Monday, May 30, 2005

Review: Sex and the Supremacy of Christ

Sex and the Supremacy of Christ

John Piper, Justin Taylor (Editors)
Crossway Books, 2005.
288 Pages.


A book about two of the greatest things in life. Firstly Christ, secondly sex. What God has joined let no man separate! This is a book I've been looking forward to reading. It comes in five parts and is addressed to single and married Christians seeking to glorify God! Some familiar contributors, a few less so.

Taylor sets out the contributors aims to be frank and reverent in approaching the topic of sex in view of Christ’s supremacy. I think they have successfully demonstrated the connection between Sex and the Supremacy of Christ and the practical implications of that. My overwhelming conviction at the end of reading it was that I longed to see Christ exalted through the way we approach sex as Christians. Mission accomplished.

Part 1. God and Sex
In part one we have three chapters – two by John Piper and one by Ben Patterson. I’d already listened to both of the Piper chapters and the written version didn’t disappoint. Christian Hedonism applied to Sex. Piper demonstrates firstly that sex is designed by God so we’d know Christ more fully, and that knowing Christ is a way of guiding and guarding our sexuality.

Patterson then expounds the goodness of sex and its connection with God’s glory. He traces sex as a key Biblical theme. Along the way he demonstrates how sexual pleasure has been so trivialized in recent times. He observes, with the aid of C.S Lewis, the way that the world has "an ever incrfeasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure". Yet, God would have us happier!

Part 2. Sin and Sex
If sex can be the greatest joy in life then it can also make the greatest stain and sadness. David Powlison comes alongside us as a counselor. Unafraid to expose the darkness of sin. Forthright in bringing grace and truth to bear on the situation. Powlison stand clear of simple surface solutions. More Biblical is a wider, deeper assessment of the problem and its solutions. His consideration of repentance as lifestyle and sanctification as direction are particularly useful.

The second chapter about sin and sex is by Albert Mohler and addresses “homosexual marriage”. This chapter is helpful in what it says but also the way it encourages us to think. Challenging us to only talk about sex by talking about marriage… and not to start talking about homosexual marriage by talking about homosexual marriage. Mohler says think more carefully, more deeply and more Biblically. This approach will inevitably be more glorifying to God than the rash simple answers that the world wants from us, and which we all to easily offer.

Parts 3 & 4. Men and Sex / Women and Sex.
The two chapters of singleness attempt to lay out some Biblical framework. I find very helpful the teaching on dating and courtship. Having entered into my first relationship with the possibility of marriage clearly in view (a scary experience) I remain dumbfounded by the casual approach many take to dating. I don’t mean that in a superior sense but out of profound thankfulness for my own circumstances. The chapter on men establishes patterns for singleness and then considers biblical movement from singleness to marriage.

Carolyn McCulley then challenges cultural images of singleness… feminists, pop-icon’s, Ally McBeal and Bridget Jones by offering Christ-glorifying approaches to singleness. McCulley writes engagingly as a single woman. Reading as a married man I appreciated her challenges to how single women should relate to married men. I found myself thankful for the diversity of God’s people – a community working for the common good in which the married and the single have a vital role to play.

The two chapters on marriage by C.J & Carolyn. Mahaney are essentially taken from their excellent book Sex, Romance and the Glory of God which I’m still attempting to apply!

Part 5. History and Sex
We have much to learn from those who have gone before us. John Piper’s series of biographies has made this very clear. Here we find two lessons from our history. Justin Taylor tells the story of Martin Luther’s marriage – a challenge and inspiration. The book concludes with Mark Dever’s consideration of whether the classic stereotype of puritans as prudes is valid. I found this eye-opening. The puritans concerns for sexuality was not because they were prudes but because they truly valued and celebrated sex, marriage and pleasure. How easily Christians today are tarred with the puritan brush… on the evidence that Dever gathers – I’ll happily bear that.

This is a book I’d highly recommend. In an age where there are so many books this is one worth reading – addressing a vitally important and relevant topic – sex- and pointing us to glorify Christ through it.

Buy this book from Amazon.co.uk - released June 14th 2005
Also reviewed by the excellent TallSkinnyKiwi
With thanks to Justin Taylor. Justin is now collating reviews

The Centrality of the Gospel

Sovereign Grace Ministries now have all the seminar outlines from this years Leadership Conference online. Some great titles. I think I may have to order some of the audio's. Bring on the day when churches in the UK will tackle the issues this conference does to keep the gospel rigorously and passionately central.

Mike Bullmore's on the Functional Centrality of the Gospel particularly grabbed me when I heard Josh Harris' and others comments back in April. See the Handout for a flavour.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Moses starts Blogging

BT Blog

Incorporated a blog into The Biblical Theology Briefings beginningwithmoses.blogspot.com which will have news of our monthly updates and other occasional ramblings. For now it's just David Gibson and me blogging on there - but we'll try and get Andy & Jonny to join the party.

David is new to blogging but kicked things off with some thoughts on emerging church which Andrew Jones has interacted with... and now David is off blogging some Steve Chalke stuff and a few other things he's found in the blogosphere... David is big thinker doing his theology PhD in Aberdeen. He has some great prophetic insights such as his article Assumed Evangelicalism from a couple of years ago. No stranger to controversy and happy to dive into the fray... worth following!

RSS Feed

Pardon for sinners

"For your name's sake, O LORD,
pardon my guilt, for it is great"

Psalm 25v11, ESV

GREAT GUILT NO OBSTACLE TO
THE PARDON OF THE RETURNING SINNER

(My note from reading Jonathan Edwards sermon)
Argument
1. David pleads for pardon on the basis of God's name's sake.
Not on the basis of David's worthiness.
Not on the basis of David's good deeds.

2. David pleads for pardon the basis of the greatness of his sin.
Not on the basis of his righteousness.
Not on the basis of the smallness of his sin.

He pleads for pity because he is pitiful. Like a beggar looking for food who pleads his hunger.

Doctrine
If we truly come to God for mercy, the greatness of our sin will be no impediment to pardon. If it were then David would not have used this argument.

We see:
1. Our misery and need of mercy
2. That we are not worthy of sovereign grace
3. We must come for mercy through Jesus Christ alone

So:
1. The mercy of God is as sufficient for the pardon of the greatest sin as for the least.
2. The satisfaction of Christ is as sufficient for the reoval of teh greatest guilt as for the least.
3. Christ will not refuse to save the greatest sinners who come to rightly to God for mercy. It is his business to be the saviour of sinners.
4. The glory fo grace consists in Christ's sufficent pardon of the greatest sinners.
5. Pardon is offered and promised to the greatest sinners.

Application
The proper use of this is to encourage those whose consciences are burdened by a sense of guilt, to go immediately to God, through Christ, for mercy!

Objections
Edwards concludes his application by refuting the objections he knows will be raised, namely:
1. Have I not been too long in sin?
2. Have I not commmitted sins that prove me reprobate?
3. Have I not need to reform myself before I come for mercy?

What joy to be remined of God's free grace to me a sinner. So hard to admit sin. So hard to come for mercy. Yet I come and recieve pardon from God, through Christ!

I let you down

© Duke Special / Brian Houston

I let you down I let you down, I
Did it well and gave you hell,
And messed you around, I was
Wrong and caught red handed,
It didn't work the way I'd planned
It, I wish I hadn't dressed you
With that frown, I let you down

I muycked it up I mucked it up,
You say the side I like to hide
And that was too much, I could
Go to church on Sunday maybe
I'd be alright Monday, amazing
How this grace helps me
Rebound, I let you down.

Oh was it really me, who jumped
In first and made you curse, just
At the sight of me, how could it
Be, that I'd become the kind of
One, I swore I'd never be

I was wrong and caught red-
Handed, It didn't work the way
I'd planned it, I wish I hadn't
Dressed you With that frown, I
Let you down

Saturday, May 28, 2005

House of Flying Daggers



Twisting and not entirely clear story.
Breathtaking landscapes and martial-arts.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Sex and the Supremacy of Christ


Just got a preview copy of Sex and the Supremacy of Christ from one of the editors, Justin Taylor. I heard some of the conference talks this book is based on, so I'm very much looking forward to it. Full review to follow next week I hope - contributors include Taylor, John Piper, CJ Mahaney, David Powlison and Christ God is excellent.

Las comparaciones son odiosas


Every year about 60 graduates commit to a year of Discipleship Training in a Student context - we call the programme Relay. In 2000 I did this programme, as did Em. A few years ago we were able to introduce a variant on the programme called Relay Homestart which allows Relay's to take an extra 1-2 years serving with an IFES student movement somewhere in the world... and there are people doing that in several countries today.

One of them is an ex-Reading student who I worked with a lot when she was CU Evangelism Secretary. Jo did Relay in Southampton last year and is now in Barcelona. On June 2nd she'll be visiting Reading University Christian Union. We visited Jo in Spain at Easter this year and it was an inspiring and very humbling experience. Reading students don't miss this opportunity to hear some of what has been happening as Jo takes the good news of grace to Spain.

Little Book of God: Ruth

Ruth is a classic book for student girls-weekend, a romantic and dramatic tale. But I don't buy for a minute that this book is only for girls. So I've been studying it with the guys I disciple over the last few months and today I began to teach it to the Christian Union Cell Leaders at Reading. What a book! What a God.

The story traces the tale of the redemption of the sinner Naomi in chapters 1 & 4b and the inclusion of the foreigner Ruth in chapters 2-4a (roughly). As with the whole Bible this is a book about God and so it tells his story. And, as part of the Old Testament it's application must be considered in view of Christ. So we move from the Book of Ruth, to Christ and then to us. If we bypass Christ we find most likely invites to moralism and legalism and very little grace.

Naomi - a sinner redeemed
Naomi's tale is one of her rebellion in leaving Israel with her family. Everything she has is then taken from her (a tragic opening to a supposedly romantic tale). By the end of chapter 1 she is confessing that this is the work of God against her. The Almighty...the LORD... the LORD.... the Almighty stands behind these events. She concludes that her life is bitter and she is empty. God has punished her. Let us rejoice that though our sin is probably worse than Naomi's we get only God's kindness and not his punishment - for Christ bore that punishment for us. The reality is that she is not empty - she returns with her daughter-in-law Ruth and at the time of harvest. There is much hope. By the end of the tale her redemption will be completed when Obed redeems her.

Ruth - a foreigner included
Ruth is a Moabite. She does not belong to God's people. Naomi urges her to return to Moab offering her only an empty future among God's people. Ruth however confesses that Naomi's God will be her God, Naomi's people will be her people. In chapters 2-3 we find Ruth taking refuge in God by taking refugue in his people. A great picture of what happens as people join the people of God by becoming "in Christ".

David - a king with a shady history
The story of Naomi & Ruth is one you'd want to supress if you were trying to make much of your family history. God however highlights the sinner and the foreigner in David's genealogy in chapter 4, and repeats it in Jesus' genealogy in Matthew's gospel (where of a possible 42 women we're told only of Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba... four "shady ladies"). God doesn't want to hide this but to advertise it!
Grace to sinners from all nations
What results then is a message that would look shameful to many which proclaims God's grace to foreigners and sinners. Jesus Christ, God's true King, issues an open invite to sinners from all nations. Rebels from all nations are invited into Christ and into his people. No punishment will be due for the one who issues the invite has paid the penalty of sin. What comes to the nations is a great issuing of God's kindness. An ourpouring of outrageous grace to all who will come. Great grounds to praise the giver of grace, the one who gives himself.

Sunshine on Campus

Fletch, two years ago on a train

Campus was full of happy, relaxed graduands. Something of what university life ought to look like... sadly I forgot to take my camera (note to self - don't make that mistake again!). As the sun blazed this afternoon it was great to catch up with Fletch and Tim who are graduating this year. A pleasure to talk about the joy of God's grace with them, delighting in our wonderful saviour!

It's been great to see them both grow up in life and in Christ over the last 3-4 years. Always mixed emotions seeing people move on... rejoicing in what has been and trusting God for what will be in the years ahead.

In early July they'll be presented before the Vice-Chancellor to receive their degrees. One day they'll be presented perfect in the presence of God, not because of their efforts over three years, but because of Jesus perfect sacrifice.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Feeling Guilty?

What do you do with.... Romans 8v1?
"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Romans 8v1 (ESV)
My observation of pastoring students is that most of them seem to feel guilty most of the time. Different pressures afflict them. For some it is the pressure to have a daily quiet time of prayer and Bible study, which like me they fail in regularly. For some it is the pressure to have evangelistic conversations, which like me they fail in regularly. For others the pressures are not to drink beyond certain rules, not to feel angry or lustful, and so the list go on.

Lists and rules that have no place in the Christian life. Christians are to fight against sin. We have a sinful nature and the Holy Spirit. They are at war with each other so we don't always do what we'd want. The war is good. If it felt like peace that would not be a good sign.

But the battle with sin is not to be taught by imposing rules on each other. It cannot be won by tying ourselves up with intricate systems and regulations. Such rules focus all attention on the sin we're trying to avoid. And such rules put our hope in ourselves to avoid the things that our sinful nature desires. I am not a good place to place my confidence. And God is insulted.

The Bible offers another way. It says believe God's promises. Promises like Romans 8v1 which insist there is no condemnation for those in Christ. A Christian is under no condemnation. That isn't just about becoming a Christian but also about staying one. It's not gospel to become a Christian and law to live as one. Gospel to become a Christian and gospel to stay one! The same message for both.

Hebrews 10v14 says that Christ has perfected forever all Christians. Not by rules but by his death. And he is sanctifying such people - transforming them.

If we would immerse ourselves in the promises and grace of God then sin would lose its appeal. As C.S. Lewis says our desires are simply too weak not too strong. We settle for less when more is offered. God promises eternal joy if we'll live in him by the Spirit... sin offers only glimpses of short term satisfaction.

To fight against sin let us "fight fire with fire" (John Piper). Let us fight against sin not by turning to the sin and showing it a rule. Let us fight against sin by turning to the cross.

Several years ago Cassells Morrells of IFES showed me what needs to happen. We become Christians with some small knowledge of our sin and some small knowledge of God's grace. As we go on our sin and God's holiness both become more apparent.... a gap emerges.

We can either try to fill that gap with performance and legalism or guilt and lies about our sin..... in which case the cross stays small and we get miserable. Or... we can look again to the cross and rejoice that though the gap looks bigger the cross of Christ amply fills the void!

What do you do with.... Romans 8v1?
Celebrate it! Rejoice that in Christ we reign in life by God's grace. Turn my eyes again to the cross to see that Jesus death accomplishes everything to leave me perfect before God. Nothing to add. No way in which I can screw it up. No condemnation! What joy!

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Sideways



One week of drinking good wine.
Redemption under California sunshine?

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Moral Maze

Steve says that in his youth group they've been teaching the 10 commandments. He's uncomfortable telling people to be good. He and I have looked at how we were never under God's law and how law actually increases sin (forbidden fruit always looks sweeter). Got me thinking. My impression is that a lot of youth work tells teenage non-Christians to behave. It says you need to not steal, lust, get angry etc. These people were never under God's law so they don't need us to dump it on them. Their conscience tells them that they do wrong. And then we go and top it up. Teenager then walks away saying, I can't live your way and I don't want to.

Someone without the Holy Spirit isn't going to live a moral life. (It's pretty tough when you do have the Holy Spirit.) What can we do though? Surely we ought to say - you know that your conscience says you do wrong. God says the same. But God doesn't say do better, try harder, get ahead in the moral game. And doesn't have to work to condemn you or make you feel guity. He simply says you can't be good, you can't fool me, you can't impress me anymore than you actually fool anyone else. Game over for being good.

And God says let me introduce you to Grace. Yes it's the name for a girl but it's also something that can change the world. Its the best thing the world has never known. Grace says - you don't deserve good things from God but he'll give them to you. And he does so on the basis of his goodness and his reputation (rather than your goodness and your reputation).

How so? What makes God happy is for you to know that the best place to live is knowing him. And so he sends Jesus to be punished for all the wrong you know you've done, and all the wrong you hadn't even noticed. And as that happens you can be counted perfect in God's sight. Perfect. And teflon perfect at that. Totally non-stick and, stainless forever. You can't do anything to get in with God. You can't earn this. It's free, and it's called grace. And when you recieve God's grace heaven celebrates, God is happy and his reputation soars for because he changes your life.

No-one ever told me about this when I was a teenager. They just talked about being relevant and being responsible and being right. Grace means I can confess I'm wrong. Grace means I can mess up. Grace means I can know God forever. Grace means I can find joy in God instead of trying to find it apart from him.

Playing the moral maze that depends on my ability to find my way ends up with me getting lost, defeated and miserable. The Grace of God means I get found, victorious and happy beyond my wildest dreams.

Little Book of God: Jude

Jude is a great little book. A short letter from Jude. It gets caught up in a wrangle with 2 Peter since much of 2 Peter 2 is very similar to Jude. Did one copy the other? Peter writes explicitly on the basis of his eyewitness testimony saying he's not making up what he's writing. Jude has his own purposes. Personally I don't have a major problem with the same thing being said in different places. The purposes can be different which can make it necessary. And if we're going to say both are scripture then we are at the very least saying the same Holy Spirit inspired both of them.

Jude is a book I've taught a few times to illustrate pastoral care to my student leaders.

(1-2) To the kept
The letter is written to those kept in Jesus. Being kept is an idea that repeats later in the letter.

(3) Content for the gospel
Jude had wanted to write on other matters but there is a need to contend for the faith. The faith delivered to them in the past. The message that is passed on from one generation to the next.

(4-16) …because it’s under threat. From whom?
(4-8) The threat comes from people who pervert the grace of God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ (v4). These people twist the gospel and deny Jesus' authority. Jude then illustrates from the fate of those who were rescued from Israel but failed to believe the gospel, from fallen angels and Sodom and Gomorrah. They faced eternal punishment. Jude loves to call up many examples - "this is like" - to help us understand. Sometimes the examples are strange and obscure but they are clear enough as illustrations.
(9-13) The threat also comes from dreamers who reject authority and speak in ignorance. A dispute over Moses body is cited (strange!) but we get the point. They stumble around lookig for gain. And as the illustrations stack up in v12-13 we have some fantastic images. Waterless clouds (empty), Fruitless trees in autumn (useless), foaming waves (contentless), wandering stars (lost). Their future is darkness forever.
(14-16) As Jude explains the threat to the gospel a third time the word ungodly repeats four times in v15. Get the point! Grumblers, people who follow their own sinful desires (rather than desiring God), boasters, people who show favouritism to get ahead. They are in it for themselves entirely.

(17-25) so keep yourself & others, Jesus will keep you
(17-19) Remember… The apostles predicted such sin. The apostles said there would be scoffers who would follow their own ungodly desires. They are Spiritless divders.
(20-21) Action… Build yourself up. Keep yourself in the faith. Pray in the Spirit. Keep in God's love - waiting for Jesus' mercy and eternal life.
(22-23) Action… Rescue others. Keep others in the fiath. Different action for different people. Be merciful to doubters. Snatch others from the fire. Show mercy to those stained by sin but hate their sin. Too often we're tempted to permit sin because we're afraid to confront each other, afraid in a tolerant age to say someone else is wrong. But we must look out for each other. We must agree to fight our own sin and each others. Our lives depend on it. God does not sanction sin neither ought we, and we hurt each other and offend God when we do.
(24-25) Remember… Fear not! Above all remember that Jesus will keep you. He can keep you blameless "before the presence of his glory with great joy". And so to Jesus be glory, majesty, dominion and authority (it cannot be rejected) forever!

Sin is shown for what it is - an offense against the glory and rule of the Lord Jesus. And as a danger to people. Too often we forget one or the other. Sin offends God. Sin takes grace and perverts it. And sin's final destiny is eternal punishment. For that conclusion and in this life sin is also destructive - burning people like fire because it's not what we're meant for.

But - let us be kept in Jesus. Contend for the faith and remain in him! We keep ourselves. We keep each other. He will keep us for the glory of his name forever!

Monday, May 23, 2005

Coffee and Cookies

Today has been dominated by coffee drinking and cookie eating. Alongside which I had my annual review with Gareth which was really encouraging. Great to talk through what's been going on over the last year, many encouragements and much progress. And then thinking through priorities for the year ahead.... developing student leaders and supporting student mission.

And then caught up with Iain from St. Saviours, good to catch up after about 18 months and consider the joy of knowing Christ and how that should dominate our lives!

Got home and did a bit of work on my upcoming talks at Arborfield on John 9 (Are you blind to the evidence?) and John 10 (Words, Works & Sheep).

"Salvation is not mainly the forgiveness of sins, but mainly the fellowship of Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:9). Forgiveness gets everything out of the way so this can happen. If this fellowship is not all-satisfying, there is no great salvation. If Christ is gloomy, or even calmly stoical, eternity will be a long, long sigh." (Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ, pg. 41, John Piper)
Those who are his sheep believe and gain eternal life. Those who do not believe fail to believe because they are not his sheep (John 10v26). (You'd think it was the other way round but thats the way the implications run in the text).

And so he stands offering his words and his works to be believed. Offering up eternal fellowship with himself. Heaven: like coffee and cookies with friends, but a whole lot better. MMmmmm.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Are you blind to the evidence?

Preparing to speak on John 9 which tackles the question of whether people are blind to the evidence about who Jesus is I came across this article in The Times on May 18, 2005.
God loves us, touch wood
By Matthew Syed

BRYAN ROBSON, the West Bromwich Albion manager, whose team escaped relegation on Sunday, has been carrying a miniature Buddha in his pocket since January. Harry Redknapp, the Southampton manager, whose team were cruelly dispatched from the Premiership, has been clasping a plastic angel. Do not suppose, however, that this will settle the matter as to the relative efficacy of the two icons. When it comes to superstition or, for that matter, religion, there are only ever winners.
These so-called beliefs, you see, are never sullied by anything as sordid as evidence. Take the tsunami. On Christmas Day, Bible-bashers were united in prayer for God’s blessing on the world. The next day they witnessed a catastrophe that killed thousands without even registering the paradox. They were too busy asking the Big Man to alleviate the after-effects of a disaster that He could, presumably, have prevented. God moves in mysterious ways, but not compared with the minds of His followers.

Yet do not suppose that it is only football managers and Christians who indulge in such intellectual duplicity. We all seem strangely willing to tolerate absurdity — just look at the newsprint devoted to horoscopes, mysticism and the politics of the Conservative Party.

Even sensible types are not immune. Niels Bohr, the physicist who transformed our world view with the ruthless application of the hypothetico-deductive method, had a horseshoe hanging outside his cottage. Arthur Conan Doyle, who created the ultra-logical detective Sherlock Holmes, held hands with strangers in dark rooms, summoning ghosts. We embrace rationality, but only while clutching a rabbit’s foot.

One is tempted to recommend that we all grow up, except that life is so much less jolly without absurdity. I was brought up as a fundamentalist Christian and enjoyed my singing and clapping until those fanciful beliefs were cruelly destroyed by three years of Oxford philosophy. John Stuart Mill was wrong — there is not a direct correlation between enlightenment and happiness.

That is why, five years into the 21st century, we still hanker after such follies as karma, clairvoyance and Catholicism. They confer a survival advantage by shielding us from the realities of the human condition. Such as the incontrovertible fact that Southampton were always destined for relegation.

Syed admits a past involvement in Christianity, defeated by Oxford Philosophy. His brother (ME afflicted table-tennis champion) continues a Christian, here in Reading - and his Father I think. Somewhere along the line he seems to have become blind to the evidence that seems so clear to me.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

It's not about the music!



Just listened to The Role of Music in Worshipping God by Bob Kauflin from Covenant Life Church. Some excellent teaching on the issue that cn so often divide the church: music.

More great worship resources at Sovereign Grace Music

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Treasure in Heaven

Anxiety is folly
It cannot change the world
Life is more than money
And everyone grows old
Treasure is the map that
Shows the hearts desire
What you own will own you
Invest in God alone

Awake and be ready
Watching for his coming
When we serves a banquet
To satisfy your soul
Much will be required
Of those who have had much
Interpret the times
Settle up your account

Pain and pleasure will come
Raising many questions
But you turn from your sin
Lest you also perish
God's great joy and delight
Is to give his kingdom
Be rich toward the LORD
And reap eternal joy

My Treasure's in Heaven,
With my God forever!
My Treasure is Heaven -
With my God forever!


© Dave Bish, 2005. Luke 12v13-13v21.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Are you perfect?

I was asked this question last week.
What would be your natural response? No...

Have a read of Hebrews 10v14
"For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified." (ESV)
Are you perfect? Yes
On what basis? Jesus' single offering (a completed act)
For how long? For all time (forever)
And, being sanctified (transformed by God!)

Abraham writes Amen to God, I agree!

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Free ESV Bible Arrived!


A few weeks ago I won a free copy of the ESV in the giveaway by the ESV Blog. Today, on my birthday (!), it arrived. Hurrah and Thanks! It has a rubber cover which is still a bit odd... But kinda cool too! Trendy and accurate... excellent combination!

Previous post on the ESV Blog Giveaway, Rach got her's today too.

Sacrifice

"Where are the young men and women of this generation who will hold their lives cheap (Rev 12v11), and be faithful even unto death?
Where are those who will lose their lives for Christ’s sake – flinging them away for love of Him?
Where are those who will live dangerously, and be reckless in His service (Acts15v26)?
Where are his lovers – those who love Him and the souls of men more than their own reputations or comfort, or very life?
Where are the men who say “no” to self, who take up Christ’s cross to bear it after Him who are willing to be nailed to it in college or office, home or mission field; who are willing, if need be, to bleed, to suffer, and to die on it?
Where are the men and women of vision today?
Where are the men of enduring vision?
Where are the men and women who have seen the King in His beauty, by whom from henceforth all else is counted but refuse that they may win Christ?
Where are the adventurers, the explorers, the buccaneers for God who count one human soul of far greater value than the rise or fall of an empire?
Where are the men who glory in God-sent loneliness, difficulties, persecutions, misunderstandings, discipline, sacrifice, death?
Where are the men and women who are willing to pay the price of vision?
Where are the men and women of prayer?
Where are the men and women who, like the Psalmist of old, count God’s Word of more importance to them than their daily food?
Where are the men and women who, like Moses of old, commune with God face to face as a man speaks with his friend, and unmistakably bear with them the fragrance of the meeting through the day?
Where are God’s men and women in this day of God’s power?"
Howard Guinness, Sacrifice, IVP

26

Today I am 26 years old.
Sixteen seems a long time ago. In the last ten years, in no particular order I've done these 26 things (You'll be able to tell I was clutching at straws at various points hopefully due to lack of memory rather than lack of events):
1. I passed my driving test at the first attempt
2. I've made friends in several continents
3. I've experienced the death of my Grandfather and realised death is big
4. I've been in a student band, for a while and recorded a few tracks over 24 hours in a church building
5. I became a Christian and discovered the abundant grace and infinite beauty of God
6. I've been to six countries in mainland Europe (but still never left Europe)
7. I finally beat my Dad at Chess, and we've not played since (nine years and counting)
8. I decided I do like drinking coffee after all - strong, black and filtered.
9. I've lived for two years as a upaid volunteer
10. I have passed 4 A-Levels, and still don't know how or why one of them was Chemistry
11. I got a BSc(hons) Mathematics from the University of Bath and discovered that it was the best Math's degree in the country that year, which ups the value of my 3rd!
12. I got married!
13. I've been a member of four churches and visited many more
14. I've walked out on work-experience on the second morning
15. I've run a website for nearly three years - with three other people I've only once been in the same room as - welcome to the global village
16. I've made a twit of myself several times as a "Christian leader", but been given second chance after second chance
17. I've made my home in nine houses in one village, one town and one city
18. I've stewarded and been a speaker at Spring Harvest
19. I've worked as a Web Designer for a now defunct dotcom developing video-cv technology (Isero.com developing "Talking CV!")
20. I've had breakfast with Don Carson
21. I've spent 36 hours in Warszawa Airport on my own waiting for a flight, the depressing bit is when you see the plane you want go a day before yours.
22. I've developed a love of good films, IMHO
23. I've worked for Natwest as Customer Service Officer
24. I've worked as a Bible Teacher with students from several Univerities & Colleges
25. I've read most of John Piper's books but only a few of Jonathan Edwards'
26. And I've now reached the age my mother was when I was born, six weeks early, on May 17th 1979.

In the next decade may I increasingly be prepared to answer Howard Guinness' call: "Where are those who will lose their lives for Christ’s sake – flinging them away for love of Him?"

Sunday, May 15, 2005

In love with God's people



Today is "Pentecost Sunday" - the day the church remembers the day that God poured out the Holy Spirit on his people and the church was born! Read about that day! (Acts 2, ESV)

In 2004 I read several books about church. Charlie Peacock wrote about the story of God-people-and-place in New Way to be Human. Michael Griffiths wrote, 30 years ago, about the church as Cinderella with Amnesia. Finally, I read Joshua Harris' Stop Dating the Church. In an age of individualism God's plans are much more corporate! Yes, he calls each person to turn from sin and trust in Christ - but the result is the formaton of what I dubbed God's Global Eden Project - God's people, in God's presence from all over God's planet.

We've now been at Arborfield Church for six months and I'm happy to confess that I have fallen "in love with the people of God!", just as Harris challenged me to. It's a real joy to be part of a family of people who delight in the good news that is Jesus!

Yesterday Tom texted me a quote from Bill Hybels yesterday:
"There is nothing like the local church when it's working right. Its beauty is indescribable. Its power is breathtaking. Its potential is unlimited. It comforts the grieving and heals the broken in the context of community... No other organisation is like the church. Nothing even comes close" (p23, Courageous Leadership)
The church is beautiful because it points to Christ. It often looks hypocritical and weak because it is full of sinners - but there we find the beauty of it. Christ calls sinners to himself, into a community located in him - and through the church reaches the world. The people of the church may not always look amazing. But see how brightly the saviour at the heart of the community will shines as Christ is proclaimed! Our strength and our power and our

Saturday, May 14, 2005

The London Men's Convention 2005

Great time in the Royal Albert Hall today at the London Mens Convention today. Top talks from Richard Coekin, Vaughan Roberts, John Stott and Liam Goligher and a useful seminar from Paul Williams.

The Theme was Biblical Answers to Tough Questions - we considered the importance of giving a reason for our hope. Then with Vaughan Roberts, the place of Christ, the Bible and the Holy Spirit in revealing God. John Stott spoke superbly on the Uniqueness of Christ, before Liam Goligher closed looking at Christian Freedom.

It was great to spend a day with a load of brothers, a coach load from Arborfield & Barkham plus the opportunity to catch up with a whole load of guys I've not seen for ages. In the corridors I ran into Nat Ayling (aka, "Bug") with his crazy hair. Nat is a fellow Christian Union Staff Worker who is part of the London and Relay teams. This week he'd been teaching Relay workers the stuff Marcus Honeysett had been teaching us, including this shocker... Are you perfect?
"For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified." Hebrews 10v14 ESV
God says, YES! We are perfected in Christ - what ground for joy in the Lord!

Next year's LMC theme is living by the Spirit, I look forward to it if its anything like what I've been exploring this week!

One other thing, at somepoint David Horrocks pointed out that some of my recent talks weren't yet online. They are now! See the Bible Page

Law, Grace and the Spirit

Adrian issued a blogging challenge about prohibitions from the council of Jerusalem. This fits as the next step in my thinking from our team gathering last week.

The basic deal was a dispute that arose in the early church when some people started saying that believers should live under law. The council states strongly that this is not the case. The Gentile (non-Jewish) world was never under law, and so shouldn't be put under law. Right standing before God comes by faith in Jesus only.
“Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” Acts 15v8-11, ESV

They do however issue a few prohibitions, in v20... "to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood". Is this a new law for Gentiles? No! v21 says - "For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.”" it is because of the knowledge of the Old Testament and presumably the conscience issues that would then occur, not because we need to live by a new law.

The Spirit breeds love in God's people - love to build each other up. In certain contexts there are stumbling blocks that would prevent others from joining the community. This seems to be the case here - those who know the mosaic law well would find great difficultly in joining a community that overtly denies its apparent demands.

It is clear that Christians are not under law and shouldn't be put under law. Law served its purpose for the Jews - to highlight their sin, not to make them righteous. Young believers from a Jewish background would however struggle with believers freedom. The question concerns not permission but benefit. There is permission but no benefit, in a context where the scriptures are well known, to exercise freedom over the dinner table in eating such foods.

The crucial issue is that Gentiles received the same Spirit as the Jewish Christians, by the same grace found in Jesus - and all should now live by the same Spirit. It was not law that brought the Spirit to Jews, nor should law be imposed on Gentiles. Let us rejoice in living by the Spirit!

See Finding Joy for more thoughts on this.

Little Book of God: Jonah

This book is rapidly becoming one of my favourites - if that's not an inappropriate approach to God's word. The book of Jonah is short, snappy and full of surprises. It seems that if you mention Jonah to most people they immediately think of a big fish... Is that the point? Is it a story of underwater adventure?

Episode 1 - God saves the worst sinners
1v1-16
The story kicks off with God commissioning Jonah to go and preach to Nineveh, the captial of Assyria (modern day Iraq). We're not told why at this stage, but Jonah decides to run in the opposite direction. Opposite in the extreme - he catches a boat from Israel to Spain to flee from God.

On the way to Spain the LORD sends a great storm to stop Jonah in his tracks. In the midst of the storm we are introduced to the sailors. They are a crowd of rough and ready pagans who will call out to any god who might keep them from perishing. Jonah meanwhile sleeps below deck.

He is woken by the crew and they force a confession from him. Who is his God? The LORD of the heavens, the land and the sea. Jonah's God is the covenant God (the LORD) and he is the one who rules everywhere. Jonah claims to fear this God but is also trying to run from him. Rather futile.

Jonah tells the crew to throw him into the Med to save themselves. They are hesitant but ultimately do so. The camera moves from Jonah to the sailors and we find them fearing God, making sacrifices and vows to the LORD. They become believers. God saves even the worst of sinners - what grace!

Episode 2: Salvation comes from the LORD and IS the LORD
Jonah 1v17-3v4
We left the previous episode at a cliffhanger. The Sailors become believers but what happened to Jonah? We find him rescued from death by a fish sent by the LORD. Some doubt the historicity of this, but Jesus tells it as history.

The centre of this episode is a Psalm by Jonah - his Salvation Song. He recognises he was dead but the LORD saved him. He longs to see the presence of the LORD and find the grace that the LORD gives. Jonah's words point us towards salvation being the LORD - it is gaining him, knowing him - being in his presence (that which Jonah was attempting to avoid). This is life: knowing God!

At the highpoint of the book he concludes that Salvation not only is the LORD, but also salvation comes from the LORD. This is not simply that God saves, but also that God decides who gets saved. Jonah ran from his mission to preach to evil Nineveh and so God saved the sailors. Next God saved Jonah... what next! Having experienced the grace of God for himself Jonah is recomissioned and this time he goes to preach - and it seems that he ought to be more aware that salvation is God's to give.... in line with God's command he preaches to Nineveh - "Forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown". Another cliffhanger.

Episode 3 - Grace to repentant sinners
3v5-10
As the story unfolds to the original audience there are highs and lows. Jonah is sent! Jonah dies... Sailors are saved... Jonah is saved! Jonah preaches judgement on Nineveh. But what happens next? Against all expectation everyone in Nineveh turns from their evil ways. From high to low - all 120,000 people. They turn to God for mercy hoping that perhaps he will save them. And he does.

Later Jesus cites these events many times. He argues lesser to greater to announced a final warning to the world. Nineveh heard Jonah preach and they repented. And God saved them. The World has had Jesus preach, die and be resurrected... will it come to God for mercy, or remain at enmity with God and so face final judgement?

Repentance is difficult for us because we love to make excuses for ourselves. We are natural self-justifiers. But repentance lays that down and seeks only mercy. Repentance means admiting we've wronged God but it is the way to life. Grace is by definition, undeserved.

Episode 4: God is outrageously gracious
Chapter 4.
Jonah's simple message leads to 120,000 people receiving God's mercy. How would you react? Joy? Celebration? Jonah is "exceedingly displeased". He takes issue with God. Jonah declares that he knew this would happen! That's why he ran to Spain, to prevent it. And yet as he ran God saved the sinful sailors. And then God saved Jonah. And now God has saved Nineveh. And Jonah is angry - sufficiently to request that God take his life away from him.

The crucial issue seems to be that Jonah doesn't think God ought to be gracious. He seems able to accept grace for himself but not for others. God attempts to demonstrate grace to Jonah one last time but he remains furious.

Can we handle the grace of God? Grace that means we have no case in our defence before God, except God himself. Grace that is freely given by God to whomever he pleases. Grace that flows abundantly because God is in the business of being gracious. Imagine what could be possible... Imagine what God might do. His grace is outrageous!


A series of four cell notes on Jonah, currently being used by Reading University Christian Union will be online by the end of May 2005.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Satisfied

I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of the LORD,

Psalm 116v13, ESV

The LORD has given me life,
by the death of his only Son
The LORD has given himself,
by his free grace alone

What shall I do to exalt you,
but come to you for more?
How shall I show your worth,
but come to you for life?

Fill my cup til it overflows,
and I'll come for more!
I'll celebrate this new life,
by knowing the giver of life

Fill my cup til the world sees,
and you'll be magnified
Let the nations see your beauty,
and come to you for grace

What Have I to bring,
but my need of your grace?
Where else could I boast,
but in your wondrous cross?

The LORD has given me life,
I tell my soul rejoice
The LORD has given himself,
forever I'm satisfied

© Dave Bish, 2005

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Anthem of Life

Hear the songs of heaven
Drowning out all other songs
Awake my soul to sing
Of Christ who died for me

You are the anthem of life,
You are the gift we receive,
You are the treasure that's gained
When sight is lost of glory
Worldly desires at once appeal
To draw me into misery
With 10,000 empty promises

If I bind myself with many rules
I appear to live but life is lost
Til only a shadow remains
Soon to depart to death also

See the Saviours great beauty
Matchless by all comparison
Open my eyes to see
This Christ who sits enthroned

© Dave Bish, 2005
v1 adapted from Crown Him With Many Crowns by Matthew Bridges
v3 draws ideas from the tale of the Sirens, see Sam Storms: One Thing

Finding Joy

Finding Joy is the title of the forthcoming book from Marcus Honeysett (IVP, Autumn 2005) who did our team training yesterday. Its a joy to spend time with Marcus gazing upon the glory of Christ in scripture for our transformation and God's glory.

We were basically looking at "not living by law", and "living by the Spirit" and so to pursue joyful Christian life. A massive challenge to life and ministry. And a challenge to seek and exercise the gifts of the Spirit... I'll write more of this soon as I continue to work it out!

Today, Kath continued from where we left of by leading us through the perplexing terriory of women's ministry... big thing that struck me again there was the need for us to have the whole body using the gifts the Spirit gives us, to build each other up.

Overall, great to spend time with the team for a couple of days.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Little Book of God: Haggai

Is this as good as it gets? How do you balance reality today with the prospect of something greater to come? How do we live today in the light of God's spoken promises to his people?

The scene is set in Jerusalem, God's people having been exiled in Iraq are back home. The city is flattened and they're sent home to rebuild God's house (see Ezra 1). Life amongst the ruins was not easy, and into it comes this book and also the book of Zechariah.

These are the kind of questions the 38 verses of the book of Haggai seek to answer. It is written in the time of the return from exile, documented in Ezra 3 particularly. Reading through the book we're encouraged four times to "Consider" (1v5,7,2v25,18)... we're told of God's people being unfruitful, and twice of a time when God will shake the earth. Its dramatic stuff!

Part 1. The priorities of God, his pleasure and his glory
1v1-15, 01/06/02 (Year of Darius)
The people are delaying the task they've been given. They were sent home with the express purpose of rebuilding the house of the LORD their God (Ezra 1v2). Instead however they've built their own homes. They find themselves repeatedly thwarted by the LORD (v6). They are unsatisfied and unfruitful.

Into this situation the LORD speaks to tell them what is going on! His message is simple - build the house of the LORD. Do so for his pleasure and his glory (v8). The priorities of God ought to dominate the people of God. He seeks to be happy - and what happens on earth has a bearing on that! As at the return to the land (Ezra 1v1,5) the LORD moves them to respond. They are stirred and get on with the building work.

The LORD works through his people for his pleasure and his glory to establish his place with them. He is the happy God and he will be seen to be big amongst them. The ultimate locus of God's pleasure and glory of course centres upon Jesus. (John Piper writes excellently about this in The Pleasures of God, about the Pleasue of God in his Son.)

Part 2. There is greater glory to come
2v1-9. 21/07/02
Seven weeks later God speaks again. An enquiry is made: who saw the previous temple? How do you feel when you see this new effort. God acknowledges their disappointment. This rebuild is a mere shadow of what went before. But, the LORD will act in accordance with his prior promises to his people. He rescued them from slavery in Egypt and remained with them. He will shake the earth, treasures will come from the nations and the temple will become most glorious. This latter glory will far outstrip the former glory.

Generations later as Messiah Jesus comes we see the truly glorious representation of God with his people. In a person. Through him, in him, is formed the true people of God - the church. A people adorned by the work of the Holy Spirit to be more beautiful than any gold or silver. A glory that comes to people from all nations.

Part 3. Defiled by sin, but a new day comes
2v1-19, 24/09/02
One holy item does not make everything holy (2v12). One defiled item makes everything sinful (2v13). So it is with God's people. They are sinful and so is their work and their offerings. Everything is defiled by their sin against God. I find this very challenging - to see how serious and infecting sin really is.

Their good works are unfruitful and blighted by the LORD (2v17a). It is him who blights them. And yet they have been unrepentant. God acted to get their attention but they did not respond (2v17b). Now the foundation of the temple is laid and a new day comes.

Sin is truly bad, pervasively staining everything. Only the work of God can end its defilement. Change only comes by God's work - and as the foundations of his place are laid it is he who changes the situation. It is he who brings blessing - when ultimately the temple is rebuilt (see Jesus, in John 2?).

Part 4. The Lord's servant is safe
2v20-23. 24/09/02
The LORD is about to shake the earth - just as he promised. This shaking we know will bring in treasures from the nations - but it will also be destructive. But, the LORD says, his ruler Zerubbabel, will be kept safe. Previously, in Jeremiah 22v24, the leader of God's people was cast off in the time of judgement. Now God's ruler will remain. The tide turns. At last God's leader is pleasing to the LORD. And when King Jesus comes - a greater leader still, God will find the one who is truly pleasing to him - one whose every act brings glory to God's name.

Haggai is a short sharp message to look to the LORD's pleasure and glory. A jolt to self-centredness to look to the LORD's bigger plans for the nations. It stands as a rebuke, a challenge and a message of hope of what is sure to come. There is better than this still to come.



Daniel is talking about gospel-centred Bible study... of Matthew 18v15-20, take a look. Daniel links to here and to beginningwithmoses.org so we like him!

Monday, May 09, 2005

Little Book of God: Obadiah

Getting off the beaten track
Many evangelicals live on a well beaten track, I find. We confidently declare that all Scripture is God breathed and useful but we often live as if only some of Scripture is actually useful. At church at the moment we're working through Ezra which is certainly territory I'd never preached or sat under preaching on before.

With Steve, my apprentice who is doing the Relay programme we've studied Galatians, Jonah, Ruth and Luke this year. That's probably a bit more mainstream - but I don't think too many guys study book like Ruth together. But its a great testament to God's grace!

So, in what could be the start of a mini-series of blog-posts, I'm turning off the beaten track, starting with some of the small books. They joke about meeting Obadiah in heaven and being embarressed not to know what his book was about. More's the point, it's God's book and like many others we ignore it to our ignorance of God's purposes.

Little Book of God #1: Obadiah
What does the future hold? Society appears to be in decline. The church follows it's lead. Nations rise against each other. This morning the news tells of a killing here in Reading, of the VE Day commemorations and of two sister's appeal to investigate the death of their brother in Northern Ireland. What hope is there?

Obadiah sounds a short powerful message. In it's 21 verses it diagnoses the situation and tells of the future. It's message is of judgement against Edom (the descendents of Esau) for their pride (v3). Their power and wisdom will be destroyed (v8-9). Behind this stands their failure to help Jacob's descendents in their troubles (v11). They would be tempted to rejoice over the fall of Jerusalem, but they must not (v13). God's judgement comes on all the nations soon (v15) at which point justice will be done.

The turning point of the book comes at v17 with the word "But". When judgement comes on Edom then the nations will come and inherit their land (v19). The mountain will be a place of great life, drinking in and being satisfied (v16c). Those exiled from Israel will come and take up Edom's land. They shall rise from death to life. And triumphantly the cry rises: the kingdom shall be the LORD's (v21).

So what? At the first level the book is a judgement on Edom, spelling their end for countless sins commmitted - chiefly failing to defend Israel when the LORD came to judge his people. They scorned the LORD's blessings and so face his judgement. But in that judgement comes a seam of great hope for the nations. Because of Edom's ignorance God's kingdom looks to be defeated. What remains of Israel is in exile... but at the time of judgement the LORD will turn the tide. Then those who stand proud will fall, their inheritance will go to the LORD's people from all nations. The LORD's people will possess the land! The kingdom will be the LORD's.

This speaks strongly of the victory of God's kingdom that comes through the Lord Jesus. The great hope of final judgement, terrible for God's enemies and great for his people. In that day the LORD calls out of the nations his people into the land. Not to a physical place but to the presence of God forever!

The proud and godless fall, but the LORD graciously calls his people from the nations. "And the Kingdom shall be the LORD's." Obadiah 21, ESV

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Songs for The Cross Centred Life


This has barely left my CD-Player since my colleague Dave Gobbett sent it to me. Fifteen songs declaring the wonders of the cross of Christ, with energy, clear conviction and passion.

As CJ says on the sleeve, - "I'm no singer (ask my friends) but I love to sing about the cross. A Christian's heart should be brimming everyday with the song of Calvary... There is no better way to start each day than to employ songs and hymns that speak of the cross with clarity and power"

If you're in the UK odds are the only song on this album that you know is Before the Throne of God above - this is just the tip of the iceberg. The CD case contains the first chapter of the book The Cross Centred Life and all lyrics and sheet music are downloadable from Sovereign Grace Music - More about this album at SGM.

Warnie Winner!



C'mon! I just won a Warnie! This is a great honour.

It appears to have immediately brought in more traffic to the blog so here's hoping that I remain humble and useful to those who pass by on their way through the blogosphere.

In many ways this blog, and thebluefish.org.uk as a whole is about helping me air my thoughts because that helps me to think clearer, but with that airing comes great responsibility since people read my thoughts. May this blog remain a place where God looks big.

Here's what Adrian says...
"Written by a fellow reformed charismatic and admirer of men like Piper and Mahaney how can I resist this blog? Add some fantastic potential song lyrics and a love for preaching and the ESV and the deal is done!" Adrian Warnock

May my thinking and my living remain God-centred and joyful. Thanks go to Rich Carding, for keeping me healthy as we walk around London, and to Arborfield who are a great fellowship to be part of.

Read more about Blue Fish Wins Warnie!

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Dead but alive!


We went to the baptism of some of my students today. Surrey Uni students who go to Eternity, Guildford. Paul, Cat and Craig from my Apologetics group, and Andy who will be working with Em next year being those most well known to me. Good to catch up with pastor Mark Raymond and also to see a load of other Surrey CU guys too.

Baptisms are great - celebrating the reality that these guys have died and been reborn, through the death of Jesus, the power of the Father and are now empowered by the Holy Spirit for new life! And, as we were reminded, via J.B.Phillips' translation, "What a ghastly thought!" that they should go back to living in sin having recieved such amazing grace.
"We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from teh dead by the glory of teh Father, we too might walk in newness of life" Romans 6v4, ESV

Kingdom of Heaven

Travelling to road the east
In search of a holy place
There is no sacred mountain,
Now in all lands men may praise
In spirit and truth

Looking for escape from history
Where life can begin again
There is no fine building,
No city that grants forgiveness
In spirit and truth
The King reigns
Above all places
Beyond time and space
With all authority

No longer does a place stand
Where heaven touches earth
Only Christ is the door
Through which the kingdom comes
In spirit and truth

As time unfolds to its end
Earth is filled with men
With whom is God's home
Where conscience is cleased
In spirit and truth

© Dave Bish, 2005.
From thoughts in Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven, and chapter 4 of The Gospel of John.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Art

If life is art, looks like I’m falling apart
Can’t stop the sand, running through my hand
You see through me, see the real me
And now I see too, only see you
I’m singing the song, but the words are wrong
Have nothing to say, need new words to pray

Don’t want to die, teach me to fly
Falling out the sky, but I don’t know why

© 2005, Dave Bish

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Garden State

Feel. Pain. Pleasure. Be. Live. Love.
Garden State, just edging it over Enduring Love to be the current best film we've seen this year. You can't really compare them, though they both address big things like love. Enduring Love was overshadowed for me because I really loved the book, and the film experience didn't quite match reading it.

Have been waiting months to get Garden State on DVD. And we're not disappointed. The film is quirky, provocative and entertaining. Discovery of the day - Natalie Portman is a great comedy actress.

FILM 2005 Update
1. Garden State (New Entry)
2. Enduring Love (1)
3. The Village (2)
4. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (3)
5. Collateral (4)

Meanwhile at lunchtime Tom got me thinking about the same kinds of themes, whilst talking about whether Ned Flanders is the Ideal Christian... how do we make connections? Find intimacy (in to me see)? Break away from numbness and find the life we want to find... whilst letting people see who we really are.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Don't say a word

Before Easter I was reading Martyn Lloyd-Jones on Romans 3v19, now I hit the same text in the writings of Jonathan Edwards, in his Discourse IV: The Justice of God in the damnation of sinners which isn't the kind of title I've seen on any Christian book in recent times.

Edwards picks up Romans 3v19 "That every mouth may be stopped". Paul has argued in this great letter that all peoples are guilty before God. He appeals to human conscience, and that proves guilt. And he appeals to God's revealed commands, and again guilt is revealed.

Edwards notes clearly that we love to boast or justifying ourselves before God. We try to excuse ourselves of wrong doing or stack up good deeds in our favour. God however would have us be silent.

Our attempts to defend ourselves are futile. Our offense is against God who is of infinite worth, and deserving of infinite adoration. Therefore our sin is infinitely bad.

God's good news first acts to silence us. To stop our mouths from speaking. And then, as Paul writes in Romans 3, God can tell us that nonetheless his anger can be turned away. Away from us and onto God's Son Jesus. One who lived the perfect life and then died under the wrath we deserve. What hope and what good news!

Edwards' argument is long, detailed and compelling. Along the way he observes that everyone would love to avoid eternal misery. But it is not enough to want to avoid God's judgement. We must also love the excellency of Christ. Yet we do not.

We have no grounds in ourselves to be rescued by God. God is not obliged to save me. Justice alone is enough to condemn me. And therefore only God's free gift of grace will save us, bringing us to see that excellency that is found only in the one who is my salvation, Jesus himself! God's grace has found me.

In conclusion Edwards observes that there is one ground for re-opening the human mouth. When God's free grace is recieved then the mouth opens again. This time not to boast nor to justify self. Rather, our mouths must open wide in praise and delight in Christ. Abundantly so.

I'm not sure that these things are what Tim Hughes had in mind when he wrote: "when hope is lost, I'll call you Saviour... when silence falls, you'll be the song in my heart". Those two lines catch the impact of the gospel upon my mouth. First to silence my boasts, and then to release me to boast only in Christ.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Hitchhiker

Just home from seeing Hitchhikers, it's been a good 15-17 years since I read the books which I remember loving. The film is obviously different but I thought it was pretty good. certainly the best fun I've had watching a film this year. Alan Rickman does depressed so well (think the falling sheriff of nottingham), probably steals it for me. Bill Nighy doing Bill Nighy is always great, and for me it just kind of worked. Just the right combination of cool effects and cheap sets.

Time for an update on my tops films seen this year. Last update was on March 6th, now 1/3 of the way through the year there was been mild improvement. So, this is how things stand. If positions 5-10 were replaced by better films by the end of the year, that'd be nice!

1. Enduring Love (New Entry) - still angry we couldn't see it last year
2. The Village (1)
3. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (New Entry) - quirkily entertaining
4. Collateral (2)
5. The Interpreter (New Entry) - a decent thriller
6. Code 46 (3)
7. Sahara (New Entry) - brainless fun, i used to love the books
8. The Aviator (4)
9. National Treasure (5)
10. Oceans 12 (6) - it'll be gone soon!