Wednesday, April 30, 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 New Word Alive but you can't help but notice that both were dominated by affluent white people. By their very nature these conferences favour those who have affluence (both may have schemes to subsidise those who can't afford to pay a fortune for a conference but I'm not aware of that), those who have a University education (hour long, rigorous, intellectual talks...). We may have overcome the minor variations in how we "do" church by gathering charismatics and non-charismatics together in these conferences but there are bigger issues at stake.

Go read Andy's post. Go listen to Thabiti.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

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, except his grace. And whilst the crowds and flocked to him, he' stands accused of blasphemy, insanity and being demon-possessed. Any could listen, many will not listen. Those who have ears to hear...

When the word comes there are things that can prevent it bearing the harvest it should. It is powerful, and grows by itself with great multiplication. But still Satan can snatch it away, troubles can come because of the word and snuff out the life and alternate pleasures can threaten to drown out the voice of God.

Paul Tripp & Timothy Lane call these external pressures Heat. Heat is unavoidable. And Heat isn't deadly. The problem is the way that my (already crucified) sinful nature can respond to that Heat. That is, the problem is how I choose to respond to it.

The temptation is to believe Satan's lies, to drop the word to avoid the trouble (or facing it with bitterness, impatience, anger and self-pity - been there!) and to simply chase the alluring pleasures on offer elsewhere - to respond to Heat with sinful beliefs and action. Such a path leads to death.

Only when the gospel speaks into the situation of heat can there be life. Only when the word resounds with the life that Jesus offers. Only when the true perspective comes from the gospel word will there be abundant life. When lies are overcome by truth. When troubles are endured with God's help rather than escaped. When God's promises stand as anchors in the storm. When alternate pleasures are exposed by the greater joy in the gospel. When the praises of men are exposed for the empty words that they are. Only when we become those feeding on the life giving 'red words'. Let me have ears to hear that 'more precious than gold' word!

In other news, Stu & I went to the Driving Range at Exminster today with the fancy clubs that he got given by his Dad. I've done this once before, when I was about fourteen. A little under half a life-time ago. Stu reckons he's hopeless. I know I am. But it was kinda fun and rather humbling to try and hit a golf ball. The word flailing was invented for that occasion. How difficult can it be?! I really can't imagine I'll ever be any good at it, but I guess I'll do it again sometime. I was never all that likely to find security in my sporting prowess because I never really had much. This week has proven that again.

What I need is humility in those things I can do, and the humility to try the things that I can't do (sometimes). And I find that humbling grace only in the gospel word that Jesus speaks. I can't work up humility in myself, it comes from God.

How kind that he gives that word to a wretch like me, dragging me from the fumbling incompentence and rebellion of my life and placing me freely in his family. What kindness to speak and reveal the secret of his Kingdom. What grace. CJ Mahaney reminds himself that he's always doing better than he deserves. How true that is.

In the last month I've been wonderfully blessed by the generosity of others and that is truly humbling. More than that, in each of those days the word of God has been available to me, in language I understand, to hear the word of Jesus. The word that created me. The word that sustains me. The word that saved me. The word that gives me life day by day. May I be one who listens. Who repents. Who believes. And may the grace of God then make me generous with the grace I've been given.

Lane & Tripp - How People Change. (currently out of print)

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.

Monday, April 28, 2008

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.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

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 on its four horns, blood on its sides, blood meeting the eye at every turn, none but a deeply-convicted soul, none but a soul really alive to the guilt of a broken law, could enter into the song, and cry with the worshippers, ‘How amiable!’ Even so with a preached Saviour at this day, and a sin-convinced soul!"

And Chester comments:
"...the blood-drenched floor and blood-spattered walls of tabernacle and temple testify to the depth of our sin and the need for a life to be poured out in exchange for atonement... I want to finish with that image of blood everywhere. It was, no doubt, an horrific sight to the eyes. But to the heart of a deeply-convicted sinner ‘how amiable’ for we see in the blood God’s love, God’s justice, God’s holiness, God’s grace, and God’s welcome."
I don't always see this clearly, but as I re-read these quotes I find myself happy in the gospel. Happy that my sin is atoned for, and not by me. Happy that this atonement brings me into the family of the local church. Happy that God's word tastes so sweet as I read of it - 'how amiable' - because my eyes are open, my mind is being renewed and my heart also. So quickly I can grow cold to it. So quickly I can grow hard to this. May the gospel always be amiable to me, not by my devotion and commitment (which waver so) but by the unwavering, unchanging blood of Jesus.

In Psalm 84 sin is before the Psalmist wherever he is. Either he sees sin in the house of the wicked, and no doubt enjoys it's 'pleasures'. Alternatively he's in the house of God and his sin is before him, in the form of the blood shed to atone for his sin. The latter is better by far! A thousand times better.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

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 together."
See also house of wine.

This book intriuges me, but I still don't feel quite ready to start teaching it. To the text!

2. Psalms
Dan Hames (with Mike Reeves) puts forward the Torah as a model for the structure of Psalms: "The Torah outline was pretty widely assumed (and so bubbles under the surface even if it doesn’t always show itself full on) after the exegetical work of people like Bullinger and so on through the Puritans to Henry and others."

This is a good theory and draws me again into this biggest of books. Songs of salvation history. To the text!

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.

Friday, April 25, 2008

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'. This book is being scrawled all over as I try to take note of key arguments, phrases and points. This book is showing me what it looks like to start applying the gospel to my life.

So, some comments on two of the chapters:

Chapter 3. "My Mind: What Do I believe?"
Bob provides an engaging defence of why the content of our worship matters, getting to the heart of the matter that we will either worship The Jesus or one of our own imagination. This is done well, engaging common objections and so serving those involved in worship by drawing them into the study of doctrine.

I resonate strongly with this chapter because being involved in leading worship at our Christian Union was the trigger to starting me studying seriously. The chapter serves worship leaders but is as a good a defence of the importance of doctrine, in brief, that I have read anywhere.
"When we're dodgy about our theology, we're really saying we want our own Jesus. But our worship isn't based on people's personal opinins, ideas or best guesses about Jesus... Docrtine and theology... inform our minds to win our hearts so we can love our God more accurately and passionately" p31-32
Chapter 9. "In Jesus Christ"
This chapter resounds with the name of Jesus, whose honour Kauflin identifies as the unflinching theme of the scriptures. In the second part of the book Kauflin stretches out a definition of the task of the worship leader - and being centred upon Jesus is a key aspect of that.
"The gospel is not merely one of many possible themes we can touch on as we come to worship God. It is the central and foundational theme. All our worship originates and is brought into focus at the cross of Jesus Christ.... The cross stands for all that was accomplished through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, the Son of God. It focusses on his substitutionary death and Calvary but includes everything that gave meaning to that act..." p72
Consequently this gospel must be the thread that runs through our songs, for our worship is not about "the excellence of our offerings... but the excellence of Christ" (p75). It is the blood of Jesus that our worship is about. And this explains the way Kauflin writes new songs and edits old songs. Making the cross explicit - such as in his recent rework of O The Deep Deep Love of Jesus. Deliberately identifying aspects of songs that are particularly clear (such as the verse on sin in 'When peace like a river attendeth my soul (It is well)'. But as Kauflin notes that doesn't mean we can't use less explicit songs, like Amazing Grace, but that we may want to place them alongside songs that say things clearer.

Reading this chapter fleshes out what gospel-centricity should look like when God's people meet - not just in our songs, but our preaching and all other things.
"Biblically speaking, no worship leader, pastor, band, or song will ever bring us close to God. We can't shout, doubt, or prophesy our way into God's presence. Worship itself cannot lead us into God's presence. Only Jesus himself can bring us into God's presence, and he has done it through a single sacrifice that will never be repeated - only joyfully trust in"
How good it would be for us to take note of what Kauflin writes here. To become those who are unashamed of singing about the glory of the gospel and whose meetings were so distinctly cross-exalting. It's good to sing of the love of God, but let us sing of the love of God in the cross of Jesus Christ. Likewise his wrath, justice, power, righteousness, glory etc.

I desperately hope this book get's a UK publisher, but until then $11 plus postage from SGM in the USA is probably the best way to get it.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

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.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

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 treasure Jesus above all. But the one who has bought into the dreams of the world is surely going to fall apart in troubled times.

Don Carson famously writes in 'How Long O Lord' that "you only have to live long enough and you will suffer". Consequently Carson seeks to prepare Christians ahead of suffering to be ready in it. Those who were at New Word Alive will have heard John Piper preach the sovereignty of God in suffering. That was preaching not so much for those in the midst of suffering but to prepare for it. In Young Restless Reformed Piper says that songs set the stage for theology. Here is the album required for such God-exalting theology.

It's been looped on my iPod for the last few days and I'm not sure yet what my favourite songs are though I'm loving the rework of O the Deep Deep Love of Jesus. This is an album to hear in suffering as much as to prepare for it. It begins with invite to the weighed down to come and hide in Jesus. We move from that to Stephen Atrogge's 'So I will trust you' calling out to to trust in the one who has made me and saved me. Mark Altrogge provides a 'Blessed be your name' type song that poses the question of how strange it is to trust in plenty but not in poverty, looking to the priority of God's glory.

Then comes the rework of Samuel Trevor Francis song which draws us to the love of Jesus at the cross. From there to Joel Sczebel & Todd Twining's 'Every Day' that says 'Thank you for the trails, for the fire, for the pain' - strong words indeed. And yet as John MacArthur noted at T4G strong words produce soft hearts.

Mark & Stephen Altrogge continue the journey with a song grace through the precious blood of Jesus that acknowledges God's hand in all things. Mark Altrogge brings the lyric that will challenge the hard heart most 'So I wil say it's good that you afflicted me, that I might learn your holy ways and to trust in You at all times'. The album concludes with another old hymn, by Henri Malan modified to add a cross-centred chorus by Bob Kauflin: It is not death to die. Ultimate gospel perspective and hope for the suffering saint.

Like previous albums the words here are solidly Biblical, clearly understandable and set to tunes congregations can sing. Sheet music is downloadable which is a continuing service to the church. Get this CD. Let it set the stage for the theology that will sustain through the suffering that will come to each of us if we live long enough.

Downloadable for $9, which is only £4.50 - why wouldn't you get this?

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...

T4G08: four minutes

I picked up an iPod recording gadget in America...
And testing it out I thought I'd put down a few thoughts on the end of T4G.
Four minutes on the end of T4G from a Mall in DC (mp3)

Monday, April 21, 2008

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 began with Dick Dowsett teaching at the UCCF Forum conference in 1998 from the book of Acts and then picked up pace a couple of years later when I picked up John Piper's Let the Nations be glad. Not everyone makes this journey but I'm also not the only person who has. In Hansen's analysis no-one seems more influential than John Piper in this movement, though both Hansen and Piper warn us off focussing the attention on the man - a man who always seeks to point beyond himself.

As a UK reader Hansen makes me ponder the state of the UK church. There are growths in passionate, weighty, mission-oriented, Big-God, Biblical Christianity but equally there are signs of increasing compromise and contining allengiance to modernism/postmodernism/liberalism.

Hansen helpfully notes, with Roger Olson, that the nemesis of Calvinism isn't so much Arminianism as the Semi-Pelagianism/Pelagianism that is prevalent today. It is against this that we need to assert clearly the bigness of God that many young Christians in America have imbibed from Louie Giglio's Passion events, where the songs proclaim God's grandeur and the preaching is often from John Piper. Piper observes, p20:
"The worship songs that are being written and sung today are about a great God. They set the stage for the theology... the music is very God-exalting. The things that nineteen year olds are willing to say about God in their songs is mind boggling"
Hansen observes that self-help Christian just can't last. "Eventually you get pretty sick of yourself". What is replacing the self-focussed religion is big-hearted and theologically driven. The Passion students move on to more of Piper & co, to the Sovereign Grace Ministries New Attitude conference & ptheir astors college, to Southern Baptist Seminary and to drink from an old source - the British puritans. Heroes for the Young, Restless, Reformed.

New calvinists who read Hansen's book will come away understanding a bit more of their own story, and driven towards John Owen and Jonathan Edwards for more fuel. They'll no doubt enjoy reading it. Others in the reformed tradition ought to read it and be encouraged at where the next generation is heading, and reassured that the future isn't entirely in the hands of the emergents. Hansen writes to the reformed from within but does so with care and without vitriol. Those who wouldn't want to call themselves Calvinists will find here personal and passionate stories to take some of the edge off and prove that whilst some who bear the label are 'frozen chosen' that's not the only kind of Calvinism going. And maybe, just maybe, it's worth another look.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

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 Harris.

1. He is about as tall as Zacchaeus.
2. This man is a gifted pastor. As he closed the meeting he picked up on something Bob preached that was outstanding but could have been misapplied, and carefully directed his congregation to a right application of it. This man has a genuine gospel-care for his congregation.

I started reading Bob's book Worship Matters on the plane home. Loving it so far! The paragraph on the doctrine of Jordan is priceless. This is a gospel-centred, doctrine-driven, deeply-accessible book on worship for the pastor, the worship-leader, the congregation member.
At the conference I also received a copy of Come Weary Saints, the new sovereign grace music album. I particularly appreciate the way he's re-worked O The Deep Deep Love of Jesus to be more explicit about the cross, the focus of God's love. Moreover, when he taught it to us he explain his reasons, therefore teaching us about the cross and about the importance of keeping it central to our worship.

Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus,
Spread His praise from shore to shore
How He came to pay our ransom,
Through the saving cross He bore

How He watches o’er His loved ones,
Those He died to make His own

How for them He’s interceding,
Pleading now before the throne

Bob served as well as he led us with hymns, old and new. I also appreciated being led by his son Devon last Sunday, and learning a new song by the aforementioned Jordan Kauflin which I really want to get hold of soon (forthcoming on NA: Looked Upon).

Elsewhere, Terry Virgo was preaching at Rhiwbina Baptist Church on his way to New Word Alive - one, two, three. And don't miss the angelic Matt Giles.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

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 their various streams), newfrontiersvineyard, fiec Christians together for five days in a cold caravan park in north Wales and achieve anything? The UCCF guys are used to mixing it up across the spectrum but this isn't normal for most of the UK church. Some who believe in tongues and prophecy today... some who think that there should be bishops, others Apostles apostles, other still just elders... some who baptise one way, while others another. The possible pitfalls are endless but the common ground is no lowest common denominator, rather it is the greatest treasure of all.

The last fortnight says to me, IT CAN BE DONE. But it's not easy. Fundamental to making this happen is the glue. The central sticky ground of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. These two conferences are born out of a desire to gather Christians for the benefit of the local church on the (doctrinal) basis of the gospel. Provide them with the highest quality of gospel-centred Bible teachers and preachers and you're on strong ground. You need your rockstars like Piper, Virgo and Carson, a Mohler, Duncan and a Dever, a couple of veterans like MacArthur and Sproul, an 'average pastor' like Mahaney and then the new kid Thabiti to blow them all away.

Still, when Christians gather for conferences they don't just listen to preaching. They need to eat and drink. That's ok because the Brits can find a source of beer and the rest will find somewhere to socialise. But Christians also sing. And here comes the usual sticking point.

Observe, New Word Alive. Bring in Soul Survivor's Sam Parker and Lisa Francis, plus Stuart Townend and Lou Fellingham & co. Let them lead but recognise that out of courtesy to the less charismatic / more traditional things might need to be a bit more restrained than usual - though that isn't going to stop my good friend Sean Green from giving his all along with the very many other 'charismatics' in the room, whilst not shocking the life out of those who aren't used to more than psalms or the 'hymn-sandwich'.

Observe, Together for the Gospel. Bring in the gentleman, Bob Kauflin from the charismatic continuationist stable, but have him lead with a piano and voice with a grand range of old hymns.
In both cases the principle is one of respect and love. Grabbing extreme positions inevitably makes things difficult, and when coming together around gospel we can lovingly lay down other preferences for the sake of our brothers and sisters - whatever direction you're coming in from.

One last ingredient is needed. A good dose of self-deprecating humour so that we don't proudly take ourselves too seriously about everything. Being with those who are not 'LIKE ME' is never going to be easy, but call me an optimist or just call me a believer in the gospel - it can be done. Let us be serious above all else when it comes to the gospel, but equally warm and humourous about our own traditions and quirks - and so in love gather for the greatest cause of all: The Gospel.

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 serves, and it's rubbed off on those around him.

I've deeply enjoyed the trip to America. It was great to see more of God's world. It was an absolute delight to spend time with a gospel-centred family. To be together for the gospel with the Sovereign Grace Ministries guys and with the rest of the 5500 people at the conference. It was an encouragement to see brothers and sisters thousands of miles away contending for the gospel as we're seeking to do in the UK. It was wonderful to meet people I've only ever known virtually before (Bob, Carolyn, Mark, Mike...).

And now, it's great to be home with my wife and to look forward to being 'together for the gospel' with our local church tomorrow morning.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

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).

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

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 'LIKE ME' forgetting that in Adam every human being is 'LIKE ME', and all the more so the church in Christ - for we Christians have a deeper lineage than our genes.
Already downloadable here: T4G08 mp3 downloads

The other highlight was John MacArthur on sin. Seriously convicting on people being unwilling and unable to come to God. This, we were reminded is the most Christian doctrine. No one else holds to this. Every other way believes in the goodness of man. MacArthur drew out the implications of loss of doctrine of sin. Central to this we heard that it is just old liberalism and modernism to deny the depths of sin, and in it we assume that if we can just change our methods the sinner will respond. He will not. Sinners need to hate sin and repent rather than put confidence in themselves. The take away quote: Soft preaching makes hard people, hard truth produces soft people. Also: "Wesley was a messed up Calvinist".

Dever took us through threats to the gospel. Big error today is our assumption that God wants the greatest good for the greatest number of people, which is utilitarianism not Christianity. God is not about "most sinners saved" but "most glory for himself". The focus is the display of God's glory. We were reminded that it is not so much open theism (or other things) that are the greatest threat to the gospel but rather pragmatism that jettisons theology for results.

Lunch with Eric Turbedsky and meeting Mark Lauterbach was great fun. Tonight comes Al Mohler on Substitution and then the Brits are meeting. Tomorrow we begin at 8am with John Piper and then CJ Mahaney. I may not blog again before I get back to the UK (unless I can at our Hotel in DC tomorrow evening). Let me say this then, midway - America is cool, the gospel is AWESOME.

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.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

NWA08 - Piper's second message "Death, make my day"

Get John Piper's second New Word Alive message on Suffering. It's mostly clarifications and expansions and it will totally blow your mind. This is the one where he calls us to say to death - "Death, make my day".

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 sheep" !

See Challies for more comprehensive notes. I expect the mp3 of the talk and subsequent panel discussion to be available fairly soon at The atmosphere here is substantially different to New Word Alive last week. In part, for me, because I know only about a dozen people here and partly because it's mostly pastors and church staff people here - including a pastor who has led a church for 55 years, and the man from Serbia. The singing is hymns in loud-voice which is a bit different in genre to last week. But, but, but, for any differences one thing remains exactly the same. This is Christians together on the common basis of the glorious gospel of Jesus! Whether the Happy Calvinists from Sovereign Grace Ministries or the strait-laced presbyterians or whoever else. Lots of us. One gospel.

A cookie, a coke and a call to my wife followed the meeting and we look on to the next session in an hour or so.

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 go from Antioch "and see how they are". What a concern for the church! How can I best see how my staff and the SW students are doing? How can I serve them with concern for the gospel and affection for them? We were introduced to Open Source Mission - the gospel translations project.

Striking also was the passion to raise up future leaders, a call for pastors not to hand over churches by dying, but by identifying, developing and raising-up their successors while they live, and so transferring the gospel to the next generation.

I deeply enjoyed the company of gospel-loving brothers and look forward to this morning's second meeting. After which I'm at The Gospel Trust (band of bloggers), before Together for the Gospel kicks off at 2pm!

Monday, April 14, 2008

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 Sovereign Grace Ministries meeting.... now to try for a swim!
UPDATE: It's an outdoor pool, so we went to TGI's for dinner with the rest of the UK SovGrace guys.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

New Word Alive roundup

Adrian Warnock posts a round-up of posts from New Word Alive, the new gospel-centred conference for the UK church. Desiring God posts the audio of John Piper's first message at New Word Alive on suffering. You'll want to get the second message which includes clarifications and expansions and promises.

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 ourselves and self-destruct and seek any secret we can get to give ourselves some sense of being in the inner ring.

What we need is what God reveals. And he reveals himself. 
The once hidden secret of his great gospel about Jesus Christ.

Also, the morning at Covenant Life with Bob Kauflin preaching Psalm 42-43 was a great experience. I enjoyed exploring the bookshop, worshipping with God's people and being pointed to the only hope we hopeless people have, namely Jesus. And we learned a great new song by Jordan Kauflin which I hope to get hold of at some point soon.

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.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Off we go!

Early tomorrow we head to Heathrow to fly to the states for a weekend at Covenant Life Church before going to T4G. I hope to blog a bit out there some reflections on my first trip to the USA.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

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.

FWIW Mike Kendall (UK Pastor-blogger)

Just rebooted Mike Kendall's blog with new clothing...
FWIW Musings of an Ordinary Pastor - Mike Kendall

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!"

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

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 we've heard the word preached and sung God's praises. Great to have Stuart Townend, Phatfish, and Soul Survivor guys (Sam Parker, Lisa Francis and others) serving us too. John Piper was very strong on showing us how vital it was to hold to God having condemned our sin in Christ and so having no condemnation but only favour for us in Christ! What a glorious and pastoral doctrine.

After the Piper talk I ran into Adrian Warnock who I'll hopefully be interviewing tomorrow before I teach my seminar on language: taming the tongue. I imagine I'm somewhere in this audio of responses to Piper but no audio here to listen to that.

Everyone seemed to be buzzing with what we've seen of Christ but with questions to ponder further about how to reign in life, how stunning grace is and how God uses suffering. Many questions unresolved and we wait for part 2 of Romans 8 tonight. We love the cross and we want to treasure Christ more! That's what new word alive is about. 

Sunday, April 06, 2008

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?

In looking for that snow reference I came across this -
"As heat and drought snatch away the melted snow,
so the grave snatches away those who have sinned" (Job 24v19)
which reminds me of John Newton's last verse of Amazing Grace -
"The earth will soon dissolve like snow, the sun forbear to shine.
But God who called me here below, will be forever mine".
Which continues the creation themes of the book and is a bit more God-focussed than the 10,000 year sing-a-long that someone else wrote. I think Newton is looking ahead to the renewal of creation but he also catches something of the brevity of life as he looks out across the fields from Olney. Life is vapour. Two seconds and it will be gone.

Friday, April 04, 2008

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:
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

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.

Become a facebook fan of FREE

UCCF Gospel Project

FWIW - Introducing Mike Kendall and his blog

Mike Kendall's musings of an ordinary pastor. Mike is pastor of St Neots Evangelical Church. The average blog lasts eight weeks but I'm very much hoping that Mike will endure.

Abraham Piper blogged recently on why pastors should blog, and I'm loving that these UK pastors are doing it too:

Sean Green of Reading Family Church.
Adrian Reynolds of Yateley Baptist Church.
Guy Davies of Penknap & Ebenezer Churches.
Martin Downes of Christ Church Deeside.
Glen Scrivener of All Souls, Eastbourne.
Ant Adams of Urban Life, Derby.
Doug McMasters of Trinity Road, London.
Tim Chester of The Crowded House, Sheffield.

"We are nowhere forbidden to laugh."

John Calvin, cited by Ray Ortlund

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 sweeter than honey) messed about, some of them didn't even pick up the printed out text to read it, and talked about all manner of things except the Bible. I mean, fair play if you don't want to listen to me - I can be boring and irritating sometimes - but to so blatantly ignore God. It makes me sad. Gutted really.

This makes me sadder: we then had a 40 minute "worship" time where the same people passionately cried out to God to change them, help them, grow them from the inside out. He's happy to. Through his word. The exact process the passage , Psalm 19, describes, in fact. There was endless praying for anointing and blessings and all manner of things. But little respect for one of the greatest blessings God has given us - his precious word.

It makes me sad. I guess I'm a little cloistered these days, not having seen that "theology" in action for a while, I assumed it wasn't really out there any more. But it is. With a vengeance. Passionate "worship" without a regard for God's word. It needs a modern day minor prophet. It makes me sad. How many riches are there in God's precious word if we will only actually look at it, dig into it and treasure it. It is restoration for the soul, and light to the path. So sad. Pray with me for a generation who will see that what God has to say to us is infinitely more important than what we will sing to him.
Mo - next time be the minor prophet and confront them. Thankfully there are plenty of contexts where God's people are passionately worshipping him AND enjoying the sweet taste of His word.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

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 think that sound doctrine is the kind of thing they should avoid at all costs, like the plague and Heathrow Terminal 5. Alternatively, only ever speak using technical theological jargon. This achieves the same effect.
6. Remember that Doctrines are like springs in a trampoline that can be removed at no great cost. Always keep things flexible and fresh and relevant to this generation.
7. Don't let the content of the DB get anywhere near your worship. Worship should be kept simple not complicated. Who ever got affected by something so impenetrable as 'The Trinity'? Alternatively chant the doctrinal basis every morning, that's what happens at UCCF Staff Conference, right?
8. Keep doctrine for "mature Christians", and never for non-Christians.
9. Remember that people who make a fuss about doctrine are narrow. You don't want to be narrow so sign a DB if absolutely necessary but then avoid any reference to it. Ministry is about people not pieces of paper! Contra, point 2.
10. Remember that 'semper reformanda' means you have to keep changing what you believe. Alternatively, insist that the Nicene Creed is the only useful DB cos it's old.

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 do the groom's duty of providing wine and does 'as his first sign' but this isn't supposed to be his wedding. That will come later, but who will be his bride? The event happens on the third day (2:1) which is always worth noting. The King will die, be the way to God and will have a marriage where the wine flows (Isaiah 25v6 etc), that is connected to the third day.

Next, Jesus goes to the temple to talk about destroying and rebuilding it in three days... which John notes was Jesus talking about the resurrection though they didn't realise it at the time. But, Jesus is the house of God. He is the place God's people will meet with God. He's the king, who will die, who is the way to God, who will have a marriage and will rise from the dead. John says, see Jesus and believe that he's the way to abundant eternal life.