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Showing posts from September, 2010

The Gospel Gathers Outcasts (Acts 8:26-40)

1. Our Spirit-filled mission
It’s the evangelists dream. When we first met Philip in 6v6 we’re told, along with us he was “full of faith and of the Holy Spirit”. The Spirit-filled Philip fresh from revival in Samaria is walking along the road and comes upon a guy reading the Bible. And Isaiah 53 at that, and he asks you to explain it to him (30-31).

The scripture is read, and the Eunuch asks: “About whom does the prophet speak, himself of someone else?” to which Philip gets the opportunity, v35: “beginning with this scripture he told him the good news about Jesus”.

And almost matter of fact the guy believes, repents, is baptized and rejoices, going off to found the church in Ethiopia while the Spirit carries Philip off elsewhere, v40, to preach the gospel. Wherever he Philip preaches the gospel, such is the Spirit-filled life.

All of which is great if you’re Philip and your course/house/team mates happen to be reading Isaiah 53. Not to easy when it’s you and me and they’re only rea…

MP3: The Matchless Love and In-being (Richard Sibbes)

I've blogged through The Matchless Love & In-being this summer here, so I thought I'd read/preach it for you if listening is easier than reading. Download: Richard Sibbes - The Matchless Love & In-being, Sermon 1, 65mins - read by Dave Bish
It's long, and in places a bit dense and hard to follow, but oh is it sweet!

I'm modernising the text a bit, latest version of that is here PDF: The Matchless Love & In-being. Even having 'preached' it I'm aware of more edits to make it more accessible, so I'll aim to update the text again next week.

Noah's Theological Geography

Passages like Genesis 9:17-11:9 are asking to be overlooked - at the heart of it is the 'table of nations' pinned between 'naked man sins with fruit' and 'the fall of the city of giants'. What's going on? These are the early days of a new creation - the new Adam stood on a mountain amidst a formless world and now like his forefather he stands with three sons Shem, Japheth and "Ham the father of Canaan" (repeated for emphasis). The new Adam is uncovered and humiliated in his tent by one of his sons, while two cover him.

Noah prophesies a blessing on Shem, and on Japheth and curses Canaan to serve them both. A new order enters the family - the blessing is with Shem, but Japheth has blessing as he dwells in Shem's tent, but not so for Canaan. These are the fathers of nations and they now relate theologically.

We draw maps by terrain and by politics, and we can draw them by theology. Shaped by Noah's prophetic vision we meet the costal peoples …

Antidotes to Chronological Snobbery

One of my staff team has confessed his sin online. As a Christian he's already a confessed sinner, but now he's adding chronological snobbery to the offences of his heart. CS Lewis coined the term and invited us to cure this form of progressive pride with the breeze of the centuries. If you'd like to feel that breeze then the latest Theology Network 'Table Talk' podcast will help:

The Reformation: Mike Reeves chats with Mark Dever about the essential theology of the Reformation, how it is relevent to theology and Christian lives today, and how we can get some of the Reformation fire in our own hearts!

Also worth a look: Mark Dever is reading from Richard Sibbes sermons and commentary each week. Download.

And you can taste the Introduction of Richard Sibbes' The Matchless Love and In-being here, read by Dave Bish (10mins) - the sermon itself would be well over an hour - I'll record that soon. Until then you can read my modernised and lightly edited PDF of The …

If we love Christ we'll love the church

From the end of Richard Sibbes' sixth sermon in Bowels Opened. The argument is simple - Jesus loves the church, so if we love him can we really claim to not love that which he loves?
1. Let us not claim to love Christ but not the church.

Let us be like our blessed Saviour, that where we see any saving goodness in any, let us love them; for should not our love meet with our Saviour's love? Shall the church of God be the love of Christ, and our hatred? Shall a good Christian be Christ's love, and shall he be the object of my hatred and scorn? Can we imitate a better pattern? Let us never think our estate to be good, except every child of God be our love as he is Christ's love.

Can I love Christ, and can I not love him in whom I see Christ? It is a sign that I hate him when I hate his image. It is to be wondered at that the devil has prevailed with any so much, as to think they should be in a good estate, when they have hearts rising against the best people, and who, as …

Mike Reeves Video: Why do we need to know the love of God?

This is the second of four teaser videos for Transformission. Transformission is the annual one day conference hosted by UCCF in the South West, for the University & College Christian Unions, for all CU members and any friends of CUs who'd like to come and benefit from the day, stand with the Christian Unions in prayer. Join us and be transformed for mission.

We gather to have our hearts warmed by Christ as we prepare for another year of united mission on campus to make Jesus famous, in faith that God will save people and add them to the churches.

The Life and Ministry of Richard Sibbes: Friendly with people and with God

Mark Dever comments...
"Sibbes's move from Cambridge to London in 1617 is likely explained by his talent for fostering friendships, combined with his obvious gifts as a preacher. Sibbes's skill at making and retaining friendships" (p214)This seems consistent with the warmth of Richard Sibbes's gospel, a man as heart-felt and heart-warming would be inevitably friendly, someone you'd want to be with.

Sibbes was converted to Christ while a student at Cambridge, and Rev. Erasmus Middleton documents in his Evangelical Biography (1816):
"he became the happy instrument of bringing some souls to God, as also of edifying and building up others... His learning was mixed with much humility, whereby his was always ready to undervalue his own labours, though others judged them to breathe spirit and life, to be strong of heaven, speaking with authority and power to men's consciences. His care in his ministry was to lay a good foundation in the heads and hearts of hi…

Delight in God Only (Francis Quarles)

The puritan poet (1592-1644) wrote:

Without Thy presence, earth gives no reflection:
Without Thy presence, sea affords no treasure;
Without Thy presence, air's a rank infection;
Without Thy presence, heaven itself no pleasure:
If not possess'd, if not enjoyed in Thee,
What's earth, or sea, or air, or heaven to me?

The highest honours that the world can boast,
Are subjects far too low for my desire;
Its brightest gleams of glory are, at most,
But dying sparkles of Thy living fire:
The brightest flames that earth can kindle, be
But nightly glowworms, if compared to Thee.

Without Thy presence, wealth is bags of cares;
Wisdom, but folly; joy, disquiet, sadness;
Friendship is treason, and delights are snares;
Pleasures, but pain; and mirth, but pleasing madness:
Without Thee, Lord, things be not what they be,
Nor have their being when compared with Thee.

Gospel People are Refreshing Company

What do you do with the tricky bit in the middle of Galatians - you know, chapter 4:8-5:1, the bit with the naughty allegorical bit? Chew on it and enjoy the sweet taste of the horizontal implications and effects of the gospel.

Q1 What does it mean to be a Christian? (4:8-11)
Paul gives a wonderful description of being a Christian here. Knowing God. Better than that, being known by God. A mutual relational knowing. The Triune God is the lover who adopts us in his son as sons, who pours his Spirit into our hearts crying Abba Father - he knows us!

Tragically the Galatians have turned, or returned, to slavery. They're eagerly embracing what Paul describes as devotion to not-gods, to worthless and elementary principles, to remembering days and months and seasons. And in case they didn't see it's misery he calls it slavery. But, they're not quite returning to what they used to be enslaved to, but it's very similar. Paul equates their old pagan idolatry with their new law …

Good affections: Where Richard Sibbes leads us

I've been blogging through some of Richard Sibbes works for a couple of months now, and there's a lot more to come. Helpful to catch the trajectory of this puritan hero, as shown in David Larsen's The Company of Preachers:
"Sibbesians set their clocks not on preparatory disciplines but on (1) the direct experience of the Spirit's indwelling, 
(2) the joys of Christian fellowship 
and (3) the divine attribute of overflowing love.... "Larsen also notes the 'Calvinism' of Sibbes but describes it 'as of a freer spirit, with a balanced view of experience and feeling' with a puritan biblicism and very high view of preaching. An early reformed charismatic then...

(charismatic in the experiential sense rather than continuation of gifts)

Christ comes out of love to us, welcome him into your heart

Richard Sibbes continues to explore the relationship between Christ and people as he concludes the fifth sermon of Bowels Opened. Christ is shown to be knocking at the door of the church, but not all welcome Christ. In some cases Jesus knocks at the door of our hearts but we don't open to him (Matt 25:41). Such people may want some distant connection to Christ, they "entertain him in the outward room, the brain; they know a little of Christ, but, in the heart, the secret room, he must not come there to rule."

Let us hear his word
"For the entertaining of his word is the welcoming of himself, as it is, Col. 3:16. 'Let the word of God dwell plentifully in you.' And, Let Christ dwell in your hearts by faith,' Eph. 3:17. Compare those places; let the word dwell plenteously in you by wisdom, and let Christ dwell in your hearts by faith. For then does Christ dwell in the heart, when the truth dwells in us. Therefore, what entertainment we give to his truth, we …

Top 10 Unanswerable Questions

Search engine Ask Jeeves reports that these are the top 10 unanswerable questions from the past decade:
1. What is the meaning of life?
2. Is there a God?
3. Do blondes have more fun?
4. What is the best diet?
5. Is there anybody out there?
6. Who is the most famous person in the world?
7. What is love?
8. What is the secret to happiness?
9. Did Tony Soprano die?
10. How long will I live?BBC News

Holy People are Presence People

Moses in Exodus 33:16 Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?”
When you read Exodus it's mostly a book about The Tabernacle yet most people make the ten commandments the big deal...  the jealous God who saved his people out of the hands of the tyranical Pharoah is about imtimate relationship more than he's about passing decrees. We're called to be holy (distinct) people which means we're people with whom God goes. We say "I know whom I've believed" and "the holy Spirit dwells within" me (2 Timothy 1).

Mike Reeves Video: Why is Transformission important?

Transformission is an annual one day conference hosted by UCCF in the South West, for the University & College Christian Unions, for all CU members and any friends of CUs who'd like to come and benefit from the day, stand with the Christian Unions in prayer. Join us.

We gather to have our hearts warmed by Christ as we prepare for another year of united mission on campus to make Jesus famous, in faith that God will save people and add them to the churches.

Mike Reeves joins us this year to speak on Love of God. Audio from previous conferences on The Glory of the Cross, The Word of God, and Union with Christ is available from Theology Network

Christ comes to the church so cherish Christ

Sibbes calls us to cherish having Christ for:
"Time will come that the devil will set upon us with sharp temptations, fiery darts, temptation to despair, and present Christ amiss, as if Christ were not willing to receive us....labour to cherish good conception of Christ. This is the finisher and beginning of the conversion of a poor sinful soul, even to consider the infinite love and condescendence of Christ Jesus for the good of our souls."The greatest need we have is hearts that cherish Christ.
It's why preachers are appointed - to portray Christ to the hearts of his people.
It's why we worship, to cherish him. Yet we ask: will he come to us as we cherish him?
"We need not wonder at this his willingness to receive us, when we first know that God became man, happiness became misery, and life itself came to die, and to be 'a curse for us,' Gal. 3:13. He has done the greater, and will he not do the less?"And so we should ask: 
"Is there such love i…

Super-instinctive Bible Reading

Instinct; A natural aptitude or knack; a predilection;
Super-instinct; A super-natural aptitude or knack; a predilection;

To see the gospel in the Scriptures is a super-instinctthat comes from the Holy Spirit and by faith.

Those who believe Moses see that he wrote about Jesus (John 5:46), those in whose hearts the Spirit burns (Luke 24:32) see that the Scriptures are about Jesus and his gospel (v27, 45-48). Super-instinctive Bible reading ends with faith and worship and changed lives, without that there is only hardness of heart, idolatry and sin.

Some argue boldly today that the Scriptures are not all about the gospel of Christ. Jesus and the apostles, it is understood, were denied this insight when they showed that the whole volume reveals the gospel. When such rebellious people prevail it's no wonder that people don't want to read the Bible, they dull Spirit's sword and upset the faith of many. When the Spirit prevails and the gospel is seen to shine from every page of …

The heart of a Christian is the home and temple of Christ.

We're still in the fifth of Richard Sibbes' infelicitously titled sermon series Bowels Opened (1687) on The Song of Songs, here considering Christ's knocking on the door of the church.

Christ has two homes - the heavens, and "the heart of a humble broken-hearted sinner".

But, How can Christ come into the soul? 
Answer: By the Spirit, saying:
"Open your ears that you may hear my word; 
your love, that you may love me more; 
your joy, that you may delight in me more; 
open your whole soul that I may dwell in it."

The Christian and the church is his home:
"So with Christ. A man will repair his house, 
so Christ will repair our souls, 
and make them better, and make them more holy, 
and spiritual, and every way fit for such a guest as he is."

How shall we know whether Christ dwells in our hearts, or not?
"If Christ is in the soul, there comes out of the house good words... When we hear men full of gracious sweet speeches, it is a sign Christ dwells ther…

Spreading Goodness in Genesis

Two relationships dominate the Bible, and they're on screen within the first pages of the Bible. Sonship and Marriage, the shape of the spreading goodness of the Triune God.

Spreading Goodness and Sonship in Genesis 1
In Genesis 1 we see the Father, Son and Spirit creating spreading good form, light and fullness into a formless,dark and empty world. Day by day it's good as form comes through the cutting of darkness with light, through the separating of day and night, heavens and earth, land and sea. It is good. Form comes through heirarchy as the sun and moon are appointed to rule on behalf of God as the ages begin. It is good. Creatures appointed to fill the world - ultimately a man and a woman together. It is very good.

Everything that happens is good, flowing from God himself, and what God creates out of his love is then appointed to spread and multiply in goodness - they're to be fruitful and multiply, the man and woman are to have offspring - sons to fill the world, ru…

Mike Reeves on The Song of Songs

Mike Reeves concludes his series, with Angus Moyes, on being secure in the saving God by opening up The Song of Songs, a great gospel book, taking us into the marriage of Christ and the church, of union with Christ, which blows away all accusation that justification is a legal fiction, the book that took the reformation public.
Mike Reeves - Song of Songs(62mins)

How does Christ come into the church?

Richard Sibbes continues in Bowels Opened Part 5 to consider how Christ comes to the church. We must remember that "Christ speaks to the spouse here" - we are considering the relationship he has with she who has the Spirit of God already, one who could help them to open the door.
For good and gracious men are moved first by the Spirit, and then they move; they are acted first by the Spirit, and then they do act by it, not of themselves; as the inferior orbs move not, but as they are moved by the superior. But what about at conversion?
He knocks at their hearts, and opens together with his speech. Then there goes a power that they shall open; for his words are operative words. As it was in the creation, ‘Let there be light,' it was an operative word, ‘and there was light,' Gen. 1:3. Let there be such a creature, it was an operative working word, and there was such a creature presently. So he opens together with that word. With that invitation and command there goes an …

That's how to talk at a Wedding

Richard Walker gives a wonderful Wedding Address:
"The Father and the Son are not vying together to make sure they get 50% of the airtime each. Rather, the Father says to the world Look at my Son, isn’t he wonderful and all the father’s delight is in him, such that he forgets himself. The same is true of the Son, who loves and honours the Father in everything, denying himself and being obedient to death, even death on a cross. And all this is done in the fellowship of the Spirit.... The Father, Son and Spirit are not introverted in their love, they are not selfish, they seek to share everything they have with creation, even with selfish creatures like you and me who stuck have stuck two fingers up in their face, they love to share and welcome back into this love all who will listen and welcome them into their hearts...
Your new life in the community is to reflect this same spreading goodness of God. You must love God first and best of all. Of all humans, you must love each other fi…

Forum 2010: Our God is lovely and beautiful and met with us

Last week was our annual national student leaders conference at The Quinta in Shropshire. I've been going to this conference for many years, first as a student, then a volunteer and more recently on staff. I enjoyed camping with South West students and looking ahead to CU weekends and mission weeks with Bath Spa and Cardiff later in the year.

What I love about UCCF is that its a fellowship that is all about the gospel. This has always been the case but this year the gospel seem to have relaxed us, made us more generous and loving toward one another and more sensitive to the Spirit. As we gathered to behold our saviour we knew our hearts being changed, in our relationships with God and his people, and for mission.

The conference was also marked for me by brilliant heart-engaging teaching - a peak for me perhaps was Mike Reeves on John 20, listening to that will blow you away for 35mins. His final Dig Deeper track session on The Song of Songs is worth a peek too.

I also had the privi…

Seven ways that Christ comes to the church

It is wonderful to know, from Sibbes, that Christ comes to the church but: "How does he knock?" Sibbes answers: In every kind of way.

God comes to speak to us in our own language,
1. In mercy and in correction, by his word and his works.
2. By invitation
3. By the good example of other Christians
4. His ministerial knocking:
When he was here in the days of his flesh, he was a preacher and prophet himself, and now he is ascended into heaven, he has given gifts to men, and men to the church, Eph. 4:11, seq., whom he speaks by, to the end of the world. They are Christ's mouth, as we said of the penmen of Holy Scripture. They were but the hand to write; Christ was the head to indict. So in preaching and unfolding the word they are but Christ's mouth and his voice... So the ministers are Christ's mouth. When they speak, he speaks by them, and they are as ambassadors of Christ, whom they should imitate in mildness... So Christ speaks by them, and puts his own affections …

Christ comes to the church in love

The church knows the voice of her husband. And he comes to her. Richard Sibbes shows us three ways from Song 5:2 (Bowels Opened, Sermon 5).
1. He knocks. 2. He comes, even waiting for her to answer. 3. He names.
Christ still desires a further and further communion with his church. Even as the true soul that is touched with the Spirit, desires nearer and nearer communion with Christ; so he seeks nearer and nearer communion with his spouse, by all sanctified means. Christ has never enough of the soul. He would have them more and more open to him. Our hearts are for Christ, who has the heaven of heavens, and the soul of a believing Christian for himself to dwell in. He contents not himself to be in heaven alone, but he will have our hearts. He knocks here, waits, speaks friendly and lovingly, with such sweet words, ‘My love, my dove,' &c, ...Christ desires further entertainment in his church's heart and affection that he might lodge and dwell there. What if we are estranged fr…

Epic Fail. Epic Gospel

The Church knows Christ's voice.

The two great relationships in the Bible are Father-Son, as in The Father and his Son Jesus and our adoption (this is our relationship with The Father), and Husband-Wife as in Jesus and the church (this is our relationship with Jesus), both relationships happen through the Holy Spirit - who expresses our sonship and flows from Christ the head on to his body the church.

This week I have the exciting prospect of teaching student leaders about Adoption and I'm gutted that we'll probably only have time to touch upon on the sweet reality of Espousal Theology, of the church's relationship with Christ - something that Richard Sibbes was particularly gripped by - and no where more than in Bowels Opened. Walking through the series we're up to Sermon 5 of 20 and we're in The Song of Songs 5:2
"It is the voice of my Beloved that knocks, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled; for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night.…

Christianity with an "Oh!"

This isn't new but it's worth reading again and again: Jared Wilson on A Christian Instinct not Typology which leads us to see the gospel in all the Scriptures. Wilson cites John Piper saying the problem with commentaries is that they lack Oh!'s (though you should try Pete Lowman's Gateways to God which does!) - Wilson says the answer is gospel wakefulness, and I love that term for it.

Glen Scrivener has the Instinct as he shows from Exodus Ooo nice this is a Jesus bit(on why people preach Jesus from Exodus 12 but not 1-11...). 

The Gospel Awakens the Heart

Having shown eight ways to stay spiritually awake Sibbes continues first to win us to being awake, and second to wake us up with the gospel.
Getting hold of Sibbes isn't easy. Banner of Truth will sell you his complete works for £95 and they publish two other books. I'm working from some low quality scanned PDFs of the complete works, including the sermon series Bowels Opened. 

What does gospel wakefulness look like?
(from the end of sermon 4)"When he is in his right temper, he is an excellent person, fit for all attempts. He is then impregnable. Satan has nothing to do with him, for he, as it is said, is then a wise man, and has his eyes in his head. He knows himself, his state, his enemies, and adversaries, the snares of prosperity and adversity, and of all conditions, etc. He being awake, is not overcome of the evil of any condition, and is ready for the good of any estate. He that has a waking soul sees all the advantages of good, and all the snares that might draw him…

Stephen Hawking: God Didn't Create Universe

Stephen Hawking claims Gravity created the Universe. The newly launched pointed me to this series by Andrew Wilson and Graham Marsh from Kings Church Eastbourne. Audio and Video at Orgins: the big questions.

See also Tom Price: Stephen Hawking - Gravity Made Us drawing on Oxford Professor John Lennox in the Daily Mail: As a scientist I'm certain Stephen Hawking is wrong. You can't explain the universe without God

Eight ways to stay Spiritually Awake

Richard Sibbes (1577-1635) was among the warmest of the Puritans and a true heir to the Reformers, a man of affectionate, experiential, heart-centred evangelicalism continues to lay out the sweetness of Christianity in his series on the Song of Songs, Bowels Opened. There's not much of Sibbes online so I'm hoping this blog series fills a gap and introduce you to the man who was known as The Heavenly Doctor and The Sweet Dropper.

In the fourth sermon, having begun by showing the necessity of gospel wakefulness he asksHOW DO WE KEEP OUR SOULS AWAKE, ESPECIALLY IN DROWSY TIMES?

1. "None will sleep when a thing is presented of excellence more than ordinary... What made Moses to fall from the delights of Egypt? He saw the least things in religion were greater than the greatest things in the court, even in the world. 'He esteemed the reproach of Christ better than the greatest treasures of Egypt,' Heb. 11:26."
2. Make the heart think of the shortness and vanity of l…

A Christian is what his heart is

Richard Sibbes continues from the Song of Songs in the fourth of his Bowels Opened series:
“I sleep, but my heart wakes, etc.” SONG 5:2. He defines the heart as "all the powers of the soul, the inward man" and observes:
(1.) There is good and evil in a Christian. We are mixed. We can be sleepy. (2) A Christian may know how it is with himself. 
"In a dungeon where is nothing but darkness, both on the eye that should see and on that which should be seen, he can see nothing; but where there is a supernatural principle, where there is this mixture, there the light of the Spirit searches the dark corners of the heart. A man that has the Spirit knows both; he knows himself and his own heart. The Spirit has a light of its own..."(3) We should acknowledge the good and the bad - not bearing false witness against ourselves, not denying God's work in us nor our sin. The Christian then (1) though sleepy knows themselves to be that (2) still sides with God (3) even when sleep…