurgeon summarised what he believed the matter of a sermon should be:

Of all I wish to say this is the sum; my brethren, preach Christ, always and evermore. He is the whole gospel. His person, offices, and work must be our one great, all-comprehending theme. The world needs still to be told of its Saviour, and of the way to reach him. Justification by faith should be far more than it is the daily testimony of Protestant pulpits; and if with this master-truth there should be more generally associated the other great doctrines of grace, the better for our churches and our age.

~ Lectures to My Students (Chapter 5: “Sermons — Their Matter”)


Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892) was converted at the age of 16. He preached his first sermon, from 1 Peter 2:7, in 1851 at 16 and became pastor of the Church in Waterbeach in 1852. Later he became pastor of the Baptist Church of New Park Street, Sotuhwark, London, and managed the Pastor’s College and the Stockwell Orphanage. Called the “Prince of Preachers” and “A Master Pulpiteer,” he published more than 1.900 different sermons during his lifetime.

Related Internet Links

09/06/2010 / John Hanna

Genetic study on Jewish diaspora

Genetic study on Jewish diaspora

Scientists have shed light on Jewish history with an in-depth genetic study.

The researchers analysed genetic samples from 14 Jewish communities across the world and compared them with those from 69 non-Jewish populations.

Their study, published in Nature, revealed that most Jewish populations were “genetically closer” to each other than to their non-Jewish neighbours.

It also revealed genetic ties between globally dispersed Jews and non-Jewish populations in the Middle East.

This fits with the idea that most contemporary Jews descended from ancient Hebrew and Israelite residents in the Middle Eastern region known as the Levant. It provides a trace of the Jewish diaspora.

Related Internet Links

  • BBC News / Science & Environment / Genetic study sheds light on Jewish diaspora
09/06/2010 / John Hanna

RE is Inadequate

Religious education is “inadequate” in one in five secondary schools in England, according to watchdog Ofsted.

Ofsted chief inspector Christine Gilbert said: “This report highlights two things – first the need for better support and training for teachers and, secondly, the need for a reconsideration of the local arrangements for the oversight of RE, so schools can have a clear framework to use which helps them secure better student achievement in the subject.”

There were a number of specific concerns about the teaching of religious belief, and many schools visited did not pay sufficient attention to teaching the core beliefs of Christianity.

This isn’t good, RE is one of the few subjects that allows children and teens to think for themselves, allowing them to develop vital skills, as well as gaining an appretiation for Christianity or responding to the message of Christ. While it is the responsibility of the church and not the state to educate children and teens about God, a review of RE should be at the core of the Coalition’s programme for government in order to help create the ‘Big Society’.

Related Internet Links

09/06/2010 / John Hanna

Seeing Things God’s Way

Slide 1

This is an extract of a sermon on Daniel 1, dated 06 June 2010 at the Dungannon Baptist Church Young Peoples’ Service/Children’s Day:

Courage (Daniel 1)

Studying the passage

The opening couple of verses of Daniel sound very matter of fact, but behind them lies an unbelievable amount of anxiety, pain and soul searching. The verses describe what is often referred to as ‘the Exile’. The Exile occurred about 600 years before Jesus and it resulted from the mighty Babylonian Empire conquering Israel. Babylon swarmed like locusts across the border.

Israelites Suffer

Israel’s beloved capital city of Jerusalem was destroyed and the precious Temple of Yahweh reduced to ruins. The Babylonians took Israel’s king captive and they carried back to Babylon large numbers of Israelites as prisoners of war.

Can you imagine what the Israelites would have felt like? Everything they knew had either been destroyed or taken away, everything from their city to their king. Kaput. Gone.

Daniel Suffers

For Israelites like Daniel, the events of the Exile also brought with them a very personal crisis. For starters, they had been torn away from their own homes and families and were now being forced to learn a foreign culture and language.

Can you imagine what Daniel would have felt like? Everything he knew had either been removed or taken away, everything from his home to his language. Kaput. Gone.

With all this came the challenge of how to live as an Israelite in a foreign land. What do you do when you’re now living in a pagan nation instead of an Israelite community? How do you stay true to your identity as an Israelite? Where do you draw the line on particular issues? It is here that strong parallels exist between Daniel and the New Testament Christian. Both face the challenge of staying loyal to God in a world which pressures them not to.

Daniel’s Courage

For Daniel this challenge culminates over the issue of eating the king’s food. It’s interesting to consider why Daniel draws the line on this issue. The text does not fully explain Daniel’s actions, but one likely suggestion is that in the ancient near east, sharing a meal with someone was often a sign of dependence and loyalty to them. It was an act that would obligate you towards them. This is what Daniel rejects. Daniel’s dependence, loyalty and obligations are with Yahweh the God of Israel, and so he refuses to eat.

If you don’t eat well what happens? If you just eat vegetables? No meat, no fruit, no milk, just vegetables?

The clear expectation is that Daniel’s health will suffer by not eating the king’s food. Miraculously, the reverse happens.

The lesson here is that even in tough times, the true man or woman of God stays loyal to God, for, even when trouble and trials occur, God is still sovereign and still in control. This can be seen at numerous points in the chapter. Three times throughout the chapter (vv. 2, 8-9, 17) we are expressly told that God is orchestrating and controlling the events of the chapter.

Despite the turmoil of the Exile, God is not absent.

Indeed, this lesson reaches its climactic point at the very end of the chapter (v. 21): “And Daniel was there until the first year of King Cyrus”. King Cyrus was the Persian king who defeated the Babylonians, and so verse 21 carries with it a great encouragement. Daniel, the one who looked like he might get into serious trouble, survived! Meanwhile, ~

Babylon disintegrated around him. The follower of God survived, and the kingdom of Babylon did not.

Our Courage

John 16:33 was spoken by Jesus to his disciples the night before he was crucified.

Jesus said “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Jesus explained to them that the world hated him, and that it will also hate his followers. The comfort, however, is that Jesus had overcome the world by not giving in to the world. In humble submission to the Father, Jesus was obedient even to death on a cross. In so doing, Jesus has established a kingdom of forgiveness and salvation for his people. It’s a kingdom that will last forever.

In many ways, Jesus’ words capture the main lesson of the book of Daniel. Daniel takes us into an Old Testament time when God’s people are facing opposition and pressure to compromise. The book provides the reassurance that allegiance to God will ultimately lead to salvation, because human kingdoms will perish. Irrespective of how important and powerful they may seem now, human empires will eventually fade. But the kingdom of God is everlasting. In this way, Daniel points forward to Jesus Christ—the one who overcame the world and through whom God establishes his kingdom.

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