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Pitiless Indifference?

Whilst the rescue efforts begin and aid is finally getting through to the survivors I see that the press are raising the seemingly inevitable questions about why? In one sense it is refreshing to see people raise the questions, and yet I wonder whether we really ask the right questions.

How can religious people explain something like this? (The Guardian - 28/12/04), At a loss for an explanation (letters responding to the article)

We live in a society that has dedicated itself to scientific naturalism, a society that take Richard Dawkins as its authoritative philosopher. And yet we seem unable to accept what it proposes. In his terms, surely we have to simply say that this is the pitiless indifference of the universe. That in a scientific world devoid of the divine then bad stuff happens, though even that goes too far doesn't it? Stuff happens is surely as far as we can go.

The reality is that our scientific society has no comfort for us. All it can say is that the world has tectoni…

Devastation in South East Asia

This morning the reports say that nearly 70,000 are known to have died after the South East Asia Tsunami/Earthquake disaster, and the number keeps rising. No easy answers seem to fit in the light of such events. Here though are three articles by John Piper, on living in the light of the tragedies of this world.
Don't Waste Your Life (after the 2003 Iran Earthquake)
Humane Confidence vs. Destructive Doubt (after the 2004 Beslan tragedy)
Tsunami, Sovereignty & Mercy

Give to the South East Asia Disaster Appeal (via Tearfund)
Disasters Emergency Committee

Fools Play This Waiting Game

These days, everyone's a good guy
These days, scales are in your favour
Man says, “I never did, I never hurt
Never double crossed no-one”

Been double crossed by my own mind
(self confused we need therapy)
I say, “Can't be free, defeat myself
Never did my best”


No defence, unclean hands
Guilty man, a godless friend
No defence, filthy rags
Take me in, Take me home

These days, the truth stands twisted
These days, they think things in reverse
Man says, “I’m good, God knows I am
I hold the future in my hands”

Only fools play this waiting game
(Can’t win better quit and walk away)
I say, “I failed, I broke the rules
Ignored your every word”


Lyrics © Dave Bish, 2004
Music © Emmalee Bish, 2004

Who rules the world? How can I be happy?

At Christmas time we surely find ourselves seeking happiness in all kinds of ways. Most years we even do this by attempting to shut ourselves off from questions concerning the state of the world. Escapism cures the pain. We surround ourselves with the experience of Christmas, of family and friends, of carols and mince pies, mulled wine and gifts. For most of us normal life shuts down, the roads are empty and the shops are closed. We emerse ourselves in a fairy tale, wishing for a white Christmas.

Yet every few years disaster or conflict breaks into our solace and ruins the story of Christmas for us. Our pursuit of happiness is interupted by raging wars and the fragility and flaws of our leaders. Is anyone in control? Who really rules the world? These questions seem to stand at odds with our escape to happiness. And yet their answers should really coincide.

Let me take you back into the historic story of Christmas. To the middle east at a time when it knew the heart of the biggest sto…

2004 Top 10... Films I've seen (released in 2004)

I've been thwarted often this year by local cinemas only showing really mainstream stuff so there are some I wanted to see that I've not yet been able to. As before, comment your top ten.

1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Charlie Kaufmann does it again!
2. The Incredibles
Comedic Capers all the way!
3. I heart Huckabees
A bit disturbing but quirky and I liked it. Shame we had to go to Oxford to see it.
4. Shrek 2
More of a good thing and Puss was hilarious.
5. Finding Neverland
Nice bit of drama.
6. Starsky & Hutch
Simply funny! Never saw the originals but nevermind...
7. School of Rock
Also funny and Em (being a nusic teacher) loved it.
8. The Day after Tomorrow
Gotta have one blockbuster in there, and it was so much better than Troy, King Arthur etc.
9. Stage Beauty
Missed at the cinema but caught it on TV last weekend, Shakespeare in Love again but still good.
10. Farenheit 9/11
Very biased and I thought he got a big bogged down but still quite insightful and interesting.…

2004 Top 10... Places I've drunk most coffee

1. Dol.che Vita at University of Reading
2. Sorrento at University of Surrey (since Sept 2004)
3. Cafe Mondial at University of Reading
4. Roots at University of Surrey
5. Costa Coffee in Reading Station
6. Coffee Republic at The Oracle, Reading
7. Costa Coffee in Ottakars, Guildford
8. Starbucks in Guildford
9. Caffe Nero in Winchester
10. Caffe Nero in Reading

After which I descend into a whole load of places I've drunk one cup in...Mine'll be a Mocha or a black Americano thanks... Good Coffee, Strong Coffee! Drinking coffee is of course not so much about quantity but the quality and the company and the conversation. That kind of chart however would only end up offending, so I'm not going there.

2004 Top 10... Places I've slept

1. Home 265
2. My Parents 18
3. The Quinta 16
4. Skegness 11
5. Em's Parents 10
6. Southampton 6
7. Isle of Jura 5
8. Canterbury 4
9. Hothorpe Hall 4
10. A hotel in St.Ives 4

My top ten's of 2004 continues... but I'm lacking inspiration as to where to take this next... Please note the above is approximate and the list of places extends beyond ten...

2004 Top 10... Christian Books I've read this year

1. Stop Dating the Church, Josh Harris
(best book on church I've read, prophetically relevant)
2. Shadow of the Almighty, Elisabeth Elliot
(Biography of martyr Jim Elliot, here is the man who knew it was no sacrifice)
3. The Supremacy of God in Preaching, John Piper
(teaching the bible to make God look really good)
4. One Thing, Sam Storms
(Really helpful book on delighting in God, great illustrations)
5. A new way to be human, Charlie Peacock
(people/presence of God, easy to read, and by an artist which is cool)
6. Temple & The Church's Mission, Greg Beale
(people/presence of God, big book but worth pressing through it)
7. Cinderella with Amnesia, Michael Griffiths
(second best book on church, 30 years old and prophetically relevant, tragically)
8. Christ and his People, David Peterson
(on Isaiah/Old Testament, shows his working really helpfully)
9. Life's Big Questions, Vaughan Roberts
(bible overviews of key topics, with bible study outlines)
10. Sacrifice, Howard …

Don't Waste Your Life

Just browsing Amazon tonight and saw a great deal on a special edition of Don't Waste Your Life by Piper, which includes a DVD of a talk on the same theme.

"You don't have to know a lot of things for your life to make a lasting difference in the world. But you do have to know the few great things that matter, perhaps just one, and then be willing to live for them and die for them.
The people that make a durable difference in the world are not the people who have mastered many things, but who have been mastered by one great thing. If you want your life to count, if you want the ripple effect of the pebbles you drop to become waves that reach the ends of the earth and roll on into eternity, you don't have to have a high IQ.
You don't have to have good looks or riches, or come from a fine family or a fine school. Instead you have to know a few great, majestic, unchanging, obvious, simple, glorious things-or one great all-embracing thing-and be set on fire by them."…

Stand With Us!

Leaders and visiting speakers of the Christian Unions I work with are asked to sign a confession of faith. Often called the Doctrinal Basis or DB this document outlines the core convictions of the Christian Union as well as a it's core vision and strategy.

Such documents are much maligned, often viewed as checks of soundness, objects for exclusion or marks of judgement upon those who cannot sign them in good conscience. This is not the intent!

Confessional Christianity is the mainstream historical form of Christianity. In creeds and statements Christians have expressed their beliefs as a form of celebration and worship, in the act of preaching and teaching, to unite together - not merely around the title "Christian" but a specific Biblical definition of this.

Why be specific? Because what we believe is important. It matters who Christ is. It matters what his life and death achieved. It matters what the future holds. It matters what our priorities today are. As Christia…

Meaning

Just finished Peter Williams book (I wish I could believe in meaning). V.interesting refutation of nihilism and naturalism as inconsistent and incoherent. Whether its adherants would buy his arguments I don't know. The book is a bit long and a bit dense with quotes from people but beyond that is very good. I particularly appreciated the sections on beauty, a concept hard to justify if the universe is meaningless, and yet something it's very difficult to deny when living in this universe.
I Wish I Could Believe

Christmas, is about Christ

This is a plea to preachers, please preach Christ at Christmas. In the last few years I've sat through Christmas sermons telling me Christmas is all about Mary, or all about Joseph. Whilst I don't belittle them, they are not the stars of the story (I'm sure they'd agree). And more so they are not who Matthew or Luke are writing about either. Neither has in mind that we model ourselves upon Mary or Joseph (actually they're not even out to have us model our lives on Christ, in most cases they are determined to show how he is like no-one else). Both gospel-writers are deeply concerned that we see who Jesus is and why he was born. That is what we desperately need to be taught about.

Let's not presume we know. Let's not think we can assume Christ. Rather let us remind ourselves all the more about him. As I've taught through Matthew 1-9 this term I've been overwhelmed by Matthew's portrait of King Jesus. Having my faith stirred. Being convicted agai…

Word of the Year - 2004

Mirriam-Webster report that:
Blog noun [short for Weblog] (1999) : a Web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks provided by the writer

Is the Word of 2004, that which has been searched for more often than any other word on their dictionary. The top ten is completed by: incumbent; electoral; insurgent; hurricane; cicada; peloton; partisan; sovereignty; defenestration. Probably, I'm the thousandth person to blog this fact... such is the nature of blogdom (which probably isn't a real word yet).

What we're looking for on google

A light shining in the darkness of my heart

"Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me."
Psalm 51v10-12, The Bible.


Church meeting this morning took us back to the aftermath of King David's adultery with Bathsheba, words David writes after Nathan has confronted him with the depths of the evil he has committed.

Being reminded of these things gives me no reason to stand superior to him. In my own ways I am as evil. As David says, it is against God that he has sinned (v4). Yes, we wrong each other time and again but our true offense is against God. To be confronted again with this highlights the serious peril of the human condition as most of humanity continues to pursue independence from God. Against God have we sinned.

Talking over coffee we considered the ease with which we seem to be able to omit the above from our message. …

Freedom

It's one of the great ambitions people have. A great desire of the human heart. One of those things that points towards a reality that we seem yet to have acquired. What is freedom and how is it acquired and retained? Common wisdom suggests that freedom is the ability to do whatever we want to do, to cast off all restraint. Thus a society in which everything is permissible is the ultimate place of freedom.

As I've wandered through Paul's letter to the churches of Galatia with my Relay worker and some students this term I've been shaken and inspired by the nature of real freedom.

Paul is a staunch defender of true freedom. He will not have it taken away. Paul says we're right to observe the natural captivity of humanity. We are enslaved to sin and to law. Bound and gagged. And yet when the message of "justification by faith in the death of Christ" comes we can be freed. When we are at last counted clean in the sight of God, not by our efforts but by the …

Let me entertain you?

"How will our people ever come to feel in their bones the awful magnitude of what is at stake in the eternal destiny of the unevangelized, if our homiletical maxim is to start with a joke and keep the people entertained with anecdotes along the way. How will the people ever come to know and feel the crags and peaks and snowcapped heights of God's glory if our preaching and worship services are more like picnics in the valley than thunder on the ice face of Mt. Everest?"
John Piper, the pastors role in world missions

What would Jesus say to... you?

I've just spoken to a small gathering of students at Reading Uni (about a dozen of us in a little teaching room)on the topic of: What would Jesus say to you?

The question is not immediately easy to answer. Jesus wasn't much into formulaic responses to people but dealt with them in their situation. He did speak generally to crowds too and essentially his message was always the same.

We turned to a 3000 year old song - Psalm 2 - for answers. Here we find the writers diagnosis of the world, shaking it's fist at God and claiming to have no need of him anymore. Whether atheist, agnostic, following other gods... ignorant or well informed this is easily observable. The world claims to have outgrown God.

And how does God answer this? The songwriter takes into the throne room of heaven and tells us that God is laughing at us. He finds our fist-shaking to be pathetic and unimpressive. God is not shaken by our efforts to eliminate him. Instead God appoints his Son ruler of the world,…

Evangelism or Deception

"...The more you adjust or obscure biblical doctrine in order to make Christian reality acceptable to unbelievers, the less Christian reality there is when they arrive...If you alter or obscure the biblical portrait of God in order to attract converts, you do not get converts to God, you get converts to an illusion. That is not evangelism; that is deception..."

John Piper on Romans 9

Martyrs Today

In The Times today I read some responses to an article from the previous week, the offending article's main thrust was that since Christians don't do suicide bombing then they don't believe in the after-life. The responses indicate the utter ridiculous nature of the argument. Christians very firmly believe in after-life, as well as life now. The key flaw in the argument of course being that Christians (for all the failures counter examples could produce) don't believe in killing our enemies, we believe in loving them. And if that means laying down our lives for them then so be it.

The article also claims that Christian Martyrdom doesn't happen anymore. This of course is patently false - perhaps not in western Europe, but we don't need to travel to far to find examples in large numbers. Christians live under the banner - "to live is Christ; to die is gain". Normal Christian experience to believe and to suffer for believing (Philippians 1v21,29).

We we…

Lord, let your glory fall?

Following my last study project on The Sovereignty of God in Romans 9 I'm going to spend the next five months looking at the question of:

How to preach 2 Chronicles 1-7?

This combines my two major interests of the church/presence-of-God/temple with my interest in developing a Christian understanding and application of the Old Testament. The ideas isn't just to do something theoretical but to engage with the text and a way that results in life changing application to the life of the Christian. I've not looked much at 2 Chronicles before apart from doing a re-write on Matt Redman's Lord, let your glory fall a couple of years ago.

If anyone has any ideas, tips on useful sermons or study guides on 2 Chronicles that'd be much appreciated!


And now let's move into a time of nonsense?

Nick Page's new book on Christian worship songs (And now let's move into a time of nonsense) is both funny and cutting... essentially as a writer he looks at the language we use when we sing - and the way that most of it makes absolutely no sense unless you spend half an hour searching dictionaries and the Bible... and thats before he turns on the mixed metaphors and poor quality of writing. Makes me think again about some of the drivel I've written.

This book is one that musicians and songwriters and worship leaders ought to read... my concern is whether those who need it most will read it. It's high time we started singing sense, and how much richer our worship will be when we do!

Treasure

Jesus said: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” Matthew 13v44, The Bible.

Delighting in the details

1pm. Sat on the steps at All Souls in London sipping a Mocha in the company of two friends. The conversation is very surreal and the northern one is taking a kicking from an old aquaintance whose briefly back from the US. Earlier I'd arrived punctually at Kings Cross only to find his train getting progressively later as time passed. Such can be our rail system though it served me well today - except at Edgware Road where our train decided to stop for 8 minutes. Like robots under the station announcers control everyone stands and disembarks to board the incoming train on the next platform. Back at Paddington the chocolate machine was sold out of everything. The delay at Kings Cross causes me to spend 52p on a bar I'd tried to get for 50p earlier in the journey.

From All Souls we depart to Brick Lane for lunch and more surreality and a touch of seriousness. I don't quite recall how we got there, except that I don't think we walked the whole way - which is what normally …

In my imagination

I was always an avid reader as a child, I read books like I breathed air. I think I was nine when I read Lord of the Rings, and ten when I read Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Books always facinated me. Bookshelves still form an integral part of the furniture of our house and they're overflowing with all sorts of books.

Somewhere along the line - I think maybe when I was 16-18 and I dropped Arts subjects for Sciences at A-Level (why did I do that??) - I stopped reading fiction. I've returned in fits and starts since then but this year I think I've managed to get back into the habit again and discovered a whole load of new titles that have captured my imagination and taken me into their world.

I've really enjoyed Five People you meet in Heaven, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night, To kill a mockingbird, Life of Pi and Eleanor Rigby over the last few months. Today on the bus I finished Ian McEwan's Enduring Love which is really good. The film of it is out …

I never made a sacrifice?

"Anxiety, sickness, suffering or danger, now and then, with a foregoing of the common conveniences and charisties of this life... all these are nothing when compared with the glory which shall be revealed in and for us. I never made a sacrifice.." David Livingstone, Dec 4th, 1857 (quoted in Desiring God: John Piper, p243)

"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep
to gain what he cannot lose"
Jim Elliot, Martyred, Jan 8th 1956 (quoted in Desiring God: John Piper, p251)


Reading these quotes again today captured much of the challenges of the Reading houseparty to me. Once again I find myself pierced by the famous words of C.S. Lewis that expose what so often holds me back:

"It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is me…

God's Global Eden Project?

Had a nice restful day today, much needed after a hectic fortnight!

These final two talks from the Reading CU houseparty were aimed to be a gentle encouragement and envisioning time about the work of missions for the joy of the peoples of the world in the glory of God's rule. As it turned out Michael Ramsden's material the day before really laid the foundations for this which is a real work of God's sovereign grace in the situation.

God's Global Eden Project (1) - Psalm 67
God's Global Eden Project (2) - Matthew 8-9

These were very challenging for me to prepare and I'm still amazed to see the greatness of God's global vision!

The Weight of Glory!

Home from Reading CU's houseparty. What a fantastic weekend! Digging into the heart of the gospel, into Christian Hedonism and the greatest treasure of all that is found in Christ. Michael Ramsden spoke fantastically on Saturday and got everyone looking forward to him speaking at the CU's carol service and mission.

I spoke this morning, twice on God's Global Eden Project. This seemed to follow on well from Saturday which was good! Really trying to ground what we'd seen of God's glory and the joy found in him as we looked at Psalm 67 and Matthew 8-9. I edited my notes a bit over the weekend so I'll hold back uploading them til I've added in some of the changes.

I'm well excited from seeing what God has been doing in the CU this weekend and also having to chew over some stuff myself. Just great to have my vision of Christ lifted again and to be reminded of the sheer pleasure that is found in him alone.

Memory

Trying to avoid the clichés
I end up creating my own
There’s mystery in my madness
Can I remember my own name?

From one place to the next
Another hungry crowd
Looking for a memory
I can only tell what I’ve heard

They think we met before
But I’m not quite so sure
You saw my deepest secrets
When I put myself on the line

(c) Dave Bish, November 16th 2004

Bittersweet?

You look alive today but
Are you going down the wrong road?
Though the views are electric
But the taste is bittersweet

When you’ve seen the sunrise
How could you ever prefer the night?
The silence calms the storms
But the air is full of fear

Heaven seeps through the curtains
There’s hope in these four walls
One day I’ll walk in freedom
There’s hope for this poor fool

(c) Dave Bish, November 16th 2004

One Big Story!

BeginningWithMoses.org is a web project begun just over two years ago, through a wierd sequence of events which I might recount another time I ended up as the webmaster of the project. Basically it's a tool and resource to help ordinary people like you and me study the Bible, and to help preachers preach it better. We gather together the best articles and book reviews and commission briefing papers. The briefings are sermon texts with comments edited back in. Comments that explain why the preacher said what he said, and didn't say other things. Comments that explain the difference it makes to put the passage in the context of the whole Bible (what we call "Biblical Theology") as well as flagging up some of the common mis-interpretations of the passage. It's updated every month with new material so why not take a look!

BeginningWithMoses.org - The Biblical Theology Briefings

I love the church!

Seriously, I do. Last night, after several months chewing it over, was my talk on Church at Reading CU. Strangely this is just the third of about 10 talks in two weeks which has the danger of me feeling lost in the middle of endless amazing opportunities to teach the Word of God to people. Anyhows, I think it went well I just hope I did justice to the material.

What about Church (Script PDF)
What about Church (Powerpoint HTM)

The next major project is two talks, again for Reading, on "God's Global Eden Project" from Psalm 67 and Matthew 8-9. This kind of develops the church theme further and explores God's purposes to gather people into his presence for his glory and our gladness.

And in the meantime just the small matter of a talk on Colossians 1 for Surrey CU. Last night, whilst I stood up to preach in Reading, Surrey held their first grill-a-christian event. Reports from Guildford suggest it was a good night with about a third of those present non-Christians. And …

New Way to be Human

Spent last night in Egham. A new experience. I was invited to give a talk to a new CU at Royal Holloway University. A great opportunity to speak to a gathering of about a dozen students, committed to mission on campus. Our passage for the evening was John 9 - Blind Man Sees! And he does. I was rejuvinated as I prepared, seeing the way in which Jesus comes both to illuminate the darkness and yet to blind people at the same time.

Evil and Virtue are defined in the narrative of John 9, and they have their focus on what you do with Jesus. Recieve or reject? Love or Hate?

Here are a few of my conclusions...


1) As you confess Christ in corridor, course and clubs, some will come and confess Christ like you do. Some will encounter the greatest of all joys in life. Seeing the only Saviour! Seeing the Light of the world who died to save them. Some will do that.

2) But others will become more and more hardened as you confess Christ before them. The simpler you put it the harder they will get. T…

Stop Dating the Church!

In the last couple of weeks I've discovered the work of Joshua Harris and CJ Mahaney from Covenant Life Church in Maryland USA. Both write with a solid commitment to scripture and above all to the centrality of the cross of Christ.

CJ quotes David Prior's BST Commentary on 1 Corinthians as a favourite quote...

"We never move on from the cross, only into a more profound understanding of the cross"

(Quoted in CJ Mahaney The Cross Centred Life: Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing and Christ our Mediator: finding passion at the cross)

Both have written short accesible books which open up the old truths so clearly. CJs books are all about being Cross-Centred which the students I work with will tell you is one of my passions... always banging on about the gospel!

Harris' has written on my other passion - the church. I'm preparing to speak to Reading CU on the topic of Church in just over a week which I'm really looking forward to. As I've studied Ephesians 2v11-…

Jesus, everything we could never be

Often Matthew 4 is portrayed as a manual on resisting temptation. This really isn't Matthew's intention. Matthew is writing a book about Jesus - not about us. In this passage the big idea is that Jesus is very different from us. It becomes plainly obvious that we cannot substitute ourselves into this story in the place of Jesus.

At his baptism we see Jesus fulfilling all righteousness - as opposed to Israel who don't. Where Israel have sinned and been sent into exile for it. In chapter 3 John has announced the end of that exile and now the King has arrived. King Jesus is unlike Israel. He is righteous. Like them he is described as the Son of God. But this is a son with whom God is well pleased. Jesus is the righteous son of God.

Having been through the water Jesus is led by God into the desert where the devil will tempt him. This time of testing is very reminiscent of Israel's time of testing in the desert. Israel failed the test and was found unfaithful. Jesus is true…

Amazing Grace and Antibiotics

Amazed again and again by God's grace that takes me from being separated from God to set apart for him through the death of Jesus in my place. This week has been an amazing one where I've felt very affected by the work I've been doing in setting God's Word before people.

At the same time I've been tackling an ear infection with the help of some disgusting antibiotics. But in all things give glory to God - it's only an infection, God created scientists who could make antibiotics, God created doctors to diagnose me, God created pharmacists to sort out this horrible pills, God is at work in me sustaining and changing me day by day. (see also John Piper - How to Drink Orange Juice to the Glory of God)

Spoke again at Surrey CU last night. Second talk in the series in 2 Timothy. This time on authentic discipleship, what it truly means to follow Jesus: The Authentic Disciple - 2 Timothy 2

This week on the train from Basingstoke to Guildford I've been reading The G…

“You’re Dave Bish”

Just been listening to some old tapes from when I did the amazing Relay programme back at the turn of the century! When the Matrix was new and Fight Club had already become the best film ever. Anyways, it reminded me of my first minutes at the first Relay conference when I walked down a corridor of the Severn Lodge, Quinta and was greeted with the words “You’re Dave Bish”, by a guy with the name Pod scrawled on his badge. My reply “Erm, Yeah,… and you are?”

The more I write online the more I reveal of myself. The more I preach the more people presume to know who I am but don’t actually know me at all. Last week I was preaching Titus to some Cell Leaders, explaining the way Titus was to minister with sound doctrine and sound lifestyle to model gospel living. I wondered how much people really see my life. How much do I invest everything in the work I’m doing? Am I a mere professional some of the time? Do people see my faults and my gifts? Do they see my failings and my successes, and h…

God's Passion for God

God's passion for God motivates all he does, including saving sinners. Comes as a bit of a shock to see that God's first love is for himself rather than for his people - but it is his love for himself that is the foundation of his love for his people.

Exodus 32 - God's passion for his Name (PDF Script)
Exodus 32 - God's passion for his Name (PDF Article)

Script and accompanying article on Exodus 32. This is part of a study I've been doing over the summer - further articles on Exodus 33, 34 and Romans 9 to follow over the coming weeks.


Life Matters from here to Eternity!

Just home from Forum, our national Christian Union leaders conference in Shropshire. This was my fifth time at Forum and it has to be the best. A real sense of being in it together, of partnership in our vision of making disciples of Jesus in the student world as over 500 Students, Staff and Relay joined together for a week.

It was great to see about 20 from Reading University Christian Union there and great to see God challenging, inspiring and envisioning them. Julian Hardyman of Eden Baptist taught from Hebrews and Richard Cunningham stretched our thinking and our vision under the simple title of "Life Matters".

Forum was directly preceded by the first Relay conference of 2004/2005. Amazed again by the sufficiency of God's grace for the proud and the weak, the struggling and the sinful. Shaken again by Biblical perspectives on discipleship as soldier, athelete and farmer from 2 Timothy. And a real delight to see lives being changed by God.

Relay!

Heading off to the first Relay conference of the year. Relay is our (UCCF) discipleship training programme in a student context. Personally I think it's one of the best one year discipleship opportunities, but then my wife and I both did it so I guess I might be biased. The wonderful thing is that it's all about grace, teaching it, living it, enjoying it.

Somehow I'll be teaching the Pastoral Care seminar which probably isn't something people would immediately connect me with, but I'm really looking forward to it. Just feeling priviledged to be involved in the programme and seeing God transform the lives of those on it.

Church is beautiful!

Church is awesome. As an institution the church probably has one of the worst reputations in the world, down there with all the things we love to hate. But church is awesome. It is. I've been reading Ephesians 2v15-3v11, preparing for a talk in Novemeber... Amazing to see the who, what, how and why of the church!


2v15-18 Who is the church?
A new humanity created by God at the cross where Jesus died.
2v19-22 What is the church?
The place where God lives!
3v1-9 How is the church?
By the preaching of the gospel to all peoples.
3v10-11 Why is the church?
To declare the gospel to the heavenly realms.


God's big plan from the beginning of time has been to create a global people whom he lives with. Human rebellion delayed this but God's purposes are being achieved! Because of the death of Jesus a new humanity, reconciled to God and to each other is made - a new community, that is what church is - not an institution but a family. A family where absolutely anyone is welcome.

And it is a…

Faith is not a leisure activity

As of today wearing symbols of religious faith is illegal in French schools. As a Christian my faith should be evident by my character and actions rather than any external clothing etc. Such things can hardly be legislated against. But are the French going too far? Is this secular fundamentalism? And how much further a step is it for them to ban speaking about faith? Will speaking the name of Jesus become illegal?

Secularism presumes to tell all "religions" that they are wrong whilst denying that it holds convictions of faith inself. And it pushes religious convictions into the private sphere of life... something that Christians (and Muslims) must refuse to do. My convictions as a Christian are universal convictions affecting my entire world view, affecting my approach to every situation. Such things cannot be confined.

Where reality and the internet connect

Driving back from Cambridge we passed the Amazon warehouse... odd to be reminded that Amazon does exist in the real world too.

In August I was browsing the shelves in FOPP Books in Cardiff looking for Anglo-saxon literature (Beowulf). Four weeks later I find myself pre-ordering Douglas Coupland's Eleanor Rigby online. It's not quite the same!



Douglas Coupland views the world from an incredible angle, seeing some of the misery and meaningless that dominates peoples lives in the late 20th and early 21st Century. His insight is always readable, sometimes frightening and makes me glad that I have an unchanging real hope.

Meanwhile the revolution continued night as the first music downloads chart was broadcast. Westlife at number one. Someone save us! Maybe one day we'll never buy books or music on the high street, maybe not... Flying without wings? Shopping without shops?

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About

To help you see where I'm coming from here's some information about me. This should help to keep me accountable.

thebluefish.org.uk
The site started out sometime in 1998 as a spin off from the University Christian Union website I was running at the time. The idea was to put some quality articles online to explain what Christians believe and to pose big questions about like.

about Dave
I'm 25. I grew up in a liberal-anglo-catholic church environment and became a Christian when I was 18. God graciously used the evangelical ministry of Spring Harvest and individuals to teach me the gospel, along with the Anglican liturgy which taught me the truth weekly.

My early experience of church led me to think nothing about sin nor about grace and left me thinking that God was distant... though with some sense of relationship.

Around the age of 18 I became aware of my sinfulness and had no cure. I reasoned into legalism and dipping into the Bible misread the Old Testament law to think I sho…

The World and the Word

Spent the weekend in Cambridge for Sarah Sanderson's (nee Kent) wedding. Second outing in a week for my new suit (after the wedding of the new Mr & Mrs Hearn) and a chance to watch people prancing around at the evening Ceildh. Granted I was dragged onto the dance floor once in the evening but dancing really isn't my thing. Still my uccf colleague who was also at the wedding seemed to be very taken with it, despite early protests. On Sunday we dropped in on Rock Baptist cos another colleague Al Macinnes was preaching there - soon to start as their Church Evangelist. Al's big plea is for churches to hire Evangelists as their next full-time staff member. If one thing is lacking in the church this could be it.

Al opened up Psalm 19 for us, encouraging us to read the book of the world and the book of the word to see God's self-disclosure of himself, with primacy given to the Word which reveals the LORD, as opposed to the World which reveals God. Some see too little in …

Debbie wins Silver!

Debbie Flood wins silver at the Olympics in the women's quadruple sculls. Debbie was a cell leader in the Christian Union when she was at Reading University,... this makes her the first Olympic medalist I've ever met. We knew she was set for rowing greatness then and now she's got it. (Has to be said I've not seen Debbie for at least a couple of years, but congratulations to her!)

"I'm a Christian and believe this is where God's put me."
(Debbie Flood, August 15th 2004)

Reported on BBC Sport Website

More than pie in the sky when you die

Eternal hope makes all the difference. To End All Wars is one of the most moving films I've seen in a while, and to think we nearly went to see The Village tonight instead (though doubtless M. Night Shyamalan has created another excellent film). As I write cell notes on the Sermon on the Mount to see people attempting to put it's principles into practice as these POWs did adds a greater realism. Further challenges too from Sam Storms today - how much does a vision of eternity transform the way we face sin or the troubles of today. Much in line with To End All Wars, what practical real difference does having hope make? Have we become too earthly minded to be of any heavenly use? Is it not the perspective that todays treasures and troubles are only momentary that aids the Spirit's transformation of us as we gaze at the eternal joy ahead of us?

Developing a passion for the beauty of God!

Developing a passion for the beauty of God is the subject of Sam Storms new book One Thing which I've been reading this week. In the same words as John Piper he tells of the way to glorify God being through out satisfaction in God, our enjoyment and delight in the glory of who our God is.

Storms quotes from Augustine's record of his conversion...
“How sweet all at once it was for me to be rid of those fruitless joys which I had once feared to lose! You drove them from me and took their place, you who are sweeter than all pleasure, O Lord my God, my wealth, my salvation.”

Capturing the same spirit as C.S. Lewis....
we are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered to us, ignorant children preferring to make mud pies in a slum because we cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are too easily pleased...

It is as we gaze upon the majesty and beauty of Jesus in scripture that we are transformed -…

Over to blogger

So here we go, proper blogging on the thebluefish.org.uk, the manual html blogging is over and its hello Blogger. Nothing much else should change, except that this page will be easier for me to run!

[I've transferred the old files over onto blogger]

Silence

Summer! Finally its warm and the skies are blue! Had a good short break in Cardiff last week, catching up with friends and chilling around Cardiff bay. The rest of the time is writing cell notes on Matthew 3-7 (awesome!). More to do in the coming weeks. Meanwhile I'm listening to Tim Hughes' new album When Silence Falls... possibly the first CD I've bought this year... well worth it. Made a few changes to the Cell Page to make things more accessible

Changes

Just back from a couple of weeks working in our head office in Leicester. Helping redevelop our website resources. First pro-web work I've done in four years... sharpened me up a bit... hopefully the benefits of that will show here and at beginningwithmoses.org over the coming months. Commuted from my parents most of the time which was good if a little retro... haven't worked from there for several years... Shock recent news is that at 52 my Dad is starting a PGCE course this year to become a science teacher....

Passionate about the word

Christian Union Staff training this week - on supervising RELAY (recent graduates on our discipleship training in student context) and teaching the bible.

Tough challenges from Marcus Honeysett to dynamic effective God glorifying discipleship and to not making the Bible bland when we teach it, instead to teach to the glory of God, with passion not to simply pass on information but to build faith and joy rooted in the truth in God's Word!

Recommend reading John Piper's The Supremacy of God in Preaching

Felt needs

"if it was my job to meet felt needs was it would take no holy spirit, no gospel, I know what your felt needs are, I can make you feel really good by stroking them... you're all vain, if I tell you, you look really nice you look this morning you'll like me and come back to this church and probably give, if I tell you you're smart and intelligent we'd grow a big church. It's easy to meet felt needs takes no holy spirit, no god, no gospel. What's the hardest thing in the world is to wake the dead is the hardest thing, to open the eyes of the blind, to give ears to the deaf,..." (John Piper, 14th Dec 2003, to his own congregation).

Cross

Had a good weekend down at Romsey Baptist Church which is a great venue. I did two of the talks (on 1 Cor 1 and Galatians 6) which are above, and Steve Philpott did the others. Girls weekend ran parallel to us at Above Bar Church Southampton.

Holiday in Jura

Jura, Scotland. Wonderful Holiday. Hours from anywhere. Time stands still. And yet I'll look to heaven, even the nicest bits of this fallen world aren't a patch on the place that I'm living for.

Great David's greater son

Spoke at Reading CU last week on 2 Samuel 7 - Great David's Greater Son. Desperate to see God glorified and enjoyed by all. In him is fulness of joy forever. His love is better than life. In him is pleasure forever more. And the way to get this is through believing in God's great King Jesus who died on a Roman Cross 2000 years ago so that we could come to know and enjoy God as our saviour, Lord and treasure.

Been working on cell notes on Isaiah 6:1-9:7. The big idea in these studies in Isaiah is that Judgement is imminent for Judah but the prophet calls them to trust in the Lord. Applying this to us we are called to fix our eyes on the faithful one, if we hear his word then we will live. So, let us FIX OUR EYES ON THE FAITHFUL ONE, JESUS CHRIST. The key question is what will you do with Christ? Will you stumble over Christ and so remain in your sins and face judgement? Will you find in him sanctuary and salvation because he died for your sins?

I exist to make Jesus famous

Vaughan Roberts tells the story of a 14 year old girl asked to write a vision statement for her life, she wrote - "I exist to make Jesus famous". Her heart is the same as that of John Piper who says "Mission exists because worship doesn't".

Christians are utterly committed to telling the world about Jesus because the world treads the glory of Jesus name under their feet and this is not acceptable. The Name of Jesus is greater than any other. His beauty and love are beyond all others. It is better to spend just one day knowing Him than a thousand years elsewhere. The chief end of man is to glorify God and that means enjoying him above else. Turning down potential joy in other things and investing everything in Jesus Christ. Boasting in nothing but the Cross of Jesus Christ. Considering all else loss compared to knowing Jesus. Living all out to make Jesus famous.

He is no fool who gives up that which he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose - Jim Elliot

Fame academy

Finished a cell resource today 'fame academy' to equip cell groups for mission. And I wrote this stuff...



No Christian is perfect. No Christian has all their theology perfectly correct. We all carry error in different areas. None of us is particularly keen on Christians having error in their thinking and practice. Truth is important. Truth is constantly under fire. The natural tendency of man is towards error.

So what do we do about it? Often the first step has been to call down fire on those in error. Let me suggest that this is not the best first step. It seems to me that we must do several things before we can possibly get to that point. First, watch our own life and doctrine. Just as Jesus said, get the plank out of your own eye. Let he who is without sin throw the first stone.... if we claim to be without sin we decieve ourselves... I have responsibility for myself before I have responsibility for my brother.

Second, I do have responsibility for my brother. I do not want peo…

Spring Harvest 2004

Just back home from two weeks at Spring Harvest's two student weeks in Skegness (Student Evolution and Word Alive). Glad to be home but how refreshing.

Student Evolution saw about 600 students gather for a week of teaching and worship. I found Nicky Gumbel's expoistion of Ephesians and a series on church by Ness Wilson and Rev. Chris Russell particularly helpful. Evening celebrations were also good. Mike Pilavachi opened speaking on how the Spirit has been given for mission. Esther Stansfield reminded us that all of life matters. Pete Greig prophesied on the need to see things as God sees them. Simon Ponsonby of St.Aldates Oxford was excellent in speaking on the need to expect more - that we don't have all of the kingdom now but we do have some of it! Challenging us that we should want more of God to bless the world not just for ourselves. This was a theme in the week - that we are blessed by God to be a blessing. Simon challenged us to get into Romans 5-8 and understand w…