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Showing posts from August, 2015

God's proposal in his gospel: Love in a Roman Sandwich

Over the past year I've been reading Romans with a few different groups and individuals, and will be doing so again with several more soon. It's been great to dig into this heavyweight letter repeatedly. Working through this passage by passage, seeing it's message unfold, and as with the best stories, things become clearer with repeated viewing.

It's widely agreed that the letter breaks into four coherent sections, which together build Paul's argument as he writes to the church in Rome to catch them up in his attempt to serve the churches of Judea and take the good news of Jesus to Spain.

A few thoughts on part 2: chapters 5-8.

Structure is important in any literature because its one of the tools writers use to convey their message. I think that's particularly true here. Several commentators have identified some kind of chiastic structure, and I've found Peter Leithart's attempt at this particularly helpful (image above). The thought here is that it'…

Preaching: Communicating faith in an age of scepticism (Timothy Keller)

I've waited for Tim Keller's book Preaching for a long time. I loved listening to his lectures on preaching with the late Edmund Clowney in 2008. I've found his online sermons from Redeemer church in New York to be very helpful. Keller's style draws on the influence of Dick Lucas at St. Helen's Bishopsgate. Lucas has influenced UCCF so it feels like something I've encounted on many occasions. Not least from another of Lucas' disciples, UCCF Director, Richard Cunningham.

As could be expected from a book on peachingKeller's focus is on Bible-centred ministry. The expectation of preaching, other teaching and conversation centred on the Bible - with the book focussed on the first two areas.

In my work on campus we had to assume a mixed room, different worldviews and at different stages of faith. Many 18 year olds who are happy to call themselves "Christian" haven't figured much of that for themselves, and many who wouldn't take the label …

Evangelism, evangelistic and being evangelical.

People who follow Jesus talk about Jesus.

Much of the time we feel very awkward about it and sometimes we don't really want to do it. And truth be told, a lot of the time we don't actually do much talking about Jesus, and sometimes we feel bad about that. And then we do it and we do it badly, and we feel bad about that. God's happy people gone glum.

Sometimes church's talk about talking about Jesus. This can happen on a Sunday morning and can be very painful. I've done it. I've tried to do it. It's painful because people don't really want you to do it, and because in such moments you're left desperately hoping no one who isn't a Christian is in the room (scratch that: it makes me wish I wasn't in the room), because the weirdness is through the roof, and talk of manipulating or conquering people makes me want the roof to fall on me now...

At times the church can seem desperate to share the good news of Jesus, and yet its possible to walk out …

Big eyes, full of wonder

"Everyone understand the complaint that our disenchanted world lacks meaning, that i this world, particularly youth suffer from a lack of strong purposes in their lives, and so on. This is, after all a remarkable fact. You couldn't even have explained this problem to people in Luther's age. What worried them was, if anything, an excess of 'meaning', the sense of one over-bearing issues - am I saved or damned? - which wouldn't leave them alone. One can hear all sorts of complaints about 'the present age' throughout history: blasphemy and viciousness. But what you won't hear at other times and places is one of the commonplaces of our day (right or wrong, that is beside my point), that our age suffers from a threatened loss of meaning. This malaise is specific to a buffered identity, whose very invulnerability opens it to the danger that not just evil spirits, cosmic forces or gods won't 'get to' it, but that nothing significant will stand…

Harry Potter, Narnia, Boxsets and Biblical Theology

Helpful insight from Andy Naselli:

I have a similar reflection having just finished reading the seven Chronicles of Narnia with my eldest son this month.

The story builds together and the threads make sense. Taking the books in the order they were published rather than chronologically served us well.

We began with The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, a magical story in itself, continued the adventure with Caspian and Dawn Treader - familiar characters in an expanded world... then on to Silver Chair and the Horse and his Boy before the beginning with The Magicians Nephew and the end in The Last Battle which draw together the mythology of Lewis' world.

It's wonderful to run into Reepicheep again at the end of the story... to see the old professor we met in the background of The Lion the Witch and Wardrobe identified as one who had witnessed the beginnings of Narnia, and participates in its conclusion.

To trace the themes that recur through the books, whilst also noting the diff…

Christ is all of these

Christ is compassion
This world is broken and at times that crashes into my life.

In those moments what I need isn't so much an answer as someone who will be there. Christ is not God at a distance, he's God come near to me.

In the pain I'm often numb. It's hard enough to just carry on.

True words are true in these situations but are the things I probably needed to hear and believe before rather than in the middle of the situation.

It is not good to be alone and life's most painful moments are compounded by isolation. I need practical care in the moment - compassion.

He's the one who cares. He weeps with me. He listens. He dwells. He is here. And very often my experience of him is my experience of the Christ-ian who represents him to me by being there.

In time, I may be ready to take a step forward and grow. In this, he who is with me is not silent.

Christ is comfortable
Sometimes in the brokenness of this world I'm longing for something good but I've loo…

Preaching Workshop: Uncover Jesus

Helping people grow
I've had the privilege of working with some excellent young men over the past couple of months to prepare them to preach at Grace Church Exeter. I love discipling and training others, helping them to develop their gifts. Growing in preaching is one thread in a larger canvas of this.

We need people who can faithfully and clearly and imaginatively and persuasively and listeningly offer Christ to people, whether from the pulpit or over a meal or a coffee, or walking down the road, formally or informally, frequently or occasionally...

As has been said "the preaching of the Word of God is the Word of God" and when God speaks, the Universe gets created... human hearts get re-created. Ministry of the Word (and prayer) is at the heart of the church. Some are set apart to do this full-time but there's a place for many more to play as they work, rest and play.
Joe participated in a similar exercise last summer and has become the third member of our preaching…

Three Horizons - Interview with Clive Parnell (Part 2)

Clive Parnell is a friend and former colleague of mine, his latest album Three Horizons is out today. We had a chat about his work.

Continued from previous post.

4. As someone who follows Christ, why is music important to you? 
Music is important to me as I think it is a creative gift that I have to be a steward of, and to enjoy.

I believe we are made in the image of God and part of this is that we are creative.

I love watching the occasional festival on TV, you see all kinds of people raising their hands and singing at the top of their voices - part of being human is being with others, to be part of a body and part of this is celebration and this celebration often involves singing.

I do however feel that this celebration should not be reduced to just a Sunday morning and just with "Worship songs" - I am concerned that many Christians may think the only way to express creativity is to write and lead worship music.

God is so much bigger than this - Christ and the gospel of Chr…

Three Horizons - Interview with Clive Parnell (Part 1)

Clive Parnell is a friend and former colleague of mine, his latest album Three Horizons is out on Monday 10th August. We had a chat about his work.

1. What provoked me to write this album? -
Good question - ah where do I start?  I started working on another batch of songs that followed the last album, songs that were more from the church for the church (worship) but in the middle writing these songs I started writing what I would called singer/songwriter songs. Songs about the whole of life. You can't force these songs. When they come they come. But I think there was a moment that sparked it.

I am creative person so even going for a walk involves me interpreting the world around me.

I noticed a lot of swallows gathering on some rooftops and saw this happening for a few days in a row. I had read a newspaper article that said this happens before they fly off together to South Africa. It is crazy to think these tiny birds fly all the way from the UK to South Africa but not only that …