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Showing posts from October, 2007

Present-continuous Reformation

Rob Bell says (in Velvet Elvis) that we protestants are always reforming because no-one puts God in the corner. No-one puts God in a box. No-one puts a full stop after God. Except, of course God has revealed himself to us definitively. Not exhaustively, but he has revealed his glory to us in the gospel of the glory of God in the face of the Lord Jesus (2 Cor 3:18-4:6). Having spoken in many ways previously he spoke to us in his Son (Heb 1:1-2). Whatever the postmodernist want to say, God has spoken. And he knows how to communicate.

Today the protestant church marks 'Reformation Day' in memory of the ministry of Martin Luther. Luther who was at the heart of the Reformation, and as I become increasingly familiar with him you do get the sense that he knew he was involved in something significant. My favourite Luther quote is this: I taught the word, apart from that I did nothing. While I slept and drank Wittenberg Beer, the word did everything. That suggests that Luther wasn'…

Listen to King Jesus

MP3: John 6v1-15 - Listen to Jesus (Dave Bish) @ Exeter CU.

[CONTINUED FROM:Listen to Jesus]

Jesus' authority makes all the kings and rulers and authorities of the world in all of history look powerless. Of course you'd want him to be your king! So why does Jesus, v15, know that they have got it right and slip away? It's not that he's not king. John will go on to show us the coronation of King Jesus later in his book. We've not seen a coronation in this country for over half a century, and even when Charles takes the throne it wont exactly be a great political event. The crowd with their full stomachs envisage a political revolution. Jesus-The-Prophet overthrowing the occupying forces of the 1st Century Roman Empire!

Wouldn't you want him as king? Healer. Water into wine. Bread out of thin-air. Unmatched wisdom and authority. Jesus will be enthroned. But not in a Palace with a throne. Not in the way the people expect. His coronation will be in the shame of a Roman…

God made the originals, and cloning is only making photocopies

Mark Meynell reflect on Coupland's The Gum Thief

"The book ended up being much more
satisfying than I expected in the early pages -
and throws up Coupland’s same old questions
about truth, identity, hope and meaning,
but in an innovative and provocative way.
Still, this is Coupland’s 12th novel.
I can’t help wondering... "

Listen to Jesus

MP3: John 6v1-15 - Listen to Jesus (Dave Bish) @ Exeter CU.
My new favourite TV show is House. It's not quite the West Wing or 24 but there aren't any new episodes of either on at the moment. What I love about House is that it's clever TV. Or at least it tries to be. House is a modern day Sherlock Holmes – House, Holmes.... who uses differential diagnosis and the Socratic method to solve medical cases. I have no more idea about whether that's good medicine than I know about the medical jargon they throw around. But it is fun to watch... What I do know is that sitting and staring at a problem for ages is something I like to do. It was what I enjoyed most about studying Maths at Uni. I wasn't all that good at it but working on it was fun. Sometimes. Problem solving is fraught with wrong trails but is glorious when it reaches its solution.

It's a bit like that coming to a passage like John 6. We don't come to triumph over the passage and cast our judgement on i…

Grace: The bedrock of absolutely everything

From Finding Joy: A radical rediscovery of grace, by Marcus Honeysett: ...I came to realise that knowing and experiencing the grace of the Lord is the bedrock of absolutely everything else in the Christian life and in the church. It is the heart of the gospel. Why should that group have been motivated to do enthusiastic and heartfelt outreach if they were not thrilled and gripped by the grace of the Lord? Why should Christians want to pray to God unless we are convinced that he graciously want to answer and pour out blessings that will help us and glorify himself? Is it possible to be an effective Christian teacher or preacher unless we are awestruck by the magnitude of grace dealing with our sin, inadequacy and bankruptcy? I doubt it. Preachers who preach without an overwhelming knowledge of grace in their lives don't proclaim grace to their people. They are more likely to teach moral behaviour and how to be an acceptable part of the Christian subculture.... whenever that happens…

Grace: Normal Christian Living

From Finding Joy: A radical rediscovery of grace, by Marcus Honeysett: ...there is a dawning realisation that talking about God's grace and celebrating it together is normal Christian living... Growing as a Christian is always corporate. It is never individualistic or selfish. Bearing each other's burdens and reminding each other about the Lord doesn't happen when Christians are isolated. Whatever hurdles we find to genuine fellowship, we must commit ourselves to overcoming them. It may mean summoning up the courage to ask a few others believers if we could meet together to encourage one another in prayer. It may mean that we need to ask if some core teaching on grace can be included in our church's preaching scehdule. (p76)
...Paul prayed for [grace] and anticipated that God would pour it into the lives of the believers. They knew the same Lord and the same grace we can know. We have the same hope of heaven that they had. We live two milennia later, but God has not cha…

Grace is other centred

The Grace of Giving - Dave Bish (8mb) Continued fromGrace thinks of self less.

2) 6-9 Grace is other centred.
Paul tells the story of the Macedonians for the Corinthians. He observes, v7, that they excel in everything, particularly in spiritual gifts. They are a church who excel in charismata, they excel in grace. But he wants to see, v6, the completion of the same act of grace in them. That they, v7, would excel in this grace of giving.

How does he not motivate them? Look at V8. “I am not commanding you”. He wont give them a rule or an obligation. Surely telling them to tithe, giving a generosity-tax would be the best way to serve the saints who need relief? It seems he has higher concern! He's interested, v8, in the sincerity of their love. The state of their hearts. As he goes on to say in 9v7, God delights in cheerful givers – if they don't give from overflowing joy in God's grace then it'd be better for them not to give. He looks into their hearts and the test is wha…

Grace thinks of self less

We were up at Arborfield Church today where I was preaching on 2 Corinthians 8v1-9. We had a technical problem with the recording but this is a re-record for them.
The Grace of Giving - Dave Bish (8mb)

What kind of people does God love? What does it take to be a Christian? A myth persists that God loves good people. It's time that was killed off. The subversive message of Christianity is that no one is good. No one is holy before God. We all need saving and that is what Jesus Christ did dying on a Roman cross 2000 years ago. The good news is that God rescues bad people. As a gift. This is what we call grace. Grace that took my curse. Grace that paid for my sins. Grace that gave me life. And grace that changes my life.

One way is that it removes any ground for boasting. God's free gift means we can't say we're in favour with God because of our race, class, education, fincance, image or anything else. There is level ground at the cross – our rescue is a free gift not a rewa…

Day 7

Pastoral Refreshment Conference 2008

Peter Comont, Julian Hardyman, John and Alison Risbridger, Marcus Honeysett and Philip Warburton write:The Pastoral Refreshment Conference is designed to be an oasis for Christian leaders and spouses, a place for receiving spiritual refreshment specifically tailored to those in ministry. We believe there is a close link between flourishing in leadership and caring for the hearts of leaders and spouses. Those involved in leadership can often find that they constantly give out but have few opportunities for others to encourage them to feed on God themselves. The aim of the conference is to provide sustenance for heart and family life, and an opportunity for developing intimacy with the Lord and close bonds of friendship with others in leadership.

This year we are welcoming Jonathan Lamb, Lady Elizabeth Catherwood, Mark Bonnington and others who will lead the conference in the theme of enjoying God’s grace in leadership. There will be a great mixture of inspiring pastoral preaching and se…

Test the talker

Adrian is thinking about Discernment... as is Phil Johnson (Willow Creek, Charismatics etc). Challies - The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment is forthcoming. At 6.20am I found myself waiting for a train to arrive and thinking about what to do with false teaching, an ever present in the life of the church...

How do we respond to teachers? How should we respond to sound teachers? How should we respond to false teachers? If we're to capture anything of the ethos of the first century church then we will have to wrestle with this. Part of Paul's final comissioning of Timothy was to do with how to deal with false teachers who were ravaging the church at Ephesus. Before turning to them, it seems to me that we need to think about how we deal with those humble men who are seeking to teach faithfully.1. When someone preaches a true message with true motives. Rejoice and commend them for their faithful ministry. Identify grace in them and encourage it. Faithful ministers rarely receive …

Water of life

CSI: Gospel Eyes

Steve Saint son of the Ecuador-martyr Nate Saint (who died with Jim Elliot in the 1950s) reflected that the death of his father was only explainable by divine intervention. It should not have happened and yet it did, and so sprang forth great progress for God's gospel among the Auca people.

When Paul went to Macedonia (Philippi?) very little should have happened in terms of his vision to collect money to relief the suffering of the churches of Judea. The Macedonians themselves were in extreme poverty. And yet, so great was their abundant joy in the gospel that they pleaded to be able to share in the grace of giving. And then they gave beyond their means, going hungry to meet the needs of others. They showed a wreckless disregard for their own well being. They went without basics like food so they could give to others in need. It should not have happened.

And yet Paul tells the story. It did happen - 2 Corinthians 8v1-5. Why tell the story? To highlight the outstanding charity of the…

The sin of boring people with God

"...imagination is a Christian duty is that when a person speaks or writes or sings or paints about breathtaking truth in a boring way, it is probably a sin. The supremacy of God in the life of the mind is not honored when God and his amazing world are observed truly, analyzed duly, and communicated boringly. Imagination is the key to killing boredom. We must imagine ways to say truth for what it really is. And it is not boring. God's world - all of it - rings with wonders. The imagination calls up new words, new images, new analogies, new metaphors, new illustrations, new connections to say old, glorious truth. Imagination is the faculty of the mind that God has given us to make the communication of his beauty beautiful.
Imagination may be the hardest work of the human mind. "
God is not Boring


"Where lonely people gather together
to drink burnt coffee
and ignore one another in community."

Mark Driscoll
The Rebels Guide to Joy

Grace is for losers

England lost in the Football.
England lost in the Rugby.
England lost in F1.

Losing should keep us from boasting. Sadly it just makes us whine about suspect penalties, denied tries or bad luck. Such self-pity is just pride in disguise.

Well, I'm a loser and that's ok. It's ok because the grace of God found me. It didn't find me because I'm a winner but because I was a sinner.

I didn't earn it. I didn't deserve it. I didn't figure it out. Instead He penetrated my heart, subdued my rejection and opened my eyes to behold his great majesty in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Me: happy loser.

Pete Dray takes a slightly different approach...

Authority Displayed

CREATION - Genesis 1
We see the evidence of God's authority in speaking to create.
V3. And God said “Let there be light” “and there was light”
v9 . And God said “Let the water... be gathered...”
“and it was so”
v11. Then God said “Let the land....” “and it was so”.

God speaks and we get the universe. Ever walked in the dark and said “let the be light” and succeeded? Ever sat in the bath and said “let the water be gathered” and had the water obey your voice. The word of God is so authoritative that God simply has to speak “and it was so”. Said and done. This is the authority of God's word.

2 Corinthians 3v18v4v6. Paul picks up on the creative word of God in 2 Corinthians 4v6.
God who said “Let light shine out of darkness made his light shine in our hearts” How does this light shine in our hearts? V2, v5. The plain and undistorted preaching of Jesus Christ as Lord. A word, 3v18, in which we see the glory of the Lord. A word, 4v6, that opens our eyes to see the light of the knowledge of …

Authority foundations

Part II: Assumptions & Foundations.

The Authority of the Word of God. Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3v16: “...All Scripture is God-breathed...”

Against all these we gather to establish the Authority of Scripture – Scripture over us rather than under anything. Paul asserts this as one of his final words to his protege Timothy. It stands as one of the last affirmations that the apostle makes as he heads to his death. One of the final foundations for the church as it rests upon the apostolic teaching. It is asserted into Timothy's context where the gospel was being denied, false teaching was spreading like gangrene, persecution was rising and people were increasingly following whatever teachings they liked. One generation hands on to the next and the future of the church was at stake, our salvation was at stake...

Basic Assumptions

We cannot cover everything here so as we proceed we need to make some basic assumptions. I'll comment briefly on each. If you're not convinced of these…

Prophecy on Sunday?

Bob Kauflin offers
some helpful words about:

How Do We Make Room for the Gift of Prophecy?

Religion vs. Gospel

I'm not the only blogger in the UCCF family... try these:
Pete Dray highlights some contrasts here from this seminar track:
Digging Deeper: Secure in the saving God (Tim Rudge & Alison Williams)
Mo McCracken has a quality reflection on Jonah vs. Existentialism

Authority Challenged

This morning I had the honour of teaching on The Authority of Scripture for Reading Family Church. In an act of cheap blogging I'll post the script here over the next few days.

In Acts 13 we find the Jews rejecting the apostles teaching from the scriptures. They refuse it's call to believe in Jesus. They reject it's strong judgement against them and their sin. Consequently the Apostles then turn to the Gentiles who honour the word and embrace it's teaching. The word of the Lord continues to spread. Such is the story of the church as Luke reports the acts of the ascended Jesus through his church by the Spirit.

As Pete Lowman puts it (in Gateways to God): in every sense, the growth of the church
is inseparable from the spread of the Word,
as we read it personally, as we gossip it,
as we feed on it at home groups,
in public exposition and proclamation.
This is depth, this is power,
this is spirituality.
Such statements only make sense when we have secured the doctrine of the autho…

Preaching the cross

I've just spent the afternoon with one of my staff. It's such a priviledge to be able to mentor them, hearing what God has been doing them and reading the Bible together. Today we turned to Galatians, chapter 3. Here Paul is turning the Galatians from their folly back to the message of the cross. I was struck by a number of things here: 1. When Paul directs them to recall his preaching of Christ crucified there is a assumption that they know the story of Abraham. The only way this is likely is if he had preached about this. But we know Paul only ever preaches "Christ and him crucified". Thus, when Paul preaches the cross what seems to be meant is a Biblical Theology that tracks back at least as far as the promises to Abraham. Preaching the cross then means preaching redemptive-history not just the event outside the city walls of Jerusalem... the cross casts it's shadow back through all of Scripture.

2. The gospel, which Paul is so keen to contend for can be summar…

Seven blogposts

What about the children?

Today on Five Live the pre-match build up was about securing the future of football - with stern warnings that if we didn't get childrens football right then there would be no England vs. Estonia in 15 years. Matches will of course still happen, the standard might just be lower... It's a good thing to ask about the future of English Football. Likewise we ought to ask about the future of the church.

The pyromaniacs just started talking about children and church. Including the exciting story of a youth worker teaching church history to teens! Bring that on... But, that's not really my point in posting. We were talking the other night about the place of children in church - and particularly the line between church being free parenting and childcare and parents themselves being responsible for teaching their children the gospel as part of the church.

You should know that I became a Christian when I was 18 having been part of a liberal church sunday school up to the age of 11 and…

Trinity 101 UK

JT has highlighted Grudem's work on Trinity - Trinity 101.

Mike Reeves has had a big impact on us in UCCF over the last couple of years in his role as our Theology Advisor. I think he's helped us particularly in four things.
1. Helped us see theology is exciting.
2. Church history. Particularly his love of Luther.
3. Doctrine of creation - which gets Jesus' rule over all of life not just some narrow piety. It recovers art and study, humanity and enjoyment as part of Christian life. Sanctify the ordinary!
4. Trinity. Easily enough for a six year old. Do away with the absurd illustrations about impersonal objects like clover leafs and water and eggs. If you want to know what God is like read the Bible - and if something in creation must illustrate God then it'll be the climax of creation (humanity in relationship). And the Trinity stuff is essentially available here -

Depending on the living God (includes outline of talks)
MP3s: Session 1, Session 2, Session 3.

Grace: Anti Climb Paint

"Let the paint dry.
Let the wonder of
God's grace overwhelm you.
Let it bring you to a deep sense
of his total acceptance"
Terry Virgo...and therefore stop trying to climb up to God, or to climb over his people. The grace of God liberates us to stand where we are and enjoy the view - to behold the glory of his glorious grace that is all we need from first to last, for 'salvation' and for life.

Up and over the rollercoaster!

The last two days I've been in Galatians 3 with Claudia, Ed, Steve and Andy. We've looked at the role of the law and God's promise to Jesus. The scale of the gospel is stretched back to Abraham and outward to the nations but at all times centred upon the curse bearing death of Jesus. It's wonderful news!

In Galatians 3v15-25 is like climbing up a rollercoaster, clunk, clunk, clunk. "Driving you up the redemptive historical timeline to Christ" (DA Carson) And then when you reach the top you start to fly, and soar and rejoice! Why? Because by God's promise we can be sons of God by faith in Jesus (v26). God's promise saves us! No law keeping required. The law was a temporary measure that was necessary for Israel because of sin to ensure that the Christ would come and the promise come to us! Now, anyone can be counted righteous and enjoy the promise of God's Holy Spirit - filled and clothed with Christ and so sharing his status.

Terry Virgo says (God…

Famous bloggers

From the ever sharp Cartoon blog by Dave Walker:

Kodak my Mediator

Yesterday we had a water meter fitted, I got the train to Plymouth and read the guardian and finished reading The Gum Thief, at one point the book comments on the peculiar way people take digital photos and then immediately relive the moment by looking at the picture rather than enjoying the moment they were so desperate to record.

With Facebook we'll change the world

I just got invited to this facebook group...
Lets get Tim Hughes to number one- Its about time some Christian music was all powerful in the charts and therefore on our national airwaves. So the plan is for as many people as possible to download one song two weeks before Christmas and get Tim Hughes into the charts on downloads alone!! The song we thought is most suited for was Happy Day on the Holding Nothing Back album. Please please please support us on this mission all it will cost you is 79p on itunes!! If Chris Moyles can get Billie Piper Honey to the bee and Peter Andre Mysterious Girl back in the charts this is not beyond us!!I remember the buzz when I was a student as Delirious attempted to break into the charts. Funny to see it coming round again. Raises questions for me about what is Christian music? Even if we can define it, what's gained by having it in the charts? Underlying the group I'm sure is a desire to see our nation impacted by the gospel which is brilliant.

Red letters and responsibility

I have an American Bible, a free lime green TruGrip ESV (curiously 'sound' and 'gimmicky'). The only problem is that it's a Red-Letter Bible - which highlights the words Jesus said. The problem with this is that all the words in the Bible are Jesus' words not just the ones that the Bible writers recorded as direct quotes.
Life in the red letters? Or in all of them... (Christianity Today)Tony Campolo says we need to highlight Jesus' spoken words because they're more important - he says in Jesus we have more important words than the OT law. I see where he's going with that but the Bible gives us in built hermeneutic tools - like Jesus saying that the OT points to Jesus, Paul says the same. Not every command ever uttered is one for me to keep - not because some commands are less important but because they weren't intended for me. Biblical context is the key to that. All scripture comes out of the mouth of God (2 Timothy 3v16) not just the ones that …


TRANSFORMISSION South West Christian Unions Missions Conference
Saturday 24 November, 10am-4.30pm - Belmont Chapel, Western Way, Exeter
Glorying in the cross of Christ, with Mike Reeves

Transformission : facebook event page

Radiohead: what's it worth?

So you can download Radiohead's new album today for whatever you decide to pay. It's a fascinating marketing exercise and challenge to the music industry - what should music cost? Can you decide before you hear it? And how do we decide what anything is worth?

Can they expect anyone to pay for the download when they can have it for free? One music journalist confessed he'd feel guilty if he paid nothing for the album - but why?

Value is a major theme in the Bible - it makes stunning statements about the value of possessions, life and death, and Jesus Christ. Paul can write in Philippians that death is gain and that he counts all his prior gains as worth nothing to him. Jonathan Edwards comments that the problem with 'unbelief' is that it 'sets the glory of Christ at nought'. Everyday we set the value of things - by what we pay for them and the way we treat them.

Also in today's "news": Jack will be in jail during the next season of 24. (or at leas…

Mark Virkler and the voice of God

I encountered Mark Virkler's teaching on communion with God in the late 1990s. His approach is reviewed in Christianity Magazine this month. Only the start of the article is online so I don't know what the magazine conclusions are but Virkler's resources are available: Four Keys to Hearing God's Voice. Even if you've never heard of Virkler you'll recognise what he writes as being woven into the general consciousness of British evangelicalism today. Mark Virkler says that if you want to hear the voice of God you should "begin with the Bible" - which is great, until you read on a bit:
Begin with the Bible. Think of people who heard God speaking, about whom the Bible describes a little of how they began to hear. Who comes to mind? Moses at the burning bush, Samuel in the Temple, Elijah on Mount Horeb are three characters many think of. You may have others in mind. Now think: ‘Where were these people?’ Moses was on the far side of the wilderness, a long w…

The Legal Rights of Student Christian Unions

Julian Rivers (Professor of Jurisprudence at the University of Bristol) responds to Adjudicator Mark Shaw’s QCs ruling that Exeter Christian Unions that non-Christians should be able to head up the Christian Union at Exeter University:
The Legal Rights of Student Christian Unions

Rosemary Grier highlights very helpful paragraph on discrimination in a pluralist society

Please pray that an amicable solution can be worked out on the ground in Exeter. As you can see from Professor Rivers and the NUS-UCCF guidelines this should be entirely possible.

More on Engaging with Students Unions

Mahaney interviews Dever

Grab a coffee (for an hour) and listen in to two partners in the gospel enjoying one anothers company, talking about being a pastor and reading The Valley of Vision in the middle of the night among other things.
A 9 Marks interview with a difference, this time Dever is guest... CJ Mahaney interviews Mark Dever

Subverting the charismatic debate

Is your church a charismatic church? I don't mean, does your pastor have personality. Nor do I want to ignite a debate about prophecy and speaking in tongues. Rather, is your church one where the charis of God is at work. (Charis being the NT Greek for grace) Is God's grace at work in your church? Is it charismatic?

We see the charis of God at work in the church primarily at the cross of Christ. Throughout the old testament God had shown grace to his people. But a question remained. How could God forgive people. In the death of the Lord Jesus on a Roman cross he answered that question. Jesus bore the wrath of God that we deserved so we might justly receive God's full favour. Paul explains this in Romans 3v21-25. This is a free gift of God's grace, charis, to all kinds of people. It's not earned or deserved. And this means it removes all kinds of boasting. Rich or poor. Upper class or working class. Educated or uneducated. White or black. Male or female. Though Jesu…