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Showing posts from February, 2010

Luke 12:13-14:35 Will those who are saved be few?

Jesus has been answering the question "How can I inherit eternal life?" Now the question changes, someone asks Jesus (13v23) whether only a few will be saved. Jesus doesn't directly answer the question. It's a narrow way but in the end people will repeatedly make their excuses to avoid being saved, and instead he'll be inviting in all the waifs and strays from the highways and byway (13v29, 14v23).

The approach to think about is humble acceptance of the invite - hence, take the lowest seats at the table (14v10-11). Let us read the times like we read the weather (12v56, 13v5) and be ready to come to the banquet.  Likewise know where your treasure is (12v13-34) - have your richness and treasure towards God (v12,34) - throw away everything else to have Jesus.

The question isn't how many will be saved, it's make sure you get saved - make sure you'll be dining with Jesus at the banquet in his kingdom. 14v35: Those who have ears to hear, let them hear...

Evangelical Ministry Assembly: Piper, Grudem, Virgo, Coles, Goligher, Bentley-Taylor, Reeves, Honeysett and others...

My friend Adrian Reynolds has gathered a fascinating combination of speakers for the Evangelical Ministry Assembly in London this summer... Anglicans and Free Churchers, Charismatics and not-so-Charismatics... for a gathering on Spirit-filled ministry.

Rupert Bentley-Taylor, John Piper, Christopher Ash, Vaughan Roberts with John Coles, Liam Goligher, Wayne Grudem, Marcus Honeysett, Wanyeki Mahiani, Tim McMahon, Mike Reeves, Terry Virgo.

Review: Crossing the Divide by Owen Hylton

Owen Hylton is a newfrontiers church leader in London. He's black. He's a man. These are ways of speaking of him. In his book Crossing the Divide he challenges us to both pursue diversity in the church and on how to do that. It's a practical book driven by theology and I enjoyed reading it. I was provoked by reading it. The main focus of the book is racial (ethnic) diversity, but the applications are broad.

Hylton says there are three main ways of dealing with diversity.
1. Assimilation which hides the differences (he suggest this happens in France... no Algerian-French, just French). 
2. Pluralism which accentuates and celebrates the differences (he suggests this is the British way of multiculturalism)
3. Integration which seeks unity and diversity (more an American way...?).

Whether or not the analysis holds I do find great appeal in the "third way". In the church we hold to a common core of relationship, identity and belief which is strong, and we don't  need…

Luke 11:1-12:12 Ask Jesus - join the life of the Triune God

Jesus famously teaches about prayer at the start of Luke 11 but something bigger is going on. Those who ask a human parent receive, how much more with God! When you ask of God the gift you receive is the Holy Spirit - in Luke this is (at least initially) a request for eternal life. How do you get it? Simply, ask!

And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”


This approach which negates performance and religion offends the Pharisees and the Lawyers want to get in on the game adding “Teacher, in saying these things yo…

Gran at 80

Today is my Gran's 80th birthday. How about that! Her three daughters are celebrating with her today and the family is gathering at the weekend, though sadly we can't make that. My Gran isn't a silver surfer so she'll not see this but I think she's great. She grew up in Wandsworth though she was evacuated during the second world war. On returning she married my Grandad, 11 years her senior who'd returned from spending much of the war in a PoW camp in Poland. They were married from 1951 until his death in late 1995. She's remained amazingly active and involved in her local church, the Mother's Union and National Trust ever since. Happy Birthday Gran!

Luke 9:51-10:42 How do I inherit eternal life?

I'll post some notes from the final two evangelistic events of the Plymouth Mission week at some point (The Bible: Historically Unreliable & Culturally Regressive - a adaptation of Tim Keller's approach to that, and Burn Your Plastic Jesus - which was a talk on Mark 15).

Each morning during the Plymouth CU mission week I gathered the team of 10 CU guests to review and plan, to pray and to walk through Luke's gospel. We followed Jesus from Luke 9v51 to 19v28, his journey to Jerusalem. It's a road of grace, marked with familiar stories, teaching, parables and healings.

When I read Luke I try and keep two things in mind...
1. Luke arranges his material very carefully. It's easy to know the small accounts that he records separately and to forget that they're put together for a reason (which is to give us certainty about Jesus). With this in mind I see some real benefit in studying 50-100 verses at a time. 
2. It's about Jesus not about us. It's easy to quic…

Avatar - a big film

Last weekend we saw Avatar in 3D. One thing I loved about it was the scale. It's expansive and immersing and big. Something in us longs for big, for things that are beautiful and take your breath away. Why would that be?

Terry Virgo at 70

Terry Virgo is 70 today.
He was 58 before I was even a Christian and I'd never directly benefited from his ministry until he taught at the UCCF student leaders conference in 2005.
Subsequently I found good friends within the newfrontiers family that has arisen through Terry's relationships, and in the last two years we've become members of one of those churches.
Terry is a man who is about the grace of God and the local church, something for which I'm very thankful. Having met Terry a handful of times in the last few years I find him to be a man of great integrity who lives what he preaches and whose ministry I hope has many years remaining.
If you've never come across him I highly commend his book God's Lavish Grace as a starting point, he'll deflect your attention away from himself towards Jesus. Quite right.
God's Lavish Grace

Where is God when it hurts? (Plymouth CU Mission Week, Thursday Lunchtime)

With thanks to William Lane Craig and Andrew Wilson and others whose material on this subject was influential. The four wrong, four right outline in the middle is borrowed from the excellent book, GodStories by Wilson.

There are few questions more pertinent and present than this. Despite our best efforts to eradicate pain, evil and suffering in the world the 20th Century was the most bloody in our history, and the 21st Century hasn’t been much better, with terror attacks, pandemics, child abuse and the recent Haitian earthquake.

In the West, we live relatively insulated lives – we don’t expect empty shelves, or collapsing buildings, or hardship or disease to afflict us – while such things remain as “normal” for much of the world.

What does Christianity have to say to this? It’s charged that this is the achiles heel of Christianity. If Christianity has anything to say, it’s argued, there shouldn’t be suffering in the world. The fallacies in this argument are plain enough – if Christia…

How Religion Makes People Judgemental (Tuesday evening at Plymouth CU Mission Week)

A good crowd gathered for pudding and a talk. One girl became a Christian at this event, though I'm not convinced that my talk had that much to do with it - more the end of a long process of friendship and evangelistic Bible study. 

When you’ve finished smashing up the world and blowing each other to bits and demanding special privileges while you do it, do you think maybe the rest of us can have our planet back please?

So says Marcus Brigstocke. He continues

I wish religious people would just own up that their special book says “fight, fight, kill, maim, fight, smash, destroy, smash, murder, kill. And fight. We love a scrap, we are fighty, scrappy, punchy, killy all the way.” I am so sick of religious people screwing it up for the rest of us. Please don’t kill us, seriously Religion is the power base for nutters. Religion by its very nature doesn’t tend to concern itself with truth. By the time all the toadying, condemning and hiding from science is done, truth has given up and gon…

How Atheists Are Right (Plymouth CU FREE Week, Day 1)

The basic idea of this talk is borrowed from Mike Reeves.

We’re not trying to be clever here, but rather to engage with a current question Perhaps you’ve come across Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens in the last few years. Famous for their bestselling books and their TV programmes. They’ve become known as “the new atheists”.

I enjoyed Dawkins book, it was entertaining and helpful. Hitchens would go further. He wrote “god is not great: how religion poisons everything”.
He’s says “I’m not an atheist, someone who would believe in God if I had evidence” rather “an antitheist” who would hate it if God existed. Why so opposed? Hitchens says (in an interview):

“the existence of god would be a bad thing. It would be rather awful it was true. If there was a permanent total round-the clock divine supervision and invigilation of what you do, you would never have a waking or sleeping moment when you weren’t being watched and controlled and supervised by some celestial entity from the moment o…

University of Plymouth Christian Union FREE week

The University of Plymouth Christian Union are always on mission. 120 Christian students living in the same corridors as non-Christian students from all over the world, studying the same courses and socialising in the same clubs & societies. Between them they have a
network of relationships in which they've lived and spoken for Jesus.

This week is no different, except that we're turning up the temperature.

The team for the week are the students plus a few local church student workers and six members of the UCCF South West team.

Please pray for students inviting friends.
Please pray for me speaking at each main event.
Please pray that Jesus saves people - whether this week or subsequently.

I'll blog when I can this week at you can follow on and

"the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ."

There is something stunning about the faith of those plunged into the furnace of suffering.  No-one, but Christ, would seek to suffer, but the effects are unimaginable in the saints as they suffer and grieve.

Particularly, I see that in these guys who we knew to varying degrees while we lived in Reading. We were in the Arborfield & Barkham family of churches with Ed & Nicci whose son died last week (Ed & Nicci's blog). I only very loosely know The Mackays of Reading Family Church, Craig tells the story of his wife's journey to be with Jesus.

One can't help but marvel and give praise to God for the quality of their faith in horrendous times. Marvel and then sit in silence and sorrow for them.

Raised with Christ (Mike Reeves)

Adrian Warnock raises a flag for the importance of the resurrection in his new book Raised With Christ. I received a free copy of the book from Crossway as a thank you for some minor contributions towards its writing, as a service to the author who is a friend. 

The subject is very important. Catch a taste of Mike Reeves preaching on resurrection from 1 Corinthians 15 for UCCF London in 2008 (mp3 link). And a flavour in writing here:

Despising the body, did not just cause problems – it caused problems because in doing so they had thrown away their hope and the very gospel itself. The gospel is all about the body.

Now of course the unbelievers in Corinth would despise the body and laugh at the idea that there might be any hope for the body beyond death. The whole Greek mentality was anti-body. But what was really sick was that some within the Church in Corinth had become so unspiritual and worldly that they had started to actually laugh at this hope of resurrection.

It was like with …

God is always in a good mood. Or, How can I know the love of the Father?

They say you don't have to tell people God loves them, because people presume that. I take the point but people clearly don't actually know the love of God, otherwise they'd be Christians - they only think they know.

The suggested solution?
Major on hell and all the things people don't want to hear. I do see where that's coming from, and hell is important, but... perhaps we ought to tell people better about the love of God... given neither we nor God actually want people to perish... (2 Peter 3:9)

Paul is concerned that the local church in Ephesus should really know the love of God, he writes out his prayer for them in Ephesians 3.

He gets on his knees before the Father to pray that they'd be strengthened by God's power so that Christ would dwell in their hearts that they'd have strength together with all the saints - not to fight but to "comprehend the breadth, length, height and depth and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge"…

The Dynamics of Kindness, or Why Some Christians Are Cold

What kind of people are Christians? A  common perception is of coldness, judgementalism, arrogance and hypocrisy.

A stereotypical caricature often refuted by 'christians I know' but I know I can tend towards unkindness. Maybe it's just me, but I doubt it.

Such coldness looks like Naomi in The Book of Ruth. She and her family go out from the people of God. Her confession in chapter 1 is that God is against her.

Bethlehem is celebrating Passover, before the barley harvest - famine is over, salvation is in the air - Naomi is the wet blanket and the grey cloud. Naomi's god is mean and she need to tell you. Her god is against her.

Only when she finds her home again under the saving wings of the LORD among his people does she begin to see that the LORD in his kindness has not abandoned her but rather lavishes kindness upon her.

Studying Ruth again recently with our home group, I've been struck again by the sheer kindness of the LORD in this romantic comedy (yes a Bible …

The love of Christ to his church (with the help of Richard Sibbes)

Paul prayed for the local church in Ephesian church that they would "know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge" (Eph 3:19).

My default is to think of that individually. As Ron Frost says: "the great tensions of life need to be framed not as issues of old versus new—of absolutes versus relativism—but as a competition between a relational view of life and a devotion to individualism."

 In Ephesians we know that Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant sacrifice (5:2) and that "Christ loved the church..." (5:25).

Richard Sibbes makes this connection in his fabulously named sermon series "Bowels Opened: a discovery of the neere and deere love, union and communion betwixt Christ and the church; and consequently betwixt Him and every beleeving-soul, delivered in divers sermons on the fourth, fifth, and sixth chapters of the Canticles"

He notes in passing that "the knowledge of the love of Christ to his church is above all k…

The Proverbs 31 Wife? A Spotless Bride

Proverbs ends with an acrostic poem. It's a careful piece of poetic writing like Lamentations and Psalm 119, structured and thoughtful. This is deliberate. This is memorable. This is a song at the end of the story. Yet, who can solve this ultimate riddle? Why is it at the end of the book of Proverbs? It's easy to say it's a model for a wife and maybe it has something to say about marriage - but it's worth zooming out and digging deeper before jumping to application.
Note: in this post I'm doing the zooming out, not the digging deeper into Proverbs 31:10-31 - I'll do that another day.

Peter Leithart summarises the plot of Proverbs, a truly Biblical-gospel book:
The Proverbs begin, then with the son confronted by a choice of two women who are bound up with two divergent destinies. It should be recalled, too, that the Proverbs are written by a King to a Prince. The book largely consists of the Proverbs of Solomon and King Lemuel (chapter 31), and the king consistentl…