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Showing posts from September, 2015

Every little thing's gonna be alright?

No. Jesus never said that.

To follow Jesus isn't a pathway to prosperity. I grew in the secular west (as you might've), wanting to be healthy, wealthy and live for a long time. And none of those three things are necessarily bad. But, they're just not promise the Bible offers.

I believed the secular edition of the so-called prosperity gospel (which is no gospel at all because it simply cannot deliver, and when occasionally the system falls in your favour its no real salvation to have some more cash in the account).

The Christian 'gospel' is Jesus. Follow Jesus and you get him. You get him, and his Father in heaven as your father, and the Holy Spirit who fills the believers relationship with Jesus and adoption by his Father with his self-giving life.

For most of my life everything basically went ok. I passed my driving test first time. I didn't quite get the A-levels I wanted but I still got on to the course I wanted to do. I couldn't really do that course b…

The fatherly kindness of the kind Father

On the face of Romans 1:16-2:5 is about divine wrath and offers a list of sins. Culturally its highly offensive and uncomfortable. Applied however it offers a look in the mirror that invites us to receive divine kindness as good news whoever we are. It's a challenging study to have done at the end of freshers week in our second student Bible study of the year!

Unashamed of good news
Paul isn't ashamed of his gospel. What is that? What excites him? What makes him bold? Revelation - God has made known righteousness by faith. Not a new thing - he cites Habakkuk - but now it is coming. Now it is enacted in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

In the Old Testament people have been made righteous by God and much sin has been tolerated. How can that be done justly? How can God justly justify ruinous people? That answer waits until Romans 3:21-26 but before that much has to be established.

He tells of people who are without excuse. Those who have had a plain revelation of God ma…

Amazing grace

It's been noted that grace isn't a thing but a person, Jesus. How do you find grace? Do you have to seek it? Ask for it? Achieve or deserve? Do I want it enough - do I want Jesus enough to come to him? Agh!!

In Hosea 2 God says "I will allure her..." to win his people for himself. Who? Those who are pursuing other lovers for their souls. As we run hard away from him, so he pursues us in Christ. When I don't want him, he's for me.

Or, famously, take the younger son in Jesus' parable. Returning to his father (Jesus) the son asks to be a servant. As he puts on his religious best and offers to knuckle down with more effort this time, he is received as a son, once dead and lost, now alive. When I think I have something to offer, he welcomes me into his family.

Or, in Romans 10, those who try to be righteous themselves miss God, but those who don't seek, who don't ask, those he finds, those he reveals himself to. While others to whom he holds open his …

Christian student? Find a church.

I posted this:
Christian student? Research churches. Visit a few. Commit soon. Join a home group and love people. Get on a rota. Setup a standing order. — Dave Bish (@davebish) September 17, 2015 Let me explain a bit more.

For a start, whether you're a Christian student or you have other beliefs or are just exploring: find a church. It's a great way to get involved in life in your city and burst the student bubble.

But, if you are a Christian then church is your global family and it's worth getting to know them.

1. Research churches
I went to Uni when the internet was just being born. Today you can know about churches in your student city. Look online. Get a feel for some.

UCCF will help you find your Christian Union who will introduce you to a local church. And Fusion's Student Linkup will help too. There's no lack of information.

Chances are you've never chosen a church before and it can seem a bit overwhelming.
My top tip? Listen to some sermons - particularl…

Christianity IS boring, irrelevant and untrue...

The question is asked - Is Christianity boring, irrelevant and untrue? It's a leading question and the answer is meant to be no... but I've been thinking...

1. Christianity is boring
The Christian faith isn't entertainment for the soul. As an 18 year old new believer I wanted to be a history maker, to be a world changer. Not actually because of my faith but because I was an ambitious 18 year old.

Now at 36 I'm a mortgaged, National Trust member, married with three young children. And life is thoroughly ordinary. Maybe I missed the adventure I was meant for, maybe I compromised... but life's just a whole lot more droll and ordinary than my 18 year old self wanted to admit. Life is humdrum most of the time, punctuated with moments of feasting and fasting, with reminders of a bigger story than me.

The Christian faith occurs in the ordinary of loving my family (which includes food shopping and cleaning and listening), in friendship, in going to work, in showing hospita…

The Lord's Supper: The worthiness we can bring to God

John Calvin, at length, from the Institutes of Christian Religion 4.XVIII.40, 42:
Paul enjoins that a man examine himself before eating this bread or drinking from this cup (1 Cor 11:28). He meant that each should descend within himself, ponder with himself whether he:
Rests with inward assurance of heart upon the salvation purchased by Christ;Acknowledge it by confession of mouth,Aspires to the imitation of Christ with the zeal of innocence and holiness;After Christ’s example he is prepared to give himself up for his brothers and to communicate himself to those with whom he shares Christ in common;Is counted a member of Christ, he in turn so holds all his brothers as members of his body;Desires to cherish, protect and help them as his own members.Not that these duties of faith and love can now be made perfect in us, but that we should endeavour and aspire with all our heart toward this end in order that we may day by day increase our faith.
Let us remember that this sacred feast is me…

The Lord's Supper: God stuck between your teeth?

A rough sketch of some thoughts around The Lord's Supper.

Sanderson Jones, founder of The Sunday Assembly is intrigued by the experience Communion offers.
"It's an idea that you can taste, I have some imagination, so this idea of grace and forgiveness... suddenly that idea of the divine is in your mouth. What a concept! It gets stuck in your teeth. It's something which is really interesting for me – what can I learn from that? How can you give people an experience?"  The church isn't gnostic and unphysical - it has something tangible in its life.
“We smell good to God because we smell like Jesus…because we eat Christ every Sunday morning.” James B. Jordan “The Lord’s Supper is simply the gospel (in edible form)” Anonymous  Kevin Vanhoozer writes in The Drama of Doctrine reflecting on historical discipleship in the church:
“The ancient practice of Catechesis was a kind of ‘dramatic journey’ that sought to train new believers to participate fittingly in the Chris…

What are the questions?

I read this on a church website recently. And I'm not criticising them or their website but I wonder whether its quite on the money...
For as far back as we can trace, mankind has always been searching for the truth to two questions; firstly, ‘Is there really a God?’ and secondly, ‘If there is a God, how does that affect me?’ Partly, Charles Taylor gets me thinking that questions change over time and cultures. Taylor notes that today people ask is there any meaning at all... whereas 500 years ago the question was more framed by: there's too much meaning.

It was unlikely that people in Europe would've been asking: is there really a God? 500 years ago. God and a meaning-drenched Universe were taken as read... whereas today we've put the Universe on mute and today in a post-Christian West our question might be more about whether: if there's a God is he good... while a big and impersonal God is the God we don't believe in.

Similarly as we presume upon good health, …

The student experience can be amazing

This weekend thousands of students arrive in Exeter. Fifty of them did a Student Linkup over the summer at a Christian festival to get connected to church... I imagine a similar number have connected with the Christian Union (with a significant overlap between them).

Scare statistics abound but there's no need for a Christian student to be afraid of the University experience. There's no need for anyone to be afraid of it.

For years I worked with The Christian Unions. Amazing bands of brothers and sisters who love Jesus and want to know more about him and give other students the opportunity to explore his claims. Sometimes they're geeky, sometimes they're not - but they're made up of students who what do you expect. Sometimes they swing one way on the church spectrum, sometimes the other, but they love Jesus and that's what matters.

And then there are churches - to turn to my current working context. In every University town or city there are good churches toda…

"See the blazing love of the Father and the Son for you"

You can do a lot with an hour. Yesterday morning I dropped in on a friend and we had some breakfast, read the Bible and prayed together. It was punchy and because we've been doing this for over three years (not always over breakfast) and are committed to helping one another to grow, there's no need for awkward cagey commentary about life - we can, easily enough, tell it as it is.

Time with people and the Bible: a gift that walks me back into the arms of Christ.

We're reading a bit of Ephesians together and I was very much refreshed by our brief look at 2:1-10 this morning. For my own benefit, and perhaps for yours, a few things that struck me.

If there's not much wrong in this world not much help is needed, and if not much help is needed then anyone can do what is required. I persuade myself of the middling and mediocre story and allow myself to be numbed. Headlines and disturbing images awake us from our stupor for a moment, but this also passes easily enough.

Verses …

Bible reading that sets hearts on fire

In his simple and yet compelling book You can really grow John Hindley turns to talk about reading the Bible. He reminds us that to read the Bible is to read Jesus' love letter to us. We read, fundamentally, to find him, to know him, to meet him.

Hindley advises us to read it like any book - not because he's a great expert, he's brilliantly upfront about how difficult he finds it - and to read with others, sharing our finding.

One of the challenges I'm aware of when it comes to the Bible is the need to read normally. To get past the bible paper, the reference systems and the two columns and recognise that God gave us a book. Back to school... with thanks to those who helped me learn the basics.
1. Observation. Discovering what it says?It's about Jesus.
Ask: Who? What? How? When? Why? Where?
Rub your face in the text and scribble on it.
Note what's repeated. Note what's emphasised, compared or contrasted.
Note the changes of scene. Note the connections?

For the Bible tells me so

Triune faith believes that God speaks. As Paul speaks about his conversion: God was pleased to reveal his Son... and Luke tells us that God isn't something we can work out, but rather we know the Father as the Son makes him know to us. A wonderful fellowship as the Father introduces his Son, and the Son his Father, in both cases by the Spirit.

The Christian faith doesn't accept that God is silent, nor that the heavens are silent. Though God does, in some senses, hide himself, there is revelation to receive for those who would hear it. He speaks through many means, through creation, people, and through spiritual gifts and many more pathways.

But this is not a license for subjective spirituality where my immediate experience can trump any other claim. Many are the shipwrecks in that ocean.

Rather, we claim: the Scriptures make one wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 3:14-16). All claims to hearing have to be tested and weighed and referenced to Scripture…