the blue fish project
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
I met Bob in at an airport luggage collection area in 2008. I'd enjoyed his blog on worship and a number of his songs and I'd just picked up a copy of his book on worship. I was glad to hear recently that he's working with my friend Nathan to host a conference on worship in Bath in March 2014. So, I pinged Bob an email with a few questions to whet your appetite....
Where does your interest in music come from?
I've been involved in music for as long as I can remember, making up songs on the piano from the time I was 6. My mother was the primary influence and wanted all of her four children to study music of some kind. We had music playing in the house and in the car all the time, mostly classical and standards. By the time I was 12 years old I was hooked on studying classical music and playing everything I could by ear.
Why is music important for Christians?
That’s a broad question because there are so many ways we can interact with music! Listening, singing, playing. Let me answer as it pertains to congregational song. Music is important for Christians because it seems to be important to God. There are over 50 commands in the Bible to sing, and over 400 references to singing. That doesn’t include references to instrumental music. Because music is so emotionally powerful, it can combine objective truth with subjective response. That’s how congregational singing can help us “feel the truth,” that is to say, it can help us be more impacted by God’s word and deepen our affections for him. Music can help keep our theology from becoming dry and simply a matter of the intellect.
How did you end up being a "worship leader”?
Of course, every Christian is a “worship leader,” seeking to persuade others that God’s glory in Christ is to be exalted above everything on earth! But I started leading songs in the Sunday meeting in my church back in the early 80s. It seemed a natural extension of my love for the Savior and my musical training.
How did that fit into "normal" working/family life? (I'm assuming you didn't start out on a church staff)
I started by playing the piano as someone else led. In a few years I was the one leading. Because it was something I loved to do and enjoyed doing, it didn’t seem to impinge on my time with the family. Of course, Julie, my wife, might tell you something different! Also, I don’t think my planning then was as thorough as it is now.
What would you want to say to your novice-self if you had the chance?
Nothing is more important to communicate to people than the gospel of Jesus Christ. No song, arrangement, vocalist, riff, or technology. People need to see the glory of Christ, not the glory of our presentation. Know God’s Word and depend on it to change people’s lives. See leading songs as a pastoral function before you see it as a musical one. Do more listening than you do talking or singing. Listen to the feedback others give you. In fact, seek it out. Listen to the other musicians that you play with.
To be continued next Tuesday.
Monday, December 09, 2013
Warning. This post contains words like sin and death and wrath.
Serious words filled with anguish and emotion and pain and sorrow.
It also has a paragraph about Ashton Kutcher.
Now, I'm not usually a fan of Ashton Kutcher's work but the 2004 film The Butterfly Effect is both deeply disturbing, upsetting and profound. Kutcher's character Evan finds he has the ability to change situations but it becomes apparent that each positive change has negative consequences... the ripples of chaos theory frustrate his attempts to fix his life. Ultimately, Evan concludes the only hope is to prevent his being born. Better not to have lived than to cause such trouble. It's a (sci-fi) solution to the deathly effects of sin but surely not the only way?
We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.The Christian message doesn't say you can fix things with a new inspiration to follow. We shouldn't watch planes take off and feel inspired to sing "I believe I can fly".
A new rule won't help either. This broken humanity has had it. We're not as bad as we might be in every way but in our most honest moments we know the corrosive effects of sin in our hearts. I do.
"Biblically", Sin is a deathly thing.
We may think of it as trivial naughtiness in 21st Century Britain, but God uses it to speak of much deeper darkness in the human heart.
Spufford's HPTFTU isn't far off.
Sin is life's opposite.
It's anti-spirit, anti-creation.
Death is now unavoidable.
I feel it.
I convince myself it's not so bad but I know I sin against those I love the most...
When Jesus stepped onto the public stage - at his baptism in Luke 3 - it's for baptism, a moment in which he's numbered with the transgressors, in which he joins them in going down to death (to then be raised) with us, for us. It's a beautiful scene of triune love - with revelation of sin and death at its centre. Beauty always marred with brokenness. I see my deathly sin - taken seriously by the God of love who comes to us to bring us into his life. His story is all about death - his and ours.
So too, as the Old Testament law vividly draws out the grammar of the gospel it shows that sin brings death - consider the gory image of the sacrifice in Leviticus 1 being de-created, taken apart in every way.
Sin goes to death but another can take my place.
It's shocking to see.
It makes a deep impression.
Death of one to bring life to another.
A Christian isn't a death avoider.
The "flesh", the "sinful nature" can be finished off by embracing its death rather than trying to trivialise its trouble or paper over the cracks.
My sin can be put to death by believing in Jesus.
Trusting his death to also be my death.
The Bible tells how he became one of us to bring our sin to nothing.
To finish it off.
To give it the wages it deserves. i.e. DEATH.
Ending sinful life to empty sin of its poisonous power.
But the Jesus story isn't just death.
if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.A stark future is ahead. Adam's helpless race faces death.
But any member of that race can instead die in Christ.
Divine wrath will justly bring sin to death - in Adam, in Christ.
"The wrath of God is satisfied" - sin put to death.
Wrath reaching its just completeness at Calvary or in that terrible day to come. Either way, death.
But in Christ death isn't the end, because death cannot keep its hold on him.
...if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his
In Christ, death is not the end of us.
Not living in the first place is not the only solution.
One can be born again, resurrected.
We can pass through death in Jesus' death, and into life through his resurrection.
Down to the grave, up into life. Down and up. No other way.
The principle is called Union with Christ.
What happens to Jesus happens to us.
He died so do we. But if he was then raised, so will we.
He stands justified, so too we can stand justified.
In Christ, death is finished. Consider it so!
Why would I give my old dead body to more destruction when I could receive abundance of life. The gospel invites me to turn again to Jesus, believe in his death, believe in his resurrection and so consider myself dead to my old fleshly life and alive in Christ.
As I live in the present struggle with sin, my hope is sure:
There is no condemnation for those who are IN CHRIST, who die with him, who rise with him...
Friday, December 06, 2013
Early December and early March are the two seasons in my year when my job steps away from frontline student ministry to be involved in recruitment for new Staff and Interns. That process spreads over the preceding months to connect with people and invite them to apply, but then we come to interview.
Hour after hour of asking questions.
Hearing answers and examining them.
Thinking hard to understand the assumptions behind the answers.
Asking more questions. And then more.
Yes, but what do you mean by that?
Yes, and how did you do that?
Yes, and why did you do that?
It's good practice for normal life, for discipleship, for evangelism. The approach is very similar... the only difference is that in a formal interview permission has been granted to ask and ask and ask.
I find it to be a sharpening experience. A bit exhaustinng but enriching and envigorating.
It fights against just accepting forms of words and jargon and assumed ideas but making me dig deeper, questioning more carefully. Not for the sake of asking. But asking questions in love, in hope, for discovery.
I've been teaching students lately about how knowing Jesus should leads us to being intensely curious, fascinated people who are fascinated with people and all kinds of things. But it's all too easy to revert back into well worn paths and well trodden answers. Life is richer and better and more interesting than that.
I want to rediscover the inner four year old... to keep asking and asking and asking and not just accepting what I'm told. I want to feel the pain and the struggle and the joy and the liberty of hard questions and fresh answers, convinced that in a relational universe its good to ask and possible to know.
Wednesday, December 04, 2013
I've really enjoyed Rory Shiner's short book One Forever recently which unpacks the centre of Christianity - our union with Christ. Here's his key illustration:
You can get the book and also access the original sermons in audio and video form from AFES.
Saved in Christ
Right in Christ
Holy in Christ
Gathered in Christ
See also Mike Reeves mp3s: Union with Christ
Monday, December 02, 2013
Imagine if people could see for themselves who Jesus is not just trust someone else's view?
Imagine if non-experts could introduce people to Jesus?
Imagine if people learned to read the Bible before they really knew Jesus?
We're thrilled in UCCF to be able to make our Uncover suite of resources available to the UK church to enable people to see for themselves who Jesus is. Watch the testimony of Tom Shaw (The City Church Canterbury) who hosted our first Uncover Training Day with Becky Pippert in September 2013.
I'm co-hosting, with Betsy de Thierry, our next Uncover Training Day at Hayesfield School, Oldfield Park, Bath with an open invite to the churches of Bath, Bristol, Chippenham, Swindon and the surrounding areas to come and be trained by Becky Pippert.
BOOK HERE for Uncover Bath - Saturday 25th January 2014
Tom recorded his video back in early October and late November later he wrote this:
Just to let you know that I personally approaching the halfway mark in my first ever Uncover seeker Bible study with a trainee coffee shop manager. He is being happily ambushed by the Holy Spirit and is very influential so if he comes through will have a mighty impact I believe on all of his friendship groups in the city.
He had so many questions about God but it was a total joy and pressure release to get to say,
"Well let's just focus on the man Jesus and let's do it through the gospel of Luke and this is fantastic thing called Uncover that asks its brilliant questions and helps us to learn about God through Jesus."
I am so so in love with this material!! The fact that he is learning to study the Bible before he's even the question is just the best thing ever. Teaching him how to actually exegete the text is the most amazing thing to behold.
I'm preaching this coming Sunday on using the Bible with those who aren't Christians. I am going to get him up an interview him even though he has not crossed the line of faith yet he is the most brilliant illustration of the power of the Bible to people before they believe rather than after.
A lady in the church who ran a daytime evangelistic course for five months is now doing Uncover with all of them and they are all absolutely loving it and have said it has more authority because it's so overly rooted in the Bible. Please pray not only for the guy I'm meeting with and these five women but that this Sunday we would see more of the foundation laid than ever before to see the whole church developing a culture of hunger to individually lead people to Christ through using the Uncover material.
Be Encouraged! All your efforts are not in vain.See also, Maxine's story:
Many Newfrontiers leaders are asking me all about material and I think you need to brace yourself for a potential huge wave of interest over the next few years which will actually need real wisdom in terms of how most effectively to roll it out without burning you out.
Love u guys! Tom
Friday, November 15, 2013
The trailer for Darron Aronofsky's Noah is doing the rounds. With the possible limitations of Russell Crowe as Noah it looks pretty impressive. The release date in the end of March 2014 so I wonder if that raises some good possibility for a short Noah preaching series for a church or CU over Easter or early summer term. Who knows how big a film it is but advertising alone will get people thinking about the story.
Six years ago, the Guardian reported:
The script, Aronofsky tells me, is no conventional biblical epic. "Noah was the first person to plant vineyards and drink wine and get drunk," he says admiringly. "It's there in the Bible - it was one of the first things he did when he reached land. There was some real survivor's guilt going on there. He's a dark, complicated character."Noah is famous, compelling, features in kids books, has big-action and is right in the mainline of the Bible's story. You could easily get three messages from the Genesis 6-8 story if you wanted...
1. The world filled with wickedness. When this gets personal that's hard to hear but the diagnosis of Genesis 6 makes huge emotional sense as we look at the world today. The context is Genesis 1-6 tells us that the world should've been filled with goodness, again something that resonates in us and our desire for beauty and good design, care etc. A world being de-created in need of re-creation.Opening up the Noah narrative inevitably raises a number of big objections and questions like...
2. The one righteous man - a preacher of righteousness to the world, a picture of the true Righteous One, calling us through death to resurrection. It's an opportunity to speak of Jesus and his death and resurrection. Aronofsky says Noah's story tells of "new life emerging from old." We think every man is an island but John Donne is right, we're all connected... one man dies and we all die, but if he rises from the grave...
3. The hope of a renewed creation - see Noah, in a newly re-formed world, waiting to be filled with goodness. This is the hope of peace on earth, a new world, an end to pain... unachievable by the flood, unachievable by our utopian dreams... but achievable through the true and greater Noah.
- Did this actually happen? Is Genesis 1-11 myth or true myth?
- Was the flood localised to the middle east, or was it global? An opportunity to engage the question of whether 'the earth' in Genesis means the land... and to think about the widespread myths of floods in so many human cultures...
- What kind of God floods the world? There are massive questions here about sin and the extent of sin and the wrath of God in response to it that don't sit easily with people (and probably shouldn't.)
In any case, Noah's story, is a myth - even a true myth - that we need to hear today if we're to know what kind of world we live in and what kind of hope we need.