Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Hope and the Heartfelt


Hope and the Heartfelt (c) Songbird 2005

Stars awake my mind with images of grandeur
Standing on a precipice before the crowd, I see

Lost and the lonely,
The forgiven, the forgotten
Each one of you precious
In the Father's eyes to be.

Silent Whispers crowd my mind with thoughts of wanting more.
Lying down with death quite near, I listen to the sound.

Hope and the Hearfelt
The Sympathy, the tears
Each one of you needing to be held
In your Father's arms here.

The songbird shall sing again...



Began thinking what it would be like to sing home made songs again recently and so have pulled out my songwriting pen and have become inspired... The process is so unpredictable because sometimes the tunes flow and other times, they do not.

Here is one idea that i have a melody and chords for:

Hold the World (c) Songbird Aug 2005

Hold the world upon your shoulders, You don't let it fall.

The glory and the wonder of how strong and of how tall.

You stand in all your power, the Sky and Stars unite.

You hold it altogether, with your splendour and your might.

Marvel and wonder (at the beauty)

Wonder and Marvel (at the ashes)

Who can stand in your presence with their head held high?

Searching for the treasure in the deepest bluest sky.

Look around you, Open arms, he says "come".

"I've paid for your transgressions, See my splendour, it's begun".

Monday, August 29, 2005

Ramblings of a twenty something...



Sheep crossing- where? they were in a closed field where i was on the road so really the sign should say me crossing...

An Enforced Absence

I can't post again for two weeks due to work commitments.
But, I have invited to guest-bloggers to hold things together in my absence. So keep visiting and cheer them on as and when they fill the void.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

BeginningWithMoses.org Returns!

After a summer break, we're back over at The Biblical Theology Briefings. A whole load of new articles and reviews are there... along with this new Biblical Theology Briefing:

NEW THIS MONTH AT BEGINNINGWITHMOSES.ORG

In bt briefings

ROLE-ING FORWARDS
A BIBLICAL THEOLOGY BRIEFING
ON 1 TIMOTHY 2
(SIMON MANCHESTER)



Further developments over the coming months.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Off they go to NZ

So many people we know are moving to New Zealand.... thankfully some of them are blogging...

Diana Langdon
Andy Shudall

And these guys are already there...

Simon & Sally Eyres

Friday, August 26, 2005

The Extermination of the European Wasps

Wasps

They've been nesting in the wall of our house.
Big, fat, ugly European Wasps.
And now they've been exterminated.

Grace not Karma

Bono gives an explicit confession of being saved by Grace, not Karma - the way he deals with the opening question, superb.
"The interviewer, Mr. Assayas, begins by asking Bono, Doesn't he think "appalling things" happen when people become religious? Bono counters, "It's a mind-blowing concept that the God who created the Universe might be looking for company, a real relationship with people, but the thing that keeps me on my knees is the difference between Grace and Karma.""

Thursday, August 25, 2005

My ears are ringing...

This afternoon on the train back from Guildford I started taking a look at Mark 4. Its a very familiar passage, and I'm preaching on it at Warwick CU in a couple of months...

What struck me straight away was that Jesus says a lot in this chapter. My unfortunate Jesus-words-in-red Bible highlighting this for me. And he said... And he said... And he said... The great King who has authority over demons and disease, and the divine work of forgiveness seems to be exerting his rule by his word. Some have ears to hear, and will find forgiveness... others do not and will not. They may hear at first but ultimately they will not live under the rule of his word.... Normally this passage is taught as evangelism training... but I think perhaps we miss as step when we do that. First, as Jesus himself says.... we have to listen!



Meanwhile, we're just in from seeing WireJesus, My Luminaries and Pure Reason Revolution with FunkyPancake. My ears are still ringing. I have ears to hear, but actually can't hear very well at the moment... quite something to be able to really feel sound as the air is propelled towards you. FunkyPancake insisted on taking a photo of us with Andrew, the drummer from Pure Reason Revolution, cos they're friends. Fame... oooo.

Meanwhile as John MacArthur guest-blogs for Phil Johnson and Justin Taylor wonders whether John Piper could guest for him.... I'm trying to recruit someone to guest-blog for me in the coming weeks cos I'll not have access to the net. I suspect he will say no... but it can't hurt to try.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

God is the Gospel



John Piper's forthcoming book:
God is the Gospel: Meditations of God's Love as the Gift of Himself

Contents
(from which you can read the whole book online)
Introduction & Chapter 1
(PDF)


This looks superb

A Little Less Conversation...

In Bulgaria I got annoyed by some of our team taking endless digital pictures of stuff happening. I even started to write an angry little song about their paperazzi habits (thankfully I lost the lyrics)... It annoyed me that their experience on mission was being largely lived through the camera lense rather than just experiencing the moments first hand.

Then this morning I read this blog post by Joshua Harris and realised its quite possible that too much of my life is mediated through this blog... In all honesty it doesn't take up that much of my time, but it does take sometime.

So, having utterly failed in my intention to disappear for a month earlier this summer I'm now going to try and do that again. Mostly enforced by work commitments over the next couple of weeks. That doesn't mean no posts, but it probably means much less blogging at least for a while... time for much more living.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Anyone for a bit of First Century Church?

Much is said, thought, felt and speculated on what things could be like if we recovered the marks of first century church... but is that really what we want? Anyone for Corinthian Charismania or Antioch Arguments, Laodicean Lukewarming, Galatian Gullibility?

Read this from Deeper Thought: (HT: Jollyblogger)
How Normative Is The Early Church?

Monday, August 22, 2005

Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye?

A few months ago the lovely people at Christ Church Newport sent me some free books. Including:



I was busy at the time so they were swiftly filed on my to-read-soon pile of books. And I confess until now I'd barely looked at them. Then, the other day Carolyn McCulley dropped into the blog and commented... and I was reminded of what lay on my bookcase.

So, this morning I opened up Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye?. The foreword by Joshua Harris was encouraging - someone in my kind of position, youngly married male... I've not read too far yet but this looks like a really useful book on singleness by an excellent writer. The church is need of really good teaching on this subject. Too many Christians, and non-Christians for that matter, seem to view being single as being deficient. Now, marriage is great, but its not the solution to sin, or struggle in life. We're complete people in Christ - he is more than enough! That was true before i got married, and three years later its still true.

Further thoughts to follow when I've read more.... I'm now starting to feel like I have too many books on the go, that's not very healthy... I'd better draw a line here since that makes one Eugene Peterson, two John Owen, one Carolyn McCulley, one Ray Ortlund...

Read more about this book at Sovereign Grace Ministries.
Related Link Girl Talk - Conversations in Biblical Womanhood

Tragedy or Comedy?



That's the question at stake in Woody Allen's film Melinda and Melinda, a kind of Sliding Doors look at life, but less saccharine and more substance. A man tells a story...
"A bunch of guys are discussing philosophy in a bar. Two writers with opposed views on life argue about it: is life tragic or comic? To illustrate their theories, they imagine a story of a woman. The comic writer presents the optimistic, bright tale of Melinda (Radha Mitchell), who just accepts life as it goes by. The tragic writer gives us a destructive, lonesome and troubled Melinda, who deals with depression and suicide..." IMDB Review
Is there a real story behind the sparse anecdote?
Is life all about tragedy? Is it all about comedy?
What is the real substance of life? Got me thinking.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

The Deliberate Church



A few years ago David Gibson wrote about Assumed Evangelicalism. He identified a problem. A serious problem. In essence, the absence of the "functional centrality of the gospel". That is to say, the church in its various forms assenting to the importance of the gospel, but practically not having it central to what happens.

Rick Warren's bestseller The Purpose Driven Church has helped us to see that it matters what is driving our church. But, has it put the gospel at the centre, functionally? Does it drive our theology? Does it drive our practice? Mark Dever and Paul Alexander's forthcoming book - The Deliberate Church looks like it might provide some assistance in this. The book reportedly builds upon Mark Dever's excellent work with 9 Marks Ministries.

We cannot merely "assume" the gospel.
"You may have heard the story of the Mennonite Brethren movement. One particular analysis goes like this: the first generation believed and proclaimed the gospel and thought that there were certain social entailments. The next generation assumed the gospel and advocated the entailments. The third generation denied the gospel and all that were left were the entailments" David Gibson, citing Don Carson.
As Gibson warned us, the gospel, the glorious good news about Jesus must be functionally central to the life of the church. Now, Dever & Alexander ask us:
"Does the Gospel enjoy functional centrality in your church? Why
or why not? Are there ways in which your current model of ministry
might siphon off the glory of the Gospel for itself? How so?
Read an extract (PDF 448KB)

Saturday, August 20, 2005

The Spirit calling out Father!

GALATIANS 3:15-4:7

I might write a couple of posts on this section. For now I wanted to put down some thoughts about having the Holy Spirit. For at least the first few years that I was a Christian all I knew about the Holy Spirit was that it was he who did the wierd stuff in people at church- he who made them happy, dance, fall over, shout, cry. He who made them speak in tongues and prophesy. But I had very little concept of how that related to the good news about Jesus death....

It was as if, we started off having Jesus and the Cross. And then do be proper spirit-filled Christians we needed to move on to the Holy Spirit. This seemed a bit odd, but there seemed to be Biblical basis for all this (or most of this) Holy Spirit stuff, so I ran with it.

But it was dissatisfying. Where was Jesus in all this? This vibrant Spirit-Spirituality seemed to be missing something. It seemed to have forgotten where we'd come from. It seemed fairly gospel-less.

Galatians 3-4 sets me free! Here I see again history. Once supervised - held by law and sin... now free to live. Why? Free because the right time came (4v4) God sent Jesus to set me free from law and give me sonship. Sonship! Inheritance! Earlier in Galatians we found ourselves asking - "ok, so we get the Holy Spirit, from the promise to Abraham... but what's so good about that?"

Here it is:
"And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. "
Galatians 4v6-7.
The Spirit guarentees my inheritance in Christ! Having the Holy Spirit is God's proof to God of my inheritance in Christ! God looks my way and hears the Holy Spirit cry out Daddy. (Abba=Daddy)

And so it becomes clear that I cannot have a gospel-less view of the Spirit, nor indeed any concept of spirit-less Christians. Neither carries any credence. As Paul wrote at the start of chapter 3 - Christ's death believed in by faith, the Spirit receieved by faith. It cannot be that one begins by faith in Jesus and then earns the Spirit for great works and miracles. By faith in Christ's death I am justified before God, by the same faith the Spirit is received who cries out to God "Abba Father" - a cry I am free to echo as a son. Guarenteed inheritance and counted as a glorifier of God, for all my remaining sin and evil ways.

Overwhelmed, let me echo the cry of the Holy Spirit within me - Abba, Father! Jesus death was not for nothing - I am free from sin, from its stain and from the law.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow
In heaven above and earth below
Praise God the Father and the Son
Praise God the Spirit, three-in-one

From all that dwell beneath the skies
Let the Creator’s praise arise
Let our Redeemer’s name be sung
Through every land, by every tongue

Eternal are Your mercies, Lord
Eternal truth attends Your Word
Your praise will sound from shore to shore
Till suns shall rise and set no more

© Sovereign Grace Ministries, from the CD Upward


I want to return to this passage to think more about the role of law later.... and quite how that applies to a Gentile believer like me....

Friday, August 19, 2005

New Warnie Winner

Rob Wilkerson has been awarded a long overdue Warnie from Adrian Warnock. Rob is a refreshingly gospel-centred blogger. We need more people doing this sort of thing.

Christ Plays In Ten Thousand Places



Started reading Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places by Eugene Peterson. Sub-titled a conversation in spiritual theology it initially strikes me as very refreshing. Much like The Gospel Driven Church these are the reflections of a Pastor-Theologian. The first chapter focuses on clearing the ground for what will follow - laying out some foundations for true spirituality, for real life in Jesus. A little lighter to read than John Owen, but still packed with content. Full review to follow when I've finished it.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Sneezing Cows and Climbing Hills



Just back from four relaxing days in Derbyshire. Great weather. Lots of relaxing time with Em. Walked the disused railway at Bakewell, Froggats Edge, Chatsworth and did Mam Tor & Hollins Cross. Aching a bit for it now. And it turned out we were staying just up the road from blogger and Reading graduate Laurence so we had a drink with him.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

The Curse Removed & The Spirit Received

I've been encountering Owen. Not England forward, Michael Owen, but 17th Century pastor, John Owen. Whilst in Bulgaria I made my first approach to the work of John Owen. I decided to get into the Puritans in response to Mark Dever's fine chapter on them in Sex & The Supremacy of Christ, and John Piper's many references... that lead me to start scratching the surface of Jonathan Edwards work... and now to John Owen.

The two books I have are The Glory of Christ and The Holy Spirit. The first, almost finished. The second, recently begun. Here's what I read last night...
"We may observe, that the doctrine of the Spirit of God, is the second great article of those gospel truths, in which the glory of God and the good of souls, are most eminently concerned; without the knowledge of which in its truth, and the improvement of it in its power, the first will be altogether useless. For when God designed the great and glorious work of recovering fallen man, and of saving sinner to the praise of the glory of his grace, he appointed in his infinite wisdom two great means thereof: the one was the giving of his Son for them, and the other was, the giving of his Spirit to them." (p42-43, The Holy Spirit, John Owen)
Journeying through Galatians brought us today to GALATIANS 3v1-14. Here those two coincide!

Paul has just observed that Peter was denying the value of Christ's death. Then he turns in fury and disbelief and anguish to the Galatians. O Foolish, Galatians! How can they have turned from what they knew! Did Paul not preach Christ Crucified. How then can they live in such a way that nullifies that? And did they not receive the Spirit by believing? Did they not witness miracles by believing? (aside: what a throw away comment if ever there was one that expects miracles to be normal reality in Christian life...) How can they think they may go on by works when they began by believing... it makes no sense!

Paul then introduces Abraham. The one who was justified before the law was even given. How was he justified? By believing. And so too believers are his sons, co-heirs to promises given to him. An so, all nations will be blessed as Abraham was, if they believe. What a gospel summary!! God's blessing for the nations.

And it is clear, Paul says, that law cannot justify. Law requires total obedience, yet that is unachieved and impossible. Law simply condemns. It exposes sin. It brings only curse. And besides the righteous live by faith. Law is about doing not believing. Those who live by law die by it. But those who believe in Christ's death may find life.

Chapter 2 left unanswered how Jesus could give himself for our sins, how he could rescue us and how his death showed us his love. Now we see how! His death bore God's curse. The curse we deserved. And so, even Gentiles may recieve the promised Holy Spirit.

Here two-fold comes the God-glorifying truth... The curse removed! The Spirit recieved! And what glory comes to God for it! The work is complete. It is not simply that work is begun, and then must be continued and completed by some other means... everything is done. No credit is to be taken by man. No contribution to be made. We are not called to buy God off (as Edwina Currie exposed her lack of understanding on The Heaven & Earth Show. this morning, on this matter). All credit goes to God for achieving this magnificent work! And it is done for his glory. (See 1v3-5). It's not all about me. Currie also noted this morning that she couldn't see how, if there were a God, why he would be interested in us... He is, for the glory of his own name. That is why God does anything.

We watched part more of John Piper's The Blazing Center DVD this morning...(four hours of Christian Hedonism being taught to teenagers). Big questions like is God vain? Is it wrong for God to bring glory to himself. No, it is all he ever does - The heavens pour forth speech about the glory of God... and who made the heavens... God did! See more at An Open Letter to Michael Prowse. God draws our attention to himself because he is most glorious. And what joy to find him! What joy to know the removal of his curse against our sin! What joy to know the blessing of the Holy Spirit!"

As we rejoiced together in the completed removal of the curse we deserve we pondered what benefit might there be to the giving of the Spirit. The answers await us as we continue to read....

Enough Awareness Bracelets

Cawley spotted this, on Awareness Bracelets. Enough now.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Should our CU have women speakers?

Here's a question that comes up from time to time... one to start some discussion methinks. Perhaps later we can discuss "Should our CU have Prophecy?" but lets not do that one here.

A few remarks
1. CU - Christian Union.
A Christian Union, for the sake of this discussion, is a Mission Team. It is Evangelical in nature - united around the core truths of the gospel. Doctrinal Basis. This statement of core truths is the basis of fellowship of a Christian Union. It is the common ground that should unite, inspire for evangelism and lead to joyful worship. CU's range from 1-400+ members. Worth noting at the outset that this issue only seems to arise in the bigger groups. CU's must develop practical policy on grounds where partners differ. That is, a CU will have within it people who affirm the truth and authority of scripture but differ on interpretation. Without saying that all applications are valid we must note that there are difficult passages where we may not have the correct application. Action must still be taken practically.

2. The Ground for Debate
Scripturally there seem to be three places to look. I will take it as written that equal status is granted to all human beings through the gospel of Jesus Christ. But equality of being may or may not be accompanied by equality of role.

1 Corinthians 14v26-40
Titus 2v3-5
1 Timothy 2

The first of these seems not to be concerned with Teaching. Rather its concern is with question-asking during a meeting of the church. This is prohibited.
The second would appear to insist that women teach other women.
The later appears also quite straight forward in some aspects, and yet deeply puzzling in others. 1 Timothy 2, for me, presents us with the true ground of debate. Much meditation upon the start of the chapter makes for a helpful uniting common ground - to dwell upon the glory of Christ as our Mediator! This puts things in perspective somewhat, strengthens our unity and should cause mutual concern for the glory of Christ to pour forth. Only a context like that can produce good useful debate on difficult issues.

In essence I think the question is - can a woman teach a mixed congregation?
A related question concerns women in leadership.


3. This issue has no neutral ground
Many debating this issue dodge it. I have done in the past. Argument is made that everyone is happy for a man to teach - and so this is the safe ground. There is truth to this - but it is far from neutral. Such ground looks identical to the position that says women cannot teach. Clear explanation may get beyond this. At the other end of the spectrum we find those who say gender makes no difference to Teaching. In such a position over the longer-term I'd expect to see both men and women teaching regularly. This must be noted to be difficult for other believers. In fellowship we must allow ourselves to be wronged, and we must each seek to build one another up in love. Such foundations are incredibly helpful to maintain in heated discussion!

4. Partners in a CU are not entitled to break fellowship on secondary matters
In a CU there will always be compromise to incur. Compromise not on core issues but on specific interpretations. We must allow ourselves to be wronged. We must allow ourselves to admit that we may be wrong. And we must seek not to make life unbearable for others. And we must not break fellowship - to do so would be to declare such matters as core fellowship issues, which they are not.

5. Gifting does not imply total freedom to exercise the gift
1 Corinthians 12-14 teaches us that God's gifts are differently given, to be used in love and also in orderly fashion. When it comes to this debate the presence of gifting does not prove that women can teach in all circumstances, anymore than having the gift of prophecy allows unbridled freedom to prophesy. This is an often used argument which I find unhelpful. :)

6. For what it is worth, here's where I stand at the moment...
1. I think 1 Timothy 2 is very difficult. Anyone who says its easy hasn't read it.
2. I lean towards it saying that women shouldn't teach a mixed congregation - but I'll happily be convinced otherwise. Likewise I think probably at a local church level a woman should not lead the congregation - but I suspect at other levels, including all levels of CU leadership this would be fine. I'll admit I'd struggle to thoroughly defend myself Biblically here.
3. In a CU context the issue is sufficiently secondary and difficult that women should be allowed to teach. This should be done with careful explanation and effort to understand clearly the basis on which a CU has fellowship. And those who disagree have no right as partners in the CU to boycott meetings - but the matter must be dealt with in love and not out of selfish agendas. I suspect the same policy would be wise in a church.

The Futility of Adding Law When Grace is Already Given

GALATIANS 2

United by the grace of God
Paul begins chapter two by demonstrating that he stands in unity with the Jerusalem Apostles. He doesn’t consider this a necessity – since he knows his gospel has come from God. But nonetheless he goes to them. He expects that distorters of the gospel may have corrupted Jerusalem. We see his relief that his Gentile companions are not compelled toward circumcision. Nothing is added. Freedom in Christ is not lost. Consequently they stand together, united by the gospel in fellowship. Commissioned to different missionfields, but nonetheless united.

The famous confrontation
So it comes as a great shock to see the tide turn. Paul finds himself confronting the one with whom he was once united. Peter, he observes, puts himself under condemnation, acting hypocritically and out of step with the gospel. This condemnation is perhaps along similar lines to that mentioned in chapter 1 – the fate of non-gospel preachers. I suspect the concern is both for Peter as a person and for those he is leading astray. What is his error? The error concerns what he is eating. It concerns food laws. A dietary choice?

The underlying problem
This may seem minor enough but the implications are severe. Peter, a Jewish Christian knows very well that justification is not attained by law. Yet he imposes law on himself, and others. Justification is attained only by faith in Jesus. Law justifies no-one, but faith in Jesus does justify. Paul identifies a dilemma that faces Peter. What if, in seeking to be justified by Christ, a Christian were found to be a sinner? Would that mean that Christ serves sin, that Christ endorses sin? Paul is emphatic – NO!

Peter seems to be arguing that in order to avoid sinning he is imposing law upon himself. Yet, he if rebuilds law in his life he will only prove himself to be a sinner. Since, law produces and identifies sin. The law served its purpose for these Jewish converts, Paul and Peter, by proving they were sinners long ago. The law helped them die to law’s effects. Now, dead to law they are also crucified with Christ. Their sinful life is dead. It is gone. It counts for nothing.

The life now lived is lived in Christ, indeed the life lived is Christ alone. All hope is by faith in Christ, the one who both loved them, and gave himself for them. An act we saw in chapter 1 that deals with sin and rescues from the present evil age, for the glory of God.

However, if justification is to be pursued by law then the grace of God is nullified and the death of Christ is also nullified. Peter more than anyone surely knows Christ’s death was not for nothing. Peters actions are displayed as truly foolish. By adopting law to fight the presence of sin he both displays his sin further, and nullifies the only hope he has of being a justified sinner, and denies the freedom bought for him. His course of action has triple failure.

The presence of sin in the life of the Christian, the justified sinner, is a reality. Inescapably. Yet, its presence does not mean Christ promotes sin, nor does it undo the Christian’s justification. Justification does not depend upon my behaviour. It depends on faith in Christ. That alone.

The addition of rules to combat sin nullifies grace and denies freedom and denies the Cross of Christ. Paul is so concerned that be rebukes the one he once stood united with. This is no mere battle to prove himself right, rather to restore Peter and to return glory to God. Peter’s actions have robbed Christ of glory. They have minimised freedom, grace and the Cross.

Applications
Herein lies some guidance in how we then ought live. Full detail surely follows later in the letter. But for now we have some hints. Christian freedom is to be enjoyed not curtailed. God’s grace is to be magnified not minimised. The Cross is to be magnified not minimised. And by magnified we mean telescopic not microscopic. That which is inherently of infinite value is to be brought into focus to be seen for what it is. Microscopes also magnify, by they enlarge that which is small. God’s grace and Christ’s cross are not small.

I must ask myself – where might I be adding rules to combat sin? Where am I trusting in myself to defeat sin? Where am I trusting in my own strength and resilience to defeat the effects of this present evil age upon my life? Where can I more flee to the grace of God? Where can I make more of the Cross of Christ in my life?

Strangely, I suspect, if my concerns shift towards making much of God’s grace, chiefly manifest at the Cross of Christ, then sins lure will fade from view. If my concern is to magnify the grace of God I cannot continue to pursue life in sin. This does not mean I will not sin – I will. But such sin should not bring fear nor lead me to seek law, rather it must send me again to the source of my justification. To proclaim again my dependence upon the grace of God!

Let me not become preoccupied with sin and its avoidance. Rather let my mind think much upon the grace of God. Let my heart delight much in the grace of God. Let my affections be preoccupied with the one who loved me and gave himself to rescue me. Let my life seek to make much of this abundant grace of God.

Unanswered questions.... Jesus death shows God's love and is him giving himself for our sins... but How? And how is this for all nations? Chapter 3 to follow...

Friday, August 12, 2005

Fun & games with the Reverend of Eynesbury

Two days confined within the four walls of a friends house. Much waiting for a High-Tech Communications company (with an acronymous name) to fail to install a phone-line. Many unsuccessful developments, much coffee & cookies and a good pub-curry.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Hey You Down There!



More from photos and musings from Becci
Also capturing the world from different angles... FunkyPancake

Confronted by the Gospel

GALATIANS 1v1-3v1 -- ESV

Argument

1. Paul’s gospel, as preached in Galatia, is a revelation from God of Jesus our deliverer, for God’s glory. And this – God’s Gospel – is the only gospel.
2. The Jerusalem Apostles stood in unity with this gospel when Paul presented it to them. They added nothing. They stood united in fellowship. They were called to a different missionfield – but not a different message.
3. When Peter’s life put him under condemnation – out of step with the gospel, and denying the purpose of Christ’s death - Paul confronted him. Paul taught him again the gospel. Christ’s death was for a great purpose, not no purpose.
4. So too, Paul finds the Galatians denying Christ and he confronts them. He once preached Christ Crucified to them – what that for nothing?

Applications

1. we are delivered from evil by God, in Jesus, for God’s glory (1v4)
We’re saved by God for God’s glory. Let us rejoice in this! We do not save, nor keep, ourselves.

How might we try to save or keep ourselves?
How do we feel about this objective reality?
How does our response to it relate to God’s glory?


2. we are approved by God not by people (1v10)
Beware the risk of People-Pleasing. We want to be liked. We find ourselves tested and testing others for soundness. It’s very easy to say what people want to hear. This can happen in accountable relationships where there is need for confrontation. Fear of man (aka People-Pleasing) keeps us from the truth.

How do you feel if you’re shown to be wrong?
How do we feel about the prospect of rejection?
How might we go about people-pleasing?


3. The primacy of God’s revelation (1v12)
Its very easy for us to depend upon our own ideas. We sometimes have great ideas, strategies and methodologies. We think we know best how to work things out.

But, the only real ground on which to stand is God’s revelation. Central to that revelation is Jesus Christ in the gospel – he is the gospel. The gospel of Christ Crucified by which we gain Christ!

How can we keep God’s revelation central to everything we do?

4. Against the reality of sin don’t add law (2v17)
Peter appears to choose law to prevent sin in his life. This is what provokes Paul’s confrontation with him. It’s a natural response – we add a rule to keep us from doing wrong. But, we must realise that the presence of sin is a reality in our lives. And we must remember that the presence of sin doesn’t mean Christ approves of sin.

Law keeping is a dead way. We die to it when we come to Christ. It carries nothing but condemnation. All that now counts is life in Christ. Life by Christ’s meaningful death. The death that is to be the centre of our affections and our living. We are fully rescued by Christ’s death. Adding law to hide sin simply denies the death of Christ, by saying we don’t need it. Such action denies the freedom we have in Christ (2v4).

How then will we deal with the reality of sin – the answer comes later in Galatians! We must wait. For now, honesty is the best policy. Only people-pleasing can keep us from admitting our sin. Christ is not fooled. We need not fear.

What might we be adding to keep us from sin?
How does it feel to live under a complex web of rules?


How would the Peter have felt to receive Paul’s rebuke?
How would the Galatians have felt to receive Paul’s rebuke?
How ought we feel when we’re challenged with the gospel?


Let us say together – the death of Christ is most meaningful!
Let us make much of it by the way that we live!

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Leicester

We've been to Leicester. Famous for.... Curry? Gary Lineker? The UCCF Office?
Leicester. Home to a number of our friends. It was great to see Reading Graduates Rach and Tom, fellow staff Stanton and James, and also Oliver & Daisy. Real fellowship and friendship, spending time in the company of fellow believers. Always challenging. Always encouraging.

I met Oliver & Daisy a few years ago when they were my hosts during a conference. They showed so much interest in me, my life and my work. And they are so full of wisdom and experience. Its great to sit for a couple of hours a year at their feet. Finally this time Em was able to come with me. I consider it one of the great blessings of being part of the church - to be united with those who are much older and wiser than I am. True wisdom comes from fear of God, from knowing Jesus, not just age - but they have the benefits of both.

Getting to know Oliver & Daisy, and also Bill & Shirley has been something I will always be grateful for. They walk some sixty years ahead of us and are great examples of people who have not wasted their lives, but rather thrown them into the service of what matters most, Jesus. And I hope and pray that if I'm given as many years as they have been that I could have their strength of faith and enduring love in marriage.

As we left Leicester it was slightly scary to pop into the office and see that picture of me and the Reading guys on the wall. I guess it'll be there for some time.

Galatians Challenge

Last year I studied Galatians with my Relay worker, Steve. It was an eye-opening heart-changing journey into the freedom that comes, living by the Spirit - making much of the cross!

I've decided that I'll study Galatians again this autumn with my two new Relay, Hoops & Debbie. I'm going to re-work my studies rather than just re-use them. There are undoubtedly new lessons to learn. (I'm not planning to study all the same books as last year - Steve and I explored Galatians, Ruth, Jonah and Luke together over the course of the year...)

While I was in Bulgaria, Adrian Warnock issued his latest Blogger challenge, on Galatians... seems a good set of questions to set me on my way... I'm not aiming to produce a sermon series, but a set of Bible study notes - but the process is very similar.

1. What do we know about the audience and setting of this book (ie who is it written too, when was it written, why was it written, what do we know about the man who wrote it)
2. What impact would this book have had on its original readers- what key messages are they likely to have remembered?
3. How does the situation the book was written in differ, and how is it similar to the situation we face today as christians
4. What is God saying to me from this passage? What key points would I want to get accross in a sermon or series of sermons on this book?
5. What will change in my life as a result of this study? What do I want to see happen to the people who hear me as a result of this study?
6. Given all the above and the resources I have available to me, what illustrations, quotations from other writers, and slogans or soundbites will I use?
7. What is the best way to structure all this material?

Thoughts to follow...

Monday, August 08, 2005

"Welcome to Reading"

Matt Haugland - newly arrived in Reading from the USA.

On Art

iMonk is on form again.... A Letter To Andrew and Other Young Artists Injured By The Church

My last mailout from our office confirmed that Christian Artists will be exhibiting at our UCCF national student leaders conference, Forum, this September. Given our Director, Richard Cunningham's, great endorsement of Art as something to explore as a Christian, and the great work that our Arts Staff, Esther and Aly, have been doing this is good news. I look forward to seeing it.

Previous Art articles:
Meltdown
Simeon Lumgair

Christian Art really doesn't mean beautiful sunsets with bible verses written on. Such tranquility in a sinful world is a lie. Create Art that explores the real world, honestly. Create Art that shows creativity. Go create! If you have the gift use it! And whatever you do, do it to the glory of God. Do it in the name of Jesus.

Much as I consider full-time gospel-ministry (such as my work) to be important, we are merely tools to support and facilitate the really important stuff. My work ought to be about equipping the saints for ministry, so that the students I work with become true Christian Historians, Speech Therapists, Engineers, Academics, Artists and the like. People who work for the glory of Jesus Christ in their given field as well as witnessing about Him.

On Sleep

Psalm 121v3-4 -- ESV
"He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
I need sleep. God never sleeps.
Note to self: "you are not God,
so don't act like you are."

On Reading

Reading, a dying art....
(from Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death, p26)
"...you must be able to tell from the tone of the language what is the author's attitude towards the subject and towards the reader. You must, in other words, know the difference between a joke and an argument. And in judgeing the quality of an argument, you must be able to do several things at once, including delaying a verdict until the entire argument in finished, holding in mind questions until you have determined where, when or if the text answers them, and bringing to bear on the text all of your relevant experience as a counterargument to what is being proposed. You must also be able to withhold those parts of your knowledge and experience whichm, in fact, do not have a bearing on the argument...."
In the age of TV we are rapidly losing the ability to read well, and so Christian Bible study suffers. Where once an ordinary audience could listen to complex political exposition for 3 hours, with 3 hours response and further counter-response.

Today we say that 20 minutes of exposition is considered too long to listen for. Indeed most sermons of 20 minutes probably only contain a few moments of expositional argument concerning the truth, the rest being humour and stories meant for entertainment and cultural engagement (neither of which is necessarily unimportant).

The internet makes us read again. Or rather, Scan-Read. We read occasional words. Occasional paragraphs. And request short tabloid sentences. Not long complex arguments.

Sinclair Ferguson's edition of Puritan John Owen's work (from 400 years ago), edits sentences that once had 5-6 clauses or more. Today we struggle with one. Its no wonder we can't read the Bible. Its no wonder we are losing the knowledge of God.

...and even when we do read we fail to truly read. We fail to follow argument and authors intent. And so we read the Bible allegorically about ourselves and our lives. We find ourselves unable to bring relevant information to the text, and unable to hold back irrelevant information. We fail to follow the argument - prefering to select favourite phrases out of context to make us smile. We fail to hear God speak the wonderful things he seeks to reveal to us.

Hearing the voice of God is not merely about being able to engage the brain in reading. Revelation from God is a work of the Holy Spirit. But the chief medium remains the written word. This is God's means. We must learn to read, and listen, again, so that we can again hear from God.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Dancing Dave's Photos


Bulgaria Photos from Dave Long and we made the UCCF Homepage

Revd Leonard Payne et al (Introducing iGod)

This week's papers, and now today's BBC News have been captured by the story of Revd Leonard Payne, of Wrentham Suffolk who is podcasting his sermons...
But online, audio sermons are not new news.... try these for size..

Arborfield & Barkham (Various, my church)
Guildford Baptist Church (Ian Stackhouse)
Bethlehem Baptist Church (John Piper) [link fixed]
Capitol Hill Baptist (Mark Dever)
Covenant Life, Gaithersburg (Joshua Harris et al)
All Souls Langham Place (Paul Williams, John Stott etc)
Christ Church Liverpool (Andrew Evans etc)
Moorlands Evangelical, Lancaster (Danny Rurlander)
Cranleigh Baptist Church (Orlando Saer)
St Ebbes Oxford (Vaughan Roberts etc)
Southampton Christian Union (Various)
Bristol Christian Union (Various)
UCCF Forum 2003 (Nigel Lee on 1 John)
UCCF Bethinking (Various)
UCCF North East Rock Solid (Hugh Palmer on 2 Peter)

And there are many more out there... discernment obviously necessary - just because you can download it doesn't mean its true.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

"I think you need to read a book, dude"

Reading books is good. Its good to discipline us. Its good to help us grow. Its good because its good. Its good because we need each other.

Top books I've read this year:
Non-Fiction
Whoredom, Raymond Ortlund
The Roots of Endurance, John Piper
Sex & The Supremacy of Christ, John Piper/Justin Taylor (eds)
The Glory of Jesus, John Owen
Amusing ourselves to death, Neil Postman
The Word of His Grace, Chris Green
Not Even a Hint, Joshua Harris
The Gospel-Driven Church, Ian Stackhouse

Fiction
Atonement, Ian McEwan
The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis
The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown

On my bookshelf to read soon:
The Holy Spirit, John Owen
Reclaiming the Center, Justin Taylor etc.
The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis (rest of series, re-reading)
The Alchemist, Paul Coelho

Books I want to read but don't own:
God is the Gospel, John Piper
Humility: True Greatness, CJ Mahaney

Suggestions for good books to read most welcome, particularly some more good fiction.

God on trial?

No one is shocked to hear that God is loving. Or even that God is love. This is true good news about God. And no one is fazed. No one passed comment. No one even looks up to acknowledge this.

But people do sometimes look up and question him. They question God's justice. They question whether God is fair. Whether God is good. These questions rise out of the situation in the world. There is pain and injustice. And God doesn't appear to be punishing it! Why not!!

This is the issue at stake in the book of Romans in the Bible. Paul writes of the good news about God's righteousness. He speaks of God's love too. But he speaks more of God's righteousness. Of the good news that in fact God is just.

In 3v21-25 we're told that God's righteousness has been demonstrated. People ask - is God just? Paul says - God has shown us. Three times he tells us that God has shown us. The question was raised because sin was unpunished. And Paul says - now God has put Jesus forward to bear the punishment for sin past, present and future. A substitute for those who will believe it. God's justice is resolved! Unpunished sin can be punished in Jesus, and all other sin awaits final judgement. But God is not indifferent to sin. Rest assured of that.

But don't rest for long. Prior to this monumental statement Paul has written extensively about us. He has drawn to our attention that we are not detached from the problem of unpunished sin. In fact we are at the heart of it. The scandal of history is indeed unpunished sin - ours!

That we are alive each day is a sign of God's patience and grace. God sees our sin. God is acting and revealing his righteousness to silence us. Every mouth stopped. We are left without defence. We have no protest. We have no excuse. We are at the heart of the problem of unpunished sin. Us.

Seeing this God demonstrates his justice, and also his love.... sending Jesus to die in our place. This is overwhelming and mindblowing. We should be silenced and humbled.... yet so many keep talking, protesting and putting God on trial.

PostScript:
Later in the difficult chapter 9, the issue of God's justice rises again. Is God just in the way he chooses those who will be saved? Chapters 1-3 have laid the foundation - no one deserves to be saved, and God has acted to demonstrate he is just. Here Paul appeals twice to Exodus to show that God is just. Just to save. Just to harden to him. Just because however he acts it is to make himself famous. To show the world himself. To show he is loving. To show he is just. And how he stands in stark contrast to us, where we are only dark he is shining light. God is not unaware. God is active in just and loving response.

iMonk speaks to Yoofworkers

iMonk is worth reading most of the time. And then he produces a classic.... read on: Five Things That Youth Ministers Need To Hear (and you're afraid to tell them, so, OK, I'll do it.). Youthwork is increasingly valued within churches, but if we're going to do it needs to be a ministry of the church, not a rebel child who causes division.

Point three has been on my mind for a while:
"3. Can I ask you to do something for me? Could you read a book? Maybe two or three books. Good books of Bible, theology and the Christian life. Because, here's the thing. I know you watch a lot of MTV and go to a lot of movies. I see your iPod and your CDs. I know you do a lot with music. And I'm sure all that time you spend "chillin'" with your friends and dates is important, but we've handed over our children to you, and frankly, when I stand outside your youth class and listen to what you are teaching them, I want to have you arrested. I think you need to read a book, dude.
Yeah, you're funny and irreverent. It's a blast in your Bible study. The kids love the movie clips and the song excerpts. I'm sure the various lessons you teach from their favorite movies are holding their interest, but we'd all feel a lot better if you could teach the meaning of a book of the Bible, or explain some theology from the Bible, in a way that helped our kids actually trust the book for the truth they will need in years to come. We've made you into a teacher of some very impressionable minds. We need you to be prepared. Am I asking too much? Hey, we will buy the books for you. You just read them and get excited about what you want to teach. Ok?"
The same applies to student workers, like me, of course. Those of us in the early days of ministry (even five years in) need to get the support of our pastors, we need to be growing in our theologican foundations, we need people who will challenge us to keep people informed about what we're doing... we need people to follow. Those who have mentored me have been a precious gift from God. Thanks Rachel, Gareth, Pete, Piers & others.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

With a Word

With a word the universe was born
The skies stretched out by your great hand
The light and dark, the day and night
Showing your power beyond compare

The living word you entered our world
Made your home with us sinful men
You came to die, to give your life
To call us back to knowing you

You came to give us life undeserved
Whatever we do your love remains
No sin can take us from your grace
Nor works replace our need of you

With a word you opened my eyes
A simple word of amazing grace
Great treasure gained, pleasure forever
The glory of God in Jesus Christ

© dave bish, 2005 - bulgaria

Summer

As I kick back and rest for a couple of weeks this has a prophetic relevance: Setting our Minds on Things Above in Summer - John Piper.

What happened in Bulgaria, stays in Bulgaria



It is in the nature of much evangelistic endeavour that the more we make fools of ourselves, the more God may choose to use us. I'm not sure why but I guess its a matter of pride. There are countless photos that document some of this folly for the sake of the gospel. David Long will undoubtedly publish them but for now I must hold off.

Click to view Dave Long's Team Photo at Veliko Tornovo

In the tradition of one of the greatest films of all time we felt obliged to decree together, that "What Happened in Bulgaria, stays in Bulgaria". Whilst tales of us may not be told, let us echo the spirit of Acts 14v27 and speak loudly of what God did through us, opening doors of faith in Bulgaria. Kath and Ed and Dave will undoubtedly recount some of the stories....

That said, I'm a fallen sinful blogger so I probably wont be able to resist telling the tales, and publishing humiliating photos of myself, Kath Arnold, Lou Waddington, Matt Chen, Dancing Dave Long, Colin Tomsett, Ed Goode, Jonny Richards, Tom Riches and Anneli Van Wyk... see you all at Forum guys... [ -except Lou :( ]

Listening to: Chris Tomlin, Arriving.
(nice to have my music back!)

Capturing the moment...

Thoughtful blogging will resume when I'm not so tired, and I've had a couple of weeks off work. A great 2004/5 year comes to its end now. I'm home from mission in Bulgaria, much encouraged by God's work there. I'll reflect more on that, mission, and a whole load of other stuff sometime.... Next year looms not far ahead but its not here yet.

As a team we apparently took over 3000 photos, 78 of which were mine and here are three of them: (some of the team, and Velijko Tornovo)





On the plane home I read Neil Postman's Amusing ourselves to Death... very interesting. And I got home to find that David Gibson had sent me a copy of Reclaiming the Center from his study time at Princeton... some light holiday reading!

Sola Deo Gloria