Sunday, November 30, 2008

Listening in on the Emmaus Road?

So, on the road to Emmaus and with his disciples in Luke 24 Jesus shows beginning with moses and all the prophets that the Christ had to suffer and rise and that repentance and forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed to all nations... I've heard people say - it'd be great to have been in on that Bible study. And it would. Could it be that Luke-Acts is essentially that. Luke's ordered account of what was fulfilled about the Christ and his suffering, resurrection and the subsequent proclamantion of that to bring repentance and forgiveness to the ends of the earth?


A Christmas Tale

More at UCCF media | Youtube channel

Ruth and the Temple?

Peter Leithart writes fascinatingly on Ruth
"Ruth adorns herself as a bride, but she also dresses herself as a priest... As 2 Chronicles says, the temple was built on the piece of property that David purchased from Araunah or Ornan, the threshing floor on Mount Moriah. Ruth prepares like a priest in order to approach her husband on the threshing floor. Israelites reading Ruth after the building of the temple would think of the temple and its worship... Ruth seeks a husband on the threshing floor near Bethlehem, and Israel sought her husband Yahweh at the temple built on a threshing floor. We too come to worship, washing, anointed, and clothed by our baptisms, and we come to seek our husband. We are adorned as priests, and as the bride."

Saturday, November 29, 2008

24: Redemption

Last Monday evening I went out, played football and came home to watch 24: Redemption at 10pm until 1145pm. It'd been 18 months so any 24 was going to be good 24...

The series needed a reboot and the angle taken is to try and fuse West Wing and Blood Diamond (though the Africa bit should be out of the picture by the time Day 7 starts in January). What we get is Jack shouting in Africa, child-soliders and an introduction to new characters in Washington though with no identifiable focus. A new enemy is coming though we don't quite know why or what for, a new president is being sworn in and hasn't made much of an impact yet.

While it was good to have Jack back this felt a bit weak, a bit unfocussed. Partly the problem was only having two recognisable characters from before - Jack and the exiting president. I know that others will be back in Day 7 but for now we didn't have much to connect with. And likewise, CTU Los Angeles is gone but all we now have are non-specific locations in Washington and a new president delivering an unimpressive speech at her inauguration.

Two hours is a bit short. There were no 'terrorists' to torture. No 24 ringtone. No Chloe. A bit of Jon Voight. It was all a bit forgettable - but good news: Jack is back.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Newfrontiers Church Planting


Genesis 11:10-12:9: Waiting for the Word of God

Something strangely familiar. A ten generation genealogy ending with a man with three sons. Hello! Seen that before. In the wake of Nimrod's thwarted building project we could use some news. Last time we had a genealogy like this it ended with Noah, a man prophesied to bring relief and rest to a people made for rest. Name after name this one builds expectation. It's a curious one because we've already seen the start before - we've rewound the tape and we're taking a detour. When Eber comes along we don't run with Joktan, but with Peleg. And that brings us to Terah and his three sons.

Hope is high until we get a bit more acquainted with this family. One brother dies but he does have children. One stays put. And the other goes with his father out of the land of Ur and off toward Canaan. This son is called Father (Abram) but he has no children and a princess bride who is barren. It's not looking ideal. His nephew Lot comes along for the ride. Elsewhere we discover what prompts this hapless band to hit the road. Despite being in the line of Shem (the blessed one!) they're moonworshippers, idolators like the other Mesopotamians (Joshua 24). But then The "God of glory" (Acts 7v2-3) appears to Abram and tells them to go to Canaan. For Shemites this is fascinating because Canaanites will serve Shemites (as prophesied by Noah in Genesis 9) and we hear of this comission in Genesis 12v1-3 - just as Adam and Noah have been blessed so is Abram.

Halfway there they stop, at Haran (named after the dead brother) they gain possessions and evangelise the locals with their new found faith in the LORD (12v5). But they stop. Until Terah dies and then Abram continues his journey to the land of Canaan. Along with those who've decided to follow Sheikh Abram on his journey to Canaan. The land is occupied but they can set up altars. Priest Abram begins to call on the LORD as the Sethites did (Genesis 4). He believes that the LORD has said his offspring will inherit this land. While he waits, like any good priest, (1 Peter 2v9) he'll worship God and proclaim the excellencies of the one whose word he has believed.

Abram has promises from God of being blessed, a blessing, of Canaanite servitude, and of an inheriting offspring. This is good. But, in the meantime everyday tests his faith. Everytime he meets someone he introduces himself as father and has to admit to not having a child. Humanly speaking this ex-moonworshipper is a lost-cause, but the word of God accomplishes it's purposes. Abram believes the offspring will inherit. He trusts the promise of the Christ who will come not by human accomplishment but by the living word of God.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thursday at Gethsemane

Tonight I'm preaching on Gethsemane at Bath. David Gibson (my co-editor at pointed me to Donald McLeod's The Person of Christ, p174-175:

“Here is a man pouring his whole strength, physical and spiritual, into a plea that God would save him. It is clear from all the accounts that Jesus’ experience of turmoil and anguish was both real and profound. His sorrow was as great as a man could bear, his fear convulsive, his astonishment well-nigh paralyzing. He came within a hairsbreadth of break-down. He faced the will of God as raw holiness, the mysterium tremendum in its most acute form: and it terrified him….
…What Christ saw in Gethsemane was God with the sword raised… the sight was unbearable… in a few short hours… he would stand before that God answering for the sin of the world: indeed, identified with the sin of the world. He became as Luther said, ‘the greatest sinner that ever was’ Consequently, to quote Luther again, ‘No-one ever feared death so much as this man’. He feared it because for him it was no sleep but the wages of sin; death with the sting; death unmodified and unmitigated; death as involving all that sin deserved. He, alone, would face it without a covering providing by his very dying the only covering for the world, but doing so… totally exposed to God’s abhorrence of sin. And he would face death without God..… deprived of the one solace and the one resource which had always been there….
The wonder of the love of Christ for his people is not that for their sake he faced death without fear, but that for their sake he faced it terrified. Terrified by what he knew, and terrified by what he did not know, he took damnation lovingly…
…what he faced at Gethsemane we shall never face; and we shall never face it precisely because he faced it, offering his body as the place where God should effect the condemnation of sin. Gethsemane is as unique as Calvary because, as much as the cross, it belongs not to church history but to salvation history."

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Tim Keller - Preaching to the Heart (at Oak Hill)

Tim Keller is in the UK on several occasions in 2008/9. Most recently he was at Oak Hill Bible College this month on Preaching to the Heart.

MP3: Tim Keller at Oak Hill College (1) November 2008
MP3: Tim Keller at Oak Hill College (2) November 2008

Jonathan Edwards believed that the ultimate purpose of preaching is not only to make the truth clear, but also to make it real – affecting and life-changing. This is usually covered under the topic of "application", though framing the subject in that way often results in a "tack-on" of practical advice after a dry, academic exposition How can we preach the text from first to last in a way that exalts Christ, changes heart motivations, produces wisdom and wonder, persuades the sceptical and results in real life change? In his two lectures, Tim Keller explores these challenges to the preacher.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Fear and Loathing in Las Vagueness

Mike Reeves writes: Fear and Loathing in Las Vagueness. Published in the latest UCCF nb magazine and now at Theology Network.

Five hundred years ago, the church was in much the same state as today: in desperate, desperate need of reform. Then, in to the rescue galloped a posse of the most talented individuals of the day. They had among their number the very finest scholars, they shared a heartfelt passion for the renewing of the church – and they accomplished virtually nothing towards that goal. The rescue failed.

That was the sad story of the sixteenth-century humanists (nothing to do with later atheistic humanists!). But where did it all go wrong? They were absolutely sincere in wanting people to live whole-heartedly for Jesus; they were unstinting in their efforts. The problem was, they never thought they needed to bother with theology.... Continue reading Fear and Loathing in Las Vagueness.

The Grace of My God (studio version)

Would we recognize Jesus as Son of God?

"Mark is known for the understated irony of his gospel, but there is a large-scale irony overarching the book that is worthy of Sophocles. Readers know from the first verse of the gospel that Jesus is Son of God, and that title is used periodically through the gospel by the Father and by demons. But no human beings recognize Jesus as Son until the centurion at the cross. There is the ironic distance between our knowledge and the knowledge of the characters in the story. But that irony is eventually doubled back on the reader: Would we recognize Jesus as Son of God while He’s dying in anguish?" -- Peter Leithart

Also on Mark: Terry Virgo recommends James Edwards Pillar Commentary.I'd agree, it's very helpful - typical of the Pillar series.

Out of the Silent Planet

Currently on Radio 7, ht: Rosemary.
And written about by Pete Lowman: Chronicles of Heaven Unshackled: Part 2. Out of the Silent Planet

...this is basic to his fiction; in seeking to 'widen' his reader's notions of what the universe might possibly be conceived as including, he is aiming to make room for the Christian cosmology, along with much newly-imagined material. This is fiction with an apologetic purpose, even if it is much more than apologetics. The 'fictional hypothesis' is related to the author's worldview more directly than in Tolkien. As Lewis said of the second novel of the trilogy, Voyage to Venus, 'It wouldn't have been that particular story if I wasn't interested in those particular ideas on other grounds.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

"...take not thy Bible from us"

As quoted by Mike Reeves at Transformission:

Mr. John Rogers was at the time on the subject of the Scriptures, and in the course of his sermon, he falls into an expostulation with the people about their neglect of the Bible; he personates God to the people, telling them:  

"Well, I have trusted you so long with my Bible, you have slighted it; it lies in such and such houses, covered with dust and cobwebs; you care not to look at it. Do you use my Bible so ? Well, you shall have my Bible no longer! " And he takes up the Bible from the cushion and seems as if going away with it; but immediately turns again, and personates the people to God, falls down upon his knees, cries and pleads most earnestly, - " Lord, whatever thou doest to us, take not thy Bible from us; kill our children, burn our houses, destroy our goods, only spare us our Bible! " And he personates God again to the people, "say you so ? Well, I will try you a little longer, and here is my Bible for you; I will see how you will use it, whether you will love it more and live more according to it!"

By these actions, the congregation were remarkably affected. The people were generally deluged with tears ; and Rogers deluged himself, when he got out, and was to take horse to be gone, was fain to hang a quarter of an hour on the neck of his horse weeping, before he had power to mount, so strange an impression was there made upon him, and generally upon the people, on having been thus expostulated with on the neglect of the Bible.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Transformision 2008

"We present you with this Book, the most valuable thing this world affords. Here is wisdom. This is the Royal Law. These are the lively oracles of God."
...said at British Coronations to the new Monarch.

Today was our annual South West Christian Unions conference, Transformission, in Exeter. Mike Reeves joined us to speak on The Word of God - stunning us with the glorious doctrines of scripture. Download:

Session 1 - The Most Valuable Word - Judges 3

Session 2 - The Christian Word - John 5 

Session 3 - The External Word - Psalm 42

Transformission 2007 focussed on The Glory of the Cross, also with Mike Reeves speaking.

These MP3s are also available to download from UCCF South West

JFK. CS Lewis. Aldous Huxley.

45 years ago today they died.
Huxley predicted, in the words of Neil Postman, that we'd amuse ourselves to death.
Lewis said we're far too easily pleased.

All three faced the same person that day: Jesus who had freely offered unspeakable joy to anyone who would come to him.

"Heaven help us all when believing in grace becomes a measurable work."

Friday, November 21, 2008

Getting into God's story

I'm studying Genesis at the moment and loving getting to the narrative.

Richard Pratt's excellent book He gave us stories is a helpful textbook approach to thinking about how to engage God's narratives and begin to study and preach them.

James Jordan's Primeval Saints is less about how to handle narrative and more an imaginative look at the details of the text of Genesis - to see how the repeating details and themes unlock the message of this foundational book. It's not necessarily a book that you're going to agree with everything in, but it's masterful and enjoyable in drawing into the stories that shape the rest of God's plans in the Bible.

Jordan writes along similar lines to Stephen Dempster's Dominion and Dynasty and Peter Leithart's The Kingdom and the Power.

Know Where You Are (Stay Free 4)

Final session at UWE-CU last night looking at where we are in view of the resurrection and return of Jesus.
Flitting around a bit between Mark 13, 16 and 8.

Some kind of technical problem on sermoncloud at the moment, so this is hosted differently...
Download: KNOW WHERE YOU ARE (mp3)

"Jesus didn't teach that his death was substitutionary and penal"

Everyone in UCCF is studying Mark's gospel at the moment, so that students in our mission teams are equipped to open that book up with people who aren't Christians. And then I read this, Adrian's summary of Steve Chalke's "arguments" against penal substitution

Claim: Jesus didn't teach that his death was substitutionary and penal.

I'm not sure that's actually accurate, but even if he didn't explicitly teach then the argument betrays a twisted doctrine of scripture. And that's what I want to write about here.

The argument suggests that if we don't have Jesus gathering the crowds ands saying "Let me tell you about this doctrine called penal substitution" then it's not there. It's the same argument used to say "he didn't say he's God" or he didn't teach "Trinity". When you read the books as literature these things stand out page after page as being there.

From Genesis to Revelation it's all Jesus teaching.

All of it. We don't actually have anything strictly original from Jesus because he'd have spoken Hebrew and the gospels were written in Greek - but no matter, everything that Mark puts in his gospel is what Jesus wants to say. Not just the words from his mouth but the structure, the contexts, the situations. The gospels don't just teach the red words from Jesus' lips. The whole document teaches. And I love that. The riches contained in the gospels are magnificient (as are the other 62 books of the Bible) if we'll let them speak on their own terms in their own ways.

It's the kind of flimsy doctrine of scripture that The Jesus Seminar use. Liberalism dressed up in evangelical clothing.

Back on the penal substition (and hell) side of things. The point isn't "does Jesus speak of it" in the gospel accounts. The question is - taking these books as books, is it there. Incidentally that's why I think the last Bond is better than people think it is - the script is minimal, and the scenes are emotionally cold and detached - but I think that's the point. You have to take it as a whole not just in bits.

It's hard to read Mark 13-16, as I have been recently, without seeing that God is angry with human sin - and is doing something extreme to save such people. I mean, there is a lot going on there. It's the end of the world. It's the beginning of the kingdom of God. But right there in the middle of it - is Jesus wrestling with a cup that must be the cup of the LORD's wrath, and then hanging on a cross in darkness, where both cross and darkness mean judgement and curse.

People make claims about what is and isn't in the gospels. But when you stop claiming and start actually working through the text passage by passage it really looks like wrath and hell are there, along with love, and victory, and freedom and a whole lot of other glorious stuff that the church has rejoiced in for two millenia.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: "What! You, too? Thought I was the only one."

Matt Perman: "Organizations that discourage close relationships in the workplace “could be making a costly mistake.” Friendships are a critical part of a healthy workplace, and organizations should take steps to encourage their cultivation."  So go ahead team! Be friends :)

Post Title: C.S. Lewis.

The End of the World and The Beginning of the Kingdom of God

Arguing from The Cross from a Distance from IVP's New Studies in Biblical Theology series. 

Usually Mark 13 is said to be about the fall of the Temple in AD70. Peter Bolt differs and reads it within it's more immediate context. He argues that Mark 14-16 carries the expectation of Mark 13, and particularly 13v35. We're to be awake and alert, looking for the Son of Man to come, in the evening, midnight, when the cock-crows, at dawn...
  • 14v1-11. Famous incident. Anointed for burial – because he won’t be there to be anointed after his death in 16v1. This will be told when the gospel is globally preached (v8-9) –  which it will be when the Son of Man comes (13v27).
  • 14v-12-31. Evening comes. The Passover. But there is no Lamb? The only blood to paint over the door is Jesus' blood (v24)
  • Then, at midnight in Gethsemane as Jesus wrestles with the cup before him. The future of the world, our future, hangs in "this passionate exchange". Everyone flees, scattered as the Shepherd will be struck, (13v14) and then Jesus is put on trial (where he uses Daniel/Mark 13 language as Son of Man).
  • Then as the cock-crows Peter denies him (13v26, 14v30,72). Still we wait.
  • At dawn 15v1 Jesus is turned over to the Gentiles, to divine wrath. That trial will lead to Jesus being declared innocent but sentenced to death anyway, while a guilty man goes free. As he dies the sun turns dark (13v24) and a destructive sacrifice is set up - the whole world raging against the Lord's annointed (Psalm 2)
  • Yet as Jesus dies, Joseph of Arimithea will still be waiting for the kingdom. Waiting until the dawn comes on the third day...  then the Son of Man comes, and it's time (13v27) to gather in the elect from the ends of the earth.
Mark 14-16 tells the story of the end of the world that will bring the beginning of the kingdom of God – with King Jesus in charge, the fresh start that people from the whole world need.

"It is not often that a ‘theological’ book makes the reader want to go and tell people about the achievement of the cross. This book did that for me! It deserves to be widely read." Justin Mote on Peter Bolt's The Cross from a Distance

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Preaching 2009

Chronicles of Heaven Unshackled by Pete Lowman

Chronicles of Heaven Unshackled by Pete Lowman - is publishing an lightly edited version of Pete Lowman's PhD in English literature on God and the novel. Pete was my pastor for a couple of years in Reading and prior to that was the guy at the forefront of pioneering IFES ministry in the former Soviet Union. He is the author of A Long Way East of Eden and Gateways to God.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Genesis 9:18-11:9: Naked man sins with fruit, and the fall of the city of giants.

Continuing to walk through the Book of Genesis: There has been a new creation. In Genesis 8-9 we’ve found a man (Noah) on a mountain (Ararat) in the middle of a formless world (covered in water) like we found a man (Adam) on a mountain (Eden) in Genesis 2 in the middle of a formless world (wilderness). The Man is commissioned to fill the earth as before. In Genesis 9v18-11v9 we’re desperately hoping that we will see him multiply and fill the earth so that one of his seed will crush the seed of the serpent (3v15). Like the first Man he has three sons so there is hope, and at least one of them now has a son (called Canaan 9v18 and repeated in v22). We want to see them scatter and cultivate the world, under God's rule. There wont be a flood and we'd love to see no sin either. We especially don’t want to see sin like when Adam and Eve ate the fruit in Genesis 3, nor the idolatry and of Cain in chapter 4, nor the boasting city builders Cain and Lamech.

1. Naked Man Sins With Fruit.
What happens next? Genesis 9v18-24. We find the man working the soil (hurrah!) and then we find him drunk, uncovered in his tent (tent to temple to Eden is pushing it, right?). Wine should have gladened the heart of man and helped him enjoy his days on earth (Ecclesiastes 9v7 etc), but not on this occasion...

Instead we find: a naked man sinning with fruit, again (like Adam). And we find his son (Ham, father of Canaan) rather than defeating sin watching and then going to tell his brothers. When Adam sinned there was shame and he and Eve covered themselves with leaves, only to be covered properly through the death of animals. Sin’s shame should be covered with righteousness not with indulgence, flaunting or gossip. This covering of shame points forward to Jesus whose righteousness will cover all shame and bring us back into the bliss of Eden where Adam and his wife knew nakedness without shame – so too Christ and his church will live without shame. This is instructive for Israel in the wilderness and Moses first reads it to them. They need their shame covering too.

The brothers of Ham (father of Canaan) keep their backs turned and cover their father’s shame. For this Ham’s son is cursed and told he’ll be a servant of the other brothers. This has massive implications for Israel in the wilderness and they look at the land of Canaan ahead of them. The inhabitants of that land should not petrify them – they will serve Israel (the Shemites/semites…)! There is hope in the prophecy of Noah! God’s people will take the promised land. Rest can be entered. So too we rejoice.

The “table of nations” follows in chapter 10 painting a picture of the world that we can recognise with it’s familiar nations and places like Tarshish, Egypt, Babel, Nineveh and references to the Philistines. Nations come from people, just as a nation will be born from a man called Israel later in this book. And once more we have Mighty Men (as in chapter 6), giants who oppose God – Nimrod, the Philistines and others in the cursed family of Ham.

2. The Fall of the City of Giants
In Genesis 11v1-4 we find men building a city. This too is not new. Cain built a city. And like that city this also is a city for resisting the Lord’s mandate to scatter and make the Lord famous. Again men seek to stay where they are and to make their own name great. They set themselves up against God. Leading this building project is Nimrod (10v8-12), a mighty man before the Lord – a man against the Lord. This city of giants (10v13) opposed to God is a familiar site to the Israelites in the wilderness. They see cities like Jericho with great walls occupied by giants (Numbers 13) who make them feel like grasshoppers. Who can stand against such enemies?

Yet, the Lord looks down (11v5-9) on this project to build a tower into the heavens (a project architects continue to pursue even in the 21st Century). The Lord has to stoop down to see the pinacle of human effort - the Father and Son and Holy Spirit cast their view upon the matter. Like the words that finally exiled the Man from Eden they conclude he must be stopped for his own good. His sin will ruin him (see also 3v22). In the days of Peleg (10v25), Nimrod and his cohorts are stopped in their tracks and they are scattered globally with confused language. Doubtless they will build other idolatrous cities but their efforts will be limited by their dispersion and confusion. The derelict monument to human greatness is named for the confusion, Babel.

At times man will conspire again with a common language in global empires under the ever evil Babel, or under Greece, Rome or in the 21st Century with the common language of English. I have relatives in Canada who advocate a global democracy made possibly by the internet and common language (as if you could persuade everyone of the validity of democracy, but I guess if you want to let India and China rule the world it might be a way forward… following the inspiration of Einstein: "There is no salvation for civilization, or even the human race, other than the creation of a world government." Sinful man is ever arrogant.

At Pentecost (Acts 2) the news of the resurrection of Jesus will transcend the confusion and men will perceive drunken confusion but hear the gospel, and in eternity men and women will gather in the redemption of the new creation. Speaking praise to God in their sin-caused languages gathered around the slain lamb who died because of sin, ever humbled by their sin, ever thankful for the Lord’s intervention. For the wilderness wanderers of Israel the fall of the city of giants is great encouragement. Jericho will fall. Ozymandias' mighty works will fall. The land will be theirs. Rest can be attained. The Lord will not tolerate evil forever. So too we look to that hope. But also, we stand challenged – such arrogance and conspiracy as human pride does not go unnoticed. If we persist in it we should expect the Lord to come and confound our pride, and our only hope will be to be covered like Noah.

Mind-boggling, category-shattering truths demand our best thought and our most creative labors

This month's study programme takes us into Church History / Historical Theology on Athanasius and Augustine. For some that is an immediate turn-off, but without our history we're pretty much doomed to miss the mark badly.

Piper writes of Athanasius' ministry, contending  for the divinity of Christ: 

"What was clear to Athanasius was that propositions about Christ carried convictions that could send you to heaven or to hell... Athanasius labored with all his might to formulate propositions that would conform to reality and lead the soul to faith and worship and heaven. I believe Athanasius would have abominated, with tears, the contemporary call for “depropositionalizing”.. I think he would have said, “Our young people in Alexandria die for the truth of propositions about Christ. What do your young people die for?” ...Athanasius would have grieved over sentences like “It is Christ who unites us; it is doctrines that divides.” ...Those who talk like this... think they have done something profound and fresh, when in fact they have done something very old and stale and very deadly."
And it is with this kind of mindset that Adrian Warnock again raises the debate over penal substitution. I weep for those who deny these doctrines and rejoice that others like Adrian will contend for them, and rejoice further at the partnerships and unity I see formed by those who, for whatever other differences, find themselves bound together by a common love of the God of such glorious doctrine.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Through the Curtain - True Greatness

Download MP3: True Greatness, through the cross from UWECU.
Continuing a four part series in Mark based around reasons Jesus came:

1. Jesus came to preach so listen to his word.
2. Jesus came for sinners, like us, be found with him.
3. Jesus came to die, come to the cross and find life.

Bad Meetings

Bad meetings generation real human suffering... by Matt Perman
"Bad meetings, and what they indicate and provoke in an organization, generate real human suffering in the form of anger, lethargy, and cynicism. And while this certainly has a profound impact on organizational life, it also impacts people’s self-esteem, their families, and their outlook on life...."
I couldn't agree more. A challenge to me as a Team Leader, and to those who lead in churches and Christian Unions...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Mike Bullmore - The Heart of Preaching

Mike Bullmore - Lectures on the heart of preaching and the preachers heart

Session 1: The Functional Centrality of the Gospel in Preaching + Q&A
Session 2: The Five Greatest Heart Challenges in Preaching + Q&A
Session 3: A Passion for the Gospel (Philippians 1) +Q&A

ht: Andy Naselli.

The Resurrection Empowered Life by Adrian Warnock

Adrian Warnock is the latest blogger to get a book contract from Crossway. Having glimpsed the outline of this it looks like it could be a good one.
"The book is based on the premise that we have a tendency to under-emphasize the resurrection. I will discuss why this is, and then explore the evangelistic, doctrinal, and experiential implications of the resurrection. I have personally been greatly affected by thinking and studying about the resurrection for many months now. I genuinely believe that it is a subject that can energize and empower us."
Pray for him as he writes it. Publishing date wont be til sometime in 2010.

Get a taste by reading this post on the resurrection empowered life from April 2007:
"To me the conclusion of these verses is simple. We are supposed to gaze upon the glory of Jesus, the Risen Lord, and as we do so, we will be transformed into His image and live a resurrection empowered life."

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Remove This Cup

Spoke last night at a joint meeting of University of Plymouth and Marjons Christian Unions on Mark 14v1-42 under the title "Remove This Cup" (as part of a series they're doing in Mark's gospel). In the first half I try to argue for divine judgement being reasonable and then show that what we're trying to avoid we can aviod - not by denial but by Jesus drinking the cup of divine wrath at sin for us. The first half is essentially the same as I used for my talk on "Death and the Smell of Jesus" in September. I find speaking on this subject personally affecting as I engage with the reality of wrath, the situation of those I know who aren't Christians and the amazing extent of salvation.

DOWNLOAD MP3: Remove This Cup - Dave Bish (34mins)

The quality of the recording isnt great. I've cleaned it up a bit but it's still a bit noisy. Obviously CJ Mahaney's "The Cup" has influenced my reading of this chapter. I avoided re-listening to it when preparing but his preaching of it is outstanding.

Adrian Reynolds on preachers notes

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Tower of Babel

“Man, rashly daring, full of pride,
Most covets what is most denied.
And a little afterwards, —
“Counts nothing arduous,
and tries Insanely to possess the skies.”
cited by Calvin in his Commentary on Genesis 11.

The lasting legacy of Babel.
Daunting, dazzling and doomed (The Guardian - 11 Nov)

"These fascinating images are attempts to illustrate the greatest story ever told about a building. The tale is in the Bible. After the Flood, the descendents of Noah spread over the earth, and resolved to build a city and a tower, whose top reached 'unto heaven'."

Though the article goes on to suggest that the story of the tower of Babel is angry Jews responding to being exiled. I'd beg to differ and suggest it was written a bit earlier than that. This is one of the cities of Mighty Nimrod who comes up against the Lord (Gen 10), a successor to the idolatrous cities of Lamech (Gen 4) that is established in "Direct violation of God's command to fill the earth" (Leithart, The Kingdom and the Power, p148) - and is directive for those coming up out of Egypt into the land to remember their destiny to be a global people.

Image: Babel by Breughel.

Top 10 UK Christian Bloggers (by Technorati)

I'm not really taking this seriously... but do think it's interesting.

I'm working with a loose defintinon of Christian and Christian blogger (which is more a reference to the author than to their content), limited to UK-based bloggers, based on blogs I'm aware of. The ranking is based on Technorati which charts influence among bloggers. I'll update monthly. Do comment if I've missed a blog that should be on the list.


1. Andrew Jones (-) (5.1k)
2. Jon Birch (+1) (8.7k)
3. Dave Walker (-1) (10.6k)
4. Adrian Warnock (-) (13.2k)
5. Jonny Baker (-) (31.1k)
6. Colin Adams (-) (35.6k)
7. Tim Chester (-) (55.8k)
8. Dave Bish (-) (66.8k)
9. Terry Virgo (-) (74k)
10. Martin Downes (-) (88.7k)

TSK noted that the current top 10 is all male so I thought I'd highlight some female bloggers I'm aware of, ranked by Technorati:

Titus 2 Talk (108.7k)
Ros Clarke (220.4k)
Emily Woods (221.9k)
Lindsay Langdon (267.6k)
Libbie (420.1k)
Rosemary Grier (447.7k)
Carla Harding (657.7k)
Jude Smith (806.3k)
Cat Hare (908.5k)
A path less followed (908.5k)

UPDATE: Maggi Dawn (55.7k) - which changes the picture a bit. I'll include her in the next update. Do let me know about others I've probably missed, it's a big blogosphere... And I would love to be able to remove myself from the Top 10 because I find it laughable that I'm there.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Back in two weeks (24)

24: Redemption - Mon, Nov 24th 9pm Sky1
The storyline takes place on Inauguration Day for the next U.S. President, Allison Taylor, and is shot partially in South Africa. "Jack is a soul in turmoil and has been moving from place to place trying to find somewhere he can be at peace," says co-executive producer, Manny Coto. "But he winds up in Africa in the middle of a military coup." Meanwhile, Bauer is subpoenaed to appear before the Senate hearing while in Africa, but doesn't want to go... 
ht: Digital Spy

MP3: Lost and Found - Luke 15 (Andrew Wilson)

Andrew Wilson on Identity: Lost and Found (mp3, Luke 15) at Frontiers Church Exeter... exploring what's wrong with the world and the way we try to find out who we are.

From Hove, Actually: his morning I read one verse from this book and it grabbed me, shoved me against a wall and got in my face...

Sunday, November 09, 2008

I am who I am because of everyone?

I'm fascinated by this new Orange advertising campaign. What I love about it is the way that it understands us as people shaped by our relationships with other people.

Push it too far and we all merge into the crowd, but don't push it that far and we have being human as being in relationship. Ultimately it's our relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit that defines who we are, but that must then be lived out through our relationships with everyone else, some who will benefit us, some who will harm us.

Photo: mid-term holiday with my sister. Cornwall is great.

Has Science Killed God? Andrew Wilson

Last night we went to Ask for dinner with some of Em's colleagues and about 20 other people. We talked about babies and Bond films and many other things.

We were there because our church had booked out a room and invited Andrew Wilson from Kings Church Eastbourne to speak between courses on Has Science Killed God?

Andrew challenged the idea that the two are really competitors... it's a bit like asking if the Pakistan Cricket Team have beaten Manchester United yet. He suggested there are two key issues to consider, the question of origins and the question of miracles. He showed the merits of science but said that in the end science can only get us as far as saying that either we're here because: there is one unknown entity (God?) or because of aliens (Francis Crick suggests) or that there are billions of unknown entities (multiverses, without any prospect of evidence).

At this point science has to admit it's done all it can do and then we're faced with the public truth claims of Jesus and the resurrection. There are three kinds of proof - mathematical proof by definition, scientific proof by repetition and likely outcome and historical proof of the 'in court' 'beyond reasonable doubt' kind. Christianity, unlike many other worldviews, puts itself at the mercy of the third kind and invites our enquiry.

Andrew Wilson is responsible for Teaching and Training at Kings Church Eastbourne. He moved to Eastbourne in 2003 to run Impact, the church-based year out project, and to get married to his wife Rachel. Since then, he has gradually increased his job description to cover Sunday teaching, training materials, Equip courses, web resources, and overseeing the 20s work in the church. Andrew Wilson is the author of Deluded by Dawkins and Incomparable. Andrew Wilson preaching on Outrageous Grace.

Saturday, November 08, 2008


1.No trains. Didn't use one this week. That's very rare, but then I didn't leave Exeter this week either!
2. Team. Having the team in town is always a pleasure, being joined by church based student workers was a real joy too.
3. Real-world. Delaying our training on Wednesday afternoon because our speaker was surrounded by non-Christian students asking him questions.
4. Relays go Apologetic. Hearing seven persuasive young apologists giving their first talks. Imagining what ministry might be done through them in future.
5. IKEA. Building furniture the easy way - and looking at cots. Never done the latter before!
6. Family Night. Praying with our church.Unmissable.
7. Technology. Phone died so I had to get a new one. And got a webcam.

Herring and Shaw, Aint no sunshine

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Best Third Space

Third space is where you want to be. Not your home. Not your work. But the third one. Matt Perman suggests Starbucks could up their game on this with free wifi. I agree.
I don’t want to sound down on Starbucks here. They do great work. But if their value proposition is that they create a “third space” rather than simply selling coffee, they have an opportunity here to do things better and advance their brand.
Plug-sockets would help that too. The one other thing they could do, in the UK at least, is start opening late into the evening.

Anyways, ht to JT, and nice to have a new clear-thinking blog to read.

Richard Cunningham // Gathering at Mars Hill

Richard Cunningham (UCCF Director) has been with us this week, serving the UCCF South West team and friends from St Leonards, Belmont and Frontiers churches involved in student mission.

He took us through Acts to examine the persuasive preaching of Paul as he engaged in the spiritual battle of bringing the gospel to devilishly blinded people who are taken in by the two lies that God has not spoken and that there are no consequences.

Included along the way were a sample talk on "so long as it makes me happy", a lunchbar on the arrogance of Christianity (not recorded, version at Durham) and the practicalities of putting together a talk, identifying with people, entering their world, persuasion through smaking sense, experience and history, and then invitation for response, largely from Paul in Athens in Acts 17.
Matt Finn is listening and blogging these.

Kilby on Christian Imagination

“Now when we look from these three facts (that the bible belongs to literature, that the Bible is an imaginative book, that God is the greatest artists of all) to contemporary evangelical Christianity, we find a great oddity.The people who spend the most time with the Bible are in large numbers the foes of art and the sworn foes of imagination….How can it be that with a God who created birds and the blue of the sky who before the foundation of the world wrought out a salvation more romantic than Cinderella, with a Christ who encompasses the highest heaven and deepest hell, with the very hairs of our head numbered, with God closer than hands and feet, Christians often turn out to have an unenviable corner on the unimaginative and the commonplace? Evangelical Christians have had one of the purest of motives and one of the worst outcomes. The motive is never to mislead by the smallest fraction of an iota in the precise nature of salvation, to live it and state it in its utter purity. But the unhappy outcome has too often been to elevate the cliché.
The motive is that the gospel shall not be misunderstood, not sullied, not changed in jot or title. The outcome has often been merely reactionary, static, and hackneyed….There is a simplicity which diminishes and a simplify that enlarges, and evangelicals have often chosen the wrong one."
Clyde S. Kilby The Christian Imagination p105 -Edited by Leland Ryken

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

You'd wish it were true

In my previous post I alluded to this idea from Pascal's Pensees.
"Men despise religion; they hate it and fear it is true. To remedy this, we must begin by showing that religion is not contrary to reason; that it is venerable, to inspire respect for it; then we must make it lovable, to make good men hope it is true; finally, we must prove it is true."
I'm increasingly convinced that a key part of our apologetics is to enter people's world, understand their ideas such that we can articulate what they believe and their objections to Christianity clearly and strongly, and then be able to show how these things don't make sense in themselves and/or of the world we live in... and to engagingly show that the Christian account of reality is more coherent and more compelling, more engaging, more reasonable and more appealing. Which it is.

We follow Luther: “If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ... Wherever the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved and to be steady on all the battlefield besides is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that one point.” We need to where the battle rages, to where the inconsistency lies and to where the gospel is denied. We go to fight the spiritual battle where the devilish lies that God hasn't spoken and that we're not accountable are manifesting in blindness.

This wont be simplistic or shallow but should be deeply engaging to the imagination and the intellect. Tapping into "the stab, the pang, the inconsolable longing" that we experience because we're made by God. He borrows this image of it from Chaucer: "All men know that the true good is Happiness, and all men seek it, but for the most part by wrong routes—like a drunk man who knows he has a house but can’t find his way home." - the word of God speaks to show the way, to challenge the lies, to reveal the beauty of reality.

As Richard Cunningham puts it: Identify with where people are and what they believe, persuade them with sense, from experience and from history and then invite some kind of response.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Looking for a warm and persuasive apologetic

Comparing 1st and 2nd century apologists. The NT Gospel writers had:
...a warmth, a Christ-centredness, a deep and obvious concern for people marks every page of the Gospels and Acts, with the possible exception of a chapter like Matthew 23; but in the second century this too often gives way to a rather cold, almost arrogant, battering of the opposition.... To launch a full-scale and at times bitter assault on someone's cherished beliefs is not the best way of inducing him to change them. (EITEC, p351) (EITEC, p351)

That's the kind of apologetics I want to have. Positive, contructive, Christ-centred and evidently loving. Yet, it's all too easy to be negative and just throw dirt. It's easier and feels better short-term. Much like this recent campaign poster against Christians in Exeter, in a campaign accusing them of being fascists, a campaign that comes under the banner of "equal opportunities". This excites the choir, and motivated them to vote down the Christians, but not very likely to make a Christian suddenly imagine that they would be better not having Christian leaders in Christian groups.

The recently accused Evangelical students of Exeter could fight back with accusations that suggest that those who differ from them also believe a "disgraceful pile of bile" (as they themselves are accused of believing). Not very compelling. Not likely to win them over.

The Evangelical Christian students at Exeter are basically arguing that the Pope should be a Catholic... i.e. to have evangelicals leading the Evangelical Christian Union. In the independent republic of Exeter University this is however regarded as deeply offensive, exclusive and unacceptable. Living in 21st Century UK I can see how this perception happens. We're conditioned to think that anything that excludes anyone is evil - for very good reasons. Though it's amusing that this issue arises in the (just a little) exclusive club that is a University which necessarily practices institutional exclusivity based on intellect and finances...

There is a need to create plausibility for what we believe. What seemed like basic common sense (before you even think about the Christian side of the issue). We have a need to shape thinking so that Christian thinking is no longer seen as evil and instead as beneficial... shaping thinking so that what seems like common sense to us might also be so for others. To demonstrate through our warm words and lives that the gospel of Jesus is such good news that people would wish it were true - and then might be persuaded that it is.

How we do that is a question I'm wrestling with, but I'm sold on the idea.

Richard Cunningham

This week Richard Cunningham is coming to Exeter to do some training for the UCCF team and guests from local churches. Richard is Director of UCCF is one of the most gifted apologists and leaders I know. Some of his talks are available online:

If you could know God would you want to?
What's wrong with living for pleasure?
What would it be like to be truly loved?
Why does a good powerful God allow suffering?
Why God hates religion
Why only bad people go to heaven
How can Christians claim that Jesus is the only way?
If God proved he was there, would...
How can Christians be certain they have the truth?

More at Adrian Warnock on Richard Cunningham at NWA

Driscoll in Sydney

Reaching the next generation mp3. This is Mark Driscoll's 18 points for the more established churches to hear. I reported some initial unacceptance of these points, what I'm now reading suggests that people are paying serious attention to his observations.

ht: Revd. Jon Hobbs

Monday, November 03, 2008

Song. Thesis. Radio. Deism and Dinosaurs.

James Bond: Vengeance is a dish best served cold (no spoilers intended)

Quantum of Solace through the lense of Pete Dray's film questions. I watched this having heard Mark Kermode's scathing review of "Question of Sport" I enjoyed the previous Bond film Casino Royale.

QoS ends like the previous film with the classic Bond images and tune. We're reminded of where we are, but at the same time left wondering where we've been. The action began so frenetically and we've been round the world a couple of times. I watched it with four other people and I think I was the only one who seemed to have anything positive to say about it.

We picks up straight from the end of Casino Royale. Vesper died and Bond is on the trail of the people who caused her death. What follows is a chase for the guilty party based on duty or vengeance. Along the way we meet Dominic Greene who is manipulating Latin American states in pursuit of money. We assume that, being Bond, he will succeed though it's not particularly obvious how, when or where. The obvious crisis was caused in the previous film with the death of Vesper, a resolution is required to bring justice. In this way the film feels like an extended conclusion to Casino Royale. If the only aim is to catch the bad guy then it's a weak and unncessary film - just declare Mr White (who Bond finds at the end of Casino Royale) to be the top of the food chain. The other crisis is the one in Bond - how will he cope with loss, how will he move on, where will he find resolution. This is the story I think Forster, Haggis and Co. attempt to tell.

In the world of QoS values are confused. A politician comments that as oil runs out we can't just work with the good guys. Villans are real but might still be associates of the good guys. We see the world through high-powered people with vast resources, it's the world we know but is nothing like it. This is a world built on action and locations more than dialogue and characters. This is a surprise given that Marc Forster (Stranger than Fiction, Finding Neverland) is the director and Paul Haggis (Crash) is one of the writers. We begin with action and end with a low-key moment. Since the film seems to be exploring how Bond copes with loss you'd expect much more of a character piece than this film delivers. That said - we do move between cold duty, raging anger and the occasional moment of honesty between Bond and Camille. Exposition isn't the only way to explore the issue.

We don't have the tender emotion of Casino Royale or it's pain. It's noticably detached. That's been critiqued but I wonder if it's intentional. In this cold world we see integrity is on the line for governments. M struggles with betrayal and whether she can trust Bond. Vengeance and justice are being sought in a world that is no longer playing by the rules that previously governed it. Relationships matter and when they're called into question people are damaged. Bond's grief motivates everything in this film. The impression we get is of a numbed reflex of a driven hunter pursuing vengeance. He doesn't hurt enough. He's damaged but not really broken enough. I think this is why many reviewers have panned the film. It's just too cold.

I watched this very much through the lense of my recent study of Cain and Lamech in Genesis 4. Cain has committed murder and lives in fear of vengeance. The LORD's vengeance protects Cain by declaring his own vengeance. Cain's descendant Lamech also kills but revels in this and declares his own vengeance. Both reflect our concern for justice. But, whether we can obtain it ourselves remains in question - is it attainable? Is it ours to attain? QoS takes us with Bond on the search for the solace of vengeance.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Communities of Grace on Mission (Total Church in the USA)

Tim Chester and Steve Timmis have been in the USA:
Total Church Conference mp3s/video

The book is excellent so I'd imagine these are worth a listen.

Tim Chester's blog, recently posting:

Communities of Performance
the leaders appear sorted
the community appears respectable
meetings must be a polished performance
identity is found in ministry
failure is devastating
actions are driven by duty
conflict is suppressed or ignored
the focus is on orthodoxy and behaviour (allowing people to think they’re sorted)

Communities of Grace
the leaders are vulnerable
the community is messy
meetings are just one part of community life
identity is found in Christ
failure is disappointing, but not devastating
actions are driven by joy
conflict is addressed in the open
the focus is on the affections of the heart (with a strong view of sin and grace)

Stay in the World

Second part of a four part series in Mark's gospel - Mark 7: Stay in the world / Jesus came for sinners. I experimented with Bible and a very minimal outline for this talk, though it was originally written with a full script. I think this helped connect with the cafe-style context of this Christian Union meeting. The downside is that I wasn't as clear as I could have been at some points.

Should Christians go clubbing? Should Christians drink? What does holiness look like? Should we amputate sinful limbs? Should we be handwashers like the pharisees? Jesus The Wisdom of God looks us all in the eye and exposes the real issue. Our attempts at holiness deny the word of God because sin is not circumstantial. Sin is in the heart. And we can't do anything about that. Good news though, Jesus came for sinners- turn to him and then stay in the world where he was found with sinners.

The Merrie Theologiane

"The laughter of the Reformation 
was one its most powerful weapons, 
exposing and humiliating bankrupt theology."
In support of laughter, at

Reminds me that I need to laugh more at myself, and in the face of absurd circumstances. It's been a strange couple of weeks of student ministry in which that has been a key lesson to learn.