Friday, December 31, 2004

Pitiless Indifference?

Whilst the rescue efforts begin and aid is finally getting through to the survivors I see that the press are raising the seemingly inevitable questions about why? In one sense it is refreshing to see people raise the questions, and yet I wonder whether we really ask the right questions.

How can religious people explain something like this? (The Guardian - 28/12/04), At a loss for an explanation (letters responding to the article)

We live in a society that has dedicated itself to scientific naturalism, a society that take Richard Dawkins as its authoritative philosopher. And yet we seem unable to accept what it proposes. In his terms, surely we have to simply say that this is the pitiless indifference of the universe. That in a scientific world devoid of the divine then bad stuff happens, though even that goes too far doesn't it? Stuff happens is surely as far as we can go.

The reality is that our scientific society has no comfort for us. All it can say is that the world has tectonic plates, the very things that are necessary on a planet if it is to support the life that it has now taken away. Earthquakes are an inevitable partner of a planet that has life on it. This on one level is a very real answer to why this all happened. I do not deny this reality. And yet it doesn't seem to satisfy the question of "why?", (unless your name is Richard Dawkins).

In the midst of this people turn on religion to explain things. Do people want an answer? Are they trying to catch us out? Whatever the motive, like Jesus let us respond to peoples questions.

In times past people had a grasp on reality. Written off today by 21st Century arrogance as examples of "medieval superstition" our ancestors knew that God was in control of all things. They may not have been able to answer exactly "why" such things happened but they knew the comfort that God stands, so some degree, behind all things.

How as the waves approached fired further insults at God? I remember seeing the results of the survey into "what the world thinks about God", earlier in 2004. In the West we consider suffering a problem preventing belief in God, yet where there is suffering such objections are not found. Many, as the waves approached, surely sought mercy in their suffering.

The waves swept away the rich and the poor, the Christian and the Muslim, the Buddhist and the Scientific Naturalist. Death is a certainty for us all - much as we like to deny it. It is a great mercy that we too are not swept away. Surely judgement is deserved, we are not innocent. We are not innocent in our actions towards God. Neither are we innocent towards each other, at the end of a year where we've fought wars, let poverty remain. And I am no better than anyone else.

How did Jesus respond to such events in his time on earth?
Jesus was faced with testing questions in the aftermath of a fallen tower. People came to see him apportion blame. He would not have us play the blame game, it is not our place. Ours is to see that God is indeed the real ruler of the world who will one day judge each and everyone of us. Each of us needs to turn back to God for mercy- we cannot run the world ourselves, nor our own lives. This mercy, and escape from deserved judgement is what Jesus came to live and die to achieve. Knowing the mercy of God on us we can then surely weep with those who weep and seek to help those in need.

This week I've studied Jonah, in the midst of storms he confesses who his God is, "I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land". Life is not meaningless. Human lives are worth savinbg. God is real and is the one who made a world capable of supporting life, and who acts to save lives. He is not impotent in times of suffering. These events are tragic not mere examples of pitiless indifference. There is mercy for us even if our lives have been marked by pitiless indifference towards God. There is comfort with God if we will recognise him for who he is.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Devastation in South East Asia

This morning the reports say that nearly 70,000 are known to have died after the South East Asia Tsunami/Earthquake disaster, and the number keeps rising. No easy answers seem to fit in the light of such events. Here though are three articles by John Piper, on living in the light of the tragedies of this world.
Don't Waste Your Life (after the 2003 Iran Earthquake)
Humane Confidence vs. Destructive Doubt (after the 2004 Beslan tragedy)
Tsunami, Sovereignty & Mercy

Give to the South East Asia Disaster Appeal (via Tearfund)
Disasters Emergency Committee

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Fools Play This Waiting Game

These days, everyone's a good guy
These days, scales are in your favour
Man says, “I never did, I never hurt
Never double crossed no-one”

Been double crossed by my own mind
(self confused we need therapy)
I say, “Can't be free, defeat myself
Never did my best”


No defence, unclean hands
Guilty man, a godless friend
No defence, filthy rags
Take me in, Take me home

These days, the truth stands twisted
These days, they think things in reverse
Man says, “I’m good, God knows I am
I hold the future in my hands”

Only fools play this waiting game
(Can’t win better quit and walk away)
I say, “I failed, I broke the rules
Ignored your every word”


Lyrics © Dave Bish, 2004
Music © Emmalee Bish, 2004

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Who rules the world? How can I be happy?

At Christmas time we surely find ourselves seeking happiness in all kinds of ways. Most years we even do this by attempting to shut ourselves off from questions concerning the state of the world. Escapism cures the pain. We surround ourselves with the experience of Christmas, of family and friends, of carols and mince pies, mulled wine and gifts. For most of us normal life shuts down, the roads are empty and the shops are closed. We emerse ourselves in a fairy tale, wishing for a white Christmas.

Yet every few years disaster or conflict breaks into our solace and ruins the story of Christmas for us. Our pursuit of happiness is interupted by raging wars and the fragility and flaws of our leaders. Is anyone in control? Who really rules the world? These questions seem to stand at odds with our escape to happiness. And yet their answers should really coincide.

Let me take you back into the historic story of Christmas. To the middle east at a time when it knew the heart of the biggest story of all. Not some fairy tale but the big story, the one that explains it all, running from start to end over the whole world. The action is set in the middle east, Israel - that great war-torn land whose pain is perhaps most likely to interupt our Christmas cheer.

Around 33 years on from the birth of Jesus a strange event occured in Jerusalem. Early in the morning a small gathering of men appeared to be drunk. (This of course, not so strange). Yet these men were speaking in all the languages of the world! The streets were busy with rush hour traffic and there was much confusion and much mockery of this small gathering.

One of their number stood up to address the crowds. He spoke to explain what was happening. Peter called the crowd's attention back to a song by Israel's greatest King, David. In this song David had looked to the coming of the great King who would rescue his people, and he said there is fulness of joy in the presence of this King. Not just one night of joy. Not just some Christmas cheer. Pleasure forever.

The song that told the big story said that the King would never be abandoned to death. Many thought David spoke about himself, but Peter reminded the crowd that David was dead and buried. Peter was speaking about a month or so after the death of Jesus, and Peter connected the song to the events of their day that the crowd were more than familiar with. These crowds had called for the death of Jesus as a trouble maker. Peter spoke of Jesus saying that he was the King that David had spoken of, and that this King Jesus was not dead, like David. This King had been raised from the dead, and now raised to rule from heaven. This is the big story- one King ruling the world, seeking followers.

The chaos they were seeing was the result, Peter said, of God coming to live with his people - by his Holy Spirit - and causing his people to speak in the nations of the world to explain this. One hundred and twenty followers of the King entering further into the big story and being equipped to tell it to the world.

Peter went on, saying that God had appointed Jesus ruler of all and the rescuer of his people, the same Jesus whose crucifixion the crowds had called for weeks earlier. Here, Peter says, is the one who truly rules the world. And here is the one who can rescue us from the mess we're in. Here is one who can save us from ourselves. Here is one who can save us from God's punishment coming upon us.

The careful historian Luke who records these events tells us that the crowd were cut to the heart and ask Peter "what shall we do?". Faced with this Jesus some kind of response is required.

Peter called the crowd into the story. He called them to turn from their fairy tale. To give up on the lie they kept telling themselves. The lie that they could do without God. The lie that life would be ok. Peter called them to put the old story to death and find new life in the big story. He invited them to believe in this King Jesus, and be baptised. A symbolic act of going under water and emerging from it. Dying and emerging into new life. A life to be lived at the heart of the big story.

And this invitation into the big story isn't just for Jews like Peter. It's open to anyone anywhere. That's why the first 120 in the story were speaking all the languages of the world. Calling out into the stories of the world to invite people into the big story.

Here is the Christmas good news of great joy (that was what the angels said). Here is news for any on whom God's favour rests. An invite into the big story. The question for us is - what will we do? That's what the 3000 strong crowd around Peter asked. The choice is simple. Stay in your fairy tale and face the unhappy ending. Or leave it behind and enter the big story, and find real joy forever by living under the true King whose story it is.

Myths rise up against the big story suggesting that you can enter it by going to church. Or that you can come in by good deeds or being nice. None of these is the true story. The true story is of the King who came and died so the punishment we know we deserve wouldn't come upon us in our fairy tale. He was punished in our place. A substitute. All we need do is look to the King and believe, and then enter into the big story. Three thousand joined the story the day Peter spoke. Many millions have since then.

Who rules the world? Jesus, the King and teller of the great story.
How can I be happy? By living with Jesus, under Jesus rule, stepping into his big story.

Read about these events in the words of the historian Luke. Luke wrote a meticulous two part history of the life of Jesus and the spread of his followers throughout the world. These books are called Luke's Gospel and Acts and are part of the Bible, the book that tells the big story about King Jesus.

Friday, December 24, 2004

2004 Top 10... Films I've seen (released in 2004)

I've been thwarted often this year by local cinemas only showing really mainstream stuff so there are some I wanted to see that I've not yet been able to. As before, comment your top ten.

1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Charlie Kaufmann does it again!
2. The Incredibles
Comedic Capers all the way!
3. I heart Huckabees
A bit disturbing but quirky and I liked it. Shame we had to go to Oxford to see it.
4. Shrek 2
More of a good thing and Puss was hilarious.
5. Finding Neverland
Nice bit of drama.
6. Starsky & Hutch
Simply funny! Never saw the originals but nevermind...
7. School of Rock
Also funny and Em (being a nusic teacher) loved it.
8. The Day after Tomorrow
Gotta have one blockbuster in there, and it was so much better than Troy, King Arthur etc.
9. Stage Beauty
Missed at the cinema but caught it on TV last weekend, Shakespeare in Love again but still good.
10. Farenheit 9/11
Very biased and I thought he got a big bogged down but still quite insightful and interesting.

Just outside the top 10 were heartwarmers like The Terminal, the stupid-but-Tom-Hanks-funny Ladykillers and the really disturbing Butterfly Effect. Being married there were a whole load of romantic comedies I had to watch this year which I hardly dare admit to having seen. Eternal Sunshine probably cuts into that genre and hit the top of the list!

Thursday, December 23, 2004

2004 Top 10... Places I've drunk most coffee

1. Dol.che Vita at University of Reading
2. Sorrento at University of Surrey (since Sept 2004)
3. Cafe Mondial at University of Reading
4. Roots at University of Surrey
5. Costa Coffee in Reading Station
6. Coffee Republic at The Oracle, Reading
7. Costa Coffee in Ottakars, Guildford
8. Starbucks in Guildford
9. Caffe Nero in Winchester
10. Caffe Nero in Reading

After which I descend into a whole load of places I've drunk one cup in...Mine'll be a Mocha or a black Americano thanks... Good Coffee, Strong Coffee! Drinking coffee is of course not so much about quantity but the quality and the company and the conversation. That kind of chart however would only end up offending, so I'm not going there.

Funny Letters from 2004

Words from the readers... the year's funniest letters (The Guardian)

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

2004 Top 10... Places I've slept

1. Home 265
2. My Parents 18
3. The Quinta 16
4. Skegness 11
5. Em's Parents 10
6. Southampton 6
7. Isle of Jura 5
8. Canterbury 4
9. Hothorpe Hall 4
10. A hotel in St.Ives 4

My top ten's of 2004 continues... but I'm lacking inspiration as to where to take this next... Please note the above is approximate and the list of places extends beyond ten...

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

2004 Top 10... Christian Books I've read this year

1. Stop Dating the Church, Josh Harris
(best book on church I've read, prophetically relevant)
2. Shadow of the Almighty, Elisabeth Elliot
(Biography of martyr Jim Elliot, here is the man who knew it was no sacrifice)
3. The Supremacy of God in Preaching, John Piper
(teaching the bible to make God look really good)
4. One Thing, Sam Storms
(Really helpful book on delighting in God, great illustrations)
5. A new way to be human, Charlie Peacock
(people/presence of God, easy to read, and by an artist which is cool)
6. Temple & The Church's Mission, Greg Beale
(people/presence of God, big book but worth pressing through it)
7. Cinderella with Amnesia, Michael Griffiths
(second best book on church, 30 years old and prophetically relevant, tragically)
8. Christ and his People, David Peterson
(on Isaiah/Old Testament, shows his working really helpfully)
9. Life's Big Questions, Vaughan Roberts
(bible overviews of key topics, with bible study outlines)
10. Sacrifice, Howard Guinness
(by the guy who went round the world planting the CU movement)

I've restricted myself to one book per author. The ranking isn't particularly strict and probably has most to do with how much they've influenced me. These are simply the best of the many books I've read in 2004. Selected from well over 100 titles. Why not "comment" yours...

Don't Waste Your Life



Just browsing Amazon tonight and saw a great deal on a special edition of Don't Waste Your Life by Piper, which includes a DVD of a talk on the same theme.

"You don't have to know a lot of things for your life to make a lasting difference in the world. But you do have to know the few great things that matter, perhaps just one, and then be willing to live for them and die for them.
The people that make a durable difference in the world are not the people who have mastered many things, but who have been mastered by one great thing. If you want your life to count, if you want the ripple effect of the pebbles you drop to become waves that reach the ends of the earth and roll on into eternity, you don't have to have a high IQ.
You don't have to have good looks or riches, or come from a fine family or a fine school. Instead you have to know a few great, majestic, unchanging, obvious, simple, glorious things-or one great all-embracing thing-and be set on fire by them."
(p. 44)


Buy Don't Waste Your Life (with DVD) from Amazon
Don't Waste Your Life (website)
Read the preface

Monday, December 20, 2004

Stand With Us!

Leaders and visiting speakers of the Christian Unions I work with are asked to sign a confession of faith. Often called the Doctrinal Basis or DB this document outlines the core convictions of the Christian Union as well as a it's core vision and strategy.

Such documents are much maligned, often viewed as checks of soundness, objects for exclusion or marks of judgement upon those who cannot sign them in good conscience. This is not the intent!

Confessional Christianity is the mainstream historical form of Christianity. In creeds and statements Christians have expressed their beliefs as a form of celebration and worship, in the act of preaching and teaching, to unite together - not merely around the title "Christian" but a specific Biblical definition of this.

Why be specific? Because what we believe is important. It matters who Christ is. It matters what his life and death achieved. It matters what the future holds. It matters what our priorities today are. As Christians these things are important.

As a basis of unity such statements are inclusive as much as exclusive. They welcome in those who share the convictions stated. The term "doctrinal basis" would make better sense to be called "the basis, in terms of doctrine (beliefs), of our fellowship". That is to say, we have a fellowship, this fellowship is on a particular basis, and that basis is our beliefs.

Confessions of belief do of course also function to root out false teaching. This is not a measure to prevent freedom of thinking, but rather to protect fellow believers from the damaging affects of false teaching that parades as true teaching.

Particularly where I find myself working on the frontline of missions, as the church should always find itself, the dangers of false teaching and the joy and life of true teaching should always be a concern. These things matter because Christianity is committed to truth as revealed by God in the Bible. They matter because spiritual health is rooted in truth, revealed by God in scripture and applied by the Holy Spirit. We must take care that those who take positions of teaching and leadership are in accord with sound doctrine.

And as Paul writes in 1 Timothy 1, this is the "sound doctrine of the gospel of the blessed God", or as martyr Jim Elliot translated, the sound doctrine of the gospel of the happy God.

The Christian Unions basis of fellowship can be found here:
Stand With Us!
or Doctrinal Basis (external link)

Meaning

Just finished Peter Williams book (I wish I could believe in meaning). V.interesting refutation of nihilism and naturalism as inconsistent and incoherent. Whether its adherants would buy his arguments I don't know. The book is a bit long and a bit dense with quotes from people but beyond that is very good. I particularly appreciated the sections on beauty, a concept hard to justify if the universe is meaningless, and yet something it's very difficult to deny when living in this universe.
I Wish I Could Believe

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Christmas, is about Christ

This is a plea to preachers, please preach Christ at Christmas. In the last few years I've sat through Christmas sermons telling me Christmas is all about Mary, or all about Joseph. Whilst I don't belittle them, they are not the stars of the story (I'm sure they'd agree). And more so they are not who Matthew or Luke are writing about either. Neither has in mind that we model ourselves upon Mary or Joseph (actually they're not even out to have us model our lives on Christ, in most cases they are determined to show how he is like no-one else). Both gospel-writers are deeply concerned that we see who Jesus is and why he was born. That is what we desperately need to be taught about.

Let's not presume we know. Let's not think we can assume Christ. Rather let us remind ourselves all the more about him. As I've taught through Matthew 1-9 this term I've been overwhelmed by Matthew's portrait of King Jesus. Having my faith stirred. Being convicted again of my need to repent of my sin. And shown again the joy of the greatest treasure that is found in King Jesus and his kingdom.

We need to hear more of the baby who was born. The baby who grew to become a man. The man identified from heaven to by God's son. The man who died on a Roman cross to bear the punishment for our sin. The man who rose from the dead and invites us into eternal life and joy with him. The man who asks not for our perfection, but for our repentance. Only that we turn from life against him and follow him. Only that we enter into new life in him.

Please note, Christmas is about Christ.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Reaching the 10 and the 90

Here's a couple of ideas for student mission...

Firstly, how do we reach the 10% of people that our CU (average about 1% of the student body) knows...
Evangelistic Bible Study

Secondly, how do we reach the 90% of people that we just don't know...
Lunchbar

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Word of the Year - 2004

Mirriam-Webster
report that:
Blog noun [short for Weblog] (1999) : a Web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks provided by the writer


Is the Word of 2004, that which has been searched for more often than any other word on their dictionary. The top ten is completed by: incumbent; electoral; insurgent; hurricane; cicada; peloton; partisan; sovereignty; defenestration. Probably, I'm the thousandth person to blog this fact... such is the nature of blogdom (which probably isn't a real word yet).

What we're looking for on google

Sunday, December 12, 2004

A light shining in the darkness of my heart


"Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me."
Psalm 51v10-12, The Bible.


Church meeting this morning took us back to the aftermath of King David's adultery with Bathsheba, words David writes after Nathan has confronted him with the depths of the evil he has committed.

Being reminded of these things gives me no reason to stand superior to him. In my own ways I am as evil. As David says, it is against God that he has sinned (v4). Yes, we wrong each other time and again but our true offense is against God. To be confronted again with this highlights the serious peril of the human condition as most of humanity continues to pursue independence from God. Against God have we sinned.

Talking over coffee we considered the ease with which we seem to be able to omit the above from our message. It is deeply unpopular. And yet it is central. I spoke at the Reading University International Cafe (Small World Cafe) last week, interpreting a Nativity play, unpacking the words of the Angel - Good News of Great Joy - A Saviour, Christ the Lord. And yet this news carries no appeal or apparent usefulness to us if we see no need of a saviour.

This news however is only good when we know the favour of God upon us. Only when we are called into repentance from our sin. Only when we call out to God for a new heart, a steadfast spirit, his lasting presence by the Holy Spirit. Only then do we know the true joy of salvation.

Our offenses against God are not overlooked. They cannot be taken lightly. Christmas brings good news of great joy because the baby is born to grow up and die. The one who comes from God proves himself as such. The one who is innocent dies in the place of us the guilty ones, if we would only look to him for rescue in our time of great peril.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Freedom

It's one of the great ambitions people have. A great desire of the human heart. One of those things that points towards a reality that we seem yet to have acquired. What is freedom and how is it acquired and retained? Common wisdom suggests that freedom is the ability to do whatever we want to do, to cast off all restraint. Thus a society in which everything is permissible is the ultimate place of freedom.

As I've wandered through Paul's letter to the churches of Galatia with my Relay worker and some students this term I've been shaken and inspired by the nature of real freedom.

Paul is a staunch defender of true freedom. He will not have it taken away. Paul says we're right to observe the natural captivity of humanity. We are enslaved to sin and to law. Bound and gagged. And yet when the message of "justification by faith in the death of Christ" comes we can be freed. When we are at last counted clean in the sight of God, not by our efforts but by the work of God then we are able to be set free.

And yet set free we find ourselves oddly drawn back to our captivity. Institutionalised by legalism and sinful behaviour. Sin remains in the life of the believer for the sinful nature remains alongside the Spirit. Whilst the war is won battles are lost along the way - their conflict means we do not do what we would want.

Sin is a reality to be acknowledged but not embraced. In the stark reality of the presence of sin in the life of believers we are not to indulge ourselves in more sin, nor are we to shackle ourselves with law. Both of these paths are disastrous. Both paths lead to the loss of Christian Freedom.

As Paul calls the example of his confrontation with Peter in chapter 2, and drives it home in the Galatian churches different but equal failing the message is clear. To deny Christian Freedom is to deny the value of the death of Christ. (2v4,21)

The life of the believer speaks either of the great worth of Christ's death (that which Paul portrays in his preaching which originates from divine revelation), or our life speaks of the emptiness of the death of Christ (2v21). It will do one or the other.

As Paul concludes his letter he exhorts his readers to boast not in outward things but only in the death of Christ. This is where believers should revel and rejoice*. There is no other ground in which to see the joy of freedom.

Freedom should spark joy. Paul notes that as slavery engulfs the Galatians, joy has been lost (4v15). That surely stands as a test for us. Do we know the joy of a dog walking with our master (5v22) or the misery of being a stray or chained dog.**

My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholy lean on Jesus name
On Christ the solid rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand***

I find myself forced to confront in each moment of life the question:
am I making much of the Cross of Christ by enjoying my Christian freedom, or am I making nothing of the Cross of Christ by the misery of the chains of law and sin....? Only when I make much of the Cross of Christ am I truly free.

---------------------
*in his excellent book, The Cross of Christ, John Stott helpfully notes that "boast" is more like revel or rejoice.
** illustration borrowed from David Horrocks
***lyrics by Edward Mote

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Let me entertain you?

"How will our people ever come to feel in their bones the awful magnitude of what is at stake in the eternal destiny of the unevangelized, if our homiletical maxim is to start with a joke and keep the people entertained with anecdotes along the way. How will the people ever come to know and feel the crags and peaks and snowcapped heights of God's glory if our preaching and worship services are more like picnics in the valley than thunder on the ice face of Mt. Everest?"

John Piper, the pastors role in world missions

What would Jesus say to... you?

I've just spoken to a small gathering of students at Reading Uni (about a dozen of us in a little teaching room)on the topic of: What would Jesus say to you?

The question is not immediately easy to answer. Jesus wasn't much into formulaic responses to people but dealt with them in their situation. He did speak generally to crowds too and essentially his message was always the same.

We turned to a 3000 year old song - Psalm 2 - for answers. Here we find the writers diagnosis of the world, shaking it's fist at God and claiming to have no need of him anymore. Whether atheist, agnostic, following other gods... ignorant or well informed this is easily observable. The world claims to have outgrown God.

And how does God answer this? The songwriter takes into the throne room of heaven and tells us that God is laughing at us. He finds our fist-shaking to be pathetic and unimpressive. God is not shaken by our efforts to eliminate him. Instead God appoints his Son ruler of the world, giving it to him as an inheritance. Jesus now stands as judge over all - the world is his.

And so let the King speak - and he does. He advises us to take the path of wisdom. To seek God and live under his rule. Avoid the deserved judgement and come after him - find the greatest joy in him. Know that this great King of the world died under God's punishment so we need not. He died that the name of God need no longer be scorned and mocked. He died that we might live to declare the great name of the one who created us.

On the surface of things it may seem more rewarding to follow our own path, to be independent of God but it is fruitless folly in the long term. Man cannot survive independent of God. The creature will not last long unless the Creator sustains him. And darkness will overshadow what could have been joyful life.

What would Jesus say to us? His judgement is very real, more real than we could imagine. Your eternity is at stake. God's reputation is at stake. What would Jesus say to us? The life that is found in him is better than we could imagine. Your eternity is at stake. God's reputation is at stake.

The road of independence carries much appeal but the better way is to find protection with the true ruler of the world. Strange as it might seem our best interests for life and happiness coincide with God's. He is not a kill-joy.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Evangelism or Deception

"...The more you adjust or obscure biblical doctrine in order to make Christian reality acceptable to unbelievers, the less Christian reality there is when they arrive...If you alter or obscure the biblical portrait of God in order to attract converts, you do not get converts to God, you get converts to an illusion. That is not evangelism; that is deception..."

John Piper on Romans 9

Martyrs Today

In The Times today I read some responses to an article from the previous week, the offending article's main thrust was that since Christians don't do suicide bombing then they don't believe in the after-life. The responses indicate the utter ridiculous nature of the argument. Christians very firmly believe in after-life, as well as life now. The key flaw in the argument of course being that Christians (for all the failures counter examples could produce) don't believe in killing our enemies, we believe in loving them. And if that means laying down our lives for them then so be it.

The article also claims that Christian Martyrdom doesn't happen anymore. This of course is patently false - perhaps not in western Europe, but we don't need to travel to far to find examples in large numbers. Christians live under the banner - "to live is Christ; to die is gain". Normal Christian experience to believe and to suffer for believing (Philippians 1v21,29).

We were in Oxford last weekend and stood at the foot of the Martyrs Memorial, which proclaims just that message. Remembering men who died for their Christian convictions - killed because they wouldn't recant on their beliefs. Not killed for violent acts or attempting to kill others, but simply for refusing to abandon Biblical convictions about the grace that is found in Jesus Christ. This was just a few hundred years ago in England.

These are the kind of Martyrs needed today. People who will, in John Piper's words engage in, "Doing Mission When Dying Is Gain". People who will lay down their lives to bring the Word of God in all it's truth to the peoples of the world, that those peoples may come to find life in Jesus Christ also.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Lord, let your glory fall?

Following my last study project on The Sovereignty of God in Romans 9 I'm going to spend the next five months looking at the question of:

How to preach 2 Chronicles 1-7?

This combines my two major interests of the church/presence-of-God/temple with my interest in developing a Christian understanding and application of the Old Testament. The ideas isn't just to do something theoretical but to engage with the text and a way that results in life changing application to the life of the Christian. I've not looked much at 2 Chronicles before apart from doing a re-write on Matt Redman's Lord, let your glory fall a couple of years ago.

If anyone has any ideas, tips on useful sermons or study guides on 2 Chronicles that'd be much appreciated!


And now let's move into a time of nonsense?

Nick Page's new book on Christian worship songs (And now let's move into a time of nonsense) is both funny and cutting... essentially as a writer he looks at the language we use when we sing - and the way that most of it makes absolutely no sense unless you spend half an hour searching dictionaries and the Bible... and thats before he turns on the mixed metaphors and poor quality of writing. Makes me think again about some of the drivel I've written.

This book is one that musicians and songwriters and worship leaders ought to read... my concern is whether those who need it most will read it. It's high time we started singing sense, and how much richer our worship will be when we do!