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Showing posts from January, 2006

Mark Dever Interview

Over Christmas I read The Deliberate Church, and now I'm working my way through his Promises Kept: The Message of the New Testament. I've also read a fair bit at 9Marks in the past, and didn't quite manage to get to hear him preach in his recent tour of UK gospel-partnerships....

Now Adrian has an interview with Mark Dever

Mark Dever blogs @ Together for the Gospel

David Field Blogs...

David Field blogs, from Oak Hill College."Biblical theology is the discipline which takes that unfolding revelation on its own terms and in its own words and themes and proceeds to study God’s truth by means of storylines and multiple perspectives. There are no definitions of Biblical theology which do not make it sound either esoteric or dull but biblical theology at its best - combined with exegetical carefulness and systematic rigour - is a truly exhilarating way into the Bible. (BT & The Book of Revelation)David Field's Lecture Notes

The Glorious Doctrine of Election

This morning we started Ephesians at church. Piers spoke from Ephesians 1v1-14 of five blessings for which we should praise God, namely:
ElectionAdoptionRedemptionRevelationConsumationIt was a great meeting, really inspiring and encouraging. We heard the word of truth, remembered the truth of God's good news about Jesus, rejoiced in answered prayer concerning the restored health of one of the congregation.... and then Em & I had the pleasure of enjoying hospitality with family from church for the third consecutive Sunday.

This evening ten of us gathered over coffee to think further about Election. This is often considered to be a mysterious, complex even incomprehensible doctrine. My theory is that its no where near as difficult as we might think:
Moreover, election is a key doctrine behind evangelism, worship, holiness and joy. It gives hope for evangelism where people are ruled by sin. It gives purpose to worship since God is the one who saves. It makes holy living that for whi…

UCCF Relay Training 2: Day 6

The conference has flown by, and its been a great week of meeting with God's people and hearing from God's word. He has very much been at work among us.

The Day of the Lord
We study Joel 3 together and see the nations called to war against God. They will face him and they will perish, but God's people can find refuge in God. From whom? From God. The one who could kill is also the one in whom salvation is found. We're confronted again by the reality of this, and our hearts lifted as we look to that day with hope. Hope of life in the presence of God, because of Jesus. There's a place... because of Jesus.

Acts 2...
Maurice speaks in our final session. Peter says that at Pentecost Joel 2 was being fulfilled. The Spirit poured out on all to enable them to speak the gospel to all peoples. This signals that the day of the Lord is iminent. Its mindblowing to realise why the crowds were cut to the heart. The terrible day of the Lord is coming, and they just killed the King they…

UCCF Relay Training 2: Day 5

Day 5 and we're faced in Joel with the Day of the Lord, a terrifying prospect but also with the offer of life for those who will call on the Lord.

Motivating Students for Evangelism
Paula and I lead this seminar. Notes to be posted soon(ish).

Of those who have much, much will be demanded
We look to priorities for the future from Luke 11. This was hard-hitting and challenged us as a staff team as to whether we really believed what we're teaching. Those who really believe Jesus is coming back will truly care for God's people, loving them well and making the most of what has been given to them. Failure to do so exposes unbelief and has a future with those who are unbelievers. In the light of our focus on the Day of the LORD in Joel this is terrifying stuff. We're convicted, seriously convicted. Let us throw away our lives recklessly in the service of the Lord. CU Pioneer Howard Guiness speaks from the pages of his book Sacrifice to challenge us again.

UCCF Relay Training 2: Day 4

Day 4 and we're back to normal living conditions and into Joel chapter 3. Having been challenged to break our hearts yesterday we're now facing the comfort of God's abundant restoration... something for now and for the future. Later singing of God's Grace Unmeasured is a delight.

Evangelistic Talks
After coffee we're back in fellowship groups as Relay workers give their apologetics evangelistic talks. The group listens to the talks and offers positive and constructive critism. Its a great safe environment in which to grow together. I'm very encouraged by the clarity of my groups talks on a wide range of subjects and issues. Coming to a campus near you soon...

Sexuality, Intimacy and Friendship
Afternoon sessions focus on these important issues, separate sessions for the guys and girls.

The evening is a time for fun, Maurice kicks off the Karaoke followed by entries from each regional team. The South East produce an ironic work of art and earn a well deserved …

UCCF Relay Training 2: Day 3

Today we discover that Birmingham CU has hit the headlines.

Meanwhile its our world missions / rich-poor day. Joined by World Missions Coordinator John Williams we experience something of the economic conditions that most of the world are subject to on a daily basis. This is experiential learning that challenges us all. Our teaching sessions explore world mission, workplace mission and the challenges of being a Christian in the UK and overseas. Guests from Tearfund and Christian Workplace Associations join us for the day. In the evening we pray around the world for Peru, Japan, Ireland and Great Britain. In an honest mistake we forget to pray for Poland dispite having Wojtek with us - its good later in the week to remedy that.

We're excited to see people challenged about their attitudes to poverty, possessions and material security and about missions in God's world. There's a great family atmosphere to the conference and much desire to be changed by God.

Make Orange History (…

UCCF Relay Training 2: Day 2

Day 2 opens with fellowship groups studying Joel 1. We look into the despair of a nation ravaged by locusts without any explanation. All they can do is cry out to God, weeping and wailing. All other hope is lost.

Know the Gospel, Tell the Gospel
This is evangelism day at Relay 2. We open with Maurice teaching us the gospel from Romans 1v1-5. In essence, Jesus Christ is Lord, Repent and Believe. Its refreshing and liberating to think clearly about the content of the gospel message. Later in Telling the Gospel Mo gives three evangelistic talks, two that have succombed to subtle heresy and culture pressures, on genuine message. This gets us thinking about how to critique talks, and how easily we might stray from the wonderful gospel of God.

UCCF Relay Training 2: Day 1.

More conference retro-blogging. Just home from our second Relay training conference of the year. Superb week, my best Relay 2 thus far (of the four I've been to). A great week of remembering together that God is still God and The Gospel is still true

Relay is our discipleship training programme for recent graduates. We're in the business of formacion so they get input in personal study, ongoing supervision, active ministry and at three conferences throughout the year. There are over 50 Relays who are based across the Great Britain and Ireland.

The Relay Workers

Session 1 - That was the term that was
Anna Mac led us through Psalm 95 reminding us that God is still God and The Gospel is still true whether the last term has been good or bad. This set the agenda for the week.

Session 2 - The Bible Book of the Week
The main Bible teaching at Relay conferences is done by the Relay's in fellowship group Bible studies. At Relay 2 we turn to the Old Testament and that meant Joel. A book a…

Reform! Reform!

Passing the baton

No sooner home from the last conference than I'm back on the road again... That's January in my world! This time its the UCCF Relay Conference Relay 2. This gives us the opportunity to gather all the Relay workers together for six days to consider Mission without Borders. Our main Bible teaching will be done again by the Relay workers themselves as we study Joel day by day... on top of that we'll think about knowing and telling the gospel, about the practicalities of evangelism, and also on sexuality, intimacy and friendship.

At Relay 1 I had loads of sessions to speak in, this week its just one. Kinda nice really! I'm co-leading a session on motivating students in evangelism. I'll also have my fellowship group to look after as we study Joel and have a session in which they can give evangelistic talks and critique each other. What the week will really be about for me will be the between sessions relational grace-stuff, encouraging the good in their lives and being …

Get a bigger God!

Steve Palframan is trying to walk the walk, and talk the talk.

Meanwhile I'm listening to Andrew Evans on 1 Corinthians 12 - A Body to Die For, the passage I was studying with Paul yesterday.

Just recieved a copy of Mark Dever's The Deliberate Church. Thankful for that. Review to follow when I've read it...

Mahaney, Mohler, Dever & Duncan

Theology is brilliant!

Knowing God is great, and its possible. Our thinking about God is our theology, either its true or its false. But we all have theology. And good theology is brilliant, because its about life-changing, worship-inspiring, joy-filling encounter with the living God in the word of God. Brilliant!

Bob Kauflin says it better than me...
On Musicians and Reading Books 1
On Musicians and Reading Books 2
On Musicans and Reading Books 3

It was being a "worship leader" in my CU that led me to take theology seriously (thats to take theology seriously, not to take myself too seriously). Theology is about all of life, and it should be full of life. Do it, and enjoy it!

(HT: Huxley: Better than skiing, better than sex)

Together in Christ

Tonight at homegroup we wrestled with the awesome, cosmic, mindblowing reality of the gospel that God has revealed to us (in Ephesians 1v1-14)... and together confessed that we struggle to believe and experience the reality what God says. The support of other Christians is such a gift from God as we stumble along the road. Broken people with our messy lives, loved by our great Saviour. We closed praising God (what other response to that chapter), longing for more understanding and experience of the gospel... and for each others needs. And then talked for ages after that.

Reflecting on today, it's been a good day with some challenges. Whether things seem wonderful or whether you feel beaten-up in ministry, the glorious reality is life in Christ. Reminded of God's before-creation-election, and of the hope of inheritance in Christ ahead I face tomorrow with excitement. Glad of opportunities to meet with God's people, with God's word, to grow together in Christ. All jobs ar…

The Confounded Atheist?

Richard Dawkins diatribe continued on Channel 4: Root of All Evil?
Man, this guy is angry! I wont lump all atheists together (though he wants to brand all religion equally facile). I suspect many might be convinced by him but it left me wondering why he was so angry and why his arguments were so weak....

Root of All Evil? The Virus of Faith

So tonight Dawkins turns on religion as a virus transmitted to children to cut off their critical thinking and indoctrinate them. Ian McEwan adds that this cuts off a sense of wonder. Granted Dawkins can draw some really bad examples of religion, but I fail to see how Christianity must stop critical thought and investigation. After all, the first scientists were theologians... and all schools must once have been faith schools.

To his credit Dawkins does get two things right,

1. He sees that liberal Christianity is absurb. It thinks those of us to take the Bible seriously show contempt for reason, but liberals do that and show contempt for faith. He'…

Two Sides (2006)

Afraid to say anything
Silence by tolerance' love parade
While the champions of absurdity
Still expect to be understood.

Shot truth in the back
Setting us free to do what we like
Enlightened we turned on each other,
You think we've really evolved?

Two sides to the story,
While we’re written out of history
Two sides to the story,
What went wrong's no mystery

Stay awake all night
In the global city that never sleeps
Working harder, longer and richer
Too busy to enjoy it all

Sold the church out,
Buried in trivia and self-contempt
Planets spin while doors rotate
Our souls remain defeated

UCCF Staff Conference: Day 5

Saving the best for last. Wallace on Nehemiah 8 is superb. Put simply, the walls are of no good without the word of God! "The Spirit of God takes the word of God and creates the community of God" (David Jackman). 1. The church gathers eagerly to hear the word of God - the people insist that their leaders teach God's word to them! Men, women and children together. This is a mark of a healthy church!2. The church with the highest possible regard for scripture - they understand that God spoke through Moses.3. The church with a need for faithful preachers - for six hours the scriptures are read and explained so the people can understand the meaning!4. The church discovering that obedience to the word of God brings joy - are we joyless? do we hold God's word highly?Obstacles are identified from Nehemiah 8 as lack of trust in God's word, impatience that prevents serious and diligent study, unwillingness to be be distinctively holy, and hesitancy to let God's word c…

UCCF Staff Conference: Day 4

Thursday morning, more DIY Theology with Mike Reeves. We look at the simplicity of the doctrine of the Trinity: God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit loving each other. Not, some divine stuff. We explore this in creation, revelation and salvation.

After coffee we meet with Nick Land for a session on how to depression and mental illness. This is very helpful and very relevant. See more at Rob Waller's Mind and Soul Blog. Nick gives us some very practical, thoughtful and careful training in this area. I'm a bit daunted but glad of the support since 1 in 4 people suffer some kind of depression or mental illness at some point in their lives. I'm also saddened at how poor theology can make the problem worse by saying its all down to sin. Some might be but thats not the only possibility.
Part 1 | Part 2 (articles from Christian Medical Fellowship.

Wallace brings Nehemiah 4-6 to us before dinner, on getting the work completed. Biblical narrative swings between character study that mor…

UCCF Staff Conference: Day 3

Wednesday! The day begins with Wallace on Nehemiah 3 - the family of God at work. A challenging call to stand side by side for the gospel.

The theology track with Mike Reeves is on Trinity but we're still clearing the ground. First - Theology is great and possible, today we clear out some heresy! Primarily Mike smashes the idols of aristotle and plato and their "divine stuff" that many of the church have swallowed in their theological thinking.

Neo-platanism and socinianism have confused our thinking where we could have looked at scripture instead. They proposed one God which looks very islamic.... our talk of God can't start with "divine stuff" but with Trinity (as interestingly the church of England's 39 articles do!!). We can't talk of "one god" but we must talk about Father, Son and Holy Spirit!

To whom will we compare God? Our analogies are inadequate and dangerous. The ice/water/steam and clover-leave analogies are more rooted in her…

UCCF Staff Conference: Day 2

Tuesday begins with a bacon sandwich before we gather again to praise God and hear Wallace Benn preach God's word. We're challenged to evaluate our situation, to have clear vision. Above all we must have a concern for the honour of God's name andthe good of God's people. In closing Wallace quotes Richard Baxter - "When we are enjoying God, our people will enjoy him too".

After coffee my training track begins. One track is on being Christian persuaders, an excellent track I did last year. One on Christian Worldviews, one on Bible Study,.... and one on DIY Theology, with Mike Reeves which is the one I'm on.

Mike is a giant of a man, a theological brain in a warm and passionate person with a great sense of humour. The kind of man you can listen to for hours and who wants theology to be done with a pint in the pub, not up some ivory tower. Theology is the evolution. Everyone does theology, either its good or bad theology. Its not for monks and dusty tomes, its …

UCCF Staff Conference: Day 1

Home from our annual staff conference. It was my third one and the best so far. I'll post a series of posts picking up the highlights of it. They're backdated as delayed "liveblogs":

The first night of the conference, great to see everyone again. Immediately a really warm family atmosphere. The first session opened with some time of passionate worship, led by Paul Webber and his very funky bad (esp Pod). Great to stand and acclaim and adore our God together.

Bishop Wallace Benn is our main speaker, on Nehemiah - "On Being Church Builders". The first talk hit us as a gentle, pastoral and sharp rebuke to our prayerlessness, personally and corporately. I'm humbled as I see how arrogant, proud and self-dependent I can be. Nehemiah's first move is to turn to prayer... rarely has that been my first move. Lord have mercy.

If we're too build the local church through the witness of Christian Unions how desperately we need to pray. How we must be concerned …

Off with a smile...

This week I'm offline. This is by necessity, not virtue. In the meantime, lets take ourselves a little less seriously in this virtual world. I'm no expert, I'm no Luther pinning my articles on some great door. I'm a simple blogger airing my mind. That is something probably best done when no-one is listening. Still I feel compelled to click "Create" and endlessly publish what comes to mind. More fool you for reading!! Carl Trueman proves very refreshing. (HT: Kath)

I want this book

Mark Dever - The Message of the New Testament: Promises Kept

PDF of pages 1-25

More information, at

Basically, its a write up of a series of weekly sermons taking one whole book of the Bible per sermon. Big picture style! Its not what you'd want every week but how awesome to get spend sometime looking at the landscape."I was discipling a recent Muslim convert and asked him to teach me the book of Hebrews in three meetings (I thought he would learn it better by teaching me). At each meeting, I would read a sentence or two from Hebrews and ask him where the verse fit into the book’s argument. I did not so much care if he could tell me chapter and verse references; I was more concerned about whether he understood the overall flow of the book, and how any one idea from the book fit into that flow.

As we worked through Hebrews this way, I found that an overview was beneficial not just for my friend but also for me as a pastor. When I preach a passage like Ephes…

The Lazy Atheist?

No wonder atheists are angry: they seem ready to believe anything

Madeleine Bunting lays into Richard Dawkins for:1. Lack of rigorous argument (when Dawkins accuses religion of causing political problems, the problem being secularism is quite capable of causing political crisis)
2. Accusing religions of indoctrination (when Dawkins is quite happy for secular indoctrination to be the norm. Indoctrination is just teaching, Richard... )
3. Accuring religion of removing wonder (when often it actually helps us see more wonder...)A year ago he was telling us that Tsunami showed the pitiless indifference of creation. His arguments leave me indifferent, they're just poor. But I do pity him for his abject blindness.

Banting concludes:"Let's be clear: it's absolutely right that religion should be subjected to a vigorous critique, but let's have one that doesn't waste time knocking down straw men...."Rigorous thought is fine! She goes on to say we should conceed ground …

"...One holy catholic and apostolic church"

Notes from this morning's sermon by Piers Bickerseth. This is something of an overview of what is the church? ahead of looking at worship, gathering and then 10 weeks in Ephesians.

Play articulate: Building? Pews? Organ? Sundays?
Can you articulate a biblical definition of church?
The gathering of God's people who confess Jesus as Lord!

1. One Church
Ephesians 4v4-6. One people with one trinitarian God.
But isn't it divided? No - denominations aren't the church but only structures to serve it. The church is one.

2. One Holy Church
Ephesians 5v25-27. The church made holy by Jesus' death.
Made holy and to be holy, imitating Christ (5v1) with family likeness.

3. One Holy Catholic Church
Ephesians 2v6. Raised up and seated with Christ in the heavenly realms.
Catholic, not Romans Catholic. Catholic is an old word meaning something like universal, big and united. The true church is universal. What we see is a physical local expression of that. The reality is on a cosmic scale.

4. One…

The Deliberate Church

This is the first book I've read by Mark Dever. I've read some stuff on 9Marks which has helped me think about the priorities of church. The book is clearly something of a response to the likes of The Purpose Driven Church et al. Dever writes out of a decade of experience at Capitol Hill Baptist Church so this is not an off the cuff response to that. I read Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Church about four years ago and found it inspiring as it sought to have vision and convictions thoroughly drive action. In many ways Dever proposes something very similar.

The book is most obviously written for those entering into overall leadership of local churches. That's not my current situation so some of it doesn't have immediate application. However, as someone in ministry his teaching on the marks of elders in the church is a great challenge. Seeing the centrality of character, makes me long to grow in Christ. In this area I'm sure has much instruction for anyone gathe…

Big Box of Humility

Today I recieved my free copy of CJ Mahaney's Humility. Big thanks to Sovereign Grace Ministries for that. The publisher Multnomah sent the book over from the USA... here's the book with its box, seriously:

The box would easily hold 24 copies of the book... I really appreciate it being protectively packaged but as a hardback in a box it would probably have survived a bit less!

Here's my review: CJ Mahaney: Humility, True Greatness


As you know this site expresses much of what has been influenced in my thinking by John Piper. Justin Taylor posts a letter informing us that John Piper has prostate cancer. "This news has, of course, been good for me. The most dangerous thing in the world is the sin of self-reliance and the stupor of worldliness. The news of cancer has a wonderfully blasting effect on both. I thank God for that. The times with Christ in these days have been unusually sweet."

"God has designed this trial for my good and for your good. You can see this in 2 Corinthians 1:9, “Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” And in 2 Corinthians 1:4-6, “He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God . . . If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation.”
Piper has taught much…

Cinema 2006-01: Match Point

Normally I work on Thursday nights. Its pre-term so I wasn't working last night. So we went out for dinner and then to see a preview of Woody Allen's Match Point. Date Night of some sort. The big question of the film is how much of life rests upon luck, upon moments of chance going in your favour or against you. This is something of a dodge on moral responsibility as we see tennis-pro Chris Wilton (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) getting away with things. Scarlett Johansson gives the most human performance, as the struggling American actress mixing it with the posh English crowd - an image of British society its hard to identify with or care about. Its a bit slow though only just over two hours long, and the hypothesis about luck is revealed at the beginning (much like the tragic/comedy hypothesis of Melinda and Melinda) and then tested through the story. I walked out at the end thinking that was all a bit odd. I think there's probably some connections with Dostoyevsky's Crime a…

Two Marks of Qualified Leaders

When we write a CV we're asked to lay out our qualifications. Exam grades and experience from which we can be deemed qualified or unqualified for a particular job. In a previous job I was the webmaster for a company developing TalkingCV, an online video-CV package. It didn't really survive the dotcom bust because it wasn't required. Qualifications are qualifications, they can't really be dressed up with fancy technology. Either you are fit for the job, or not.

When it comes to Christian leadership, what qualifies? When I train new student leaders one of the first questions I ask is - "why you?". At least one person will answer - because there was no-one else. And often that's true. But that's not a qualification in itself. Last resorts are not what is required. It would be better to have no-one than an unqualified leader.

Paul entrusted the appointment of new leaders in the churches of Crete to Titus. He gave him two key qualifications. We might expect …

Maurice McCracken Interview

Maurice McCracken interviewed by Adrian Warnock.
Maurice co-ordinates the UCCF Relay scheme.
Mo occasionally blogs here.

Spiritual Disciplines?

Ed continues to write about Colossians looking at God's sufficient grace. Elsewhere Bob DeWaay writes about Spiritual Disciplines. We're easily tempted to try to add extras to our faith - whether solitude, fasting, study... seeking to gain greater closeness to Jesus. But this is foolish, only drawing us away from Christ. Everything else is no more than a shadow, the substance is Christ.

Perfect Forever!

(HT: Stov)"Only a fraction of the present body of professing Christians are solidly appropriating the justifying work of Christ in their lives… Many… have a theoretical commitment to this doctrine, but in their day-to-day existence they rely on their sanctification for their justification… drawing their assurance of acceptance with God from their sincerity, their past experience of conversion, their recent religious performance or the relative infrequency of their conscious, willful disobedience.
Few know enough to start each day with a thoroughgoing stand upon Luther’s platform: you are accepted, looking outward in faith and claiming the wholly alien righteousness of Christ as the only ground for acceptance, relaxing in that quality of trust which will produce increasing sanctification as faith is active in love and gratitude…
Much that we have interpreted as a defect of sanctification in church people is really an outgrowth of their loss of bearing with respect to justification. …

Dig Deeper

Nigel Beynon and Andrew Sach have compiled some tools to help us dig deeper into the treasures of the Bible. One would hope that we know how to read well enough that we wouldn't need a book like this. Sadly we seem unable to read the Bible properly and thus this book is one of the best things you could read this year.

They remind us to think about authors purpose, context and structure as we read. Beynon confesses that in the past he has sought to find what a text says, without asking why. And what a difference it makes for us to find out not just the what, but also the why.

The excellent introductory chapter lays out a doctrine of the word. They explain that reading scripture is science and art, and that the point isn't just to comprehend a text. The Bible is the word of God speaking with authority to us! We must handle with care - let us not believe what it doesn't actually say, but rather find what God says in his word. At the end of the book they challenge us to draw t…

REVIEW: Awesome God

Awesome God - Worship Songs for Children; Sovereign Grace Music 2005

"How do kids learn about God's greatness? One excellent way is to sing songs that express God's character and nature in words that kids understand"They say that if you really understand something then you can explain it to children. If thats true then this CD is proof that the guys at Sovereign Grace Kids have got hold of the heart of the good news about Jesus.

This is the fourth Sovereign Grace CD I've got hold of. The previous ones have been excellent - Songs for the Cross Centered Life doing exactly what it says on the tin, Upward showing that hymns often express the truth more richly than other songs. Worship God Live capturing the energy of passionate praise. Awesome God follows in the same pattern but with a twist."Our God is infinitely more amazing, powerful and wonderful than the entire universe... which He made! ...out of nothing!! (He also made people and zebras and flowers and wav…