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Showing posts from February, 2006

Martin Luther

Listened to Piper's 1996 biography of Martin Luther, man of the book. It's a great exhortation to the labour of studying God's word and the great rewards of doing so.

Some say that if we put time into study that we minimise the work of the Spirit. Luther and Piper differ. "One might argue that emphasizing the brightness of the sun nullifies the surgeon who takes away blindness. But most people would not agree with that. Certainly not Luther." (Piper)

"It is a sin and shame not to know our own book or to understand the speech and words of our God" (Luther)

How we must get deep into God's word. Tomorrow I start a series of three training sessions with University of Surrey Christian Union. Entitled UniSword they're designed to get us deep into God's word. This might seem a bit odd for a Mission Team training session. Should I not just train in apologetics and evangelism? Good question. Yes we need such training, and on other days it will come. But…

Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Today, listened to. John Piper's biography of Martyn Lloyd-Jones (MP3). Lloyd-Jones was a pastor in London and is widely regarded as the greatest preacher of the 20th Century. He was also president of UCCF from 1939.

Piper's 1991 biography looks at theology of the Holy Spirit and God's power to transform us. It's very challenging - does my charismatic theology match my practice?

Once again I see the helpfulness of church history, and learning from those who have gone before me. I've not read much Lloyd-Jones first-hand (only one of his Romans 3v1-3v20 sermons and Habakkuk)

A Passion for Christ-exalting power - text version.

CU Leaders 2006

Back home from our South East CU Leaders weekend 2006... great to see more students than we've ever had before... and four of my CU's represented. We gathered together in the gospel, John Risbridger taught us from 2 Corinthians to be:Faithful in weaknessConfident in the gospelPassionate in MissionCommitted to holinessExhilerating stuff. And very exciting to imagine what God might do through the CU's this year... and to hear what has been happening. We were humbled and inspired by them, what a pleasure to serve.

This week I'll blog Principles for Biblical Ministry from the seminar that Ruth Norbury and I did. It was quite a task to do a seminar for leaders and administrators, hopefully our broad brushstrokes were helpful.

Was also heading up the band for the weekend, joined by the very gifted Drew, Rich, Sam and also my lovely wife. For those wanting a copy of Grace Unmeasured it's here, from the CD, Worship God Live.

14 in a Million

Just in case there weren't enough ways to waste time on the internet...

Surname Profiler reports that there are only 14 Bish's per million people in the UK. A mere 515 of us in the country.

I wondered if there was anyone rarer... turns out our CU leaders speaker and pastor of Above Bar Southampton, John Risbridger is... with only seven in a million. Are you more rare?

Forget google-whacking, are you one in a million? (The system only records those where there are over 100 people with the name... so if you're one in a million you wont show up, but two should... )

UPDATE: My best man is a Harwin, only five in a million.... as is my mate Mr Carding.

The Necessity of Atheism: Q12

Completing the series... on Shelley's questions on the necessity of atheism...

Q12: If the knowledge of God is most necessary, why is it not the most evident and clearest?

Knowledge of God is indeed most necessary and most precious. Is God mysterious?

No. God has spoken at many times and in many ways to make himself known. And he has spoken definitively through the man at the centre of human history, Jesus. His words are recorded on all the pages of the Bible.

Who God is is plain for any who would investigate. The Bible is comprehensible. A child could understand it's narrative and its concepts.

It is simply not the case that God has left us a lack of evidence. We simply find his words distastful. Polly Toynbee and Richard Dawkins have both spoken out on this in the media in recent months. Notable atheists at confession. They have grasped the basic content of the Christian gospel. They see that the crucifixion of Jesus is central. However they look at it and call it "repugnan…

Something worth talking about...

Evangelism makes me shudder. I'm a scared introvert so starting conversations with people about anything isn't exactly my idea of fun. Jesus is sufficiently amazing that much of the fear is overcome, but if I'm honest I'm poor at it most of the time. iMonk is getting to the core of the theology of things.... Considering Calvinist Evangelism.Calvinist Evangelism?Yes there is a problemPhysician, heal thyselfThe Future of Missional Evangelism
God's word is more powerful than my weakness, and is even displayed in my weakness. Its when I stand in the shadow of guys like these, and sit at their feet that I hear my creator speak, through them.... Calvinists all. I've not spent all that much time with the works of Driscoll and Keller, but Mahaney and Piper have been of great benefit.

Nonetheless my confession is that even in a Christian Union mission week, and with theology that drives me to speak I still find it really difficult to actually do. What I do find much easie…

The Coffee Bible Club

Andy and I have started an occasional blog-conversation at The Coffee Bible Club Blog. (HT to Mo who sort of led us to the idea of doing this)

This isn't meant to be a regular blog but something tasty to drink occasionally. It centres on a mutual love for God's word and for good coffee.

Currently chatting about worship.

The Necessity of Atheism: Q11

Continuing the series... on Shelley's questions on the necessity of atheism...

Q11: If he has spoken, why is the universe not convinced?

It is plain that the universe is not altogether convinced of the Christian gospel. The Bible would say in fact that the Universe broadly speaking is convinced and speaks loudly about God. It is the majority of human beings that are unconvinced.

The Christian contends that God has spoken. God's speech is a central theme of history. According to the Bible, God spoke the universe into being. He speaks to man to commission us. He speaks to tell us how we should live. He repeatedly speaks to call us to relationship with himself.

Man stands, tempted, believing God's word is unreliable and unsound. Man bends God's word to suit his own ends. God is branded a liar and attributed with words he did not speak. Man talks himself out of the knowledge of God.

Failure to be convinced by God's word is the pattern of human history. We are "free&qu…

Review: The Message of the New Testament

The Message of the New Testament:
Promises Kept
- Mark Dever, (Crossway 2006).
Foreword by John MacArthur

This book is sure to become an essential resource for preacher in particular, but also for any Christian wanting to read the Bible. Its vital for us to read the Bible slowly, spending much time on the details.... but we also need to be able to read the detail in context.

There is a burgeoning market in Bible Overview books, a parade led by Graeme Goldsworthy, Vaughan Roberts and Tim Chester amongst others. Their work is vital to help us think about Biblical Theology.

All those brief overviews lack something however. And that is where Mark Dever steps in. This book steps into the void between detailed ongoing expositions of single books and Bible overview books. Dever invites to fly high and get a birds eye view. What a view!

This book is a write up of 28 sermons by Mark Dever taking one book of the Bible per sermon (plus one on the whole New Testament overview). These sermons have bee…

Twenty One

I've been discipling Ed for the last year at Reading University and even on the farside of Europe, and now he's 21.

Happy Birthday mate! Landmarks like turning 21 aren't all that important, what matters is to keep running the race, testifying about God's grace.

This week has been a bit nostalgic for me. Seeing people back as CU Guests who started at Reading when I was a fresh-faced 21 year old Relay worker makes me think about where I've come from.

I can only hope that those last six years have been ministry in love, ministering God's gospel of grace to people. I've failed much, and I hope been used much. Enough of my navel-gazing, listen to Paul:"...I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God..."
(Paul, Acts 20v24 - ESV)

Esther - shining star? (2)

In the last post I tried to explore some of how Esther works as a book. I said that it points us to Jesus' deliverance of us as God saves his people. I then posed several questions - some of which were wrong, and some of which I'm still searching for answers too. Thanks to Andy for his rebuke for my idiocy - been missing that.

Some practical implications of Esther?

1. God's deliverance of us in Christ
Against all apparent odd's God saves his people in Esther. They're strangers in a foreign land. Not strangers because they choose to move but because God exiled them. They're under God's judgement for their previous sins. And they're under the rule of a great human ruler who rules from Ethiopia to India. When an old enemy manages to pass a law to eliminate God's people from existence it looks like its the end of the story - but it's not. God's salvation plan is unfolding irrevocably whatever public opinion might say. The church is not dying, nor a…

Esther - shining star?

Esther. Calvin and Luther didn't preach it. John Piper hasn't published a sermon on it... though he has written two narrative poems on it. I really wish he would give us more on it - 200 on Romans, and none on Esther... C'mon, please show us how to do this book in a God-exalting way!!

Anyways, its a bit of a challenge. Its a book in the Bible that doesn't mention God, and yet we want to say that every book is about God. So how does that work?

Most of time its treated as an exemplary book for girls - "be like Esther"... except Esther is a really questionable hero. A Jewish girl who colours herself beautiful so she can be the wife of a foreign king. Commentator Barry Webb suggests that that makes her barely Jewish anymore. She and her step-dad/cousin Mordecai are both masters of deception and manipulation. Hardly models of godliness for Christian living...

So what do we do with it? I've come around to thinking that they key is in who the story is about. What?…

Mark Kermode's Film Reviews

The best thing on UK radio is Mark Kermode's film reviews with Simon Mayo on FiveLive from 3-4pm on Fridays. And the genius is that its available to download if I'm working then. Its worth it for the banter between Kermode and Mayo, but also for the review of what's out at the cinema. Unfortunately this has been a slow start for films. We've only seen one film at the cinema in 2006 (Woody Allen's Match Point). Hardly a classic. Hopefully things will improve as the year goes on...

Bring the books, join the cry!

"The man who never reads will never be read; he who never quotes will never be quoted. He who will not use the thoughts of other men’s brains, proves that he has no brains of his own. Brethren, what is true of ministers is true of all our people. YOU need to read. Renounce as much as you will all light literature, but study as much as possible sound theological works... Paul cries, "Bring the books" — join in the cry. "Ligon Duncan is quoting Spurgeon on the need to read. I've always loved books but theological books are the best. My first read was in my first year at University when I first became a Christian... Bill Hybel's Becoming a Contagious Christian and then Search the Scriptures.

The internet isn't all that good for books. It encourages us to scan read and also to publish on the door of the web the fruits of shallow study. The alternative would be to read carefully and study deeply. Of course the internet also makes things more accessible and h…

The Necessity of Atheism: Q10

Continuing the series... on Shelley's questions on the necessity of atheism...

Q10: If he is inconcievable, why occupy ourselves with him?

It has been said that if we cannot know something fully we cannot know at all? If this were so then we would have no knowledge of anything. No study would be worthwhile.

We cannot concieve all creation but it is wonderfully satisfying to investigate. The human heart is beyond comprehension but that does not prevent us from loving others.

God is infinite in excellency, in goodness, justice, love, kindness, faithfulness.... we cannot know everything of these things but we can know much.

It is patently obvious in our day to day experience of life that partial knowledge is possible, particularly with people... but also with objects and ideas.

The Bibel says that no mind has concieved God's character and purposes. God cannot be postulated from human enquiry and speculation. We cannot by love of ideas determine what God would be like.

However, we ar…

Aww, blog-love

Becci and Pod quality bloggers the both of them.

The Necessity of Atheism: Q9

Resuming the series... on Shelley's questions on the necessity of atheism...

Q9: If he is unmovable, by what right do we pretend to make him change his mind?

Is He unmovable? When we think of someone being unmovable what comes to mind? Is it someone who is rigid, static and unable to relate? An unbibilcal view of God is rooted in the idea of some divine substance behind everything. The unchanging divine stuff. Nothing in scripture portrays this.

What then? God is unmovable in his character. He is consistent not whimsical or unpredicatable. He never acts out of character. Yesterday, today and forever his promises stand. In this sense he is unmovable - in that he will not contradict himself or deny himself.

Does this imply he is static and rigid? No. God the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit is alive, relational and personal. The Son is always sustaining the universe by his word, but he was once on earth and is now in heaven. Somethings change, something remain the same. The Spirit…

Christian Spirituality: 1 Corithians 12:4-11

What does the Spirit do?Why does the Spirit work?Who decides who gets what gifts?Application: How does this set our thinking about and using any gifts?The church is diverse. It must be so. These verses teach this. There is great range of difference. But this diversity is in gifts, works and service not convictions. The Holy Spirit brings one common conviction - "Jesus is Lord".

But, the same Spirit brings wide ranging gifts, service and workings to the body. Verse 4-6 follow much the same pattern as verses 7-11. Just as in v4-5 we have a long list in v7-10. Different gifts. Firstly, we must see where these gifts come from. They are gifts from the same Spirit (4), manifestations of the Spirit (7). They are from God.

Secondly these gifts are for the common good (6). They are for the benefit of the body. This is vital in the Corinthian context where gifts were pursued for personal glorification. Paul refutes this and says the gifts are misused when they are for such purposes. The…

Something "not true" from the Bible?

Justin Taylor highlights the church website that has Luke 4v7 as its tagline. I'm not convinced of the merits of Bible quotes as taglines. This one however shows up either terrible Biblical illiteracy, carelessness or a really postmodern approach to the Bible that is all too common. Some examples look harmless enough. This one surely shows up as a classic case of the need for context

Of course the section of Luke's gospel that this verse comes from is very important to any church. Its a section that is all about establishing that Jesus is the Son of God - by his genealogy, his baptism and his restsiting satans temptation. Any true church must surely proclaim Jesus, Son of God at the heart of its message. Worship him and gain eternal joy.... In the face of that, satan might offer the earth but he cannot deliver.

The Bible can be twisted to say that "there is no God", or that you should date someone called "joy". Its meaning can be totally perverted by treating…

Amazing Grace

I had the priviledge of preaching on Ephesians 2v1-10.
Here's the script: Ephesians 2: Amazing Grace.

It's really struck me working on this the God-centredness of election in action. I'm seeing with deeper conviction that grace is amazing because it makes much of God rather than making much of me. John Piper has been ringing those words in my ears for years but I'm a bit slow!

Update (Monday 13th):
If you're going to take time to read my 2000 word sermon you might want to be aware that this is the feedback I got on it this morning:"Thanks for yesterday - 2 clear points , well communicated. I think you could have done more explaining on following the ways of this world and the cravings of our sinful nature - not a lot but tell us what that looks like. And I think you could have nailed grace nore succinctly - I heard you say giving life to us who were gift of life - but I didnt hear you say at that moment that the gift is undeserved. Maybe I have a thin…

Making Music!

Spent today practicing with the band for the CU leaders weekend. Drew, Rich, Sam, Em and me... Great to spend time making music and singing truth about God.

Christian Spirituality: 1 Corinthians 12:1-3

Adrian is blogging through 1 Corinthians 12-14. And I was teaching the same verses this lunchtime to Christian Union Cell group leaders. We're about to study them in cells in March, and this served as part of our learning to prepare Bible studies ahead of that. Over the next week I'll post on the rest of chapter 12, and then onwards into chapters 13 and 14 of 1 Corinthians. Its high time the blogosphere pursued the continuationist vs cessationist debate with some exegesis.I'm persuaded that the "spiritual gifts" is better put as "spiritual things" or "spiritual persons" or "spirituality". Either way Paul's first intention is to dispel ignorance. The Corinthians loved gifts with a passion, particularly any that impressed. But what they lacked was understanding. He doesn't say - hold off til you understand. Rather he teaches them. This is one of my great convictions in ministry - that it is always worth teaching people, however…

Hearing the Word of Truth

Andrew Sach re-evaluates Jesus calming the storm in Mark 4 - so helpful to see him think out loud.Mark Gilbart-Smith on really teaching the Bible, rather than our own thoughts (HT: Josh Harris)Excited to be teaching new Cell leaders how to handle God's word well at the moment. Its a daunting task for me. And I imagine they're daunted by the prospect of it. However, when we get to grips with what God is saying we hear him speak! And we are able to behold his glory! That has got to be worth it.

Surrey CU Mission

A glimpse of the action at Surrey Christian Union mission week. Yesterday looked at whether the Bible is reliable and at Love

Good to see plenty of people there, including lots of international students.

Empowered by Election

At the weekend I made some remarks about the doctrine of election, in the context of teaching the book of Titus. Titus describes Christians as God's elect - those who were promised the hope of eternal life before time.

My remarks were:Personal responsibility to believe is not excluded by election. In fact it gives hope in evangelism. People look like they wont believe, but God chooses not us. Do evangelism! Persevere with hard hearts. God changes lives. The gospel is powerful.Faith is a gift from God to prevent our boasting in it. Do don't boast that you're a Christian. You can't take credit for it. Give God the credit.We're chosen by grace not desire or effort. Know that God chose you for his glory rather than for your sake. Christian life is about God not about me.Divine sovereignty and human responsibility are not two equal sides of an equation, or two sides of the same coin. The balance is in God's favour. God is not limited by our weaknesses or faithlessnes…

The God Who Is There

Picked up a copy of Francis Schaeffer's The God Who Is There in Oxfam Bookshop yesterday for £1.99. Its great! I'm sure I should have read some Schaeffer before, but better late than never. I plan to re-read it and perhaps I'll blog some reflections then... along with maybe finishing my series on atheism soon.

Schaeffer at on Apologetics:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

The Cross in a Girl's World...

Information from Katie Vivyan.

PS: This is my 500th post. How did that happen?

The Theologian

Lee Gatiss has got The Theologian redesigned.
Some useful articles on current issues.... at least a couple of which are also available at

Church Discipline and the Gospel

In our handling the Bible workshop on Saturday we looked at Matthew 18v20. That verse is normally used to justify Christian prayer meetings. A quick look at the context shows its actually about Church Discipline. I flagged that up as an example in my study skills a few months ago.

The thing is, that we're not all that familiar with church discipline most of the time... and so the question is how does it work in practice and in the context of the gospel of grace.....

My advice, let Dan Cruver explain:
Matthew 18v15-20, in the context of the gospel.

J.Gresham Machen

Its as long as a football match but a much better use of time. A God-centred, God-exalting response for engaging liberalism.

Download John Piper's 1993 biography of
J.Gresham Machen - Responding to Modernism (mp3).
Read the Script. Now published in Contending for our All.

Christianity and Liberalism (read it online)

(HT: Pyromaniacs)

24 Day 5

9pm tonight 10 minute prequel on Sky One, starts properly next Sunday..... seven days is more than enough to catch up on Days 1 to 4 if you've not seen them. Going cheap at - £70.69

About Baptism

I spent my childhood attending a liberal anglo-catholic Church of England church. There are learnt the very basics of Christian faith from the liturgy that was spoken each week. I also defaulted to several other assumed positions, such as paedobaptism.

I became a Christian around the age of 18 just before going to University. There I found myself in a credobaptist church, connected with Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship. As I began to search the scriptures for the first time myself I never encountered much of a case for paedobaptism and became fairly convinced about credobaptism. That church was followed by four years in a Baptist church in Reading where the same convictions were reinforced.

Now back in the Church of England I'm beginning to think about baptism once again... David Field cites Peter Leithart on paedobaptism whilst Justin Taylor and Rick Phillips are debating the same. Andrew Sach writes about it.

Considering arguments, and spending some time chatting with Bishop Wa…