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Showing posts from October, 2005

The Necessity of Atheism (1811)

Grace on the road: Part 4 of 7

Part 1 - Eternal life is for those who know Jesus
Part 2 - Eternal life comes to those who ask
Part 3 - Eternal life transforms this life

Part 4 - Eternal Life is for the Humble
LUKE 13v22-14v35:

Our journey with Jesus into the nature of Authentic Spirituality continues. Now we’re confronted with the nature of true greatness… in a radical confrontation with religious pride and selfish ambition Jesus redefines what it means to be great. To follow him will mean being last, being humbled. And ironically this will in fact entail great gain – great exaltation for us. We’re warned to make sure we know what we’re getting into, but the rewards are infinite.

13-30. Luke again shows us Jesus interacting with people on the road. Here, as he goes along teaching, someone asks him a question – “are only a few going to be saved”

Jesus turns a potentially academic question back on those listening. “make every effort to enter” his words are urgent. A plea for them to respond to what they’ve heard. Urgent b…

The Relevance of Preaching

"Preaching must be relevant, I'm sure we would agree. But was does "relevant" mean? Who determins what is relevant and on what basis..... we frequently begin by "scratching where it itches". We start with a commonly felt need or problem, which may be anything from low self-esteem to animal rights or global warming. There is nothing wrong with such an approach, and, indeed, it may be necessary in some situations. But reducing the Christian message to a pragmatic one of helping us feel better or make the world a better place to line in.... the gospel not only defines the problem and God's response to it, it should also define the Christian buzz words that we use to assess sermons and talks. One might be tempted to say that two thousand people at a convention can't be wrong when there is almost total approval of the speak's addresses. At the risk of sounding a little cynical, I would have to say that it is entirely possible for them to be wrong. S…

The Value of Church History

Listening to: The Story of Calvinism, by Phil Johnson.
Church history is vital to know - to see the errors that have come again and again, and to be drawn again to the truth. I become a Christian as an arminian by default, like Phil Johnson did, before latterly seeing that the Bible teaches a calvinist teaching on God's grace and God's sovereignty... rather than elevation of free will. Calvinism is much misunderstood and much maligned and yet full of life, since it is the teaching of the scriptures. Listen and learn :)

Reading: Five English Reformers, JC Ryle
JC Ryle writes with a strong anti-catholic polemic, but quite rightly draws our attention to the heart of the gospel, and the need to stand for it. I'm struck reading the stories of the martyred reformers that they stood against transubstantiation - that is, that the bread and wine of communion actually become Jesus' body and blood. What's so bad about that? That it turns the thing into a re-sacrificing of Christ…

"the true heart of the Bible's message is 'I love you'"

Recieved this in a e-mailout this week...

"One of the truly bizarre things about Christianity is the way we humans see the message through tinted spectacles. And not always rose-tinted, either.

The Bible seems to say contradictory things. (I know I'm going to raise a few eyebrows here, but bear with me for a while.) One of the most frequently repeated phrases talks of God's "steadfast love and tender mercy". Yet in other places it refers to God's "fierce anger", sometimes directed towards nations who were abusing his own people, sometimes directed to his own people themselves. How can we square "fierce anger" with "steadfast love"?

Part of an answer begins with the Bible's insistence that there is a fundamental unity at the heart of things. The Lord your God is One. So if God's people experience painful times then God must lie behind that experience; there is (as a famous politician used to say) no alternative. So painful e…

Jesus rules by his word

January 1997, an interview at Warwick University. I was offered a place to study Maths, conditional on getting AAB in my A-Levels. Last night I returned to speak to the Christian Union, on Mark 4v1-34.

I'm delivering this talk again somewhere else soon so any comments/feedback welcome.


Theme – Jesus rules by his word
Aim – That we submit to Jesus' rule, believing his word and receiving forgiveness from him!


Charlie Brown says - “It doesn't matter what you believe, so long as you're sincere” - is truth now irrelevant, surpassed by sincerity... didn't feel like that as David Cameron was asked if he took drugs as a student... his refusal to answer met with great offense....

Some try to say, truth is a thing of the past – arrogant... unnecessary... And yet no one likes to be lied to.

Someone once said that if someone tells you that there is no such thing as truth... then they are asking you not to believe them. So don't. We simply can't liv…

Elizabethtown & the cinema in 2005

Just home from free empire preview of Elizabethtown. Superb, funny.... all about life. Probably the best film I've seen this year.

Directed by Cameron Crowe (Vanilla Sky, Almost Famous, Jerry Maguire), starring Orlando Bloom (with an american accent, hmmm), and Kirsten Dunst (v.funny). A rambling journey of discovery - bit like Almost Famous I suppose.... Guy loses a company like Nike a billion dollars and meets a girl as he learns to enjoy life. And as always with Crowe, to the accompaniment of an excellent soundtrack.

FILM 2005: Updated, October 2005.
Not a classic year at the cinema yet but looking a whole lot better now than earlier this year....

1. Elizabethtown (superb, success, failure, life)
2. The Island (mindless fun)
3. Hotel Rwanda (deeply moving)
4. Hitchhiker (crazy fun)
5. Broken Flowers

6. Melinda and Melinda
7. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (not quite the royal tennenbaums)
8. Hitch (funny i suppose)
9. Sin City (wierd, cool)
10. A Lot Like Love (life, plan, love)

And some…

Now thats what I call pastoral care

"If the professed convert distinctly and deliberately declares that he knows the Lord's will but does not mean to attend to it, you are not to pamper his presumption, but it is your duty to assure him that he is not saved. Do not suppose that the Gospel is magnified or God glorified by going to the worldlings and telling them that they may be saved at this moment by simply accepting Christ as their Saviour, while they are still wedded to their idols, and their hearts are still in love with sin. If I do so, I tell them a lie, pervert the Gospel, insult Christ, and turn the grace of God into lasciviousness."Ouch. C.H. Spurgeon. (HT: Rebecca Writes) Can you imagine the offense that would be taken if we did that today? Are we offended by Spurgeon? Or perhaps by Jesus himself? See also: Spurgeon Archive, by Phil Johnson - today blogging Spurgeon on Substitionary Atonement

Grace on the road: Part 3 of 7

Part 3: Eternal life affects this life, be ready, repent

At first glance this long section might look quite unconnected. But its not!
An overall theme of how Eternal Life transforms this life. The saying often goes that some people are too heavenly minded to be of any earthly use. This passage totally refutes that. In fact we see that only the heavenly minded will be of any real earthly use.

13-21. The parable of the Rich Fool. This is a simple parable. The point is explicit at the end – this life is accountable to God – we should be rich towards God not storing up riches for ourselves. Life is more precious than earthly treasures – and when God calls us to account that is all we have. Be rich towards God.
22-34. The theme continues. One might easily turn when told to let go of earthly treasures, to worry…. And Jesus now addresses anxiety. Over and over he shows the futility of worry… our lives are valuable, God will provide for us. This must be believed. It is a belief issue. And in con…

Grace Church Bristol

This weekend we visited the in-law's an took the opportunity to visit some friends, Matt & Lizzie, at Grace Church, Bristol. Grace Church is the only Sovereign Grace Ministries church in England (there are also two in Wales). So, apart from hearing CJ Mahaney at the New Frontiers conference in July, this was our first first-hand encounter with SGM. Superb!

The church is small and very friendly - they advertise themselves as being "by his grace - for his glory" and that rings true in action. The wonders of the Cross and the importance of God's word are evident in their meeting. It was great to sing truth-packed songs like Before the throne of God Above and A Debtor to Mercy Alone.

Pastor Nathan Smith preached on the Omniscience, Omnipresence and Omnipotence of God from Psalm 139, in a series on the charater of God. He directed us to join David in praising God because of his character and to be humbled and comforted. This really struck me - we easily think that God k…

Never forget where you've come here from

(newly added to my unwritten wishlist: J.C. Ryle, Five English Reformers)

Ant observes that dead guys have lots of important things to say. And Mo is talking about God and reminded me that there is nothing new under the sun. I caved and subscribed to the briefing this week - great to read up some reformation history. Latimer was a legend. Garry Williams is coming to our church in November to give us some more reformation history. Superb. (Kath, before you flame me for getting the briefing, somehow I'm now also a semi-regular reader of theguardian, humbled i've stopped reading the times)

Church history and personal experience are so helpful as guides (under, not over the Bible). My church experience of anglo-catholic-liberalism, toronto-style-pentecostalism, evangelical-baptist and most recently anglican-conservative-evangelicalism is such a help to be able to understand the wide range of people I work with, but also to gain clarity as to how it looks to live under the rule of K…

Galatians (Part 5 of 10) - Sons not Slaves!

Parts 1-3
Part 4: Christians are not under law, we never were

Part 5 of 10: SONS NOT SLAVES

"You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise."

1. Christians have a new identity - sons of God. This isn't just something that is done, thought or felt. Its a matter of being. How is that attained? By faith in Jesus Christ. By belief in truth. And that entails two things - being baptised into Christ and being clothed with Christ. Death and resurrection of the old life, lived not as a son.... and putting on Jesus as clothing - something that covers completely, giving a share in his identity. Look at a Christian, and, imperfectly, you see Jesus.

2. And this is something for all Christians. Three times he …

Douglas Coupland: jPod (Due 2006)

jPOD - Douglas Coupland

"A lethal joyride into today’s new breed of technogeeks, Coupland’s forthcoming novel updates Microserfs for the age of Google.

Ethan Jarlewski and five co-workers whose names start with J are bureaucratically marooned in jPod. jPod is a no-escape architectural limbo on the fringes of a massive Vancouver game design company.

The six workers daily confront the forces that define our era: global piracy, boneheaded marketing staff, people smuggling, the rise of China, marijuana grow ops, Jeff Probst, and the ashes of the 1990s financial tech dream.

jPod’s universe is amoral and shameless. The characters are products of their era even as they’re creating it.

Everybody in Ethan’s life inhabits a moral grey zone. Nobody is exempt, not even his seemingly straitlaced parents or Coupland himself, as readers will see.

Full of word games, visual jokes and sideways jabs, this book throws a sharp, pointed lawn dart into the heart of contemporary life. jPod is Douglas Coupla…

Grace on the road: Part 2 of 7

Part 1: Eternal Life comes by Knowing Jesus

Part 2: Eternal life comes to those who ask, not those who act:

Journeys on the road to Jerusalem with Jesus, walking through Luke 9v51-19v27. Once again some really familiar content, once again too much to consider everything....

1-13. Jesus is talking about prayer but more is in view. Jesus is again spelling out what it means to have eternal life - as in the previous section. The portion of the Lord’s prayer here is a thoroughly God-dependent prayer…. For God’s name to be honoured… God’s kingdom to come… for God to provide… for God to forgive… And Jesus assures us that God will answer. A friend would respond in time. God will certainly respond, and give good gifts. In fact – if we ask our Father he will give us the Holy Spirit.

This is the second of four Holy Spirit references. In 10v21 Jesus’ rejoiced in the Spirit, and in 12v10 is the warning against blaspheming the Spirit, and 12v12 assurance that the Spirit will give us the Words to say. H…

Martyred 16 October 1555

What a day to stand and preach the gospel (though of course no more special than any other), but reminded that 450 years ago an hour or so away in Oxford, Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer were martyred for defending the gospel.

Famous last words:"Be of good cheer, Master Ridley, and play the man, for we shall this day light such a candle in England as I trust by God' grace shall never be put out."Elsewhere:
Mo: Evangelical = no head on my shouldersRosemary: Manuscript Bible Study and Pomo Hermenuetic


Today I preached on Sabbath at church.

10, 9, 8, 7, 6...
the timer counts down in anticipation. Nervous. Excited. A wedding day. The day exam results are published. Waiting for a call after an interview. The last day of the Ashes series. Or simply that feeling as the clock ticks towards 5pm on a Friday afternoon...

The things we hope for spill backover into our lives. The things we do pointing towards the hope we have.

An athlete rises early to train in anticipation of one day crossing the finish line at the Olympics.... a student rises, slightly later, to study in anticipation of getting their degree. Ambition shapes our actions. Patterns of life reveal our priorities.

Let's turn to Genesis 2v2-3....
1. God's Rest – Hope of Heaven!
2v1 - Thus the heavens and the earth weree completed in all their vast array... v2-3 “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and…

Why do we believe in God?

Why do we believe in God?

Ahead of a forthcoming BBC TV series, and book - THE STORY OF GOD, Robert Winston was writing about the subject in yesterday's Guardian. Exploring whether belief in the divine was based on our nature or nurture he stumbles around unable to find clear reason why we should believe. "Although religion might be useful in developing a solid moral framework - and enforcing it - we can quite easily develop moral intuitions without relying on religion. "Ultimately, it seems concluding that:"So religion does not seem to be produced by a specific part of our psychological make-up. Is it more likely, then, that religious ideas are something of an accidental by-product created by other parts of our basic blueprint, by processes deep in the unconscious mind that evolved to help us survive?"Or maybe, God is believed in because God is real? Just a thought... We posture and postulate about this, but at the end of the day - a real God who seeks to be be…

Suffering and the Sovereignty of God

The talks from this conference are now online to download for free (HT, Justin Taylor)

Also, thanks to Adrian Warnock for pointing out Theopedia (Wikipedia, for Theology)

Christians are not under law, we never were!

Galatians 3v15-25 is hard to understand. Really hard. But Oh it's worth the hard thinking. It's been great to day to spend several hours rubbing my nose in God's word, with Dave & Debbie. And here's what I'm thinking:

"Brothers, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no-one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case" v15.

At first glance that doesn't seem very "everyday" to me. But the idea is of a promise between people. An unbreakable commitment. A rarity today, but hopefully we still have the idea of a promise. Where a promise must be kept - a promise that can't have extra conditions added to it, or be cancelled out by anything. So the scene is set.

"The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say "and to seeds", meaning many people but "and to your seed" meaning one person, who is Christ. What I mean is this: The …

G.A.M.E.S with Calvin

Paul Huxley is blogging some quality stuff on calvinism. Worth reading. Meanwhile on my way home from supervising my Relay workers today, I had a think about things as I understand them. Try this for size:

G - God always acts for God's glory.... so should I.
A - Abundant grace because of the Cross... to save and keep me.
M - Maximum joy is found in God... so seek joy not sin.
E - Election implies evangelism... no one has a good excuse not to believe.
S - Suffering is normal for now... so don't seek your own comfort.

Probably not comprehensive but they're things exciting me today :)
Also v.excited to see from Galatians 3v15-25 that we're not under law, and were never under law! More on that later.

"If he didn't have the Bible he'd have nothing to say"

Tim Challies reflects on the Desiring God Conference. I don't quote this to exalt John Piper, but because it really challenges me about my preaching:"When Piper preaches he seems to do little more than bridge one Bible verse to the next, building to a deeply biblical conclusion. With some preachers you begin to feel that they could get along just fine without the Bible, but with Piper you feel that if he didn't have the Bible he'd have nothing to say."

God's Gift to Mankind: Self-Awareness or Salvation?

Mitch Albom, in his interesting & thoughtful short novel THE FIVE PEOPLE YOU MEET IN HEAVEN writes:"This is the greatest gift God can give you: to understand what happened in your life. To have it explained. It is the peace you have been searching for" (p37)Abraham at CI SONGS offers a different perspective in his song, The Gift You Give"From you our life arrives
And into you departs.
Then we begin to live.
You are the life of lives.
You are the heart of hearts.
You are the gift you give.

You are the soul of every soul
That comes to you to be made whole.
You are the one for everyone
Who longs for life—life in your love—
To finally see the beauty of
The gift you give of Christ the Son."
Is God's best gift to us self-awareness? Or perhaps something of greater worth?

Grace on the road : Part 1 of 7

Over the next two months I'll be walking through Luke's gospel each Monday. I'll follow Jesus on the road to Jerusalem, from Luke 9v51 to Luke 19v27.

This is a journey full of the most familiar stories, but ones that we almost always take out of context. In context they might mean something unexpected for us – but they will be full of life and grace. Luke piles up the stories to teach us, carefully arranging his material.

And he teaches us about Jesus, and about grace.... not about us and not full of guilt-trips that so often come from our study of the gospels. We begin at Luke 9v51 to 10v42...

**Nearby, Ed Goode is on the same road.

This is a big passage to start with. There is lots of stuff in it and one very familiar parable. We don’t have time to explore everything – we need to be disciplined in working through things quickly. This will be rewarding when we see the bigger picture. The question raised at the start of the good Samaritan parable recurs at the end of our j…

Political Questions

Two political stories chipping further away against the "christian" roots of the country. I'm no believer in this ever having been a christian country, nor in the real benefits of imposing "christian" laws on people.

Legalism is no good for believers, how can it be any good for non-christians, other than making them think that Jesus Christ wants to restrict them. Hearing people speak in favour of these bills on the radio they're clearly wanting to move away from Christianity. And yet the Christian gospel is all about freedom and life, grace and hope.... something people don't seem to understand.

Meanwhile people still make moral arguements for these new laws - though unable to give any grounds for those things when they're stepping out of a supposed judeo-christian framework. The Bible tells me that human thinking gets depraved and twisted. I think that's what I heard in action today.

I have questions...
Should Christians be seeking to spare societ…

Galatians 1v1-3v15 (Questions)

Here's my study questions on Galatians 1v1-3v1 (three studies). These are freshly written for this year, somewhere on site are probably some earlier studies I wrote last year.... I'm astounded again to see the freedom we have in Christ, to see the value of the Cross and God's revelation of the gospel.

Galatians 1.

God's Gospel
What has God done? (3-5)
Why has God done this?
How do we feel in response to this?
How might we try to save or keep ourselves?
How does our response to it relate to God's glory?

God's approval
What accusation is Paul countering here? (6-10)
Why might Paul be accused of trying to win approval?
How might we seek to win approval?
What if we were rejected?

God's Revelation
What is the source of the gospel? (11-24)
Why would Paul want his readers to know this?
How will we keep God's revelation central to our lives, and our ministry with students?
What might distract us from this?

Galatians 2v1-3v1 “The Cross-Centred Life”

1-10 United in the gospel
Why …

Aircon for my soul

For a while I'm putting any new songs that I write over on this blog: Aircon for my soul. Output of songs is a little slow because we're hoping to do some recording in the next few months, so am focussing more on existing stuff than writing new ones.

King of the World?

The Rock Badger is blogging about the Sovereignty of God. If you've not been there before, now's a good time to start. Here's the first two of his posts on this:How I came to believe the doctrines of gracePerspectives on God's Sovereignty

Songbird without a song

I have lost my voice and i want the whole world to think and appreciate the small things in life! Like being able to speak...communicate and express yourself verbally... We take so much for granted and when we lose something, we begin to appreciate it more. Thank you Lord for small mercies...

Desiring God Conference (Live-Blogged)

Doug McHone (Coffeeswirls) and Tim Challies are blogging from the Desiring God conference on Suffering and the Sovereignty of God.

This from Justin Taylor, interviewing John Piper caught my eye: Q. You’ve become known as a champion of God’s control of All Things. Did you grow up with this belief?
A. no I didn’t start off believing this way. My dad lived the sovereignty of God. He doesn’t call himself a Calvinist and calls that a bad word. The act of regeneration precedes and enables faith, but he disagrees with this, and is totally inconsistent, but he’s my dad and I love him. Growing up, I heard and absorbed a lifestyle of radical dependence of God. At college though, I denied the full sovereignty of God. At Fuller Seminary I saw evidence of God’s sovereignty. I would go home after class and cry because my whole world seemed to be coming apart. Romans 9 devours free-willers like me. In time, my mind was conformed by the word of God.
What Paul writes in Romans 9 nailed things for me too.…

Living La Vida Cruzcentrica

Dave, Debbie and I resolved to keep the Cross-central to our lives. Here's something from about half a century ago, I think helps us, from A.W. Tozer - The Old Cross and the New:

Unannounced and mostly undetected there has come in modern times a new cross into popular evangelical circles. It is like the old cross, but different: the likenesses are superficial; the differences, fundamental.

From this new cross has sprung a new philosophy of the Christian life, and from that new philosophy has come a new evangelical technique -- a new type of meeting and a new kind of preaching. This new evangelism employs the same language as the old, but its content is not the same and its emphasis not as before.

The old cross would have no truck with the world. For Adam's proud flesh it meant the end of the journey. It carried into effect the sentence imposed by the law of Sinai. The new cross is not opposed to the human race; rather, it is a friendly pal and, if understood aright, it is the s…