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Showing posts from January, 2011

Book: The Sunshine of the Gospel (Richard Sibbes)

Do you long for a heart affecting Christianity? Come find it with Richard Sibbes, a friend of the church who longs to see her betrothed to Christ. This is experiential evangelical Christianity at it's best.

I've been immersed in the works of Richard Sibbes for a while and decided to self-publish a modernised version of seven of his sermons. I've edited and formatted it, so the book feels like Sibbes but isn't quite as 17th Century as the original source material. He's the warmest and most accessible of the puritans, writing in with simple illustrations and a sweetness of attitude and language. I imagine this being a great book to read slowly and devotionally to warm your heart with Christ. I've added a short introduction and some brief applied footnotes along the way . 
Cost: £5, plus postage. I hope you'll find it worth that. It's bookstore quality production which I'm really happy with.Use code NOSHADOW at checkout to get 20% off the book cost.  HAP…

4 Tips for Gospel Partnership (or, How to work with Christian Unions?)

Here are some thoughts on working together with other Christians...

I had the opportunity to speak with student workers in my wider church family (Newfrontiers) about how to work with Christian Unions (my day job).

It was wonderfully encouraging to develop relationships and share in mission together to see the local church built.

How can things work more smoothly? (which applies to any local or trans-local relationship, of which UCCF and CUs with local churches are an example.)

1. Be generous. Get the point that the gospel makes us generous spirited people. I'll think and speak generously, rejoice when someone else is blessed more than me. That means I can look past and even rejoice in some of our differences - whether in class, culture, and even some convictions... There are theological differences that can stop people working together, but there are probably fewer than we normally think... inevitably we all get used to the air we breathe and start to think that our way is the on…

On Giants' Shoulders (Mike Reeves)

On Giants' Shoulders is Mike Reeves' sequel to his The Breeze of the Centuries. The first took us on a tour of great theologians from the early church fathers through to the prospect of the reformation. This picks up where the former left off with Luther and Calvin, Edwards and Owen, Schleiermacher and Barth.

If you think theologians and history are dead places to go - these are the books that can shake your assumptions and open up whole new vistas in your understanding and heart.

Mike tells the story of each theologian and then walks us through their major works. These are accessible guides to those who have gone before us who will keep us fresh and on whose shoulders we do stand. I've heard about half of these books taught at our annual Staff conference and they've opened my eyes to see the gospel freshly, humbled me to learn from others, and corrected several glitches and errors in my theology.

The subjects are chosen for their influence and you can hear the alarm …

Who would run from the presence of the LORD?

The word comes to Jonah and instead of approaching the presence of the LORD in faith he runs. In Jonah 1v3, 1v3 and 1v10 we're told Jonah is fleeing from the presence of the LORD. While some of his forefathers would say 'better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere' Andrew Bonar writes: "None but a heavy-laden sinner could relish this never-varying exhibition of blood to the eye of the worshipper." Jonah can't.

Instead of arising to go to Nineveh he goes down to Joppa, down into a boat, down into the sea, only rising when a crowd of pagan idolators tell him to arise to pray and preach to them, which he seems to do with some reluctance and much brevity and no integrity.

Only with great reluctance does he proclaim the LORD to the nations. He'd told them he was fleeing his god, and when they hear who his god is they're exceedingly convicted and soon come to throw themselves upon the LORD as the only one who can save them. The word of the LO…

Drawing us near to himself as we search for his bride

What's evangelism about? In Genesis 24 terms the evangelist is the servant of the Father who is comissioned to find a wife for the son. He's devoted to the Father, devoted to the Son and devoted to the Wife. Imagine evangelism training that aimed at fueling these (not to say you'd not want to teach persuasion, or critical thinking etc - the stronger your affections the more you'd want to speak strongly). Chris suggested that these might help us with training for this kind of evangelism, annotated by what I think that'd look like...
John 3:29-30 The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must increase, I must decrease
--- Waiting and Listening for the bridegroom's voice. A great opportunity to consider Scripture as encounter with Christ.
2 Cor 11:2 I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to …

I will allure her: Espousal Evangelism & Discipleship with Hosea 2:14

The book of Hosea is up there as one of the oddest prophets. Hosea is comissioned to marry a prostitute so that he can feel and display the horror of Israel's spiritual adultery. Their relationship graphically shows how sin isn't just law-breaking but a matter of the heart as Gomer wanders away from Hosea and credits others with giving her all that she has from Hosea. The lesson is clear to the tender hearted listener.

I am so wayward as I fawn around seeking the approval of others, hoping they'll think much of me when I'm already more loved than I could begin to imagine. Protecting myself by keeping my distance instead of opening my heart.

There will be punishment for sin, for Gomer and Israel - the jealous love of the LORD burns to strip away her blessings, to expose her lewdness, to punish her idolatry.

As Gomer sinks to her lowest she is in the wilderness. A classic Biblical location. A place of wandering, a place where the promised land should look beautiful but w…

You shall take a wife for my son: Lessons in espousal evangelism from Genesis 24

I've found myself ranging over Genesis, Exodus and 1 Samuel in recent weeks. In these books the Father is telling the story of the man and his bride, in various ways. The man is also known as the son or the seed and is ultimately Jesus but we see him typified again and again.

Genesis 24 seems to be a classic example of this For chapters the promised seed has been anticipated and then finally he's born. That story is told with alarming brevity in Genesis 21. He then figuratively dies and is resurrected in Genesis 22 according to Hebrews 11. Then his Father wants him to have a bride. Some will think it too fanciful to see a glimpse of Christ here but I'm inclined to think the reluctance to see Christ is more newfangled than the willingness to. Spurgeon, for example:
"Paul saith in a certain place "which things are an allegory," by which he did not mean that they were not literal facts, but that, being literal facts, they might also be used instructively as an a…

It is very difficult to tell the truth: Reflections on Mobilise Student Worker Weekend

I was a guest at the Newfrontiers Student Workers weekend in Sherwood Forest over the weekend. I was invited as a member of a Newfrontiers Church and UCCF Leadership to give a seminar on 'Working with CUs' which I hope was beneficial. I loved being able to meet with many student workers across the country, people on the same page as me - lovers of grace and the local church, generous hearted people who I hope will grow to be friends.

Nick Sharp the leader of Grace Church Nottingham spoke on Saturday night. His session on courage was outstanding. He showed us a ministerial vulnerability that is all too rare and yet deeply attractive. During it he told a story from War and Peace (a book I'd now like to read!) to highlight how we love to tell heroic stories and be triumphalistic when reality is rarely so glorious. He tells of Nicolas Rostov who rode into battle, fell off his horse and fled. Tolstoy tells of his return to society to tell his story...

DOWNLOAD MP3: Nick Sharp an…

Reclaiming Adoption (Dan Cruver & others)

Adoption is at the heart of the gospel. This book shows us how and what that means for us. Here's a taste:

"adoption is nothing less than the placement
of sons in the Son." (p51)

"Behind the externals of both
prodigal rule-breaking and prodigal rule-keeping (or any
combination of the two) is estrangement from the Father." (p42)

"The Son of God came into the far country of our
estrangement, not as an outsider or a detached observer,
but as a true man among men" (p43)

"Only a triune God could both refuse “to let go of
God for our sakes” and refuse “to let go of us for God’s
sake.” Only a triune God could lay hold of God and
offer our humanity in himself to the Father. Take God
out of the cross even for a nanosecond and redemption
unto adoption does not happen" (p47)

It's an 'easy' read that will provoke and challenge you to rejoice afresh in the glories of the gospel. It's the fruit of Dan Cruver's persistent gospel-centredness, which I&…

Some lessons from our Staff Conference

I spent four days near Kidderminster last week with the rest of our national staff team, with speakers Mike Reeves, Ellis Potter and John Lennox.
The importance of meeting with GodThere is a throne and God is on itThink hard, don't forget your University subject, Christianity isn't mindless. Good evangelism doesn't mean you need to be an expert, but being able to understand arguments is very helpful. Seeing the faults in the New Atheism isn't that difficult.The Trial of Jesus is told in detail and repeatedly for a reason.Preaching is meant to affect the heart. Loved talking through the implications of Jonathan Edwards with colleagues.A question is a giftReading the Old Testament with the assumption that redemption is through Christ is goodGod's glory is his spreading love in the gospelIt's a real honour to serve with my colleagues in UCCF.There aren't many evangelicals in Slovenia or IrelandTwo key moments for me:
Leon from Slovenia saying that at his Uni (i…

Where we drink from?

The last couple of days I've reflected on Kevin Dedmon's The Ultimate Treasure Hunt which comes out of Bethel Church in Redding, California. As my reviews show I think there's some good stuff to take from there but certainly some things about which I have big questions.

I think this is ok.

Something I've loved learning from Terry Virgo over recent years is how to spot some good in people but not have to buy into everything they're about. So, at our church leaders conference - the safest context where the delegates ought to be our most discerning people - we've had CJ Mahaney, Mark Driscoll, Rob Rufus speak, while Tim Keller and John Piper have spoken at other leaders contexts, while Bill Johnson certainly has a measure of influence in the movement too.

None of those are totally on the same page as Newfrontiers - Mahaney seems to be a little less charismatic though is probably little more than millimetres away from Newfrontiers.;Another step back Piper. Driscoll …

The Ultimate Treasure Hunt (Kevin Dedmon) - part 2 of 2

The underlying argument of The Ultimate Treasure Hunt is about knowing who we are as sons of God. Dedmon rightly argues that a lot of our problems stem from not really getting who we are in Christ, meaning we settle for a lesser Christianity than the faith-requiring picture we see in the New Testament. Dedmon doesn't really show us how the dots join up.
The idea is right though not unique.
I find the same helpful focus, more fully developed, in the work of Jack Miller, Paul Miller, Tim Keller, Terry Virgo, Martin Luther, John Calvin and many of the Puritans and my friends and colleagues in UCCF others who are calling for gospel-centredness.
What Dedmon and his pastor Bill Johnson are probably doing is pushing some the implications of that in supernatural direction further than some.

Words of Knowledge
As a Charismatic Kevin Dedmon believes that God speaks in the Scriptures and that he can and does speak beyond the Scriptures with prophetic words and words of knowledge. Nothing outla…

The Ultimate Treasure Hunt (Kevin Dedmon) - part 1

This book comes with much enthusiasm from those who have read it. The author is from Bill Johnson's Bethel Church in Redding, California which is a big deal in charismatic circles for it's evangelistic fruitfulness and emphasis on supernatural experience.

The book was published in 2008 and I've heard of churches (including my own) and some CUs in the UK putting his teaching in this book into practice. It's been on my list to read for some time. In some ways you couldn't name a book more different to the other book that its sat with next to my bed, Robert Jenson's Systematic Theology, though both do advocate a really God-involved life which isn't so different.The Ultimate Treasure Hunt: A Guide to Supernatural Evangelism through Supernatural Encountersis basically about'treasure hunting' which is name for a form of first contact evangelism guided by seekingwords of knowledge

.Looking for Treasure
Dedmon sets the scene by calling us to the treasure hun…

Reading the Bible as a book

If you're in the mood for starting Bible reading afresh why not try Ron Frost's approach - he just reads it. Dive in, guilt free and read - feed on the word of God. Make this the year!
Sam’s Bible knowledge amazed me. His Scripture awareness had penetrated all aspects of his life, not in a rote fashion, but in a way that seemed accessible and practical. I asked how he gained it and he laughed.
“I just read my Bible.”
“How much reading—how do you approach it?”
“I try to get through it at least two or three times a year.”
I almost dropped my coffee. He had been reading at that pace for most of his Christian life, about fifty years! The challenge captured me. Within two months I finished my first Bible read-through and I was left in awe of God’s greatness, holiness, and redemptive love. I discovered the vast and penetrating strength of his personality as a compelling ribbon tightly wound through every book of the two testaments. It was the beginning of my pursuit of God, a pursuit tha…