Tuesday, September 30, 2008

From the mountains you can see things differently

I've just spent the week at a conference for 'current and potential' university evangelists. I attended as part of the British delegation of five among 55 from other nations around europe. We attended as those from a big well-resourced movement. The temptation is to think we should just teach everyone else how to do things. The experience is that we have immense amounts to learn from others. The fresh air of the Austrian mountains is good for the soul.

Photo from the IFESWORLD stream

Testimonial preaching from a Serbian colleague that was some of the most persuasive apologetics, a narrative apologetic from a Bulgarian and the most penetrating preach by another Bulgarian whose imagination and humour got the truth of the gospel under my skin. I've received instruction from a French Zacharias Trust Associate who taught me more about how to construct and deliver a talk than I ever knew. I've been inspired to press on with Dostoyevsky by a German professor. And that's before I even consider the sheer courage of these IFES colleagues of mine who serve in contexts far more difficult than my own.

I'm aware of my own lack of humility and presence of arrogance that takes blessings for granted and is often unwilling to listen to others. I'm aware of the poverty of my heart that has often passed up opportunities to fish for people and preferred to just look after the aquarium i.e. I've often easily filled my diary with teaching Christians and not left room to go to those who aren't. I'm inspired by the lifetime experience, generosity of spirit and humility of Michael (aged 77) and Rosemary Green who poured out their lives for us over the past week. I'm provoked and inspired by their example, by their quiet charismaticism, by the evidence of God's hand through them, and for the way that they're giving their latter years to still doing evangelism and to training the next generation.

Some recent sermons from Michael Green can be downloaded from Holy Trinity Church in the USA where he was serving in 2007

Please pray for the outworking of this in student ministry, in my marriage and in my local church.

Michael Ots left the conference early to go and preach at his church on Acts 1v1-7

thebluefish.org - statistics, analytics etc.

So it seems more of you are reading the blog than this time last year. This is just a quickie to say thanks for clicking in and reading the words. I hope I can continue to serve you in this.

The graph comes from sitemeter. This provides information on referrals to the site from other websites, where in the world people come from and how many.

Another useful tool is google analytics which gives a widerand more user friendly interface. One account can handle multiple websites. Both services are free and require registration and insertion of some code to the website.

I've been using sitemeter for a few years - during which it's recorded 200,000 hits. I've had google on for the past five months.

It's potentially a bit vain and geeky to bother with things like this, but I do find it helpful to know where people are coming from, to track links to the site, google searches that land people up here. This helps me to know what people read most here.

Technorati and Google blogsearch are helpful tools to see who is linking. This has led me to interact with many fascinating blogs and their authors over the years.

"we Christians do not go to church"

Marcus Honeysett, back blogging... about church:
"At some point in the life of most local churches a critical point is reached when the core fellowship of those committed to gospel vision are outnumbered by a fringe who are there for quite different reasons, be it spiritual comfort, kids activities, personal support, or whatever. Regardless of the particular type of church government, all fellowships struggle to maintain focus around core vision when the fringe, be they believers or not, outnumber the gospel-oriented core. It is very hard to maintain focus, or alter any aspect of church life to reflect the gospel needs of a fresh generation, when the majority are committed to maintaining their comfort. When this happens "Christians" have been replaced with "churchgoers" who assume they are Christians."
Against this is the senario of Mark Driscoll's church which would appear to have a very large fringe.. the difference being this fringe seem to be drawn in by the preaching of the gospel and the lives of the Christians. The gospel continues to set the agenda. Keeping things that way isn't going to be easy.

Maurice McCracken reflects on the word of God in the church: "God’s word comes to us not by dictation but by incarnation. That is to say that God gives us his word that speaks to us powerfully today, but he gives it to us through particular people at particular times in particular contexts." - well worth going and reading more of that.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Genesis 2: The Man and his Bride in the Global Garden

There is a problem when we read Genesis 2. Not with what's there, but with us. There are lies in the air that say we can't take this as God's word, we shouldn't trust it, it's not going to fit with the rest of the Bible. Thing is - it is God speaking, we can trust it and it does fit.

We find a wilderness. A barren world. And in that God plants a garden in which he puts The Man he made. All of this enacting not a 'Plan A' that's going to be messed up in chapter 3, but implementing the plan he made before the creation of the world to save a people for himself, by grace through his promise through the blood of Jesus. The man is put in the garden by the LORD (the covenant God) to work and keep it (serving like a priest in a temple... mediating God's image to the world... ruling the earth from the garden...).

From the garden flow rivers. This is a mountain. A mountain like the other mountain where 'you shall not...' is said - except this moutain has the Gihon flowing from it so might just be more like the mountain where King Hezekiah blocked up that river (Jerusalem... 2 Cor 32v30) and the one where angels will soon be guarding the east gate. Think temple mount more than Sinai.

From this garden he's to fill the earth - to extend the garden into a global garden, so that the earth will be full of people, bearing God's image and ruling the world. This is the king who is son of The King the garden God gave him. Except, he has no woman so he can't fill the earth. Something is not good - the plan can't be fulfilled. He's shown all the animals by God, who knows they won't be the helper he needs - and he rules them by naming them. Then God makes the woman from The Man, and he speaks his first recorded words (though probably "That's a Duckbilled Platypus" was he first phrase).

Now they can fill the world - joined in marriage, one flesh without shame. Marriage looks glorious and wonderful - and yet far removed from the 'normal' experience on earth. The original readers hear of an abundant garden of life, with a comission to fill the world from it. Yet, they live in the wilderness - surely they ask "why are we not already in the global garden? What has happened...." and they should say, let's press on into the land where there is rest and a land flowing with life. Sin needs an answer, and in Genesis 2 that's not yet obvious...  though it soon will be. How will the experienced strife of marriage be answered - and where did it come from?

Moreover, we know that The Man and his bride is really a picture of Christ and the church (Ephesians 5) a mystery that will be, and has now been revealed. For the real story of God's salvation awaits The Man who will die for his bride, shedding his blood for her sins. Reading Genesis 2 makes us hunger to be in the garden with The Man and his bride. The Second Adam, the True Man and his bride. To be found 'in' the church. In the global eden, that will be a temple-city, where we will live with Christ without shame.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Reading University Christian Union

I used to work with these guys! Loving the vision.

RUCU (ht:  Gaz Leaney)

Terry Virgo on Mark Driscoll at Newfrontiers

Terry Virgo's reflections on Mark Driscoll speaking at our conference in July. Notice the applications... things are changing.

I'm still in Austria, enjoying greatly Michael Green on evangelism in the mountains. Michael brings a lifetime of experience in evangelism, a charismatic warmth and generosity and a great gift in evangelism.

Charlie Hadjiev of Bulgaria gave us a brilliant sample evangelistic talk this morning on the idea of the war of the worlds, tying in references to Lost and Indiana Jones with a compelling narrative. Each morning we've had a sample talk - previously from Richard Cuninngham, Michael Green and Jurgen Speiss. Four very different talks, one glorious gospel. Notes to follow.

Friday, September 26, 2008

From Austria

I'm in Austria, loving the training from Richard Cuningham and Michael Green and Ann Brown. Did my evangelistic talk this morning - helpful constructive feedback from Raphael Anzenberger and the other guys in our group. Ann was outstanding on arts last night - I'll write up more.

So, we got here safe, though Nay and Motsy and I took a detour on the way from Salzburg to Mittersill via Klagenfurt cos we didn't realise we needed to change trains... a six hour detour. Good to laugh heartily at yourself I say!!

Death and the Smell of Jesus (6) - other ways of responding

DOWNLOAD MP3: Dave Bish - Death and the Smell of Jesus

1. Some mishear and think that the message was “try hard and do good”

That is death to everyone. DIY religion is a joke – as if we could do it ourselves and please God. That’s evil. It’s not Christianity. And I hate it. If that’s what you think you heard, you’ve not caught the scent – sniff again!

2. Others haven’t misheard or been indifferent. You’re incensed by this. You fume at it.

To you this really is like water. Water poured on the hot oil of your heart. You heard every word and you are reviled: You mock at the idea that Jesus fulfilled prophecies. You scorn the prospect of a final judgement. You find the idea of a man dying on a Roman cross to save you ridiculous. And celebrating association with that seems outrageous. And you say, even if it were true, you’d rather try to save yourself. Some disbelieve because, missing the scent, they say he could never save someone as bad as them. That is not most people in Exeter.

We do not live in a city that is broken by a deep awareness of it’s own sinfulness. People are not weeping on the streets. People do not default to presuming that hell is waiting for them. We have a bigger problem – we live in an age where we think we deserve heaven, where it’s our right to have that. We could not be more deceived. Deceived or not: Jesus is our judge.

Please don’t march confidently towards your impending death. However respectable and decent, we all deserve to perish. I almost killed myself crossing the road the other day, because I ignored the warnings of danger… designed to stop me. Starting with the red man shining in my face. Jesus warns us.

Blaise Pascal said: 'Between heaven and hell is only this life, which is the most fragile thing in the world.'

This is serious. Even now, hear Jesus, smell the coffee.

3. Some hear and respond with apathy. You’re unmoved. You don’t see what all the fuss is about. You’re indifferent.

If I introduce you to my wife and you’re indifferent to her I will be offended. Apathy and anger are both rebellion against Jesus.

Others, lastly, would never have called yourself Christians before today and yet you find yourself strangely moved by what you’ve heard about Jesus.

Not because the preacher was eloquent, but because you find yourself inescapably captivated with the big words about Jesus. If you’ve caught something of the sweet fragrance of Jesus and his death. That was my experience 11 years ago. Believe what you’ve heard. Become a Christian. Join the church – a people where life is about Jesus and death is being with him forever.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Pete Greasley "Taking Yourself Seriously"

From Prognosis:

Death and the Smell of Jesus (5) - the refreshing and the responsibility

DOWNLOAD MP3: Dave Bish - Death and the Smell of Jesus

A smell that will not shift that says: we’re hell deserving rebels but Jesus came to comfort us, to keep the promises of God, to bring us to Himself! The church must reek of Jesus who was crucified for us. I don’t know what your favourite smell is. For me, nothing beats the smell of fresh bread, freshly cooked bacon and fresh coffee on a Saturday morning. For some of us, those ten big words about Jesus are bacon and coffee.

That is the mark of a Christian. For the Christian this news about Jesus is the sweetest of smells. This is life! You hear it and it makes you exclaim “I’m alive”. Christian, let this familiar news speak life to your heart – like the encouraging word of an old friend. Breathe in the fresh air of the news about Jesus - his free gift of himself for you, and to you.

How will you know if you’ve really grasped this? Whether you believe it? Because you’ll feel the same turmoil Paul experiences in v12-13… torn between care for those being saved and those who are perishing. Because you’ll feel the weight of how this news about Jesus brings unimaginable life to one, and death to another. And you’ll cry out v16: “who is sufficient for this?”

If we’ve grasped the magnitude of the big words about Jesus – caught a sniff of Jesus… we’ll feel the huge responsibility of being entrusted with this. The big question since 72 year old John McCain selected the inexperienced Sarah Palin as his Vice-Presidential candidate: If McCain dies in office, can she handle being the leader of the free world?

Similarly, it’s heavy stuff to know that you give off a smell that gives life to some, but death to others. You’re infected with a virus that brings death – enough to make you want to hide. And yet, it’s also the only cure for the world.

Can you handle it? No. You really can’t. And you don’t need to go all Disney – don’t search for the hero inside yourself. Fact: you can’t handle it. But, Jesus can! He shoulders the load. We carry the aroma that divides all people. Not because we press the button or make the call, but because God decides through the message of Jesus that we believe.

This is serious. Serious because Jesus is so glorious, and serious because to some people this is not coffee and bacon but rather the odour of putrification, the stench of sewage and rotting fish.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Pete Greasley on his church joining Sovereign Grace Ministries

From PROGNOSIS, some interesting comment on how Sovereign Grace Ministries arrived in the UK:

The comments on this post by Steve highlight that not everyone is a fan of this group of churches. In them, I wrote a messy comment that I've attempted to clarify further down which implies I'm criticising all three sites mentioned in the comments. I am critiquing two of the three, but absolutely not the third one.

Death and the Smell of Jesus (4) - the ten smells of Jesus

DOWNLOAD MP3: Dave Bish - Death and the Smell of Jesus

1. 1v3. Jesus is the comforter of the afflicted.

Some hear the idea of Jesus comforting and say – that’s a crutch because you’re weak. We don’t mock the person with a broken ankle who needs a crutch. Likewise people are in need, not just of help but of saving from God’s justice. That’s what the Bible language of comfort is about. Prophets like Isaiah spoke of God offering comfort to his people that would rescue them and then benefit them through life. We have no idea how much we need comfort. No idea.

2. 1v20. Jesus, the promise kept.

The whole of the Bible is about Jesus. All 39 books written before he was born are promises about him. He said that we don’t understand those books at all - unless they’re leading us to believe in him. 39 books of promises made. 27 books of promises kept. All of them about Jesus. Moreover, we see Jesus isn’t like us. Paul let the Corinthians down – but Jesus never will. His promises are unbreakable. Jesus is like no other man, he is The Man. The ultimate hero.

3. 4v7. Jesus the treasure.

Ultimately valuable and glorious. To find him is like uncovering the tomb of Tutenkhamun. Priceless. Awe-striking.

4. 5v10. Jesus the judge of all.

We all like justice – until we’re on the wrong side of it. I’m delighted when the police pull people over for speeding past our house, as they have been doing recently. But if we got caught speeding… Jesus says that all humanity is on the wrong side of justice. He is the final judge – a terrifying prospect. This is really serious. He draws the line.

5. 5v18. Jesus the reconciler for all and any.

Jesus is the judge but he also came into the world to bring us to God. The good news is that we can come to God. Six years ago I got married. As I said my vows I gained all that my wife had.

• Her £8000 of student debt : mine!
• Her copy of the New Dictionary of Biblical Theology : mine! Actually, a really tasty book about how the whole Bible is about Jesus! A woman with a book like that is seriously attractive.
• But, for all those gains the real gain of marriage is my wife.

So too, Jesus. He blesses, heals, gives ability to serve. But, the great gain is Jesus bringing us into relationship with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Heaven is not a better house, more friends, more money, a good degree, having kids, financial security, fitness or health. Heaven is being with Jesus.

6. 5v21. Jesus who was sinless.

He never rebelled against God – and he died in our place so we could have his status and be considered perfect by God.

7. 8v9. Jesus who was rich.

He gave up everything so we could enjoy the love he enjoyed with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

8. All of this adds up to, 8v1: Jesus who is grace from God to us.

A free gift from God to us.

9. 4v4. Jesus, who manifests the glory of God by the Holy Spirit in the Scriptures.

He is the image of God. To see Jesus is to see God. To know Jesus is to know God.

10. 4v5. And so, in summary, simply: ‘Jesus Christ is Lord.’

Enjoy the smell of that! This is the aroma of Christians.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

IFES Evangelists Conference

This week I'm joining with 59 other evangelists from 20 nations across Europe as a delegate at the IFES European Conference for the Current and Potential University Evangelists.

We're being trained by Michael Green, Martin Haizmann, Richard Cunningham, John Lennox, Rafael Anzenberger, Stefan Gustavsson, Jurgen Spiess, Charlie Hadjiev and Lindsay & Ann Brown.

The conference information says: "This conference is a new initiative from IFES to support university evangelists as they seek to make Jesus Christ known in increasingly secularised European cultures. We are encouraging each IFES European movement to send at least two delegates from their country to the conference."

The week’s programme will include sample evangelistic talks each morning, evening question-and-answer sessions, videoed evangelistic talks and discussions related to these, and seminars. There will be an opportunity for all participants to give an evangelistic talk and receive feedback. There will also be a special viewing of John Lennox’s public debate with Richard Dawkins.

Death and the Smell of Jesus (3) - The aroma of Christ draws the line

DOWNLOAD MP3: Dave Bish - Death and the Smell of Jesus

Places have smells. Pubs no longer smell of cigarettes, now they smell of sweat. Walk into Debenhams, the smell of perfume hits you. People have smells too. Paul says wherever he goes - there is a smell that comes up from him. A smell released from his life and his speech. A smell that ultimately divides all people. V14. Not the odour of a man living on the road, who hasn’t washed. No.

He calls it The aroma of Christ .
He calls it The knowledge of Christ

Who does it effect?
Look at v14-15: V14.
It comes from Paul the Christian… ALWAYS.S

What is the effect of this ‘aroma of Christ'? V15. It is…

To one a fragrance from death to death.
To the other a fragrance from life to life.

Where is the line between heaven and hell? It’s about how you respond to the knowledge of Christ? For every person, everywhere, in every generation, what you make of the aroma of Christ determines whether you’re being saved or Perishing. One aroma, two effects. Marmite does that in our house. I love that beautiful yeast extract aroma. Tragically, my wife is reviled by it.

If Frontiers Church Exeter is to be a church on mission then this knowledge and aroma must be our distinctive mark. If not our meetings are like every other institution in Exeter, and our scattered lives just blend into the crowds in Princesshay.

What is this ‘aroma of Christ’?

The language of AROMA is Bible language for sacrifices. God had asked his people in The Book of Leviticus to make sacrifices that would be pleasing to Him. And God says in Ephesians 5v2: “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering & sacrifice to God.” The smell of Jesus is about his death.

Paul gives ten words that are the knowledge of Christ. Stu Alred used an image last week of the news about Jesus being a diamond – with different facets to be gazed upon to appreciate the whole. Come, gaze on ten facets. Come, inhale ten smells as the word of God reveals Jesus. Chris Martin is right: This is serious.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Which way to go with The Song of Songs? The Peasant Princess ?

So, basically I think Mark Driscoll is outstanding. I love that his church services are regularly packed with people who aren't Christians. And I love that he gets the whole Tim Keller gospel to Christians and non-Christians thing (which Keller got from Dick Lucas... which is interesting in the light of Driscoll's recent 'run in' with the Sydney Anglicans but that's another subject!) I love that Driscoll loves the Bible and fight for doctrine.. I love that his first expository series were on Ecclesiastes and The Song of Songs. I love his clarity about mission and his activity in doing it. I love that he's a reformed charismatic. I love that he came and served us in newfrontiers this summer and learned from us. I love that that's beginning to impact the ethos of our church.

But, I'm not sure that I agree with his take on The Song of Songs. Driscoll runs with the primary meaning being sex:
"As we study the Song of Songs, our primary focus will be how the Peasant Princess became an exemplary wife; our secondary focus will be the intimate marital relationship she shares with her husband. Through her example, God has much to teach us regarding his plan for sex and marriage. While the Song of Songs is not entirely about sex, the book does contain some very important lessons on the subject. In fact, this 3,000-year-old collection of love letters is extraordinary in its timeliness. In our day, people devote an extraordinary amount of time, money, and energy in pursuit of sex, making it the most popular religion in the world."
I'm not saying that's not an implication but that perhaps it's first about Christ and his bride the church. Driscoll himself notes:
The Song of Songs is a series of poetic love songs that not only describe the relationship between a husband and wife, but also serve as an illustration of the eternal heart of God, for those who are married to Christ, our beloved. And as the book title suggests, the Song of Songs is perhaps the greatest lyric ever composed—a warm dialogue between two lovers, a conversation of the heart that crescendos into a beautiful duet. This poetic exchange reflects the very heart of our Trinitarian God from whom love, intimacy, and musical expression flow.
Experience tells me that Driscoll will preach the gospel as he preaches this book - and he'll preach gospel to Christians and gospel to those who aren't Christians. I just wonder if we can be stronger on the Christological focus on this greatest of all songs - and suggest that this might have even more to show us of the gospel - and it's Creation implications for us. I'm taking my lead from Matthew Henry and others. And from the clarity of Matthew Mason, Ros Clarke and Daniel Newman.

The Song of Songs is about Yahweh's marriage to Israel. It casts that marriage in terms of a return to the Garden of Eden, picturing the land as an idyllic sanctuary-garden. However, in terms of the big plotline of Scripture, Christ's marriage to the Church is presented as a move from the Garden-sanctuary of the first Adam and his bride, to a glorious city, the New Jerusalem.
And then a sample from Daniel Newman on 1v1-1v8:
Long for Christ! (1.1-8) The bride, the church, longs to experience Christ’s love, which she esteems far more than wine; it gladdens her more than anything this world can offer (v. 2). All our senses are meant to be engaged as we let this poetry sink into us: the fragrance of anointing oils, oil poured out evokes the environment of the temple where God meets with his people. That’s further emphasised when she later describes herself as ‘like the curtains of Solomon’ (v. 5).

God is the king whom she loves (v. 3). She longs to be with him, and Christ brings her into his chamber, the place where love is to be fully experienced. This love spills over to others as they, in turn, recognize the greatness of Christ’s love, that he is worthy to be praised and they rejoice in him (v. 4).

The bride, however, recognises her own intrinsic undesirability. Her skin is sun-damaged and she has rather let herself go in her experiences of life. Kedar was a people beyond the borders of Israel. Perhaps by comparing herself to them she feels like she doesn’t belong in this relationship, that she doesn’t deserve it (vv. 5-6). Nevertheless she is confident of her own standing before her beloved, that she is ‘lovely’, and so she diverts attention away from her appearance. The church knows itself to be intrinsically undesirable - sullied, scarred, decaying and far from God because of sin - and yet in Christ’s eyes she is lovely, and so can be confident, as is the bride in the Song, to come into the presence of her beloved. He is the one whom her soul loves (’You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might’).

The king is also a shepherd. See Ezekiel 34.11-24 - the shepherd is the Lord God who is also of the line of David, the one whom we meet in the Word incarnate. The bride is not content with second-best. She doesn’t want to be with his companions, veiled. She wants full, unhindered relationship with him (v. 7)

And he wants her, describing her as the ‘most beautiful amongst women’, directing her how she may find him and welcoming her presence with him (v. 8). This all makes sense when we realise that the love Christ has for his people is a love that meant he ‘gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish’ (Ephesians 5.25-27).

O that as a church we would recognize the greatness of the Lord Jesus Christ and long for him ardently! O that we would remember how Christ sees us and welcomes us when we doubt his love for his people, and in our insecurities.

TheologyNetwork.org (Winner: Most Creative Site)

Hugh Bourne (winner: best young Christian blog) reports that UCCF's Theology Network website won 'Most Creative Site' at the Christian Blog and Web Awards sponsored by Premier.tv.

Last year Emily Woods (of Brighton) won the best young Christian blog for Unfurling Flower and Colin Adams took the Leadership category for Unashamed Workman.

Death and the Smell of Jesus (2) - What if there was no hell?

DOWNLOAD MP3: Dave Bish - Death and the Smell of Jesus

• Death is God’s promise to us for our rebellion against him.
• Death will come to us, whether today, tomorrow, in five, twenty or fifty years.
• Death is not the end of the story.
• This is serious.

Paul describes people around him in v16: He is “…among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing…” Two distinct categories. Two distinct groups of people. Everyone dies, and God says: Either we die and are saved, or we die and perish. Perish meaning to face eternal conscious judgement by Jesus. That doesn’t go down well in the 21st Century, or indeed in any century.

Firstly, because we cannot endure the notion that hell is a real prospect for some. We should be discomforted by it. We should shudder and weep at the prospect of people facing eternity being judged by Jesus.

Secondly, we think it the height of arrogance to declare the eternal destiny of anyone. But, what are the alternatives to some going to hell?

1. All perish.

No-one’s ever won much of a hearing for that, but wouldn’t that be the honest conclusion? When we look at the Iraq or child abuse in Jersey, Robert Mugabe or our own deceptive hearts… surely hell for all would be an honest belief.

2. All cease to exist.

No heaven, no hell. Death equals The End. A convenient way to avoid judgement from God. It’s popular with the new atheists. Yet it’s the oldest trick in the book, to want the idea of judgement to disappear – the serpent did it with Adam and Eve. Covering our ears wont make the credit crunch go away, who are we to think it’ll make judgement disappear?

3. All saved.

This is obviously very popular and known technically as Universalism. But if you’re going to say this then you have to make room in your heaven for everyone– for Adolf Hitler and Paris Hilton, the annoying person at work, the terrorist, for your mother-in-law, for the whoever it is that you don’t like...

For all the intellectual arguments about wanting everyone to be saved we all really want to draw a line somewhere. A world where regardless of life or anything else everyone gets ‘saved’ jars deeply with us. The real issue is where is the line and on what basis is it drawn and by whom. Is it arbitrary, like lines on post-colonial maps of Africa, or on something meaningful – and in which case, on what? Is it:
  • Education?
  • Ethnic background?
  • Performance?
  • Religious devotion?
  • Class?
  • Income?
  • Taste in music?
An Exeter student wrote this recently:
"Someone please convince me! I'd be the happiest person in the world if I thought everyone was going to heaven, but it doesn't seem to be the case. I can't cope with hell, the thought horrifies me…
Hell is a horrific matter, something to consider only with anguish and heartbreak. She went on…
...I keep thinking surely if God is loving, and powerful, he could fix it for everyone? I'm just clinging to the possibility that God will do something as people die, or maybe even in between death and the last day..."
She wants…

4. A second chance.

Salvation by procrastination – don’t decide now, wait until after you die and then either pay for your own sins, or try again with reincarnation.

…and except for the ‘all perish’ option, ALL of these are ways that people invent to try and avoid God’s judgement, on their own terms.

Just like all the beauty-products and big screen entertainment, they bury the issue with distraction. When we invent alternatives – what is it we’re looking for? For some it’s just further rebellion. For others, it’s an honest question. C.S. Lewis:
"In the long run the answer to all those who object to the doctrine of hell, is itself a question: 'What are you asking God to do?' To wipe out their past sins and, at all costs, to give them a fresh start, smoothing every difficult path and offering every miraculous help?"
We want a fresh start and that’s what Jesus came to bring – freedom from mistakes and hurt through the historic death of Jesus of Nazareth, outside of Jerusalem some 2000 years ago.
The issue we try to avoid is exactly what we need to face. And we need our sense of smell to do that.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

On Choosing a Church (by Craig Taylor)

Craig Taylor has moved to Newcastle and has to find a local church:

He sets out his criteria wisely in order of priority:
Firstly "Does it preach and teach the Gospel?" (That is all the core theology that can not be compromised eg. penal substitution) This is the one question that if answered "no" then it is straight off the list of possible churches.
Secondly "Where does it's theology stand?" Do I disagree with some of it's views on the bigger doctrines that would make it hard to worship,serve and be fed by the sermons.
Thirdly "Are there opportunities for me to serve the church?" along with "How does it try to do community discipleship and being a missional church?"

Death and the Smell of Jesus (1) - Chris Martin says "This is serious"

This morning I preached at our church (Frontiers Church Exeter) for the first time. I count it a great priviledge and honour to be able to serve the church family in this way. I'll post the notes in parts through the week.

DOWNLOAD MP3: Dave Bish - Death and the Smell of Jesus

There are, apparently, seven signs of aging. But fear not – there are products that can give you younger looking skin! And if you can’t see the signs of aging, it’s not really happening. Rather than being honoured age becomes despised. Because, logically – if we’re not aging we’ll avoid the chief side-effect of age, namely death. Yet for all the products we buy, 6000 people still die every hour. Equivalent to the population of Exeter every 18.5 hours. 12,000 while we meet today.

If we can’t avoid death we try to trivialise it. Bob Shankley famously quipped that football is not a matter of life and death, it’s more important than that. In cinema death happens without consequences. We’re entertained as evil henchmen die in Bond films. Death is entertainment and that makes life cheap.

Underlying all these attempts is surely a deep rooted fear of death. We dread the prospect of death and whatever might follow it. Petrified of death we use distraction or self-deception to kid ourselves that it’ll never happen. But, questions about death are always relevant. Every person who ever died has one thing in common: They were alive before it happened.

Magazine Q asked Chris Martin about the line "I know Saint Peter won't call my name" in the title track of Coldplay’s new album "Viva la Vida".
Martin replied: "It's about… ‘You're not on the list’. I was a naughty boy. It's always fascinated me that idea of finishing your life and then being analyzed on it. And this idea runs throughout most religions. That's why people blow up buildings. Because they think they're going to get lots of virgins. I always feel like saying, just join a band (laughs). That is the most frightening thing you could possibly say to somebody. Eternal damnation. I know about this stuff because I studied it. I was into it all. I know it. It's still mildly terrifying to me. And this is serious."
Sticking our head in the sand feels better but we must face the question. If the church can’t be substantial and engage these questions then hope is lost for this world. This is serious: What happens when we die? We’ll face the questions in the Bible, in the book of 2 Corinthians. We’ll return to it in October and November, so let this whet your appetite.
  • It’s a letter by Paul the Christian to a church in the Greek city of Corinth.
  • It’s in The Bible so it’s God speaking to us through the human writer Paul.
  • In the letter we see Paul’s passion for the front door of the church – showing how essential it is for people to hear of Jesus and enter the church – even if it stops him visiting Christian friends.
  • And we see Paul’s passion for the back door of the church – showing how he wants them to remain enjoying Jesus, even at times, 2v12-13, preventing him from going out to speak of Jesus as he searches for news of the Christians.
  • Above all when Paul writes this letter he writes he’s holds up Jesus to show that he is the greatest treasure in all the world.
Whenever the church meets, seeing that Jesus is ultimate is always the point. The whole Bible is about him. He’s obviously the hero. This letter shows us that.


Friday, September 19, 2008

Genesis 1: And there was evening and there was morning...

Chewing over Genesis 1 this morning with new CU Staff member Hannah we found ourselves recalling this...

Dan Hames:
"Also, of course the darkness of night is always a picture of evil or distress in the Bible; yet according to the creation account, even in the night there are stars created to bring light: little versions of the sun that see us through the darkness until morning comes. And there are no little darknesses in the daytime! The sun rules during the daytime!
Notice as well the way Genesis records the passage of the days. We usually tend to think in terms of the day fading into night- working from light to darkness, but Genesis 1v5 records ‘there was evening and morning’; the Bible suggests that reality is really about moving from darkness into light. Far from our assumption about starting the day in light and giving way to darkness, the Bible holds-up each of our days as a little model of all reality- a reality where light conquers darkness. As 1 John 2v8 says, ‘the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining’.
So sunrise every morning is structured to make us remember that the shape of reality is that darkness and evil are temporary afflictions for us. Creation shows us the truth that light will finally conquer darkness and the seventh day of God's promised rest will come to us at long last."
Hard-wired into creation is the overcoming of darkness by light pointing to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit's before-creation plan-of-salvation... Furthermore, there is the ruling over Day and Night by light, which points againt to the victory of light, but also the presence of one who rules. The ruler who comissions Sun and Moon to rule on his behalf... who comissions birds and fish to multiply - he fills the earth with their kinds. They're sent to fill the world. The world is resplendent with examples of the ruling, forming and filling hand of God. All of them feint echoes of the glory of God that Man is created to manifest to creation as the divine image-bearer. Shining forth the glory of the God who calls his people out of darkness into the light so we can see. The God who sent The Son into the darkness to overcome it

Through this year I plan to continue working through the Book of Genesis with Matt (Relay) and Hannah (Staff). The more time I spend there the more I see how the foundational categories of reality are established in this first book setting the stage in creation for the planned new creation - with layer upon layer of promises woven into the fabric of space and time, all building towards the explicit manifestation of God's salvation in Jesus.

We do well to be "listening to creation's sermons about it's creator".

Biblical Parenting Conference: Shepherding a Child's Heart (UK Conference)

The guys at Grace Church Bristol are hosting a one day parenting conference in March 2009 with Tedd Tripp (author of Shepherding a Child's Heart. Information and registration for the conference at www.TeddTripp.org

* Saturday 21st March 2009.

* The first session of the conference will begin at 9:30am.

* The final session of the conference will conclude by 4:30pm.

One not to miss if you're living within reach of Bristol.

Mars Hill Church Seattle has Tedd Trip doing a similar conference now on Biblical parenting

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Lex Loizides blogs

Lex Loizides blogs starting with highlights from church history....
Born in London and raised in Sussex, Lex Loizides now lives with his wife, Jo, and their four children in Cape Town, South Africa. Lex and Jo have been involved in serving on the staff of local churches and helping plant churches in several countries as well as South Africa. Lex is a popular speaker at conferences and evangelistic missions with a passion and ability to bring people to Christ and equip the local church. He is an elder of the multi-racial Jubilee Community Church, Cape Town.

Keller & Clowney: Preaching Christ to a Postmodern World

Reformed Theological Seminary on iTunes - lecture series by Tim Keller and Edmund Clowney on preaching Christ from all scripture, and engaging with people. FREE Download. 

Keller outlines his approach to handling scripture which is Christological, and takes us through the engaging the heart with that. Clowney contributes from a lifetime of experience in showing way scripture is about Jesus - from which we could all learn massively.. Keller shows how he prepares to preach and the way that he's learned from people like Dick Lucas. You can see why people are raving about Keller.
Listening to this series of lectures could be the best use of 18 hours of your time.

And also adding these to my iPod Together for Adoption mp3s by John Piper, Justin Taylor etc.

My Curse!

Jesus My Curse! The blessed Son, I live because he died.
Bore the wrath I earned, he is the promised seed.
All the scriptures complete, finished and done.
With whom I'm clothed, an adopted Son.

The curtain torn, the way open,
The Second Adam drank the cup
 Of the Father's wrath, at our rebellion.
Blessed in him, we live again!

Jesus My Curse! The crucified one, I heard and believed.
Sent to bring freedom, to those enslaved.
All the scriptures declared, that he would come.
The Saviour King, who brings us home.

Erik Raymond writes about Jesus My Curse

Top 10 UK Christian Blogs (September 2008)

This is my guess at the top Christian blogs in the UK at the moment. Ranking done by Technorati which really records influence among bloggers. This makes no comment on content, quality, number of readers. I'll update this monthly, to adjust for the ever changing blogosphere and for blogs I've not been aware of. If I've missed someone off, comment to let me know.

1. Dave Walker (-) - the cartoon church blog

2. Andrew Jones (n) - the tall skinny kiwi

3. Adrian Warnock (-1) - the doctor, leadership and other things

4. Jon Birch (n) - the asbojesus blog

5. Colin Adams (-2) - preachers blog for preachers, husband of one of the titus2talkers

6. Tim Chester (-2) - sheffield based church planter and author

7. Jonny Baker (n) - exploring how faith connects with contemporary culture

8. Dave Bish (-3) - enjoying grace, loving the church, in student ministry

9. Terry Virgo (-3) - leader of newfrontiers

10. Titus2Talk Teamblog (-3) -scottish women blogging the gospel

August 2008

Dominion and Dynasty (Stephen Dempster)

I'm working through Genesis and the latest helpful book I've found is Stephen Dempster's Dominion and Dynasty in the ever-strong NSBT series. In the chapter on Genesis he traces the themes of genealogy and geography through the text.

We meet the Priest-King Adam ruling under God and representing (mediating) him to the world, and we move forward through generations and God's promises seem to slip away and then to be fulfilled - chasing in faith the promise of the seed... generation by generation will we find him?

Reading it this morning I particularly loved the attention to the details of genealogy and geography - only Chronicles (the last book of the Hebrew Canon) matches Genesis for names. And geography - the two appearances of Mount Jerusalem in the narrative of Abraham.

A condensed version of the whole argument of the book, which considers the entire Hebrew Canon can be found in Scott Hafemann's Biblical Theology

Dempster blogs with Michael Bird, Desmond Alexander and Jim Hamilton at Biblical Theology: “. . . all the prophets . . . proclaimed these days . . .” -Acts 3:24. See BeginningWithMoses.org for more by these guys.

Grace Church Bristol

My good friends at Grace Church Bristol have relaunched their website:

Put together by Challies

And this makes me smile!

What does Grace Church think of CU’s?
At Grace Church we are passionate about one particular thing and that’s the gospel!  UCCF and both local CU’s are also passionate about the gospel and reaching the campuses with the good news of Jesus Christ.  So, as and where we can, we fully support UCCF and the local CU’s with resources, teachers and prayer.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The shape of creation and new creation

So, we start with 'in the beginning' with God and with a place that is formless, empty and dark. It's not really the actual start because before this the Father is loving the Son and giving him glory, in him a promise is made and people are chosen, saved and redeemed by the blood of the blameless lamb who was slain. The one who is himself The Beginning. Salvation awaits only it's manifestation and accomplishment in the creation. The Spirit is over the waters - that'll happen again.

By the end of the chapter comes form and order, filling of the world and the promise of further filling, and light overcoming darkness.

God speaks. He speaks! The Word is there! And there is light. The darkness is overcome. The void of darkness is ordered into Day and Night. And hard-wired into the shape of time is the overcoming of darkness by light as the day runs from evening to morning (rather than midnight to midnight). In subsequent days the waters are formed into heavens and earth, and then the earth shaped into land and sea. The forming work of God built into the nature of space and time... see the work of God at the beach, in the horizon. Sun and moon rule on God's behalf over his ordered world. They speak of his rule. And the stars - a vast statement of the glory of God.

Creation begins to be filled, with seed bearing plants on the third day. Further creatures are made to fill this formed world. And they blessed to fill the empty world. And on the second third day, comes the Image Bearer. One who will rule over God's world, filling and forming what remains empty and disordered within his creation.

This is a world like the world we know, yet not quite our world. This world is all good and very good, where ours is marred and cursed. Why? The world is teeming with life but something more is needed. Genesis 1 leaves us waiting for the events that occured before 'in the beginning'. Genesis makes us read on and ask, why is the world like this? Where is this Image Bearer? Will it be Adam... or another?

Furthermore as Moses writes this book for Israel in the wilderness they hear of the God who made all things. The creator who brought darkness on the Egyptians and light over his own people. The one who divided the waters. The one who has promised them a land that looks like the vibrant world of Genesis 1. Genesis 1 makes the human heart pang for the Image Bearer and the day of Rest. These are the generations of the heavens and the earth - the day in which they were made. God's spoken work, the creation of the Man and the prospect of God's rest.  To be continued...

"There they could enjoy all the late-night chats they wanted, for, once talking over a mug of his beloved Wittenberg beer, Luther was famed for his ability not to stop until dawn. "

"If today we fail to share Luther’s world-changing obsession with the gospel, it is only because we have let the death-defying, joy-giving beauty and sweetness of justification by faith alone slip through our fingers.  Every other gospel, be it a gospel of emotional fulfilment or social transformation, can only leave us comparatively apathetic.  It was this gospel alone that fired Luther to turn Europe upside down.  If Luther were a student today, armed with this gospel, we would have another Reformation.  But what if a whole generation of students were to grasp this gospel as he did?" Read more of 'If Martin Luther were a student today' by Mike Reeves at Theology Network

New students arrive in the South West soon!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Gonna make you cry, Dawn Clark on the strategy of suffering: no mud, no glory...

Two people have shaped the graduate life of my wife and I massively, Andy Shudall and Dawn Clark, aka the Relay Coordinator and Administrators when we did the programme in 2000-2002. Back then they taught us grace upon grace. Now they're in New Zealand and Greece, respectively, on mission.
I think that somewhere between 150 and 200 stood at the first call. I, of little faith, couldn’t believe so many responded. As the second group were called to stand with them a further 400 or so stood. Most of the tent was standing. It moved me to tears and I need to explain why. 13 years ago I stood at FORUM and responded in the same way that some of these guys had: tentatively, knowing that God had called me to give my whole life for his glory and that, for me, that would mean moving outside of my comfort zone. I cried that Wednesday night because I know how much that response is going to cost. Suffering is not an option, it’s a cost and a strategy. But, and this is what I really want to make clear, it’s a strategy not just for the sake of those who see but for those who suffer. My personal pain at leaving my lovely life in Beeston helps me to “look forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” (Heb 11:10) It forces me to live for Jesus. Read more
My stand up moment was 1998, after which I remember praying with Ken Cowen. Landed me up where I am today. Doesn't feel like extreme suffering but there have been costs on the way, I trust to reveal the worth of Jesus and loosen my grip on satisfaction in His good gifts instead of in Him.

Monday, September 15, 2008

On mission, like Jesus (Stu Alred)

Continuing a four week topical series on being missional, between our series in Jonah and 2 Corinthians, Stu Alred: Be like Jesus.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

So, why do we run to the slavery of sin and legalism?

The issue is the cross. The false teachers who peddle legalism want to avoid being persecuted for the cross. And they'll achieve that, because no-one persecutes moralisers and do-gooders. We follow their enslaving lies because we too want to avoid being fundamentally associated with the cross of Christ.

By contrast the way of the Spirit for Sons is the way of the cross. To live as a son means making much of the cross as our only ground for confidence, our absolute passion and obsession.

Burn After Reading

The last time we went to the cinema was to see The Dark Knight.. I think next might well be Burn After Reading by the ever-brilliant Coen brothers (Oct 17) swiftly followed, no doubt, by Quantum of Solace (Oct 31).

Today though we rewatched Changing Lanes with friends. An interesting moral story with Ben Affleck and Samuel L. Jackson whose good friday altercation sinks them into deceit and depravity from which redemption seems unlikely.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Adopted as Sons: Seen and heard as Christ.

The Father turns his eye to the Christian and sees Christ.We are counted righteous in Christ. Clothed with him.So all the promises he made to the one seed Jesus are ours. The Father turns his ear to the Christian and hears Christ. We received the Holy Spirit. The promised blessing. The Spirit says: Abba Father. As sons we inherit with Jesus!

Puritan quotes via Timmy Brister
Dan Cruver: Together for Adoption
Joel Beeke:

Friday, September 12, 2008

We are sons of God! Big news about the accomplishment of the Cross.

I've been preaching on Galatians for my team this week...
Download MP3: Galatians 3v1-12 (introduction)
Download MP3: Galatians 3v13-4v7 (main talk on law and being adopted)
Kenny Robertson, notes on Galatians 3v1-4v7

The essence of this talk is about how the gospel not law means we're sons of God in Christ. God made his promise to Jesus, and Christians are 'in' Christ - clothed with his righteousness, given the Spirit. It's not flattery because this comes from the cross. And the cross never flatters - it shames and exposes us, and saves us!!

Download MP3: Galatians 5v15-6v18

Kenny Robertson, notes on Galatians 5v15-6v18

Why do we struggle to live by the Spirit - why do we struggle to live like Sons even though Sonship is glorious? The nub of the issue is the struggle to be associated with the cross of Christ. Sonship is fundamentally tied up with the Cross of Christ. Legalists want to avoid the cross, Christians glory in it and shudder at the thought of glorying in anything else. We either marginalise the cross or make much of it. We live in the light of one or the other - sowing to the Spirit to make much of the cross, or sowing to sin/law to avoid the cross.

To the Cross! Galatians, Luther, Law and Grace.

Gathered the South West Team this week to study the Bible, pray, walk, eat, get to know each other etc...

Download MP3: Galatians 2v11-3v1. To the Cross

Kenny Robertson has written up the notes he took on this talk...

Peter steps out of the way of the gospel - fearing men not Christ, living in legalism, false teaching. Three-times self-condemned. Paul walks him back to the gospel. He need not fear sinning -  

Luther: A Christian is not somebody who has no sin, but somebody against whom God no longer chalks sin, because of his faith in Christ. Luther once more:Read the words “me” and “for me” with great emphasis. Print this “me” with capital letters in your heart, and do not ever doubt that you belong to the number of those who are meant by this “me.”

Christian life isn't doing, it's Union with Christ. Paul often talks about being ‘in Christ’ and what he means is that our very existence becomes utterly entwined with him.

Luther: Since Christ is now living in me, He abolishes the Law, condemns sin, and destroys death in me. These foes vanish in His presence. Christ abiding in me drives out every evil. This union with Christ delivers me from the demands of the Law, and separates me from my sinful self. As long as I abide in Christ, nothing can hurt me.

Yet, tragically - Peter is nullifying grace and denying the cross. First time I carefully studied Galatians five years ago I thought I was meant to go soul-searching for legalism. But, actually, I think it’s the opposite of what Paul does for Peter, for the Galatians… and for us. Peter's actions are tantamount to declaring the death of Jesus to be meaningless. And then Paul breaks off from the story.Why not tell us how Peter responded? Why finish on that kind of cliff-hanger?

Because (3v1) Paul speaks to the Galatians to say - remember the cross! They've followed Peter's error.Paul wants the Galatians repentance, as he sought Peter’s. We know Peter repented. First, he later wrote cross-exalting scripture. Second, the point is the Galatians repentance - the story doesn't work if Peter didn't. Paul preached the cross at Galatian. Remember, I placarded it before you in words. Paul held up the gospel for all to see as he preached. They saw the meaning of it. They saw the glory of the cross. That's preaching!

Luther: Did the Law ever love me? Did the Law ever sacrifice itself for me? Did the Law ever die for me? On the contrary, it accuses me, it frightens me, it drives me crazy. Somebody else saved me from the Law, from sin and death unto eternal life. That Somebody is the Son of God, to whom be praise and glory forever. 

 So, to the cross! Self-examination is helpful but for every look at my sin I take ten looks at the cross. To the cross! Finally, Andrew Bonar records words from Robert Murray McCheyne which are wise counsel:
“I feel, when I have sinned, an immediate reluctance to go to Christ. I am ashamed to go.I feel as if it would do no good to go, as if it were making Christ a minister of sin, to go straight from the swine-trough to the best robe, and a thousand other excuses; but I am persuaded they are all lies, direct from hell. John argues the opposite way: ‘If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father.’ I am sure there is neither peace nor safety from deeper sin, but in going directly to the Lord Jesus Christ. This is God’s way of peace and holiness. It is folly to the world and the beclouded heart, but [the cross] is the way.”

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Follow the blog?

New blogger plugin 'Follow' active now. Use it if you like to keep up to date with the blog...

Interview with Phillipa Stroud

Adrian Warnock has posted one of his video interviews today.  This one is of a political nature and in it he interviews a friend of his called Phillipa Stroud who is a candidate for the next general election. It's a fascinating interview.

You may know more about who she is, but best to let the video speak for itself.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Taking ourselves less seriously.

"Laughter is a divine gift to the human who is humble. A proud man cannot laugh because he must watch his dignity; he cannot give himself over to the rocking and rolling of his belly. But a poor and happy man laughs heartily because he gives no serious attention to his ego." (Terry Lindvall, in Humility by CJ Mahaney)

The godly wife laughs at the future. (Proverbs 31v35)

There's a strange balance to strike in life. We want to take the gospel with absolute seriousness. The gospel leads us to mourn for sin and the fleeting nature of life in this world, and for the destiny of those who don't know Christ.

The danger is that this weightiness means we take ourselves seriously. What I love about the Sovereign Grace Ministries, and I thank Lewis Roderick for reminding me of this, is that they don't take themselves seriously. They suspect themselves of sin rather than prancing around as if they're sinless. They laugh together. They laugh at themselves. At the start of a new year in the student world I find it absurd that I'm leading a team. Absurd that God could use me and indeed the 800 students we're serving in the South West.

The team gathers today for our first 'team days' gathering. I hope we'll be a team who will love the gospel and so be a team who laughs.

In good news. The experiment that could have eaten the world was a success and we're apparently still here. Sean Green notes: There is a fine line between scientific endeavour (which I applaud) and the arrogance of man as shown at the Tower of Babel. Sometimes you've got to wonder what we're shooting for.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

FORUM - Conference Roundup

Some MP3s still to come from the 2008 UCCF The Christian Unions FORUM Conference where 980 people gathered in the mud at The Quinta, Shropshire, to be equipped for student mission.

Main speakers were Richard Cunningham, Graham Daniels and John Piper. With seminars and training tracks by UCCF staff.
Student delegates represented 122 Christian Unions from England, Wales and Scotland. Student-led, evangelical mission teams.


MP3s of other seminars, training tracks and the main sessions by Richard Cunningham and Graham Daniels to follow. Also, Mike Reeves interviewing John Piper on Justification by Faith for TheologyNetwork.org.


And elsewhere:

FORUM - "Sometimes, its just good to know that someone you have heard of is with you."

"...the thing I loved most was this. In a day when I have heard famous Christians (evangelicals apparently) scoff at the idea that people will meet Jesus in his word as students give it out and study it, when the mood of evangelicalism in Britain has (as we have seen this summer) been so obsessed with the so-called miraculous at the expense of simply testifying about Jesus, when the world and his mother seems to either think there must be some magic technique for winning people to Christ, or that we are due a wave of blessing to make it happen, I loved seeing a world renowned evangelical stand up and say well done to all the students who will be risking much to open the Scriptures with non Christians this year. "It will be better and harder than you ever thought!" Maurice McCracken
It's not Christian-celebrity worship (or Piperism). Leaders rise up beyond their local settings and it's just a relief to see one, like John Piper, who loves the gospel. What we need is more people like this. Maybe a will find them in the generation who stood up at Forum to give their lives to cross-cultural mission. And more among those who didn't stand, not because they don't love the gospel - but because they'll be back home doing the work, holding the rope - contending for the gospel on their knees.

Monday, September 08, 2008

What's the point of our Sunday meeting?

"There is an important difference, it seems to me, between running a Christian gathering whose focus is on evangelizing the outsider, and running a Christian gathering that is welcoming and intelligible for the outsider, but where the focus is on fellowship with Christ, in speaking, hearing and responding to his word." 
(Tony Payne)

Our church has been chewing over Mark Driscoll's challenges to be a missional church recently.  But what does it mean for us? Certainly it effects the way we should be livinng when we're scattered. What about when we gather? Driscoll speaks of being seeker-sensible in our meetings, which Payne notes above - welcoming and intelligible. I wonder if it changes the way we preach? Same gospel for Christian and non-Christian.. but delivery might need to be different.

Even after 11 years as a Christian I still get narked when preachers say 'we all know the story of...' or 'remember the story of...' - what about the new Christian who (understandably) has never read the Bible. Or the person who isn't a Christian. Talk about saying stuff that explicitly excludes people by assuming everyone is a Christian and has been since they were a child. Seeker sensible means not taking that for granted.

We have a real strength in our church meetings that when someone prays/sings in tongues we always wait for an interpretation, and then one of the elders always explains what's just happened in a very anti-hype kind of way. That's helpfully seeker sensible, but we could probably do with a bit more of that in the way we run our meetings and do our preaching and our notices. If I went into the bookmakers just down the road from our house I'd be totally lost for what do do, would be nice if that wasn't the case in the alien environment of a church meeting, that ought to be the happiest place on earth.

If we assume everyone in the room has been a Christian for decades then that's a sad statement about our gatherings. If we assume that there are people in the room who aren't Christians we're moving in the right direction. Just as we need to assume that there are people who sin in all kinds of ways - Christian and otherwise. I love the church because it's an assembly where anyone can be welcome.

BeginningWithMoses ESV Study Bible Vern Poythress Interview

Dr. Poythress, thank you for your excellent ‘Survey of the History of Salvation’ in the ESV Study Bible, and also for the chance to ask you some questions..... 


A story to want to be a part of...

"Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it, and rule" (Gen 1:28)
We have heard these words so often that we no longer feel their breathtaking force. God commanded two people, a man and a woman, to be king and queen of the whole creation and to produce a worldwide race of kings of queens to rule the creation. They and their children were to learn more and more about God's good creation, to discover ever new uses of the things God had made, to bring the world more and more completely into service to God and man. Over time, they were to build from the raw materials of creation a glorious temple-city on earth as a replica and image of the heavenly city of God.

The Kingdom and The Power: rediscovering the Centrality of the Church, p25.Peter Leithart, (P&R 1993)

FORUM - Theology of everything, theology of rain...

In view of the rain at FORUM.... some thoughts :
  1. Genesis 9v13-15. God isn't going to let it keep raining forever (even if it has rained a lot). The world will be judged and renewed, but not through rain. Remember the rain will stop. This is grace and patience.
  2. Isaiah 4v5-6. The Lord provides the refuge we need from the rain.
  3. Isaiah 55v9-11. Remember God's word is like rain. It comes from heaven and bears a harvest. Human ideas get us no where near God but God's word reveals him to us and it serves it's purpose. See also Hebrews 6v7. Is the word bearing a crop in my life?
  4. Jeremiah 51v15-17. Amongst other places - it's God who made it rain. Thanking him for what he does is a good idea rather than grumbling!
  5. Job 38v22-30. Can you make it rain? No, God does that. John Piper: "whether we focus on the earth or the sea or the dawn or the snow or hail or constellations or rain, the upshot is that Job is ignorant and impotent. He doesn't know where they came from. He doesn't know how to make them work. He is utterly surrounded, above and below, by mysteries. And so are we, because the scientific advancements of the last two hundred years are like sand-pails of saltwater hauled from the ocean of God's wisdom and dumped in a hole on the beach while the tide is rising. God is not impressed. And we should be overwhelmed with our ignorance, not impressed with science."
  6. Matthew 5v45. Everyone gets rained on, good or bad. God's friends and his enemies. It's not because someone put their washing out or because I lied when I was seventeen.
  7. Matthew 7v24-29. When it rains houses without foundations fall down, houses with foundations stand. Do I have foundations? Have I put the word of God into practice?
  8. Luke 12v54-56. Before it rains you can see it's coming... likewise read the times and see that God's final judgement is coming. Believe that.
  9. Acts 14v17. Rain is God's kindness to provide food to fill our stomaches and our hearts with joy. God provides the food not Tescos and that requires some rain, amongst other things.
  10. Acts 28v1. When Paul was shipwrecked in Malta it was raining. People get wet, and it's kindness from God's people to provide some warmth.
  11. Jude 1v12. Clouds without rain are useless - like false teachers who twist the grace of God. Cloud that produce rain remind me of the reality of grace in the life of God's people.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Go preach the gospel to Christians

When’s the last time you looked another Christian in the eye and said ‘Mate you’re a sinner. I know you have struggles, I know you’re tired but, deep down you’re wicked! That’s your real problem. But Mate - you’re clothed in the righteousness of Christ, carried on His heart before the Father, rejoiced over in the presence of the angels.’ Glen Scrivener. Amen!

Too often we assume that Christians know the gospel. We need to keep being told it. By each other. Too often we preach moralism in church to Christians - which is useless for the Christians, and preaches a false gospel to any visiting non-Christians. If we preached gospel on Sunday from all the scriptures we'd serve one another and be accessible to visitors. I don't mean gospel summaries - I mean the way that the scriptures declare the message of the gospel, in all their resplendent symphony. I don't mean to be reductionist, but more to sound the call of Peter Leithart in his book The Kingdom and The Power (p93)

"The Bible is a complex book.... however hard we try to think biblically, we have been subtly but deeply influenced by modern philosophy and science. Often when we have rejected the explicit conclusions of science, we unconsciously adopt a scientific mind-set. One example of this is our tendency to operate on the modern assumption that all ideas can be defined with infinite, scientific precision... the more you study the Bible, the mode you will find that it cannot be forced into this mold.... Bavinck said that modern (and ancient Greek) thinkers attempted to find the 'essence' of a thing... by subtraction... Scripture, by contrast, describes the essence of a thing by addition. Only when we know the fullness of a thing, all of its attributes, do we really know its uniqueness and 'essence'. God's 'essence' is not some 'bare minimum'... 

We need the gospel as Matthew lays it out. And as Mark does. And as Luke does. And as John does. Not to mention the gospel according to Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy etc. We Christians need this, and so does this world. This must be the song of the church.

ps: Leithart's The Kingdom and The Power and Solomon among Postmoderns are two of the most interesting, well-written and thought provoking books I've read this year. The former on the centrality of the church the later on postmodernism and Ecclesiastes. Something else influenced by Peter Leithart: David, Goliath, St George and the garden of Eden.

FORUM - ECU Mudsliding

The Exeter University Evangelical Christian Union are best known for being caught up in a legal conflict with their Students Guild. They'd like to be most known for the gospel of Jesus Christ. But it may be that this mud-related banter becomes a defining moment for them: ECU Mudsliding Video on Facebook

FORUM - Hark, the Voice of Love and Mercy

In the morning meetings at FORUM we sang just a couple of songs with much more time for celebratory worship in the evenings. The new song of the week was probably Red Mountain Music's version of Hark, the Voice of Love and Mercy, with a slight and very helpful edit to the lyrics about the law by Dan Hames. PDF: Sheet Music of Hark the Voice of Love and Mercy

Hark! the voice of love and mercy
sounds aloud from Calvary;
see, it rends the rocks asunder,
shakes the earth, and veils the sky:
'It is finished! 'It is finished!'
hear the dying Savior cry.

'It is finished! O what pleasure
do the wondrous words afford!
heavenly blessings without measure
flow to us from Christ the Lord:
'It is finished! 'It is finished!'
saints the dying words record.

Finished all the types and shadows
of the law that went before,
Finished all that God had promised;
death and hell no more shall awe;
'It is finished! 'It is finished!'
Saints, from hence your comfort draw.

Tune your harps anew, ye seraphs,
Join to sing the pleasing theme,
his great finished work proclaim;
Saints on earth and all in heaven
Join to praise Immanuel's name:
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Glory to the bleeding Lamb!

Words: Jonathan Evans and Benjamin Francis , edited by Dan Hames

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Dave Bish - MP3s

Bish: Advance to Go!

Bish: The Cup - Mark 14
forthcoming mp3s on Mark 4,7,8,14,14,15

Bish: His Word Matters
Bish: Apply the Bible

Bish: Life is Vapour - Ecclesiastes 1

Bish: Hear His Voice - Hebrews 4
Bish: Perfect Forever - Hebrews 10
Bish: Confident Christians - Hebrews 10
Bish: Gutsy Faith! - Hebrews 10
Bish: Of whom the world isn't worthy - Hebrews 11
Bish: Finish the race - Hebrews 12
Bish: Let us go to him - Hebrews 13


Bish: The Very Different Son - Luke 4
Bish: Rejoice. Jesus is better - Luke 10


Bish: The Grace of Giving - 2 Corinthians 8
Bish: Incomparable Grace - Micah 7


Bish: 2 Timothy (1) - ECU
Bish: 2 Timothy (2) - ECU
Bish: 2 Timothy (3) - ECU
Bish: 2 Timothy (4) - ECU
Bish: 2 Timothy (1) - RDG
Bish: 2 Timothy (2) - RDG
Bish: 2 Timothy (3) - RDG
Bish: 2 Timothy (4) - RDG


Bish: Being Human (Transformissional Communities)


Bish: Galatians 2
Bish: Galatians 3v1-4v7

Bish: Self-defeating strategy of rule keeping (Galatians 4)
Bish: Galatians 5v15-6v18
Bish: The Community of the Spirit (Galatians 6)


Bish: Study for Jesus
Bish: Love the church

Bish: Listen to Jesus - John 6

FORUM - The Richard Cunningham Art Show

These paintings were both auctioned at the Open Mic Night for the Ukraine/Russia Gospel Project.

FORUM - Evidence of Grace in the days of mud and rain

Rosemary Grier observes:
"What I'll remember this Forum for, more than John Piper's Bible preaching, the big top worship, the workshop I led or the joys of going into it on the back of a week of Relay training conference;
what I'll remember this Forum for is the joyful Spirit-ful gospel response of the students to their circumstances.
Their neighbours' tent flooded: they serve them and clean up for them. They haven't grumbled or grown bitter. They've got on with joyfully receiving the word which is able to save their souls, and humbly serving each other. They may have bad nights of sleep but they refocus on their Saviour in the morning, praise Him, and love each other.
Why? Do they not have rights? They've paid to come to this conference!
The answer comes in the song that's now started to ascend from the impromptu Welsh-led quartet beneath my window, whose numbers seem to have swelled: "And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Saviour's blood? ... 'Tis mercy all! Let earth adore!" We have nothing of which to complain."