Skip to main content


Showing posts from November, 2006

Why can't Christians keep their faith private?

The secular age we're living in seems to think that religion is best kept to the margins. Some are simply annoyed that Christians want to express their faith in the workplace or be located in Students Unions. At least from this side of the fence, it reads like a frustration that Christians wont retreat into Chaplaincy buildings, private piety and keep out of the headlines.

It feels like the best we're permitted is that we can have Jesus, so long as we keep him in our pockets and only let him out at Christmas (and sometimes not even then! - Winterval anyone?).... Or we can have our Christian beliefs but we'd better not let them affect the way we live (which sounds very much like being asked to be a hypocrite...). The world that is telling us this seems to be exterting a very public worldview, claiming all of life for itself... but putting that aside for a while, can this pocket deity Christianity work? And if not that, then what will it look like for a Christians to go publi…

Five Quotes

A round-up of five quotes from the blogosphere and beyond....

Richard Cunningham in The GuardianTODAY: RICHARD CUNNINGHAM SPEAKING AT READING UNIVERSITY: 1pm Palmer 108, "The arrogance of Christianity- In a relativistic age how can you say that Jesus is the only way?""What will prospective employers think of universities that churn out students with such faddish, brittle and incurious world views? Real tolerance presupposes judgment. You have to believe you are right and the other person is wrong in order to exercise tolerance. If you don't think someone is wrong, there is nothing to tolerate and so the only thing promoted is indifference. GK Chesterton once said, "The purpose of an open mind is the same as that of an open mouth - to close it again on something solid." If "open-mindedness" is being defined as a refusal to make judgments about religious truth and sexual ethics (for instance), then we are prone to contracting a form of intellectual …

Gutsy Faith (Hebrews 10:19-11:3)

Download MP3: Gutsy Faith (Arborfield Church, November 26th)I wish I could have your faith? Have you ever said that? Has anyone ever said that to you? It's the 21st Century, faith was supposed to have become a relic of history, and yet it seems to be making a resurgence. A scientist recently tested the hypothesis “God exists” and came up with a 62% probability of it being true. How likely do you think it is that God exists?

But what is faith? Seems to me that when we say “I wish I could have your faith” what we often mean is, I don't have the mental weakness to believe. Is faith just a commendable quirk of the weak willed? And then we say of others - “He has really strong faith”. But what do we mean? Don't we often mean – he knows it's not true, but he has so much “faith” that he can still believe. But people who believe what isn't true aren't nice and quirky, they're deluded. And those who believe what they know isn't true aren't heroes they're…

Seven Days

1. Train hits cow
How the announcers kept a straight voice on this one I don't know. Comedy moment of the week.

2. Greg Morgan
Hearing the story of the tyre again was great. And having you teach us God's word.
3. Church of EnglandMeeting with local vocations officer now arranged. 4. UCCF: The Christian Unions, in the newsSo the story rumbles on.
5. Two of my favourite people:
I don't really need to say anything more, other than that I love having Relay. Seeing them grow in grace week by week is a real pleasure. It's also great to hear news of the previous three Relay I've had the priviledge of supervising, going on with God in youthwork, speech therapy and accountancy across the country.

6. Reformation Day
Hebrews 9:10 says that the real reformation happened when Jesus died to secure our eternal redemption by his blood!

7. The Great Divorce
I read a copy of C.S. Lewis' classic book that I picked up in Oxfam Bookshop this week. Bring on the future that is more solid and …

Tori & Simon

Mark my words!

How can a few people change the world? How can the nations stand in awe of God once more? How will God's kingdom come?

Episode I (2 Chronicles 17:1-10)
Jehoshaphat ascends to the throne in the place of his Father Asa. The new king is commended for walking in the ways of King David and setting his heart on the LORD. He gets rid of idolatry in the nation, restoring worship to the temple. Under his rule the nation is established and strengthened. Life is good.

Jehoshaphat then sends people out to teach in the cities of the land. They teach God's law. The effect of this is a bit surprising. We're not told of the effect on God's people but we are told how it effects the nations (2 Chronicles 17:10). This is similar to the response of Canaan to the arrival of Israel on their doorstep at the start of the book of Joshua. They melt in fear as they hear of God's promises and rescue of his peopel from Egypt. The world hears of the awesome power of the LORD as God's people ar…

"Bishops back student fight for religious freedom on campus"

" a faith-sharing organisation, CUs specifically invite people who do not share the Christian faith to attend their meetings. However, the executive committee of CUs act rather like charity trustees, and as such they are responsible for two things: firstly, that funds donated to the CU are used only to further the stated objects, and secondly, that the object of the union, the proclamation of the Christian gospel (as understood by orthodox Christians around the world), is advanced.”Article on Christian Union's backed by BishopsLetter from Bishops and othersReligion on Campus
Now the Revd. Alan Robson writes (Letters, November 25th): "The Christian union is a non-denominational body representing the more extreme wing of evangelicalism, and is dogmatic and anti-intellectual in its approach. Its enthusiasm for the Bible does not extend to scholarly or critical study of it, and it is intolerant of Christians with differing views. "The Revd has every right to disagre…

Your renown, our desire

258 Passion Blog including podcast interviews by Louie Giglio with John Piper and forthcoming with Chris Tomlin etc.

....rooted in the confession of Isaiah 26:8: “Yes Lord, walking in the way of Your truth we wait eagerly for You, for Your name and renown are the desire of our souls.”

As a result, Passion seeks to gather college and university students across the nation and around the world to seek the face of God, asking Him to ignite in our souls a passionate pursuit of Jesus Christ and a desire to spread His fame to everyone on earth. We believe God is calling out a generation of college students committed to the glory of His name in all things. God longs to bring awakening to every campus, mobilizing the students of today to finish the task of global evangelization in this generation. God is calling us out for this purpose, in this moment, for His renown. Here's to the same passion on campus in the UK!


"And we all, with unveiled face,
beholding the glory of the Lord,
are being transformed into the same image
from one degree of glory to another.
For this comes from the Lord
who is the Spirit."
2 Corinthians 3:18

The Cross from a Distance

Peter Bolt writes in The Cross from a Distance, p28:“Mark exposes religion as having multiple faults. It has teaching that lacked authority (1:22-28). It had allowed the daimonic into its core (1:21-28). Mark shows that the Jewish religion had rules that excluded people from their own homes in the interest of cleanliness (1:40-45), and rituals that could pronounce that people had become clean, but could not do anything to make them so (1:44). It grumbled over potential blasphemy (2:7) while committing the greatest blasphemy of all time, the destruction of the Messiah. It fostered a judgemental spirit, in which rules were placed above relationships. It displayed an inability to offer real help in the face of human suffering. When somebody died, religion could provide the professional mourners and the rule to ensure that the corpse did not pollute, but could do nothing about the problem of death itself and the grief under which it forces human beings to live. Obsessed with status and po…

Train hits Cow

Delays on the Reading-Shalford line today after a train hit a cow, sometime this morning (I wasn't on the train at the time). Not as bad as the recent floods on that line in terms of delays - though they were still effecting things 8 hours later. From this we conclude cows are not as bad as rain. How useful to know. Quite why a cow would want to throw itself under a train is a mystery. Maybe a political campaign?


Outline from seminar at Reading CU houseparty:

What comes to mind when you think of “personal prayer”
What's your experience of it?
What's good? What are the struggles? “God knows we have an allergy to prayer. God knows prayer is difficult. God knows that when we're young,
we think prayer is not doing anything and we do not have much time to pray. Prayer is one of the greatest gifts of the Gospel to the church. Prayer is the promise that God acts in response to the requests of his people.”

Mark Lauterbach

“What a man is alone on his knees before God,
that he is, and no more”

Robert Murray M'Cheyne

“Prayer is the measure of the man,
spiritually, in a way that nothing else is”

J.I. Packer

...such words can leave us in despair, but we pray because of God's to us, focussed less on our prayer and more on God.

“prayer is the chief exercise of faith and by it we daily receive God's benefits... We dig up by prayer the treasures that were pointed out by the Lord's gospel, and whi…

Lisa Francis

Listen to some great songs from Reading:

Lisa Francis on MySpaceMore Christian Creativity online:
Clive Parnell (MySpace)
Dan Hames (MySpace) + from Forum

Seven Days

1. RUCU houseparty with Dave Burke.
Dave's Website will have the notes on soon. (update: Christ's Ambassadors) And I think the main talks will be on the RUCU site as mp3 soon. I'll probably blog my prayer seminar later this week. The election seminar is too long for blogging and in need of some restructuring I think.

Vary degrees of creativity in the cabaret. Mike's guide to worship songs was simple and fun. Matt's bed time story was amusing - and I take the committee member abuse as endearing! Lisa's song also great - we need more songwriters and general creativity. And Fish, what can we say that hasn't already been said!

RUCU-ers: Comment your highlights... what did God say to you this weekend?

2. Political Correctness? Why can't Christian Unions have Christian leadership and teaching?
Links gathered by Adrian Reynolds, from The Times. See also Zoomtard and Pete. And very helpfully, RUSU president Dave Lewis (on facebook).

3. Bond
We liked it.

4. Suffering …

The Cup

Reading University Christian Union, 16th November 2006Download mp3: The Cup: Mark 14:1-31
Mark 14v1-31. The Cup – Part 1.What are the most significant words ever spoken? Darth Vader: "I am your father" - Renee Zellweger: "You had me at hello" - Christopher Lloyd's Doc Brown: Roads, where we're going we don't need roads" - Rene Decartes: "I think, therefore I am". - Neil Armstrong: "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind..." - Churchill: "We will fight them on the beaches.." Tony Blair: "Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime"If we're being fair we should admit that most of the really significant things in history have been said by God. How about "Let there be light" for a start. And then within Mark's gospel we have God saying "You are my son" - his own Darth Vader-esque moment, with somewhat greater significance. Over the next three weeks we'll hear Jesus say …

Pastoral Refreshment Conference

30th January to 1st February. £150. Hothorpe Hall, Leicester, UK

What is the Pastoral Refreshment Conference?
The Pastoral Refreshment Conference is an oasis for Christian leaders. Our aim is to provide spiritual refreshment for leaders and spouses, nurture for their walk with the Lord and sustenance for their hearts in the demanding work of ministry.

The conference is an opportunity for leaders, pastors and partners to seek the Lord together for the on-going refreshing of life and ministry. It is not primarily a theology or ministry skills conference, but rather a chance to rejoice, weep and worship with peers, to be prayed for and to receive spiritual sustenance from God and encouragement from others.

What will happen at the conference?

From 30th January to 1st February you will find a warm welcome and sense of family with other leaders and their spouses. We will have 3 days of encouragement in developing godly character for leadership. There will be inspiring Biblical preaching from Dav…

Free Love

Galatians 5v1-14. A few final nails in the law-keepers coffin and Paul turns his attention to how we should then live....

Christians are people set free - Paul sets out his gospel as freedom from this present evil age in 1v3-5. A present evil age that is not so much this world as the slavery of religious zeal, idolatry or law observance. He's shown extensively that it is absurd and evil for a Christian to forsake this freedom to become enslaved again.

A few last reasons - 5v2, the free person enslaved will find Christ to be of no advantage to them.5v3, when the slavery embraced is law it carries an in built obligation to keep all of the law... 5v4, the path of slavery severs the free person from the source of their freedom, namely Christ.How? Because it is by faith, through the Holy Spirit that the believer lives in hope of righteousness - not by becoming enslaved. And what counts is not slavery - though the issue isn't the particular slavery, slavery itself doesn't have pow…

The Darkest Day

Cheryl begins: "I believe that what separates humanity from everything else in this world - spaghetti, binder paper, deap-sea creatures, edelweiss and Mount McKinley - is that humanity alone has the capacity at any given moment to commit all possible sins. Even those of us who try to live a good and true life remain as far away from grace as the Hillside Strangler or any demon who ever tried to poison the village well. What happened that morning only confirms this.She writes in reflection upon a High School Shooting in Douglas Coupland's Hey Nostradamus! She could as well be refering to the darkest day in history. Not a human atrocity but the day Jesus died. That day showed the great depth of human sin more clearly than any other day. Not in our capacity to kill the Son of God - though that was an act of great evil committed by man. But rather by the very necessity of the day. The necessity of the Father striking down his Son as a substitute for our sin, under his perfect wra…

Seven Days

1. Marcus HoneysettStepping in at the last minute to impersonate Nigel Pollock for three God-besotted sessions on postmodernism etc. Thanks for showing us how great Jesus is.

Kenny presents Honeysett's History
2. Team LifeHanging out with Gareth and Olly on Monday, and then the rest of the team from Wednesday-Friday. This work can be very lonely, it's great to be team.3. D.I.S.C.O.Andy Tuck's five reasons why people don't do evangelism, for Thames Valley CU.4. New booksBy Terry Virgo and Dale Ralph Davis. Mmmmm. And BIG THANKS to Justin Taylor for a free copy of Owen's Overcoming Sin & Temptation. 5. Get some new shoesYou are one of my Relay6. Jim WalfordFanclub-boy. Glad you like the blog.7. Bethinking @ SurreyI wasn't there but Cat Hare hosted it for me:Q2. Egotistical restrictive and out of touch: what kind of a God demands so much

Review: Suffering and the Sovereignty of God

"John Piper and other contributors explore the many categories of God's sovereignty as evidenced in his Word, helping readers form a biblical view of suffering."

Get it from Crossway Sufferinga and the Sovereignty of God (Eds: John Piper & Justin Taylor, 2006) This book is a breath of fresh air. "If God is good and all powerful, how can there be suffering" is one of the classic objections to Christian faith. All too often this is defended by dropping the sovereignty of God. The hapless Christian conceding that God isn't actually in control... Into this comes a book that makes no attempt to deny the suffering that we experience, nor the sovereignty of God (and it doesn't say God isn't good either).

This book comes with doses of reality - much of it is written by those who have suffered and it's poignancy is added to by the subsequent suffering of Piper and Powlison.

This book is worth owning to have Piper and Powlison's work on "Don&…

Review: The Tide is Turning (Terry Virgo)

"It is evident that new churches are springing up everywhere. Why? Because God's purposes for His church will not be thwarted."

Buy from Newfrontiers
The Tide is Turning: Terry Virgo (New Wine, 2006)

Let me say from the outset I'm a big fan of Terry Virgo and Newfrontiers. They have a passion and energy for God and for reformed doctrine that is rare. And this is a classic book from and for Newfrontiers.I've read Terry Virgo's previous two books (on church and grace) and found them to be outstanding and so I approached this one with high expectation. This study of three Old Testament characters is miles ahead of similar books (the phrase "character study" is enough to make some of us shudder...)This is a God-centred examination of the events of the lives of Joseph, Gideon and Nehemiah - calling us to take God at his word. I gather this book is a rework of Virgo's earlier book Men of Destiny.The material on Gideon is probably the strongest and Virgo …

Zealous and burning desire

John Calvin calls prayer the chief exercise of faith by which we daily receive God's benefits. He writes extensively on it in The Way We Receieve the Grace of Christ. And he does so with great warmth and gentle direction and correction. He notes that by prayer we dig up the treasures that are pointed out by the Lord's gospel and which by faith we gaze upon. And then I'm struck by this, on why we pray: "...That our hearts may be fired with a zealous and burning desire ever to seek, love and serve him, while we become accustomed in every need to flee to him as to a sacred anchor..." XX.III.3.I love this because it gives me great motive to pray. I can sort of see how it would work - though I'm on the hunt for scriptural promises that say as much.

In the gospel the treasures of heaven are opened to me through the One Mediator, Jesus Christ - what a pitiful fool I am to disregard such treasures. I really am that fool. Why would I neglect to pray? Why would I find i…

FAQ: What should we look for in Christian Union leaders?

Choosing New Leaders - Tuesday 8th November 2005.
Reposted today with some addditional comment:

Over the coming months the current leaders of Christian Unions I work with will begin to search for new leaders. Its an exciting time, releasing new students into ministry within the context of the Christian Union. This generally works with a period of open nominations, then the existing leaders seek to put together a team who they will put forward to be approved by the CU. This seems favourable to out-right democracy since its hard to discern Biblical qualifications that way, and to construct a team. It also seems to have some parallel with the involvement of the people and their leaders in selecting leaders in the cases of Moses and also the early church in Acts 6.

My underlying presumption is of course that a Christian leader is a Christian... once that's in place... It should also be noted that in many situations a Christian Union is of a size where these factors are not luxuries avail…

Why bother with theology?

Daniel Strange: Why Bother With Theology?
(I'd forgotten this was online, HT: Saints & Scholars)

Dan writes: So many Christians don’t get excited because they do not see the gospel in all its polyphonic and glorious Technicolor but rather settle for a little mono 'black and white’ version. But just ponder on these questions for a few moments: Do you know the holy character of the Living God who created all things for his glory?Do you know who you were before you were saved: vessels of God’s wrath, God-haters?Do you know what Christ accomplished on the cross, bearing the wrath of God on our behalf, and how the Spirit applies this to the believer, that we are justified by grace through faith and seen as righteous in God’s sight?Do you know that Christ is coming again and that we will spend eternity with our Lord?This is truly amazing!!! At the end of the day ‘an anaemic Christianity that is not virile enough to strive for the truth can never possess the nerve to die for it. A …

Growing Up

Growing Up - Hebrews 5:11-6:12
Piers Bickersteth
Arborfield Church
November 5th 2006

Don't stay at base camp,
look up and go for it!

The self-defeating strategy of rule-keeping

Inevitably, and coincidentally, Spurgeon says it better: Morality fosters immorality (Today from the ever helpful Pyromaniacs). But I already had this prepared from Galatians 4v8-5v1.
1. The joyless slavery of rule-keeping (4v8-20)
Why did the Galatians get enslaved? Was it fear? The pressure of persecution or opposition... peer-pressure... shame of the cross... persuasive personality... convincing words about Christian maturity? Perhaps a desire to avoid sinning. All of these and others are possible reasons why they submitted to rule-keeping. None of them ultimately make sense and whichever it was left Paul thoroughly perplexed.

He begins by equating law-keeping with slavery to idols. This is a shocking connection. The experience and reality of rampant sin and law keeping are indistinguishable. We'd be unlikely to imagine that religious zeal, whether in rituals or religious days or otherwise could be the same as outright sin. But, it's as miserable in it's slavery and undoes…