Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Superpowers brushed aside

Adrian got me thinking the other day about Jeremiah with his blogging on Jeremiah 17. So I've started reading it. I've not listened Adrian's sermon yet but it's loaded and ready on my mp3 player. Hear it here: The heart of the matter.

Starting at the begininng. Jeremiah is commissioned by God, he's told not to protest that he's too young or two weak (1v8-9). Words that reminds me of Moses and even more so of young & timid Timothy who are both sent by God to preach the word. Ultimately the calibre of the preacher isn't the point, it's the content of the words they're to speak. Jesus embodies this more than anyone, weak yet speaking the very words of God.

More striking for me was what he'll do. This blew me away.
"Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.
See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to break down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant."
God's words are in Jeremiah's mouth. And what do God's words do? They can pluck up and break down, destroy and overthrow kingdoms and nations, and build and plant them. What immense authority! Two things have been on my mind recently - how to relate to authorities when you're in the minority, and the authority of scripture. Here they collide. A weak and young preacher can speak God's words and he has more power than the might of a whole nation. Not that this exalts the preacher, rather it exalts the one speaking through him. The God whose words can pick up a superpower and thrown it to the floor. This is the authority of God. Nothing is too big to stand against him. You don't mess with this.

Jeremiah was sent with these words against God's own people Judah. They resisted but could not overthrow him because God was with him. Resistence is futile. Whenever they or we take on the word of God we lose. My sinful heart protests against what God says prefering my own sinful lies. Foolishness.

This word carries more weight than all the armies of the earth.
This word is sin-convicting. This word is faith-expanding.
This word created. This word re-created.
This word exposes. This word comforts.
This word can kill. This word can bring life.

How great my expectation ought to be when I read God's word, when I hear it preached! Seismic shifts in world politics can be caused by God speaking against godless people, how great could be the effects when a people gather with humility to hear his voice?

Resolved: not to come to the Word of God lightly seeking information but rather with trembling and the expectation of world-changing transformation.

Last night I read his first message in Jeremiah 2v1-3v5, which points to something like an anatomy of sin. More on that another day.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Introducing Krish Kandiah

Let me introduce you to a new blogger you may not have come across before. Krish is a friend and partner in the gospel, and the bio below tells a bit more of the story....

Krish Kandiah
Previously to his appointment as Executive Director: Churches in Mission for the UK Evangelical Alliance, Dr Krish Kandiah was the Director of the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics and also Tutor in Mission and Evangelism at Wycliffe Hall. He was also a member of the Oxford University Theology faculty.

Krish has worked with students in the UK with Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship, and in Albania with the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students, before becoming pastor of a multi-cultural church in Harrow. He is still a regular speaker at university missions, and has wide experience in evangelism and cross cultural mission. He is a regular speaker at Spring Harvest and is in demand as a speaker and lecturer. Krish has published two books to date: “Twenty Four – integrating faith and real life” (Authentic 2007) and “Destiny- what is life all about?” (Monarch 2007) and presented the DVD resource “Christian Life and Global Mission.” (LBC Productions).

Krish’s doctoral research under Professor Andrew Walker at King’s College London explored Lesslie Newbigin’s theology of evangelism and its implications for the church in a late modern context. Krish is passionate about helping the church relate relevantly and faithfully to contemporary culture and about global, multi-cultural and church-based mission and he is looking forward to being part of Lausanne 2010. Krish is married to Miriam and has three primary aged children and two foster babies. Krish has a keen interest in movies, photography, rock music and Liverpool FC.

"a summary of the whole gospel"

Milton Stanley points us to some clear words on prayer
". Prayer becomes what we used to refer to as “Sick Call” in the army. Where on earth did we get this idea of prayer? Not from Jesus. He healed a few people from time to time, but he doesn’t pray for that. He prays for the coming of God’s kingdom, for bread (but only on a daily basis, not for a surplus) and for forgiveness for our trespasses. It’s curious that physical deterioration has become the contemporary North American church’s main concern in prayer. Jesus is most notable for teaching that we are to pray—not for recent gall bladder surgery—but for our enemies! To be a Christian, a disciple of Jesus, is to pray like Jesus. Therefore Luther called the Lord’s Prayer “a summary of the whole gospel.”"
While Adrian Reynolds is about to preach the word that exposes the thoughts amd motives of the human heart... divided, departed, devoted and deceitful

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Together on a Mission mp3s

Joel Virgo - Preaching the Bible in the 21st Century
This is a great plea for young preachers given at the Mobilise conference. Brilliant challenge to take the word seriously and preach it with clarity and Christ-exalting passion.

Terry Virgo - The Holy Spirit and your church
A helpful balanced defence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Even if you don't entirely agree with what's said it'll be eyeopening to hear this. My response was to believe God's promises about the Spirit.

More recommendations to follow...

They hated me without reason

Winston Churchill said “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.” And it's what we have in Great Britian today. Democracy. And when you're in a democracy many things are good but the downside is if you're a minority. Majority rules. Often the majority feels a bit bad about this and so offers freedoms and rights to the minorities to avoid the sense that it's oppressing them. Nonetheless, majority rules.

What do you do when you used to be a majority but no longer are? I think that is an issue the church has to face up to in the years ahead. There is no such (biblical) thing as a Christian nation in these last days, but Britain certainly used to be shaped by some sort of Christian principles. Britain was not a theocracy where the law says you must worship God alone. But, it was a nation in which the government's divinely appointed role of punishing evil and praising good was more accurately focussed it is today.

A society that favoured freedom for the church is a nice one to live in when you're a Christian, though that's been a rare priviledge in history. I can't help wondering whether it really does the church any favours to be the majority vote. The church often looks strongest when its weakest in the worlds terms.

What is sure is that Christian are to submit to authorities as they imperfectly punish and praise. That was the case when the law was 'christianised' and it is today. Christians should live blameless lives, be the 'best' people in society, the ones who fight for the cause of the oppressed, who help the needy, who serve without recognition. That should always have been the case. I don't know whether it is today, or ever was.

What is the case are increasing numbers of headlines claiming Christians are persecuted. All who live a godly life are persecuted so its something a Christian almost welcomes as a verification of their faith. However, Titus 2 tells us that it remains possible for Christians to be maligned for being ungodly in marriage, lacking self-control and being bad employees. Such opposition isn't actually persecution - it's deserved. We follow the Jesus who appeared as grace incarnate to make us pure, where is our purity? If we make mistakes we facing the punishment or consequences not persecution.

Over the last couple of weeks I've been studying John 13-17. Jesus speaks there of how the world has hated him without cause. And he says the same will happen to Christians. A sinful world doesn't need reason to hate Jesus and his people. Our presence is enough to incite opposition. Our purity is meant to make the gospel attractive to those who will believe, and yet is the stench of an abattoir to those who refuse to believe.

What do we do when we're persecuted for godliness or hated without cause? We remember not to take it personally - hatred for genuinely godly Christians if really hatred for Jesus himself. He is opposed. His word maligned. And so we continue to obey Jesus. To stand by his word.

And surely we're to continue to fight for those who are oppressed - not necessarily fighting our own cause - with great self-interest but longing for a society in which it is evil that in punished and good that is praised, and not vice-versa. We're to continue to love boundlessly and serve thanklessly. If nothing else such inhuman endurance is bewildering to the watching world.

Who doesn't fight for their rights when opposed? Who loves when they're hated? The church has flourished under such pressure for 2000 years. We're to pray for our opponents, not so much for relief as for mercy for them. And we're to go on living, with Jesus as our example. As Peter wrote "If you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. "He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth." When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly."

How should I live? I should fight for justice for others, but I don't need it for myself because I can entrust myself to the judge of all. However much I might suffer he has already suffered - not just as an example but bearing my sins on a cursed tree so I wouldn't go on sinning, but by his power live an extraordinary righteous life under the rule of my Shepherd and Overseer, Jesus. I struggle and labour with all his energy.

Our God is an awesome God.

Reminded of how well the chorus from Joel Houston's The Stand fits with Our God is an awesome God. We need songs to express our awe and wonder at the majesty of the cross of Christ. HT: Lisa Francis.

Monday, July 23, 2007


My very good friend Richard and his wife Sally had their first child today, meet Libby (7lb 10oz). Speaking to Rich on the phone this evening I was struck by him telling me that watching childbirth strengthened his conviction about how serious sin is to bring such pain (Gen 3:16). And sobered by that he's also able to be thankful for God's gift to them. I look forward to seeing him bring Libby up in the training and instruction of the Lord (Eph 6:4), confident that he'll teach her to delight in grace and love the Lord Jesus.

Rich, Psalm 90 is my prayer for you and your family.

Treasure seeking

The rich man wanted life. The poor man wants to be rich. Even in the first century everyone was looking for something. Augustine put it well: our hearts are restless. The advertising industry, for better or worse, is built upon highlighting this. It appeals to our restlessness with what we already have and offers the treasure we've been seeking, even though we weren't aware of it. We seek satisfaction and we will find it somewhere. Along the line we might drop our standards to reduce the risk of disappointment. We all treasure something. Whether comfort or possessions, family or fame.

Some questions. What do I treasure? Is it the best treasure I could acquire? Is there anything wrong with settling for less? Jesus says, where your treasure is there your heart is also. To find the condition of our hearts we don't need to go soul searching but treasure hunting. That which we treasure reveals our heart.

One day in a crowd an man stands out. He seeks a share of an inheritance that his brother has received. The adjudication he receives from Jesus is stunning. The story is told of a farmer who has a bumper year and so invests in bigger barns. This farmer is unaware that he's about to die, what use will his bigger barns be then? The man stands chided for wanting riches for himself but not being rich towards God.

What's wrong here? Isn't it prudent to make provision? Many proverbs say as much. What should the man rather have done? Jesus isn't saying to him that everything must be given to the church but rather that he should be rich towards God. He ought not just invest in barns but in eternity. He is a fool. He is a man who lives like there is no god. A practical atheist whether he would claim otherwise. The story is followed by further teaching. A warning against prudence naturally raises questions about future provision. But, those who are rich toward God need not be anxious. They will be provided for if they seek God's kingdom.

Life does not consist of possessions, food or clothing. Things that seem essential to us are trifles to God. Something is more important. The things of this world will rust and rot, be stolen and be left behind. So, let us invest in that which lasts forever. Let us seek treasure in heaven! Wait though! Does this mean we should be ascetics? Should we embrace possessionless poverty? Surely not. The issue is what our hearts treasure more than what we own. But the danger is that we start to be possessed by our possessions.

How do we develop a holy detachment from the many lesser treasures and rightly treasure God himself?

1. Be warned. Life doesn't last forever. We're in temporary accomodation in this creation and we'll move into the new creation. Don't get too comfy. Start presuming you'll be checking out sooner rather than later (Luke 12v19). As several parts of England lie under flood waters in the middle of summer, twelve months after a heatwave there is an unpleasant reminder of the passing nature of what we have here.
2. Be observant. Consider the birds and the fields. They are well fed and well clothed. How much more will we be kept by God? (Luke 12v24) - they survive on basics, so will we.
3. Be careful with your heart. Don't put your affections onto food, set them on God himself. Don't hoard the things of this life. Enjoy them as good gifts from God. And then don't worry about provision of physical things, rather trust that God will provide which he already has in so many ways. (Luke 12v29-31)

Know that your Father's pleasure is to give you his kingdom (Luke 12v32). He delights to give it. How? By revealing Jesus to us. It's his pleasure to make himself to known to us. He can satisfy us. And treasuring him is eternally satisfying.

To not do this is foolish. It's a moral rejection of God's delight in making himself known to his people. It's not just the lowering of our standards of satisfaction, it's atheism in action. And it's opposite is to humbly sit and listen to Jesus. To ask him not for more in this world but for the gift of eternal life. And then to celebrate and rejoice that we have eternal dwellings that far exceed those we have here.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

No trees with forbidden fruit

"...there will be a day before too long when some of the children of Eve, those who are the children of God, will finally crush his head. On that day, there will be no more temptation, no more lies, and the assault on God’s goodness that has raged for thousands of years will be brought to a sudden end. On that day, an experience even better than Eden will have arrived. On that day, God’s people will enjoy a place like the garden- but a place where there are no deceiving serpents, and no trees with forbidden fruit- a place even better than the garden because God is moving forwards not backwards... It’s hard to miss isn’t it? That tree has re-appeared. The tree that was guarded by the flaming sword is no longer guarded. The tree from which Adam and Eve were banished is there bearing abundant fruit. The tree that offered eternal life is free for the eating once again. "
Read more at Biblical Theology Briefing: Serpent crusher or serpent crushers? Preaching Genesis 3 in the light of the gospel

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Pelagius and his guitar

"It's symptomatic of our Pelagius-influenced retreat from the fear of God that our songs become less about the grace of God; the sovereignty of God; the holiness, splendour, immutability, awesome power and majesty of God. As church music has been influenced by the musical styles of popular culture, the songs we use have borrowed their structure, rhyming schemes and phrasing from love songs. This combines uncomfortably with our newfound conviction that we are pretty much ok in the sight of God: our songs gradually become more "me" focused. The songs we sing in church begin to describe more of how I feel, more of how God blesses me, more of what I intend to do for Him." - Dan Hames.

Read more: Pelagius invades church music
Makes me want to set some more time aside for lyricwriting.

Harry Potter and the deathly hallows

My wife just bought a copy. I've not read the previous one yet.

Anyways, the good news is that Asda are selling it for five pounds.

Pray for Bulgaria

Ed Goode is on mission in Bulgaria and asks for prayer...

Please pray for:

Bulgaria itself, this is such a hard place to do evangelism for a lot of reasons i don't want to write about in an internet cafe...but yeh, pray!

The Camp. We're nearly half way through now, i'm so tired, and i'm still in the 'wow God's doing all this cool stuff in me' zone rather than the Matthew 24:14 zone...maybe thats kinda ok, but i'd rather be in both.

For Craig who's leading the camp, for his health and perseverance.
For the guys from Bourgas.
For the Christian Bulgarians here, for their growth and perseverance
For Natalya, Danni and Christina in my small group.

Praise God for:

The fact this camp is happening and their are non Christians here.
For the two American teams who are here, their support and friendship.
For the Bulgarian Christians
For the Gospel, that it works, even here, even with people like me saying it.
That God is bigger than us...how refreshing!

Smoke and mirrors

Matthew Parris - The sad truth: appearance is the new reality: Our age is suffering from an authenticity crisis

In the week of (no) cash for honours and no winners for phone in's, Matthew Parris is on form in today's Times. He diagnoses a crisis of authenticity. We want reality but we don't seem to be able to find it.

People have charged Christians with hypocrisy for years for faking that we're spotless when really we're just forgiven sinners. We'd do well to be a bit more honest with ourselves, our God and our world. What do I think I'm doing if I spin the gospel? Who am I trying to fool?

Likewise when it comes to presenting God's good news to his world a little less spin and a little more plain speaking would probably be helpful. Paul was at pains to stress that we are not those who deceive the world, twisting words but rather commending the good news of Jesus to the consciences of those who listen. What do I think I'm doing if I spin the gospel? Who am I trying to fool?

The glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ needs no spin.

Friday, July 20, 2007

How to be accepted by God or not?

Marcus Honeysett - How to be accepted by God or not? Luke 7v36-50
from Lansdowne Baptist Church, Bournemouth.

Global wetting

It's just stopped raining here, but this is what it's looked like over the last hour or so... I guess it'll be a while before the water recedes.

An hour later: the rain has pretty much stopped and the water is starting to drain away...

Sunshine on a rainy day

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Emporers New Clothes

He was rich. He had everything and yet he gave it up to enter into this world in poverty. His parents had to offer two birds instead of a lamb to dedicate him to the Lord (Leviticus 12:8). In his ministry he was poorer than foxes and birds, they have holes and nests but the Son of Man had no-where to sleep (Luke 9:57).

Immediately that puts a great distance between him and any of us. Being a blogreader necessitates a certain measure of available wealth and resources that the average homeless person doesn't have. Yet Jesus was happy to associate with the rich and the poor. He gave no indication that one was more virtuous than the other. He fed the hungry and ate in the houses of the rich.

One day, as he walked towards his death in Jerusalem, he met with a rich man (Luke 18:18:27). The man came seeking eternal life. That was right up Jesus' street. He'd been talking to all he met about how to gain eternal life. It was a commendable enquiry. Jesus picks him up for addressing him as a "good teacher" for only God is good. The man claims that he has lived impeccably according to God's law. Jesus says that he lacks something. Here we see the word of God in action. Jesus speaks and his words cut deep into the man's heart, exposing his motives and thoughts.

The man is told that for all his riches he lacks one thing. He should sell everything has and give it to the poor. The man is heartbroken. Jesus has found the one thing that he cannot do. It's too hard for him. Indeed it would be easier to get a camel through the eye of a needle. That verse has been terribly misapplied over the years. People have imagined that Jesus is alluding to the challenge of getting a heavy laden camel through a supposed small needle gate in Jerusalem. Thus, off load your riches and you'll get through. The crowd exclaim "who then can be saved!". And Jesus says - it's impossible! No one can get through. Only God can save people.

Offloading his riches is not the way for this man to gain life. Rather he must turn to the one who is good, Jesus, and ask to be given life. And how hard it is for the rich to ask. Jesus is not proclaiming salvation by poverty but rather speaking into the man's heart to expose the fact that he treasures his money more than his God.

We see here that money and possessions are a barometer for our soul. Our attitude to our money tells us what we love. And the best way to check whether we love our money is when we're asked to give it all up. Clearly this isn't required of all believers - we see many rich Christians in the New Testament who use their wealth in godly ways (more on that later). Our sinful hearts cling onto various things instead of our maker. Bored and disinterested in the majesty of God and fascinated with anything else we can get our hands on. A single-hearted approach is needed because we can't serve two masters - it's God or money. The rich man Jesus met on the road thought he had everything, but actually he lacked the one thing every person needs.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Stand and fight, or walk away and be wronged?

A friend emailed me a copy of this:
"We should not expect a "fair fight" in a secular world that is hostile to God and uncomfortable around the truth of Christ. Therefore, our response to abuse or distortion or slander should not be angry resentment, but patient witness to the truth, in the hope and with the prayer that returning good for evil may open hearts to the truth. We must recognize that persecution of various kinds is normal and that much of the protection we have ...is abnormal in history and in the world. Our witness will not be advanced by resentful huffing and puffing about our rights. It will be advanced by "suffering yet always rejoicing," and by overcoming evil with good, and by steadfast statements and reasonable defenses of the truth. (Matthew 5:43-45; Romans 12:17-21; 1 Corinthians 4:12-13; 1 Thessalonians 5:15; 2 Timothy 3:12; 1 Peter 2:15, 19-24; 3:9; 4:12)" - DesiringGod.org
Two the two things I've been thinking about here over the last week - Christians and Authorities, and the leading of the Holy Spirit in decisions begin to collide. So, the NT witness shows that sometimes it's right to appeal to legal authorities (as with Paul's appeal to his Roman citizenship) and at othertimes to suffer (as in Paul beaten by the authorities and imprisoned on many occasions). How could we know which way to go?

Slow and prayerful approaches are probably a pretty good baseline to work from. It would seem that there aren't easy one-size-fit's all solutions to many matters. It's entirely possible for two very similar situations to present themselves, and in one God says stand and fight, and in another he says walk away and be wronged. In both case we throw ourselves on the mercy of God and risk having got it wrong. We risk being beaten up both ways. We risk carrying the consequences of our actions for some time to come. But, what we're not risking are gospel promises - they will stand whatever happens to us.

I was stunned in Mark Dever's biographical sketch to hear that Edwards had continued to accept invites to preach at the church that fired him for many months. Talk about overcoming evil with good! What does that sort of godliness look like today?

Along the way Edwards made mistakes. He got details wrong, but his goal was clear. He was desperate for people to enjoy the excellencies of Christ when they were only enjoying the external blessings of the church. Edwards' fight was to require the members of his church to be Christians if they were to have membership. Not because he wanted to push people away but because we was concerned for their life and the glory of God. It cost him his job. He could no longer pastor the congregation in Northampton (USA). He didn't get what he wanted because the people involved didn't want it. It didn't dampen his concern to preach Christ whereever and whenever he could.

The specific issues will be different in our day but the concern must be the same - contending for the gospel not to exclude others but because we are deeply concern to see a lost world saved through it. We fight for the purity of the church and of our preaching for God's sake, and that many may be gathered in from the harvestfields of this world. Certainly we need to consider any way to resolve situations amicably, making every effort to live at peace with all people (Hebrews 12:14) even if the results aren't exactly what we might want. As a last resort, if all peaceful options are exhausted we may need to appeal to the authorities God has given us to bring justice.

Tourists and celebrations

Andy Shudall makes a few more observations from the IFES World Assembly 2007.

Tourists at the weighiest of moments:
It's been tempting to want to gather momentos of the World Assembly. To take photo's, to gather 'stories' to tell and to set up a 'tourist industry' around what I've been learning and what God has been doing in our midst. What has happened here is of greater power, greater majesty and of more lasting weight than Niagara Falls.

Celebration at the changing of the guard:
And as Lindsay stepped forward to pray for Daniel, Daniel dropped to his knees. It was incredibly moving. This was not a changing of the guard in pomp and ceremony, but in humility and a love for the Lord Jesus. I don't yet know Daniel very well, but he strikes me as a man who is full of love for God and a passion for the passing on of the gospel of the Lord Jesus. I have a sense that he is going to lead IFES well, with vision, humility and patience and determination.

The people God didn't kill

Mark Lauterbach - Going where others died (1)
Mark Lauterbach - Going where others died (2)

"Behind th[e] simple phrase in Hebrews 2:17
is the story of how God acted in Israel's history
to protect them from being struck dead. "

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Biblical Theology Briefings

Here are what I'd consider to be some of the best resources for preachers and bible readers that are available online today. Sermons with the scaffolding put back in place to help us see why the preacher drew the conclusions he did, and why he didn't pursue other avenues. Each of them especially paying attention to the impact of the story of salvation (Biblical Theology) upon the passage at hand. They're part of BeginningWithMoses.org which myself, David & Jonny Gibson and Andy Grundy have been running for about five years. I should also say we're always open to contributions from others, so if you want to write one here are our guidelines for contributors

By Simon Flinders, St Thomas, North Sydney, Australia

AFTER THE FLOOD: Genesis 8-9
By David Horrocks, Arborfield & Barkham Churches, England

MAY YOUR KINGDOM COME: Joshua 5:13-6:17
By Graham Beynon, Avenue Community Church, Leicester, England

By David Gibson, editor of beginningwithmoses.org

THE DEATH OF ABSALOM: 2 Samuel 18v19-19v8
By Christopher Ash of All Saints, Little Shelford.

By Graham Beynon, Avenue Community Church, Leicester, England

By Peter Adam, of Ridley College, Melbourne, Australia.

By Glenn Nesbitt of St. Ebbes, Oxford

By Peter Sanlon of St.Helens Bishopsgate, London.

THE JOY OF SEX: Song of Songs
By Andrew Jones of Grace Church, Hackney, London.

By Nigel Beynon of St.Helens Bishopsgate, London.

By Jonathan Gibson, editor of beginningwithmoses.org

By Lionel Windsor, St Michaels Wollongong

By Andrew Reid, Curtin Community Church, Perth, Australia

By David Gibson, editor of beginningwithmoses.org

By Dave Bish, editor of beginningwithmoses.org

CROSS-SHAPED WISDOM: 1 Corinthians 1
By Lionel Windsor, St Michaels Wollongong

LAW OR PROMISE? Galatians 3v15-25
By Andrew Evans of Christ Church Liverpool

By Simon Manchester of St Thomas, Sydney, Australia

More questions than answers

So to recap, Christians should submit to authorities, pay their taxes and are only able to break the law when it would mean sinning. I suggested that it's the role of government to be the conscience of society, and Christians concerned to restrain evil should play their part in government by standing for office and by voting. These things seem fairly clear.

But, is there any ground for going to court? Any reason to appeal to the authorities? Various reasons seem to be used like...

1. In Acts we see Paul appeal to his Roman Citizenship which means he'll be transported to Rome. That spared him a beating and helped fulfill his ambition to preach in Rome. That seems to be an example of using a priviledge that the law had for him - but time and again before this he was abused by authorities without complaint. How did he decide which way go pursue it? Are there equivilants today? What would constitute the right situation today? Churches or mission teams prevented from being led by Christians? Chrisians denied the right to congregate or preach? International law secures such things so if they're denied us should we not appeal? I can see some ground to appeal on matters that are essential to the advance of the gospel and the existence of the church.

2. The other logic at work today is this: "We have the legal right to express our faith so we should fight for that - Muslims can wear things, shouldn't we also?" Hence the silver ring thing. But here's the thing, a Muslim may be able to justify wearing certain clothing but where exactly in the Bible are Christians given the right or need for external symbols?
This is better than what I'm going to write at the moment >
Adrian Reynolds on the tarnished ring thing.
The Silver Ring Thing court case infuriates me for at least two reasons - firstly, it bring disrepute on the gospel by implying that we need trinkets (whether rings or crucifixes) to show our purity or beliefs - I'd been led to believe that the work of the Holy Spirit was the mark of being a Christian. And secondly, it wastes vast kingdom resources that could be used to feed the poor or set aside an evangelist for a year.

In an individualistic culture I can't help thinking that we should be laying down our rights, while everyone else clambers for theirs. And if we want to fight for rights should we not fight for the rights of others too? Would the testimony of the gospel not be better advanced by Christians allowing ourselves to be wronged and going on living impeccably? Wronged by the system but committed to loving the world.

I can't help but recall the occasion when the (much maligned) Pure course was double-booked with a protest against it... the students running the course fed the protesters breakfast, and then move out of the room to let them use it. That feels like the right approach to be using as the world begins to flex it's muscles against us.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Where your treasure is

Take your seat in the new Wembley stadium. For a few moments start to count the 90,000 seasts. Take in the architecture. Marvel at the engineering that created the 315 metre long arch, it's 70 tonne hinges. An icon for the 21st century visible 13 miles away at Canary Wharf. All of it infamous for it's missed delays and record-setting budget. Today though it matters less how long it took to build and at what cost. What really matters is what will happens on the lush grass below. It's those 7000 square metres and the 22 players running around on it that matter. Might we miss the game for the sweeping structure.

And now welcome to God's stadium. It's the greatest thing ever made. The everything ever made. Central to our experience, planet earth though this is only the tiniest fraction of it. All of it entrusted to us, to rule and subdue and enjoy with thanksgiving. Look around, enjoy the view. And then see the makers fingerprints. Hear his description of it.

...and then something seems to go wrong. We find ourselves like rabbits in the headlights of creation. Messing around in the dust when our maker is calling out to us. He speaks extensively to the issue of what we do with this world. Teaching about money and possessions is all over the pages of scripture. Cut out all the references to the subject and you're left with rags. If repetition means anything we ought to imagine it signals that we should give it some attention.

The way our hearts relate to this world tests their temperature. God's world seems to be an expert physician, diagnosing the rot and pointing us to something better. Stepping into that world, Jesus cuts to the heart of the matter with characteristic clarity:
"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:19-21, ESV)
It seems that Jesus is deeply concerned for our hearts, and so we must take care about what we treasure. His word sees deep into our thoughts and intentions, exposing who we really are. He poses questions that we cannot and dare not avoid. What should I treasure? How do I do that? What will the story of my lifes look like on the pages of God's world

Truth that unites

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Sensitivity to the Spirit

So, a previous post raised the question of what's a big decision?

A couple of weeks ago I was in Oxfam books in Reading - it's a great place to pick up old Christian books - much of it's not good but there are a some treasures in the dirt. My best buys have probably been Lloyd-Jones on Romans 3 and this one...

Taking Sides by David Field of Oak Hill [Update - not the same David Field who is currently at Oak Hill - ht: David Gibson]. It's a 1975 book from IVP which seems to be out of print now.

It's a brilliant practical pocketbook on ethics. I really wanted it because it's helping me with a seminar I'm writing on a Christian attitude to work (study). But, the rest is good too.

The first chapter is called what does the Bible say? and is helpful on this other issue. This is a book that starts where others finish - pushing hard the application on the basis of firm Biblical foundations.

David Field notes we should distinguish the weightier matters. He cites Jesus' critique of the Pharisees for neglecting the weightier matters of the law, justice, mercy and faith (Matthew 23v23). Not saying that somethings don't matter but that there are major priorities that can't be missed. Likewise the church in Acts 15 distinguished some weightier matters that Gentile converts should observe and others that could be overlooked. I think that says, we can use the term 'big decision', though it doesn't immediately help distinguish what is weightier. - perhaps we can discern some Biblical principles for that?

Field then talks about some factors - choosing lesser evils and weighing the interests of others before concluding with 'listen to the voice of conscience'. He says it's not an infallible guide - the conscience can be anaesthetised by persistent sin (1 Tim 4v2) and taught by godliness (Hebrews 5v14). Spurgeon is quoted as saying that the conscience '..should shiver whenever the ghost of a sin goes by'.

But, also (Phil 2v13) God is at work in us both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
"Through the Spirit's dynamism, the Christian becomes increasingly sensitive to the things which please God, and increasingly capable of acting according to his will."
I wonder if Tim Keller's words at EMA are helpful - some of us need to start attributing more of our hunches to the voice of God, whilst others need to admit that what we label as God's voice is actually just a hunch. I fear I don't listen for God's voice enough.

Podcast Shudall

Sometime back there was a suggestion of getting some of Andy's sermons online. No sign of progress on that, but I did find this one: Andy Shudall - Galatians 3v15-29, Holy Trinity Leicester, 2006

Also now available - Together on a Mission 2007 MP3's for free download.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Liveblogging at the IFES World Assembly, Toronto

Andy Shudall and Rosemary Grier are liveblogging the IFES World Assembly in Toronto, Canada. Andy is from England is in the New Zealand delegation. Rosemary is from Northern Ireland representing England, Wales & Scotland. Go figure!

The International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES) is a networking community of nationally-led student movements, committed to being partners in global student witness. We exist to reach students in every nation with the gospel and to send them into the world to bear witness to Christ and his teaching.

Catch a flavour of what's going on... I love hearing about what God is doing worldwide among students.

Hard to get a sequel right

Mbonisi Malaba was saying on Wednesday that it's hard to get a sequel right - on the challenge for Timothy following Paul in ministry. This morning I noticed that at my local cinema that the only films they're showing are sequels. Evidently the difficulty doesn't stop people trying! Die Hard 4.0. Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer. Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix. Hostel Part II. Ocean's Thirteen. Shrek the Third.

The Spirit says...

"We don't make decisions on the basis of strategic planning as in businesses. Big decisions in the NT church, and in our churches, are made because God spoke. For example, “The Spirit of Jesus wouldn't let them” go somewhere."
David Stroud - at Together on a Mission
Now, clearly most decisions that the church needs to make are led by Scripture. God is already telling us the big stuff and a lot of the little stuff. His Spirit still speaks his gospel-promises on the page. But, equally many details are unwritten. What are we to do in those situations? Some say, it doesn't matter - do whatever you want within what God says. There's freedom! You don't pray about what socks to wear after all. Socks are pretty trivial. God counts the hairs on our heads but it's hard to see that it's going to matter all that much what's on your feet. Some things are significantly more important - 'big decisions' - if our brothers and sisters in the first century prayed about them, figures we should too.

And when we pray what next? Do we just trust that God silently guides us, or do we expect some response? In Act 16 the Spirit kept Paul and his team out of Asia, Mysia and Bithynia. Consquently they ended up in Troas where Paul had a vision of a man calling them to Macedonia which they interpretted as a call to preach to the Macedonians. How do we square that with scripture - aren't we just called to preach to all peoples? Back in Antioch the church was worshipping and fasting and then the Holy Spirit told them to set Paul and Barnabas apart to go and preach. How did he do that? And what do you do when God says that two of the five prophets and teachers who were leading the church have to move on?

The Holy Spirit is given to empower the church to witness. That includes the words to say and it seems the decision to go and make Jesus famous worldwide. He has promised that the knowledge of Jesus will fill the earth. He has promised that Christians will be gathered from all people groups. That means it will happen. But, God's promises are never reasons for passivity, they produce action. There's no basis for a charismatic paralysis that can't act, God keeps his church moving. The Spirit teaches us what to say, the Spirit teaches us where to go. To go, and claim God's promises.

God has made the big picture clear but the detail needs to be filled in. He's already done the detail - but we need to know it. What if God's detail clashes with ours? What if existing and good plans need to be re-written? What if God speaks to re-write them. To break up a good leadership team? To change our direction? Closing one door and opening a different one. What if the God of order spoke to mess up our existing strategy or structures? What if God wants to tell us a better way that what we thought was the best and only way? Which makes me wonder, what that might that look like in the church-serving gospel-advancing ministry I'm involved in with students?

It's about the in between bit. We have the promises. And we know that people must go and preach. In between comes the praying. Complicated eh! God's people taking hold of God's promises by God's grace. That's pretty much a paraphrase of Calvin's definition of prayer. The Spirit spoke to give clarity on details like 'the who' and 'the where'. Important details. Anyone could go anywhere but God sends the right people to the right places at the right times - Paul preached that evangelistically in Athens.

Maybe I don't hear more because I don't ask much. Surely it's not that hard to follow God's commands like 'earnestly desire prophecy'? If God offers detail it'd be nice to have it. And we might not always hear right but I think that's why in Acts 16 Luke adds 'we concluded' - which implies some measure of testing went on. On the frontline of mission it's not like it's a tough one to work out. End result : they went and preached Christ. God wants to build his church. He will build his church. I want to be part of that.

It's fair to say Together on a Mission has got me thinking. And it's got me believing.

What will it look like for the gospel to advance effectively on campuses across the South West? In Cornwall. In Plymouth. In Exeter. In Bristol. In Bath. What is happening already that we should be thanking God for? What has to start? What has to stop? What flames need to be fanned into flame in the team we have serving in the region? What can will the Spirit fan into flame in the students, our missionaries, on the ground? Where does God not want us to go? Where does God want us to go? I could sit and plan strategy ahead of going, though that's tricky - I lack information! But, what I do have is access to God. Confidently able to pray by the blood of Jesus. And I have his promise that he is unswervingly committed to the spreading of his glory worldwide. I can pray. And I can be well prepared to preach Christ. Will you pray with me?