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Showing posts from April, 2013

You can't microwave maturity

I hear Andy Arscott - with decades behind him say that. And it hurts. It hurts to young activist people. (I might be nearly 34 and old in my student context but really I think I'm fairly young.) Young activists aka evangelicals. Yes us. I want it. I want it now. I want things to be black and white. Clear cut. And happening, now.

And it doesn't always work like that.

Yet as Paul writes to his protege Timothy (I'm riffing here on 2 Timothy 2) he doesn't indulge my urgency. He speaks to his spiritual son and calls for him to reflect on things and trust that the LORD will give him understanding.

You can't rush REFLECTION. Look in the mirror quickly, walk away and you forget what you look like.

As GK Beale observes Paul's letter is wisdom literature. It alludes to Proverbs. Father to son, entrusting yourself to the LORD that he may give the grace of understanding. There are images to chew on - with fairly obvious messages about endurance followed by reigning.... bu…

Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation (James K.A. Smith)

Jason Clarke has been tweeting from Jamie Smith's book which is now on my wishlist.
Stories seep into us - & stay there and haunt us - more than a report on the facts. Smith
— Jason Philip Clarke (@J_P_Clarke) April 23, 2013
James K.A. Smith - Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation from Calvin College on Vimeo.

Photo: Anna Hopkins, used by permission.

"My thoughts are not your thoughts" (Isaiah 55)

"Something from nothing" sounds absurd? You can't do physics by common sense. If you could, we wouldn't need physicists.
— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) March 21, 2013 And you can't do theology by common sense either. Or at least, perhaps what we think of as obvious "everyday logic" might be a bit glitchy. Ever drawn the wrong conclusion...

While we're working out where we are someone speaks. With words. The LORD addressing his people Isaiah 55. Assume for a moment that's even possible. Unless we presume there's no god then a God who speaks in a world where people speak isn't so strange. Who is listening? People - people who have committed spiritual adultery. Not mere rule breakers but heart-breakers. Grant that that diagnosis might have some traction. Assume for a moment that that makes sense. Because it does, doesn't it? What's broken in this world goes right down into our hearts. Not a quick answer to the world but there&…

Death of death and life upon life (2 Timothy 1)

Christianity has lasted - first proclaimed millenia ago it's message is still fresh today. One of it's most effective evangelists was Paul - who was martyred for his part in passing on the news of Jesus. His famous last words are a letter to his protege Timothy, in which he said:
But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you. This world-changing message has survived not as a dry dogma but as a dynamic reality in the lives of people who "know whom [they] have believed." Paul calls Timothy to hold on to the "pattern of the sound (healthy) words" that he heard from Paul "in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus" not by brute force and unthinking determinat…

Isn't Christianity about believing without evidence?

It's a common charge from popular atheists like Richard Dawkins. Christianity is just blind faith and a disregard of the facts of history. I can sympathise with that. Christians can be overheard saying thinks like "Faith is spelled Risk" and talk about leaps of faith which can make it sound like an exercise in intellectual suicide. Jumping into the deep end when you don't know if the water is deep enough is foolish, and if you know there is no water then it's insanity.

Dawkins persistently demands scientific proof for everything proving:
The "theory" that the planets orbit the sun will never be disproved. Nor will the "theory" of evolution. That's why we call them facts.
— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) April 2, 2013 Talk of scientific fact is fine as far as it goes. But not everything can be proved with science. Planetary orbits can be observed but theory of evolution probably depends at least as much on philosophy and history as it do…

How do we inspire a whole generation of students in mission, not just the faithful few?

TERRY VIRGO (Newfrontiers). BECKY PIPPERT (evangelist/author). RICHARD CUNNINGHAM (UCCF).  JASON CLARKE (UCCF). JOHN CLARKE (Vineyard). ROWAN PATTERSON (Crowded House) and UCCF's Team Leaders.

The UCCF Student Worker Forum will explore ways in which we can engage, energise and release the whole student body for mission.
5-6th September 2013

Where churches are well involved with the student mission that we call Christian Unions that mission thrives and builds the local church... it's thrilling that we're now able to offer the Student Worker Forum as part of the Forum student conference. I'd love to see any church student worker in the South West come and join us as we wrestle with the challenges of reaching students today...

We will be joining with over 1,200 delegates at Forum 2013 – UCCF’s national conference for CU leaders – in order to share ideas, explore best practice and hear from a host of experienced leaders and student workers as we work together to build effecti…

How can God allow suffering?

"God either exists or he doesn't. If God doesn't exist then we should expect the atheistic explanations about our suffering to be more satisfying than the theistic one. It ought to tune in intuitively with our experience of living in a godless universe. If atheism is to be reliable and useful in thinking about suffering, we have the right to demand that it offers more substantial and convincing answers than anything Christianity can offer."

The problem of pain is taken as one of the key stumbling blocks for belief in Christianity. I don't think the debate is quite as simply as atheism or theism -- because Christian Theism is on a completely different planet to any other breed of theism when it comes to suffering.

The problem of pain is such a problem for us in this area because we assume a God worth knowing would stop us from experiencing pain. It's clear what matters most to us - not hurting. We're raised to assume we wont. When business leader Stephen C…

Isn't Christianity arrogant to claim to be the one way?

"Christianity's central assertion is that God has uniquely visited our planet in the form of Jesus of Nazareth and that by Jesus' teaching, character, life, claims, miracles, death and resurrection, he has established himself as the definite revelation of God and the only way for us to be brought into an eternal relationship with God."

"Most sceptics have traditionally argued that these Christian claims are false, but in doing so they assume they know what the truth of these matters is, because just as the phenomenon of blindness assumes the existence of sight, and evil presume a standard of goodness, so the sceptics' cry of 'error' presupposes the existence of truth..."
It's not just Christians claiming to know the way.
There is pluralism - we live in a context, like much of history, where different ethnicities and worldviews live side by side.There is tolerance - plurality of beliefs creates the possibility of "intolerance and friction.…

Uncover Luke: A fresh way to see for yourself who Jesus is

Former lawyer, now a London church leader, Nicky Gumbel has said on The One Show and in the Independentrecently, it was by reading the accounts of Jesus' life that he surprisingly became a Christian at University in the 1970s.

Thousands more tell a similar story - they didn't see why Christianity would have anything to say to them... then they opened the pages of the biographies of Jesus and he walked off the page into their lives.

For the past six months the University Christian Unions (with whom I work) have had access to 100,000 copies of Luke's gospel to read with friends, using a study guide by Becky Pippert (Out of the Saltshaker).

We've been thrilled with the impact this has had for students and it's great that they're now more widely available. The launch party was at the New Word Alive conference. At £2.99 each (when you a buy a box)  they're not cheap but they're not meant for mass distribution - but are a high quality investment to so friend…

Preacher, how's your ferve?

Acts 18:25, of Apollos says:
And being fervent in [the] Spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus,  Fervency in the Spirit linked to being able to speak accurately about Jesus. At this point Apollos has a serious gap in his understanding, but God gives Teachers to the church and Priscilla and Aquila complete what faithful Apollos is lacking. He didn't know a lot, but he did know enough and with enough life. The Spirit was at work in him. He had ferve! Subsequently:
...he greatly helped those who through grace had believed,for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus. The work of gospel ministry is teaching that the Christ is Jesus from the Scriptures. That takes some ability, but before that it takes faith in Jesus. The Pharisees Jesus spoke with knew the texts of the Scriptures but couldn't see that Jesus is the Christ. They lacked the illuminating animating filling of the Holy Spirit.

I've wonder…

MP3: How to look good naked (Genesis 3)

Last month I had the honour of serving my friend Howard Kellett by preaching at the church he leads, Godfirst Cheltenham.  Here's the mp3 of my sermon: How to look good naked from Genesis 3.

Did Constantine and the council of Nicea invent the idea that Jesus is God in 325AD?

The Da Vinci Code (2003) is relatively harmless nonsense that I stayed up late into the night reading several years ago. The film is oddly less fun.
Dan Brown explicitly writes fiction but he builds his plot on re-writing actual history and that leads to some confusion (and opportunity for fresh clarity).
He has Leigh Teabing say:
“The fundamental irony of Christianity! The Bible, as we know it today, was collated by the pagan Roman emperor Constantine the Great.” The caper rests upon casting Christianity as Gnosticism. Gnostics, broadly, hated women and hated physicality... Great Christian leader Augustine was a Gnostic for a while until he found their worldview offered no answers or comfort for suffering - one of the vital questions for any worldview to answer.
By contrast to the Gnostics, the persecuted Christians honoured women and loved the beauty and physicality of this world. Followers of The Resurrected Man are hardly going to be against bodies or to think history doesn't…

When I feel like I can't pray

Paul Miller, author of A Praying Life:
Even telling God “I’m not sure you can fix this” is a form of faith because you are going to God—you aren’t stewing in your frustration.
— Paul E Miller (@_PaulEMiller) March 31, 2013What a help to me in my weakness and tiredness.
What a help when I can't see light for the darkness.
When I feel like I'm on the floor and can barely put a few words together.

I can come.

Jesus said "Come, all who are weary..." not "Come, when you're up to it."

Naomi returned from Moab empty and bitter.
The LORD has ruined me, she said.
In his hearing.
In his land.
With his people.

Where they long for the king to come.
Jesus on the tip of their tongue.
Come visit us.

"Jesus, I've got nothing" is faith.

Ole Hallesby: My best prayer is my helplessness.

For me, and for rest of God's people. My people who are with me even when geography divides us.

And empty is when I know this is happening.
Likewise the Spirit helps us …

Open arms, pierced hands: How and why can you believe in Penal Substitution?

On Saturday I was part of Justin Brierley's Unbelievable show on Premier radio.  Listen here the discussion of What Happened on the Cross?

Essentially Steve Jeffery argued for a multifaceted view of the cross including Penal Substitution while Alan Molineaux wanted to omit Penal Substitution and keep Christus Victor at the centre. Greg Boyd and I offered pre-recorded additional perspectives.

I found Steve helpful and while I disagree with Alan I appreciated and learned from his wresting with the issues. We're unfinished people and I have plenty of questions that I wrestle with too.

Controversy can open up divisions and I'm nervous of that. Controversy is also a great opportunity to gain clarity. At risk of being a Church Gossip Column, observing spurious trends I think it's fair to say that penal substitution has been a matter of some controversy in the last decade for some in the UK church. What isn't! For me, further reflection is an opportunity to hear God and t…