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Showing posts from December, 2008

The Mathematician is not a Brain in a Vacuum

"It is essential to ask whether thr eading of modern fiction or the appraising of modern drama is proper study for any student unless they form part of the course which he is taking. Why should the geologist or chemist, the geograhper, musician or physicist concern himself with such matters? This is an urgent contemporary question, for much of the current debate about the role of a university or of higher education generally is directly related to it. As students we use our minds to grapple with the intellectual challenges of our particular academic discipline. But recent upheavals would underline that we do not properly stop there, that our task involves more than using our brain only on our own subject.

There are still many who would argue that this is not so. Their reason for being members of a college or university is solely to become linguists or chemists, more knowledgeable classicists or engineers. They have neither time nor inclination for studying anything which does not…

Song of Songs: "The most beautiful place in the world is the church of Christ"

Daniel Newman preaching on Song 4:1-5:1
"Christ feasts with his bride in the garden. This is not about me and my personal, private relationship with Christ. This is about the relationship between Christ and the church corporately. We drank wine with Christ and feasted with him at the Lord’s Supper. In the gathering of the church, we hear him speaking words of love to us as his word is read and preached and as we sing. Luther: ‘God meets us at trysting places’ We must take the church seriously" MP3: Daniel Newman on Song of Songs 4:1-5:1
MP3: Daniel Newman on Song of Songs 5:2-6:3

There might be some obvious problem I'm missing here, but this sermon by Newman is yet another reason why I think you have to read it as a book on Christ and his bride.

My colleague Zac Wyse is rightly writing about the importance of local church membership - I can't help but think that Song of Songs holds a key to growing our affections for Christ's bride, and for wanting to be found in h…

Chronological snobbery and that train journey in September

Michael Ots reflects on CS Lewis and some shared ignorance
"All the time we thought we had been making progress but actually we were getting further away."

Grace: the warmth of the life-giving sun; like the sparkling exhilaration of the vast ocean, wave-breaking its delight over the laughing child.

Grace, Glory and Galatians 6 - Dominic Smart (mp3)

ht: Creed or Chaos

Dominic Smart is the author of Legalism and it's Antidotes:

Legalism is primarily a God-ward thing. It’s a way of making and keeping yourself acceptable to God. From this flows the legalism that is directed towards one another It’s a way of scoring sanctity points in our fellowships, and exerting what one postmodernist called a “truth regime” - it’s about pride, power and control. It simultaneously glorifies man and “unsecures” man. Thus its true opposites are grace and faith. Yet it is so plausible. The need for order, structures and boundaries feeds our quest for control. Our very ability to keep some rules feeds our pride and gives us the impression that our relationship with God is somehow founded upon this ability. But in the same day, our inability to keep others feeds our despair, which in turn generates more rules and a more strenuous effort to keep them. Since laws and rules can be helpful, legalism seems…

What does Zosima say to the Grand Inquisitor and to the child who was pulled apart by his master’s dogs?

As I reach the end of The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky I'm trying to work out what on earth it's all been about. This comment from Agnology is a helpful observation I think on the problem of suffering that he raises:
"Dostoevsky and Zosima in some ways give no answer. With his account of the sufferings of children, Ivan breaks your heart.
[in his story 'The Grand Inquistor']

And Zosima [in the following book] says, let it stay broken.Your heart must stay broken.Look at the suffering children.Observe them. Listen to them cry.Then do something. Love them. Embrace them.Bow before them and ask their forgiveness even when you have done nothing to offend them—for you are as guilty of their suffering as the one who actually hurt them. There is evil in the world, Zosima says. And God allows it. But why? The answer, besides being contained in all of Zosima’s teaching, is given away before you even read the authorial preface: it’s epitaph: “Verily, verily, I say …

The Gospel is for Losers

Dan Edelen posts on the search "for a gospel that speak to failure" reminding me that the credit crunch may not have gotten near my door but it has to many - and we need a gospel that can speak to that. We have it, if we'll unleash it. And this is going to stick with me...

"If a man makes a bad career decision at age 18, it will more than likely haunt him for the rest of his life.In the same way, if a man feels a call to ministry in his young adulthood, he will be hard pressed later in life if he fails in that ministry and must find his way in the regular work world... This is not to say that God can’t do miracles. But the simple fact is that you don’t go to bed a video store clerk and wake up the next day as the lead on the Large Hadron Collider. And the even simpler fact is sometimes all the hard work in the world will not get you there, either."
I made a very bad decision at 16 regarding what subjects to study which has had a knock on effect on my life - I dr…

Preach GRACE till humility just starts to grow

"Christian humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less, as C. S. Lewis so memorably said. It is to be no longer always noticing yourself and how you are doing and how you are being treated. It is “blessed self-forgetfulness.”

...I do hope to clarify, or I wouldn’t have written on the topic at all. But there is no way to begin telling people how to become humble without destroying what fragments of humility they may already possess…
So let us preach grace till humility just starts to grow in us."

-- Tim Keller in Christianity Today.
ht: Mark Meynell

I guess this amounts to saying, that humility will follow when we start putting the emphasis on God rather than on us. Grace is about salvation, and salvation is from the Lord and not from us.

Credit Crunch: Hype? Apocalypse? Opportunity?

Confused ramblings on a year ending in recession.

The media constantly tell us about the credit crunch and it's effects. But when I stop and think about it how has it effected my family this year? The big one is house prices - though there is some evidence that ours may have retained its price. Either way, we're not planning on moving house for several years. Demand for housing remains in a nation that continues to grow and where families continue to break down. The "need" has not gone away and so there's every reason to think prices will rise again. For now, confidence is lacking.

Our mortgage is on a fixed rate which means we've not benefitted from the change in interest rates - but many people will have. Food is cheaper than it was six months ago, as is petrol. VAT is also a bit lower though 2.5% is only worth a few pence here and there. In addition to which suddenly we're all thinking more carefully about our spending, and so probably spending less - …

The Book Design Review

The Book Design Review

...what would you say is the best book design of the year? 
Pictured two options among many.

ht: The Whole Garden Will Bow

Whatever you think BDR is seriously cool and the kind of blog I love to read. It's about books. It's about design. Brilliant!

Film (2008)

1. The Dark Knight - brilliant, not perfect but had to be the film of the year really. Another great Christopher Nolan film, great fx, great performances. Where next though?
2. Charlie Wilson's War - challenging the war on terror: we'll see whether we're making progress - point being we're not. The West Wing with Tom Hanks. Best film of the first half of the year.
3. In the Valley of Elah - same point as CWW but made the opposite way: we can see now, and it's bad. Paul Haggis probably does better here than he did with Bond, but not as good as Crash.
4. Burn After Reading - pure idiotic Coen Brothers fun.
5. Juno - sweet and quirky, wants to be smarter than it is, but is still pretty smart.
6. There will be Blood - The Daniel Day Lewis show and a very fine one at that - not a light one to watch but outstanding. I think if I watched it again it'd be much higher up the list... P.T.Anderson is a film-making genius.
7. Quantum of Solace - actually much better than m…

The Church Planter's Logic: Faith-filled Gospel-Optimism

Paul Huxley want's to be a history maker. And so did my generation at University - at least we sang of it a lot (partly my fault for picking it often when leading worship). With some caveats and care surely we have to be those who believe in the possiblity of progress and change, people who have an inherent optimism that is in our hearts because of the gospel promises of God...  the cross cries out for optimism and the certainty of change. It beckons me to live near the railway. I hope that at twenty-nine the 'student' passion birthed a decade ago to live significantly hasn't waned but rather increased as I've walked longer with The History Maker. The gospel feeds and fuels it.

My wife and I were continuing to read Genesis yesterday. Having just seen God's word and God's covenant promise in blood the hopes are high. There will be delay but there will be delivery on God's promises to Abram and his Offspring (Christ!).

And then comes Genesis 16 which is a…

Garden City: Looking for a better city

"After the flood, Noah planted a vineyard. That is, he doesn’t do what Cain did, immediately establishing a city. He starts over again with a garden. Abram does the same: After Babel collapses, he doesn’t immediately found a city, but moves from place to place, worshiping in garden-groves. This might provide a way of making room for a form of strategic agrarianism. After an urban civilization collapses, a return to the garden is the beginning of a new cycle of garden-to-city..."

More at

Matthew Parris: "It confounds my ideological beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my world view, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God" but...

Matthew Parris is always fascinating to read on any subject - all the more when he strays near to Christianity:
"It confounds my ideological beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my world view, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God. Now a confirmed atheist, I've become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa....
Christians black and white, working in Africa, do heal the sick, do teach people to read and write; and only the severest kind of secularist could see a mission hospital or school and say the world would be better without it. I would allow that if faith was needed to motivate missionaries to help, then, fine: but what counted was the help, not the faith. But this doesn't fit the facts. Faith does more than support the missionary...
Christianity, post-Reformation and post-Luther, with its teaching of a direct, personal, two-way link between the individual and God, unmediated by the collective, and unsubordi…

What will your marriage be like?

Barnabas Piper guestblogged 22 things and 22 words about forty years of Noel & John Piper's marriage. Without an ounce of hero worship those are some seriously cool things to aspire to in marriage. I imagine similar perspectives are evident in Don Carson's 'An Ordinary Pastor' about his father. Barnabas Piper: 22 things I admire about my parents on their 40th anniversary

My parents have been married for 33.5 years and frankly that is very cool in and of itself.

Saint Stephen - A Genuine Hero: "the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands"

Yesterday we watched the latest episode of Heroes on iPlayer - glorious as always. In which Ando becomes a hero who can supercharge other heroes. But thanks to the internet I'm reminded that today is St Stephen's day, for those who celebrate Saints Days (which I don't...) - but hey good excuse to remember the Spirit-filled preacher who gave one of the all time best sermons (Acts 7) and became the first martyr for doing so.  A great biblical-theologial sermon about where the works of God happen.
Might just flick that open and have a read before bed tonight.

Teaching: not only be informative but, whenever possible, also inpirational

On teaching, by Rick Garlikov:

"Teachable moments arise at all kinds of times, sometimes induced by a teacher.

One common trick among those philosophy teachers who really want students to learn, is to give an "F" to students who turn in papers which argue that relativism is right or that everything is subjective, or mere opinion, etc. The students invariably come in to argue the unreasonableness and unfairness of the grade and show why they deserve not only to pass but to get an "A". The teacher will let them give all the arguments they want, and then will say something like "You realize, don't you, that you are totally contradicting the point you make in your paper, because you are offering me all kinds of objective and factual evidence for what you really believe is an objective truth -- that your paper deserves better than an "F". If you really believed the point of your paper, you would have to say that my giving you an "F" is…

Brad Pitt: Is God egotastic?

"I didn't understand this idea of a God who says, 'You have to acknowledge me. You have to say that I'm the best, and then I'll give you eternal happiness. If you won't, then you don't get it!' It seemed to be about ego. I can't see God operating from ego, so it made no sense to me" - Brad Pitt

ht: Coffee Cup Apoloetics by iMonk

What would you say?

Top Christian Books (2008)

1. You can change - Tim Chester. Everything you could ask for in a popular book on discipleship. Influenced by the puritans and by CCEF and everyone else I love. Tim is full of wise pastoral insight and keeps churning out outstanding books like Total Church and his forthcoming Ordinary Hero. His blog should be on your blogroll.Book Review

2. Worship Matters - Bob Kauflin. This is and will long be the book on worship which I expect to receive widespread acceptance. Bob writes from years and years of experience and it shows. The only T4G book on this list, strangely - though to be fair I'd got several of them before and gave a lot of them to others. Meeting Bob Kauflin was one of the many highlights of the trip to the USA. Another unmissable blogger.Book Review

3. Alarm to the Unconverted Sinner - Joseph Alleine. Puritan read of the year. Outstanding and bold in the face of sin - plus a 1000 word 'sinners prayer'.

4. Miracles - C.S. Lewis.
The best apologetics book I read this …

Listen to: Sam Storms

Sam Storms is the author of Convergence, The Beginners Guide to Spiritual Gifts, One Thing and many others. He's a Christian Hedonist who writes at a more popular level than John Piper. And he's a great example of what Reformed-Charismatic theology can look like in practice. I almost met him in a lift (or should I call it an elevator) in the hotel at Together for the Gospel... he was in the lift when it opened at my floor but it was too full for me to get in... Shame, cos I'd have loved to thank him in person for his ministry.
Download free mp3's of Sam Storms from Bridgeway Church

Top Fiction Books (2008)

1. The Irrestistable Inheritance of Wilberforce - Paul Torday. Engaging and fun, his previous book was Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.Review at SMH

2. Perelandra / Voyage to Venus - C.S. Lewis. Middle part of his Space Trilogy - outstanding - even the opening chapters as we find 'Lewis' drawn into Ransom's house are brilliant before the rest of the story kicks in. Helpfully aided by Pete Lowman's PhD at
3. On Chesil Beach - Ian McEwan.Strangely moving novel about the pressures of social norms, about expectations and the pain of a relationship without any real intimacy and honesty. I also read his Amsterdam this year. Review.
4. Frankenstein - Mary Shelleystill reading this but it's great. Figured I should get round to reading this - the author being a relative n'all. Having been studying Genesis all term I'm fascinated by the way this explores the themes of creator/created, the need for a bride, what happens whenman tries to become God, and how h…

Dostoevsky and the Resurrection (Jurgen Spiess)

In September I had the pleasure of meeting Jurgen Spiess at Mittersill at the IFES European Evangelists conference. He gave one of four sample evangelistic talks (the others being by Richard Cunningham, Michael Green and Charlie Hadjiev) on evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, this was the most deductive of the talks and seems a helpful handling of evidence, further enhanced by his training as a historian. I'm challenged by the German approach to apologetics - many of the IFES staff are pursuing high level studies to engage with the academy. I don't think everyone needs to do this but it 's a good approach for some. 

Even better than that I was able to sit down with him over lunch and talking about Fyodor Dostoevsky and his writings as I plodded through The Brothers Karamazov. Spiess is something of an expert on Dostoevsky and inspired me to press on, though he did tell me I'd not picked the easiest book to start with! His helpful hint was that Dostoevsky hides the …

Piper3:Trinitarian Hedonism

Paul Huxley walks in the footsteps of Glen Scrivener and Dan Hames to think about John Piper's theology and the Trinity...

Piper himself notes: "Why did God create the world? Surely not, as some popular theology has it, because he was lonely and frustrated and needed man to make him happy. Before creation, God was, in a profound sense, content in the fellowship of the Trinity. What moved him, then, to create the world? The closest I can come to an answer is this: God was profoundly happy and joyful. But there is in joy an inevitable compulsion or pressure to expand, to extend itself by involving others in it. And this is no deficiency in God, for, as Jonathan Edwards says, "It is no argument of the emptiness or deficiency of a fountain that is inclined to overflow."1This tendency of joy to expand itself moved God to create beings to share in his joy. Thus creation was a supreme act of love because it aimed at the joy of the creature. But God was not indifferent to hi…

What should we be teaching our children in Sunday School? (Marcus Honeysett)

Marcus: "I saw a Sunday school sheet. The sheet said this: In one of the four pictures below the people are obeying all the rules that God gave to Moses, colour in the picture where the people are obeying all the rules and do your very best to obey them too. What's wrong with that?

Response: "It's a false gospel... 
Response: "We're in the new covenant..." 
Response: "You could have had that in the Synagogue...."

Listen into Marcus Honeysett in a very necessary 10 minute tangent about teaching the gospel to children:

Extracted from Grace and Glory, Romans 9-11, session 3

Marcus Honeysett: Grace and Glory: Romans 9-11

Last week I was co-hosting a gathering of UCCF's South West and South East teams. We invited Marcus Honeysett to teach Romans 9-11 to us, partly because we're studying Romans this month (along with Athanasisus & Augustine), partly because I'll take any excuse to have Marcus come and delight in grace and glory with us formally and informally - and why not do it from chapters like Romans 9-11!

Marcus is a former UCCF relay, staffworker and team leader, director of Living Leadership, author of the IVP books, Meltdown, and Finding Joy, and an elder at Croften Baptist Church.

The aim was explicitly not to master Romans 9-11 but rather to engage our hearts with the gospel and enjoy Jesus together - which is frankly far more important. Understanding is never ultimate - Jesus is. You can download the Romans sessions for your progress and joy in the Lord here, each about 50mins long here.
Session 1, on Romans 9 and the big questions that threaten to undermine the glory of the gos…

A Time to Sleep

The Merrie Theologiane is thinking about sleeping:

...Clearly, a breakfast (or lunch) in bed now and then is the mark of a man or woman of fine moral character.  Let’s not forget that Moses enjoyed lying in bed and thinking about theology often (Deuteronomy 6:7), Adam and Boaz both got their wives by enjoying a good sleep, and of course the promise of the new creation is finally to enjoy the Sabbath rest of God’s 7th Day (Hebrews 8).  Until that great day, we are to rest- with theological appreciation- on the promise of Psalm 127:2, ‘the Lord gives sleep to those he loves.’

And don't miss a Merrie Theologiane that got away: 'The Directors Cut'

Of Streams and Stopping Points

Music, when soft voices die (Percy Bysshe Shelley)

Shelley fascinates me. I love his Ozymandias and this too is brilliant... though quite a contrast to it. In Ozymandias we see the death of human achievement - nothing lasts. Here there is some echo, there are fingerprints...

MUSIC, when soft voices die,
Vibrates in the memory;
Odours, when sweet violets sicken,
Live within the sense they quicken.
Rose leaves, when the rose is dead,
Are heap'd for the belovèd's bed;
And so thy thoughts, when thou art gone,
Love itself shall slumber on.

Blog review of 2008

This has been a year of increased readership on the blog, just short of 100,000 visits in the year. I'll highlight some of the posts that drew most comments - not necessarily the most significant things I wrote but ones that got you interacting...

The big deal on the blog in January was Three ways to live (22 comments) a reflection on Tim Keller's observations on the prodigal son - which would end up published in his The Prodigal God later in 2008. In February I introduced the world to the karaoke winning Go Wayne Grudem video (20 comments) which drew in Challies! Odds are you have already seen it but if not, go have a watch. Wayne Grudem has seen it and appreciated it. You will too. This was the month we finally arrived in the newfrontiers church family, one of the many sources of joy in 2008.

In March 16 people commented on my posts about the odds of a 'young reformed and restless' movement in the UK, on the eve of the first 'New Word Alive'. I spent half of A…

The Story of Seeing

The capstone of all biblical theology is summed
up in the words “they will see his face” (Rev. 22:4).Thomas Schreiner, New Testament Theology (Introduction)

The Bible uses sensory language to help us glimpse the slightest taste of what awaits us in the new creation. Isaiah and Luke direct us to see (...Lift up your eyes on high and see - Isaiah 40v26 ...all flesh shall see the salvation of God. Luke 3v6). Elsewhere we're invited to taste, to hear...

The unfolding story of God begins with The Man and The LORD together in Eden... hits the tragedy of exile and then begins the worship of God once more... the walking of Enoch... the tabernacle... the temple... the incarnation... the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and finally entry into the renewed creation where the dwelling of God is with man. A Jehovah's Witness tried to persuade me that this was just symbolic but everything in scripture cries out for something a whole lot more than symbolism.

Is this the language of your soul?

You begin at the wrong end if you first dispute about your election. Prove your conversion, and then never doubt your election. If you cannot yet prove it, set upon a present and thorough turning. Whatever God's purposes be, which are secret, I am sure His promises are plain. How desperately do rebels argue! 'If I am elected I shall be saved, do what I will. If not, I shall be damned, do what I can.' Perverse sinner, will you begin where you should end? Is not the word before you? What says it? 'Repent and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out.' 'If you mortify the deeds of the body you shall live.' 'Believe and be saved' (Acts 3:19; Rom 8:13; Acts 16:31). What can be plainer? Do not stand still disputing about your election—but set to repenting and believing. Cry to God for converting grace. Revealed things belong to you; in these busy yourself. It is just, as one well said, that they who will not feed on the plain food of the Word should…

The Perils of Circumstance: Good news for Leonard Cohen, not so good for Paul Ince.

So, apparently Leonard Cohen was in a financial mess until recently because his former manager ripped him off (or something like that) but I guess it's going to be a great Christmas for him - who knows what the royalties are but if a song he wrote is in the top 40 three times over then he'll get something for that. Almost tempted to buy the Jeff Buckley version - and join the 70,000 strong facebook group supporting that campaign - seems somethings can overcome apathy. I'd vote for the school choir version I heard tonight as arranged by my wife, something she's been working on with the kids for a month. Genius really.

Meanwhile Paul Ince loses his job. Not because of the credit crunch and I guess unemployment for a former Premiership footballer isn't so bad as it would be for most of us. Sad though that he's not got received the patience that his former manager Alex Ferguson received - from which a world-beating club has been built.

How can a few months in a job i…

An X-Factor Christmas: What are we to make of "Hallelujah"?

Anyone who listens to Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah needs to bear in mind what he said about it himself: I filled two notebooks and I remember being in the Royalton Hotel [in New York], on the carpet in my underwear, banging my head on the floor and saying, 'I can't finish this song.' and you get the impression he's not entirely sure what it's about. Nonetheless thanks to the Simon Cowell everyone will be singing it this Christmas with over 100,000 copies sold in the first day that Alexandra Burke's cover of it was available.

Cohen picks up on the stories of David and his adultery with Bathsheba and Samsons fall that cost him his hair. Stories worth re-reading. Hallelujah is a song of for the baffled and the broken. That's a bit odd since Alexandra sings it like some kind of power ballad - I can't help but think that the faltering Diana Vickers version possibly fits a bit better (though it wouldn't sell so well).

The music is sweet while the words…

You are nothing. Jesus is everything (Sinning really isn't the worst thing)

Thing with the internet is that it's a scan reading medium. Problem with Glen Scrivener's blog is it doesn't lend itself to a quick skim read - cuts too deep for that. In summary his latest post says: You are nothing. Jesus is everything. which ought to be enough to make you go and read the rest of it asap.

Tim Keller says "God is a quaker"

An outstanding preach from Tim Keller on Isaiah 6 - The Gospel and Your Self. Listened to this mp3 today on the way home from an encouraging meeting with my boss.

Comes with wit, with penetrating insight, with application and stuffed full of gospel. This'll feed your soul but it might just be uncomfortable listening.

The road to fatherhood...

Gradually the prospect of being a father is becoming very real to me. My wife is very obviously pregnant now (though the kids at school have been pretty slow on the uptake) and babybish kicks very strongly.

Two weeks ago we went to the breastfeeding seminar, last week we repainted our spareroom and on Saturday we went and acquired our travel system (I'm learning new jargon daily at the moment). We're told it's all about the wheels, and ours has fine wheels. It some ways for us it was all about the boot - since our car has a fairly small one. But this one fits and is what we wanted. Big thanks to Scott and Barbie who expertly introduced us to their travel system a couple of weeks ago (due a couple of weeks before us).

Much more to learn along the way no doubt. It's a whole new world.

The Prodigal Son? The Prodigal God? Does repentance happen in the pigsty or in the Father's embrace?

Alexandra Burke wins X-Factor: So, if this is going to be the Christmas number one, what do you do with it...

Probably, sing along the Hallelujah's with Alexandra Burke (ours is an X-factor house). It's interesting though to think that this Christmas people will have this Bible language and story going through their heads without any real sense of their meaning. How would you go about unpicking and explaining what's going on?
i heard there was a secret chord
that david played and it pleased the lord
but you don't really care for music, do you
well it goes like this the fourth, the fifth
the minor fall and the major lift
the baffled king composing hallelujah


well your faith was strong but you needed proof
you saw her bathing on the roof
her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
she tied you to her kitchen chair
she broke your throne and she cut your hair
and from your lips she drew the hallelujah


well, maybe there's a god above
but all i've ever learned from love
was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you
it's not a cry that you hear at ni…

Functional Atheists in your Christian Union

Marcus observes that many Christian students are really relativists or atheists in practice:

"I had a very interesting meeting with some university students at a good-ranking institution little while ago. We talked about whether they approach their study with Christian assumptions. I wanted to know whether they often considered what God thinks about what they were studying. 

What came out (student workers take note) was that most of them clearly believed core Christian truths and approached life with a Christian worldview but couldn't explain why they believed what they believed. In fact they didn't come close to being able to do so. And hence they had no sense that what they believed was true for all. It was in the realm of personal private opinion or preference. Most couldn't see that believing in salvation in Jesus alone implicitly means that the worldview of their non-Christian friends is incorrect.

They too were functional atheists. In this case they enjoyed worshi…

The Greatest Day. The Greatest Story

This is the greatest story that I've every heard
Of hope, of love and glory
Happy endings come forever more
Life doesn't have to be wasted
Not wastin' every day.

Kinda Mika-inverted. What if Christian Evangelism wasn't just about an engaging reasonable persuasion (which it needs and don't anybody say it doesn't!) but also painting a bit story that lifts us out of the small crisis and small scale of our lives into something big and meaningful and purposeful. What if we could invite people into the greatest story. A story greater and truer than Lord of the Rings and all the other great epic stories. A story where bad things can be put right and where hope and life can be found. Surely that's the story of the Bible - a story where the hero is Jesus and where death is beaten.

On stories, I added this to the blogroll recently: One Sentence - telling your story, briefly. Insignificant stories, everyday stories, or turning-point-in-your-life stories, boiled down to th…

Everything from Edwards

Outstanding resource: Jonathan Edwards Online

"Even the video-hardened youth of today blanche at the graphic language and exquisite imagery Edwards employed to vivify the horrors of hell.... But Edwards the preacher was about far more than fire and brimstone. Yes, hell was a real place in Edwards’s mind, and therefore worthy of continual warning to avoid it at all costs. But this was emphatically not the subject that preoccupied his thoughts and visions. "Heaven" and "love" were the two most important words in Edwards’s sermons and he struggled weekly to bring those realities into the consciousness of his hearers. Edwards was far more concerned that his congregation come to a saving knowledge of God through an awareness of the beauty of God’s great and powerful redemptive love for them."

ht: Adrian Warnock

Of forbidden fruit and Christmas shopping.... and the way that advertisers rule the world

Krusty Sage:"Oh, but it's Christmas! It's a special time of the year! I know, we're in debt, overall, but it's Christmas, and that's only once a year, and -- "And..." you're an idiot. Seriously. The Sage says it in love. The Sage also says, in love, that if you spend $150 on your kid for Christmas when you don't have $150, you're not only giving your kid a neat-o Nano, you're giving your kid a gift that keeps on giving: The gift of foolishness, surrounded by beautiful lights, the scent of pine, and fudge. The gift of foolishness, on display, etched in memory. Ah.... If you don't have the money for it, you don't buy it.... "But didn't the 'wise men' bring GOLD to baby Jesus? And fancy myrrh and stuff?  That was extravagant, and -- "  They were royalty.  You think they used a Discover Card? "But isn't 'Christmas' in the Bible, and -- " No.  
ht: Milton Stanley

Dan Hames:One of th…

One way, Jesus, you're the only one....

Claim: Jesus the only way. Consistent claim – of Jesus, of the Bible, of the church. Think, Jesus in John 3: 'you must be born again'. Famously in John 14, Jesus says "I am the way, the truth and the life..." - and to be fair pluralism might not have been his target audience that night, but the wider context of the Bible claims Jesus to be the one way to God.

Problem: Exclusive. Destructive. Offensive. Exclusive claims are not universally detested – many would see it as entirely reasonable to say that what you believe is true. Secularists are the ones offended by it – why? Exclusive claims are absolute claims and they wont retreat from the public square – they impinge upon everyone. Ashamed of our exclusive claims the Christian can be tempted to pull back, claim less or simply make no claim at all.

The Surprising Answer: In John 14, this is offered as comfort not arrogance. Comfort to those who think that having Jesus leave them is bad. Why couldn’t he just stay with t…

Re-painting the spare room and related thoughts

This week we've been mostly repainting our spare room (when I've not been catching the 6.24am train to go and do interviews or yesterdays massively encouraging team leader meeting in London) with about 11 weeks left til babybish is due. When I say been I mean, 'and still are'. I don't feel like we're all that prepared yet - we have loads of little bits and pieces but the big stuff like a cot and 'travel system' aren't chosen let along acquired yet and that's before all the important stuff about how to actually raise a child. That said, this is totally amazing.

Looking ahead to the Spring is strange though. My work year naturally enough operates on the academic calender but with paternity leave due for a couple of weeks in early March and a sabbatical next summer I have only a few weeks of the student year left before I'm out of the action I've been used to and otherwise occupied as father and student. Alongside which it's December an…

Buy your pastor a Christmas present (that he can open in February)

Living Leadership's Pastoral Refreshment Conference

"The conference provides a setting for leaders, pastors and partners to seek God together for the on-going refreshment of life and ministry. There is a lot of prayer and worship , inspiring preaching and a safe environment in which to be yourself. Seminar subjects in recent years have included: Grace, Marriage and Ministry; Looking after your Spiritual Life; How to Love Your Church and Leading with a Forgiving Heart. All with a strong ethos of experiencing the grace of God together."

Hosted by Marcus Honeysett and his friends at Hothorpe Hall, 4-6 February 2009.