Thursday, March 29, 2007

It's good to read

I'm about to take a blog-holiday and pick up some books.

So far I have two books to read, What Jesus demands of the world and Velvet Elvis. The first looks like a very challenging read, and the second seems immensely popular with some students today so it seems worth reading. They're both very recent books so I'd like to add something older as well - maybe Calvin or Edwards... and lastly some fiction to be selected.

I'll blog reflections on my return.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Ten reasons why I love The Law

  1. God said it. Any words God says are precious. Doesn't matter whether they're addressed to me or not. God said let there be light to make the universe. I love that. So too the words he said to Israel, through angels via Moses.
  2. God's promises and commands to his people reveal his character. He is faithful - both in blessing Israel's obedience and cursing their rebellion.
  3. What happened to Israel after they disobeyed the law reminds me to take Jesus seriously. This is the message of Hebrews 1v1-2v4. Angels delivered the law and it's words were binding, how much more seriously must we take the words of the one who is so much higher than the angels.
  4. The things that the law teaches are shadows of the gospel reality. Shadows of atonement and the presence of God. See Hebrews 10.
  5. The faithful among God's people loved it. Psalmists speak of their delight in the Lord and their delight in his law. Anything that can bring God's people godly joy is good.
  6. Jesus says that the books of Moses are about him. John 5v44-45.
  7. Reading the law makes us desperate for someone to come who will deal with the sin problem, because the law clearly wasn't God's way of doing that.
  8. The law restrained sin in Israel. This preserved the nation, and ultimately allowed the Messiah to come from the Jews and so for sure salvation to all peoples. Imagine what would have happened if there had been nothing to fence them in.
  9. The Law was what the prophets preached to Israel. Without it we wouldn't have their message. When it was read and explained in Nehemiah 8-9 it led to hours of joy and confession and worship.
  10. Jesus fulfills the law perfectly. Matthew 5v17-18.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Twenty Four - Krish Kandiah

Antinomian Joy?

Neil Richards thinks that Marcus Honeysett is an Antinomian.

For what it's worth (which isn't much) I don't think Richards has understood what Honeysett is saying entirely - I don't think anyone could say that a call to keep in step with the Spirit is antinomianism? If I saw that we should live by the Spirit not by the law then I'm not opposing myself to the law, just saying that Christian living isn't it's purpose.

See also my argument for grace not law...delighted to be a son - Spirit-filled living is about being a son of God - clothed in Christ, indwelt by the Spirit of the Son... not living by law because we live life in the Son of God, who loved us and gave himself up for us.

(ht: the trainspotter)

Monday, March 26, 2007

Drooling over Galatians

This post is the context for this one. It is an overview of Galatians 1:1-3:14... I'd normally take about four hours to work through this in a Bible Study questions format, so this is a high speed version. If Jonah is my favourite Old Testament book, Galatians is the New Testament equivilant. Mike Reeves calls 1 Corinthians his 'champagne and caviar' - these books are my 'coffee and chocolate' - books full of God's grace and the struggle to live in it. God's words that led me away from disobedience, doubt and deception to love his grace more and make much of the Cross of Christ in all I do.

What's the effect of the gospel on us?
What was our previous condition: 1:14, 4:8, 5:1

Galatians 1v3-5. It's freedom! Jesus dies on the cross, for our sins (4) for the purpose of “delivering us from this present evil age” - to set us free, to rescue us. All of which is “by God's will” and “for God's glory”. Becoming a Christian is not a lifestyle choice, it's not the acquiring of some new habits or experiences or even knowledge: it's FREEDOM. Freedom from what? “This present evil age” ??To find out what that means we need to see where Paul and the Galatians were previously... and we're told so: 1:14 – Religious zealotry; 4:8 – Slavery to idols; 5:1 – A yoke of slavery

Not rampant sin or postmodernism... things we might imagine as our 'present evil age' – rather, the gospel, in Galatians at least, brings us freedom from slavery which can look like outright idolatry, or the kind of hard-core religious zealotry that was Paul's life. From this Paul speaks strongly about the priority of the gospel in his ministry – and establishes false teaching, of so called 'alternative gospels' as bringing condemnation. From this he speaks about how he got the gospel from Jesus, and then speaks of his unity with the Jerusalem apostles. They shared in the same gospel – with no additions made. Bonded together in fellowship in the gospel.

This was tested by taking the Gentile Christian Titus with him to see whether they would compel him to be circumcised... Titus gets away with it. Unlike Timothy who Paul has circumcised. The difference being that that was to enable Timothy to preach in the Synagogues, it's fun going on a mission with Paul! It's not immediately clear why Paul wants to tell these stories for the Galatians, but it will be eventually! Having told the story of his unity with Peter he moves us forward to an incident in Antioch... The One with the Apostle and the Bacon Sandwich. Peter finds himself out of step with the gospel, in the wrong and condemned. Paul observes that he is leading people astray from the gospel. How? By changing his eating habits... he was eating with Paul, Barnabas and the Gentile Christians... but then he separates himself... probably without even saying anything – to go and eat kosher food with the Jewish 'believers'. Looks minor on the surface but Paul is outraged by this..It's contrary to the gospel, to everything Peter knows and it leads others – even Barnabas – astray. Peter has become a false teacher by putting down his Bacon Sandwich and going to eat with the Jews only. Paul concedes that Peter is motivated by fear (12) but hypocrisy stands whatever the motive. Peter is re-imposing food law upon himself, and others. He knows for well that this is unnecessary, since Jesus has specifically shown him that all foods are now clean.

He's reminded that justification is not by law (15, 16c) – but by faith in Jesus Christ (16a&b). Peter is never going to say different, and what we're seeing is Paul working Peter through the implications of his actions. A series of questions to which Peter would certainly answer with agreement. Paul has to do it because “Lifestyle is a matter of justification”- what?? “Lifestyle is a matter of justification”. Not, that the way we live justifies us, but that the way we live says everything about the way we consider ourselves to be justified. And in Peter's case he is living like keeping food laws is required... which Paul wants to say is not the case.

You can imagine Peter begins to defend himself... saying he doesn't want to sin... v17, the presence of sin wont mean that Jesus endorses sin (v18) “If I rebuild what I tore down” - THE LAW - “I prove myself to be a transgressor”. That is if I choose to live under law, I will prove that I'm a sinner. Peter wants to avoid sin but it'll merely be highlighted and proved if he tried to keep the law. Not a great outcome! Instead, v19 – the law helped them to die to lawkeeping so they could live to Christ. And – v20, now crucified with Jesus they no longer live. Peter and Paul are dead, with Jesus. The life they now live, in this body, is lived “by faith in the Son of God” - the one who loved them, who gave himself up for them.

They have a new life that isn't their life at all. A life that is Jesus. He is their life. You want to see Paul – look at Jesus. You want to see Peter – look at Jesus. That's their life... so trying to dress up sin with a bit of law keeping is irrelevant and pointless. Further, v21... if justification was by the law: a. grace is nullified - b. Jesus died for no purpose

If Peter's lawkeeping strategy is the way to live the justified life then that would nullify grace and the cross. They'd simply not be required... we could just keep the law. Peter, of all people who ever lived, knows that the cross wasn't meaningless... he knows and depends upon the cross. “Christ died for no purpose” is something he would never want to say. And he isn't – explicitly, but Paul sees the implicit confession that Peter's actions make. But why is he telling us all of this? Or, more importantly – why is he telling the Galatians about Peter's error....? I don't think it's so get us to look for legalisms in our lives... you know, the what might I be doing that's like Peter did. No, the key is in 3v1.

You'd expect Paul to tell us what happened next. He's just hit Peter with the killer blow, and then he drops the story and turns to the Galatians (3v1), and takes them back to the day they met Paul. They're now being foolish... and it's exposed by remembering what Paul had preached to them. Namely: Christ Crucified. What's he getting at? He wants to remind the Galatians that when they became Christians they believed the message of Christ and Him Crucified. Peter has just been shown to have acted in a way that makes that empty words, meaningless preaching... contentless teaching.

And Paul says to the Galatians – don't get obsessed with your legalisms... remember the cross. Remember those words I taught you – that the death of Jesus was very meaningful. Full of meaning. Overflowing with significance. And yet “You fools” you're being like Peter. Exactly like Peter. Not with a food law but with circumcision... the issue is the same. And whatever the issue if we look at the cross we see that such law keeping is utterly futile.

Lifestyle is a matter of justification. And if you want to take your justification from the cross then say no to law keeping... if you want to keep the law, then you have to abandon the cross. Every reason to think that Peter did repent. No doubt broken in tears as Paul took him to the heart of the issue... and that's the way to do all pastoral care, to walk people slowly and lovingly back to the Cross of Christ.

Paul would have us remember the great work of the cross. Christ who loved us. Christ who gave himself for us (20). Christ whose death set us free from this present evil age (1v4). And he says – the way you live, with regard to the law shouts loudly about the value you place on the cross. Either, we abolish the cross by lawkeeping or we have to find the way to magnify the cross. To show, in our lives, that far from being meaningless. It is in fact the one meaningful thing that has ever happened!

Galatians 3 is full of amazing stuff, and we're going to have to walk past some of the greatest artefacts in the Bible. To merely glance at some of the choicest foods. But we're on our way to a meaty feast of a meal. Let's quickly walk from 3v1 to 3v14. So, back at the beginnings of their Christian life.. They “heard with faith” and received the Spirit “heard with faith” and saw miracles. In this they were like Abraham who “heard with faith” and was counted righteous by God.

In fact they are therefore, 3v7, Abraham's sons. Oh, but they're Gentiles, not descendents of Abraham? No worries -v8 God said to Abraham that he would justify the Gentiles – ethnos=peoples by faith when he preached the gospel to Abraham. I'd love to dwell on this... but we can't. Just trying sticking this summary of the gospel in your evangelism seminar... God says this is the gospel: “In Abraham shall all the peoples be blessed” And so the peoples, like those of Galatia get blessed by God with Abraham.

That's just full of hours of stuff. One more aside here, notice that Paul was trying to get them to think about the cross. remembering what he'd told them before. How is any of that anything to do with the cross. I think it means that when Paul preaches the cross he tells the whole story. Hhe preaches Abraham. And when it comes to justification for the peoples of the world. That's pretty important. Anyways

That all does rather make us ask... “why does the cross matter?” Answer: v10... cos far from being blessed... there are people who rely on the law and so they're cursed. Cursed under the terms of the law they rely on because they don't keep all of it. And even if they could – God does justification by faith not by lawkeeping. So, big problem. Lots of cursed people. But, v13 – Jesus redeems the Jews from the curse, under the terms of the law by hanging on a tree! Hallelujah! So, v14... in Christ Jesus “the blessing of Abraham might come to the peoples” which is to say... “in Christ Jesus justification might come to the Gentiles by faith” So that, we might (all) receive the promised Spirit through faith. Big pay off of the gospel promise: the peoples of the world are blessed... counted righteous and have the Holy Spirit.

By whom... 2v20, they can live life in the crucified Son of God! Catch your breath...
Law keeping adds to the gospel (2:6)
Law keeping proves you're a sinner (2:18)
Law keeping nullifies the cross (2:21)
Law keeping curses you (3:10)
Law keeping can't justify you (3:11-12)

The cross brings freedom (1:4)
The cross justifies through faith (2:16, 21)
Christians don't live any more in themselves... our life is in the Son of God (2:20)
Justification for the peoples is by faith (3:8)
Blessing is for the peoples by faith (3:9)
The blessed peoples get the Holy Spirit (3:14)

All of which rather begs the question... “why the law?” - and as various wise people have said that if you're asking the question the passage poses then you're understanding it – and in v19, that question will come!!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Stories that have to be told

Thoughts on pastoral care, Paul's way.

Some stories have to be told. When Paul wrote to the Corinthians he felt compelled (in 2 Corinthians 8) to tell the story of the Macedonian giving. Believers in extreme poverty who begged to have the priviledge of giving, even beyond their means. And the story of what these real Christians did is recorded in Scripture. This isn't done to draw attention to them, but rather (2 Cor 8v1) to tell of the amazing grace of God to these believers.

In Galatians 2 things are a bit different. Another real life story is told. This time, The One with the Apostle and the Bacon Sandwich... Paul and Peter had previously stood united in the gospel - in full agreement. But now Paul faces off against Peter because Peter has become a false teacher, leading even Barnabas astray. In Galatian terms he is condemned. Condemned not just for false teaching, but because his actions are cross-denying. Without the cross, all you have is condemnation. Peter is a silent false-teacher - his actions denying the gospel. He is quite simply, out of step with the gospel, out of step with everything he knows and loves.

There's every reason to think that Peter did repent. No doubt he was broken in tears as Paul took him to the heart of the issue. I say this firstly because 2 Peter is not a letter written by a man who denies the cross, but rather by someone who knows how much believers need to keep on remembering it. Secondly because Paul seeks repentance from the Galatians by showing that they are behaving just like Peter did.

What Paul does with Peter is a model for all pastoral care. Some people look at Galatians and say he's a bit harsh, dropping the normal thanksgiving at the start to call down curses on false teachers, and calling his readers fools. But what shines through is his passion for the gospel, and for his readers life. He stands up for the gospel for their sake, knowing that without it they have no life at all. And the standards he applies to others he applies to himself. His is a great example.

If we follow Paul here then we're to walk people slowly and lovingly back to the Cross of Christ. Step by step Paul reminds Peter of all the foundation things he holds dearest - about how to get right with God, about what the law (that he's now re-imposing does and doesn't do), about the new life they have, not of law but living in the Son of God (in Union with Christ). Peter is shown that his actions are saying something his tongue never would, that Christ died for no purpose. That the cross was meaningless. He would never say that explicitly. Of all people who ever lived, Peter knew that the cross was meaningful - and yet his behaviour was saying otherwise. Peter needed this deep care from Paul.

Lifestyle is a matter of justification, in the sense that the way we live tells of how we think we get right with God. And Peter's is saying - not by grace, but by law... not by the cross but by the way I live. Paul takes him slowly back to the heart of the matter... before promptly dropping the story without resolving it....

Why tell the story in the first place? Why draw attention to Peter's failure? Why record it in Scripture so that every Christian who ever lives will know about it?
Because the story needs to be told to the Galatians who have fallen into Peter's error also. Like we might. None of us is immune from these apparently small slips that in reality are deadly. They, like Peter, need to return to the heart of the matter... back to the words that Paul had first preached to them... the gospel of Christ and him Crucified. And when Paul speaks of The Cross, it's evident that this includes talk of the abolition of slavery to religious zealotry and idols, of his loving, sacrificial substitution (dying for us), Abraham, God's promises in Jesus, of the Holy Spirit and of global blessings for the peoples of the world by hearing with faith...

We need a fully orbed, widely applied vision of the cross. Pastoral care that is worth doing, walks people back to the foot of the cross where they can see clearly. The story of the cross is the one we need to be telling.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

think hard, go deep, get a theology, and jump up and down

Passion takes it higher...(Christianity Today)

"Yes Lord, walking in the way of your truth, we wait eagerly for you, for your name and your renown are the desire of our souls."
Isaiah 26:8

...most of these students have never heard anyone plead with them to think hard, go deep, get a theology, and jump up and down with David Crowder..... [Passion] just deliver sharp challenges drawn from God's Word. Who would think a generation raised on self-esteem would turn out again and again to hear "God is big, and you are not"?ht: Justin Taylor

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More MP3s on The Cross now online at and
Free MP3 Song Downloads

Seven Days

MP3 of the Week

Mark Driscoll on Alcohol - written up as The Sin of Light Beer in Radical Reformission

Link of the week

SteffyB on Swearing

1. Relocation, relocation

We're moving to Exeter in August because I have a new job, leading the UCCF team in the South West.

2. Holy Spirit

Peter Kingston of Wycliffe Bible Translators teaching us about listening to the Spirit. See also John Piper on hearing the voice of God.

Team life is great.

3. Homegroup

Leaving is happiness and sadness. Daniel 9 with friends... "hear be wackos" as someone has said.

4. Contentment

Teaching this to the team, hard lessons that I'm still trying to learn. Hopefully these also become chapter 4 (or 3) of my book next week.

5. Evidently Anna Mac's flat

Good company and Lettuce Soup as we enjoyed Jesus together

6. Crazyphobias

Visiting Adrian's church to talk about UCCF, and dinner with his family. The man who provides his guest with a triple espresso is a man of great character.

7. Gareth's last team days

Expressing our thankfulness to the man who has led the South East team for the last seven years. He's been a great example of leadership, not least because of his deep concern for us - beyond just our work.

"...he loves first, asks questions second."

A remarkably brief and beautifully accurate tribute from Al Macinnes.


Mike Reeves, writes about Luther in the latest UCCF NB magazine:

"'I am permanently loved by God despite my feelings and despite my failures. It was this that gave Luther his dazzling confidence and joy, and led him to recommend:
'When the devil throws our sins uup to us and declares that we deserve death and hell, we ought to speak thus: 'I admit that I deserve death and hell. What of it? Does this mean that I shall be sentenced to eternal damnatino? By no means. For I know One who suffered and made satifaction in my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Where he is, there I shall be also.'
If today we fail to share Luther's world-changing obsession with the gospel, it is only because we have let the death-defying, joy-giving beauty and sweetness of justification by faith alone slip through our fingers... every other gospel can only leave us comparatively apathetic. If Luther were a student today, armed with thsi gospel, we would have another Reformation. But what if a whole generation of students were to graps the gospel as he did.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Delighted to be a son

I spent some of today on the ninth floor of a tower block in London teaching London Relay Workers about "Understanding the Law". This is part of that.

Further reading:
Chris Poteet - Why the law then?
Marcus Honeysett - Finding Joy
Galatians 3v15-26: Promises are for sons! Don't get locked up – rejoice in God's promise – we're blessed sons!

vv15-18 – Promise to Abraham & Jesus for justification!
Paul begins this section of his letter with what he calls a 'human example' - it's not the kind of thing we encounter everyday but the image is simple enough... the basic deal is when a promise is made you can't change the terms of the promise.

God made a promise to Abraham on blessing for the peoples, of righteousness and the Holy Spirit. This promise was to Abraham and his SEED (singular) - not to a whole nation of people, but to ONE. To Jesus.

Four Hundred and Thirty years later God gives the law through Moses. By the example considered earlier this promise cannot be modified. So the law can't change the way God's people will get made righteous. So, the law wont justify... because God's promise to Jesus does that.

19-20 – Law because of sin
Why then the law? Because of sin. Not because of a need to bring righteousness - the promise does that. No, it was a temporary measure, because of sin - until Jesus comes. In place until the offspring should come to whom the promise was made... in place until Jesus should come to whom God's promise was made. It stands until Jesus comes. And then it's purpose is fulfilled. Completed. Done.

What seems like a technicality about the delivery of the law is designed to show the superiority of the promise. The promise came direct, the law was delivered by postmen (angels, via Moses).

21-23 – Law to imprison Jews in sin, til Jesus came
Why isn't the law opposed to the promise? They're not contrary... opposed... Because?
They do different things.. So if you have two ways to do exactly the same thing they will fight it out against one another...

E.g. VirginMedia vs. Sky... to entertain us... But, VirginMedia vs. My Fridge is no fight... The Fridge can't entertain me, and VirginMedia can't keep my food cool.. If the law could make you righteous then it would have... but it couldn't and so it doesn't. But, as we saw earlier – it can make you unrighteous – by proving you're sinful, and nullifying the one way that you can get righteous... If the law didn't give life & righteousness, what then did it do? (22/23) Locked up the Jews . Why? “So that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe”

Er...? The law enables Jesus to come by preserving the Jews... imagine their rebellion without the law to constrain and protect them... ? It had a temporary purpose to enable God's promise to be completed in Jesus. Somehow. So, v23, Jews were prisoners “until the coming faith would be revealed” I'm going to sharpen that up for us: “we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until Jesus”

Would it be good for a Christian to submit to the law?
No. No. No. It was a temporary measure for the Jews... designed for the time before Jesus.
It's like the foreign exchange trip where you have to wear silly matching sweatshirts and matching backpacks. None of those french kids who walk around Reading in the summer are going to dress like that when they get home... and it'd be equally weird if I wanted to do so. Someone else's temporary rule.

24-26 – Son in Christ, by faith!!
What did the law do for the Jews? What does it now do for them? What changed?
It was a guardian for the Jews until Jesus. It was a guardian for the Jews until Jesus so they could be justified by faith. But now, Jesus has come so they don't have to keep the law anymore... they have faith in Jesus.

What does that mean for the peoples? (26) - feel the impact of this... “FOR IN CHRIST JESUS, YOU ARE ALL SONS OF GOD, THROUGH FAITH” - Mmmm.

But, hang on... God made a promise to Jesus. How do we get hold of it...??

3V27: Jesus on the outside.. Get 'in Jesus' and you get the promise. Not because it's made to you – but because it's made to Jesus! How does that feel!
4v6: Jesus on the inside – by the Holy Spirit who says “This is a Son” to the Father. Whatever you feel or think about it... he says “We have a SON here...” “I've got a SON here”... not by law, but by faith in Jesus!!!!

And if all God's promises are YES in Jesus and we're Jesus inside and outside then all the promises of God - not least righteousness and the Holy Spirit come to us in Jesus! God made the promise of inheritance to Jesus... and since we're in Jesus... 4v7... Sons... therefore heirs... (4v7) WOW! What about the law... it enabled the Jews to be preserved so Jesus would come... and now Jesus has come it's purpose in redemptive history is done. A temporary measure... And woe betide us if we re-impose the law.

To add the law is to deny the cross... and if you deny the cross there is no way to be justified.
Law can't do it.... it never could... it was never meant to... the only way is to hear the word of the cross with faith... and so be blessed.. justified... and receive the Spirit... by whom you live your life in the Son of God... and so the way to live as a Christian is not about law, it's about living in step with the Holy Spirit... which is the subject of chapter 5... and your next area of core study!
Sons... filled with the Spirit... (ch5) – That's how to live! Not by law, but in step with the Spirit... living in the Son of God!

Summary: Understanding the law...
The Law was a temporary measure until Jesus came.
The Law never justified anyone
The Law in the life of the Christian minimises the cross....
So, Christians are sons who live by the Spirit rather than slaves who lives by law.... people who make much of the cross!
A use of the law is to enable us to delight that we are sons by faith... God's promise has been kept!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Strange way to start a revolution

So... post 999.
  • God could give everyone enough but he make some rich and others poor.
  • God could speak clearly to everyone but he gives the message to one and not to another.
  • God could speak intelligibly to all, but gives a tongue to one and an interpretation to another.
In the first case so that the rich can give to the poor and learn about the grace of God in Jesus - that he too was rich but to save us became poor..... In the second so that one can share the grace they've found. In the third we learn to need one another for our growth.

If we were just individuals living "my personal relationship with Jesus" none of these things would make sense, but we're a body and he designs ways for us to learn that! A body where everyone can do everything is no use to anyone... but when we're all dependent upon each other we grow by working together... and giving credit to the one who gives all gifts and all things.

Tangled souls...

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Radical Reformission

The Radical Reformission : Mark Driscoll
Reaching out without selling out....

This book is a companion to Confessions of a reformission rev. That book is the story of the growth of Mars Hill Church, this one takes the same convictions and translates them into missional living.

The style is much like that of Confessions, Driscoll writes with clarity and clear passion. Each chapter ends with an interview with a Christian who is putting the challenges of the chapter into action. Study questions are also included to hammer home it's lessons.

Driscoll has a great eye for getting the gospel into life, and for the way that it is so easily compromised. His chapter on how we can very easily get culture wrong is a brilliant piece of writing - the sin of light beer.

It's evident that Driscoll has a great passion for God's word - and doesn't hold back from tackling the oft neglected wisdom literature, perhaps something that grounds his passion so well in real life. We need churches who will teach Ecclesiastes, Proverbs and Song of Songs etc.

Driscoll's concern for the word gives him his concern for his people - which other pastor would note - we teach Song of Songs so that our people learn about sex from the Bible rather than from porn. He wont experiment on them rather seeking to give them the very best and help them to grow in Jesus.

Driscoll is pioneering church in one of the least churched parts of the USA, which probably places it just ahead of the UK in terms of the size of the church. That, I think, puts him about as close to the British context as American is going to be. The issues in Seattle aren't going to be exactly those her - but we need to take his convictions about the gospel as we bring it into our culture.

Mimicry of Driscoll isn't what we need (few of us could use words with his wit), but his passion for missions and for the gospel is something we can definitely benefit from.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Seven Days

Links of the week:

David Field on Galatians 3 according to the Conservative Party... hmmm.


MP3s if the week!

1. Post 997

This one is that. So, crossing the 1000 threshold next week then... how did that happen!

2. Simulation and Simulacra

Jean Baudrillard is dead - so the media says.

3. That'll be a flood plain then..

Walking over to Arborfield on Monday to find the path under water... not just a little, but a new river flowing knee deep. Let's just say I got wet, and it smelled bad.

On arrival a very encouraging missions team meeting.

4. Sons!

Jesus outside. Jesus inside. Sons of God. Galatians with Matt on Friday.

5. Stew

Slow-cooked over several days. This is also the best way to prepare good talks - which I've been trying to do this week alongside some very encouraging times in the word with students. Loving the job. Particularly good studying Ephesians 6 - preparing cell leaders to think about studying their courses Christianly..

"Evangelism is more spiritual than my course. Discuss"

6. On the run

Early each morning. Invigorating! Especially when running with the (mp3) company of Nigel Beynon, Mike Reeves, Mark Driscoll, John Piper and Terry Virgo.

7. Photo of the week

Becci wanted me to pick this. Instead, we have this from the funkypancake.... my current desktop wallpaper:

Friday, March 09, 2007

Explore the Truth

Reading CU - Explore the Truth MP3s are now online. These are the talks from the recent week of events to help students to explore the claims of Jesus.

Singing you shall not be able to silence

Martyr, John Huss, 1415: "It is thus, that you silence the goose, but a hundred years hence there will arise a swan whose singing you shall not be able to silence." Which Martin Luther considered to have been fulfilled in his ministry, about a century later - as he enabled the church to rediscover the glorious truth of our gospel, namely justification by grace through faith.

Prophesy is a gift from God to strengthen the church and the rediscovery of the gospel certainly fits into that bracket. In fact it's exactly what the Holy Spirit loves to do for the church - to enable us to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord! And so it seems beneficial that we listen to what God says in his word - Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy (1 Corinthians 14v1) and obey the command. Let the church be strengthened through prophecy and every other gift that God would give, so we become a church that more honours his name.

Let all prophecy be tested, and submitted to what the Holy Spirit has said in scripture - so that false words are dismissed quickly. Prophecy it seems has no authority in itself, only when the scriptures grant a word to be fitting. A desire for prophecy today stands within a desire to hear God speak to his church - what are we without God's voice to us? Thus a church that wants prophecy must be utterly devoted to the opening of scripture, to it's teaching. Convinced that change only happens as the word is taught, that the kind of universe-creating change that is needed in our hearts cannot be achieved by fanciful ideas and gimmickry only by the double-edged sword of his word.

It's a mockery of God for us to desire prophecy if we wont take the Scriptures seriously. It's foolish if we sit with closed Bibles begging God to speak - he is already speaking to us. I have no doubt we need whispers of prophecy to spur us on, but only in the context of serious study of scripture. I hear some say that we should have less scripture taught to appease the charismatics who do not like Bible teaching... as one, let me say that's appalling. Let us have more of scripture among us for all our sakes and for the sake of our God.

Let us make no concession to those who want less of God's word, rather let us respond with more of it - let the word do the changing of hearts - electrifying the darkness of foolish minds, and setting hearts on fire. Without God's word we become slow and spiritually obese. Lacklustre and lukewarm. But when the word of God strikes our hearts, humility follows, repentance comes, character changes, God gets glorified by his people.

This post by Adrian Warnock got me thinking about the above itself from Challies on CJ Mahaney on Humility helping "us to apply His Word to our lives and experience the sweet, transforming effect of His Word"

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Is Christianity Anti-intellectual?

I'm speaking on this in a week's time - here's a first draft for your interaction.

So how do you answer this question? I could I suppose wheel out some clever Christians to show that clever people believe in Jesus. But there are plenty of stoopid Christians in the world. Instead I'm going to interact with Richard Dawkins. He's the professor for public understanding of science, but he's also rather interested in this question about faith and intellect. It's the subject of his recent bestseller, The God Delusion, and all quote from him are from that book.

  1. Firstly, Dawkins says (p51) "It is the nature of faith that one is capable of holding a belief without adequate reason to do so". He asserts that faith is anti-intellectual because it isn't based on evidence. So the question is, does this describe Christianity. In John 20v31, an eyewitness of Jesus' life writes to say that he has gathered a stockpile of evidence. That evidence is for us to consider so that we may believe Jesus to be the Son of God. He doesn't expect blind believe, but writes so we would believe with adequate reason. You need to consider that evidence for yourself and see if it stacks up - and we can talk about that if you like. But, for now, we must conclude that Christianity is not anti-intellectual because it is a worldview based on evidence.

  2. Secondly, Dawkins (p283) "My belief in evolution is not fundamentalism, and it is not faith, because I know what it would take to change my mind, and I would gladly do so if the necessary evidence were forthcoming". He asserts his own position but in the process demonstrates that he considers Christians to be fundamentalists. Anti-intellectual because nothing could change their minds. So let us ask, is there anything that could refute Christianity. In 1 Corinthians 15, in the Bible, we're told that if Jesus did not rise from the dead - resurrection - then Christians are pitiful fools. That is to say, the whole thing falls apart if the resurrection did not happen. It should be abandoned in such circumstance. Therefore, Christianity is not anti-intellectual fundamentalism because like Richard Dawkins we know what it would take to change our minds, and would recant if required.

    Titanic director, James Cameron, recently claimed to have found Jesus' tomb - complete with his body and that of his family. If this is authentic then he has found the 'necessary evidence'. You ought to check his evidence, weigh it against the evidence for Jesus resurrection and see which carries best fits what happened.

  3. Thirdly, let us observe that far from being anti-intellectual Christianity is more than just intellectual. Anyone of any IQ is welcomed by Jesus. Class, culture and mental competence are not barriers to belief in him. The good news about Jesus is remarkably simple to understand - a child could manage it. Yet, it is deep and rigorous enough to occupy a lifetimes study. Further, Jesus calls people to follow him completely. Do not leave your brain at the door. Nor your heart, body, emotions or desires.

But if there is evidence and we have a criteria for refuting Christianity, and it's open to all... why isn't everyone queuing up to become a Christian?

Dawkins again, this time quoting Martin Luther with relish (p190). "Reason is the greatest enemy of faith, it never comes to the aid of spiritual things but frequently struggles against the divine word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God" Dawkins plays dirty here because he imposes his own definition of reason (something he wont let happen when it suits him - for example with Einstein earlier in his book). We have already said that Christianity fits criteria for being reasonable. The mind is not to be bypassed. But the quote is accurate. We should observe that Martin Luther was a theologian, a lawyer, a scholar, a linguist as well as being a brewer. He was no intellectual lightweight. But, his quote is right...

We'll see how. Let's play Bruce Almighty (illustration borrowed from Mike Reeves). Suppose for 24 hours you are God. What would you do with your great power? More importantly, how would you want your creatures to relate to you? Inevitably we'd ask for devotion, obedience, good morals, performance. And The Bible calls this "the wisdom of the world" (1 Corinthians 1v21). It's the way that human wisdom dictates what God is like. I almost don't dare put these words in their context. It might cause a riot. But, we can't avoid the evidence. This comes at the start of the letter that includes the famous poem about love that we read at weddings. Paul writes that the wisdom of this world cannot know God. If we try to come up with what God is like we only ever get cheap fakes, imitations, false gods, idols... Christianity is having none of it. All human attempts to reach God will fail. Human intellect will fail.

Rather, the only way is through what he goes on to call "my foolish message" namely that the only way we can know God is through "Christ Crucified". God on a cross, dying to bring us to him. No one invents God like that - Me Almighty wouldn't die for creatures who hated me. Not going to happen. But this is Christianity. It isn't clever or sophisticated. It doesn't pander to our desire to show off our intellect. In fact it is designed to thwart our intellectual pride and superiority complexes. It leaves us foundering without the knowledge of God unless we are prepared to trust in God on a Roman Cross to save us. That is to say boldly that our confidence to come and know God comes from the shameful criminal death of Jesus of Nazareth. No one looks clever when they say that.

Endorsing Richard Dawkins book, Derren Brown says... "In hope that those secure and intelligent enough to see the value of questionity their beliefs will be big and strong enough to read this book". And Jesus says - yes engage your brain. But ultimately if you try to think yourself to God, to prove that you're "big and strong" enough you'll fail. Christians are people who come on their knees to "God on the Cross" with no boasts. They look stupid at times but there is no other way. In this "reason is the greatest enemy of faith" because it demolishes our self-confidence. It flushes it down the toilet. Dawkins, one last time (p50). "If he existed and chose to reveal it, God could clinch the argument unequivocally, in his favour". The cross of Jesus says he has - and that this is a matter of evidence to consider not irrational leaping in the dark but it does thwart our proud minds... it puts us on the spot and asks us to consider the evidence.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Hear! Hear!

Top Link:

Live within the hearing of God's word... but there are Three Types of Expository Preaching.

You wouldn't think it would be hard for God's people to listen to his word.... yet even today Godly men have to stand up to defend God's word from those who would undermine it. The human story is one of persistent defiance of God's word. Yet as the book of 2 Chronicles approaches it's end the tide appears to be turning... Josiah was the last of the good kings of Judah. He 'found' the law, that had been lost. And then he read it to the people! He cleared out the temple, instituted the passover. And yet within 22 years of the high point of his reign all was lost. Of all the Kings he was faithful, of all of them he knew the voice of God. Theirs was a classic case of the movement from gospel-loving to gospel-denying. But how?

For some reason he went off to the Euphrates to fight King Neco of Egypt who was there to fight someone else (Babylon?). This was a battle he didn't belong in. What was he doing? We're not told. But, surprisingly we are told that God spoke to Josiah through Neco, saying that Neco was ok to fight these guys but Josiah had to go home. Josiah refuses, disguises himself to fight and is caught by an arrow... dying just like Ahab the King who hated God by hating his word... and thus the man who would mostly have delivered God's word to Josiah, Jeremiah, is left to lament with all God's people.

Neco rearranges the furniture for Israel before Nebuchadnezzar arrives from Babylon. Not for the final blow that would destroy them (see Daniel 1) since that's not what God has yet ordained. Nonetheless Judah remain rebellions - getting through kings quicker than a football club in decline through their managers. Three months, eleven years, three months, eleven years. And amidst them the shock of a King aged eight who does great evil in God's sight, even in only 100 days on the throne - so much for innocent children.

King Nebuchadnezzar tells them to obey their God. Presumably he wants them to obey their God so that they'll be fruitful - which is good for him when he comes to skim off whatever he wants. But they don't listen to God's voice through King Nebuchadnezzar anymore than they did through King Neco. God continues in patience and compassion, sending messenger after messenger... their words unrecorded but we know the deal - "repent and all will be forgiven... turn to the temple and seek your God..." - instead they defile the place God has set for them meet with him. So finally, God sends King Nebuchadnezzar to kill them and destroy the temple. There was no other remedy for his right wrath... No remedy remained.

Where can they go from here...
  • The spluttering postscript. Words are borrowed from the start of Ezra in 36v22-23. These words make things all the more tragic. We come full circle to the start of the book - another King comes to build a temple for the LORD, speaking God's word. But this is a foreign king... and the temple he comissions will never have the glory. The years of the return from exile spell nothing but disappointment. Seventy years away but nothing will really have changed... God sanctions and leads their return but it is another false dawn. Another shadow of reality.
  • The land get's rest! Repentance would have brought a healing of the land. Now the land is left in sabbath to recover. One imagines creation breathing a sigh of relief as the evil 'people of God' are evicted.
  • Is all hope lost? The story of God's people, generations of hope for the coming of Great David's greater son end in disaster... the story ending in 2 Chronicles 36v21 with the land in rest. The King hasn't come. No totally pure king. No eternal king. Nothing has been able to stop the rot. Can there be any way back? Only when God is again merciful, not to send another prophet into his vineyard, but rather his own Son. Every other messenger has been ignored before (whether kings or prophets...) and He too will be mocked and indeed killed... but bearing wrath in his death he establishes true worship (humble orthodoxy) - because he will bring God's presence perfectly among his people - he will rule perfectly and forever - he will listen to everything his Father says, for he will be the word incarnate. Without the knowledge of the coming of Jesus Christ, 2 Chronicles is nothing but despair and emptiness... we share the laments of Jeremiah - for them, and for our own fickle hearts... and we throw ourselves upon the mercy of the Word.

Monday, March 05, 2007

UCCF South East Leaders

Download Mike Reeves' talks from the UCCF South East leaders weekend.

Mike reckons that 1 Corinthians is like champagne and caviar. I've fine food! Never had caviar, but feeding on God in 1 Corinthians was very tasty indeed. God's gospel is foolish to the world, but wonderful wisdom to the spiritual.

Daniel Talks

I'm about to load these onto my MP3 player: Having just listenedi to Marcus' talk (as I was running) this morning my MP3 player ticked over to the next track - O Church Arise, and put your armour on.... Appropriate, given the content of Daniel 9.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Seven Days

Links of the week:

Rosemary Grier - Creeds and Confessions


Life. A good invention. God has given us everything to be enjoyed for his glory!

"my hope isn't in shells but I can still enjoy them"


MP3 sermons from Jonathan Thomas at Ammanford Evangelical Church

JT was my mentor in my first year with UCCF which means I spent two days following him around Cardiff being fed nothing but sandwiches.

1. The world's wisdom can't know God

Not, the William Lane Craig - Lewis Wolpert debate but big Mike Reeves at our CU leaders weekend on 1 Corinthians 1-2. Mp3s online here in a few days.

Champagne and Caviar!

2. The return of God

John Humphrey's write up of the debate
He doesn't exactly engage with it but interesting nonetheless. HT: Mark Meynell

3. Blood red moon with hot chocolate

Staring at the sky in the cold.

The audacity of Kath / the servant leadership of Gareth

4. The Real Thing

Talking to guys at TVU on Tuesday about Jesus

5. Ahem. Service providers should provide service.

Mr Branson & co... 'old sky snooze' - cheap wit... and we really don't care about your fight with Mr Murdoch. Just get us the channels we'd like to watch on our TVs... like the ones we signed up for.

6. How to do a good talk.

As demonstrated by Matt Benton at Surrey. The key is fill it with lots of the Bible. Simple really.

Oh, probably only he and me actually remembered the OJ trial... 21st Century student work.

7. Photo of the week

One of many moments from the weekend, now all over facebook.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Biting off more than you can chew

Sennacherib (King of Assyria about 2500 years ago - see 2 Chronicles 32) mocked God's people saying that he'd beaten every other 'god' in the world... but he made the fatal error - The LORD is real, unlike all the gods that people invent.

It's not exactly politically correct to say that.. especially at Surrey University where multi-faith is the rising agenda... welcome to Athens - idols everywhere... let the Christians be distressed and so go into the market place and the debating halls and speak of Jesus and his resurrection, as Paul did in the first century.

Sennacherib over-stretched himself. Anyone can defeat an idol (it doesn't exist, such things are delusions) but when you take on the real thing, the LORD who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit you don't win. No one takes on the LORD and wins...

God's response to the taunts of Sennacherib was to send his angel, God's postman to obliterate the Blasphemers army. Sennacherib went home ashamed and his own sons killed him. That's not to say God is going to send angels to kill atheists today - I really don't think there is warrant to say that. But, he will pass judgement ultimately on anyone and everyone who has failed to see the glory of Jesus. All other 'sins' are subsidiary of that... and no amount of good deeds or religious devotion can make up for not doing it. That might seem a minor thing to fail it, but such an admission merely proves blindness. It is evil to not worship Jesus.

At the Bethinking Debate Lewis Wolpert asked 'how do you know your God is the true God?' The answer is Jesus and the resurrection... which is why William Lane Craig was talking about that... when Paul talked about this in Athens he got a mixed response.... some scoffed, mocked and 'blasphemed', but others believed and wanted to know more.

When any of us take on God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) we're biting off more than we can chew. He's revealing himself to us, and rather than boasting about ourselves we ought to listen to what he's saying.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

R.I.P Sky One

So, a few weeks ago Virgin Media take over ntl, and now they've failed to renew their contract to show Sky One so now it's gone. No more channel 120. That's what I call service. Thanks Mr Branson. Thanks Mr Murdoch.

Just when you need Jack Bauer to come and fix a problem he disappears.... still there are other (legal) ways to see Day Six - like friends with Sky...

Enough of my selfish mourning :(

The Guardian weighs in...

Wives should submit to their husbands...

Ephesians 5v22-33 (RUCU Cells, Week8)

Paul continnues his great exposition of the universe under Christ and the church in Christ. He's still talking about living worthy of the call to be in Christ together... about wisdom which is being Spirit-filled – wrapped up in God. Now he focusses on two inseparable themes - Christ and the Church, and Marriage. Clearly marriage is not exclusively for Christians, but there is such a thing as 'Christian Marriage' – that fulfills the true intent of the Genesis 2 mandate for marriage. In teaching us about this – and then about family and work – he fills in the details of God's big Jesus plan. Some how I think this bit of God's word isn't going to go down well in our culture (as if any of it ever really does...)

In Outline
22-24 To wives and the church
25-31 To husbands and the church
32 This is really about Christ and the church
33 But it's also about marriage

The message to wives is simple to understand but perhaps hard to stomach for some. The ministry of being a wife is marked by submission to her husband. The church practices mutual submission (21) under Christ, but here is a particular submission by wives to husbands (and not vice-versa) Wives are to submit to husbands and the model is their existing submission to Jesus.
The cry returns – 'my husband is no messiah', but the command stands. Living worthy of the Lord involves humility and patiences (4v2), calling wives to this special submission which is in all things (24) – in 'everything'. This isn't oppression – just look at the description of the noble wive in Proverbs 31v10-31. She is glorious, honouring and respecting (33) her husband. With a godliness that is beautiful. The filling of the Spirit is needed to live this, and it is a wonderful ministry for a woman to embrace. In our culture this beautiful display of the relationship of Christ to the church is sadly lacking. Women are expected not to submit but instead to overthrow their husbands – reminiscent of The Fall. A godly wife who mimics the submission of the church to Christ in her marriage is greatly to be sought after. It is a calling women should pursue – adding submission to husband to the existing submission to Jesus. As a Christian woman looks for a husband this needs to be in the criteria. Shuds once suggested that we should ask whether someone is sexy, single, suitable and saved.... and a girl needs to add to that 'am I prepared to submit to this man'.

Husbands have a high call too. If the wife protests that her husband is no messiah, he agrees! Yet he must love like Christ loves. Sacrificially. That means it costs. 21st Century culture can't compute sacrificce, the concept that there might be something I want but am not therefore entitled too. Some comfort, ambition, opportunity... yet like Christ did, sacrificed.

"We must consider marriage in terms of the doctrine of the atonement." -
- Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Life in the Spirit

Marriage is not about ethics – it's about the cross. Christian men who don't have clarity about the cross will make bad husbands. Further, Christ's love was for a purpose. He 'loved' to sanctify by his word (4v12-13 to show the church in splendour. Why? Because just as husbands and wives are in union so Christ and the church.

"We must understand that as long as Christ remains outside of us, and we are separated from him, all that he has suffered and done for the salvation of the human race remains useless and of no value to us" - John Calvin, Institutes 3.1.1.

Christ and the church are one – 1v23, the church is the body of Jesus. And this isn't a new idea – Paul roots it in Genesis 2. When God invented marriage he had the church in mind. The church is in union with Christ as a husband is with his wife. The key lesson here, v32, is of Christ and the church as one – but this also shows in marriage, v33.

Paul says it's a mystery that is profound. That doesn't make it mysterious - rather Biblical mysteries are things God has hidden and then revealed. I.e. The secret of marriage was there in Genesis 2, but only here do we get it's meaning revealed in the gospel.

Men may feel the calling is too high, but it is to be embraced by the Spirit's power as a wonderful opportunity to know and display of Christ to the world. Men are to lead and teach their wife – this is love. Christ changes the church by 'washing with the word' and likewise a husband teaches his wife. It's popular today to react against historic chauvinism with feminism. This line tries to either flatten the difference between husband and wife, by robbing the husband of his role as loving leader, and disuading the wife from submission. The impact on Christ and the Church is disastrous. It goes further in some cases and we find women leading their weak husbands. Consequently a church where it rather than Christ ruling, we rule.

Christ calls godly women to be wives in submission to their husbands. And he calls men to be Christian husbands – loving leaders who teach their wives the gospel – and so reveal what Jesus does for the church. A Church where men are afraid to lead and where women dominate is out of step with Jesus – it'll be ugly, speaking of a church that rules her Saviour.

Sometimes women take over because men wont step forward. Instead women should encourage men to be loving leaders who speak God's word. That's not to say women have no place – they absolutely do have a place, not least being godly wives (a much higher calling than it's creditted with today!) – the church needs every part to be active so the body works rightly (4v16). Being a wife is a great calling for a woman to have within the church - modelling in their marriage the relationship that the whole church is called to have with Christ. What a ministry!

Christian Marriage is there as a ministry for a man and a woman to embrace (Paul isn't trying to put us off it) – we should consider whether, by the grace of God, it's something we're prepared to enter into. We'll never do it perfectly, but God wants Christian Marriages to show off the glory of Jesus and his church so he will give us enough grace.

Related thoughts on submission from Piper via JT
Marriage: Pursuing Conformity to Christ in the Covenant (Piper on this passage on Feb 25th)
Wayne Grudem on a husbands sacrificial leadership, at cost to himself - like with Jesus