Friday, May 30, 2008

Let us go to him (Hebrews 13 - Bath CU)

I'm acutely aware as I post this sermon how indebted I am to the ministry of John Piper ( and Marcus Honeysett ( who have shaped my heart and passion for the gospel more than any others.

Let us go to him - Hebrews 13v13 at Bath CU.

This was the end of a series in Hebrews for Bath University Christian Union. I've taken a similar approach to John Piper's talk at the Together for the Gospel conference. Unpacking the glory of HIM, the subject of Hebrews, the one to whom we must go even if it costs us everything.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The revelation of Jesus Christ

He is the faithful witness, reliably revealing what will happen.
He is the firstborn from the dead, his resurrection brings ours.
He is the ruler of the kings of the earth, they all stand accountable to him.
He loves us.
He freed us from our sins by his blood, taking our punishment, cleansing us.
He made us a kingdom, over which he is king.
He made us priests to God the Father, and we may boldly approach.
He owns glory and rule over all things forever, he is incomparable.
He is coming with the clouds, he will return.
He will be seen by every eye, even those who pierced him.
He will cause all to wail, the light who exposes our sin.
He is the beginning and the end. He was, is and will be.
He Tribution and patient endurance are in him.
He addresses the churches with warning and encouragement.
He walks among his churches like a son of man.
He wears a long robe and a gold sash.
He has hair that is white like wool and snow.
He has eyes that are like flaming fire.
He has feet that are like burnished refined bronze.
He has a voice is like torrents of water.
He holds church leaders in his hands.
He speaks words that can divide bone and marrow and pierce the heart of man.
He has a face that shines with more brilliance than the midday sun.
He says don't fear him.
He is first and last, we and all creation are 'jonny-come-latelys' in the party of all eternity.
He the living one.
He died and is now alive forevermore.
He holds the keys to hell.
He knows what is coming.

A meditation on Jesus Christ, from Revelation 1.

Theology is no deeper than the front shelves of their local bookstore?

"the scent of this fictional book has enough attraction to delude many believers whose theology is no deeper than the front shelves of their local bookstore"
Timmy Brister

Get clearer: See Mike Reeves on Trinity at Theology Network.

My heart was aching to sing of the glorious reality of the blood and suffering of Christ

"Some people will think I am quenching the Spirit by desiring more of an accurate theology or a clearer description of who this God is that we’re excited about, but why should we have to choose between doctrine and expectation? Why can’t we have it all? Our excitement is baseless and will never last if it is not grounded in the gospel, and all of our theology, however fine-tuned, will never by itself produce revival. I guess what you’re hearing are the longings of a reformed-charismatic who desires the best of both worlds, yet so often sins by doubting such a thing is possible.”
Jesse Phillips

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

"What are some specific, concrete ways the world would be different if..."

Abraham Piper: Pretend God isn’t just: An exercise in imagination to help us know him better.
A really helpful exercise in the comments of that post. Useful one to be asking in sermon prep - "what if what I'm reading here wasn't true?"

"the Power of Prayer (for entertainment purposes only)"

Matthew Parris: Churches must be 'entertainment' too. If clairvoyants must have warning signs, why not faith healers and others places of worship?. Parris muses on the government's attempts to save the world with more and more and more laws.

More from the media: BBC Entertainment, AD BREAKDOWN - Water on the Brains and Sweet sweets nostalgia - the return of Wispa and Opal Fruits.

Love the church

Anglican, Floridan or whatever....
"We should go on preaching the gospel, praying for the sick and committing our lives to the local church where things find their right setting and safety... in the context of healthy local church life where eldership oversight is clearly in place, Biblical foundations are already established and a longing to reach the lost with the gospel is already in focus."
Terry Virgo

Thirty Nine Articles

Chris Watson Lee picks up on the current CofE question about the uniqueness of Christ.

Ed says pray, and I agree - but I think there are other lessons too.

1. If you have a doctrinal statement you gotta use it.

The 39 Articles of the Church of England are pretty good (with possible exception of the bit about baptising infants...!). Chris Watson Lee served the blogosphere well recently showing that everything in the UCCF Doctrinal Basis can be found in the 39 Articles - both outline an evangelical theology. Such as:
For holy Scripture doth set out unto us only the Name of Jesus Christ, whereby men must be saved.
Article XVIII, Thirty Nine Articles of the Church of England
But, having this on paper in a filing cabinet is no use. Confessions of faith are for worship. Doctrine is for joy (as Ligon Duncan says). They're for shaping the life of the church Biblically. Keeping a doctrinal basis at the heart of UCCF's ministry has kept us on track for 80+ years, but we need to keep using it, if we want Jesus to keep us open. He closes churches that swerve from the gospel, and mission agencies should expect the same.

Question to me: Am I using the UCCF doctrinal basis?

2. What if you don't have a confession of faith?

The CofE has one and it should keep them on track. Many who don't have statements of faith or doctrinal bases of fellowship often don't because they look at the disregard of the CofE and say "let's be relational" instead. And short term that certainly works. But, how does a church that doesn't have a clear doctrinal basis avoid faring the same as a church that has one and ignores it....

So, for example, Newfrontiers is a family of churches of which we're apart. It doesn't yet formally have a doctrinal basis of fellowship. It's a first generation church and the sound doctrine of its leader Terry Virgo is pretty clear to me. But what happens in generation two? Or generation three? Or 400 years down the line? Can we safeguard things? Not for the sake of maintaining an institution but for the sake of God's glory and his people. Are there tools that we can use to ensure that leaders don't teach false doctrine and do teach sound doctrine? I’m convinced the CofE's problem isn’t with the 39 Articles but their non-use… what then happens if you don’t have such statements at all…?

Question to me: How can I keep sound doctrine central in the life of the church I'm in, and how can I make it a joy for our elders to do the same?

Christian Preaching

"To put it bluntly -
a sermon that does not
stir up a deeper love for Jesus
is not a Christian sermon."

Cited by Daniel Newman, from 'The Embers of Preaching' by Pete Sanlon

Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull

I'm enjoying a (slightly interrupted) week off at the moment. And that being the case we've just enjoyed an Orange Wednesday watching 'Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull'. Indy in the 1950s... kinda works. Some nice attention to detail and classic Indy action and bad comedy. Basically some mindless fun for a couple of hours. Sadly it's probably not much better than the children it has produced (National Treasure etc...).

Worse things to do on a wet afternoon though! :)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

"Without affirming the uniqueness of Christ... the Church of England will forfeit any claim to the Gospel"

Albert Mohler reports on Paul Eddy's challenge to the Church of England: which boils down to should those of other faiths be evangelised? Is the gospel just for those who are already Christians or is there any evangelistic mandate...

The fact that the question needs asking is alarming in itself! One of the things that struck me about Mohler's address at T4G in April was his observation that once you abandon the authority of scripture everything else quickly unravels. Exhibit 1: The Church of England. I love *much* (not all) of what the Theoretical Church of England stands for. Sadly the CofE I have affection for doesn't exist (and possibly never did). It's the CofE personified by Latimer, Ridley, Simeon and co. and outlined in (most of) The 39 Articles. The theory of churches founded on sound doctrine, locally focussed and essentially independent but with some measure of oversight regionally for the church leaders, is a great theory. The CofE has possibly largely given up on this.

The Newfrontiers family, of which we're now a part, seems to be working this out in practice - the challenge is to sustain that. Staying on track in the first generation of a movement is one thing, continuing to contend for the gospel in subsequent generation is not something to be taken for granted.

An ongoing commitment to the evangelisation of all peoples with the Biblically-defined gospel of Jesus Christ keep things going in the right direction. Avoiding the drift takes courage, but more than that it takes deep clarity about Jesus Christ, that he really is the Lord, the only Saviour and the greatest treasure of all.

Monday, May 26, 2008

All I Have Is Christ

When I visited Covenant Life Church in April we sang this outstanding new song by Jordan Kauflin, which is now available on Looked Upon, by the NA band for a fiver on download! I can't vouch for the whole album having not got it myself - I just know I love this one song.

(The album was released as part of the New Attitude conference this weekend, talks from which here. NA is kinda Together for the Gospel for a slightly younger crowd. Talks on: Ripping, Burning, Eating: A Right Response to God's Word • The Authority of Scripture Bible Q&A • The Troubled Soul: God's Word and Our Feelings • What's the Point?: Growing in Vision for Diligent Study • William Tyndale: A Life Transformed By God's Word • Fighting for Faith with God's Word • God as Father: Understanding the Doctrine of Adoption in God's Word. )


LIVE @ New Attitude sample

I once was lost in darkest night
Yet thought I knew the way
The sin that promised joy and life
Had led me to the grave
I had no hope that You would own
A rebel to Your will
And if You had not loved me first
I would refuse You still

But as I ran my hell-bound race
Indifferent to the cost
You looked upon my helpless state
And led me to the cross
And I beheld God’s love displayed
You suffered in my place
You bore the wrath reserved for me
Now all I know is grace

Hallelujah! All I have is Christ
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life

Now, Lord, I would be Yours alone
And live so all might see
The strength to follow Your commands
Could never come from me
Oh Father, use my ransomed life
In any way You choose
And let my song forever be
My only boast is You

© 2008 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI), by Jordan Kauflin

What do you think about Florida?

I'm not all that interested in the 'Florida Revival' and I've not looked into the specifics of it all, except for some glances at Todd Bentley's website a couple of years ago and it's increasing appearances on blogs - which I'm now adding too...

But, a few people have asked for my opinion on it recently, to which I've happily confessed my ignorance about it, and my general lack of opinion. What it does provide is a helpful opportunity to think about what genuine works of God look like.

And that being the case here are two helpful things to look at, both written by charismatics
The latter is particularly interesting as it's Storms' interpretation of Jonathan Edwards reflections on the basis of the American revivals of his time, and Edwards doesn't write as a charismatic. Storms helps unpack the somewhat unwieldy Edwards to show us twelve signs that prove nothing, and twelve things that mark a genuine work of God - accompanied by Edwards 'personal narrative' of his experience of God.

I'm all for charismaticism with a Biblical seatbelt. To test and weigh something is an act of faith, that drives us to God's word so we can reject what isn't real and so we can believe what is real.

Starting with repentance

Marcus Honeysett on grace in ministry: A leader of a well known ministry came to me and said “I have lost count of the number of occasions I have heard you and people like you run us down without ever coming to see what we do. I have heard myself public referred to as a bad teacher or false teacher by people who have never offered to come and help me improve. How is that possibly justifiable among Christians?” And I knew he was right. The unusual thing was that he still wanted anything to do with me, was prepared to name the elephant in the room rather than just let things harden and harden between us or go to war with each other’s ministries. It would have been much less painful not to.

(the quote is taken from a seminar script on developing non-competitive student ministry. As I think about the work I'm involved in with UCCF as a partnership of churches in student mission Marcus provides a really helpful angle on how to relate to one another. "Always assume and say the best about other people’s ministries and ministry assumptions... we are to be gospel people with Christ-like attitudes. God is remarkably kind to people we might be tempted not to be kind to."

I'm in student ministry because I love Jesus and I love his church. That demands my humility, repentance and graciousness to others.

Mark Meynell, blogging from the European Leadership Forum

Mark Meynell (author of Cross-Examined) is blogging from the European Leadership Forum:
The hardest soil is not to be found in the harvest field before us, but in our very own hard hearts. Remember God had a harder job getting Jonah to Nineveh than he did getting Nineveh to repent
Martin Haizmann at ELF'08

Pete Dray is also at the ELF in Hungary as is John Crane.

'Liveblog' Together at... Taunton

We've been up at Together at Taunton, the newfrontiers South West Bible Weekend. That's meant lots of time to camp in the rain, hang out with guys we're doing local church with and some top teaching from Simon Walker and Terry Virgo. Particularly stirred by Simon's focus on the Spirit and the Word going together (The Spirit annointed Word, the Word in the power of the Spirit), and then Terry on faith in the gospel as taught from 1 Kings. Matt Partridge concluded the weekend with a preach from Philippians 3.

The other major highlight is Matt Giles' new song, based on the Valley of Vision prayer 'Privileges' called 'The Grace of my God' which is phenomenally good.
Yes, wave upon wave of grace reaches me,
pays for my sin and washes me clean!

Further reflections in the future I'm sure, but mostly just deeply thankful to be part of this 'family of churches together on a mission', enjoying the grace of God and seeking to have the light of the gospel shine in the South West - which fits perfectly with the 9-5 ministry I'm involved in in growing the churches, reaching students with the gospel, through the partnership of student Christian Unions across the South West...

Friday, May 23, 2008

Looking out to sea, looking at the Psalms

I sat on Exmouth beach yesterday evening before Em's school choir helped kick off the Exmouth Festival, listening to
Mike Reeves - Psalm 1 - All Souls
Mike Reeves - Psalm 15 - All Souls

When you have two spare half hours these two make a great introduction to the Psalms. I'm struck deeply by the way that Mike shows the Psalms to be a book about Jesus. Possibly not everyone is going to agree with his handling of the text, but I think it'd take some strong persuading to convince me that The Man is not Jesus.

BTW: regarding yesterdays explosion in Exeter. I was on the train back from Reading when it happened and just had my walk home a little diverted. Em was actually in town when it happened but only knew of it from the increased police presence.

Preaching isn't

...about memorable points,
it’s more important on Sunday afternoon to have seen Jesus than to recollect the preacher’s bullet points.
ht: Abraham Piper, from Jonathan Bowers.


I think the best thing about John Piper's teaching is not that I learn a great deal about God from it (although I do), but it makes me want to spend my life for God's glory among the nations, and it makes me want to be able to put Jesus Christ before people's eyes in more clear and powerful ways than I am currently capable of. The value of great teachers is seen by the next generation whom they train and help, even more than it is seen in the content of the teaching itself.
Marcus Honeysett.

FRESH The Conference

Saturday, June 21, 2008
10:00am - 4:00pm
St. Paul's Church Centre, 

Northey Avenue,

Cheam, Surrey,


United Kingdom

Fresh The Conference is a day not to be missed if you are a sixth former and about to go or thinking about going to Uni!

Fresh The Conference is based on the excellent new book from IVP called Fresh!

Fresh The Conference will help you prepare for Uni. We will be looking at

Fresh The Conference will feature 

Krish Kandiah (author of Fresh)

Filippe de Barros (a Christian SU worker) 

Kate Erith (Sutton Schools worker) 

Tim Neale (Kingston Schools worker)

FRESH, The Conference at Facebook
FRESH, the book - from IVP
FRESH, The Conference - Flyer (PDF)

Breakfast at Tiffany's

After a long 24 hours away up in Reading, during which I had the pleasure of preaching from 1 John to the RUCU, I decided to take the 1 hour 38 minute train journey as a break from work, and read a book. On my way to the station I used a birthday voucher to pick up Truman Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's. A facinating 100 page novella (packaged with three other short stories).

"I am always drawn back to places where I have lived, the houses and their neighborhoods." begins the unnamed narrator as he introduces us to Holiday Golightly, whose rootless ego-centric existence matches her name. I really enjoyed the portrayal of the relationships between the characters and the places they're found. I think this is probably a book to read again soon.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

More Andrew Parsons - Colossians 1 (mp3)

Andrew Parsons - Colossians 1

What is special is the mundane that is lived out with gospel intentionality…

"The wisest thing some ministers can do for mission is downsize the amount of effort that goes into the Sunday event," Total Church author Steve Timmis told a packed Moore College lecture theatre yesterday... “If you spend 2 hours making your powerpoint – cut back to 1 hour and use the other hour to have a coffee with non-Christians,” he says. “Just start with simple, almost mechanical things like time management… so you are actually doing both.”

ht: Ant Adams


So, Hugh Bourne has some news on where Mark Driscoll is going to be in July, which is of interest if you're in the London/Brighton area. And if you appreciate Mark Driscoll.
A helpful nod too on Vintage Jesus for £9.75 with the UCCF student card

The most miserable man in England

Slightly corny from Marcus Honeysett but the point is pretty profound...
Compare Terry with Ronaldo. Interviewed after the match, having just missed a penalty himself, he said something like "when I missed I knew this was the worst day of my life. But now its the best because someone else got the goal I didn't" (or thereabouts). The Bible says that Jesus Christ takes (and scores) the penalty that we miss, on our behalf, turning the biggest nightmare of missing out on the glory of God, into the best of days. When it comes to taking the penalty for sin, I want to be in Ronaldo's shoes, not Terry's.
It's all over bar the shouting - Marcus Honeysett

Preaching is

...getting ink on the faces of the beautiful people.

Uncurved by the gospel - believe in God's Son Jesus

through campus and you'll struggle to make eye contact as individuals walk past, immersed in themselves and shrouded in the sounds of their iPods. The world has become a global village, socially networked and yet we're more disconnected than ever. I want to suggest that this is in fact our number one problem. Not AIDS, not global warming, not the credit crunch.

Our deepest problem is found in the human heart. We find man curved in on himself. Unable and unwilling to come out of ourselves. Ego-centric. Living in self. Living for self. Falling over ourselves as we preen infront of the mirror with endless flattery. Martin Luther said that is the very definition of sin –man curved in on himself

I was talking with a Buddhist on Sunday afternoon and this was his definition of virtue – to search within for self-deity. And he thought Christianity was the same as what he believed. He could not have been further from the truth. Being curved inward is the essence of sin, today and even in the first family.

Cain, in Genesis 4, manifests the same problem – see v12. We're told that he was evil and that he hated his brother whom God counted righteous. He was, v12, evil and he hated that which was deemed to be good. Self-religion is always this way, it loves the wrong things and hates the good, the best of which is God's saving grace. Grace that awes us, is vile to the sinner. Cain's heart was curved in upon itself. Curved away from God and curved away from human relationships. The world has not changed.

This introspection is not just a problem of our society. We have breathed in these toxic fumes and even with new hearts in Christ, the old curved in habits die hard. We are so often the same. It's good to be self-aware, particularly when one has a Biblical suspicion of motives and attitudes. But too often we go so far over that line that we can't even see the line anymore. We travel toward's an idolatrous self-focus, where the idol is me. We see it when our love for God becomes the central focus of our Christianity instead of His love. Our own piety fills our horizons just as much as self-help books fill the shelves of our Christian bookshops.

The gospel of Jesus speaks into this as something altogether alien and incongruous. But unless we drink deeply of the gospel we'll simply blend into the world we're seeking to reach. What does the gospel say? We're going to focus in on v23, and read it in it's context. You'll see it's a gospel command. Commands an make us focus on ourselves, but as we'll see that's the complete opposite of what we're to do. This is a life-giving word that come to us from God. We'll focus on the first part and see that the second kind of drop out quite obviously from it.

1. Believe in God's son Jesus (3v23)
2. And love one another (3v23)

1. Believe in God's son Jesus

God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit stakes his claim on the world. He commands belief in the Son Jesus, v23. Step away from the mirror. Stop staring at yourself and look instead towards Jesus. This gospel has the power to effect our transformation, and we need it for we are badly deformed. Curved in on ourselves, instead of out toward Jesus.

a) Believe in...

The first part of the message is a call to believe. To trust. And people say – if only I could. I was talking to someone at the weekend who said – I really want to believe. But what he seemed to mean was I'm just not able to throw my mind away like you can.

We all believe in something. We all have 'functional gods'. Something is your Lord, Saviour and Treasure – whoever you are. The question to ask is – can your god save you? The question to ask is – is your god really no god at all?

The issue is never faith. Jesus counters that when he says that faith the size of a mustard seed could move a mountain. The issue is the object of faith. Everyone trusts something, and if not Jesus – then self. The language John uses here of belief is the same that he writes of Jesus in John chapter 3. There Jesus likens his being lifted up to die to an incident with God's people in the wilderness, in the book of Numbers. God's people grumbled and so God sent a plague of snakes to kill them. And then he graciously provided a way of salvation for them. A bronze snake, lifted up on a pole. If they would look to the snake and trust in it they would be saved from death, or they could trust in their own immune system and die from the poison.

Curve in on yourself and die. Curve out towards God's saviour and live. So here also. Not intellectual assent but trust that includes thinking, affections, decision and direction of life. This one dollar bill says – In God we trust. What of you?

b) Believe in ...God's son Jesus.

Christian faith is trust in something specific. Someone specific. In the name of the Son Jesus
Christ. In his name – in everything that he is and stands for and has done.

Believe in - 3v23. Jesus, God's Son. He who really came and lived on earth in history. He who came into the world, lived, ate, breathed. He who encountered the real situations of life. God is not distant from the struggles and sufferings and needs of life. Not any old Jesus. Not the Jesus you want to believe in, nor the one I want to. The Jesus, revealed by God in scripture.

Believe in - 1v7. Jesus, God's Son Jesus who lived to die to cleanse us from our sins. Jesus whose death washes away our sin. Jesus in whose death there is enough grace for all our sins.
And we need to be honest that we live in the shallows of the reality of our sin. The darkness of the human heart is deeper than any of us dare admit. Greatest of horrors. And yet there is more grace.

Believe in - 2v2. Jesus, God's Son who lived to die as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. To be the propitiation for our sins. You might hear a term like 'atoning sacrifice' or 'propitiation' and switch off. Don't. We need to learn these theological terms. Big words help you love God more. They'll open new vistas on what he has done that will stir our hearts to deeper worship and enjoyment of him. They will pour petrol on the dying embers of our love for him, and will increase our joy.

Jesus our Propitiation - means someone that makes someone favourable. “Propitious”. In this case the object of propitiation is God. The point is God becoming favourable to us. If you have an NIV you'll notice the footnote says that Jesus' death turns aside wrath. God's wrath was towards us but he takes it upon himself at the cross so that we might enjoy the favour of God. And the result is that God is infinitely and forever favourable to us in Jesus!

Believe in - 3v16. Jesus, God's Son who laid his life down for us. Jesus who took our place. Who died FOR us. Blood was shed to bar hell and open heaven. Blood was shed to put death to death and awaken life. Blood was shed, him dying for the sin in us and the wrath we deserve, so that we might have the righteousness he has, and the favour he deserves. His blood instead of ours. Him for us.

And believe in - 4v10 Jesus who's propitiatory death is the very definition of God's love. You simply cannot define love without having the cross of Christ there. Cross-less-love makes as much sense as an exam without a student. None. I recently got hold of an outstanding new worship CD called Come Weary Saints. One of the songs is a rework of an old hymn, 'O the deep, deep love of Jesus'. It's been given a new tune and chorus. But, also the lyricist Bob Kauflin has reworked one of the verses because this song about the deep deep love of Jesus made no explicit reference to the cross. It's not that every song must do that, but how can we sing of God's love apart from the death of Jesus?

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

The gospel of Jesus who died for us says look away from yourself and live. Don't go looking for life within yourself, look outside yourself. It's not Christianity if you try and pull yourself up by your own bootstraps. It's not Christianity if you think that a little more education, money, self-esteem will make you ok. God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit who forever lived in perfect love for one another curved outward toward us in lavish love by sending the Son Jesus to live, die and rise for us.

In the gospel we see the brilliance of sin-cleansed, wrath-averted, defence-provided. And it's all of him. All by God. He is the centre. He is the focus. He is the treasure. It's not more self-esteem that we need. The problem is that we over-esteem ourselves and under-esteem the one who ought to be esteemed more than all else, namely the Lord Jesus. Put your trust in him. Put your belief in him. By his grace set your mind and set your heart upon him.

Martin Luther wrote:

"This is that mystery which is rich in divine grace to sinners: wherein by a wonderful exchange our sins are no longer ours but Christ's, and the righteousness of Christ not Christ's but ours. He has emptied himself of his righteousness that he might clothe us with it and fill us with it; and he has taken our evils upon himself that he might deliver us from them. Learn Christ and him crucified. Learn to pray to him and, despairing of yourself, say, 'Thou, Lord Jesus, are my righteousness, but I am your sin. You have taken upon yourself what is mine and have given to me what is yours. You have taken upon yourself what you were not and have given to me what I was not.'"

This is not something for you to do. It is about trusting in what God has done in Jesus, for his glory, from which we benefit infinitely. The whole point here is not to look into ourselves for belief but away from ourselves to see 'there is my salvation' in Jesus. Jesus our Saviour, Lord and Treasure.

And consequently, point 2, briefly...

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

NWA - Andrew Parsons on Romans 8

Having persuaded Andy to learn part of Hebrews and Colossians last year, it was great to see his obvious gifts used in the 'reading' of Romans 8 at New Word Alive.

Him, that is Jesus.

John Piper preached Hebrews 13 at T4G.. I'm doing the same next week for Bath CU, and desperately trying to not rip off Dr Piper's work. But top this:
Jesus is

God’s final revelation (1:2).
The heir of all things (1:2).
The creator of the world (1:2).
The radiance of God’s glory (1:3).
The exact imprint of God’s nature (1:3).

He upholds the universe by the word of his power (1:3).
He made purification for sins (1:3).
He sits at the right hand of the Majesty on High (1:4).
He is God, enthroned forever, with a scepter of uprightness (1:8).
He is worshipped by angels (1:6).
His rule will have no end (1:8).
His joy is above all other beings in the universe (1:9).
He took on human flesh (2:14).
He was crowned with glory and honor because of his suffering (2:9).
He was the founder of our salvation (2:10).
He was made perfect in all his obedience by his suffering (2:10).
He destroyed the one who has the power of death, the devil (2:15).
He delivered us from the bondage of fear (2:15).
He is a merciful and faithful high priest (2:17)
He made propitiation for sins (2:17).
He is sympathetic because of his own trials (4:15).
He never sinned (4:15).
He offered up loud cries and tears with reverent fear, and God heard him (5:7).
He became the source of eternal salvation (5:8)
He holds his priesthood by virtue of an indestructible life (7:16).
He appears in the presence of God on our behalf (9:24).
He will come a second time to save us who are eagerly waiting for him (9:28).
He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (13:8)

All of this supremacy of Christ is poured into the word “him” in Hebrews 13:13: “Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured.” To him!
Which to be fair, is just John Piper reading out verses from a Jesus-saturated book... which makes me feel like it's a bit less dubious to do the same sort of thing. Particularly since my talk is the end of a long series on the book.

A review of Beowulf

Dead Heroes and Weeping Martyrs (Remy Wilkins)

NWA The Interviews - John Piper on Prayer and Bible Study

"So far John Piper has addressed the UK church scene and preaching. In this section of our video interview, I asked him about his prayer life, which he described as prayer mingled with the Word rather than separate sections of time for prayer alone and the Word alone. He talked about his Bible study, and how that, along with so many other things in his life, sometimes feels like it is driven by the expectations placed on him. His focus is currently on preparing for what he is going to do. Unfortunately there is a small section at the end when we somehow lost the audio, but one of the technical whizzes over at UCCF managed to figure out what Piper was saying."

Interview by Adrian Warnock

Monday, May 19, 2008

Twenty Two Words on Pride


"You can’t conquer pride by discarding what you’re proud of: Arrogance is entirely me deceiving me. Self-approval enables pride—and self-approval follows me no matter what outward sources of esteem I flee."

Likewise, observes Pete Dray, an economic downturn isn't going to suddenly make us all generous.

Clive Parnell : Being Human

Human being, musician, evangelist, podcaster and more, Clive Parnell is now blogging. Clive and I both started working with UCCF on the same day five years ago as CU Staff though we've both changed roles since then. I love Clive's creativity and his ability to come at things in fresh ways and above all his commitment to simply being a (being renewed) human being.

God's beautiful people

It's Monday so I get to hang out with God's beautiful people, having God's ink rubbed on our faces, keeping ever mindful of our natural state whilst not forgetting our heavenly title, or the grace that can deal with every sin.

NWA The Interviews - John Piper (part 1)

Following on from his interview with Don Carson, here is the first part of Adrian Warnock interviewing John Piper at New Word Alive:

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Groaning under a sense of deep dishonour done to God...

Andrew Bonar, Leviticus p447:

There is little of the pilgrem spirit in those who never long for 'the rest that remaineth.'

There is too little weariness of sin - little of Brainerd's cry, 'Oh, that my soul were holy as He is holy! Oh, that it were pure as Christ is pure, and perfect as my Father in heaven is perfect! These are the sweetst commands in God's book, comprising all others. And shall I break them? Must I break them? Am I under a necessity of it as long as I live in the world? O my soul! woe, woe is me, that I am a sinner!'

There is much groaning under human misery, but there is little groaning under a sense of deep dishonour done to God. There is, too, now and then, a longing to be at rest ourselves; but rarely do you find souls who are groaning in sympathy with all creation... Oh, to hear the earth's hills and valleys ringing with hallelujahs that come from souls reposing with true sabbatic rest on their God, while all creation listens in sabbatic peace and serenity!


Friday, May 16, 2008

Contemplating with joy the things of Christ alone

Athanasius on the Psalms:
"To those who really study it the Psalter yields especial treasure. ...the Psalter is a garden which, besides its special fruit, grows also some those of all the rest. ...You see, then, that all the subjects mentioned in the historical books are mentioned also in one Psalm or another; but when we come to the matters of which the Prophets speak we find that these occur in almost all. Of the coming of the Saviour and how, althought He is God, He yet should dwell among us... Having thus shown that Christ should come in human form, the Psalter goes on to show that He can suffer in the flesh He has assumed... For He did not die as being Himself liable to death: He suffered for us, and bore in Himself the wrath that was the penalty of our transgression... Nor is this all. The Psalter further indicates beforehand the bodily Ascension of the Saviour into heaven the Psalter, besides all these things, you learn about yourself. You find depicted in it all the movements of your soul, all its changes, its ups and downs, its failures and recoveries ...Holy Scripture is not designed to tickle the aesthetic palate, and it is rather for the soul's own profit that the Psalms are sung. ...a soul rightly ordered by chanting the sacred words forgets its own afflictions and contemplates with joy the things of Christ alone."
ht: Jim Hamilton

Marcus Honeysett

Welcome to the web Marcus Honeysett, blogger, Bible teacher etc.
Digital H2O, grace, glory, godliness.

The Goal of Preaching: Worship

My one overwhelming tip for your Bible preparation for this weekend is this: worship over the Bible as you prepare. For sure we want to be diligent and accurate in our prep and our delivery but it is possible to have accurate Bible talks and studies that that don’t glorify God because they take his mighty word and make it boring.

...the key point is not to deify the technical and underplay the glory. Worship over the text as you prepare. Make every effort at accuracy. If you want your message to have power then it has to come with accuracy from the text. People have to be able to see clearly that you are preaching to them what the Bible says, concretely, specifically and compellingly. But don’t substitute glory for mere accuracy as your goal.

Lastly, that tells us we should pray over our preparation and our delivery. You cannot speak accurately of the Lord and his ways without having been caught up yourself. People can tell if we have engaged with God in our prep and whether they are coming from hearts that are affected by the content. Preaching can never be dispassionate. Occasionally I hear people say things like “present the text as objectively and dispassionately as you can so people don’t see the preacher only the passage.” NONSENSE! Preaching is NOT teaching precisely because the message has affected us and we are urging, exhorting, pleading with our hearers to turn to the living God. and do what the word says. It has exercised our prayer and our spiritual energy as we prepare. It has set our hearts ablaze and our prayer is that it does the same as bring it in the power of the Spirit.

NWA - The Interviews - Don Carson (part 2)

The Apostolic Fathers - Mike Reeves (mp3)

At Theology Network: The Apostolic Fathers (Mike Reeves)
Because church history is cool. And because ‘We are like dwarfs on the shoulders of giants.’ (Bernard of Chartres)

Part 1, Part 2

ht: Dan Hames

Hosea (Part 1 of 2) - Matt Chapman

Hosea: “Can I Know God?” - Matt Chapman

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Grace, all grace, that's all.

Keller makes a critical point. Too often as preachers we preach a gospel that moves people from rebel to legalist. We so easily preach so that younger sons become older sons, but somehow miss the glory of the father’s prodigious grace in humiliating himself for the sake of both sons. (ht: Milton Stanley)
Up at The Mill, Mo has been doing 'Relay' on us, encouraging us about this pioneering missionary opportunity for recent graduates to be immersed in the grace of God. I'm reminded how much I love Relay because Relay is about grace. Grace that I desperately need.

What's delighting me at the moment is that I work for UCCF who are all about Grace, and I find myself in a local church whose explicit foundation is the same glorious gospel of Grace. And not just notionally and nominally, but in both cases intentionally, relentlessly, specifically and deeply. That gospel, and the gospel-care I find is way more than I deserve. I need to believe that grace is enough for me in my sin, and to joyfully receive the grace that's already given to me.

As the Valley of Vision prayer puts it:
Keep me ever mindful of my natural state but let me not forget my heavenly title, or the grace that can deal with every sin.

Spiritual health?

Childlike. Reverent. Expectant. Guileless. Obedient. No agenda of our own. Desperate. Dependent for all things. Confident of mercy. Acknowledging sin. Repentant. Merciful. Having a deep appreciation of grace. A follower. Hating sin and temptation. At war with the evil one. Sheltering in the Lord’s deliverance.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Oh redemption, sweet redemption!

A new hymn by Matt Giles:

1. Oh redemption, sweet redemption!
Satan has no hold on me!
Full indemnity, I have indemnity,
The debt is paid and I am free!
So impoverish and desperate,
In my sins I would have died,
yet my King's eternal ransom,
Did my ev'ry need supply.

Oh the cross, my final plea!
Nought else to offer thee, but what Christ did for me.
A million sins implored my fall,
Christ died once, and crushed them all!

2. Pow'r of death obliterated
Serpent crushed beneath His feet.
From the grave He rose untainted
And still He stands in victory.
In His death we stand united,
In His life we shall arise,
Earthly shadows now receding,
For heaven's glory draws yet nigh.

Resurrected I shall be
For His empty tomb will now ring true for me!
Blast of trumpet will resound
We shall arise to claim our crowns.

3. He has raised a mighty army,
Where there once were only bones.
A people confident in His accomplishment;
That His perfect blood atones.
We will raise a royal banner,
With our heads held proudly high,
Boasting in the death of Jesus,
And His resurrection life!

Oh the cross our final plea!
Jesus leads us on to the victory!
Death and hell have been disarmed,
Christ is Lord! His kingdom come!

© Matt Giles, Sheet Music

The Oracles of God (Martyn Lloyd-Jones on the Bible in the Evangelical House)

Several things strike me as I read Lloyd-Jones from 51 years ago.

1. There is genuine prophetic insight here.
2. Not necessarily negating the previous comment, problems recur in the church generation after generation.
3. Where's my Bible, let me read it! How precious it is to have the word of God.
"The Apostle finds it is essential to lay down a firm foundation. There are many people today who are in such a hurry to erect some kind of an evangelical house, that I am afraid it is not going to be very durable. And then you will find that in times of trail and testing, they will not quite know where they stand. They are carried away by every wing of doctrine, they have no discrimination and they cannot see the subtle error in false teachings. The only way to avoid that is to make certain that we are looking at every difficulty and dealing with every conceivable objection...

There is nothing greater than this, than that God should speak to man - the oracles of God..There is no greater loss that a man can suffer than that God should cease to speak to him... The Christian is a a man who ought to be wretched and miserable if he feels that he does not hear God speaking to him, if he feels he has lost contact with God. There is nothing more terrible that to feel you are abandoned of God. It is the loss, you see, of the oracles, of the Word of God.

Do we realise, I wonder, what a priviledge it is that we have these Scriptures, New Testament as well as Old? Do we realise the advantage of having an open Bible? Do we realise the advantage and the priviledge of having these living oracles of God? ...This is no ordinary book, this is the Word of God. Do we show that we realise that and what a priviledge it is, by reading it, studying it, delving into it, spending our time praying over it? ..Do you say, 'Here God is speaking to me, speaking to man and I am reading because it is God's direct word'.

We are living in times when evangelical people are increasingly saying 'Well it does not matter, we must all coorperate together. What if the man is not quite with us on the Scriptures, what does it matter? What if he is not quite with us on the atonement, that does not matter either, he is preaching Christ in a sense.' ...But we are specifically commanded to 'earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints' You as Christian people, as members of the Christian church, are to defend this truth as the Word of God, and to content for it."
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, #12 The Righteous Judgement of God.
Preached between October 15, 1956 and Feb 8th 1957.

There is such a thing as grace (and how the gift of repentance brings us to enjoy this profound doctrine)

Picked up my copy of Lloyd-Jones on Romans 2-3 today to accompany me on the train to Bristol. Classic, clear, passionate, gospel-filled stuff from The Doctor:
"This is the first note in gospel preaching. First and foremost he gospel calls us to repentance... there is but little evidence of a sense of sin these days, or that it is a rare thing to see anyone weeping under conviction; it is not surprising that it is a rare thing to hear anyone going throgh an agony of soul because of his or her consciousness of sinfulness in the presence of a holy God... repentance is not something detached and theoretical and academic... The beginning is this changed attitude toward God Himself; thinking about God in terms of the scriptural revelation rather than in terms of our own ideas... What amazes us, now, is how God tolerates us at all! We no longer feel that we have any claim on His love and we are reduced to tears when we realise that, in spite of our being what we are, and God being what He is, He nevertheless has had mercy and compassion, and there is such a thing as grace... This again is a profound matter of doctrine.. Now the more we grasp that truth, the more we shall see the absolute necessity of an operation by the Holy Spirit of God before a man can ever be a Christian."
Martyn Lloyd-Jones on Romans 2v1-3v20.

Friday, May 09, 2008

UCCF South West Update

Looking back on last term I'm massively encouraged by the many missions that happened. It's great to hear of new Christians and to be able to rejoice in the power of the gospel. And for every one of those who has become a Christian there are doubtless many who have heard and whom we can continue to pray for.....

Psalms and the Pentateuch

From The Bible Student's Compendium And Dictionary:
On the five books of Psalms corresponding to the Pentateuch:

Book 1 - Genesis.
It shows us God's plan for MAN. God is Jehovah (the Lord) in this book. He has covenant-plans toward mankind. True, sin has broken things up and man is in rebellion against God. But the plans were made in CHRIST, and God still has His one Man in mind: Ps. 2; THE LAST ADAM: Ps. 8 (cf. Gen. 1). The middle Psalm of the book (21) describes Him as crowned for rule and set to be a blessing for ever (v. 6; cf. Gen. 12 and 22:18); though, indeed, He shall only reach His Crown through a Cross (22-24). Yet the MAN Christ Jesus is set before us, waiting in faith for the glory the Lord will give Him (16, 17, 18); "bowed down heavily" in the days of His flesh (35:14), yet "the Lord hath pleasure in the prosperity of His Servant" (v. 27), and when He has "waited patiently" as "a poor and needy" Man, cast upon the Lord, He receives the promised reward (40, 41). It is a "blessed" thing to consider this poor MAN (41).

Book 2 - Exodus.
It begins with the true Israel in tears and suffering (42) yet appealing to God against "an ungodly nation" (43) and though "counted as sheep for the slaughter" (44), calling upon God to redeem them (44:26). Then comes the divine redeemer. Finally a redeemed Israel sings sings praises for deliverance (61-68). And the book that began with suffering conducts us, Psalm by Psalm, through a varied experience on pilgrimage towards God, towards the glorious kingdom of Christ, which will leave nothing for the loyal soul to desire (72: see esp. v. 19 and 20).

Book 3 - Leviticus.
This is the book of the Sanctuary. Search and see how that in nearly every Psalm some reference is made to the sanctuary. Israel's house is indeed now left unto her "desolate" and given over to her enemies. But he who dwells between the cherubim(80:1) will yet "shine forth" again and the deserted altars shall again be laden with worship (84). For Jehovah is faithful and has sworn (89).

Book 4 - Numbers.
The book of the wilderness. Angels watch over God's true Israel there (91), and when Israel has profited by the past wilderness lesson (95), the wilderness shall blossom as the rose (96, etc. cf. Is. 35). For Christ will return as Lord of the whole earth (98:5-7; cf. Heb. 1:6) and the earth will no longer be a wilderness but will enjoy the promised blessings (101-106). This is a very striking book indeed and may well end, as it does, with "Hallelujah."

Book 5 - Deuternomy.
The book fo the covenant. Its chief Psalm is 119, which is all in praise of that Word. (Remember Deuteronomy begins "These be the words" and tells, as we saw, how God bare witness of a New Covenant through Moses). This Word tells of "good things to come." Christ is the High Priest of these good things (Ps. 110; cf. Heb.). It will be a wonderful day when "the greater Hallel" (Pss. 117-118) is sung in Mount Zion - "the day which the Lord hath made," when the Rejected Stone is made "The headstone of the corner." No wonder the words are treasured by believing hearts (119) and their eyes "lifted up" (121) for their redemption which draws nigh. From distress (120) they will ascend - as the songs of "degrees", songs of "the steps" (the steps of ascent to the Divine Temple) describe - to the sanctuary of blessing, where the Lord of heaven and earth will bless men out of Zion (135).

The Book closes with a grand universal anthem in five "Hallelujah" Psalms.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

What can help the squeamish fellow who is afraid of making global claims for Christ?

...John Piper talks about what can explodes his little world.

UCCF Evangelism Podcast #3 - Art and Evangelism

Arts and Evangelism with Clive and Cully, plus Linda Marshall on Forum 2008

Andy Farmer - Important Values for Christian Artists
PDF @ New Attitude, ht: JT

James Carey on Evangelicalism and Art (at David Field's blog)

Man Curved in on Himself

"...personhood as ‘ecstatic’, in terms of a going out or being drawn out of oneself by the Spirit into the life of Christ, a life lived for and with others. So we might also say that persons are ‘eccentric’, that they find their lives in the lives of others. Enter the man curved in on himself, who stubbornly refuses to go out of himself and smugly stays at home in and with himself. He is ego rather than ec-centric, finding his life in and living his life for himself... It’s a familiar image, and a fitting one, the photonegative of the man whose life is found in relationship. In this view, sin is a violation, perversion, and refusal of the very relationships which constitute us. Eberhard J√ľngel puts it succinctly, calling sin "the urge towards relationlessness and dissociation". And the sinner? "The sinner is, to put it simply, a person without relations, with no relation to God or to self".
--Matt Jenson, The Shape of Our Sin - at The Other Journal

Martin Luther - "Our so deeply curved in on itself that it not only bends the best gifts of God towards itself and enjoys them...but it also fails to realize that it so wickedly, curvedly, and viciously seeks all things, even God, for its own sake." (source)

1 John 3v23: "This is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another." The gospel comes with the life-giving lavish love of divine command enacted at Calvary to uncurve us from our devilish introspection and instead look to Jesus, In becoming Jesus-centred we also become other-centred.

On the Holy Spirit - gifts for the common good

Gifts are for the common good (1 Corinthians 12v4-11)

Paul here notes that
  • v4 – there are various gifts and in v8-10 he lists many. What are they? Paul doesn't say – it's not the point! Our (21st Century) way of reading is desperate for those definitions of prophecy etc, and maybe some controversy might have been avoided if they had been supplied - but they're not, which probably means there is something more important for us to understand. We'll find some sense of more specific and descriptive definition of tongues and prophecy across the whole of chapters 12-14, but not much yet. So far, they are gospel-centred gifts..
  • v6 – gifts come from God. He gives. And they are gifts (charismata) of grace. Given to all. Freely. Graciously. Not as a reward but a gift.
  • v7 – gifts are manifestations of the Holy Spirit. The work of the Spirit is one of revelation, of manifestation, of confession. Displaying God. God's gifts show us our God. Prophecy, tongues, administration... gospel-centred gifts of grace to reveal God.
But, to what purpose? Why give these grace gifts, these charismata?
  • Answer: v7. For the common good. Gifts are not given to me for my good but to me for the good of others. The purpose of gifts is God-centred in manifestation and other-centred in service. What is good for the people of God will in turn be good for me. We’ll see later with tongues that some gifts are particularly useful for the building up of the person who exercises them – such as uninterpretted prayer in tongues. That said, my own edification is subsequently for the benefit of the body. So we see that our thinking about the Holy Spirit must first be gospel-centred and then other-centred. These are indeed Elephants in the Room.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Beach Supervision and the kindness of God

Kath has tormented me for five years because for our first four years as colleagues I worked in landlocked Reading and she worked on the south coast.

Finally, almost five years since I started working for UCCF I've been able to do a meeting on the beach. With Kenny, on Falmouth beach under glorious sunny skies. Brilliant! Beach, talking, praying and studying Ruth 4 with a brother.

O the kindness of God! Utterly undeserved. May I never lose the wonder and priviledge of this. May the beach never be taken for granted. May the grace of God never be presumed. Those famous words from Lewis ring truer now... this time last year I was supervising Ed & Carolina in our paved frontyard (on a sunny day) to the roar of the M4, now I've felt the sand between my toes and heard the waves reaching the shore. Undeserved kindness.

This same kindness is shown in the book of Ruth, through God's actions and through the kindness of his people. Ruth is a story that begins with death and ends with new life. It begins with emptiness and ends with fullness. It begins with no king and ends with King David. The kindness of God overflows to bring redemption.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

A culture of grace

Listening to something by Tripp & Powlison whilst musing on 1 John 3 (ahead of preaching on it in Reading in a few couple of weeks), they comment on how the gospel creates a culture of grace. In that, Jesus is a role model to us. Not like normal role models who we watch from a distance. Jesus shows us what love is by acting upon us in love, dying for our sins.

This is how we know what love is - by way of his substitutionary and propitiatory death. And as we become increasingly Jesus-centred we'll become increasingly other-centred. Not just in sentimental words of love, but in love that acts to meet needs.

This sets an agenda totally opposed to the spirit of our age, indeed of every age since the days of Cain - an age in which we're so curved in on ourselves that we don't know what love is. The gospel takes us away from ourselves, to Jesus to believe in him and onward to others to serve them.

Like extinguishing a fire with petrol?

Easy to observe this from outside the Church of England, but Rowan has kinda missed the point hasn't he? Trying to smooth out the gay bishops question by inviting the Catholics to join the party...

On the Holy Spirit - Spiritual is Gospel

Let's go hunting elephants in the charismatic jungle in 1 Corinthians 12-14. Chapters 1-4 of this letter are most concerned with wisdom and then the discussion is pursued in the area of sexual immorality (5-7) and idolatry (8-14) all of which has concern with the body of Christ, a prominent theme in chapter 15...

1. Spiritual is gospel (1 Corinthians 12v1-3)

Paul says, v1, that he does not want them to be uninformed about 'spiritual gifts' or 'spiritual things'. He's writing to a church that is experiencing charismania. Things are in chaos – evidently it’s more the miraculous gifts being carried to excess than an excess of administration. Rather than forbidding pursuit of these things he seeks to inform them. It's a good principle to remember that abuse should be replaced by right use rather than non-use.

Getting informed: First there are idols. Mute idols (v2). The Old Testament says quite a lot about idols. A key theme is their inability to speak. They are breathless. (Habakkuk 2v18-19). By stark contrast the Spirit speaks (v3). His words give life. By the Spirit Paul will preach Christ & him crucified (2v4) and know the mind of Christ (2v10,16). And by the Spirit the Christian confesses - Jesus is Lord (12v3). We have no business attributing anything to the Holy Spirit unless the focus in the gospel. That might not always be easy to see (Agabus?) But, the broad brushstroke is that Spiritual is Gospel! Do not be uninformed – by the Holy Spirit we confess the gospel.

Confessing the gospel is not something to take for granted. Only by the power of the Holy Spirit will men and women delight to confess the glory of God's gospel about Jesus Christ who was crucified. Only by the Spirit will we love God's wisdom and God's power at the cross. The gospel sets the stage for our thinking about all things charismatic. Whatever our thinking about gifts of the Spirit our framework is of being Spirit-indwelled justified-by-grace people.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Piper: How to bless your pastor

"Lead somebody to Christ. Live a holy life. Don't lose your faith when you get cancer. Bring up your kid to love Christ. Do something radical for missions. The common denominator for all of those is that you prove by your life that I haven't wasted mine..."
How can I bless my pastor (text/mp3)

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Moses, Micah and the Cross

I'm preparing to preach on the end of Micah in a month.
So much of the language echoes Moses' song in Exodus 15.

Micah 7v15 - What Micah looks to will like when they came out of Egypt.
Ex 15v14 & Micah 7v17 - The nations tremble.
Ex 15v1 - the horse and his rider thrown into the sea.
Micah 7v19 - sins thrown into the depths of the sea.
Exodus 15v11 & Micah 7v18 - Who is like you God?
Moses looked back and celebrated the victory of God.
Micah however looks forward rather than backwards.
He looks forward in faith to God's salvation.
God says "I will show them marvelous things" (ESV, Micah 7v15).
The world will be shown God's salvation.
They will see his love, righteousness and wrath.
Where? Surely we're to say - Micah's faith is in the direction of the cross, though he doesn't yet know it. He looks ahead to a salvation like, but greater than, the Exodus.

Reading Micah we look ahead with him,. We see at the Cross God's salvation, seeing clearly what he could only believe for. We see the accomplishment of Jesus. The event that will sends out shockwaves to silence the nations and bring them to their knees, just as Micah said. The cross that reveals and secures the grace of God. Grace that does more than throw God's enemies into the depths of the sea (7v19), it can throw our sins there also! Micah sees beyond the unanswered question of how sin can be forgiven, the persistent tension of the Old Testament, and sees the God who will pardon sin (7v17), delight in mercy (7v17), turn aside his anger (7v18) and keep his promises to his people (7v20).

Micah, full of prophetic faith, sees the gobsmacking gospel of the grace of God.

-John Calvert , Matthew Henry, John Calvin


“Pietism is making our love for God the main focus of Christianity, instead of His love for us”

-Eric Phillips

Justification by Faith for Sixteen Year Olds!

Lady Jane Grey was briefly Queen of England as a teenager, living in troubled times as the reformation was ongoing around her (she lived during the lifetimes of Luther and Calvin). I don't know much about her beyond a few things I've found here and there online. A shameful lack of knowledge of British History! A little of my findings follow.

Prior to her death in 1554 she was questioned by John Feckenham . His aim was for her to deny her Protestant beliefs.

Feckenham: What is then required of a Christian?
Jane: That he should believe in God the Father, in God the Son, and in God the Holy Ghost, three persons one God.
Feckenham: Is there nothing else to be required or looked for in a Christian but to believe in him?
Jane: Yes; we must also love him with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind, and our neighbour as ourself.
Feckenham: Why, then faith only justifies not, or saves not.
Jane: Yes, truly, as Paul says, faith only justifies. Why, Paul says, if I have all faith, without love, it is nothing. True it is; for how can I love him whom I trust not? Or how can I trust him whom I love not? Faith and love go both together, and that love is comprehended in faith.
Feckenham: How shall we love our neighbour?
Jane: To love our neighbour is to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, and give drink to the thirsty, and to do to him as we would be done to.
Feckenham: Why, then it is necessary unto salvation to do good works also; it is not sufficient only to believe.
Jane: I deny that, and I affirm that faith only saves; but it is meet for a Christian to do good works, in token that he follows the steps of his Master, Christ, yet we may not say that they profit to our salvation; for when we have done all, we are unprofitable servants, and faith only in Christ’s blood saves us.
Over the coming months I'm preparing a series of talks on Galatians for the Team and hopefully for use with students beyond that. Justification by Faith is a doctrine of vital importance - oh that every 16 year old got it as clearly as Jane. Oh, that every 18 year old starting at University was so clear on this doctrine and it's life-changing, martyr-making, joy-giving implications!

Whether or not we believe in justification by faith (aka Grace) shows in our lives. Grace plays out in the freedom and joy of resurrection life in the Holy Spirit that magnify the cross. Anti-grace plays out in rules and division in sin that minimise the cross and depart from God. Let abundant grace reign! Let grace be taught always.

Jane's situation was a little different to most 16 year olds today. The average person today is not faced with the pressures of monarchy and the prospect of martyrdom. But, still why should we settle for lesser immersion in God's word? How many youth group members (or adults for that matter) could/would say:
"I ground my faith upon God’s word, and not upon the church, the faith of the church must be tried by God’s word, and not God’s word by the church, nor yet by my faith... I look to be saved by none other means, but only but the mercy of God, in the merit of the blood of His only Son Jesus Christ."

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Living Leadership - 2008 Conference MP3s

Pastoral Refreshment Conference:

Grace & Glory - Mark Bonnington
Grace & God's power in weakness - Jonathan Lamb
Grace & integrity - Jonathan Lamb


Godly Hearts in Leadership - Marcus Honeysett
Godly Treasure in Leadership - Mark Prentice
Growing in Spiritual Leadership - Pete Chilvers
The Grace of God in the life of the leader

Making sure that I read more than just 'Christian' books

Blog a Penguin Classic. So, you sign up, they email you to say what they'll send you (I got one by Tennyson) and then you wait to receive it, read it and blog a review within six weeks. Sounds good to me. I'm going to read anyway, this just makes it easier!

ht: Ros Clarke

On the Holy Spirit

This is the beginning of a series of posts based on a training day I did for our South West relay at the end of April.

On the Holy Spirit, developing clearer thinking on those matters of first importance so that we might grow in love for Jesus' church in the power of the Holy Spirit, in other-centred, gospel-confessing service.

Everyone had packed their bags and was waiting to board the coach. In one corner of the room I could overhear that a heated discussion was underway. I lurked nearby and listened in. They were discussion charismatic gifts. Not so much the gifts of administration and teaching, but prophecy, healing and tongues. Controversial! And often considered with anecdotes and hearsay rather than with the Bible. I decided then, 2.5 years ago, to get the scriptures open in this. I shared my thoughts with the CU small groups coordinator and we shaped a plan for the next term to study 1 Corinthians 1-4 and 12-14. Some criticised us for not studying chapter 15 (though no-one minded that we weren't covering 5-11 or 16). What can you do in seven weeks?

There is an Elephant in the Room – or indeed several of them. That is – something very obvious that no-one seems to notice. A classic example of missing the point. Today isn't about changing your position but about Biblical convictions and practice.


Initially everyone is a continuationist. Things seem to change for the next 1800 years in which most people are probably cessationist, but since then the balance has changed - certainly on a global scale. In the new creation, as we'll see from 1 Corinthians 13, everyone will be a cessationist. Where should we stand today?


More than just supernatural manifestions – in that case Hindu's are Continuationist, and Dawkins a Cessationist. We mean gifts of the Holy Spirit to the church. And, less about an issue of style – such as ‘charismatics put their hands in the air’ and more the purpose and practice of certain gifts.


Having Charismatic convictions (or non-charismatic convictions) says virtually nothing about the rest of your theology. Liberal-Anglo-Catholics may be Cessationist, but it's not true that all Cessationists are Liberal, Anglican or Catholic.

Where you stand on charismatic theology says very little about the rest of your beliefs. Sweeping statements and assumptions can therefore be misleading about where we each stand. Best to talk rather than to presume.

With students I wont major on non-essentials but I wont avoid them either - especially where they present opportunity to open the scriptures with students. My parting gift to students in Guildford was, at their request, an afternoon study on Romans 9... some would call that foolish, but I'm convinced that there's nothing better than to gather God's people around God's word and let Him do the talking.

Next: 1 Corinthians 12v1-3.

Terry Virgo on the new Slipstream Podcast

Slipstream, a ministry of Evangelical Alliance by Krish Kandiah, resourcing leaders for the church. Their first new resource is a podcast with Terry Virgo.

Seven (first third of the year on the blog)

It's a third of the way through the year so I thought I'd review seven key posts/topics on the blog this year. I tend to do this at the end of the year, but I'm curious to see if what's significant in my mind now turns out to be. The blog is something of a reflection of what I've been thinking about this year.

1. Tim Keller - notably on three ways to live and his book The Reason for God.

2. Feeding on the Old Testament. 1&2 Samuel with Jim Hamilton and Genesis and Lamentations. See also: Daniel Newman on 1 Samuel

3. Go Wayne Grudem Go! - this video staring the wonderful South West Relay added 1000 hits in one day to the blog thanks to the linkage of Challies. See also The Top 10 Books.

4. The aftermath of speaking on the question of whether God is a sadist at Exeter University. More blogging on the doctrine of penal substitution. More on the blood here.

5. Thinking about emotions within the Christian life. This plays out of the back of having read Sam Storms 'Signs of the Spirit' at the end of 2007.

6. Being human - questions of race, culture etc and the west-centred way we think about the world. See also the Community of the Spirit, and Being Christian is being really human (mp3 - Bish), Bearing the image (mp3 - Anyabwile).

7. New Word Alive, Together for the Gospel, the 'New Calvinism' and more so, the 'new Gospel-centredness' for which the stage is set by the songs of people like Bob Kauflin

For all that I can't help but thinking that these two posts on marriage might be what I want to take to heart most: FAQ: I get all this teaching but my wife doesn't... and Grace upon grace, the food of marriage (Or, grace is what makes Christian marriage different - and how desperately I need that grace).

Friday, May 02, 2008

T4G08 - Panel Discussions

The T4G08 panel discussions are now online.

They were a valuable part fo the conference, though with 8 talks and 6 panels it was a bit of an overload at times!

I particularly enjoyed the last one though I was most tired during it, Panel Discussion with John Piper - with some helpful reflections on his own church, on godly women in his church and on preaching.

Panel Discussion with Thabiti Anyabwile is also worth a listen.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Books, bring the books (Top 10 Books for Students - New Word Alive on Youtube)

From the student track at New Word Alive here are the top 10 student books from the week, as you've never seen them before.

ht: Chris Watson Lee

Grace upon grace, the food of marriage (Or, grace is what makes Christian marriage different - and how desperately I need that grace)

If Galatians is my favourite book in the New Testament then Romans 7v1-6 is one of my other favourite passages (if you'll permit having favourites).

It's so good because it tells of our awful old marriage to Mr Law which ended when we, not the law, died with Christ. And then we rose to a new marriage with Jesus. Freely. Secured. Justified. Alive. And while the old husband was always right and always fault-finding, Jesus just gives us grace upon grace that is transforming. Abundant grace by which we can reign in life.

I love this glorious life-giving life-changing God-glorifying truth. I love that we got taught it at our 'Join the Church' course meeting last night.

A secondary application has been hitting me afresh this week (actually it's been working away at me since Terry Virgo's opening talk at New Word Alive :

It's not Paul's intention in the passage, but anyone who is married is bound to ask the question - what about my marriage? The sobering question for me is,
Am I like the law to my wife?
Or am I like Christ?
Heart-breakingly I know that too often I've been self-righteous and fault-finding, trying to fix my wife with my great ideas. Such an approach is futile, stupid and evil. Such an approach is rooted in pride and idolatry. I'm not a perfect husband like the law, and even if I were, fault-finding can't help it only results in death.

How much better to be a husband who feeds his wife with grace upon grace. Grace that bears fruit of life. See I know that the husband is to be like Christ, and yet for some reason words like headship and submission don't instinctively work out in the kind of love that Jesus has for his bride. I need more looks to Christ, more feeding on his glorious grace.

O, that the grace I've received from Jesus would overflow increasingly in my marriage. O, that I would reign in life by the grace of God and the gift of righteousness that comes to me freely because of the blood of Jesus.