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Showing posts from May, 2010

Heretical Marriage?

This is about all you're getting from me this week. Go visit Glen Scrivener's blog and read some of his thinking on marriage. It'll refresh you, challenge you and inspire you.

Spouse speak

Arian mysogyny - interacting with some JW's and how our marriages are easily Arian

What kind of oneness - reflections on heretic marriage

He said, she said

Coffee is The Gospel Drink

Last year I wrote a short guide on how to drink coffee. It needs a little revision since I've had my eyes open to see that this truly is the LORD's world. On twitter yesterday I read this suggestion:
@benjaminhouston How good is coffee! I'm pretty sure it was created on the 6th day with all the best things... like people I love the devotion but I think actually, coffee is a matter of the third day. The coffee plant is a seed bearing plant and thus made on the third day (Genesis 1:11-13). This is better still!

The third day is the day of seed, the day of resurrection and victory - the day of the figurative resurrection of Isaac, and Esther... of David's victories and the victory of the promised seed.

And of course, the way to make coffee is to see the seed die, then be consumed by fire (roasted, at least), and crushed (Isaiah 53:10), goes under water (Jonah, Jesus, baptism...), giving off a pleasing aroma, and giving life to the one who receives it. Unless someone rips …

Jesus Manifesto

On the train yesterday I read an freebie advance copy of Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola's new book The Jesus Manifesto: Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ .

It's an easy read with a simple idea: Christianity is Christ. You can't really disagree with that. It should be so obvious that no-one would argue with it. Jesus Manifesto suggests this is pretty revolutionary...

"Christians have made the gospel about so many things—things other than Christ. Religious concepts, ideas, doctrines, strategies, methods, techniques, formulas, "its" and "things" have all eclipsed the beauty, the glory, and the reality of the Lord Jesus Himself. On the whole, the Christian family today is starved for a real experience of the living Christ."

In many ways I really really like this book, particularly it's unpacking of what Colossians says about Jesus, and the idea of telling your life story through the story of Jesus is a very good example of…

God's part and Our Part in Evangelism (or Trinitarian Missiology)

Had the opportunity to teach on the old chestnut subject of God's part and our part in evangelism this afternoon to a group of small group leaders involved in student mission.

I decided to take a slightly different angle to how this often done which may or may not have paid off... so we dodged Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility in favour of the easier subject of Trinity, on the grounds that how much of who does what is less important than who the who's involved are.

Non-Trinitarian thinking on Sovereignty tends to end up with a Hitchins style divine invigilator which people don't like and hardly motivates mission (or for some of us we get the big-wow-blast everyone kind of God who is impressive and super-holy don't-mess-with-me but perhaps not quite so personal...).

We get somewhere very different if we think Trinitarianly, and not by going god-is-an-egg/water/three-leaf-whatever, but knowing the Son who signified the Father, and so on...

These are the notes: G…

Who can I encourage today?

Paul sent Tychicus to encourage the hearts of the Colossians (Col 4:8) and wrote 1 Thessalonians as words for encouragement (4:18). Moses was told to encourage Joshua, and David asked for Joab to be encouraged. The scriptures encourage (Romans 15:4-5) for God is a God of encouragement and there is encouragement in Christ (Phil 2:1). I want to be a Barnabas (son of encouragement).

Encouraging is an under-rated gift, people wilt for lack of it and flourish when they receive it. I once heard someone say - "don't encourage people, it'll make them proud" - nonsense. Always encourage and not just with fluff but with substance.

I want to pursue encouragement today. Not just today.

Enjoying the sunshine

My friend Stu is reflecting on the sunshine. I enjoy his thoughts and I think we can probably go a even further than just being blown away by the sheer attraction and power of the sun.

1. Psalm 19 speaks of the heaven's proclaiming the glory of God - and the sun's part in that is to be like a bridegroom moving through the sky. That's not abstract power, it's LOVE. Look at the sky and see the love of God.

2. The gospel pattern is that the Triune God sends the Son into the world as The Light who shines in the darkness. The darkness tries to overcome the light but cannot. The moon shines at night to hold back the darkness, and the sun does so in the daytime.

3. And, Jesus died in the dark and rose in the morning. The end of the day proclaims the death of Jesus, the new morning proclaims the mercy of God - it proclaims the resurrection. This is God's world and it is singing out the gospel. What can you see?
See also:
Theology for the cold days too
Glen Scrivener: This is…

Ezekiel 36: Your Name in Lights

When the LORD acts it is good news. Christianity is always good news. And Christianity is always about divine action not human action. It’s always the Triune God, the LORD – Father, Son and Holy Spirit saying I will. There is no full and proper coalition here. It’s the LORD. Full stop.

Twice – am going to act not for your sake but for the sake of my name. Ezekiel 36v22, v32not for your sake… but for the sake of my holy name. Christians dispute: Does God act because he loves us or because of his glory? On the face of it Ezekiel 36 is a big win for the glory guys.

But, what is “my holy name” – what is the name of the LORD?
The name of the LORD has always been his gracious saving gospel character – the name he displayed in Exodus 33 to Moses. “I will proclaim before you my name”. The name is expressed in his deliverance of the people in Exodus 23:21 “I send an angel before you… my name is in him”

The Name dwells in the Tabernacle and Temple (Exodus 20:24, Deut 12:5). Ideas don't live …

Six roadblocks to genuine partnership

Krish Kandiah reflects from his experience in Albania and beyond with some very ouch and very wise challenges about gospel partnership over on the Lausanne website and on his blog. Six roadblocks and one challenge: "who can you partner with today? I would love to begin a viral trail of stories of small and significant partnerships that instead of duplicating ministries begin to multiply fruit".

I want to die to ego. I want to see bridges built. I want to continue to benefit from those I'm partnering with. I want to give away what we have. I want to receive from what others have. I want to soon be partnering with people whom I'm not yet partnering with. I want to reach out to those we've failed to work with in the past. I want to be welcoming when others seek out partnership with me. Not because it'll be easy. Not because we can agree on everything. But because Jesus call to unity is a good thing.

Jesus would follow me on Twitter, right?

(Extract from MP3: The Welcome of God - Mark 15.)

We say:
- I like to think that Jesus would have me on his team.
- I like to think Jesus would have formed a coalition with Nick Clegg.
- I like to think Jesus would come to our church
- I like to think Jesus listens to my kind of music.
- I like to think of Jesus as morally inspirational.
- I like to think Jesus would vote for…

Everyone has their own ideas. And everyone thinks they’re in with Jesus. We all seem to have our own plastic Jesus. A Jesus who looks a bit like what I wish saw when I look in the mirror. A Jesus who is on my team and fits nicely in my pocket. The problem is that whenever we say “I like to think of Jesus as…” we’re just creating an imaginary Jesus. It’s no more real than me saying “I’d like to think of my wife as a 6ft-tall brunette who works as an astronaut…” – that’d be a figment of imagination, and it turns out I prefer my actual 5ft4in blonde music teaching wife…

If we burn our plastic Jesus and look at the real on…

Receiving The Welcome of God (Mark 15:33-41)

Preached twice this morning at our church on Mark 15, a great way to celebrate Pentecost - to remember the day the Triune God became favourable toward us and tore open the way for us to have relationship with him. He extends his welcome - let us come.
Download - mp3: The Welcome of God (2nd service) - 29mins.

Pray: Mark 10:44 today - yes please!
Introduction - exclusion, how it feels to be excluded.
We all think we're in with Jesus - but that's just an imaginary plastic Jesus. So burn your plastic Jesus and look at the real Jesus. In every scene (except two) of Mark's account which is historically reliable.
Jesus is introduced by Mark as the LORD, heaven is torn open, with whom the Father is well pleased, to whom we should listen. He calls himself the bridegroom - going through the sky like the sun - going to lay down his life for his bride.
Mark tells of Jesus predicting his death and resurrection.
Mark 15 we reach Jesus death. The events of Easter, seven weeks ago in ou…

Step into the light (Lou Fellingham)

This week I've had Lou Fellingham's new album on my iPod. We played her previous album, Treasure, to death in the car for most of a summer a couple of years ago - and this one might go the same way.

These are summer sounds written with the soundest doctrine. Funky, uplifting and yet able to engage with life's difficulties. This is an album of personal songs and declarations of the gospel. It's peppered with old hymn lyrics from a fresh version of To God be the Glory a bit of This is the Day...  and sheer Scripture To Him Who is Able.

We begin with a call that There is More than we see when we know Christ. I can see myself flicking the iPod wheel often to this one to lift my eyes. See the Lamb of God is a great song about the cross that I hope to sing someday with church. From the weight of the cross we move to  My God cares which is a great call to the implications of the cross - God is for us! The title track Step into the light, takes the opening song and turns the …

The Words of the Wise (Ecclesiastes10-12)

The final stretch of Ecclesiastes has the feel of the wheels slowing as the end approaches. Three times we're told about the words of the wise, and how they relate to the rule, to the king and to God. The viewpoint escalates with each cycle.

9:17-10:7 Rulers can be loud and angry but the wise will keep quiet and calm in the face of them. Wisdom has a stability that isn't easily fazed, though things in the world are topsy-turvy, rulers are wicked and the rich can be like slaves. Wisdom stays the course, holding to The Wisdom of God whatever the world is like.

10:8-11:6 Kings can be good and they can be bad. It's tempting to be deeply opinionated about them, but that's like digging a hole for yourself to fall into. Words travel and the wise know this. The wise know that words of fools multiply and consume them. The fool fails to realise that there are limits what he can know and so blabbers on endlessly like a blogger. Words multiplying like books. The wise gain favour. Wi…

Ezekiel 36: Another fine mess you've gotten me into?

We all come at life with glasses on – through which we see life, which give us answers to the big questions – where do we come from, what’s wrong with the world, what can fix the world, where are we going. There are really three major views you’ll run into.
The atheist view. This says that there’s only the natural and physical. They claim all of reality under that as a place without meaning or beauty. In this world the God people are just playing a game. I’m not sure I see the appeal of this view – just doesn’t fit with my instinct that there is love and beauty and purpose, but there you go. The religious view. This isn’t necessarily about a belief in god though it can be, but essentially this is the karma view which says good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. It’s instantly appealing to people so long as they can convince themselves of their relative goodness, which most of us can. Problem is that it bears no resemblance to the real world either – bad…

Ezekiel 36: The Gospel of the Triune God acting for The Name

It was my joy last night to preach Christ from Ezekiel 36 at Exeter University Evangelical Christian Union. It was a hard passage and I'm still wrestling with it after the event.

Ezekiel 36 draws us into the question of whether God acts "for his glory" vs. "for love of us".  The key seems to be that he acts not for some vague sense of glory but for the sake of The Name, the one who comes from the Father to represent him, the Saviour, the Son who displays his glory. When the LORD acts for The Name he does so in a lavishing of love on the Son, through the cross, which is shared to the exiles and nations who look upon the one lifted up and are then born again of water and the Spirit. In this we see the brilliance of the gospel as the action of the Triune God for the sake of the Son which includes the wretched and the self-righteous in the wonderful loving relationships of the Trinity.
Downloadable here if you'd like a listen.
Ezekiel 36:16-38 Dave Bish - Exete…

Triune Confession

Richard Walker notes that my good friends at Reading Family Church have published their statement of faith on their website - it's a warm, Triune, charismatic confession and I commend it to you.

This moves from a clear statement about God being Triune, to each of the three persons. Of the Father: The Father is the head of the Trinity who governs all things according to his sovereign and selfless will, which is to display the excellence of his Son to all people, and through the work of salvation, offer them a share in the love he has for the Son.

And then a great Trinitarian statement about the Bible: "The Bible is the written testimony of the Father about his Son, and how the Son faithfully reveals the Father in all he is and does. He has given this testimony to the human race through the Holy Spirit..."

Concluding in the new creation where: ...the righteous will be welcomed into a renewed earth to live in eternal, joyful and direct fellowship with the Father, Son and Ho…

Theology in Music (Mike Reeves)

Yesterday I gathered my team for our final day together this academic year along with Mike Reeves.

We're keen to say Jesus is Lord of all of life so we dug into the subject: theology in music. The question really is, are we playing games in an atheist world, or is this actually the LORD's world?

Session 1 - 48mins
Session 2 - 68mins
Session 3 - 63mins

Some additional reading as recommended in these mp3s:
The prayers of John Bradford
Theology of Everything
The devil has no stories - Peter Leithart
Images of divine things - Jonathan Edwards
Brightest Heaven of invention: study of six Shakespeare plays - Peter Leithart

Jesus is BETTER

We feel sure of betterthings—things that belong to salvation. A better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God. This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant. Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.
For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Since God had provi…

Weekend in London: Matt Chandler, Louie Giglio, Francis Chan, Passion World Tour

No time or energy to write this up yet, but it's been an immense weekend of sitting under the word of God and worshipping with his people from all over the place and all kinds of churches.

Conference isn't standard-form Christianity but just as we can have working partnerships (like CUs) there are some advantages to occasionally gathering together. One is to spread good stuff widely, one is to get me out of my own head, and another is called friendship which helps because its good, and because we run into each other on the ground and friendship changes the way that plays out.

No bad news in Christianity

I hear Christianity summarised as "Bad News. Good News".
That is: it's bad that we're sinful and it's bad that God is angry, but good news: Jesus.
I have questions... Firstly it's a bit (coldly) problem/solution rather than invitational and relational.
Second such a description doesn't often end up sounding all that good...
But also...

1. Why do we begin with sin? 
The Triune God begins by revealing Jesus. He has strong words for the religious but for the "sinners" he's a man of unbounded mercy and welcome. Jesus doesn't deny people are sinful - his words are strong but the proof seems to rest in him not in how deeply we see our sin. And, his cross shows us his love but also our sin more clearly than anything else... seeing Jesus I see my sin less as law-broken and more as a problem of the heart, the deeper problem of betrayal and adultery of the heart... and for all that, I see Jesus.

2. Is the anger of God against sin, bad news?
Would we b…

The Triune God refuses to be God without us

The Scheme of Things (Ecclesiastes 7-9)

One of the things people love to do is to fit things together. To some extent it's a right desire to order and arrange, to form and to fill the world. My 14 month old does it, moving things from one place to another and back with much delight. Babies do it. Politicians do it.

In Genesis 3:5-6 the desire to see the scheme of thing stepped way over the mark into the adultery of sin. Investigating this is The Preacher's quest in Ecclesiastes 7:25-29. He finds that the pursuit of the scheme of thingsand of adding one thing to anotherproves fruitless. The work of God is to thwart this quest (8:17) to restrain our sin, even to exiling us from himself.

And indeed when we look at the world we find it full of perplexity. Things don't quite add up. Good things happen to bad people, bad things to the good. Mourning is better than feasting. Even justice is not speedily delivered by God (8:11) and so the mercy of God ends up making people more sinful, more cursed, more given over to si…

This Was Your Design (Matt Giles)

Here's a new song from a member of our home group. It's taken from Ephesians and Galatians and has been serving us in our current series in Ephesians 1-2.

Download mp3:This Was Your Design and Score

This was Your design:
Before the universe was formed
To choose us in Your Son,
A people for Yourself.
A people who were slaves
Until the Christ destroyed our chains,
And through a sinner's cross
Would die to take our blame.

To make us holy, pure before Your throne,
To make us righteous, sons of the Living God.

How great is Your love for us
That while we still were sinners
You freed us through Your Son.
How great is Your grace to us
That where we once were orphans,
We now are sons of God.

This was Your design:
That Christ be sovereign over all,
The Name above all names,
The only Name that saves.
And here the mystery;
Your will has been made known to me.
In love You called my name,
According to Your grace.

You made us holy, pure before Your throne.
You made us righteous, sons …

Women speaking in a CU?

Last week I wrote about CU's and baptism in the Holy Spirit. Here's another unity question that often arises....

Question: Should Women Preach at CU meetings?

Let's set this in a situation. Decisions on questions like this are made locally not nationally. There is no fellowship-wide uniform yes or no.

A Christian Union is a partnerships between churches where unity is based upon a doctrinal basis of fellowship - led by students - for the sake of mission to campus to build the local churches. Some CU's in the region I work in currently don't have women speakers, others do. In some cases the policies are wise and loving, in other cases the approach needs some review.

Any attempt at Christian community is an exercise in the art of bearing with others, so no need to be overly neurotic about getting these calls right...

In this case study CU is mostly, though not exclusively, comprised of students from four local churches between whom relations are warm.
Church 1 would sa…

Art: The gift half understood

I love artsyness. We have some great Christians in the arts in the South West. Elsewhere, a friend of mine is blogging a little of her work in Chichester: 'the gift half understood' - an artistic exploration of the Incarnation.
Another is going Beyond Air Guitar.

Esther: A Christian Story

I've been teaching Esther again recently with my team and with The Bath Spa Christian Union so I've revised my Esther eBook. I've enjoyed teaching this book to mixed gatherings, to people from all kinds of evangelical backgrounds, keen to wrestle with this wonderfully dramatic text together - walking through it verse by verse, scene by scene, act by act.

Though the book is much neglected and God is never explicitly on stage... I love the way the gospel story shines from the pages of Esther...

I've pitched the e-book somewhere between narrative preaching scripts and a pop-level commentary, and included some Bible discussion notes for one-to-ones or groups.

Please feel free to interact and to challenge my reading of the book. I've been journeying with Esther for a while and there are things I can see today in the story that I couldn't see previously... I assume I have much more to learn (my general assumption for life).

PDF Esther (ebook)-- revised 2012

Seven things to do with a bad day

Someone asked me the other day what to do with a bad day...  

A whole lot of political candidates are going to have one of those today, as are most of the rest of us so this seems timely. Events occur in real time... 

Feel bad about it. Teflon people aren't really people.Go to bedGive the day to Jesus. He wasn't caught off guard by the run of disappointments in your day. Rant your frustration to Jesus (i.e. Pray). Join creation's groaning song that longs for Jesus' return. Scream "hebel!" the cry of Ecclesiastes (meaningless, vanity, smoke...) . It's the name of the son of Adam & Eve who could have been The Promised Seed, who could have crushed the serpent and got us back into the garden if his brother hadn't murdered him. Cry "hebel!" and you're already turning your heart to the promised seed who has now come. In the spirit of Ecclesiastes you can feel the slap round the face of your own folly at thinking you could make a real di…

New IVP portal

IVP Equip makes it easy to get IVP books and books from their partner publishers - like Crossway USA. Good Book Company etc.

Baptism in the Spirit and The UCCF Doctrinal Basis of Fellowship

Recently I've had emails from a colleague who probably wouldn't call himself a charismatic, and from a student worker who belongs to the same family of churches as I do both asking me what to make of the UCCF doctrinal basis of fellowship (DBF) and the charismatic doctrine of baptism in the Spirit. People from different parts of the evangelical church asking similar questions.
1. One asks whether a belief in Baptism in the Spirit means we're saying the gospel isn't enough... if people need something more. 
2. The other has questions about whether the DBF is saying that every Christian, by having the Holy Spirit, automatically has power for change and mission. They both want unity but aren't sure if that's possible. I commend both for their doctrinal carefulness, concern for the gospel and God's people. What can we say?

Common ground is a good place to start! The gospel is enough for salvation and for the Christian life. Anything other than that amounts to a de…

What to do when someone sins?

What follows is some thoughts to get my team thinking but I think it's applicable in a wider context...

Observation - students sin. They do, like the rest of us. Say the words "student sin" and what comes to mind is probably sex, drugs and alchol but that's an error - you'll find at least as much if not more student sin (especially among Christians) in pride, youthful-passions, arrogance, laziness and poor stewardship of resources and time and money, and that's to reflect on my own student life.

A key place to see how to disciple one another is to conversation between Paul and Peter - the day Paul observed Peter standing condemned, out of step with the gospel for breaking fellowship with Gentile believers by re-imposing food laws. (Open up Galatians 2 for what follows)

Peter’s unspoken objection is that if he sins it’ll look like Jesus endorses sin. Paul says no. Christians who sin don't imply Jesus thinks sin is ok. In fact we expect it to happen - believe…

Self-improvement is Evil (Ecclesiastes 4-6)

We live in a world that is set on progress and change and increase. CS Lewis called it The Myth of Evolution (making no comment on the similar sounding science) saying that we've convinced ourselves that these things are always improvements.

Our commerce depends on the new product being better.  Politically, the party out of power always campaigns that they can offer 'change' and it's taken as read that this will be better.... which it might.

When it comes to my bank account if the balance has changed from what I was expecting it to be, it'll have gone down more often than up...

The Preacher in Ecclesiastes sees the world differently.

He sees the pursuit of these things but considers them to be wearying and evil and awful. Better, he says, less than more. Having more stuff and more work and more money and more words and more life just makes things more disappointing, increases the loss at death and weighs you down to the point of despair.

We want the story to be tru…

Explicitly Trinitarian Good News (Ephesians 1)

THE FATHER, SON AND HOLY SPIRIT are in full-gospel-action in Ephesians 1. We've been in this for a couple of weeks with our church.

When the implicit is made explicit I find myself more personally engaged, especially when adoption is on the agenda it matters what the Father does, what the Son does and what the Spirit does. I want to see what's going on.

In Christianity we're not talking about the unspecified actions of some vague first-cause god here but the three persons of the Triune God overflowing in self-giving love to catch us up into relationship with them. There is perfect unity but each person also plays particular parts...

An attempt at explicitly Trinitarian good news:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Fatherwho has blessed us in Christ 
with every Spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,
even as the Father chose us in Christ (by The Spirit) before the foundation of the world... 
that we should be holy and blameless before the Father
In l…

Union with Christ in Ephesians

In Ephesians Paul says that we are blessed and chosen and predestined and adopted in Christ (1:3-6). And that we, the church, are the body of Christ (1:23). The body that sits with the head in the heavenly realms having also been raised from the dead with him (2:1-6).

We also do our good works in him (2:10) and in Christ we're brought near to the Father by the blood of Christ (2:13) and we're the place where the Spirit dwells (2:22). Moreover, we, the church, manifest the wisdom of God (3:10) as you'd expect the body of Christ the wisdom of God to do. Glory goes to the Father through Christ and his body the church.

We grow up to walk in Christ - following his example of love just as my feet follow my head (5:1). And not just his body - but his bride with whom he is one flesh (5:21-32) having given himself up for us. Finally, we're to be strong in him (6:11-20) as the body of the divine warrior Christ who triumphs (Col 2:15) over the rulers and authorities by his death.

Pete Greasley interviewed by Adrian Warnock at New Word Alive

Adrian Warnock interviews Pete Greasley.

Interview with Pete Greasley, Sovereign Grace Europe from Adrian Warnock on Vimeo.

Pete's evening session from New Word Alive can be downloaded for £1 including: "If you want to reach people with the gospel then feel it, live it, love it! If you are not like that – restrict your diet and eat the prune juice of grace until you are just flowing! If you are blocked up with religion then feed yourself the gospel!"

Articles on Union with Christ

UNION WITH CHRIST (and the related subject of election) is where Christianity centres.
For my use and I hope for your benefit, these have helped me think myself clear...

Peter Leithart - Chosen in Christ: Trinity & Election: To consider election, then, is simply to consider Christ. To trust in Christ is to discover God's choosing. Christ is the "mirror" of election. To be in Christ is to be in the Elect One, chosen in the Beloved by the Beloved.

Mike Reeves: Union with Christ at Transformission 2009 - three mp3s.

Rich Owen - Genesis 27: We tend to think that election is all about us, am I elect? I don’t know. And that is where the fear comes from. But its not about us, it is about Christ. Scripture wants you to know that Christ has been chosen, Christ is has been elected to be the champion of salvation.

Tim Challies reads John Murray's Redemption Accomplished and Applied: Nothing is more central or basic than union and communion with Christ. ... Union with Christ is…