Off blog I'm trying to write up some thinking on how to love the church. Here's a little thought inspired by Luther and Thabiti Anyabwile amongst other, that contributes to the picture.
"Who then can value highly enough these royal nuptials? Who can comprehend the riches of the glory of this grace? Christ, that rich and pious Husband, takes as a wife a needy and impious harlot, redeeming her from all her evils and supplying her with all His good things."
The strange thing about church is that it can so often operate like any other social network. It can become a place where people who are like one another come to be with one another, united by their common class, status, age, income, language etc. The reality couldn't be further from that. Church is a supernatural community formed by the gospel. A community that requires the gospel to form it. When it looks like less than that will do then we're just papering over the cracks or have already excluded those who …
I've been away at the UCCF leadership team this week. For some reason I couldn't get online hence the blog absence. Anyways my head is now buzzing with stuff to right about including some outstanding C.S.Lewis, dinner at Parliament last night, and a whole host of other things. But they can wait. I have curry to cook, so go have a look at these excellent posts by Marcus Honeysett on Why I don't like Bible Study and Bible Study Questions. Go read and let those posts help you to enjoy the Bible more.
On Sunday morning as our church gathered, Stu Alred preached one of the best sermons I've heard, from 2 Corinthians 6, the heart of which is very hard on the ears. Stu shares my vision of preaching, which really is very Piper-Edwardsesque.
We were presented with the grace of God and urged not to receive it in vain - who after all, wins the lottery and then bins the cheque - a call for Christians to not be unevenly yoked - in work, but chiefly in relationships. The great ruiner, "the highway out of the Christian life". Paul poses five questions to seal the argument, all implying a negative answer. What partnership does righteousness have with lawlessness? None.What fellowship has light with dark? None.What accord has Christ with satan? None.What portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? None.What agreement between the temple of God and idols? None. The core of the persuasion though is an appeal to come and live with God who calls f…
Krish Kandiah and Michael Ots are blogging as they lead Christian Union mission weeks at Warwick and Reading respectively this week. You'll also find others involved in these evangelistic endeavours blogging via UCCF bloggers.
This is the outworking of a project to give every student in Great Britain the opportunity to hear and respond to the news about Jesus, for the good of the church and the glory of God.
A key vehicle for this are 400,000 copies of Mark's gospel in the hands of Christian students living among students who aren't Christians, reading the Bible with them, and through author/apologist/evangelists like Krish and Motsy.
This project rests on a foundation of convictions about the word of God, and the generosity and prayers of thousands of supporters, is served by our staff and relay team, and enacted through thousands of gutsy faith-filled students. Last term saw one of these weeks in the South West (at the University of the West of England and University of …
Writing in clear defence of 'parachurch' movements and in stunning love of the church, former director of OMF, Michael Griffiths... "Surely the aim of the whole operation must be the planting and perfecting of new colonies of heaven, new congregations of beautiful people... Missionary work has to be church-centred if it is to be effective... It needs to be strongly emphasied.. that the criterion for the success of an interdenominational group is the extent to which it contributes towards the building up of the church. Take a university Christian Union, for example. The test of its effectiveness is not the number of students who belong to it, or even the proportion of the membership who have been converted through its ministry... The test is long term, and is in the extent to which its former members are now integrated into and playing a part in the leadership of the local church.... they must be judged by the criterion of the benefits which they bring to the churches.&qu…
None of which is to say that there's anything wrong with holding firmly to truth (which some see as the opposite of humility) nor at times echoing these words from Jack Bauer (Day 7, episode 1): "Please do not sit there with that smug look on your face and expect me to regret the decisions that I have made, because, sir, the truth is, I don't."We make decisions and run with them and take responsibility…
This is a really helpful talk on making sense when communicating, by Michael Ramsden. Michael Ramsden has been the European Director of The Zacharias Trust since 1997. He grew up in the Middle East, returning to the UK to work for the Lord Chancellor's Department and to study. While at Sheffield University doing research in Law and Economics, he taught Moral Philosophy and lectured for the International Seminar on Jurisprudence and Human Rights in Strasbourg. Michael is a passionate evangelist and apologist for The Zacharias Trust. Michael travels widely speaking in universities, churches and at conferences. He is married to Anne and they live in Oxford with their three children.
". . . expositional preachers are modern day prophets, serving merely as conduits through which the Word of God may flow into the people of God in order to do the work of God in them." Mark Dever at Adrian Warnock's blogI want to agree with this in what it says about preaching, but I have a concern. The next implication could easily be that prophecy is preaching. I do think there is an overlap.. some preaching is prophetic and that would be good to have in your church. Both are the exercising of a spiritual gift and so have their focus in confession of the gospel (1 Cor 12v3), serving for the common good (v7), using a gift assigned by the Spirit (v11), and must be exercised in love (ch13). 1 Cor 12v28 lists "secondprophets, third teachers" as distinct rather than identical gifts.
In light of which Paul sets up case studies on tongues and prophecy (1 Cor 14). From this we see that prophecy is speaking for upbuilding and encouragement and consolation of the chur…
Marcus writes: During the week I had an alarming number of questions that went like this: "there is lots of joy in God in Philippians and none in my life. Does that mean something is wrong?" Yes it does! In each case I tried to find out what it was. I asked everyone who commented the following questions and received the corresponding answers. I want to start with four foundational questions: * Do people know God? # What kind of church do you attend?
# Why do you read the Bible?
# Do you ever take time in your schedule to simply adore God and his Christ?
# How would you describe your worship life? * Do they grasp that the gospel is all of grace? * Do they know what the Church is? * Are they growing as disciples or have they somehow stalled?
Matthew Syed in The Times on "Why Kaká has God on the substitutes' bench": "Sports psychology was invented to help non-faith sportsmen to garner some of the psychic power of religion, and its potency - like that of religion - derives from the placebo effect... to instil beliefs that are not true but that create results (which are a different kind of truth). That is why sports psychologists are not technicians, but articulate and often charismatic advocates for their methods. I guess I am not the only one to have noticed their similarity to Christian evangelists. It is not just sportsmen: none of us can get by without carefully constructed myths. We accentuate the positives, suppress the negatives, block out the traumas, create mini-narratives about our lives and loves that, on honest reflection, have little basis in reality; we do this not merely to win, but to survive. Reason without inhibition is a perilous thing, as anyone who has studied the lives of the philosop…
I love this song in part because Matt Giles is a friend and member of our church. It's also great musically. Above all I love the lyrics which are laced with gospel truth lifted from the puritan prayer Privileges in Arthur Bennet's collection The Valley of Vision. This is a bit different to the acoustic demo I was able to share with you last year.
1. The grace of my God, an unbreakable chain,
for those He redeems, He in grace will sustain.
I will treasure the cross and rejoice in the Prize,
This unspeakable Gift! This the gospel of Christ!
2. Without Him my eyes would be downcast in guilt,
And in trembling shame would my lips have been sealed.
Yet my mouth fills with praise, when I call on His name
And my eyes may delight in the wonders of Christ!
Yes, wave upon wave of grace reaches me,
He deals with my sin and He wa…
"Donald A. Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. He has been at Trinity since 1978. Carson came to Trinity from the faculty of Northwest Baptist Theological Seminary in Vancouver, British Columbia, where he also served for two years as academic dean. He has served as assistant pastor and pastor and has done itinerant ministry in Canada and the United Kingdom.Carson received the Bachelor of Science in chemistry from McGill University, the Master of Divinity from Central Baptist Seminary in Toronto, and the Doctor of Philosophy in New Testament from the University of Cambridge.Carson is an active guest lecturer in academic and church settings around the world. He holds membership on the Council for the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. Carson and his wife, Joy, reside in Libertyville, Illinois. They have two children. In his spa…
Read this by Mike Kendall on idolatry in the preacher's study, and then subscribe to his future posts. "I want my preaching to be faithful, clear, passionate and provocative... But I'm also aware that I want people to think highly of me. I'm tempted to run after their praise. And because of that I'm inclined to be a perfectionist."
"a serious case could be made for a deistic god... [but not] 'a god who cares about our sins', 'what we do with our genitals', and what we think about".Richard Dawkins in debate with John Lennox, 2008. (Notes on which at CMF, Bethinking.org).
Don't get over-excited this is no conversion by the most famous of Atheists, but it suggests that Dawkins' root objections are not so much scientific but probably moral and theological. I find this to be a refreshingly honest comment from Dawkins - he's obviously still using all the same fairies at the end of the garden, flying-spaghetti monster stuff too but this hits on the reason why a Christian expects people, themselves included, to not want to believe in God.
If there's no God, we're not held accountable for the way we live ('don't worry') and can get on an live however we want to ('enjoy your life'). The Christian sympathises entirely with this but then finds themselves confr…
Galatians 5:15-26 is full of surprises and joy for Christian living. v16. "walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh" - where we expect it to say, don't gratify the sinful nature and then you'll walk by the Spirit. Holiness isn't sin-focussed, it's Spirit-focussed.v17. "For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do." You can't always get what you want. Sometimes you fail. There are opposed desires in us, not equal ones but opposing. v18. "But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law" - this tells us that "the things you want to do" are the ways of the Spirit who leads us. But, the shocker? Surely the verse should say . "But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the flesh (sinful nature)"! And yet Paul seems at liberty t…
I had the honour of preaching at the first ECU Central meeting of term last night. What do you say at the start of a new term? They're doing a three part series on defeater beliefs and key issues that might keep them from living and speaking for Jesus. My issue was embarrassment of exclusive claims - and it seemed like a decent idea at the time to do that from Jonah through the lense of The God of Grace vs. Idols. That plays out in a call todie to idols and rise to live in Christ, unembarressed by the exclusive claims of Christ (which are reasonable and sensible) and delighted by the gospel, gaining a bigger vision of God, from Jonah 2v8-9. Download MP3: Get a Bigger God (Jonah 2v8-9) (35mins)
Mark Driscoll's latest book Vintage Church is now available. My understanding is that much of what Mark taught at the Newfrontiers conference in July 2008 can be found in this book. It picks up off the back of Vintage Jesus and grounds the gospel in the local church.
Should be a helpful contribution to the vital area of thinking about church, though Relit already carries Tim Chester and Steve Timmis' Total Church and Vintage Church is going to have to be a very impressive book to be better than that....
- the condition of the time of the Judges is spiritual anarchy
- this is represented by the life of Elimelech (my God is King)
o They reject their God who is King
o they marry into the despicable practises of Moab
o the results are Mahlon and Chilion – famine and pestilence
o indeed there is no bread in Bethlehem (the house of bread)
o Ultimately it will take the death of the God who is the King of the Jews to kill famine and pestilence and restore bread to Bethlehem
o this is the time of the beginning of the barley harvest - Passover
- After the death of the King, More: Boaz, in him is eternal life
After what felt like a fairly poor bridge (24: Redemption), Day 7 finally arrived this evening.
Jack's on trial for his work at the now mothballed CTU and then crisis hits and the FBI need him. New characters everywhere - somehow all the pieces and the people will fit together. The big story is that Tony is bad - which is all over the trailers. Jack leaves his trial to join up with the FBI and his new sidekick FBI Agent Renee Walker. (All of which you can discern from the trailer).
Without wanting to give away anything else, this was a promising start in which perhaps we get to explore why Jack uses torture, how being involved in CTU effects people - both with Jack and Tony - and how we can reconcile Jack's world with the real world. Why has Tony turned? What future does Jack have...
Mike Reeves talks at the UCCF South West Transformission conference we hosted in November 2008, are now up on Theology Network: The Word of God - three talks by Mike Reeves. Outstanding stuff. (also available at thebluefish.org and at UCCF South West)
I'm giving a talk in five weeks (unless the baby arrives around then!) at Bristol University that in some way is a response to the atheist bus... very helpfully raises some of the key questions for me to engage with.
If anyone would like me to wear this t-shirt whilst giving the talk, please feel free to offer to buy me one (£13+p&p) or contribute towards the cost. Medium/Black.
The bus campaign is said to be a response to hell-fire advertising by Christians - which you do see occasinoally in stations etc. It's real equivilant is the less-prescriptive Alpha approach which raises questions like "If there was a God, what would you ask him?". No harm in using ad-space to get people thinking either way as far as I can see.
The probably has produced much debate for various reasons - I'd say it helps promote conversation. As for the conclusion draw "now sto…
Interesting article by Molly Worthen in the New York Times: "Who Would Jesus Smack Down? Mark Driscoll a pastor with a Macho Conception of Jesus" "On that Sunday, Driscoll preached for an hour and 10 minutes — nearly three times longer than most pastors. As hip as he looks, his message brooks no compromise with Seattle’s permissive culture. New members can keep their taste in music, their retro T-shirts and their intimidating facial hair, but they had better abandon their feminism, premarital sex and any “modern” interpretations of the Bible. Driscoll is adamantly not the “weepy worship dude” he associates with liberal and mainstream evangelical churches, “singing prom songs to a Jesus who is presented as a wuss who took a beating and spent a lot of time putting product in his long hair.” The oldest of five, son of a union drywaller, Driscoll was raised Roman Catholic in a rough neighborhood on the outskirts of Seattle. In high school, he met a pretty blond pastor’s daug…
Last week I was offline attending our annual Staff Conference (sorry, you were unwittingly reading pre-scheduled posts last week). It was a great week that made me glad to be part of a fellowship founded on The Trinity and the grace of God from which a commitment to unite, to persuasive and creative evangelism flow, and with which come increasingly clearly developed doctrines of creation and humanity fused with a passion to enjoy life - that is to say, Biblical Evangelical Christianity. This stuff has all been there in the DNA for decades but maybe hasn't always shown itself clearly, humbly, imaginatively or joyfully - but what I find are people who want to grow and change.
The teaching received from Don Carson, Mike Reeves, Jason Clarke, Tim Rudge and Pablo Martinez has given me much to think about and implement into life and ministry, the shape of marriage, parenting, upcoming ministry and refining my sabbatical plans. I enjoyed arriving late and having dinner with David Field (…
The LORD initiates contact will Abram to reassure him of his great promises to him. Previously the dust of Canaan spoke to him, now the stars call out of the number of descendents this son-less father will one day have. Then Abram asks, how can I be sure?
To which he receives no rebuke. Instead the LORD instructs him to prepare for a covenant. Animals are cut in half and laid out. One would expect the LORD and Abram to then walk between the animals, through the blood. But Abram doesn’t.
Instead the LORD acts in two parts. First to give him more insight into what will happen. The land will not be immediately inherited. Abram will have an offspring but the family will go to another nation and have to wait 400 years before they can take hold of their inheritance, until the sins of the current occupants have reached a level of evil and unrepentance that will justify the judgement upon them by the LORD who is slow to anger. This is the LORD’s way of acting – he shares his plans with his p…
"We have here an account of the first war that ever we read of in scripture, which (though the wars of the nations make the greatest figure in history) we should not have had the history of if Abram and Lot had not been concerned in it." -- Matthew HenryWar in Canaan. Four kings against five. Canaan subjected by Chedorlaomer. And in the midst of the battle Sodom is looted and Lot gets captured. And so, The Man goes to war – Abram and his 318 against the all conquering Chedorlaomer and he wins. These are the first wars of men. In victory he finds himself meeting Melchizedek, the Priest-King of Salem (Jerusalem) who blesses Abram and the LORD and receives a tithe from Abram (where future priests would have to require tithe from people). These two kings eat bread and drink wine together – as another king will one day do with his people. This is a priest in an order of his own, though another priest will come like him to mediate forever. He is like the Son of God."The firs…
Michael Jensen has a great post on things that need to disappear: Merely 'explaining/teaching the Bible' and not preaching the living Word of God. (I think we should ban the phrase 'we are now going to hear the Bible explained'. I don't need it explained. I need it preached.)Introducing us to the text and not to the issue addressed by the text.*Providing overelaborate explanations of the biblical-theological background to no great end.Moralising from the Old Testament.And six more at The Blogging Parson...
* which is really hard to do, and is one of the many reasons I think Tim Keller is a genius, because he seems to be able to do this one really well.
Back in Canaan we find Abram and Lot together. Both of their households have increased via their trip to Egypt and now things seem crowded. God has prospered them at the cost of those who opposed this royal family. Now. there is tension between the two Sheikhs.
Abram puts his inheritance at risk by offering half of it to Lot. Lot could have the north or the south of Canaan to his nephew. Instead, Lot goes east (never a good direction to travel) to the lush Edenic valleys of Sodom, where the wicked live. And we're given advance notice of Sodom's fall. Seemingly he has learned nothing from Egypt, of the dangers of living with the serpent's seed. Alarm bells should be ringing but off he goes.
Waiting is rough in the short term. Lot divides from Abram and goes for Heaven on Earth – he wants to make his own way back into Eden, rather than waiting for Abram’s Offspring to lead his people back in and defeat the serpent. He walks away from the blessed family and their promised in…
Oh, joy above all joys! The day is coming when I shall "know as I am known," when I shall not want to ask whether I am his or not, for in his arms encircled, there shall be no room for doubt. Oh! Christian, you think there are slips between your lips and that cup of joy, but when you grasp the handle of that cup with your hand, and are drinking draughts of ineffable delight, then you will have no doubt or fear. "There you shall see his face, And never, never sin There from the rivers of his grace, Drink endless pleasures in." (CH Spurgeon on Heavely Rest)
"On earth is the place where God makes musical instruments and tunes them—and between now and Heaven He will put all that is within them into fit condition for blessing and praising His name eternally! In Heaven every part of the man will bless God without any difficulty. No need for a preacher there to exhort you! No need for you to talk to yourself and say, “Bless the Lord, O my Soul”—you will…
Charlie Styles has a great article on how to make this classic Q&A event work well. A Grill a Christian is an event for people to bring difficult questions and problems that they have about Christianity and hear some answers. These events can work really well, or they can be awkward and a waste of time. Ironically, when the organisers and panel think things have gone well is probably when they haven’t. Read Charlie's tips on how to make a Grill-a-Christian work.
I knew Eddie through my childhood as a true gentleman and a Christian leader. I got to know him much better while I was at University and in the subsequent years before his health deteriorated and his mind faded. He was a great encouragement to me. I remember his warm reflection on Jesus as Son of God.
Today was his funeral which I sadly was unable to attend.
The book of Genesis introduces us to a vast story. The greatest story of all. A story painted on a cosmic canvas about God and Man walking together. And yet that story is largely composed of small and local moments. Personal exchanges and person folly. Many are happy with God on a cosmic scale, it’s God’s interference on the small scale that is objectionable.
Genesis 12v10ff is a classic example. Famine strikes. Abram and his family go to Egypt to seek refuge, he lies, his wife is taken from him and then God rescues him. What’s going on? Geography and genealogy unlock many of the events of Genesis. Here we find a man leaving the land he has been promised but not yet inherited (Canaan) and fleeing to another land (Egypt). We know that Egypt is like Canaan a Hamite nation (Genesis 10) so that’s not going to be a good place for a Shemite to be. Hamitic people like Nimrod built Babel and the Egyptians can be expected to be like their Canaanite cousins. M…
My good friends at Sovereign Grace Ministries are hosting a biblical parenting conference on 21st March 2009 in Bristol. Information at Shepherding a Child's Heart, 9.30am-4pm, cost £6 (rising to £8 after end of January).
"The conference is specifically designed for parents with children of any age. We also believe it will prove beneficial to grandparents, children’s ministry workers, and anyone who has a desire to be a parent in the future!"
If you're anywhere within reach of Bristol I'd highly recommend this conference.
I'm plagiarising this thought from a conversation with Marcus Honeysett, but anyways... "The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy says that the best drink in existence is the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster. It says that the effect of drinking a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster is like having your brains smashed out by a slice of lemon wrapped around a large gold brick." We know however that there is something better to drink than the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster - the love of God, which is better than wine. And there is something that tastes better too - namely the Word of God, which tastes sweeter than honey. What if when we read the Bible it was like having your brains smashed out by a slice of lemon wrapped around a large gold brick?
Given that what's written in ink has the power to cut us open, or to create the universe it doesn't seem an altogether unreasonable expectation to have when I open the good book.Granted it wont always deliver that kind of effect (and some…
We've been home in the newfrontiers family of churches together on a mission for almost a year now. I say home because I've been hooked into the newfrontiers vision for church for over five years through partnership and friendship with guys in Reading, long before we moved down to Devon.
"The Hobbits named it the Shire, as the region of the authority of their Thain, and a district of well-ordered business; and there in that pleasant corner of the world they plied their well-ordered business of living, and they heeded less and less the world outside where dark things moved, until they came to think that peace and plenty were the rule of Middle-earth and the right of all sensible folk." (from the prologue to The Lord of the Rings, cited by Tim Keller preaching on Jonah 2)
And then they go thrust out of their comfortable world into a big tall world that didn't fit what they were used to living with.
We get used to the world we live in and to having enough grace and spiritual life to live in it. But, we have no guarentee that the world should stay the same - and even less that "peace and plenty" should be the rule and "right of all sensible folk". A 31-weeks pregnant wife is fairly good indication that 2009 is going to be very different to…
FEBRUARY 2009 -- Transformissional Communities, CU Leaders Weekend -- Unity in the gospel, CU Leaders Weekend -- Love the church, CU Leaders Weekend -- Proverbs 31, Frontiers Church
JANUARY 2009 -- Save the wheel, Proverbs - Frontiers Church
DECEMBER 2009 -- Arborfield Church
NOVEMBER 2009 27-29/11 Mark's Gospel - Plymouth CU Weekend 15/11 Proverbs 8-9 - Frontiers Church Exeter 13-14/11 November 2009 - 'Love the Church' Marjons CU Weekend -- Christiainity Explored Course (x5)
OCTOBER 2009 30/10 Isn't Christianity Irrelevant To Modern Life at Oxford University 29/10 Big Issues: Credit Crunch at Reading University 22/10 Study for Jesus - UWE CU 11/10 Proverbs 4 at Frontiers Church Exeter 8/10 Philippians 1 at Bristol CU 4/10 Gospel, Community & Mission at Bath CU x2