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Showing posts from April, 2005

ESV Blog!

ESV Blog - Bible Giveaway Report

Apparently 8 of the 100 free ESV's went to the UK. I know that I got one, and Dave got one and Rach got one, and presumably Adrian... so who were the other four?

Boundless Grace / Stop trying to save face

Stereotypes would cast genuine Christians as do-gooders and respectable people. Simply, nice. Other stereotypes would brand us hypocrites of course. But the stereotypes needn't stick.

Teaching Jonah 1v1-16 to the Reading CU Cell Leaders today I was struck again by the boundless reach of God's grace. Jonah is hopeless, disobedient to God in the extreme. God sends him from Israel to Iraq so he takes a cruise to Spain. In the midst of Jonah's extreme rebellion against God he is used, in the middle of the Med, to bring a bunch of rough and ready, pagan sailors to know God personally. These sailor were the bottom of the ladder socially, they were sinners in the extreme. Superstitious guys who would call on any god to serve their purposes. And yet we find them thoroughly committing themselves to knowing God, because he saves them.

Later in the story we find that Jonah's big problem is that deep down he knows that God's great desire is to show mercy to sinful people. He ex…

24

24, probably the best TV series ever (at least since Murder One). Having missed a few episodes of the new series we're now up to date! Excellently made, slightly silly and terribly addictive.

Story of a Kingdom

Jonny sent me two sample copies of Story of a Kingdom which is excellent. We've been profiling it at BeginningWithMoses.org for ages (given Jonny is on the editorial team!) but I don't know how widely its been seen. A great simple explanation of the Bible. Ideal to study with International Students.

The Works of Jonathan Edwards

Last night I made my start on the two volume Banner of Truth edition of The Works of Jonathan Edwards which Rich gave me back in February.

I read The End For Which God Created the World, a few years ago in the John Piper book God's Passion for His Glory and absorbed much of Edwards thinking through the quantity of Piper's books that I've read.

I figured it would be worth the investment to read some more of the man himself. Man it's hard work! Small print and dense stuff but it's great! I've started with his discourse on Justification by Faith and we'll see where we go from there... fifteen minutes a day? I could be at this for many years.

Tesco Ergo Sum?

Met with Sam, Paul and Charl for our apologetics training session in Surrey today. This week tackling the title of: Get Rich, Be Happy?. Looking at how to share the gospel by talking about money. Someone has counted up that 15% of what Jesus said concerned money, and there's plenty more beyond the gospels too.

We talked about the state of life in the UK and the student scene when it comes to money. Average adult debt is now £4000 and students are in more debt than they care to think about. Yet still we strive for more treasure now.

Countering that we explored Jesus words, firstly in Luke 12v13-31 speaking into a dispute over inheritance that the real need is to get rich towards God. Secondly, Jesus words that advise us to invest well, from Matthew 6v19-21. And that the best investment is in that which lasts for eternity, not in things that rot and rust. Our choice of investment declaring the location of our heart. Finally we looked at Matthew 13v44 where Jesus tells of the joy of f…

The Functional Centrality of the Gospel!

Josh Harris and Rob Wilkerson are both raving about a seminar at the Sovereign Grace Ministries Leadership conference last weekend.

Here's the brief:
The Functional Centrality of the Gospel in the Life of the Local Church, by Mike Bullmore
One of the greatest challenges, yet one of the most important tasks of the pastor is to help people actually see the connections between the gospel and the thinking and behavior that make up their everyday lives. We know well the centrality of the gospel message but in order for it to have a functional centrality it must be clearly and carefully connected to the real issues – issues of thought and conduct-of people's lives. This seminar will present a biblical paradigm for this kind of pastoral ministry as well as suggest means by which it may be carried out.
I look forward to getting hold of that at some point. This apparently picks up the same themes: Distinguishing Marks of a Genuine Gospel Passion, Mike Bullmore. Something to start thinkin…

A Key to Staying Alive in Ministry, Rest.

The in-law's came for dinner last night which was nice. Among our many conversations was one about rest and staying alive in ministry.

Those in full-time gospel ministry (outside of the ordinary workplace) suffer terribly from overwork on the whole. Somewhere a workaholism has seeped in where people feel that since there is an infinite amount of work to do then they must attempt to do lots of it, and somehow people get confused about the message of the gospel and tie their identity in Christ up in what they do. It has to end.

As Michael Ramsden points out being a Christian is about BEING, not DOING, THINKING or FEELING. It is a matter of ontology (ooo!).

We ask our Relay to keep a full account of the hours they work. This is never done to make them do enough work, but always to ensure they don't do too much. It is all to easy for people work themselves into the ground and burn-out. Somewhere along the line the culture has to change.

In UCCF I think that has begun to happen, thou…

On preaching 2 Chronicles 1-9

My latest study project finally made some progress today. My title is something like "On Preaching 2 Chronicles 1-9". I've theoretically been working on this for a while but not really had time to do much with it. Last week I decided to follow the approach of Biblical Theology Briefings (given my association with that website). I'm going to use our categories there to structure my thinking and work in outlines of sermons on the chapters in question. Biblical Theology Briefings are normally a "thinking out loud" version of a sermon with preachers notes around them.

If I get enough time I'd like to properly work the talks through to script but my deadline is sometime in June which might not be enough to write four talks on top of my normal workload. I'm also straining the format by putting four talks into it instead of one. This may all collapse in on me...

The structure then is:
1. The Sermon Text – Context Issues
2. What the passage is not about – Fals…

Storming challenge to follow the desires of God, in preaching

Sam Storms, author of the excellent One Thing: Developing a Passion for the Beauty of God, has written a great piece on expositional preaching. A real challenge for us to take God's Word more seriously. I appeal to the students I work with to plan their termly Christian Union teaching programmes to work through books of the Bible rather than just working topically. This seems to be an uphill fight, and Storms pinpoints many of the reasons why:
"People will prefer entertainment to exposition ("wanting to have their ears tickled"). Hankering after the new, the odd, the unusual, the sensational, will replace the desire for the solid meat of the Word. They will look to their own "desires" rather than the desires of God to determine what they will hear.
One of the greatest temptations preachers face today is scratching the "itch" of so-called "felt-needs" among their congregation. There is often a significant difference between "felt-nee…

Does God look big in your preaching?

Around the bits of the blogosphere I'm browsing I'm seeing many articles on preaching and on the ESV (e.g. The ESV vs. Dumbing Down or various posts from Adrian Warnock). This is very encouraging. I've touched both themes myself in the last few months.



I'd particularly recommend John Piper's The Supremacy of God in Preaching, to anyone seeking to dig for diamonds instead of simply raking up leaves in their preaching. It's a great book for anyone involved in any kind of word ministry.

Piper draws us into the text to meet with God. He reminds us that we come only through the cross of Christ to the word of God. And he directs us to rub people's noses in the text, that they would come to savour Christ all the more.

Then, our preaching may become less concerned with self-help and self-interest. Then we might become more concerned with making God look big by way of the gospel. Then our preaching might become an act of Christ-exalting worship! As we gather before G…

Reformation!

Having chatted a little with Cat yesterday about church history and the reformation, less coherently than I'd have liked, I thought I'd pop up the five solas - the great convictions of the reformers.

Given what happened with the Charles Simeon quote last week then maybe this has the potential kick off some discussion... This stuff is packed with life!
Sola Scriptura – Scripture Alone is the Standard
Sola Fides – Justification by Faith Alone
Sola Gratia – Salvation by Grace Alone
Solus Christus – By Christ's Work Alone are we Saved
Soli Deo Gloria – For the Glory of God Alone
When I think about these things they capture the heart of what the Bible speaks of. But then I'm not sure whether they dominate our contemporary Christianity - but I long to see them do so.
Do we hunger for God's written work or prefer Sola Strategy?
Do we love justification by faith or are we Sola Guilt-trips?
Are we celebrators of the doctrines of grace or Sola Try Harder?
Do we make much of Chri…

Electricity shall be passed through your body...until you are awake

5.45am yesterday I got up and went to the Bathroom. I found a minor flood on the bathroom floor (as yet still unexplained), and then went to wash my hands only to discover that our lovely metal bathroom taps had become electrified! I, at this point, was standing in a pool of water just to make things more fun...

Let me tell you, this is one very effective way to wake yourself up in the morning! It's also rather scary when you're only semi-conscious at the time because you'd really rather be asleep.

Our landlady was profusely sorry, though its blatently not her fault - something had gone wrong in the immersion heater which is now fixed. Never had any problems with the house before... doing it in style!

Singing Matt Redman's Job-inspired song... "Blessed be your name" at Surrey in the evening was refreshing in the light of this.... Lord, I'm alive. Thank you. At the meeting Rachel spoke on 1 John 1v1-2v17 - on the marks of true disciples which was good to he…

The Gospel-Driven Church

I've been reading Ian Stackhouse's The Gospel-Driven Church this week. This is one of the hardest books I've read in a while. Developed from his PhD Thesis it is incredibly dense critique of the charismatic/renewal movement. What makes it refreshing is that it is a critique from within. Ian has recently become the pastor of one of the popular student churches in my patch so his vision is highly pertinent to my work.

What strikes me first is that as well as being charismatic Stackhouse is thoroughly reformed. We Reformed-Charismatics do exist! He puts high value on the gospel and on preaching it. His plea that we use preaching to continually evangelise the church by biblical preaching of the gospel is very refreshing. This is something I value highly in our church, being weekly called back to the gospel.

As an insider he is also well able to critique Toronto and much of the Church-Growth fads that have plagued the church in recent times. Coming from my own experience of this…

She's on the road!

At the first attempt, my lovely wife has passed her driving test!
Saturday 16th April, 2005.
Why not comment a congratulation to her?

Why have a Doctrinal Basis?

One of the most common questions I get asked these days is why do we get people to sign up to a doctrinal statement (doctrinal basis – DB) to be part of the mission of Christian Unions. Here are just a few of the very positive reasons we are serious about this!

The things we believe shape everything we do. Leaders and speakers and any who exercise ministry in a CU context need to be on board with the core values of the CU. Its common sense really! These core values concern vision, strategy and belief. And they are really important to us. When we ask you to sign a DB we’re asking you to confess your commitment to the vision! This is an occasion for serious thought and for celebration. The use of a doctrinal statement is about fellowship, worship, pastoral care and evangelism. You need to know that being asked to confess what we believe puts us right in the historic mainstream of the Christian church through history.

It’s inclusive as well as exclusive! The church is fractured and divided…

Simeon Says...

Charles Simeon, that is...
A nominal Christian is content with proving the way of salvation by a crucified Redeemer. But the true Christian loves it, delights in it, glories in it, and shudders at the very thought of glorying in anything else"

Nothing to read?

Of the writing of many books there is no end. Wandering around a Christian-bookshop or on Amazon there is so much to choose from, where to start... Here's some of my all time must-reads by Authors. Being in Spain challenged me to read more of the Bible, seeing workers who only really have the Bible makes you realise what you have. I strongly recommend getting a copy of the English Standard Version (ESV) which is a modern literal translation of the Bible. Nothing beats reading an accurate translation of the Bible. Alongside that its good to sit in the company of teachers and other wise believers.

John Piper
Piper is Jonathan Edwards for the 20th/21st Century. Everything he writes proclaims Christian Hedonism - promoting the joy of all peoples in the glory of God. Be warned that Piper is always provocative and not always easy to read but nonetheless worth it. He's written over 20 books covering a range of angles applying Christian Hedonism. I suggest you start with The Pleasures o…

Mixing Religion & Politics?

On returning from Spain we found the General Election to have been called (not exactly a surprise). While in Spain we'd been to Jo's Spanish Evangelical Church (the service was all in Spanish, fantastically translated by Jo for us). The sermon wasn't exactly expository, rather gathering various biblical thoughts together. The topic was most relevant: the role of Christians towards government. This in a church who have known persecution in recent times, but today stands in freedom of religious expression.

On the biggest picture of things Christians know that God rules the world. He is the supreme ruler of all things, though not all acknowledge his rule. A world under his rule was the way creation was made, and how things one day will be.

Tracing forward we see humanity reject God's rule and run things their own way. This is illustrated in Eden as Adam and Eve assume they know better than God's word. We see it at Babel as humanity plots to exalt itself in one place, ra…

Resource

One of the reasons for going to Barcelona was our connections to the CU scene there. When Em and I were on Relay, Dorcas Gonzalez was also on the programme. Dorcas is now back in her native Barcelona working three jobs including working with the Spanish student movement. Her second job is translating English Theology books into Spanish to provide some resources for the movement. Her third, church kids work.

Visiting Dorcas, and talking with Jo Wilson (doing Relay Homestart in Barcelona) was humbling. To see that the resources we take for granted are just not available. Quality tracts, books and gospels that'd we'd readily be able to get hold of do not exist. And its not just the paperwork, the staff are short on numbers and stretched over big areas. And Ben Slatter (a former Relay Homestarter who is still there), says that the Spanish movement is among the better resourced student movements.

Here I find myself complaining that there's only me and my Relay to cover the CUs on…

Love Actually... is on Dartmoor

Just got an email from Dave (one of the guys I've been discipling) and Rach (ex-Surrey evang sec) saying they got engaged today on Dartmoor. Hurrah!

Spirit-Ministry!

Rich wrote (in a talk on 1 Corinthians 12 for a CU in Lincoln)
What does Paul say are the purpose of manifestations of the Spirit in v7? He says that they are for the common good. Christians have spiritual gifts for the good of other Christians, and not, as seems to be the case with the Corinthians, for boasting as to who was wisest in the church.

But doesn’t this then go against what Paul has said in vv1-3 that the point and test of spiritual gifts is that they proclaim the Lordship of Jesus? I don’t think so. On the contrary, I think they are intrinsically linked.

One of my heroes, a man called John Piper puts it like this: ‘…the gifts and ministries of believers in the church are manifestations of the Spirit. They are meant to show the Spirit. They are meant to make the Spirit visible. They are meant to make us admire and love and submit to the Spirit.’

So when we use our Spirit given gifts to do good to others, we manifest God to them. Or to put it another way the way that we manife…

Heartbreaking experience at Montserrat

This is the first of a series of retrospective bloggings about our recent holiday in Barcelona (last week). Instead of a conventional day by day diary I thought I'd reflect on things that struck me.

On the final day we went to Montserrat, a mountain monastary an hour out of Barcelona by train. During our time there we took the funicular to the top of the mountain, sat through a choral rendition and explored the area. The place is impressive - to see creation laid out before us from the heights of the mountain was breathtaking. What a world God has made! Amidst that though I found the whole thing quite heart breaking as a Christian. Here's why:

My first reflection, as I choked in the incense, was from Romans 15v24 where Paul speaks his intention to take the gospel to Spain. This ambition was essentially why the great letter to Rome was written. And as I sat in the basilica at Montserrat I could observe that it had happened. At some point the gospel had reached Spain. But somethi…