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Showing posts from October, 2010

Knocking on the door (Halloween & Reformation Day)

Richard Walker recommends James Jordan's take on Halloween - take the opportunity to laugh at evil in it's defeat as the gospel triumphs....  something similar to what a confident reformer might begin to celebrate since today is traditionally both All Hallow's Eve and Reformation Day, marking the day Luther nailed his second set of theses to a Wittenberg door. The 95 contended against Catholic abuses, the former 97 against doctrinal errors of Scholastic theology, a mixing of Christianity with Aristotle.

Richard Sibbes reflected on Luther's Reformation as a good thing but one that can quickly fade:
"For over 60 years (since the Reformation began) we have lived under the ministry of the gospel. This land has been Goshen, a land of light, when many other places are in darkness. The light shines in a more abundant measure. Ministers have been sent, and variety of gifts. There has been piping and mourning, as Christ complains in his time, that they were like froward ch…

How do I become a Christian?

When people hear the gospel the Holy Spirit works in them to persuade and convert them to a whole new life in Christ, but it's then good for them to voice what has happened, to speak to their Father in heaven. Evangelist Joseph Alleine (1634-1668) in his book "Alarm to the Unconverted" (now published as "A Sure Guide to Heaven") offers this 1000 word prayer that someone becoming a Christian could pray, or indeed any old Christian would benefit from...
'O most holy God, because of the cross of Your Son, accept Your poor prodigal now prostrating himself at Your door. I have fallen from You by my iniquity, and am by nature a son of death, and a thousand-fold more the child of hell by wicked practice. But of Your infinite grace You have promised mercy to me in Christ, if I will but turn to You with all my heart. Therefore, upon the call of Your gospel, I am now come in, and throwing down my weapons, submit myself to Your mercy. And because You require, as the co…

Anointed with the Spirit of Grace (Richard Sibbes)

Here's some Sibbes from his sermon "Yes and Amen"
As the ointment that was poured upon Aaron ran down to 'the skirts of his garment,' so the weakest Christian is established with grace by Christ. Grace runs from the Head to the poorest member, 'the hem of the garment.' Every one that even touches Christ, draws virtue and strength from him.

What are the virtues of this ointment?

1. It has a cherishing power; it revives the drooping soul, and cheers a fainting spirit. When men are ready to sink under the burden of their sins, this eases them.

2. Anointing has a strengthening power. It makes our limbs vigorous. Grace fortifies the soul. Our life is a combating life with Satan, and temptations of all sorts; therefore we need continual anointing to make us nimble and active in resisting our enemy. Oil has a suppling quality; so the Spirit of God makes pliable the joints of the soul. It supports us with hidden strength, and enables us to encounter great opposit…

Is Trinity just a System you're imposing on God?

Something has changed in my thinking in the last few years. Trinity has moved from p226 of Systematic Theology (as in Grudem) to having to be on page 1.
Am I just imposing a system?
Yes, but I had a system before. The question is, is my system Biblical or not? Everyone is a theologian, the question is am I a good theologian or a rubbish theologian. The same applies to atheists and their atheology.

As I've got into church history I've been humbled to find that my old approach was shaped by a lot of philosophical thinking that seems to persist in the church, the legacy of the Aristotle-shaped Aquinas and others. This meant my view of 'God' was a being with attributes rather than one who makes himself known to us personally.

In this I was prone to an error of Arius who considered God firstly as the 'unoriginate'. Arius would pray "O God, the Everlasting God, Uncreated One, always the same..." but Jesus taught us to pray to his Father and our's, as &q…

How come new Christians are so full of joy and then that fades?

I had the privilege of spending several hours with Cat at Starbucks in Plymouth today. Part of our time was guided by Paul from Galatians 3:1-14. We're reading through this this year as we seek to lay foundations for ministry, and I'm loving it.

We reflected on how amazing it is to see the joy of new Christians students and also how it sometimes seems those who have been Christians longer lose some (or all) of that joy. You know the kind of Christian who says, "you should be a Christian, it's rubbish and I feel really rubbish but you should be a Christian, just like you should go to see the Dentist."

Paul's question in Galatians 4 of "what has happened to your joy?" seems alarmingly relevant.
Paul sets up two approaches to Christianity in Galatians 3.

Christianity is concerned with having received the Spirit and continuing, and this happens by "hearing with faith" and the alternative is labelled two ways - "works of the law" and…

Love of God - Mike Reeves - mp3s

Today around 300 students and friends gathered from across the South West for our annual Transformission conference, where Mike Reeves preached Christ on the subject of the love of God. We challenged the idea that God is a Blancmange and a Speed Camera (who ever loved a speed camera?), not fundamentally a Law-Giver but a Lover.

Download the mp3s:Taste and see the loveliness of the Lord!
Love of God 1: The Loving Father38mins
Love of God 2: The Glorious Son 36mins
Love of God 3: The Heart Melting Spirit 35mins

There is a Kind of Omnipotence in Faith (Richard Sibbes)

Richard Sibbes said that faith is about apprehending the love of God in Christ. He then writes in Bowels Opened 8 of 20of the effect this love has upon us. Sibbes offers eleven answers in this sermon to the question of how we may come out of spiritual laziness to attain a spiritual taste and relish of heavenly things again, expounding from The Song of Songs 5:3.
This is from the ninth part of his answer which is to see that sin is the greatest evil and grace and goodness are the best things in this world:
"There is a kind of omnipotence in faith, 'woman, be it to you as you will,' Mark 15:28. We have abundance of strength in Christ. Faith is but an empty hand, that goes to Christ to draw from him what it has need of; 'In Christ I can do all things.' So, to have our hearts warmed with love to him. This grace of the Spirit will make us pass through all discouragements, for it has a compelling power. 'The love of Christ compels us,' says the apostle, 2 Cor. 5…

God is for us

Getting 'the gospel' right is key. It's a matter of much angst for us evangelicals. Galatians is so often my go-to book, and here's a little of why, from Charles Cousar

"The fundamental nature of the gospel is grace... the preaching of Christ's gospel will inevitably convey God's grace not in an abstract of theoretical fashion, but in terms of the particular human situation. It may include judgement as well as mercy, imperative as well as indicative, and appropriately so, if arising from or leading to the word that God is for us. If there is a test to be applied to preaching, it is this: Does it declare Jesus Christ as the unqualified liberator - from religious legalism or secular cynicism, from paralyzing apathy or frantic anxiety, from being oppressed or being the oppressor, from coward fear or brash self-reliance? And as Paul will go on to say in Galatians, does this preaching clarify what Christ as freed us for? Secondly, the gospel is more than a set …

The Binding of the Heart with the Cords of Christ (Francis Quarles)

My sins made thee a cruel bondage prove
O bind my heart to thee with cord of love

Hosea 11:4 - I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love.

My sins, I do confess a cord were found, 
heavy and hard by thee, when thou wast bound
Great Lord of love, with them; but thou hast twin'd, 
Gentle love-cords my tender heart to bind

What! could those hands,
That made the world, be subject unto bands?
Could there a cord be found,
Where with Omnipotence itself was bound?
Wonder, my heart, and stand amaz'd to see
The Lord of liberty
Led captive for thy sake, and in thy stead.
Although he did
Nothing deserving death, or bands, yet he
Was bound, and put to death, to see thee free

Thy sins had ty'd
Those bands for thee, wherein thou should'st have dy'd
And thou didst daily knit
Knots upon knots, whereby thou mad'st them sit
Closer and faster to thy faulty self.
Helpless and hopeless, friendless and forlorn
The sink of scorn,
And kennel of contempt, thou should'st have lain

The Majesty of Christ and Two Different Kinds of Puritans

Bobby Grow, with Ron Frost on Richard Sibbes vs. William Perkins:
"Sibbes’ emphasis on the immediacy of the Spirit, instead of promoting an incipient Pietism, allows the person to be obsessed and consumed by the beauty and majesty of Christ. This approach emphasizes a Trinitarian approach to salvation, which has a high pneumatology, leading to an even higher Christology — as the person of Christ and his works are magnified in the bride/bridegroom relationship, between Christ and his Church."
To see what this looks like get a copy of Richard Sibbes - Glorious Freedom: The Excellency of the Gospel over the Law. 

Frost writes: "Christ’s communion with a believer is in some sense perceptible. Such experiences of communion, generally regarded as spontaneous increases of affection for Christ, transcend the law as a guide for behavior. As in marriage, the mutual commitment of love, rather than rule-driven behaviors, was seen to be the point of spiritual union. The Christian’s b…

Is Christianity Blind To Suffering?

Marcus Honeysett spoke at Cambridge CU on Is Christianity Blind To Suffering last week, and also on Is Christianity about being religious. Marcus writes:
I tried to set the subject in the context of real-world suffering and urged the students that the right response is not merely understanding but compassion. Instantly a very bright philosophy student accused me of being insultingly anti-intellectual, saying that it is critical to understand suffering from a philosophical point of view. The only reason that suffering people aren't interested in doing so, he claimed, is that their sufferings prevent them from seeing this clearly. If they weren't suffering they would see the matter clearly, as he felt he did. He vocalised the exact response I was trying to get them to avoid, in the process defining comprehension as the appropriate response to suffering.
I couldn't disagree more. Suffering and comprehension are in different categories. Comprehension is desirable, but it isn…

Beginning With Moses

Sean Green is taking Reading Family Church into a series called "Beginning with Moses", words describing Jesus' explaining of the gospel from the Old Testament. He introduces his series here.

For several years I've been part of a project called which exists to serve the church by gathering resources that show us how the Bible is Christian Scripture. We've recently rebooted the site and there is regular new content there. Paige Britton's Reaping the fruits of redemptive historical reading is a good introduction to this. As is this review of Graeme Goldsworthy's Preaching the whole Bible as Christian Scripture.

There are a lot of Bible Overview's on the market these days, the most recent one I read is Remaking a broken world, by Christopher Ash which follows the theme of church through the Bible.

It's readable and shows well how God is always gathering a people to himself, a great book if you want to see how church fits into Go…

I don't believe in "the baptism of the Spirit"

I've spoken about this earlier this year in Baptism in the Spirit and the UCCF doctrinal basis, but I've been reflecting again on the subject and besides what's blogged five months ago is quickly forgotten...

Terms in the New Testament are used in different ways, and the New Testament certainly speaks in Acts of people "receiving the Spirit" and of the "seal of the Spirit" in Ephesians and of having being baptised with the Spirit in 1 Corinthians. These seem to be described as normal Christian experiences that are part of the Christian life, as indeed baptism in water is, though plenty of Christians are not baptised in water, yet. There's a good case that baptism in the Spirit and in water (in either order) should happen close to if not at conversion - why wait... though many do wait.

John said that Jesus would baptise with the Spirit, as did Jesus (Mark 1:8, Acts 1:5). Peter uses the term for what happened when he preached in Cornelius' house a…

The Contrition of the Heart (Francis Quarles)

"in thousand pieces would I break this heart,
which leaves its Lord, and acts a Rebels part"

Psalm 51:17
"A broken and contrite heart; O God, you will not despise"

How gladly would I bruise and break this heart
Unto a thousand pieces, till the smart
Make it confess, that, of its own accord,
It will wilfully rebell'd against the Lord!

John Gillespie & Gospel Partnership

Last Monday I took my team to the PGP Conference, an outworking of a gospel partnership between churches in Devon & Cornwall. Jon Marlow hosted the day and we enjoyed being with partners in th egospel and sharing about the work we're doing on campus.

The highlight of the main sessions was John Gillespie speaking on 1 Peter 2 on being Jesus-is-the-issue peopleDon Carson also spoke. All audio available here

Download more sermons from John Gillespie, pastor of Grace Community Church, Morval, Cornwall - I'm told his Ecclesiastes series is stunning.

I believe in God but I don't need the church

Preached at Grace Church Truro yesterday on "I believe in God but I don't need the church". 
There are many reasons why we would take a negative view on church and we explored them initially, and asked what kind of God-without-church we might believe in, before turning to the Bible to see what the God-of-Christianity says (Ephesians 2:13-22).
Audio available here soon though I didn't think I was as clear as it should have been in places.

#1 The God who came to us. 2000 years ago, in human history to make peace and end the hostility between God and people, and people and people. Jesus body is broken to put us back together. It's an Eden-reboot as the One-New-Man is invited back into the presence of God. There aren't 6.8 billion people in the world who can say "every man is an island". We're more connected than that. The human race is the broken One-Old-Man (Adam)- and then Christ comes and makes in himself a One-New-Man. He catches us up to himself.

Mike Reeves: How would knowing the love of God change our CU?

Dave Bish: What difference does the love of God make to a CU? (or local church...)Mike Reeves: For a CU that doesn't understand the love it's going to have quite a sense of duty driving things. There will probably be a lot of pharisaism, a lot of legalism. A harshness, a judgementalism. People will be trying to climb up on each others failures. Offering a gospel of a system of salvation. Which isn't captivating their hearts. And the evangelistic message will be pretty loveless. People wont want to hear it. People wont want to proclaim it.

Flip it around and have a CU that understands the love of God. A very different world. People captivated by the love of Christ who simply desire to speak of him, no onerous duty. I long to speak of the Jesus I love. I don't want to climb on the failures of my brothers and sisters. Jesus loves them, I love them. You find a joyful delight in communicating the love of Christ rather than the harshness and sense of duty and grudgingness.Mo…

The New Wine of the Heart out of the Press of the Cross (Francis Quarles)

Christ the true vine, grape, cluster, on the cross
Trod the wine-press alone, unto the loss
Of blood and life. Draw thankful heart, and spare not:
Here's wine enough for all, save those that care not

Leave not thy Saviour now, whate'er thou dost
Doutbtful, distrustful heart;
Thy former pains and labours all are lost,
If now thou shalt depart
And faithlessly fall of at last from him,
Who, to redeem thee, spar'd nor life nor limb.

Shall he, that is thy cluster and thy vine,
Tread the wine-press alone,
Whilst thou stand'st looking on? Shall both the wine
And work be all his own?
See how he bends, crusht with the straiten'd scrue
Of that fierce wrath that to thy sins was due

Thy Saviour being prest to death, there ran
Out of his sacred wounds
That wine that maketh glad the heart of man
And all his foes confounds,
Yea, the full-flowing fountain's open stil
For all grace-thirsting hearts to drink their fill:

Thy Saviour hath begun this cup to thee
And thou must not refus…

"Piper" Framework or a Gospel Framework?

I heard someone say a few months ago, of another Christian, speaking generously - "he's got more of a Piper framework than a gospel framework". It wasn't especially meant as a slight on John Piper but a reflection of aspects of his influence. Probably what follows is more a question on some who've learned from Piper - like me - than on his teaching.

I think what he was getting at can be answered with the question
- what is the glory of God?

On the one hand is the conviction that God's glory is about him being big and wow. Which he is, but seems to me that the gospel defines things a bit differently. But, the centre of God's revelation of his glory isn't found by looking out of the window and seeing a big world and concluding a big God, it's found by looking at the cross and seeing the God who comes to us, lays himself down for us in love.

Piper gets that. But for a while I think I missed it, and I might not be the only one. Piper says:

The Warmth of the Gospel makes us Sing!

"As the shining of the sun enlarges the spirit of the poor creatures, the birds, in the spring time, to sing, so proportionately the apprehension of the sweet love of God in Christ enlarges the spirit of a man, and makes him full of joy and thanksgiving. He breaks forth into joy, so that his whole life is matter of joy and thanksgiving."

Richard Sibbes, The Matchless Love & In-being
cited by Mike Reeves at Forum 2010

Listen to my reading of Richard Sibbes - The Matchless Love & In-being, 65mins mp3

Image: Jen Allison

Is there anything truly and cordially hated but grace?

Richard Sibbes, Bowels Opened 6:
For God in Christ, having condescended to the terms of friendship, nay, to intimate terms of friendship in marriage with us; therefore the church in her right temper, has never enough of Christ, but desires further union, and communion still. It being the description of the people of God, that 'they love the appearance of Christ,' 2 Tim. 4:8; Rev. 22:20, as they loved his first appearance, and waited for ' the consolation of Israel,' Luke 2:25; so they love his second appearing, and are never quiet, till he comes again in the flesh, to consummate the marriage begun here. So Christ also he is as desirous of them, yes, they are his desires that breed their desires. ‘Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove,' etc. Again his love and pity moves him to desire further to come into us. Christ knows what is in our hearts.The church loves Christ's appearing, but the world...
What indignities endured they in the primitive church, that were t…

The heart of being a godly leader is...

" be obsessed and thrilled with God. To so have him before our eyes that he fills our gaze and utterly satisfies us with his presence. Our leadership is meant to come out of the overflow of that. If we are going to lead other people to be more and more in love with him, more and more enjoying him, more and more eager to closely follow him, then we have to be falling more and more in love with him. Numbers 13 scares me because it shows it is possible to play the part of a respected leader, maybe for years, and yet not know God. And for it only get revealed when...."
Marcus Honeysett on Numbers 13.

No pressure: That's one way to persuade people

Richard Curtis tries an interesting approach to persuading people to cut their carbon emissions, now withdrawn by the organisation that comissioned it... Personally, I'd go for a more winning approach.... but this one will certainly have drawn attention and started conversations, and has already drawn much anger, one imagines people from another religion (since Climate-Changeism seems to have some hallmarks of religion) using this form of argument...

The Softening of the Heart (Francis Quarles)

This Icy, Marble Heart, like Wax will melt
Soon as the Fire of heavenly Love is felt

Job 23:16 "God makes my heart soft"

Mine heart is like a marble ice,
Both cold and hard: but thou canst in a trice
Melt it like wax, great God, if from above
Thou kindle in it once thy fire of love


Nay, blessed Founder, leave me not
If out of all this grot
There can but any gold be got,
The time thou dost bestow, the cost
And pains will not be lost:
The bargain is but hard and most.
And such are all those thou dost make with me:
Thou know'st thou canst not but a loser be.

When the sun shines with glitt'ring beams,
His cold-dispelling gleams
Turn snow and ice to wat'ry streams.
The wax, so soon as it hath smelt
The warmth of fire, and felt
The glowing heart thereof, will melt
Yea, pearls with vinegar dissolve we may
And adamants in blood of goats, they say.

If nature can do this, much more,
Lord, may thy grace restore
Mine heart to what it was before.