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Showing posts from April, 2008

The belief that God speaks English, is western in his understanding of the world and is 'well off' is very deep seated in the British Christian world

Andy writes at The Coffee Bible Club - "God is not English speaking, Western and Affluent.... "The belief that God speaks English, is western in his understanding of the world and is 'well off' (in the sense of comfort and ease afforded by endless riches) is very deep seated in the British Christian world. It is also seems fairly deeply rooted in the rest of the Caucasian English speaking world. We must tread very carefully on this ground, for it is perilously fragile and hovers above the slope of imperialism and racism."

This is a hot current issue for us to handle. At Together for the Gospel it was Thabiti Anyabwile's talk that was most striking. I suspect many were tempted to skip the talk by the "non-rockstar speaker" and yet he gave us the most refreshing insight. Bearing the Image: Identity, the Work of Christ, and the Church, speaking against the unbiblical notion of race. Racism. Classism. These abound and we barely even notice.

I loved T4G

And he said

Today I found one miniscule advantage to having a 'Jesus words in red' Bible. It makes it very easy to work out the main thing that is happening in Mark 4. That is - Jesus is speaking. The other way to work that out is to actually read the chapter. Jesus speaks lots, and Mark reports 'And he said' numerous times. And all of it - red and black is the word of God.

As Jesus speaks he's announcing his rule as he has done since 1v15, with astounding authority. He came to preach. This is what he's doing. He preaches and it's clear that he's come to be a lamp shining to be seen, though he is intentionally hiding himself by using unexplained parables.

The rule of Jesus is more important than saving the most people possible, as he very deliberately masks the gospel. Outsiders miss out because they're not listening. But anyone can come and ask Jesus to explain and so become an insider. Entirely freely. Not by nepotism. Not by performance. Not by anything, excep…

The Divine Spiration

Over Christmas I read The Divine Spiration of Scripture which I found interesting in places but was left curious about the implications of. The muchly-wiser-than-me Martin Downes has now posted a full article on McGowan's book at Reformation 21.

Raising up the next generation

"In Great Britain, the hallmark of the IFES movement's evangelistic efforts has been its threefold focus on personal evangelism, small group Bible study, and public gospel proclamation in the university. This year, IFES has seconded Lindsay Brown, former General Secretary, to work part-time with UCCF in Great Britain in an effort to identify and encourage university evangelists across Europe... "Read more at IFESWORLD

Lindsay is the author of Shining Like Stars.

Better is One Day

Psalm 84v10. The singer prefers the presence of God to the house of the wicked.
In the house of the wicked sin is unavoidable. Unavoidable and acceptable.

In the presence of God sin is unavoidable. Unavoidable because there is blood everywhere to atone for sin. Either way sin is in view. But, better is one day in the house of God.

One big story

Dave K compares Judah and Tamar with the book of Ruth. The redemption of the Moabite's is already stunning (Ruth isn't just a Gentile, she's a Moabite - which is really really bad). Tim shared today with me how he'd recently noticed: Boaz, whose mother was Rahab (Matthew 1v5)...which makes his honourable conduct with Ruth all the more striking. This little book is so thoroughly woven into the story of salvation, it's not just a spin-off from the Book of Judges.

On Leviticus

Tim Wilson would take Leviticus with him. And with good reason.
I keep coming back to this from Andrew Bonar, cited by Tim Chester.
"The blood must be 'sprinkled round about upon the altar.’ Surely Israel must have felt that their souls were reckoned very guilty by their God, since he spoke to them so continually in the language of blood. None but a heavy-laden sinner could relish this never-varying exhibition of blood to the eye of the worshipper.The pilgrims to Zion, in after days, must often, as they journeyed through the vale of Baca, have wondered what was to be seen and heard in the courts of the Lord’s house, of which the worshippers sang, ‘How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God … Blessed are they that dwell in thy house!’ (Ps. 84:1, 2, 4). And when they arrived, and saw in these courts blood on the altar, blood in the bowls of the altar, blood …

Discover the wonders of this holy Book

Ray Ortlund: Could we bore down together and discover the wonders of this holy Book as never before? Could we acknowledge our spiritual hunger, and thoughtfully, carefully, attentively, daily feed our souls? Could we shut off the noise and listen? Could we re-set our focus from the voices inside our heads to the Voice in the Book?"

Some books I've spent lots of time in. Martin Luther called Galatians 'My Katharine', it is 'My Emmalee' - and I love it dearly. Several other books I'm well acquainted with, but then there others which puzzle and confound me yet...

1. Song of Songs
Matthew Mason on - interpreting the song: "What is the Song of Songs supposed to do? Well, above all it is supposed to help us experience and rejoice in Christ’s love for us, to stir up our love for Him, to move us to love the church as Christ loves the church, and to cause us to long for the consummation of our marriage when Christ returns. May that be the case as we hear from it …

In Christ

That's where I am. In Christ enjoying blessings in the heavenly realm (thank you John Hosier for the preach). Brilliant day celebrating my wife's birthday and the fifth birthday of our church here in Exeter. Worship. Preaching. Cake. BBQ. Fireworks. Good times in Christ, with his people.

Review: Worship Matters (Bob Kauflin) [part 1]

For years there has been need for a good book on the deeply controversial area of worship. Many volumes have been attempted but few have hit the key issues in a way that is accessible enough for pastors, worship leaders and members of the local church. Anyone who has read Bob Kauflin's Worship Matter's blog and listened to the CD's he's overseen will have had high expectations. This book, which carries the same name as his blog does not disappoint. I'm only about half way through the book so it's a bit odd to be reviewing it now, but I'm so enjoying it that I wanted to draw attention to it - and particularly highlight two chapters that are truly unmissable for all.

Bob's concern for God's gospel and the hearts of God's people is evident in this book. This is a book that takes the convictions and passions of a book like CJ Mahaney's Living the Cross-Centered Life and applies it to all the things that matter to those involved in 'worship…

Darkness to Light

I've been away with the team over the last few days. We spent some time in prayer and as we began David Anthony drew our attention the fingerprints of the gospel in God's universe....

The world begins in darkness. And then God speaks and there is light. The first day completes with a move from the darkness of evening to the light of morning. So too the whole universe moves from darkness at the beginning to the city of eternity where it is always light. The Son is sent as The Light into the darkness to bring new life to people. Shining his light into the darkness of the human heart that we might come into the light and have life.

There is evening and then morning. Day by day the universe pours forth speech about God.

Review: Come Weary Saints (CD)

For all the freebie books I picked up in the USA I wonder whether this will prove to be the most enduring gift I received. The new Sovereign Grace CD project 'Come Weary Saints'. Under the direction of Bob Kauflin SGM have been producing music projects for many years. Recently that's included the Cross-themed 'Songs for the Cross-Centered Life' and 'The Valley of Vision' based on the puritan prayers volume. Another is forthcoming later this year on the Psalms. This follows a theme and may be a first. This is on suffering.

Those who have bought into a health, wealth gospel or even the more subtle 'God will generally make my life fine' kind of gospel are going to hate this. In fact you could use it as a diagnostic on whether you're loving the Sovereign God who acts for his glory, or whether your chief doctrine is that God makes my life how I want it to be. The Christian can sing 'It is well with my soul' in the hard times because we treasur…

T4G08: Maresco

There is plenty I could write to honour Kenneth Maresco whose family hosted us in Gaithersburg. But, I don't want to embarrass him. This one thing I will say: This man serves Starbucks Caffe Verona at home. Really, really good smooth coffee.If that's not evidence of grace in his life...

Review: Young, Restless, Reformed (Collin Hansen)

I've been anticipating getting this book for sometime and it was nice to receive it as a freebie at the Band of Bloggers meeting before T4G. Christianity Today editor Collin Hansen has spent two years researching the resurgence in Calvinism in the USA and tells the story of his journey around the country, the people he's met and the things he's seen. The book is incredibly readable and only took a few hours to read - with many phrases and sections highlighted to come back to.

There are helpful caution in the book to recognise that for all the renewed growth in Calvinism in the USA it is still dwarfed by other movements. This is helpful since it is the story of the American Christianity I'm most familiar with from my blog reading, book reading, mp3 downloading and attendance at together for the gospel. That's not the whole story, but it is a real story.

The book leaves me encouraged and reflecting on my own journey towards 'reformed theology' which probably…

NWA08 & T4G08: Where are those who will live dangerously, and be reckless in His service?

At New Word Alive and Together for the Gospel, John Piper quoted Christian Union pioneer Howard Guinness'- cited from Lindsay Brown's Shining Like Stars.
The full quote is here: Howard Guinness on Sacrifice.

Thanks to Rosemary Grier, since I'm assuming her book review, at the morning Bible reading, must have prompted John Piper to pick up a copy

T4G08: Kauflin

Whereever you stand on the whole charismatic thing God gives gifts to his church. Grace poured out to display his glory. I want to thank God for one of those gifts I was honoured to meet and benefit from last week:
Thank you for Bob, Christian, husband, father, preacher-musician-writer...

Bob Kauflin was preaching at Covenant Life Church, Gaithersburg last sunday from the Psalms.. I imagine this MP3 is from the second meeting so will have some slight variations from the first one.

Having watched Bob receiving some feedback between the meetings I'm sure those will have further improved a really good preach on Psalm 42-43. It's great to see a church taking the content of it's preaching so seriously.

[I posted on Mike Reeves' preach on the same Psalm - probably only Mike would make a preaching point of "the sons of Korah". Dan notes the penteteuch-al structure of Psalms... making Psalms 42-43 'Exodus Psalms] That meeting also taught me something about Josh Harr…

T4G08 & NWA08 - Doing unity, lessons from conferences

In some circles unity is highly prized. Chiefly in Jesus' circle - he prays for his people to be united. But what kind of unity? Does it mean we have to do everything together? Clearly in some cases - gathering Christians into local churches is a key way to be together. And, I think, gathering them as mission teams in certain contexts (such as with students) is another. But trying to always do everything together seems somewhat unnecessary. What is more useful day-to-day is to be supportive of one another in prayer and speech and in meeting needs while we get on with the ministry God has called us to.

But, what happens when you try to unite from accross the streams and denominations for a conference? Is it to live the impossible dream to imagine that American baptists, presbyterians and 'reformed charismatics' can hang out together for 3 days in a Louisville conference center without killing one another? Is it lunacy to think that you can put British baptists, anglicans (in…

T4G08: "Doing better than I deserve"

So we're back. We volunteered to take the night flight in exchange for an upgrade to Business Class. I'm tired but it was an experience to see how the otherside live, significantly better than I deserve... with legroom and better food, special lounges, a shower on arrival this morning.

Doing this allowed us to spend an very sunny extra day in DC, including a visit to the Arlington Cemetery. Such picturesque setting and yet the words "And he died..." ring in the ears as the sun beat down on us.

T4G ended with Piper and Mahaney preaching on sacrifice and on the pastors soul. Much more to say on those messages that pierced to the heart as only the word of God can. That needs more detail for now there's only time to say that Piper truly is a Calvinist-with-a-capital-K, his passion for the supremacy of Christ in all things really kicks! And Mahaney has a relentless commitment to the intentional application of the gospel to all things, not least the souls of those he ser…

T4G08: Pierced for our transgressions

Bags almost packed. Off to the last two main sessions shortly (Piper & Mahaney) at which, among other things we get a copy of Bob Kauflin's new book 'Worship Matters'. Last night Al Mohler laid out the centrality of the atonement with much reference to the current debates in the evangelical world. I was most struck by :

1. The relentless pursuit I see in this conference and in Sovereign Grace Ministries to keep the cross central to everything. And I mean everything. Doctrine AND life.
2. The way that when you ditch the atonement everything else quickly unravels too.
3. People deny sovereignty but no-one prays like an open-theist. People ditch the atonement but they can't help singing of Jesus who died in their place.
4. This is no new issue - people have been atacking these glorious doctrines for a very long time.

Good times in the bar with Mike Gilbart-Smith and Paul Rees and others last night as the Brits gathered for beer (and fellowship).

T4G08: Thabiti, John, Mark, R.C

All of a sudden we're five out of eight sessions down here in Louisville. It's late afternoon and the skies are blue. Inside we've just come out of R.C. Sproul on The Curse which was a fresh reminder of the glories of the cross (accompanied by free copies of Pierced for our Transgressions [US-edition] and Preaching the Cross [T4G06] - both of which I already own and will wing their way to someone else when I get back...)

The two major highlights over the past 24 hours have probably been Thabiti Anyabwile on Race being an unbiblical concept. I don't have the energy to outline the message here but suffice to say it woke me up to how much of the world's thinking we've imbibed about the essence of man and how much that undermines the gospel and perverts our relationships with others. I think there are some big implications here beyond the issue of race for how we do community and for student ministry. The essential problem is that we gravitate to those who are '…

Old man Warnock, old man Simpson

The UK's most famous-Christian (oxymoron?) blogger Adrian has been blogging for five years today. Woop. Adrian is the UK's Challies having recently live-blogged New Word Alive. If you're here you probably already read his blog at

Hopefully you also read view Funky Pancake which is also five today! Dave is a member of our old church back in Berkshire who commutes into London for work to give him the opportunity to photoblog. He persistently catches mundane moments with his camera and causes me to delight in the details of life.

T4G08- "The Science of Living Blessedly Ever After"

Challies already has his first liveblogging from T4G online. I had a chance to chat briefly with him at the bandofbloggers event, along with meeting the most excellent Dan Cruver for the first time. I also met Thabiti Anyabwile who will be preaching this evening at the second general session.

We began with introductions from Mark Dever before Bob Kauflin led us with Martin Luther's famous A Mighty Fortress and the deeply moving 'It is well with my soul'. Classic solid hymns, sung by 5000 people!

Lig Duncan gave the first talk on the inescapable necessity of sound doctrine for the church. Along the way he shared the post-title quote from William Perkins, Perkins defintion of theology. We were called to out-live, out live and out-rejoice the critics of theology and doctrine. In conclusion we were shown that doctrine is for God's glory, for assurance, for marriage and for joy. Thus, for a pastor to teach doctrine is vital. "Doctrine is for joy. Don't starve your sh…

No concern can be above guarding the gospel

Last night was the Sovereign Grace Ministries gathering. It was a priviledge to be there as a guest of the pastors. We worshipped together with songs full of sound doctrines that lifted our affections as Bob Kauflin led us. And then CJ Mahaney spoke from Acts 15-16 on

1. The church's doctrine (15v11).
2. The care of the church (15v36).
3. The mission of the church (16v5-6).
4. The future of the church (16v1-3).

I was particularly struck by his clarity and weighty passion for preserving the gospel as the first task of the church, as he commissioned those he serves to build gospel-centred churches and to beware of the dangers of the academy, and of assuming the gospel, not to mention our own hearts. We were reminded to read and re-read gospel-centred books like The Cross and Christian Ministry, Pierced for our Transgressions and the new Dever/Packer volume, In my place condemned he stood.

We observed and enjoyed the gospel of the grace of the Lord Jesus and saw Paul's concerned to g…

Lou-a-vull (Kentucky)

So, we're in Louisville. A place I know most about because of the Cameron Crowe film Elizabethtown, which I enjoyed - though it was a bit long and had Orlando Bloom in it. It was a short flight in with about 90 guys from Sovereign Grace Ministries on the plane.

I spent some of the journey going back into Galatians 1-2 and enjoying the centrality of the cross there. I've only recently noticed the presence of some 'God is the gospel' thinking there. When the Galatians turn from the gospel they are described as having turned away from God. He is inseparable from his gospel. And that is why teaching a false gospel is so bad. It's bad because it's factually wrong, it's bad because it defames Jesus - but above all if you don't hold to the gospel then you remain accursed by God, for it is only in his gospel, by the curse-bearing blessing-bringing death of Jesus that we come to God. And that is very good news. What an awesome gospel!

Later we'll go to a Sove…

Washington DC and the Book of Secrets

This afternoon was spent walking around the centre of DC from Union Station to Capitol Hill and down to the Lincoln Memorial via the White House. Great to see all these 'West Wing' scenes in person - though with loads of security barriers. Reminding me of all the inaccessible places there are. And yet I'd love to have access! We want the secrets. We want the gossip. We want the conspiracy stories (National Treasure: The Book of Secrets on the plane...)

Over the last couple of days I've been reading Amos afresh and I'm struck by the way God only does what he reveals to his prophets - like Amos. Amos who says what God shows him. Amos though speaks judgement on all the nations, and on God's people. Because of that they silence the prophets. For this they are judged and exiled. And worse still the will suffer a famine. A famine of God's word (8v11-12). A word without which man cannot live. How desperately we need God's word. Without it we curve in on ourselv…

Welcome to America

Long day! Up at 5am UK time, and it's now just gone 10pm US time (so I guess it's 3am in the UK...) - I'm surprisingly awake.

But we've arrived at the Maresco's house via Washinton Dulles Airport and a little shopping. Tomorrow morning we'll go to Covenant Life Church and then into downtown DC for some pre-conference tourism. It's been my first day in America and all's good so far. It's all big, spacious and kinda new.

T4G 2008

Quick post to say, I'm hoping to blog a bit from Together for the Gospel next week (if I can steal Nathan's mac.) If you're going - see you there! I wont liveblog the event because I'm presuming Challies will do that thoroughly, but this will be my first visit to the USA so I'll try some reflections on that experience.

Interview with Adrian Warnock and more from New Word Alive

Yesterday afternoon I ran into Adrian in the team lounge, grabbed his iPod recorder and got him to answer some questions... so here it is: Adrian Warnock interviewed by Dave Bish at New Word Alive.

In other stuff... last night's John Piper talk was eye-opening and heart-warming. The talk included some clarifications and expansions on the previous night before the talk itself began... that took most of the time and then we moved into promises to hold on to in suffering.

Really helpful in that to see that what Piper was saying was not logic but verses, not implications but verses. Whether you love or hate what Piper says the key is what do the verses say. Responses from outside the marquee

Best moment - let death (and suffering) serve you: Say to death, "DEATH, MAKE MY DAY!"

New Word Alive - midweek report

So, it's wednesday morning in the team lounge. Just back from Don Carson on 1 John 2. New Word Alive has the feel of a family gathered because of our love for the gospel. A few brief highlights:

We opened with Terry Virgo on reigning in life by grace. What an awesome way to kick off this new conference with it's vision to bless the church. We're in Christ - married to him, dead to law. What a great saviour we have.

Highlight of day two was John Piper's breathtaking exposition of Romans 8 on treasuring Christ and the call to suffer. Stopped in my tracks. Exhilirated by the gospel. It's all Jesus. John stopped us mid verse to drink in the awesome realities of being heirs before leading us into the logic and centrality of penal substitution to our new "no condemnation" life - a life we now have! Adrian blogs the Piper preach here. Tim Chester also blogged it.

I've loved the way things are fitting together, the cohesion and sense of passion for the gospel as…

Global warming, right?

I didn't quite get to the camera in time to capture the brief flurry of snow this morning, but it snowed in Devon in April! Global warming, right? Or maybe we should admit that whilst we can do a decent job in weather forecasting, the complexity of the system is just a bit big. Weather systems do crazy things like floods in July, snow in April, and that spring heatwave last year too.

Who are we to think that 170 years of modern meteorology means we can predict the future? Hardly enough data to be able to predict massive future trends when we can't really get more than a few days ahead with any accuracy.

We're not masters of the universe - there is one who rules the seasons and the future and forms every snowflake and he doesn't work for the Met Office. Chaos theory which is so important to weather forecasting was the bit of maths that intriuged me most (aka Jurassic Park maths). And no disrespect is meant to the guys at the Met Office, but - human beings: Arrogant, right…

The Missing Piece

Mo McCracken exposing pseudo-gnosticism in himself. "Now I am seeing that God actually has a role for us in creation, which the Christian, having been recreated in Jesus to be fully human, can begin to undertake. This does, of course, include evangelism. But life becomes a lot more interesting and complicated." - this is a journey my time in UCCF has blessed me with too. Five years ago I didn't get this at all. Still learning.


Reading Ruth with some of the staff team recently. Three observations:
Ch1. Naomi & Elimilech sin big time. She changes her name from Sweet to Bitter. Things look bad but this is only because God has judged her family as he promised he would. He is true to his word and it costs Naomi everything. Ch1. Naomi arrives back declaring her bitter situation, with Ruth as the harvest begins. God's kind visit to his people preceeds her repentance from Moab to Bethlehem. His kindness is hard to see when we're immersed in ourselves. Food on the table, being with God's people and the presence of Ruth isn't nothing.Ch2-3. Ruth, Naomi and Boaz experience the kindness of God through his people. It is God's kindness but 'by his people' is a big way he shows us how kind he is to us. A Christian out-of-fellowship is therefore deprived of enjoying God's kindness.

Pass me not, O gentle Saviour

Pass me not, O gentle Saviour, Hear my humble cry;
While on others you are calling, Do not pass me by.
Let me at your throne of mercy, Find a sweet relief,
Kneeling there in deep contrition; Help my unbelief.

Saviour, Saviour,
Hear my humble cry;
While on others you are calling,
Do not pass me by.

Trusting only in Your merit, Would I seek Your face;
Heal my wounded, broken spirit, Save me by Your grace.
You the Spring of all my comfort, More than life to me,
Whom have I on earth but my God! Whom in Heav’n but He!

Fanny Crosby, 1868, lyrics modernised.
Jared Wilson

20 UK at Together for the Gospel

So, fairly soon, twenty people from the UK are going to Together for the Gospel. We're keen to get together at some point.

Ten of us are in the Sovereign Grace Ministries UK group (of which I'm a guest!!) - are you in the other ten? Let us know...

Become a fan of FREE @ facebook

FREE is the next UCCF Gospel Project that will put 400,000 copies of Mark's gospel in to the hands of students throughout Great Britain.

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UCCF Gospel Project

FWIW - Introducing Mike Kendall and his blog

This is a tragedy

I wouldn't normally re-post a whole post by someone else, but I think this needs to be heard. This is a tragedy akin to that fable about a man drowning and asking for God to save him... and then ignoring the rescue helicopter he provides. Actually, it's worse because this is a true story, and while I'm not sure it's a widespread issue, it's not unique either. Mo writes:
It's a long time since I had the experience, although it brought memories flooding back of being a staff worker...recently for the first time in ages I spoke at a Christian event where quite a number of individuals sat and talked, laughed, left the room and came back and ignored me while I was speaking. So I was offended - and I need to get over that.

But what I was doing was a kind of led Bible study from the front. And said-same people in the time they were supposed to be looking at God's word (ironically in a passage that itself describes God's word as more precious than gold, and sweet…

10 ways to misuse a DB

Tom wrote:
"Mr Bish, 10 ways to misuse a DB.
That we can look out for in our own lives.
And make it funny." I don't like writing to demand. And, I'm not sure I can do funny. For funny see SteffyB.

1. Make a paper airplane out of it. Style over content.
Use it as a checklist before having coffee with people. Stay pure at all costs and never be seen meeting people who don't agree with all of it, and of course never read anything that isn't DB-compliant.
3.Begrudge signing it when asked. Take great offence that you should be asked to sign it. Yes, you, a humble author, evangelist, officer of the church, Head of the Commonwealth, Supreme Governor of the Church of England, Duke of Normandy, Lord of Mann, and Paramount Chief of Fiji...
4. Claim allegiance to a confession of faith and then kick out the people who affirm it whilst giving a platform to those who don't.
5. Make a big deal of saying things like 'I'm no theologian' so that other Christians t…

At a wedding, on the third day

One of the elements in the marriage service that bugs me (alongside the common usage of 1 Corinthians 13) is where marriage is said to be endorsed by God because Jesus attended a wedding (when God's invention of it in Genesis 2 is surely enough?). Anyone who reads the gospels knows that Jesus going somewhere is not an endorsement of it.

Anyway, I was reading the start of John recently and pondering...

In John 1 we see Jesus annointed by the Spirit and John the Baptist saying Jesus is the lamb. King's get annointed, lamb's die. Early on we know where this story is going. At the end of John 2 he says that Nathanael will see angels descending and ascending on the Son of Man which has got to be an allusion to Jacob's dream in which he sees a stairway to heaven (Genesis 28) - at Bethel, 'the house of God'. Jesus is that way! A King who dies who will be the way to heaven.

And then we're told that Jesus is at a wedding. Except it's not his - he's asked to d…