Saturday, February 28, 2009

Tom Price: Questions Christians are scared of

Tom Price posts seven questions Christians say they're scared of...:
  • How do you know that this faith (Jesus) is true?
  • Why did God take his people into battle so much in the Old Testament? Why is it so violent?
  • If you believe that the world is only a few 1,000 years old, what about dinosaurs, where do they fit into that timescale?
  • What proof do you have that there is a real living God?
  • To say "Jesus is the only way" is incredibly arrogant. Surely, even if we agree with the theology of a single God those religions E.G. Islam that agree with you are recognising that same God. Are there not many ways to a single God?
  • Why should I believe when so many Christians mess up and there is so much false teaching and bad things in church?
  • If Jesus is truth, then why do so few find this truth and so many doomed to hell?
I'm going to attempt to sketch some answers to these in the near future. What I wanted to begin by saying is that these aren't comfortable questions, but that there is freedom to ask them. Christianity stands open to examination, the Bible is readable and available in ordinary language. Assuming that we're prepared to listen to the answers we're more than welcome to ask our questions. We might not get the answers we want, but unless we're prepared to listen there's not a lot of point asking.

See also: The Necessity of Atheism

Friday, February 27, 2009

Tim Chester: The curiosity of worshipper finding fresh delight in the work of his Creator...

Tim Chester completes a three part series on a kind of evangelism that you'll be up for... Part 3: Love Life:
Bill (who’s a real person) is an American friend of mine. He doesn’t really get football, rugby or cricket. I don’t think he enjoys them very much. But when he watches a game with us he’s enthusiastic. He gets pleasure from our pleasure. It’s the same with a hundred and one other topics. If Bill finds out your interest in something then the next time he sees you you’ll find he’s done some research. It’s not a technique. It’s not faked. He has a godly curiosity and delight in everything. And funnily enough, everyone loves having Bill around.
I think, for me, one of the tests of sin in my heart is whether I have that curiosity for others or whether I'm so curved in on myself that I couldn't care less about other people.

Tim recommends Julian Hardyman's Glory Days / Maximum Life. I wholeheartedly agree with him. I also enjoyed listening to Tom Price on Apologetics at whilst doing some admin this afternoon, not least because you can hear Tom's passion for apologetics and for films in his voice, and because it's great to see God's work in his life since those early days after he became a Christian at Reading.

Psalms: Of liturgical and music terms in the Psalm titles

Another brief extract from Mike Reeves on Psalms.  thinking about the titles of Psalms like Maskil, Gittith, Sons of Korah and words like Selah.

Logically this is a post you'll ignore - but seriously press play and let the details we usually ignore unlock the Psalms for you.

Have listen to 12mins of the subject that helps us think a bit more carefully about what's going on and opens up the meaning of some Psalms.
Download MP3: 12mins on Psalms

"First were the buses. Now atheists get a student society"

Atheist or Secular socities at Universities aren't all that new, but they're news now at The Guardian.
Every religion on campus has its student society, from the Christian Union to the Jedi Knights. Now the non-religionists will have theirs too. The National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies launches today to mobilise non-believers. The "anti-God squad", as it is happy to be called, says it will fight for the voices of what it believes to be the majority of students to be heard on campus and further afield. It is planning campaigns and events across the country to protest against religious privilege and promote the understanding of science.
Long-live the anti-theists as they promote debate and discussion of these things. As Pod Boghal puts it:
"Universities are a marketplace of ideas where concepts can be exchanged. Anything that encourages intelligent and meaninful discussion we see as positive. We are thankful for the atheist bus campaign because it raised awareness of spiritual things and put God on the agenda."

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Story of Jesus

We start with God. Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Father sending forth his word in the power of the Spirit to bring order out of chaos, the world out of water, light over darkness climaxing in the making of Man in God’s image (Genesis 1). We find The Man placed in God’s temple-mountain garden and given a Bride. He stops to sing. Together they’re to work and cultivate this temple extending it into a global garden in which man and God dwell together, man ruling the world under God (Genesis 2). One day the world will be full of people. One day the world will be full of the glory of God, that which is supremely displayed in The Man, Jesus Christ (2 Cor 3v18).

This Man overthrows God and is kicked out of the temple (Genesis 3), though he’s promised that a seed of the woman will come who will defeat evil and bring them back into the garden. The first candidate for that is murdered by his brother who builds a city for his own glory (Genesis 4). From The Man and his Bride comes another son who is not the seed who begins to call on the LORD. He is not the seed. One of his progeny Enoch prophesied of God’s coming judgement, and soon after Noah is born (Genesis 5). The world once formed out of water is deluged but Noah’s family escape, saved by God. A new world emerges from the water with the Man on his mountain, human evil remains and this new world soon descends back into wickedness. From Noah the world is filled with people who practice evil, even attempting to build an arrogant city that will reach heaven and broadcast the glory of these sinners (Genesis 6-11).

God however chooses Abraham and promises that from him will come a seed, Christ. This seed is born by God’s promised and though offered to death is resurrected, figuratively. This seed, Isaac, gains a wife and has sons (Genesis 12-25). From them come twelve sons, the tribes of Israel who flee, like their forefather Abraham, to Egypt. They are ruled over by Joseph though it is Israel’s son Judah who will one day rule them (Genesis 26-5). The memory of Israel saving Egypt is soon forgotten and a people called to rule the world are subjected as slaves. Through a Levitical priest called Moses and his brother Aaron Christ comes to save his people from slavery into a garden land. They are rescued by Christ and they stop to sing (Exodus 15) before meet him at mount Sinai (Exodus 1-18). There, to hem them in until Christ comes to his people, they are placed under law. This law, particularly in the provision of a tent-dwelling of God with his people, foreshadows Christ’s coming. It shows them what he will do for them (Exodus 19-25).

This people quickly turn back to slavery and though rescued to worship God they begin to worship things they make for themselves (Exodus 32-34). Instead of destroying them God spares them, for the sake of his own reputation and promises. On the verge of the promised land they rebel and decide to go back to slavery. This costs them their lives and it will be a generation before the people go into the land (Numbers 13-14).The sons of Korah die for their rebellion but some are redeemed and write great songs of love for to Son of God (Psalm 45).

By then Moses is dead and it is Joshua who leads them in. As they enter in, a prostitute called Rahab is adopted into God’s people (Joshua 2). The people are led by Judges who bring short-lived salvation in days when there is no king over the people. In these days a descendent of Abraham’s nephew Lot, a woman called Ruth, is adopted into God’s people (Ruth).

This is a remarkable turn around for a people born of horrific and shameful origins. Soon, the people request a king, rejecting God’s rule over themselves. God had previously set out the requirements for a king and this Benjamite, Saul fails in every way (1 Samuel). Another, David of Judah is anointed and kills the giant Goliath, he takes the throne and is the king par excellence. He sings. He desires to build a house for God’s people but is denied. Instead his Son, through adultery with Bathsheba, Solomon will build a temple. David’s son will be king forever (2 Samuel 7.)

Solomon ascends and builds the temple, the people stop to sing. The Son of David is greater than any other king of the world and the peoples of the world gather, but he too falls into sin and his sons divide the kingdom into two. The northern kingdom, Israel, is soon overthrown by Assyria. Jonah is sent to preach to the Assyrian capital Nineveh. The south survives many generations but is ultimately exiled for their rebellion against God, by Babylonians who have overtaken Assyria (2 Chronicles),

Many are killed, the kings and high-flyers are exiled (Daniel) and some rise remarkably and see God’s salvation (Daniel and later Esther). Between the days of Solomon and this time of exile many messengers call God’s people to turn back to him (Isaiah after the days of King Uzziah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah etc).

Eventually God uses a foreign king to send his people back for a partial restoration under Ezra and Nehemiah, while Haggai prophesies. The rebuilt city is inglorious and prophetic expectation remains unfulfilled until centuries later, the son of Abraham and David is born, Jesus the Christ.

This son, this seed, is the true Israel. The true temple. The true priest. The true sacrifice. The word of God. As the author is written into the story godly men and women stop to sing. Though he made the world he is rejected by it. He is killed by the whole world and yet is raised to life by his Father.

He sends the Spirit to his people, the church, and they become a global people, bringing God’s rule and blessing to all peoples. They form local communities, bodies of which Jesus is the head, where though diverse their common love of Jesus binds them together in love. They stop to sing. They live longing for the day when he returns and will renew his world, re-creating it to be the place where He, the true Man, will dwell with his bride, the church, whom he saved, forever.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"Parachurch" and the Emporer's New Clothes? (A friendly interaction with Steve Timmis)

Oh no not him on that again! I couldn't resist the opportunity to engage the church/parachurch issue again. I'll get off the topic and onto something else tomorrow.
Steve Timmis of The Crowded House, at Resurgence: 

"I know saying this isn’t going to win me any friends, but someone has to tell the king he’s naked. Is it not a quiet madness for churches to largely outsource their discipleship (to parachurch agencies) and training (to theological colleges)? The best context for both discipleship and training is the people of God on mission (a.k.a. church)
Parachurch vs. Local Church
 Take discipleship as a case in point. It’s in the context of church that we are going to learn best what it means to be a faithful follower of Jesus. Parachurch agencies do a lot of good, but they tend to draw people who share a special interest and who want similar things. By contrast, a local church is usually comprised of people from a range of backgrounds, at very different stages of development and with competing interests."

I don't see why we can't talk about a subject like this and win friends... evangelicals should be able to air their questions freely. I have concerns, I have things I agree with..

Any example of church-outsourcing ministry is probably almost as bad as parents outsourcing parenting to youthworkers. Question - what does it mean for a church to take responsibility for something? And who - the leaders, memebers, a label...I'd argue my church 'owns' student mission through CU our students being involved in it, and by resourcing it as a ministry of our church (though not only of our church).

The use of "vs." is precisely the problem. Church is for Christ, parachurch for the Church and thus for Christ. Without that what business does it have existing...whether united campus witness of theological college. There's a missing link to the examples cited - everyone in a theology college or in a Christian Union (for example) is going to be a member of a local church (or should be) - so a great deal of their training and discipleship is going to happen in the local church.

Timmis also overstates both the diversity of churches membership and the lack of the same in parachurch - we all have problems with cloning and conformity, though the single biggest struggle for a "parachurch agency" like the one I work for, isn't how similar we all are but how the heck we hold everyone together when the default is to splinter and separate.

Parachurch enables churches to do more and become more than just the sum of their parts. Training in house is great if you're a big church in a big city, but a whole lot harder if you're not. Partner with other churches in your locality or denomination/network and suddenly you have better training but it's "parachurch".  Someone previously suggested that the Newfrontiers Newday Youth Conference wasn't a kind of parachurch because it was effectively under denominational leadership (apostolic oversight), while I take the point it's a rather narrow/'roman catholic' view of the British church scene...

Instead of parachurch I'd rather speak of Partnerships. This is more involved language - people partner in partnerships. A partnership benefits the members whether through access to central resources or conferences... or through the creation of partner ministries. In Exeter one such partnership is the Exeter Evangelical Partnership of 30 church leaders who in turn together throw their weight behind three partnerships - YMCA, ICE (schoolswork) and UCCF. The gospel drives Christians  towards unity and outwards in mission so it's a supernatural impulse to form partnerships. Such partnerships, far from existing because of failure in the church (as is often said of parachurch), are the fruit of strength in the local church.

Under all of this is something of a false assumption that:"Parachurch = Gospel + Culture - Church" (as Mark Driscoll argues in the outstanding The Radical Reformission, p20 - also excellent I think is Timmis & Chester's Total Church). If that's parachurch then sack it off. But I'm not sure it has to be like that. See parachurch that loves the local church. or the Northern Training Institute of which Timmis is a faculty member. NTI is a reformation of the traditional "Bible College" model, arguably still a parachurch ministry but just a good one - a partnership!

I'm all for safeguarding and upholding the church - amen Steve! The way to do it though isn't to make parachurch the bad guy - the benefits to the church of 'the best of' parachurch ministry are surely endless (granted there is bad parachurch as much as there is bad local church too...). It's good to talk, and friends need to have the freedom to differ. In reality I'm not sure I'm very far away from Steve Timmis on this issue, I guess I just have a vested interest in showing there are some exceptions! And, seriously big respect for Steve Timmis, 18 months ago I met him and heard him give probably the best wedding sermon I've heard. Those crazy Crowded House people love the church which makes them good guys in my book. 

Let's show of the splendour of the bride and her Christ and love both more. Let all ministry, all partnership, be to build the church and to draw attention to the one she is betrothed to in the gospel.

Interview: Table Talk 6 - Sanctification

Mike Reeves interviews my supervisor Tim Rudge:

Tim Keller Wiki for articles, audio etc by Tim Keller.  Finally loads of his best stuff all in one place. The books/articles and sermons I've digested are amongst the best contemporary gospel-saturated stuff you could get your hands on today.

Keller was with London City Mission yesterday and with Newfrontiers today, both in London, UK.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tim Chester: How to wash up to the glory of God

Several years ago John Piper famously wrote about how to drink orange juice to the glory of God.

When you've done that you need to find out how to wash up to the glory of God, Tim Chester shows how!

 Another part of the adventure of finding out what it means to bring the rule of God into the things he entrusts me to do each day, living with him as Lord, with the grace he supplies to do the things that will bring him glory.

Be "the Bible guy" because the gospel matters

I love the church and I love the gospel and I love book by book Bible-exposition that impresses the gospel on human hearts (how could anyone not!?)....its why I love doing the crazy job I get to do with UCCF in the South West and this sort of stuff makes me want to press on in the gospel to keep doing it, and one day perhaps God will gracious let me do this stuff week in week out for a local church....

The Holy Spirit scared the wits out of me yesterday in 2 Peter 1v8 saying that if I'm not growing in my character then I have ineffective knowledge of Jesus. Flip. I need the gospel. I really need the gospel.

Matt Chandler on 1 Timothy 4:
They know about him, but they don’t know him....

"Listen. The gospel matters. Getting the gospel right matters. If you get the gospel wrong and you don’t distinguish between what the gospel is and what morality is, then what you’ve done at best is restrain the hearts of people, but you won’t see their hearts transformed. If you don’t get the gospel right, you will inoculate your people to Jesus.
Paul is pleading with Timothy here: “Be trained in the gospel. Let it stir up your affections. Know the gospel.”
Every new philosophy of ministry has to go through the filter of the gospel. He doesn’t stop there, but says that not only is the gospel important but all the doctrines that flow from it. I was at a large conference and I’m backstage eating with some of the other speakers. A guy called me “The Bible Guy.” The Bible Guy? Shouldn’t we all be the Bible-Guy, dumb-dumb? Somehow, hyper-fundamentalism and doctrine have become synonymous, and we’re lost as to how worship has faded. Seeing God rightly stirs the affections of the soul. I preach through books of the Bible. The thing about doing that is that the Scriptures will gently and consistently, lovingly pressure your people’s assurance."
- Matt Chandler at DG09: A Shepherd and his unregenerate sheep

- The Village Church
ht: JT

Monday, February 23, 2009

CS Lewis: When Cabbages teach Botany, or The Interrogation of Futility

We left CS Lewis (in De Futilitate) concluding that the way forward with futility wasn't to just take it, or to deny it, but to face it head on.

We feel a sense of cosmic futility.
Futility is the opposite of utility.
"In calling it futile we are only expressing our naive surprise at the discovery that basic reality does not possess the characteristics of a human artefact — a thing made by men to serve the purposes of men — and the demand that it should -may be regarded as preposterous"
The universe fails to serve us and thus we conclude "futile!" - yet who are we to have supposed it should serve us, small us in our small corner of the Universe. Furthermore
"The proper way of stating the facts is not to say that the universe is futile, but that the universe has produced an animal, namely man, which can make deeply engrained that even when the creature is not engaged in tool-making it continues to use this pattern of thought...Hence arises the absurd practice of demanding that the universe should be ‘good’ complaining that it is bad’."
The futile universe produced us who ask the question. Asking tells us about us but not a great deal about the universe. We have to ask whether our own thinking is as futile as the futility we observe, but one cannot pursue that line of argument for very long. We have to conclude that some insights are actually true. We do this about science, though we're reluctant to say the same morally. So,
"That is why in modern stories of what the Americans call science fiction - stories about unknown species who inhabit other planets or the depth of the sea - these creatures are usually pictured as being wholly devoid of our moral standards but as accepting our scientific standards."
But it's a false distinction. The only distinction really is between logical and non-logical thought, our knowledge comes from sensible inference. From which Lewis concludes:
"logic is a real insight into the way in which real things have to exist. In other words, the laws of thought are also the laws of things: of things in the remotest space and the remotest time . This admission seems to me completely unavoidable and it has very momentous consequences."
This is explored further in his book Miracles (chapters 1-6). From here we find a purely material account of the universe to be ruled out.
"The laws whereby logic obliges us to think turn out to be the laws according to which every event in space and time must happen. The man who thinks this an ordinary or probable result does not really understand. It is as if cabbages, in addition to resulting from the laws of botany also gave lectures in that subject: or as if, when I knocked out my pipe, the ashes arranged themselves into letters which read: ‘We are the ashes of a knocked-out pipe.’ But if the validity of knowledge cannot be explained in that way, and if perpetual happy coincidence throughout the whole of recorded time is out of the question, then surely we must seek the real explanation elsewhere."
However reality can be logical and still disregard any recognisable values and so be accused of futility. Yet, the accusation implies a standard. Thus the "Heroic anti-theism thus has a contradiction in its centre." (anti-theism rather than atheism feels more appropriate for our present age - the so called New Atheists don't just deny God they seem to rage against him) - Identifying and taking issue with the futility undermines our accusations. And so:
"Our sense that the universe is futile and our sense of a duty to make those parts of it we can reach less futile, both really imply a belief that it is not in fact futile at all: a belief that values are rooted in reality outside ourselves, that the Reason in which the universe is saturated is also moral."
To be continued...

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Video: An Amish Reformation?

Fascinating documentary on BBC iPlayer (until Wednesday), Trouble in Amish Paradise... what happens when people who are told to keep the rules of the community and not allowed to read the Bible in their own language start doing so. Adrian comments:
"It's as near as you're going to get to understanding - in modern terms - the personal struggles some of the Reformers had as they rejected the medieval Catholic norms and power of the ruling church"
ht: Adrian and Mark.

Sermon: This is our gospel, there is no other (2 Cor 11, Stu Alred)

I love our church. I love that we're in a family on mission who love the sound doctrine of the gospel because we love Jesus. This mornings meeting was no exception. Matt led us in worship of Jesus, and then Stu Alred preached from 2 Corinthians 11 (download mp3).

It was a very un-English and yet very Christian preach that called us to stay with the Christ we're betrothed too, and not to be deceived into falling for a different Christ, a different gospel or a different Spirit. It's God on his own terms as he reveals himself or we have nothing at all.

Would any man tolerate a different bride walking down the aisle to the one he agreed to marry? Paul is the most tolerant of men when it comes to bridging cultural divides but he wont tolerate alternative gospels. In our city there are Mormon Jesus' preached, and Islamic Jesus', New-Age Jesus', Liberal Jesus' and many more. Strikingly in the last couple of years two Christian bookshops have gone out of business in Exeter but the Spiritualist shop remains in business. People love other gospels, nonetheless we must stay true to Jesus.

1. The rocky engagement (1-4)
2. Paul's defence (5-11)
3. Paul's attack (12-15)

FREE view (from ECU at Boston Tea Party)

Photos by Dan Partridge via Facebook.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

CS Lewis: De Futilitate - Then what's the good of the ruddy world going on?

I'm loving continuing to read CS Lewis' Christian Reflections essays. I've moved on from The Funeral of a Great Myth to his De Futilitate.

Early on this essay takes a similar angle. He speaks into WWII's sense of futility. Strikingly he notes that people really should experience futility. He tells the story of serving in the Home Guard with someone and watching them for the first time face the issue. Lewis says the norm should be for us to ask, what's the use of the world going on?

How could we not ask that? Don't we all see the repetition, the closed system that goes no-where, the spinning of planets, the lack of real progress...

However, this futility is very well concealed by the myth of evolution. As in Funeral Lewis critiques not the science but the myth, the "popular evolution" attached to it. Lewis:
"As J. B. S. Haldane says, in evolution progress is the exception and degeneration the rule.Popular Evolutionism ignores this. For it, ‘Evolution’ simply means ‘improvement’."
Contrary to "the myth":
"The huge background is filled by quite different principles: entropy, degradation, disorganization."
Everything makes us look small and says:
"Organic life is only a lightning flash in cosmic history".

That said,
"The fact that the ship is sinking is no reason for allowing her to be a floating hell while she still floats. Indeed, there is a certain fine irony in the idea of keeping the ship very punctiliously in good order up to the very moment at which she goes down."
- keep playing the music on the Titanic while she sinks! Go with Wallace Hartley. Lewis notes that surely we don't have to just imitate the futility we see.... It's reminiscent of Ecclesiastes which exposes the hebel of the world but still sounds notes of joy. And Lewis is (playfully) drawing us in to where he will take us in the main bulk of the essay, to get in the face of the futility. 
We see futility so what do we do about it?
  • We could take it and despair.
  • We could deny it, which is anti-science and common to much eastern thought, and to some Christianity.
  • Or thirdly, you can contend with the futility, interrogate it.
Lewis invites us to get face to face with the futility and take the third option.... [to be continued]

Friday, February 20, 2009

Genesis 20-21: The Sons of Abraham

Previously… Christ overthrew the wicked, remembered the righteous and saved beyond expectation. Lot was offered the opportunity to flee to the mountain for grace but refused and his story ends desperately… His family will one day find redemption, adopted into the line of Judah when Boaz marries Ruth.

Meanwhile for Abraham he faces the indignity that his nephew has four children while he still only has the illegitimate Ishmael. The promise awaits fulfilment. The wandering king-priest finds himself in Gerar, a foolish land where “there is no fear of God at all” (20v11). And so we find a re-run of Abraham’s earlier detour to Egypt (ch12), once more he asks his half-sister to deny that she’s his wife and say only that he is his sister to preserve their lives from the tyrants who would attempt to prevent the Seed from being born.

In the night the Lord speaks to King Abimelech and declares him a dead man. Abimelech is however the one god-fearer in his land and this apparent tyrant is shown to be a repentant man. He has taken but not touched Abraham’s wife and so he needs the prophet to pray for him to turn aside curse. Abraham is a prophet having been taken into the counsel of God over the destruction of Sodom (Amos 3v7). The prophet-king-priest intercedes for Abimelech and the wombs of his household are re-opened. Abimelech can have children, though Abraham waits. Later (21v22-34) we find a dispute between these men, Abimelech is concerned that Abraham will once more deceive him but they come to peace and make a covenant. We leave Abraham by a well calling upon the Lord, the Everlasting God.

In between comes the climax of Abraham’s story. A peculiarly brief account of the birth of the Seed, all that expectation and it happens in a very matter of fact way. As God had promised. As God had said. At the time God had said. And duly circumscised as God had commanded. Finally Abraham’s seed is born.

His half-brother Ishamel laughs and the boy Laughter. He mocks and persecutes him (Galatians 4v21-31) and so Sarah demands that he be cast out, to ensure that he doesn’t inherit. Abraham is distraught but God promises that as a seed of Abraham Ishmael will become a great nation and the boy finds God’s provision as he sits dying in the wilderness.

At the end of these events we find one of Abraham’s sons exiled from his father, denied inheritance, living in the wilderness and married to an Egyptian. The other, is in his father’s house (tent), by a well, by a tree, worshipping God. God’s Son Israel will go one way or the other – it’s undeniable which place anyone should rather be found. Later, Abraham’s true son will pass through the wilderness and bring his people back to dwell with their father, in the green pastures by the tree.

New Word Alive (2009) - Book Now!

NWA1 30th March - 4th April 2009

NWA2 4th April - 9th April 2009

Don't miss out on a life transforming week - Places available from £121 per person

Occasionally the phone rings in the New Word Alive office and we are told "I would have loved to come this year but you're obviously sold out." Well we did book out quickly last year, but that led us to double our capacity by holding two New Word Alive events this year. That has made lots more room and places are still available for week 1 or week 2 from as little as £121 per person. However certain types of accommodation are selling out so make your booking quickly. To make booking or discuss availability call Haven on 0871 230 1199.
We've got a great programme lined up of high quality Bible teaching that will help us grow in our relationship with God, and training tracks that will equip us to serve him. Some recent additions are:
  • Culture matters track - enabling us grasp God's view of our world from pop culture to other religions
  • History matters track - helping us learn from key figures who have defended and lived the faith
  • International student track with different language groups
  • Specialist track for healthcare professionals run by CMF
  • a unique track on teaching the gospel to children - giving both the theory and a demonstration to your children!
And there are many, many more...

Event Passes now on sale

If you book your own accommodation off-site you will need to buy an event pass to attend the New Word Alive programme. These are now being sold via our website - - However be aware that it will probably be cheaper to stay on site and more convenient!

Opportunities to Serve

New Word Alive still needs some volunteers to help run our programme. We particularly need help with stewarding and looking after Under 5's. Volunteers have food and accommodation provided for them and up to £100 of travel expenses. If you are interested in helping please e-mail and tell us which area you'd like to help with. It's great opportunity to serve and you'll get lots out of it yourself.

Programme Selection

Bible Readings:
  NWA 1 - Vaughan Roberts teaching from 1 Corinthians
  NWA 2 - Liam Golligher teaching Jonah
Rough Guides to the Bible - helping us grasp God's great plan of rescue and glory
Doctrine Tracks on "Being right with God", "Living in the Light of Heaven" and more...

Afternoon Training Tracks

Our afternoon sessions aim to train and empower Christians in particular areas of discipleship and service. Come and be equipped by God to serve his people! We have lots planned but they include:
  • Student Survival Kit - handling student issues and pressures today
  • Reaching the World for Christ
  • Being Changed by God - overcoming our sin and becoming more like Christ
  • Engaging with God - how to grow in a real relationship with our heavenly Father
  • Islam - how to reach our Muslim communities
  • Social Action/Reaching the poor and marginalized for Jesus
  • Being a Christian in the Workplace
  • Answering objections to Jesus
  • Medical Ethics - what should we think and do about current debates
  • Improving our Marriages
  • Parenting as Christians
  • Preaching Master-Class
  • Skills for Home Group/Small Group Leaders
  • Living by Grace - a special afternoon track led by Terry Virgo

New: Ecclesia Reformanda Journal

Check this new journal - Ecclesia Reformanda by Matthew Mason, Ros Clarke, Neil Jeffers, David Field and co... Sure to have some stuff to stir your heart and mind. They say:
"Ecclesia Reformanda is distinctively Reformed, with a contemporary cutting edge. It presents some of the best in British Reformed thinking and writing to serve the Church, her teachers, and her Lord."

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Tim Keller (London - Feb 25th)

Tim Keller seems to be in the UK a lot a the moment - I mentioned the London Men's Convention yesterday - and now here's another opportunity. Go enjoy!

ECU Preaches


Download mp3s from Exeter University Evangelical Christian Union. I particularly recommend this week's preach by Stu Alred on 2 Corinthians 5 (download mp3) (all 47mins of it is well worth listening to...) and last week's talks from John Risbridger at the Exeter FREE week.

I can't get the download links to work there but the real player plugin download option seems to work fine, and they'll play online too. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Naked and not ashamed - marriage displays Christ and the church

From "Marriage, Christ, and Covenant: One Flesh for the glory of God (John Piper)
ht: Matt Herring

Starbucks Instant Coffee?

Starbucks today launched an instant coffee brand. I am appalled - the last thing the world needs is encouragement to drink this vile coffee impersonator. They say it will taste the same as the coffee in their shops - though to be fair, Starbucks' coffee is pretty awful.

Mandelson says: "please don't project Starbucks onto the UK economy as a whole."

For now Caffe Nero has my Hight Street vote, though the coffee brewed in my kitchen is probably the best :) at which we're currently experimenting with some Lavazza, kindly donated by Chris Oldfield.

"There's probably no God ...well reasoned fact or wishful thinking?"

DOWNLOAD MP3 There's probably no god... Bristol University:

I’m sure you’ve seen the buses going up Park St, I’ve seen them passing my house in Exeter – bearing the advert: There’s probably no God, so don’t worry, enjoy your life.
-Christian Voice – objected, as they did to Jerry Springer the Opera, and to pretty much anything else that breathes.
-The Trinitarian Bible Society has retaliated with an antiquated “The Fool hath said in his heart there is no God”.
-Christian Think-tank Theos helped to fund the atheist led campaign.
-And a Christian bus-driver called Ron is boycotting his bus.

I’m in favour of the campaign - “all publicity is good publicity” – anything that gets us thinking is good. Richard Dawkins has defended it saying that “thinking is anathema to religion” – which confirms my thinking that Christianity isn’t a religion – free as it is from rule and ritual etc. The Bristol University Christian Union exists to get people thinking about the biggest question. So, you’re very welcome here. I’ve got 10-15 minutes to speak and then I’d love to engage your questions, and to hear your comment and perspective.

Is it a well reasoned fact to say there is probably no God?

I worked in sales. Frequently we would be shown training videos helping us to sell our product. In these the head-honcho, Sir Fred, was paraded as a hero and inspired us to sell hard, that this would be good for people and good for us. Our product was money, and we had a sale on money every day. We were told that things would go on climbing forever and that everyone would get rich through this. Last week Sir Fred Goodwin was hauled before a Parliament committee to apologise for getting carried away.

The problem is that everything in our age is embedded into a story that climbs forever onwards and upwards – into which the credit crunch is very inconvenient, because it’s costly and because it rips up the plausibility of the story we’ve loved to believe. It was never going to work, and if we’d stopped and thought about it we could have seen the crunch coming – but we simply didn’t want to.

We want to believe that all change is good, that the new product is better than the old one, that a new government improves on the previous, that our generation will not makes the mistakes of our forefathers. This story is one that resonates with the science of Richard Dawkins, and is often attributed with flowing from it – though it substantially predates it. It’s what the late Oxbridge Professor of English, C.S. Lewis called The Myth of Evolution. Which is neither an attack on the science, which he took no issue with, and neither am I.
Nor, for Lewis, was Myth a derogatory term but a deeply positive one for the overarching stories we live within.

We love the story of the underdog triumphing. The FA cup giant-killing. The weak one who overcomes. Of progress. And Lewis suggests that perhaps we get the science we want – we want to believe in the science of changes because it allows us to believe in the worldview of improvement… Three thousand years ago, asked if there was a prophet in his land the ancient Israelite King Ahab is recorded as saying “there is one, Micaiah, but I hate him because he only ever says bad about me and not good”. So often we accept what we want to believe. And that that is surely deeply problematic.

In October 2008, Richard Dawkins debated with his fellow Oxbridge scholar, a Christian and a Mathematician, John Lennox. Dawkins said “You can make a case for a deist god, just not one who is interested in our sin, thinking and genitals”. With all due respect, that’s different to what he’s previously written. Dawkins is of course a co-conspirator in the bus campaign with Ariane Sherine. The Oxford Professor of Public Knowledge of Science is the one responsible for that “probably” – not because of its resonance with beer marketing, but because previously he wrote in The God Delusion: “God is very improbable”.

Now he’s saying it’s not so much the existence of a God that is his problem, but that the existence of a God who might in someway impinge upon his lifestyle. How many of us like the student life because it’s freedom from parental oversight…. No God, no parents around… “Don’t worry, enjoy your life”.

I want people who drive over the speed limit past my house to be penalized for it. If my car was pulled over I’d be less keen on the idea. So too, it seems Richard Dawkins fears that if there was a God then Richard Dawkins might fall the wrong side of the line. We want justice and accountability – banking fatcats should be called to account – but we get nervous when we might be on the line. What if there was a God, and what if we aren’t as good as we’d like to think we are. Like Ahab we don’t want to hear from God, or of God. Like Sir Fred we want to believe that everyone can be richer, singing along with Tony Blair who was elected to the tune of: “things can only get better” – now he concedes much of the economic progress was just luck.

There may or may not be good reasons to adopt an atheist world view, but it would be honest to admit that it’s a something we want to be true too. Atheism suits us.

Is it wishful thinking to say that there is a God?

We should observe that the god whose existence is disputed in this campaign is not Allah, Molech, Belial or Mammon but the Christian God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, promoted in the Christian Foundations course to which this campaign responds. You may have seen publicity for The Alpha Course, most recently asking on buses “If there was a God what would you ask him?” In which case we ought to ask, how are we to know whether such a god might exist? Firstly, we’ll consider science. Secondly, history.

We know some things by science.
We make a scientific hypothesis and test it, adjusting our hypothesis as necessary. This works for us in many ways. It gives us sufficient knowledge to walk into a building, board a plane, sit on a chair, eat food etc.
But, contrary to widespread opinion, it’s not the only way to know. I imagine no-one used a chemistry set on Saturday to find out if their Valentine loved them… I’m a fan of science, I just don’t think we can say its methodology covers everything.

We know something’s by historical enquiry.
That is we gather eyewitness evidence and consider it to see whether its claims hold “beyond reasonable doubt”. This is secure enough to send people to prison for life. Richard Dawkins tries Christianity in the courts of science but we must give it its day in the courts of history. Christianity explicitly makes itself a hostage to history. Can we know for certain? Perhaps not but we can at least know “beyond reasonable doubt”

Mark’s gospel, one of those historic records is sourced from Simon Peter who was a leader of the early church. He explicitly says that he’s not teaching “cleverly devised myths”. He could have said that but he doesn’t. Another prominent leader Paul says the same – declaraing that without specific events occurring in history Christianity is null and void.

Buddhism stands as a way of thinking without the existence of Buddha. But without God having written himself into human history in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, you can bin Christianity. That’s the Achilles heel of Christianity, but also its biggest strength. Christianity is wide open to your scrutiny. Why not take and examine the testimony in this book, FREE. {on reflection I could have pushed harder here - illustrating that though its reasonable people hold back from doing it}

In closing, much like Dawkins and Sherine’s campaign Christianity curiously draws the same two implications as the current campaign– Don’t Worry and Enjoy Life – though for somewhat different reasons. Could it be that like Richard Dawkins we like the idea of freedom from accountability to God… what if however we could have our worry relieved, not by running from what we’ve done and who we are, but facing God head on – and receiving from him a free gift of forgiveness, a life changing security of identity, and the joy of knowing our maker. I submit to you that this is a desirable, reasonable though uncomfortable offer.

But, let me underscore that this is an empty offer and wishful thinking if Jesus is not who it is claimed he is, and has not done in history what he is claimed.  

Your comments and questions…

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Whoah, that just felt like Christianity

[Francis] Chan talked about a gang member who got saved and then baptized in his church yet disappeared a year later. A leader in the congregation noticed and sought him out and asked “What happened?” He said “I had the wrong idea about what I thought church would be. I thought it would be like family, a different kind of family. See, when I was in the gangs, we hung together, watched each other’s backs, took care of each other, we committed to each other 24-7, not just two meetings a week. When I got here, it was like each one was on his own. There was just no reason for me to be here with these people.” Chan said this broke his heart. The gang was better at being the church than the church was at being the church. Story Two:  Chan met with the elders over this (I presume)....They saw in themselves what this gang member saw in the congregaton. And they started to break it down and commit to each other...“I commit to take care of your kids if you die.” “What is mine is yours.” (go read the rest of the story)

ht: Milton Stanley

London Men's Convention - Tim Keller, Mike Cain & Wes McNabb on Jesus

London Men's Convention on Saturday 18th April at ExCeL London... (with).. London buses proclaiming the fool’s message that there (probably) is no God (Psalm 14:1), it’s obvious that this city and nation urgently need to hear about Jesus in language they can understand. Wrong part of the country for me, but worth a look if you can get there.

Wes McNabb of Slade Church, Plumstead, Mike Cain of Emmanuel at Badminton, Bristol and Tim Keller of Redeemer, New York, worship led by Stuart Townend of CCK Brighton.

Enjoying the FREE time

Lo-level blogging because I've been a bit busy. Dropped in at ECU's Christianity Explored last night - great to see around 30 people there listening as Matt Herring held out Mark's gospel so we could see Jesus and hear his gospel - "He did it. He did it. It's Finished! The war is over..."
Today is my last speaking engagement ahead of paternity leave and sabbatical, speaking at Bristol this lunchtime on "There's probably no God... well reasoned fact or wishful thinking"

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Psalms with Don Carson

In recent weeks I've heard Don Carson teaching Psalms to our annual staff conference, and Mike Reeves doing them for my regional team - a slight accident of planning, but it's a big book and I think it was beneficial to hit it twice! I can't share Mike's mp3s at the moment but here are the ones from Don, via Andy Naselli.
Psalm 1 -- Psalm 2 -- Psalm 40 -- Psalm 110

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Seven Days - Lots of FREE stuff

1. FREE at Exeter University - struck by the clarity of John Risbridger's talks, the numbers attending and the way that Bostons Tea Party is a great venue. Encouraged by Dan giving his first lunchbar talk. Dan and Catherine led the evenings well and seeing a Relay worker being given a rose, in public, by a student, at an evangelistic moment was priceless. Big up the local church guys and the SW relays for serving. Christianity Explored starts on Monday in Wetherspoons, and I've heard of at least a couple of students who chose to become Christians during the week.
2. FREE at Plymouth University - struck by CU guests telling me how genuine peoples questions have been. Photos from Pudding event at Plymouth. Great to have Robin Sydserf and a team from Cornhill serve there.

3. FREE at Bath University - I love the CU at my alma mater, they've made it normal to have two weeks like this each year (November and February) which is great, and they learn how to run them well because of this. Charlie Skrine and his team were excellent but all the events stand on a sure foundation of genuine friendships that the CU members have with other students. Bitesize course starts Thursday in Starbucks.

4. News on UCCF Bloggers from other FREE weeks around the country last week. And more to come! Good stories from Newcastle, Southampton, Surrey and more...

5. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Great fx, captivating story, unlikeable characters that left me pondering time and relationships. More to think on yet. First cinema trip since Question of Sport back in October.

6. Kenny, Claudia and Hannah. I always enjoy time with the staff. Alex and Jim next week. Especially in the context of CU mission weeks and when we've been able to open up Genesis 14, Galatians 6 and 1 Corinthians 14 together.

7. The Freedom of a Christian by Martin Luther. Outstanding. Review to follow. Great on union with Christ, great on the word of God (Bible, gospel and world-making). I have it as a book, but you can read online at Theology Network

Friday, February 13, 2009

In praise of... taking responsibility for things

Here's my confession, I used to work for Sir Fred Goodwin. For a year I worked in retail banking, at the height of the consumer credit race before the crunch. Debt was peddled like free money. On some scale blame lies with me and people like me who identified lead for other people to sell 'credit' to. We worked there. We got paid (not much) for it. And older colleagues bemoaned the fall of banking compared to the old respectable banking of 30+ years ago where it was a priviledge to meet a bank manager. Yesterday Sir Fred, hailed by our bosses as a hero bank in 2002 offered some sense of apology:
"There is a profound and unqualified apology for all the distress that has been caused... What I'm concerned about is that it is just too simple if you want to blame it all on me. If you want to blame it all on me and close the book, that will get the job done very quickly, but it does not go anywhere close to the cause of all of this."
Perhaps for legal reasons, perhaps because people don't like to take responsibility it's sort of I'm sorry but without really taking responsibility. Contrast Josiah Bartlett:
"I was wrong. I was. I was just, I was wrong. Come on, we know that. Lots of times we don't know what right and wrong is. But lots of time we do. And come on, this is one. I may not have had sinister intent at the outset, but there were plenty of opportunities for me to make it right. No one in government takes responsibility for anything any more. We foster, we obfuscate, we rationalize. "Everybody does it." That's what we say. So we come to occupy a moral safe house where everyone's to blame so no one's guilty. I'm to blame. I was wrong."
It's a problem in our society that we don't like to take the responsibility. We want the potential profits of risk, but it has to cut both ways.

I see it in young students being offered responsibility, wrestling with whether they should take what is offered to them... they want someone to tell them the right thing to do, others are wary of acting to please those who will tell them what to do. Somehow they have to take responsibility, to make a decision and make the most of it, and take the flack if it was the wrong call. We can't guarentee things will work out ok and we're not required to. Things can fail. There's permission to fail - the ridiculous thing is when we wont take responsibility. Usually today that means Big Names quit their jobs, which also feels like dodging the issue. Granted sometimes its a good move, surely there are times to say - I screwed up, let's move forward...

Problem is when everything is about how well we perform, admiting to getting things wrong or to failing is bad for us. Sin's a disaster. Ruinous. By contrast a world of grace means that there are consequences for wrongs and also the possibility of restoration. We can stand up and take responsibility. We can repent. We can be forgiven and start again. That's if you believe in grace. If you don't have grace then "God help you if you take responsibility...."

"media savvy non-confrontational strategies for those gripped by the natural world"

We've had three fascinating guests stay with us in the last 10 days, firstly Mike Reeves, and then Adrian Warnock and on Tuesday this week the most excellent Chris Oldfield, who is pursuing some imaginative blogging threads: "Non-christian society is recognising and grieving human sin more than most Christians and are literally calling for repentance (an utter changing of mind), but crying out for compelling reasons"

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Onwards and upwards in veneration of Charles Darwin

Paul Eddy asked the Church of England to affirm the uniqueness of Christ and the need to evangelise..... Cranmer reports that they've decided to do it. The General Synod: "the Church of England has a mandate to proselytise; to convert all non-believers. Eschewing all the multicultural and multi-faith political correctness of pluralism, they reiterated the uniqueness of Christ and the imperative of preaching the gospel to all – even Jews and Muslims, whatever the offence."

I asume that also means Anglicans are free to evangelise Darwinians, whose founder is 200 today - impressive evolution. (ht: Reynolds). That said, the 'Great Myth' would survive if Darwin never existed, as Buddhism can handle if Buddha never was, but Christianity holds itself hostage to the existence in history of Christ. It's the achiles heel and the greatest strength of Christianity - it's not about a person but about what God has done in history. Dropping in at another FREE Week at yesterday that note sounded again as Robin Sydserf hosted a lunchtime talk for thoughtful Plymouth students.

As humanity proclaims its heroes and strives onwards and upwards the attainment of David Beckham is still not enough to make England win.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The FREE Gospel Project (Exeter)

Yesterday I connected with FREE at Exeter.

Dan Roach spoke on "The Historical Jesus" to a full room at lunchtime, and then John Risbridger spoke on "Who is Jesus" in the evening. Great to be reminded of the goodness and reasonableness of the gospel, rooted in history, revealed in the Bible - the kind of thing that those who want to embrace free thinking will investigate. The evening was particularly well done - outstanding venue - Bostons Tea Party, great Jazz, helpful testimony, quality talk. Most encouraging point of yesterday: "Cat prayed with a girl as angels rejoiced today!" - pray for as he makes her first steps as a Christian and connects into the local church.

Similar events are ongoing at Bath and Plymouth this week in the South West, and elsewhere at Newcastle, Southampton, Surrey and many other Universities. The Free Gospel Project is in action, Christian students are reading Mark's gospel with non-Christian students. C'mon!

I'll come back to this quote but had to drop it in: "Every sermon I come to hear, I must expect to be nearer heaven or nearer hell."Jeremiah Burroughs, Gospel Fear, page 20. Tasty, and precisely what's happening on campus as God's word rings out.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Dominion over the Earth: What should Christian Students do with their Student Loans? Or, being human whilst being a student. Or, being a Christian student.

Christian students are encouraged to live and speak for Jesus. And that's a good thing. The question is - who is this Jesus whom they live and speak for? If it's just the Jesus of popular opinion then we're talking about a very small Jesus. One who is kept out of saying anything about "our sin, our genitals and our thinking" (Richard Dawkins).The alternative is to meet the Christ of Scripture, the real Jesus, the one through whom and for whom all things were made, the one who came into the world to do everything so that a renewed heavens and earth would be offered to us. The real Jesus who rightly stakes his claim on all of his world, and all of our lives. God's son, God's king, who reigns from God's holy hill where his life was poured out for his people...  Discipleship is the outworking of life in relation to that Jesus. In essence it's taking refuge in Jesus (Psalm 2v12) but what would that look like in all of life...

Luke Wood from Life Church Southampton has some really helpful posts on thinking about student debt:

Should students tithe their student loan?
How not to max out your student loan
How not to max out your student loan: take advice
How not to max out your student loan: plan ahead

In view of the comission of humanity in Genesis 1, it seems humanity is relational (and we could speak endlessly about friendship, marriage and the glory of the church...), but is also given dominion, under God, over God's world. Man is given the world to serve and cultivate, a temple in which to worship God.  

David Attenborough speaks in his Charles Darwin and The Tree of Life, stood in front of St. Charles, saying that "we do not have dominion over this world". We forfeitted it, exchanging worship of our creator for worship of his creation, but in The Man, we can return to once more having a true dominion. As Attenborough and Dawkins become more religious in their expositions of The Great Myth of Evolution I can't help but think they're helping Christians to be free to articulate the Great Myth that came true, with warmth, sympathy and engagement... we all want a bigger story...

The domain given to a student is not insubstantial, though it is only a small fraction of the whole creation. Students have dominion over their education (and future employment), over their time (all 168 hours a week), over the community of unbelievers entrusted to them to live and speak amongst, and over finances. Of all people the Christian can hear God's call to stand up and take responsibility. The gospel issues this call. Jesus is Lord over all of life.

Learning to be human in each of these areas is one of the key aspects of what it means to be a Christlike student. To make good use of the education offered. To make those 168 hours a week count. To love the people around them, like a pastor loving his congregation. To be a good steward of the money in your account - much of which is effectively (actually) borrowed from future earnings, and if badly stewarded will be an even heavier weight to carry than it inevitably has to be. To live generously, hospitably, wisely, prudently.

Studentwork (whether in the local church or in church-loving parachurch) has got to engage with helping to equip Christian students to live gospel-centredly in these areas (offering similar helps to non-Christian students wouldn't be a bad idea either! - though no-one can ultimately regain their humanity without the gospel of Jesus Christ). And Christian youthwork could do student workers massive favours by covering some of this too - let's help teenagers to lead, and that doesn't just mean leading bible study or organising stuff 'in church' - but leading in all of life too. This is more than just "life-skills" it's about a wider reaching, more distinctive Christianity. Taught as the implications of the gospel, rather than imperatives for acceptability, this is about seeing a generation rise who eat, work, play and sleep Christianly.