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Showing posts from August, 2009

Mobilising UK Student Leaders for Mission

This week I'll be at our annual national student leaders conference, Forum. There should be about 1000 of us on site, mostly student leader plus the staff & relay teams and guests. We're joined this year by Terry Virgo, Lindsay & Ann Brown, Keith Walker and Krish Kandiah on the speaking team which should be brilliant.

I'm speaking on one of the morning tracks on "Transformed by the Gracious God" and then a workshop which will essentially be an interview with Terry Virgo on keeping going in grace.

This is the highlight of the off-season in student mission, gathering to believe the gospel and be sent afresh by God to live and speak for Jesus on campuses all over England, Scotland and Wales, expectant of what He will do to build the churches of our land, as students unite across denominations and movements to make Jesus known.

Usually I turn up and have the opportunity to serve South West students I know. Having been on paternity leave during our regional CU…

Fan the flame: Terry Virgo on The Unquenchable Flame

"If post-Biblical church history has a high spot so far, for me that has to be the Reformation. Luther’s explosive rediscovery of justification by faith rocks the boat not only of the corrupt Roman Catholic church but also transforms the whole of European and indeed world history.

Mike Reeves’ fine volume is so well-written that he carries you along with the magnificent revolution. What days they were! What courage and fortitude was shown! How must we live to guard the truths they restored and be worthy of the price they paid in fighting and dying for such buried and forgotten dynamite!

If church reformation and revolution are still required (and they surely are) and you want to play a part in world history, you would be wise to get your own copy of Mike Reeves’ book, read and digest it and help fan the unquenchable flame into an even greater blaze."

Review from Terry's website. More at The Unquenchable Flame website on Theology Network

Faith and Darwin: Harmony, Conflict or Confusion (Theos Report)

Download Theos Report. Here is a picture of the findings:
A family sits down together to mark the anniversary of Darwin’s birth and the publication of the Origin of Species. According to our research, we might find that grandma would represent a typical Young Earth Creationist. She believes in a theistic God and finds her meaning in the unique significance of being created by God.

Then we would have mum and dad, they are middle aged and in social group C1. Both believe in evolution but have slightly different views. Mum is a Theistic Evolutionist, believing that there is a God who controlled evolution, but dad is an Atheistic Evolutionist. Mum has always believed there is a God and takes the opening chapters of the Bible as a theological but not a literal account. Dad, on the other hand, used to believe in God but no longer does, he thinks that science has challenged religious belief and is more convinced by science. He doesn’t believe there is life after death or in spiritual things.

John Madejski: Everything is borrowed (iPlayer)

On iPlayer. John Madejski's story. At 67, multi-millionaire business buccaneer and would-be playboy John Madejski is to be knighted for a lifetime of giving. He has 250 million in the bank and gives to the arts and education, and especially to his home town of Reading (where we used to live).

"Everything you get in this life you only borrow, you have to give it back one way or another"

Rich Man, Poor Man, A Knights Tale (Available until September 1st)
And don't miss a bit of Michael McIntyre too.

The Melodic Line of Colossians

This is unashamedly from some training I received from Richard Coekin several years ago.
"The aim of purpose of a text applied to the theme or melodic line of the text will give us the main message of the text."

Consider Colossians 1v3-8
v3: Paul prays for the Colossians with thanksgiving; we conclude it is good to pray with thankfulness.
v4: faith is impressive as is love.
v5: faith, love and hope are the tests of being a Christian
v6: the gospel is true and about the future, the gospel is about grace
v7: we should commend our fellow gospel workers
v8: we should speak well of one another.

All of which are good but what if we locate this passage in Colossians.
1. How does Paul know about the Colossians? (4v12, 1v7, 2v1)
2. What does he think of them? (1v3-5,2v5)
3. What false teaching is he worried about? (2v8,16,18)
4. So what is the primary aim or purpose of this letter? (2v6-7,2v4)
5. And what's the primary theme or melodic line of the letter? (2v6&9,2v16&17,2v18&20)

The Trouble with Men and Women: Exercises in love and unity

Christians differ in conscience and conviction about what the Bible says about a number of issues. Really everything is disputed somewhere, but if we can concede that there are some things that are utterly essential and others that are open to some dispute, some which are essential for unity, others over which there is room to differ, then one of the most contentious is the role of women.

The issue basically comes down to the role of men and women in marriage, and the role of men and women in the church particularly with regard to leadership and teaching. On the one side is the egalitarian who notes that men and women are both created in God's image and that there is no male and female in Christ. On the other the complementarian who agrees with the previous statement but says that this equality includes order which says men are to lead in the home and the church.

The missional movement in which I work takes no position on this issue, regarding it as a matter on which we can disagr…

A fairy tale in a field

Paul Huxley on a gospel fairy tale in a field makes for a fresh reading of the book of Ruth, with some reference to Glen Scrivener's Who The Man on parables and Christian Hedonism. Paul writes...
"A man finds some treasure in a field, he covers it up, joyfully buys the field and gets the treasure. Does that sound familiar? That's right. It's the plot of the book Ruth. A man, Boaz, finds a treasure in a field (2:4), he covers it up (implied by 3:9), joyfully buys the field (4:9-10) and gets the treasure (4:13). Of course, you'll recognise the story from Matthew 13:44."I think this sort of works. The book of Ruth pivots on a move from emptiness to fullness, kinglessness to a king, death to life.. which is a gospel movement that has it's origins in a family fleeing from living in God's house to a self-imposed exile among foreign gods, called back by grace, discovered by Boaz.... redemption though comes not through Boaz but his son Obed from whom comes Dav…

Creation: The true story of Charles Darwin

Damaris has a host of great resources on new Charles Darwin biopic Creation:

"A well-made and beautifully shot film, Creation uses appropriate artistic licence to simplify and dramatise the specific details of the story of Darwin's writing of The Origin of Species - and, in doing so, raises many important and challenging issues around the question of evolution and belief in God."
Nick Spencer, author of Darwin and God (SPCK, 2009).

Watch the trailer:

Eben (Olly Knight)

Listen to the music of my new collegue, Olly Knight of Eben.

Olly is the new Canterbury CU Staffworker and a member of The City Church in Canterbury.

Total Church: Study Guide, Audio & Video, blog

“Paul says that ‘in [Christ] you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by the Spirit’ (Ephesians 2:22). This is not some theoretical entity, nor the perfected church. This is a real, local congregation with all sorts of problems. The community formed by the gospel for the gospel is the community in which God dwells by his spirit” (p29).Download Total Church Study Guide from Veritas Community Church, OhioVideo & Audio teaching on Total Church by Steve Timmis at Mars Hill ChurchTotal Church blog

Things I love about living in Exeter. 5. Frontiers Church

As a Christian, living somewhere combines somewhere to live, somewhere to work and a church family to be part of. In our first five months in Exeter we found the first two but not the third. My old job in Reading was vacant and I think if we'd been offered that job back we might just have taken it. We went to a church which seemed like the obvious place to be and it's great in many many ways but for some reason it wasn't the place for us. Doubtless much of the fault was ours - we didn't look around and just assumed we'd fit into a church that was technically just like the one we left behind in Reading. The pastor was very kind when we left, which we did quietly and quickly. We continue to have massive respect for him and his ministry and his church and we genuinely wish them all the best with their mission in east Exeter, with much thankfulness for friends we made there.

The first weekend of February 2008 we went to Frontiers Church, after several Sunday mornings w…

The Time Traveler's Wife: Destiny

I wanted to explore some of the themes in The Time Traveller's Wife. Henry and Clare live in a universe that we're told is already written. Henry is a participator who observes but is unable to change things. He does change things by being there - coming out of the woods to get to know Clare - but is unable to re-write things and save his mother from death when he is six years old. We get the idea that people play a passive role in life, or at least one that is unaware of what is going on as events happen.

The circumstances around the beginning of Henry and Clare's sexual relationship and pregnancies suggest they are more able to know what is going on, as they effectively deceive the other. At the heart of the film we see Clare illustrate a doctrine of free will when she declines Henry's proposal, to see what it would feel like to exercise her freedom, before saying yes because her whole life has been about marrying Henry, why would she want anything else? Much like a …

J.C. Ryle

Erik Kowalker has started up a J.C. Ryle Quotes blog. We have much to learn from those who have gone before us and this looks like a helpful resource...

“Are you living in any kind of sin? Are you following the course of this world, and neglecting your soul? Hear! I beseech you, what I say to you this day: “Behold the cross of Christ. See there how Jesus loved you! See there what Jesus suffered to prepare for you a way of salvation! Yes: careless men and women, for you that blood was shed! For you those hands and feet were pierced with nails! For you that body hung in agony on the cross! You are they whom Jesus loved, and for whom He died! Surely that love ought to melt you. Surely the thought of the cross should draw you to repentance. Oh, that it might be so this very day!”

Things I love about living in Exeter. 4. Dartmoor

We've really only just scratched the surface of Dartmoor but thus far my favourite place is Fingle Bridge and the Teign Gorge. I take my team there each September for a walk to get to know each other better.

You can park at the top at Castle Drogo and walk down and back up but I prefer starting at the pub at Fingle Bridge walking up the gorge, down and then back along the river. We stumbled across The Duck Race on Easter Monday at Fingle Bridge which is an experience!

There's something about the scale of the gorge and the running water that reminds me of my smallness in a way that is very refreshing.

Things I love about living in Exeter. 3. The beaches

I grew up in the Midlands, studied in Bath and moved to Reading. Beaches are a novelty that I do think I'll ever get used to living near.

By car or train Exeter has easy access to the sandy beaches of Exmouth, Dawlish and Teignmouth, and by road to the stones of Buddleigh Salterton. I love each of these in their own ways. Exmouth is the student favourite, golden sands at the end of the Exmouth branchline - and the place where our church does it's summer beach baptisms. The sand is redder in the other direction but Dawlish, and more so Teignmouth, are well worth a visit. Whether to walk along the sea wall or on the beach itself I love the sea whether visiting socially with friends and family or taking a good book for study purposes. Decent fish and chips available from many outlets.

The Time Traveller's Wife

On Friday evening we went to see The Time Traveller's Wife. My wife had read the book, and I'd read half of it - I got half way and she nicked it off me at Cork airport about 3 years ago and I'd never gotten round to read the rest (though I now have).

The film follows the basic thread of the book, Henry DeTamble has a genetic condition that means he spontaneously time travels, with a particular attraction to certain gravitational points - chiefly linked to his eventual wife Clare. It's not a sci-fi but a romantic story, largely about waiting and longing within a history that is already written (no time-changing time travel here, this is not Back to the Future). We see this determinism illustrated in the face of tragedy in the characters and Clare's response to Henry's wedding proposal and the final conclusion of the film.

Comparing the a book and a film is always problematic. The formats are different and a straight copy is rarely going to produce a good film. A…

Things I love about living in Exeter. 2. The Edge of the City

I grew up in a village so getting out of the city centre matters to me. I've been converted to town/city life having lived in Bath, Reading and Exeter for the last 12 years, but I have to get out sometime!

In Exeter this is made spectacular by two things. First there is the domitory town / suburb of Topsham. A short drive from the ring road or an easy train ride away this is the best place to spend a Saturday morning. On arrival the Antiques centre is worth a browse followed by a walk along The Strand, parallel to the river, and then out along the esturary for a while. On returning The Cafe on Fore Street is a great place to sit with your wife and drink coffee, chat and read the paper - a newsagent is opposite. Returning home with as slight detour to Darts Farm is no bad idea.

On the otherside of the river Exe, at the end of the canal is the Turf pub at Turf Locks. Inaccessible by road, you can park just under a mile away at the of Station Road, Exminster. Alternatively walk the f…

Where is Christ in your preaching?

The motto of all true servants of God must be, “We preach Christ; and him crucified.” A sermon without Christ in it is like a loaf of bread without any flour in it. No Christ in your sermon, sir? Then go home, and never preach again until you have something worth preaching. 
[Exposition of Acts 13:13-49 published in 1904]

Leave Christ out? O my brethren, better leave the pulpit out altogether. If a man can preach one sermon without mentioning Christ’s name in it, it ought to be his last, certainly the last that any Christian ought to go to hear him preach. [sermon: “A Prayer for the Church” (1867)]

There's more to a sermon than saying the name of Christ but if you don't have any Christ in your sermon it doesn't matter how articulate and wonderful the rest of it is.

More posted by Tony Reinke.

Things I love about living in Exeter. 1. The City Centre

Next week it'll be two years since we moved from Reading to Exeter. I thought I'd share just a few things that I appreciate about my city.

The making of any location is of course the availability of suitable coffee establishments. Exeter is of course populated by the standard array of Starbucks, Costa and Nero in multiple doses, of which the High Street Caffe Nero is by far the best. The best place to drink coffee is probably in Boston Tea Party, the coffee is comparable to elsewhere in the city centre but the architecture and atmosphere exceeds all the rest.

I've yet to drink coffee overlooking the Cathedral Green which would surely be the best place where the new Tea on the Green might just be the place to go, though I've not made it there yet. The Cathedral is one of the major high points of the city centre. Reading once had an Abbey bigger than Westminster (on the site of the current town centre prison!) which if it remained would surely have become a buzzing focal …

Your Jesus is too safe (Blog Tour)

Posted as part of the blogtour for Your Jesus is Too Safe by Jared Wilson

Jared Wilson is interested in Jesus.
He knows that there is a problem today.
It's not a lack of interest in Jesus.
The problem is that everyone has their own Jesus.
Their my Jesus. Their I like to think of this kind of Jesus.
As opposed to the Bible version of Jesus.
And Wilson contends that these personal Jesus's are lesser versions, pale reflections and cheap imitations. He is right.

In this book Wilson introduces us to the real Jesus in a style that is funny and accessible, theological and engaging.

Books on Jesus aren't all that easy to find. I can think of John Owen's The Glory of Jesus which is stunning and deep but very heavy going. Or there is John Piper's Seeing and Savouring Jesus Christ which is devotional and inspiring. Or there is Mark Driscoll's Vintage Jesus which is good and funny and in need of serious editing to make it a book rather than just a sermon transcript.

Jared …

Among the dead and the living

Phil Whittall observes:
It seems to me that American Christians and pastors are fascinated by dead British Christians while British Christians/pastors are fascinated by American pastors. What's with that? I read this morning that Josh Harris is a fan of JC Ryle, which in itself is hardly something to get upset about but it did spark this mini-rant. Good for Josh, Ryle is a worthy hero of the faith. But it seems to me that the Yanks get all excited by CS Lewis, CH Spurgeon, JC Ryle, CT Studd and other guys with initials instead of first names. Lewis and Spurgeon in particular are highly exalted, oh and Dr MLJ of course.

On the other hand, if you pay close attention to the names that are bandied around amongst us Limey's are John Piper, Bill Hybels, Rick Warren, Mark Driscoll, Tim Keller, Rob Bell and whoever else is leading some very large church. What you don't seem to find are Brits talking about dead American Christians of any note and any Americans talking about living Br…

How to drink Coffee

I love coffee, and this is a little theological rambling on why...

Alternatively: Owen Strachen: Shooting Sacred Evangelical Cows: Coffee Drinking

Genesis 1 - We shall overcome!

This season will the money of Manchester City and Chelsea overcome the champions Manchester United? This season will the style and substance (?) overcome the dour Scotsman in 10 Downing Street. Who will overcome? The stage is set.

In Genesis 1 we find the earth dark, formless and unfilled. It is the beginning, though the plan of salvation has already been wrought in the hearts of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit before the beginning. The Father's plan of amazing grace will be enacted by the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit, to save the elect as the Son dies as a blemishless Passover Lamb.

The Word comes as the Spirit hovers over the waters and overcomes the darkness. He speaks to say let there be light. Glory is revealed. Day and Night come. Form is introduced on the most basic level and the light shines. Moreover, a light is given to rule the day and another to rule the night. Even at night the darkness does not overcome any more. Light rules. The darkness is overcome.

The wate…

Jekyll & Hyde

I had the pleasure last evening of reading Robert Louis Stevenson's 1886 classic novella Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Like everyone I'm acquainted with the basic idea of the book, it has become part of our culture, but until now I hadn't actually read it.

At about 60 pages its a short and easy read centred round a handful of characters exploring the two sides of Dr Jekyll's personality and character, illustrating the struggle between good and evil within us. Highly recommended.

Warrior Mummy!

Erik Raymond:
“Birth is fraught with mystery, wonder, and danger. As a mother approaches the door of death, she brings new life into the world….In giving birth the woman challenges the penalty of death on mankind for sinning against God in the Garden of Eden (Gen 2.16-17), for each birth insures the continuation of the race. Symbolically each birth strikes a blow on the head of the paradisaical serpent, the champion of death (Gen 3.15). Giving birth was a momentous act of victory. But the regulations of ritual purity did not allow a new mother to exalt herself as divine in her great accomplishment. These regulations relegated her triumph to the sphere of this earth without diminishing her great joy in bringing forth new life.”

(John Hartley, Leviticus: Word Biblical Commentary), pp. 169-170Another reason women are amazing.

New blog: John Hosier

John Hosier is in South Africa for a year and blogging about it. John Hosier's blog:

"From pastoring to teaching in Bible College, leading Church of Christ the King, Brighton, UK to writing books about the End Times and Christ's radiant bride, John Hosier has been serving the church for many years. He and his wife, Sue, have now joined Jubilee Community Church, Cape Town, South Africa, for a year from July 2009"

The School of Wisdom (Proverbs 1:1-7)

We're preaching Proverbs at Frontiers Church Exeter from September til Mid-February. I'm opening the series, these are my initial notes.

Proverbs is a chewy book, it’s not always straight forward – mostly it’s written in pithy phrases that tend to come in pairs that parallel one another as in v2: to know wisdom… to understand words… saying the same thing twice in different words. At times its even contradictory – in chapter 26 we hear that it’s wise to answer a fool and in the next verse it’s wise not to. Is Solomon an idiot? No he knows, wisdom isn’t tick-boxes, it’s about an approach to life and situations. It’s a 3000 year old book but as its writer says elsewhere, there is nothing new under the sun. Solomon writes to a world where people are born and learn, work and marry, sleep and buy, eat and and die – much like today.

Moses has five books, The Law. David has five books of Psalms, and here are Solomon’s five books of Proverbs. We’ll follow the ancient pattern of intro…

Sovereign Grace (John Kent)

Another quality hymn by John Kent.

Sovereign grace o’er sin abounding,
Waves of love in power swell;
‘Tis a deep that knows no sounding,
Who its breadth or length can tell?
On its glories, on its glories
Let my soul forever dwell.

Sovereign grace,
It reaches the depths of my sin
And kindles a fire within.
Lord, shed it anew
And fix all my passions on You
By sovereign grace.

What from Christ my soul can sever,
Bound by everlasting bands?
Once in Him, in Him forever
The eternal cov’nant stands;
None can pluck me, none can pluck me
From the Father’s mighty hands.

Heirs of God, joint heirs with Jesus,
Long ago this gift was won;
To His name eternal praises!
Oh! what wonders He has done!
One with Jesus, one with Jesus,
By eternal union one.

On such love I’ll ever ponder,
Love so great, so rich, so free;
Ever asking, lost in wonder,
Why, O Lord, such love to me?
Hallelujah, hallelujah,
Grace will reign eternally.

Version by David Ward
Version by Joanna Priest

Let us to warm ourselves at this fire of his love and mercy in giving himself for us

Calvin – ‘We do not, therefore, contemplate him [Christ] outside ourselves from afar in order that his righteousness may be imputed to us but because we put on Christ and are engrafted into his body—in short, because he deigns to make us one with him.’ (Institutes 3.11.10) “It is necessary to note that Christ himself is received into the believer’s heart as well as the believer being clothed externally with his righteousness.” (Anon) We see this clearly in Galatians 3:25-4:7, clothed in righteousness, given the Holy Spirit. Not just Christ's status but Christ himself is given to us. He comes to us in his gospel. This is good news to warm the heart.

Martin Luther“Faith does not merely mean that the soul realizes that the divine word is full of all grace, free and holy; it also unites the soul with Christ, as a bride is united with her bridegroom. From such a marriage, as St Paul says (Ephesians 5:22-32), it follows that Christ and the soul become one body, so that they hold all t…

Preaching that cuts with the grain of the Bible

There's probably no more helpful tool to get a handle on when reading the Bible than seeing how books hang together as a whole and not just as a random collection of fortune cookies and random sentences. I remember hearing Richard Coekin unpack the idea of the melodic line in Colossians several years ago and single-handedly changing the way I read the Bible. He helped me to see that, for example, Colossians 1 is a brilliant gospel-encouragement. The whole book is written to call the Colossians to stick with the gospel (2v6-7) and nothing else. And so when in the opening paragraphs Paul writes to them of the hope they have, of the way the same gospel they believed is bearing fruit world-wide and of how Epaphras is a faithful gospel minister he isn't just greeting them but encouraging them that they have in fact believed the true gospel.
More on that Here: Fully Christian?

Books have a purpose and preaching is better and easier when we cut with the grain of the text.

Interview with…

Who swings the gospel hammer in your life? (Luther/Keller)

Tony Reinke posts from Martin Luther and Tim Keller
[The gospel] is also the principal article of all Christian doctrine, wherein the knowledge of all godliness consisteth. Most necessary it is, therefore, that we should know this article well, teach it unto others, and beat it into their heads continually.

Some respond, that this is preaching to the choir - but the issue isn't having the information beated into our heads (though we do need some reminder) it's having it capture our hearts, kill our sin, show us the way of godliness, and more than anything else fuel our relationship with Jesus - for in the gospel he comes to us!

Developing a robust Gospel-Unity

Pete Dray has been posting some gems on Christian Unity from Schaeffer and Packer and today proposes two models for uniting students for mission on campus, the second of which has this mark...

In this model, 'tolerance' is defined by loving somebody as a brother or sister for whom Christ died, even when they hold a position of theology that is very different from your own. It is looking somebody in the eye and saying that you are glad they are part of a gospel-focused mission team with you (and saying this even if you might never join their church).

A recipe for Gospel Community

Tim Chester says a gospel community isn't about a meeting but about doing life together:

"It is a group of people who are committed to Jesus and committed to one another, sharing their lives together and sharing mission together. It is about people hanging out together, doing chores together, eating together, serving in the neighbourhood – all with gospel intentionality. That intentionality includes both a commitment to discipling one another with the gospel and sharing the gospel with unbelievers – all in the context of ordinary life and shared life. It’s not a meeting your attend. It’s not a thing you do. It’s who you are are. It’s your identity. It’s your place of belonging."

And then meeting in some shape or form centred around: meal, ministry and mission.

I highly recommend Steve Timmis on the same subject at resurgence, video talks with Q&A. Total Church Lectures by Steve Timmis An exercise he suggests is to re-read the New Testament and read references to churc…

Exactly as I show you concerning the you shall make it

Who has seen God? Who has ascended to heaven to see? Who can know the mind of God? How can we know what he is like and what it would be like to know him?
25:9 Exactly as I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and of all its furniture, so you shall make it26:40 And see that you make them after the pattern for them, which is being shown you on the mountain.This morning Barry preached a stirring message on The Tabernacle from Exodus 25. I'm struck by the way that God reveals reality to us. This is immense grace to show us what he will do. Without these patterns the Cross of Christ would be an event without explanation, we would lack a revelation that we could believe. He gives us patterns that show us the reality of life in the Trinity - with The Ark, The Table and The Lampstand, and the reality of atonement for sin and welcome for sinners by the priest and sacrifice.

Hebrews 8:5-6 They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the …

Fight Clubs: Gospel-centered Discipleship by Jonathan Dodson

Free eBook at The Resurgence

Dodson explains:
I simply preached a sermon on fighting the fight of faith and cast a vision for Fight Clubs. People started forming them right away. I quickly wrote an article to give the groups some guidance. The groups went viral. People started meeting all over the city to fight the fight of faith during the week, in bars, coffee shops, and homes. Fight Clubs can vary in health and are difficult to monitor, which is a big reason I wrote this booklet. I wanted to equip our people to fight well, with Spirit-empowered faith and gospel centered motivation. As the church grew, we started some sign-ups but continued to insist that Fight Clubs remain relationship-based whenever possible. Good fighting springs from relationships of trust and confidence. So how do they work? Durden laid down eight rules for his fight clubs, we have three: 1) Know Your Sin. 2) Fight your Sin. 3) Trust your Savior.

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