Friday, April 29, 2005

ESV Blog!



ESV Blog - Bible Giveaway Report

Apparently 8 of the 100 free ESV's went to the UK. I know that I got one, and Dave got one and Rach got one, and presumably Adrian... so who were the other four?

Boundless Grace / Stop trying to save face



Stereotypes would cast genuine Christians as do-gooders and respectable people. Simply, nice. Other stereotypes would brand us hypocrites of course. But the stereotypes needn't stick.

Teaching Jonah 1v1-16 to the Reading CU Cell Leaders today I was struck again by the boundless reach of God's grace. Jonah is hopeless, disobedient to God in the extreme. God sends him from Israel to Iraq so he takes a cruise to Spain. In the midst of Jonah's extreme rebellion against God he is used, in the middle of the Med, to bring a bunch of rough and ready, pagan sailors to know God personally. These sailor were the bottom of the ladder socially, they were sinners in the extreme. Superstitious guys who would call on any god to serve their purposes. And yet we find them thoroughly committing themselves to knowing God, because he saves them.

Later in the story we find that Jonah's big problem is that deep down he knows that God's great desire is to show mercy to sinful people. He experiences the benefits of this himself in the second episode, but seems not to have got the point. Twice in the fourth episode he declares himself better off dead than seeing people shown mercy by God. And yet God persists with this hapless prophet.

Again and again God shows mercy. The high-point of the book is a declaration by Jonah that: salvation comes from the LORD. It is God's to give. And God decides to give it to pagan sailors, repentant Ninevehites and even disobedient prophets. God shows no partiality for trackrecord or genealogy. He simply shows grace.

No doubt the original audience of Jonah's story would have hit the end of episode one with deep offense. Their hero the prophet is thrown overboard and presumed dead. And the pagans are worshipping the God of Israel. Such is the boundless grace of God to save anyone.

The first stereotype falls down - respectability does not a Christian make. Only God's grace to those who are rebels against him makes a Christian. I have no grounds to boast in myself. Let Christian confidence point away from self and to the one who saves. Let us rejoice in God's boundless grace that saves even someone like me from the judgement I deserve. Boundless grace that welcomes me.

And the second stereotype should also fall. That one falls harder. It requires a good dose of honesty from the people of God. Since God's grace and mercy comes freely to sinners, then Christians must recall they are sinners standing only in God's mercy. Let us be honest and stop trying to save face - the grace of God silences all excuses. Boundless grace now defines me.

Jollyblogger cites C.S.Lewis:
"Though our feelings come and go, His love for us does not. It is not wearied by our sins, or our indifference; and, therefore, it is quite relentless in its determination that we will be cured of those sins, at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him."

24


24, probably the best TV series ever (at least since Murder One). Having missed a few episodes of the new series we're now up to date! Excellently made, slightly silly and terribly addictive.

Story of a Kingdom


Jonny sent me two sample copies of Story of a Kingdom which is excellent. We've been profiling it at BeginningWithMoses.org for ages (given Jonny is on the editorial team!) but I don't know how widely its been seen. A great simple explanation of the Bible. Ideal to study with International Students.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Works of Jonathan Edwards


Last night I made my start on the two volume Banner of Truth edition of The Works of Jonathan Edwards which Rich gave me back in February.

I read The End For Which God Created the World, a few years ago in the John Piper book God's Passion for His Glory and absorbed much of Edwards thinking through the quantity of Piper's books that I've read.

I figured it would be worth the investment to read some more of the man himself. Man it's hard work! Small print and dense stuff but it's great! I've started with his discourse on Justification by Faith and we'll see where we go from there... fifteen minutes a day? I could be at this for many years.

Tesco Ergo Sum?

Met with Sam, Paul and Charl for our apologetics training session in Surrey today. This week tackling the title of: Get Rich, Be Happy?. Looking at how to share the gospel by talking about money. Someone has counted up that 15% of what Jesus said concerned money, and there's plenty more beyond the gospels too.

We talked about the state of life in the UK and the student scene when it comes to money. Average adult debt is now £4000 and students are in more debt than they care to think about. Yet still we strive for more treasure now.

Countering that we explored Jesus words, firstly in Luke 12v13-31 speaking into a dispute over inheritance that the real need is to get rich towards God. Secondly, Jesus words that advise us to invest well, from Matthew 6v19-21. And that the best investment is in that which lasts for eternity, not in things that rot and rust. Our choice of investment declaring the location of our heart. Finally we looked at Matthew 13v44 where Jesus tells of the joy of finding the kingdom of heaven, and how it is worth selling everything to attain. Let us not be so easily satisfied, as Lewis warned us. Let us invest in that which is of true value, namely Christ. And as we invest in him he will be see to be truly valuable. He is the greatest treasure of all, and investing elsewhere is both offensive to him and futile if our desire is happiness.


I think Tony Watkins from Damaris.org coined Tesco Ergo Sum - I shop therefore I am.. Notes from the apologetics course on: Suffering, Being Good, One Way to God and Money will go online sometime soon I hope. Cat has put some of them up at SurreyCU.co.uk

The Functional Centrality of the Gospel!

Josh Harris and Rob Wilkerson are both raving about a seminar at the Sovereign Grace Ministries Leadership conference last weekend.

Here's the brief:
The Functional Centrality of the Gospel in the Life of the Local Church, by Mike Bullmore
One of the greatest challenges, yet one of the most important tasks of the pastor is to help people actually see the connections between the gospel and the thinking and behavior that make up their everyday lives. We know well the centrality of the gospel message but in order for it to have a functional centrality it must be clearly and carefully connected to the real issues – issues of thought and conduct-of people's lives. This seminar will present a biblical paradigm for this kind of pastoral ministry as well as suggest means by which it may be carried out.

I look forward to getting hold of that at some point. This apparently picks up the same themes: Distinguishing Marks of a Genuine Gospel Passion, Mike Bullmore. Something to start thinking about here?

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

A Key to Staying Alive in Ministry, Rest.

The in-law's came for dinner last night which was nice. Among our many conversations was one about rest and staying alive in ministry.

Those in full-time gospel ministry (outside of the ordinary workplace) suffer terribly from overwork on the whole. Somewhere a workaholism has seeped in where people feel that since there is an infinite amount of work to do then they must attempt to do lots of it, and somehow people get confused about the message of the gospel and tie their identity in Christ up in what they do. It has to end.

As Michael Ramsden points out being a Christian is about BEING, not DOING, THINKING or FEELING. It is a matter of ontology (ooo!).

We ask our Relay to keep a full account of the hours they work. This is never done to make them do enough work, but always to ensure they don't do too much. It is all to easy for people work themselves into the ground and burn-out. Somewhere along the line the culture has to change.

In UCCF I think that has begun to happen, though the temptations will always remain for each individual. Personally the discipline I learnt on Relay has set patterns I want keep to. I'm also very thankful for my then supervisor, Rachel, who insisted on high standards of rest.

A collegue saved my life at the start of this year by sending me Peter Brain's book on keeping fit for a lifetime in ministry (Going the Distance). Reading this in January helped me to re-assess my priorities at the start of a term that had the potential to burn me out. He reminded me that I am not my job. The doctrine of justification by faith means I need not work to earn my standing with God.

As Toplady wrote:
Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;

Let us apply the secure achievement of the gospel to the way I work. Being "busy" is not commendable. Being "exhausted" is not a badge of honour. Hardship is part of ministry, it may not be easy but the least I can do is take care of the body I've been given.


Get this book from TheGoodBook.co.uk

By the grace of God I'm alive. I love my job. And I am not my job.
I am loved by God on the basis of God not my job. I am a child of God.

Monday, April 25, 2005

On preaching 2 Chronicles 1-9

My latest study project finally made some progress today. My title is something like "On Preaching 2 Chronicles 1-9". I've theoretically been working on this for a while but not really had time to do much with it. Last week I decided to follow the approach of Biblical Theology Briefings (given my association with that website). I'm going to use our categories there to structure my thinking and work in outlines of sermons on the chapters in question. Biblical Theology Briefings are normally a "thinking out loud" version of a sermon with preachers notes around them.

If I get enough time I'd like to properly work the talks through to script but my deadline is sometime in June which might not be enough to write four talks on top of my normal workload. I'm also straining the format by putting four talks into it instead of one. This may all collapse in on me...

The structure then is:
1. The Sermon Text – Context Issues
2. What the passage is not about – False Trails
3. What the passage is about – the difference Biblical Theology makes
4. A turning point in redemptive history
5. Sermon shape & Structure
6. Application Issues
7. Recommended Resources / Reading

Thus far I've loved digging a bit deeper into a portion of God's word that has previously been only the bit where 2 Chronicles 7v14 is found. This is of course a favourite verse in the renewal/charismatic movement. However it's interpretation has always troubled me slightly.

Hopefully in six weeks or so my thoughts will have reached a presentable form and I'll post them up here. If you have any wisdom or resources you'd recommend I read in the mean time do comment your thoughts.

Storming challenge to follow the desires of God, in preaching

Sam Storms, author of the excellent One Thing: Developing a Passion for the Beauty of God, has written a great piece on expositional preaching. A real challenge for us to take God's Word more seriously. I appeal to the students I work with to plan their termly Christian Union teaching programmes to work through books of the Bible rather than just working topically. This seems to be an uphill fight, and Storms pinpoints many of the reasons why:
"People will prefer entertainment to exposition ("wanting to have their ears tickled"). Hankering after the new, the odd, the unusual, the sensational, will replace the desire for the solid meat of the Word. They will look to their own "desires" rather than the desires of God to determine what they will hear.
One of the greatest temptations preachers face today is scratching the "itch" of so-called "felt-needs" among their congregation. There is often a significant difference between "felt-needs" and "biblical-needs". What people often want is not always what they need."

Storms, appeals that we preach expositionally and cites many solid grounds for doing so (go and read them!). He knows where people are coming from and asks that:
"we should also remember that consecutive expositional preaching will, in time, cover virtually every issue and need.
For example, one person insists that the church needs to hear about God's grace while another points to spiritual warfare as most pressing. Someone else is convinced that the relationship between husband and wife needs addressing while yet another points to the woeful lack of understanding about the nature of sanctification.
What is a preacher to do? May I suggest an expositional series preaching verse-by-verse through the book of Ephesians. In doing so, each of those topics is addressed, as well as countless others. All urgent needs are met, at the same time the congregation is exposed to the theological consistency, beauty, symmetry, literary artistry, and contextual flow of this inspired epistle.
In doing so, the people are alerted to where in God's Word and how in God's Word these matters are addressed. Their minds are thus anchored in the Scriptures."
Read Sam Storms Appeal to All Pastors: Why and How should we Preach?, for yourself: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
Cawley has picked out some great quotes in his post Sam Storms appeal to pastors

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Does God look big in your preaching?

Around the bits of the blogosphere I'm browsing I'm seeing many articles on preaching and on the ESV (e.g. The ESV vs. Dumbing Down or various posts from Adrian Warnock). This is very encouraging. I've touched both themes myself in the last few months.



I'd particularly recommend John Piper's The Supremacy of God in Preaching, to anyone seeking to dig for diamonds instead of simply raking up leaves in their preaching. It's a great book for anyone involved in any kind of word ministry.

Piper draws us into the text to meet with God. He reminds us that we come only through the cross of Christ to the word of God. And he directs us to rub people's noses in the text, that they would come to savour Christ all the more.

Then, our preaching may become less concerned with self-help and self-interest. Then we might become more concerned with making God look big by way of the gospel. Then our preaching might become an act of Christ-exalting worship! As we gather before God to hear, by the Spirit, through a preacher, from the Bible.

It's a joy and a priviledge to be part of the church preaching team. Its something I feel pretty inadequate for and not something I ever imagined doing a few years ago. Now, taking that place in the body I want to direct people not to see me, but to see Christ. And, in my preparation for preaching I want to keep asking the question: Dave, does God look big in your preaching?

Friday, April 22, 2005

Reformation!

Having chatted a little with Cat yesterday about church history and the reformation, less coherently than I'd have liked, I thought I'd pop up the five solas - the great convictions of the reformers.

Given what happened with the Charles Simeon quote last week then maybe this has the potential kick off some discussion... This stuff is packed with life!
Sola Scriptura – Scripture Alone is the Standard
Sola Fides – Justification by Faith Alone
Sola Gratia – Salvation by Grace Alone
Solus Christus – By Christ's Work Alone are we Saved
Soli Deo Gloria – For the Glory of God Alone
When I think about these things they capture the heart of what the Bible speaks of. But then I'm not sure whether they dominate our contemporary Christianity - but I long to see them do so.
Do we hunger for God's written work or prefer Sola Strategy?
Do we love justification by faith or are we Sola Guilt-trips?
Are we celebrators of the doctrines of grace or Sola Try Harder?
Do we make much of Christ's finished work or are we Sola Effort?
And does he look big in us, or is it Sola About Me?

Electricity shall be passed through your body...until you are awake


5.45am yesterday I got up and went to the Bathroom. I found a minor flood on the bathroom floor (as yet still unexplained), and then went to wash my hands only to discover that our lovely metal bathroom taps had become electrified! I, at this point, was standing in a pool of water just to make things more fun...

Let me tell you, this is one very effective way to wake yourself up in the morning! It's also rather scary when you're only semi-conscious at the time because you'd really rather be asleep.

Our landlady was profusely sorry, though its blatently not her fault - something had gone wrong in the immersion heater which is now fixed. Never had any problems with the house before... doing it in style!

Singing Matt Redman's Job-inspired song... "Blessed be your name" at Surrey in the evening was refreshing in the light of this.... Lord, I'm alive. Thank you. At the meeting Rachel spoke on 1 John 1v1-2v17 - on the marks of true disciples which was good to hear. I'm doing the next part in the series on 2v18-3v24 which has some very hard teaching in it.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

The Gospel-Driven Church



I've been reading Ian Stackhouse's The Gospel-Driven Church this week. This is one of the hardest books I've read in a while. Developed from his PhD Thesis it is incredibly dense critique of the charismatic/renewal movement. What makes it refreshing is that it is a critique from within. Ian has recently become the pastor of one of the popular student churches in my patch so his vision is highly pertinent to my work.

What strikes me first is that as well as being charismatic Stackhouse is thoroughly reformed. We Reformed-Charismatics do exist! He puts high value on the gospel and on preaching it. His plea that we use preaching to continually evangelise the church by biblical preaching of the gospel is very refreshing. This is something I value highly in our church, being weekly called back to the gospel.

As an insider he is also well able to critique Toronto and much of the Church-Growth fads that have plagued the church in recent times. Coming from my own experience of this movement in the late 1990s it is useful to see many of my own concerns echoed.

He also appeals for greater consideration of sacraments of the church and for a review of pastoral care, the latter influenced by the ministry of Eugene Peterson. I need to re-read these chapters in the coming days to digest them more fully.

Overall this book strikes me as one that has a great deal to say to charismatic and non-charismatic churches - calling us home to keep the gospel and its preaching central to our churches.
"Preaching the gospel, however, ought to be at the vanguard of the church's mission - the means by which the church is evangelised by its own gospel"
Stackhouse also takes a few well aimed pot shots at charismatic worship and songwriting which would make good reading for anyone involved church music. Particularly helpful here is some critique of excessive subjectivism, in what Mike Pilavachi is cited as calling "Jesus is my girlfriend" songs. He also notes a common lack of theological thought that marks much of what is sung today, often resulting in:
"a peculiarly pre-Christian hermenuetic that forestalls on the fulfillment of the promise of glory in the coming of Christ and the Spirit"
Those from outside the charismatic tradition will have to pass over much of Stackhouses interaction with it, but will find themselves much encouraged to see the common ground that there is. A common ground found in the priorities of the reformation, priorities that make the gospel central.

Ian Stackhouse is the pastoral leader of Guildford Baptist Church.
Sam Storms has written a more extensive review Part 1 | Part 2.
Adrian Warnock is pursuing an interesting discussion on preaching

Sunday, April 17, 2005

She's on the road!


At the first attempt, my lovely wife has passed her driving test!
Saturday 16th April, 2005.
Why not comment a congratulation to her?

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Why have a Doctrinal Basis?

One of the most common questions I get asked these days is why do we get people to sign up to a doctrinal statement (doctrinal basis – DB) to be part of the mission of Christian Unions. Here are just a few of the very positive reasons we are serious about this!

The things we believe shape everything we do. Leaders and speakers and any who exercise ministry in a CU context need to be on board with the core values of the CU. Its common sense really! These core values concern vision, strategy and belief. And they are really important to us. When we ask you to sign a DB we’re asking you to confess your commitment to the vision! This is an occasion for serious thought and for celebration. The use of a doctrinal statement is about fellowship, worship, pastoral care and evangelism. You need to know that being asked to confess what we believe puts us right in the historic mainstream of the Christian church through history.

It’s inclusive as well as exclusive! The church is fractured and divided on all sorts of matters. When we unite around our doctrinal statement we include people from across the church. Yes, some are excluded but as a missions agency shaped by the gospel we need to stand together in our beliefs. We stand united on a solid foundation which is the gospel!

It’s an act of Christ exalting worship! When we stand together and declare what we believe it is an act of worship. We are standing together and declaring this is our God! What looks big when we unite is not what is different between each of us but what we have in common. False doctrine makes God look less glorious, declaring the truth says he is glorious!

It’s an act of pastoral care! True teaching builds faith. False teaching damages people. We want to ensure that what is taught in a CU context is the “sound doctrine of the glorious gospel of the happy God” (1 Timothy 1v11), because this will make Christ look beautiful and it will equip us to make him known! Teaching people false things can only hinder that, and with hundreds of thousands of non-Christian students on campus we just don’t have time to waste.

It empowers evangelism! Clarity in the gospel keeps our message distinctive from the empty words of our lecturers teach, the ideas that our friends believe, the wrong things that bind them and keep them spiritually dead. Teach the truth of the gospel undistorted and God’s Spirit will turn on the lights.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Simeon Says...

Charles Simeon, that is...
A nominal Christian is content with proving the way of salvation by a crucified Redeemer. But the true Christian loves it, delights in it, glories in it, and shudders at the very thought of glorying in anything else"

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Nothing to read?

Of the writing of many books there is no end. Wandering around a Christian-bookshop or on Amazon there is so much to choose from, where to start... Here's some of my all time must-reads by Authors. Being in Spain challenged me to read more of the Bible, seeing workers who only really have the Bible makes you realise what you have. I strongly recommend getting a copy of the English Standard Version (ESV) which is a modern literal translation of the Bible. Nothing beats reading an accurate translation of the Bible. Alongside that its good to sit in the company of teachers and other wise believers.

John Piper
Piper is Jonathan Edwards for the 20th/21st Century. Everything he writes proclaims Christian Hedonism - promoting the joy of all peoples in the glory of God. Be warned that Piper is always provocative and not always easy to read but nonetheless worth it. He's written over 20 books covering a range of angles applying Christian Hedonism. I suggest you start with The Pleasures of God. I've really valued his biographies recently particularly The Roots of Endurance.
Catch Piper online at DesiringGod.org

Sam Storms
Storms is a charismatic theologian based in Kansas who was influenced by John Piper in the mid-eighties. He too writes Christian Hedonism and his book One Thing is probably the best introduction to that way of thinking.
Catch Storms online at EnjoyingGodMinistries.com

CJ Mahaney
CJ heads up the charismatic/reformed Sovereign Grace Ministries. A pastor for over twenty years he writes short punchy books about the centrality of the gospel. Look out for The Cross Centred Life.
Catch Mahaney online at SovereignGraceMinistries.org

Vaughan Roberts
Vaughan is Rector of St.Ebbes Church in Oxford. A regular speaker at the Spring Harvest Word Alive student conference Vaughan is an expert at Bible Overviews. He's written five books of which the last three are adapted from his Word Alive series. These books are very clearly written and have short Bible studies at the end of each chapter. This is a great way into reading the Bible in view of the whole story. Look out for Life's Big Questions.
Catch Roberts online at StEbbes.org.uk

Joshua Harris
Josh Harris' books are bestsellers. He's most known for his books on dating and relationships but now having taken over from CJ Mahaney as pastor of Covenant Life Church, Gaithersburg he's written a superb short book on church. Very highly recommened - Stop Dating The Church
Catch Harris online at Cov-Life.org

Wayne Grudem
I'm more a fan of Biblical Theology than of Systematic Theology as a discipline but for a warm devotional way into systematics I'm not sure you can do better than Grudem's Systematic Theology. A good alternative is Jeff Purswell's abridged version called Bible Doctrine.
Catch Grudem online at PhoenixSeminary.edu

There are of course many other good authors around but these six should give you enough to get started with next time you're browsing the shelves.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Mixing Religion & Politics?

On returning from Spain we found the General Election to have been called (not exactly a surprise). While in Spain we'd been to Jo's Spanish Evangelical Church (the service was all in Spanish, fantastically translated by Jo for us). The sermon wasn't exactly expository, rather gathering various biblical thoughts together. The topic was most relevant: the role of Christians towards government. This in a church who have known persecution in recent times, but today stands in freedom of religious expression.

On the biggest picture of things Christians know that God rules the world. He is the supreme ruler of all things, though not all acknowledge his rule. A world under his rule was the way creation was made, and how things one day will be.

Tracing forward we see humanity reject God's rule and run things their own way. This is illustrated in Eden as Adam and Eve assume they know better than God's word. We see it at Babel as humanity plots to exalt itself in one place, rather than filling the earth to exalt God. (Genesis 1v28 vs. 11v4).

As God establishes a people for himself, ruled by his promise and revelation to them we again see that rule scorned. They reject his word, they don't believe his promises. Ultimately they request the appointment of a king over them - like the other nations of the world. This is as planned by God, but nonetheless stands as a rejection of his direct rule since their motivation is not to honour God.

In Proverbs we find that it is God who appoints kings and rulers, likewise in Psalm 2, Daniel and elsewhere. It is the Most High King who rules - God himself. Consequently what kings and rulers do is to act as agents of God - with varying degrees of faithfulness to God's ways.

As the story of the Bible reaches the New Testament God's true King is revealed to be Jesus. He is the annointed one, the Messiah, the Christ. He rules - and his rule is established in his most glorious hour, at his death. There we find his great triumph over sin, death and the devil. And from here on men and women from all nations are invited to live proclaiming that "Jesus is Lord", citizens of heaven not of earth.

Yet these citizens of heaven live as citizens of earthly countries. The Bible knows nothing of Christian states or a Christian racial grouping. Christians are to be scattered among all the peoples of the earth for one day believers from all nations will gather around the throne of King Jesus.

In the meantime this means that Christians are called to live under the rule of their nations (1 Peter 2v13-14). To pray for their God appointed leaders (1 Timothy 2v2). Such authorities have the responsibility to deliver justice - and should do so. In a democratic society the people have the power to hold government accountable to the task they are commissioned to fulfill. We should surely do so. Let us vote on May 5th.

The only exception to submitting to the Government and Law of the land would seem to be where Government decrees that to be lawful is to be sinful. At this point the Christian will always defer to the true ruler of the world. The true judge who always judges rightly: Jesus.

Whilst human government and law will always rule imperfectly we know there is one whose final judgement will be perfect. Though we will see injustice today (not that we should tolerate it), we have sure hope of ultimate justice.

We cannot expect a perfectly governed state today - no-one, Christians included, lives perfectly today. And those who aren't Christians will never live in a way that fully honours God's rule. The church cannot moralise the world, nor should it (we rather show the world for what it is, and offer hope). But government is appointed to establish some measure of right and wrong in society, to commend and to punish.

Let us live under the rule of Jesus. Let us live under the rule of our nations for then the church will stand without blame. Let us use our freedom to do good. Let us take religion into politics. Let us call our leaders to be just in their government. Let us do this for the Lord's sake (1 Peter 2v13-17).

BBC News Election Coverage

Friday, April 08, 2005

Resource

One of the reasons for going to Barcelona was our connections to the CU scene there. When Em and I were on Relay, Dorcas Gonzalez was also on the programme. Dorcas is now back in her native Barcelona working three jobs including working with the Spanish student movement. Her second job is translating English Theology books into Spanish to provide some resources for the movement. Her third, church kids work.

Visiting Dorcas, and talking with Jo Wilson (doing Relay Homestart in Barcelona) was humbling. To see that the resources we take for granted are just not available. Quality tracts, books and gospels that'd we'd readily be able to get hold of do not exist. And its not just the paperwork, the staff are short on numbers and stretched over big areas. And Ben Slatter (a former Relay Homestarter who is still there), says that the Spanish movement is among the better resourced student movements.

Here I find myself complaining that there's only me and my Relay to cover the CUs on my patch. And we find ourselves heartbroken as a team that we have no-one in Canterbury. And yet the church scene is strong, books are available, conferences are available. We are resourced beyond the imagination of those in Spain.

at the port vell end of the ramblas, barcelona
What do we do about this?
Firstly, I want to rejoice for things like Relay Homestart that are sending Relay workers out to work with IFES movements for 1-2 years after they've done Relay. This is a beginning.

Secondly, I want to rejoice that we are well resourced here in the UK. And also to be thankful to God for the ministry that does exist in Spain. Pray for Jo Wilson and those with her, working to reach Spanish and International students. The work is hard and the fruit is small. Pray that they rejoice above all that their names are written in heaven (Luke 10v20).

Thirdly, I want to appeal for more workers. Jesus said to his disciples in Luke 10v2. "The Harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore to send out workers into his harvest first, Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.". Oak Hill College call this The Other Lord's prayer. How we need it!

More gospel workers!
We need men and women to give themselves to gospel work here - in the workplace, in the lecture theatre, in the halls of residence... part-time, full-time and all the time. We need training (which is why I'm passionate about Relay, which I consider to be the best short-term gospel training available for young men and women in the UK). We need God's work in us to equip us. We need to cry out to the Spirit to gift the body with teachers, theologians, leaders, pioneers, evangelists, prophets, servants...

Consider opposition to be normal
2 Timothy 3v12 says that ALL WHO DESIRE TO LIVE A GODLY LIFE WILL BE PERSECUTED. What do we do with a verse like that? Will we throw ourselves into God's service? Will we face martyrdom and suffering as normal so that the harvest-fields of souls can be gathered in.

Preach the gospel
On MSN with Phil, we realise again how small the Christian world is. The only way to change this is to grow the Christian world - to bring in more people. Not for our glory, not to build megachurches but to bring glory to the name of Jesus as people bow before his Cross as their only hope. And the only way to do this would seem to be to preach the gospel, consistently, faithfully so that men and women would prize Christ above all else.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Love Actually... is on Dartmoor


Just got an email from Dave (one of the guys I've been discipling) and Rach (ex-Surrey evang sec) saying they got engaged today on Dartmoor. Hurrah!

Spirit-Ministry!

Rich wrote (in a talk on 1 Corinthians 12 for a CU in Lincoln)
What does Paul say are the purpose of manifestations of the Spirit in v7? He says that they are for the common good. Christians have spiritual gifts for the good of other Christians, and not, as seems to be the case with the Corinthians, for boasting as to who was wisest in the church.

But doesn’t this then go against what Paul has said in vv1-3 that the point and test of spiritual gifts is that they proclaim the Lordship of Jesus? I don’t think so. On the contrary, I think they are intrinsically linked.

One of my heroes, a man called John Piper puts it like this: ‘…the gifts and ministries of believers in the church are manifestations of the Spirit. They are meant to show the Spirit. They are meant to make the Spirit visible. They are meant to make us admire and love and submit to the Spirit.’

So when we use our Spirit given gifts to do good to others, we manifest God to them. Or to put it another way the way that we manifest God to people is by using whatever gifts God has given us to do good to them.

Similarly challenged in chalet conversation at word alive about this stuff in the company of people like Gareth and Marcus (believers in prophecy with a great heart to exercise ministry as God intended). What does it look like in practice? How can we get the body working more for the common good and to proclaim the Lordship of Christ? As those wanting to be "Christ-Exalting Great-Exploit-doers" we will need God's gifts in all their shapes and forms.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Heartbreaking experience at Montserrat

This is the first of a series of retrospective bloggings about our recent holiday in Barcelona (last week). Instead of a conventional day by day diary I thought I'd reflect on things that struck me.

On the final day we went to Montserrat, a mountain monastary an hour out of Barcelona by train. During our time there we took the funicular to the top of the mountain, sat through a choral rendition and explored the area. The place is impressive - to see creation laid out before us from the heights of the mountain was breathtaking. What a world God has made! Amidst that though I found the whole thing quite heart breaking as a Christian. Here's why:

My first reflection, as I choked in the incense, was from Romans 15v24 where Paul speaks his intention to take the gospel to Spain. This ambition was essentially why the great letter to Rome was written. And as I sat in the basilica at Montserrat I could observe that it had happened. At some point the gospel had reached Spain. But something seemed to have gone wrong after that.

Firstly having done a seminar on living Christian life in the world, at Word Alive, the whole concept of monastic Christianity is alien to me. And I think Biblically alien. I just don't get it. I can't see how that is what Jesus has for us to be doing.

Secondly, the place seemed to be a temple to Mary. I appreciate this is a catholic thing but again it mystifies me. Granted Mary was blessed by God, but not to be deified. I'm reading Luke 9-19 at the moment and that morning I'd read 11v27-28. someone comes to Jesus as says - blessed is your mother, and he replies: No! Blessed are those who obey my words. The context demands that this means repentance (v32). Assuming Mary to be a Christian (probably fairly reasonable I think), she would surely not want our attention - but rather turn it to Christ. And indeed all devotion belongs to Christ - everything being made by him and for him.

Thirdly, it was two days after the death of the Pope. And I just found it rather nonsensical to be praying for him as they were. This seems a further diversion from Christ as I read it. I have no desire to bash catholics I just love true doctrine of the gospel. True doctrine that says Christ is sufficient! And if he's sufficient then we need not pray for someone beyond their death. Either they trusted in Christ as so their eternity is secure with him, or they didn't in which case it is too late.

As I said, I'm really not wanting to bash others here - more to turn attention to Christ, O that all the religion and devotion of those at Montserrat would turn towards him, and not to the adoration of fellow human beings. All in all it was a good day with Em, and good to grasp more of God as Creator and the things that confronted me turned my attention again to prize Christ more.