Friday, September 30, 2005

Don't Waste Your Life

Marcus Honeysett of Living Leadership, and author of Finding Joy, spoke at Reading's freshers week Christian Union meeting last night on the topic of Don't Waste Your Life, using Philippians 1v21 & 3v7-11. Phenomenal! Great to see the place packed out and our eyes fixed on "to live is Christ, to die is gain". Oh how I hope we have ears to hear.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Playing catch up?

Two posts from Epangelical. Catching up aint cool - thoughts from Relevant magazine on Christian sub-culture and post-modern church, several years behind the times. Meanwhile, in case you didn't see it before: Bono on grace

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Does God's Word Look Big In This?



Great new "fresh words" from John Piper this evening: Minimizing The Bible?. This is pointed in the direction of seeker-sensitivity, but as Piper admits that might not be a true charge. Nonetheless it is something we all need to watch for... am I minimizing the Bible? Do I feed those I serve with God's word or my words?

FAQ: What's wrong with going out with a non-Christian?

Let's just be clear what we're talking about. This is a question asked by Christians. The issue at stake is can they "go out with" someone who isn't a Christian.

By "going out" we're talking about a temporary relationship. Going out is not a permanent state of human relationship. A couple either marries or breaks up. Its not a state of relationship we can find in the Bible and it is true that there is no direct command in scripture about this....

What we need to do then is see what markers we are given in this area.

Marriage is God's permanant state of relationship for a man and woman to enter into. It is not for everyone but it is a provision from God for some. Genesis 2 tells us that in God's very good creation there was something that was not good. The

Man was alone. Not lonely but in need of a helper. The man needed someone suitable to help him - literally a like-opposite. Animals are not able to do this, and so God creates Woman, from Man.

The woman is the helper that the man needs. She is the one who will help him to serve God - to complete the mandate given by God. This is not some subservient second-class slavery - but a mutual partnership in which God can be served.

What bearing does this have for us?

1. Firstly it is simply obvious that a going out relationship that works will end up in marriage. [edit: by works, I'm meaning "is worth staying in" - evidently not every "going out" relationship results in that, and it would be dangerous if going out became synonymous for "engaged", or even "married"]

Many people seem to enter into "going out" without considering anything beyond tomorrow. I would suggest that it would be careless to start going out with someone that you could not contemplate marrying. What would be the point? Friendship can be developed without going out and it is not necessary to test the waters of compatibility. God has said woman is man's helper, man and woman are made for each other.

2. Secondly then, since the purpose of marriage is for a man and a woman to help each other serve God both parties must be committed to this. It is evident that someone who is not a Christian is not desiring to serve God. If they were, they would become a Christian. So on this count alone a non-Christian and a Christian do not make a "compatible" partnership for marriage. They will pull in opposite directions.

At this point many object!

There are two common objections. One is subjective, the other pragmatic.

1. The subjective response is for someone to say: but God told me that it was ok. Well, actually - NO. God does not sanction sin. You need to know your heart, and liberated from sin as it is, it is still very capable of deceiving you, especially in matters of the heart. Don't kid yourself on this. God takes your relationships and your sin seriously.

2. The pragmatic response is that they've seen people do it and the non-Christian has become a Christian. This is self-evidently something that does happen. However just because God graciously brings good out of a bad situation doesn't make it right. One of my best friends did this and it worked out for him. My Mum did this - and I now have a Christian father, and I exist because of it. Doesn't make it right. Christians do not live by pragmatic theology, but by Biblical theology. What is right to do is what is Biblical, not what works.

(In the same way, not all non-Christian:Christian relationships end in conversion. But let me not use that pragmatism in my argument. Equally, it is not true to say that if someone goes out with a non-Christian they will lose their faith.)

The underlying issues here are about God's purpose for Christian marriage and the Lordship of Christ over the life of a Christian:

1. God's purpose for marriage is to be a relationship that reflects that of Christ and the church - a faithful relationship. (Quite different from the rather unique testimony of Hosea and Gomer, the faithful one and the harlot). Such testimony can only come from a marriage where both parties seek to live under Christ.

2. God's purpose for Christian life is that it be lived under his authority. Jesus Christ is Lord is the testimony of every Christian, and that includes every aspect of life.

Relationships are an area over which Christ should be Lord. It is not viable to say that Christ can have the rest, but I will do what I want when it comes to relationships.

Finally, let me grant myself one pragmatic point. Marriage is wonderful but also difficult. That my marriage consists of two sinners living under the same roof, two forgiven sinners, is one of the cornerstones that holds it together. I cannot imagine the consequences where only one party understands this. The assurance that comes from both my wife and I knowing the grace of God to us binds us together and drives us forward. There is always forgiveness, grace is enough.

Study Skill 03: Context & Plain Meaning

A short series of posts about how we read the Bible

“... it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God....” Luke 18v24.

Its a well known saying. Part of our language. And yet time and again people seem to fall over themselves trying to interpret it. What is going on? What is Jesus talking about? Context, as always, provides the solution to finding the plain meaning of the text.

The context is a conversation between Jesus and a ruler.

The Context – v18-27.
V18 And a ruler asked him “Good teacher what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
v19 And Jesus said to him “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.
V20 You know the commandments, do not commite adultery, do not muder, do not steal, do not bear false witness, honour your father and mother.
V21 And he said “all these i have kept from my youth”
v22 When Jesus heard this he said to him “one thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me”
v23 But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.
V24 Jesus, looking at him with sadness, said, “how difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”
v26 those who heard it said “then who can be saved?”
v27 But he said “What is impossible with men is possible with God”

1.v24 is part of a response by Jesus to someone asking how to get eternal life. So, it is concerned with how to get treasure in heaven – a synonym for eternal life.

2.The question is asked by a ruler.... who we find in v23 is very rich.

3.Before answering the question Jesus responds to being addressed as good – saying only God is good. God whose kingdom is on offer – v24... and who can do the impossible v27.

4.The Old Testament law is laid out in v20... and v21 the man says he has kept that....

5.Then comes v22. And the man finds it too much to bear... Jesus responds with sadness... it is difficult! In fact it is easier to get a camel through the eye of a needle. Many have speculated that this refers to an alleged “Needle Gate” which required camels to bend low and unload before passing through.
This is erroneous for two reasons.
a) That requires knowledge that is not given here – it forces us beyond the plain simple meaning of the text. Of course I'm trying to prove that you can't do this so that's not an argument. (Its similar to people saying that something in Revelation refers to the European Union – an interpretation only a European, and a eurosceptic at that, could ever etertain. A Christian in the south pacific isn't going to see that...)
b) That actually teaches the opposite of this saying. Why? Because, the people present say – its impossible... and then Jesus says, yes it is impossible with man, but God can do it. If unloading was actually required – as possibly implied in v22 then it would not be impossible, only difficult.

6.So, what is going on? Jesus is showing the man that he is not righteous. He thinks he keeps all the law... but Jesus finds something he can't do. He makes it
impossible for the man to save himself. The man is pushed to have to do something that is beyond him – selling all he has. In fact the man must ask God to help him – for God can save him according to v27. And where might he find God? The “good” teacher....

7.The context helps us to see the plain meaning of the text. The Bible is a book that can be plainly understood. Its meaning is not mystical. The only mystery in the Bible is the gospel – which was hidden until Jesus, and then made known. In context Jesus is plainly saying that the only way to eternal life is to ask him for it – not to imagine that if you unload yourself enough you'll be able to get there yourself.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Christian Students Mental Health (blog)

RelayChick writes:
"A recent survey from the Association of University and College Counsellors shows that the proportion of students with serious or severe mental illness has risen substantially over the last few years in some sectors of higher education. The mental health of students is thought to be worse than that of the general population: some studies estimate that 30% to 50% of students suffer from varying levels of anxiety and depression."
She writes out of her own experience of depression throughout university. Lots of good articles and testimony and only just starting out. Helpful articles provided, more to come. This blog is well worth being aware of.

http://christianstudentsmentalhealth.blogspot.com/

100-minute-bible...



So, last week a 20,000 word version of the Bible was launched (I did mean to blog this last week): The 100-Minute Bible reduced from 780,000 words for a generation who can't be bothered to read anymore... On the one hand I can see the value of trying to get people to begin reading the Bible. But, I don't think this is the way to do it!

It is true today that Biblical Illiteracy is widespread, not least in the church. This is a tragic indictment on us. People simply don't read the Bible. I was never encouraged to until I was 18 years old - and in my first days as a Christian Union leader. It probably ought to have seemed an obvious thing to do, but it wasn't. I didn't know where to start. Until my Christian Union Staffworker got me to buy a copy of Search the Scriptures and start reading Luke's gospel. That was about six and half year ago... still going.

Problem is that the Bible is the Word of God. Its not just some ordinary book to be reduced to a digest version. And God gave us all of it - in its different literary genres... in its diverse parts. Why? Not because its everything there is to know about life, the universe and everything. But because in its entirity its all that God decided we really needed to know - so that we could know him, through the death of Jesus Christ. Its God's self-revelation, and if he thinks we need that much, in that much detail with all the "boring" bits - then that's what we need. (What exactly is boring about the Bible though - honestly?)

Working with students we've kept the Bible but just given people part of it - a gospel of Mark or John, in recent years - perhaps 500,000 copies distributed to the student population. (see also life-online). If people haven't got the time or inclination to approach the whole thing, best that they get part of the real thing - rather than a rough sketch of the whole thing, surely?

The Bible is God's word. The Bible is God's revelation of himself to us. But it needs to be read, and, by the grace of God, applied to our lives. All of it. That might not be completely possible in 100 minutes, but even one minute at a time is a start.

Further Reading
For the Bible tells me so (David Gibson)
The Revelation of God (Peter Jensen)

GIRL TALK



I've been linking this one for a while...
Now it's the latest blog to recieve a Warnie so go take a look: Girl Talk
from the women of C.J. Mahaney's family...

Warnies Aggregator

Study Skill 02: Context & Connections

A short series of posts about how we read the Bible

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” Matt 18v20.

Is this a mandate for quiet times? Is this a message to tell you to go and pray with those 1-2 friends you've not seen for a while... Context is key! Politicians don't like to be taken out of context – neither does God.

It is part of a section from v15-20, and this within a wider context in chapter 18 about relationships between God's people.

V15 – If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.
If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.
V16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.
V17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church.
And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
V18 Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven,
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
V19 Again I say to you, if two or three of you agree on earth about anything they ask,
if will be done for them by my Father in heaven.
V20 For where two or three are gathered in my name,
there I am among them.


1.See that v20 begins “FOR”. This means it is evidence for something that has come before it.

2.So, we look at v19. This is a statement. It begins Again... so in fact it is a restatement.

3.So, we look at v18. This is a statement.

4.This means we have a statement twice in v18-19, and the reason for it in v20.

5.It is also in the context of v15-17. They are a series of “If...Then” clauses. They concern how to respond when someone sins against you. First go alone to confront the sinner, then with one or two others (i.e. 2-3 people go), and tell the church... and finally exclude the person.... It is a series that leads to greater and greater confrontation and finally in v17 to the exclusion of the sinner... Jesus we know welcomed Tax Collectors and Gentiles – but to those Jesus was teaching those words were synonymous for someone being an outsider.

6.Note that the group of two or three people are witnesses used to confront a sinner – not just any group of two people. Witnesses who have a decision to make about confronting and ultimately disciplining someone who has sinned and is not repenting.

7.V18-19 tell us that they have the power to make a decision of heavenly proportions.
Why? Because, according to v20, God is among them.

8.So – is it about prayer triplets? No – it is about church discipline being authoritative.

9.Is it true that God is with two or three Christians who are at prayer? Yes – in fact even with one Christian. BUT, this is not what Matthew 18v20 is about. It is not what God says here – however nice it sounds. A verse only means what it means in context.

10.Notice also the importance of connections or linking words to us finding the meaning... a series of “if...then” statements... a double statement of truth, and a reason for this being the case. Look out for
“X therefore/so Y”, //
or “X because of/for Y”,
or “X then, but, now Y”
(More literal translations help us to see these connections)

Jollyblogging

Two great posts from Jollyblogger caught my eye this afternoon:
Also today I found myself reminded that our teaching about the nature of God's word is really, really important. What do we have without God's authoritative true word? We're left with no direction. We're left with only our ideas. That's not a good place to be.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Study Skill 01: It's not about you

A short series of posts about how we read the Bible

What is the point of the temptation of Jesus?
Almost instinctively we say, to show us how to face temptation.
And how do we do that? We use the Bible...

The problem is that this comes from us reading the Bible out of context and under the assumption that it is a book about us. The Bible is not a book about us or written to us, on the whole. It is for us. But we are not its main character.

The temptation of Jesus - Matthew 4v1-11.
It is true that as Jesus faces temptation he uses the Word of God to counter satan's temptations. It is also true that Jesus sucessfully stands against these temptations.

But.

1.Context – Matthew 3v12-17. This is Jesus who v15: fulfils all righteousness, and v17, immediately before temptation is declared to be God's son.

2.Notice Jesus is God's son. You are not. So, odds on you can't do everything Jesus can do.

3.Jesus quotes repeatedly from Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy tells of Israel's failure to stand in the face of temptation. Jesus knows the same truth that they knew but he stands. Jesus is very different from Israel. He is God's son, like Israel, but unlike them he stands.

4.In fact the context should help us to see that actually Matthews point is to show us that Jesus is very unlike Israel, and us. This is God's unique son... the first person ever to face temptation and not fall to it, at all. He is God's righteous son.

5.So, in context the point is more likely to be – Jesus is God's perfect son, you are not. We are not Jesus. Matthews book is all about Jesus. 1V1 – in the genealogy we so often ignore makes that very clear – the title of the book – the origins of Jesus, David's son and Abraham's son. You are not the subject of this book. You are not Jesus.

6.We love to substitute ourselves into a story but the Bible is not written that way. You're not Jesus. You're not God's saviour – the sinless one, which is how Jesus is presented here. That is precisely the point. If you were Jesus you wouldn't need Jesus.

7.Please also notice that you're not Peter. You're not the woman at the well. You're not Lazarus. You are not the church in Ephesus or Rome. You're not any of these people. You, in fact, are... you. The Bible is not about you or written directly to you. It is for you, but it is for you so that you would get to know the good news about Jesus – which is what it is actually about.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

God is the Gospel



Adrian Warnock is very positive about John Piper's new book: God is the Gospel. Mike at Eternal Perspectives, isn't. I've not read more than an extract... From sermons (like this one: text, audio) I think Piper's probably right, but I'll wait to read the book in full... on which I was glad to notice that our publishing house IVP are publishing it in the UK very soon! (along with the new Seeing & Savouring Jesus Christ, Don't Waste Your Life and When I Don't Desire God.

Keep Sunday Special?

I'm preparing a talk on Genesis 2v2,3 for a few weeks time. Here's two articles that have been helpful thus far...
(both published at beginningwithmoses.org)

Starting to see that perhaps Sunday isn't quite so special... how amazing to be welcomed into rest with Jesus everyday... thoughts, comments, advice, quotes and questions very welcome.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Blogwatch

Some stuff I've spotted recently...

Friday, September 23, 2005

FORUM 2005 Talks, Online

Its Andy Grundy at Forum

Speaking of Romans 5-7...
Terry Virgo's talks at FORUM 2005 are now available to download. Along with two from Vaughan Roberts, one from Gareth Davies and one from Richard Cunningham...

Antinomism on Rawson Street?

Was Jesus accused of antinomism?

Amazing grace...
Implying freedom to sin...
Yet teaching us to say no to ungodliness.

REVIEW: Humility: True Greatness



HUMILITY: TRUE GREATNESS
C.J. Mahaney. (Multnomah, October 2005)

Before reading this book I knew that it would be helpful. I'd encountered CJ Mahaney's self-effacing humour at the NewFrontiers conference in July. I knew the story of how CJ had handed over his church to Joshua Harris. I knew that it was a book I needed to read. I still remember briefly declaring myself humble after nine months of being a Christian. I knew that CJ, like everything else I've encountered from Sovereign Grace Ministries, is committed to a gospel-centred, cross-centred response to sin.

This short book comes in three parts. Firstly identifying Humility and its rival, pride. Pride is ignorant of age or vocation, CJ tells us, it lurks as a great enemy. Self-dependence and self-exaltation are deep rooted problems, infecting even apparent godliness. He then identifies humility was an honest assessment of ourselves in the light of God's holiness and our sinfulness.... a definition sure to lead us to the foot of the cross.

Part 2 draws our attention to the true greatness of Jesus, defined in humility. Jesus the supresme example of true greatness, defined in humility. Jesus who came to serve and give his life as a ransom for many. It is Jesus who shines brightest in this book - Jesus the one who shows us humility in his life and death to cut at the heart of our pride.

Finally part 3, gives us some great application for practicing humility. CJ speaks from his experience to offer practical strategy to weaken pride and cultivate humility. Typically of CJ his strategy begins with the wonder of the cross, in the company of John Owen, Martyn Lloyd-Jones and John Stott. This cross centred way of living is fleshed out from the start of the day, to its end... drawing us to dependence on God in prayer and doctrinal depth.... to encouraging others and seeking to be corrected.

As this fatherly book draws to a close, CJ again reminds us to look to Jesus. Throughout the book he has walked with us, with honest weakness and pastoral, gentle, cross-centred teaching. This is a book I've found very convicting to read, and one that I think I may need to read again and again. Knowing that CJ will walk beside me on its pages, pointing me to Jesus is great comfort.


Order this book from Amazon UK
Direct from: Sovereign Grace Ministries (USA)




Also reviewed by:
Evers Ding
Paul Huxley
Tim Challies
Eric Zeller
Jeff Jones
Daniel Nairn
Mark Redfern
Drink Deeply

Freshers Week at University of Surrey

Spoke at Surrey University Christian Union Freshers meeting last night: God's Good News about Jesus: Grace for God's Sake

I wonder why you're here? Some might be here because you'd call yourself a Christian and you want to partner with the Christian Union in your time at Surrey. Welcome!

Maybe friends or family strongly recommended you come here in your first week? Welcome!

Maybe you picked up a flyer and thought you'd come. Welcome!
Whoever and whyever. Welcome!

At the same time, did you ever think that it's a bit strange to be here? I say that of myself – as someone working full time with University Christian Unions.... we're a bit of a minority.... we're flying the face of popular opinion and popular choice of places to be tonight....

Professor Johnjoe McFadden of Surrey Uni wrote recently in The Guardian how terrible it would be if God were allowed back into scientific thinking.... God invented science, and yet the scientific community... and one of your lecturers wants nothing to do with him. We fly in the face of education by being here.

And in the face of culture.... Last year one freshers guide made two recommendations for all new freshers.

1.Sleep with as many people as you can before Christmas
2.Avoid evangelical Christians and especially when they offer free food.

Sorry no food tonight... but somethings going on! Our Culture says – you'll be strange if you're anywhere near the Christians. Let me say again – welcome!

We meet to hear God speak in his written word. We'll look at a short section of a letter God inspired about 2000 years ago – written to a community in Rome. The coming weeks will consider more of the same. And this is what we'll find. GOD'S GOOD NEWS ABOUT JESUS: GRACE, FOR GOD'S SAKE.

We come to hear God speak in his written word. We come expecting our lives to change.

God's Good News about Jesus
Good news is a rarity today. News comes in bitesize chunks that we rarely remember. Most of what we hear is bad news. This news is different. Content-packed and Unforgettable.

God's good news about Jesus. Not my news or my Jesus, nor yours. The Jesus. The one at the centre of the vision of the Christian Union. Living for Jesus. Speaking for Jesus.

Good news about Jesus. Jesus who lived a short life in the backwaters of a great empire... and yet considered to be one of the most enigmatic figures in history... the man at the centre of history even.... His teaching seems unavoidable... written into the fabric of our society even today.
People have adopted him for their politics and ideologies. But The Bible paints the authentic picture. The Jesus. We see him at the centre of the current fiction bestseller, The Da Vinci code, but Dan Brown has missed the evidence. He's missed the real content of God's Good News about Jesus.

v2 – Jesus of the Bible.
Jesus whose coming was predicted in advance... and recorded in the whole Bible. Jesus who was expected and then delivered on the promises. No, as Dan Brown wants to suggest a fantasy Jesus for weak peoples wish-fulfilment.

v3 – Jesus, the King
The Jesus who was of royal blood. God's rightful king.
v4 – Jesus, God's Son
Jesus who died, killed as a common criminal.... and came back from the dead... announced by God, and witnessed by man, to be God's son!
Not a Jesus who went off and married Mary Magdalene as Dan Brown suggests... but one who rose from the dead to offer eternal life.

v4 – Jesus Christ our Lord
Put simply – Jesus the ruler of everything. Jesus the revealer of God's anger, God's justice and God's love. Jesus who made it clear that he, not us, rules this world.

This isn't soundbite news. This isn't stuff to forget in an instant. This is the most important of all news. For the rest of our time, two things to consider. Grace, for God's sake.
Grace.... for God's sake.
C.S. Lewis called it the thing that makes Christian faith distinctive from everything else. Bono recently said the same. “Every other religion is about karma, Jesus is about grace”

Grace. A free gift. The gift of having God write PERFECT over your life... even when that is nothing like the reality of the situation. Words wrought in the greatest sacrifice ever made.... Jesus death as a substitute in our place... dying our death, and rising to give us his life.

In a world of performance and reward this is subversive news. This letter to the community in Rome will soon outline the deep darkness of the human heart. Revealing that without exception the human race deserves to be obliterated by God.
I live in nice, leafy, Royal Berkshire where bad stuff doesn't happen... but we've had to deal with the murder of two local teenagers in the last two weeks. The human heart is darker than we dare admit....

I wonder how would you describe your standing with God....
Perhaps you think about what you've done well... your A-level grades... your family background... your church attendance... of simply that in all honesty you think you're on the good side of good, if there really is a line between bad and good at all. Maybe you live your life plate-spinning – and as far as you're concerned you spin your plates pretty well... certainly better than most. You live to impress God...

Perhaps you're a bit more honest than that. You know something of the depths of your heart. You know that this week, even today, you've not even met your own standards.
Maybe you think you've totally blown it. Too bad to be a Christian could be your confession... Too bad for anything.

Whoever you are... Grace says welcome.. and it says don't live in either of those places.

To the good guys, God says - “who are you kidding”. See you pride. Its vile to God. In fact in 3v19 God says explicitly – SHUT UP. He says stop telling me how good you think you are. Silence. We're accountable to God. And he says – we're more guilty that we'd ever dare to imagine.
To the bad guys, God says – no, don't sink into the mire of your guilt. That too is pride. Humbly abandon yourself to God's grace. Receive mercy – which is all about what you don't deserve.

Come be free from performance, free from condemnation. Come encounter God's grace. Come – obey by faith.

Not by being good but simply by believing that this is true. Accept God's verdict. Accept God's grace.

Have faith. Some try to say, as Dan Brown does in The Da Vinci Code, that faith is all about believing what isn't true. Not so. Believing what isn't true isn't faith, its naivety. And believing what you know isn't true isn't “strong faith” it's delusion.


Jesus looks for us to carefully consider what he is saying. To carefully consider an offer of free infinite credit from God. As a gift.

And if you're really getting this then you should find yourself asking - “if this is free” can we go on rebelling against God? Martyn Lloyd Jones observed that true preaching of God's good news about Jesus should always raise this charge. There is no better test...

If you're a Christian here tonight let me challenge you: go and get accused of preaching lawlessness – of preaching true free grace to your friends. Grace that doesn't require rule keeping. Grace alone!


Will you receive this grace for yourself? Will you quit boasting? Will you believe that God's grace is enough for even you?

Grace.... for God's sake.

It's tempting for us to think that this is a reversal of Copernican thinking. It's tempting for us to think that this puts us firmly at the centre of the universe all over again. In fact its quite the opposite.

Our rebellion against God, the thing that got us in this mess in the first place, was all about putting us central instead of God. Grace reverses the order. Grace says God is the “blazing centre of everything” (John Piper). And that that is why grace is offered.

There's a terrible song that suggests that when Jesus died he thought of me above all. Actually that's blasphemy. Above all Jesus was concerned for God's reputation.

When we look at the world we think that something is wrong because people suffer. Suffering is big. But there was a bigger problem: God's reputation. And it was seriously in doubt before Jesus died on a cross.
God would have been just to obliterate us. And yet every day for generation after generation he has put up with the disdain and disrespect of his name by humanity.
God's reputation would be best upheld by him wiping us out. That would prove our rebellion is wrong.

Later in this letter we see that God has patiently held back his anger... Waiting for the opportune moment to demonstrate beyond doubt that he is just.

Jesus' death is that demonstration. God's anger poured out on Jesus. A declaration that humanity will one day be punished by God. And the offer of an alternative. Of grace. Grace – that Jesus' death could be counted in our place.

God will ensure his reputation is upheld. “He is the most God-centred person in the Universe”. Either we get punished, or Jesus. Grace is on offer. God has acted to uphold his reputation – now he offers grace to generation after generation of hard-hearted rebels....

Someone might object that that sounds very egotistical... isn't God self-centred? Isn't that wrong? It might be... except that God is the most wonderful and glorious person in the universe. And drawing attention to things that are beautiful isn't wrong. God is utterly God-centred because God is ultimately glorious. It'd be wrong if he didn't seek praise.

God gracious invites us to a life of magnifying God. Not microscopic magnification – God is not tiny needing to be seen. No, telescopic magnification – God is huge – but you might not have noticed... or rather we choose to ignore the blazing centre of the universe. Its good news. God wont let his reputation be scorned forever. He has acted decisively in Jesus death... now he offers grace.
We can't claim we don't need it.
We can't claim we're too bad for it.
We can't claim God isn't worth it. So:

Fly in the face of education and culture...
>> Consider this Jesus. Being here presents you with more time and opportunity to consider Jesus than you'll ever have again. A safe environment to ask questions to encounter grace. It's been said (David Prior) that “we never move on from the cross of Christ, only into a more profound understanding of it” I'd be happy to chat with you tonight about how.

Fly in the face of education and culture...
>> Make Jesus famous. Be part of the Christian Union. Live for Jesus. Speak for Jesus. Let's show a world who ignores our God that he is infinitely valuable. And let's be accused of preaching lawlessness by really preaching God's good news about God's grace for God's sake!

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Freshers Fayre

Heading off to Uni?

The WHSmith guide suggests that you
1. Sleep with as many people as you can before Christmas
2. Avoid evangelical Christians and their free food
Let me suggest a few things.

1. Consider Jesus. Take your time at University to at least read the Bible and see who Jesus is. And get some help from the Christian Union to do that.

2. Get connected with your Christian Union and live for Jesus and speak for Jesus together.

3. Get accused of preaching lawlessness. Seriously.

4. Consider doing missions when dying is gain - Christ trumps everything anyone could offer you.

5. Get committed to one local church as soon as possible... and consider Joshua Harris' advice on choosing a church (fleshed out in Stop Dating the Church)
Is this a church where God’s word is faithfully taught?
Is this a church where sound doctrine matters?
Is this a church in which the gospel is cherished and clearly proclaimed?
Is this a church that is committed to reaching non-Christians with the gospel?
Is this a church whose leaders are characterized by humility and integrity?
Is this a church where people strive to live by God’s word?
Is this a church where I can find and cultivate Godly relationships?
Is this a church where members are challenged to serve?
Is this a church that is willing to kick me out?
Is this a church I’m willing to join “as is” with enthusiasm and faith in God?
6. Remember God is concerned about what you study and how you study. Think about how your course and your worldview conflict and compare.

7. Enjoy God's grace. Daily. Always. Study your course and study God's word - and let God transform you.

8. Remember Grace is Enough. It is not possible to blow it too badly. Let yourself be rebuked, corrected and humbled.

9. Love God's people. Mix with other Christians and learn from them.

10. Graduate well. Graduate to keep living for Jesus and speaking for Jesus. Think ahead.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

UCCF South East 2005/6

Photos from our South East Team Days. Forgot to take a picture of our esteemed team leader, Gareth... but here's everyone else.

Seven times a year we get together for 48 hours to be encouraged and taught, to share ideas and struggles and to pray. We then head our separate ways to equip students to live for Jesus & speak for Jesus

This was our first time together this year - thinking about the priority of prayer. I was particularly struck that the apostles set themselves apart for prayer and the ministry of the word. I easily embrace the latter but often disregard the former... perhaps some get it the other way round. But I count myself rebuked by God's word, and wanting to change the way I work.



Individual Staff with their Relay.
Jonny, Kath & Sam
Debs, Dave & Dave
Dan, Nay & Ben


Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Sunday, September 18, 2005

What's my legalism?

I'm slightly cautious about drawing attention to Steve McCoy's post on Alcohol & Legalism, because this looks like a church discipline issue [edit: by which I mean, when a believer sins they should be confronted privately first, and then failing that, publicly] and I don't know the parties involved.

So, from the otherside of the Atlantic, personally it challenges me again to ask - where might I be adding to the gospel? Where might I be denying my freedom and joy in the Lord? I don't think the alcohol one is big over here in the UK, but I'm sure we have our equivilants...

[see also Marcus Honeysett: Finding Joy]

Wise words from the Doctor

"People who say they do not hold to any particular system, and that they are 'just biblical,' are simply confessing that they have never really understood the teaching of the Bible."
(D.Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Romans 7:1-8:4, p. 178).
I remember coming across a student a while back who pleaded that we just needed to believe that Jesus is the Son of God and forget about doctrine.... Many thanks to Phil Johnson for highlighting this. Still processing Terry Virgo's preaching on Romans 7, which he admits is very influenced by Lloyd-Jones. Must take Terry's advice and get some more of that Romans series (since I only have The Righteous Judgement of God: Romans 2:1-3:20 at the moment).

Off-road with the God who speaks



Over the last few months I've come back to this book several times. Earlier this year I blogged my journey through the minor prophets, and the attraction here follows that journey.

I enjoy getting off the beaten track in God's word and Barry Webb's Five Festal Garments is a great companion on the road. Webb provides Christian reflections on The Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes and Esther. Not so much a detailed commentary but something of a road map - helping us find a way through diverse books and connecting them to the bigger story of God.

This book is the tenth in the New Studies in Biblical Theology series and is among the best. Some are a little too academic for my untrained mind, but this certainly provides superb help for the ordinary Christian longing to hear God's voice clearly. Peter Adam's Hearing God's Word is another notably helpful book, drawing us into God's word to develop a Biblical spirituality.

Currently reading: Lamentations.

...See that you do not refuse him who is speaking.

Preaching Priests

This weekend, Surrey University, Christian Union pre-freshers weekend in Farnham. Phil Evans and I shared the speaking, with some input from Marika Tozer and Mark Thomas.

We began in Psalm 67, looking at the big picture - God's global purpose for a blessed people - justified by faith in Jesus. It was good to remember that God is gracious to people in Christ! That that grace is for God's global fame.... and to look at authentic Christianity in v3-5 - Praise, Joy and Gladness... founded on God's rule over us.

On Saturday morning Phil gave us an excellent talk from 1 Timothy 2v3-6, considering what we have been saved from - from God's wrath by the death of Jesus the great mediator between man and God.

Later he completed this looking at what we're saved for, to live as God's priests - re-presenting God to the world, and the world to God. He took us to Romans 15 which I found especially helpful...
"...a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done— by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known..." Romans 15v16-20, NIV

What a calling - to be God's priests, proclaiming the gospel to the world, a seeking to present the world to God!

Friday, September 16, 2005

Finding Joy



A radical rediscovery of grace

What motivates you to serve Christ? Is it a sense of nagging obligation as you struggle to achieve a host of impossible targets? Or is it a heart full of joy? God’s grace is neither earned nor deserved. We receive grace, and with it the blessings of forgiveness, peace, hope, security, rescue, reconciliation and eternal life. God’s grace needs no additions, no subtractions. Yet it’s so easy, so tempting, like the Galatians in the New Testament, to slip back into a legalistic mindset. We want to build on what God has done; we want to make ourselves more attractive and acceptable. Marcus Honeysett challenges us to live as sons and daughters of God, not as slaves. He helps us to understand the law and its place in the Old and New Testaments. He accompanies us as we go joy-spotting in Philippians. Joy should be the hallmark of our Christian service. Understanding God’s grace is the foundation to releasing that joy.
‘A precise and life-transforming book that is well founded in Scripture.’
Peter Oyugi, Director of Students’ Ministry, FOCUS-Kenya

‘Engaging, stimulating, liberating and deeply refreshing.’
Tony Watkins, Managing Editor, CultureWatch

‘All Christians need to hear Marcus’ message and rediscover the great truths that lie at the heart of the gospel.’
-Michael You, Tutor, Associate Programme, St Helen’s Church, Bishopsgate, London
‘I wish this book had been around when Marcus and I worked together and the words on the lips of many Christian workers were, “I am tired”.
-Wanyeki Mahiaini, Co-ordinator of the Philip Project, training preachers for Africa>

Read an extract

Author
Marcus Honeysett spent ten years leading UCCF’s student ministry in London before moving into pastoral work and training. He studied English and Theatre, and subsequently Postmodern Culture and Contemporary Theory. He is the author of Meltdown – Making Sense of a Culture in Crisis which was nominated for Christian Book of the Year in 2003. Marcus is married to Ros, a teacher, and together they enjoy entertaining, music, reading, skiing and golf.

BUY THIS BOOK FROM IVPBOOKS


See Marcus' website for more quality stuff. I've been waiting for this book to get published for ages. Having heard and seen this stuff from Marcus first hand its a big wake up call to me, and fo church.

Pyromania

Phil Johnson subtitles his blog with Jeremiah 23v29 - Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD...
" "Am I a God at hand, declares the LORD, and not a God afar off? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the LORD. I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, 'I have dreamed, I have dreamed!' How long shall there be lies in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart, who think to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, even as their fathers forgot my name for Baal? Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? declares the LORD. Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, declares the LORD, who steal my words from one another. Behold, I am against the prophets, declares the LORD, who use their tongues and declare, 'declares the LORD.' Behold, I am against those who prophesy lying dreams, declares the LORD, and who tell them and lead my people astray by their lies and their recklessness, when I did not send them or charge them. So they do not profit this people at all, declares the LORD." - Jeremiah 23v25-32, ESV
Reading Simon Ponsonby's book MORE, he cites Kirkegaard writing "Christianity is incedniarism; Christianity is fire setting; a Christian is a person set on fire". Ponsonby, student chaplain in Oxford, also helpfully notes that Pentecost prophetically announced the coming of the Spirit to the church, that Spirit comes to all Christians (not just some), and that it demonstrates that Jesus is Lord. We need more of God's Spirit at work in us, we need more of God's word (and on that, what God has joined, let no man separate).

Not fires of terror but the fire of God's Spirit, and the affects of God's Word. Fires that declare that God is with his people, and that Jesus is Lord. How we need God's word to come, to burn among us, to break us down... Man's ideas might be interesting, even fascinating, but what we need is God's word. Mans words tend to massage the ego or produce fake-piety. It is God's word we rebel against, it is God's word that must confront us, correct us and equip us. What we need to be called again and again, plainly and straight-forwardly to the glorious gospel, that Jesus is Lord....the gospel in all its fulness as it is portrayed in all of God's word.

Tea & Sympathy

Time for my first break of the day. Time for some coffee... "good coffee, strong coffee" as the Jars of Clay song prescribes. Just spotted this in the paper...
Coffee Trail - Today Britons will drink more than 70 million cups of coffee, but a remarkable story lies behind each one. To unravel it, Benjamin Joffe-Walt and Oliver Burkeman followed a bean from the Ethiopian village where caffeine's stimulant qualities were first discovered to a coffee shop in south London

...in other news Student Extremist Groups are being highlighted. Thankfully, for now, Christian Unions aren't yet in that bracket. Hopefully it will be observed, that whilst we are advocating some extremely counter-cultural beliefs, we seek only to save lives not take them. Along these lines I notice that one of the Christian Unions I work with will be running an event on the topic of: "Is strong religious passion a cause for terrorism?"

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Christian Theism

Rick Phillips at Reformation 21 has some interesting thoughts on the difference between non-Christian Theism and Christian Theism as a world view...
"I am afraid that many believers also need to shed the non-Christian theism from their worldviews.... I would define a non-Christian theism as a God-centered worldview that is not Christ- and cross-centered. You get this in all sorts of "Christian" literature where the focus is on God's glory in abstract and on the supremacy of godliness without much thought for redemption."

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Sheep without a shepherd?

We live in leafy Wokingham district... the least deprived district in the country. Since the weekend the area has had to face up to a double murder on its doorstep. Such things just don't happen here.... how do we deal with this?

Two hundred and fifty people attended a prayer/reflection service at our church this evening. Afterwards, at our monthly church prayer meeting our church leader reflected on Jesus' words in Matthew 9v35-39. As Jesus preached the gospel he had compsssion on the crowds, harrassed and helpless... sheep without a shepherd.... people who simply didn't know where to do..... people desperately searching for answers, for life, for direction.

And Jesus says - its like a harvest field, ready for harvest.... so ask God for workers to bring them in. Jesus full of compassion cries out for them...... oh that we would find the way to sensitively, and carefully show people Jesus in the coming days.

Meet My Relay: Debbie Cordle & Dave "Hoops" Hooper

My Relay Fellowship Group

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Notes from a Circus Tent

Ed is writing up his notes from Terry Virgo's superb talks on Romans Ed's Fallible Thoughts

Meanwhile, time to confess that I bought theguardian today. Mostly out of curiosity (normally I prefer the times...). I do like the new berliner size, I like the paper quality and the colour. The content has yet to win me over, though there was some good stuff there.

Surrey Uni lecturer Johnjoe McFadden's article A tweak of God's knobs was quite interesting. He's convinced that biology explains everything. Chatting at the weekend with Tim Silk at church we commented that the battle with God seems mostly fought in the philosphy department these days.... Science fights back.

God is for us...

"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be[h] against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" Romans 8v31-32


Christians often say that "God is good", when a day has gone well... but surely the reality is that, its not in our circumstances that we see God is good - but in the giving of Jesus for us. That is evidence and testimony enough!

(See Sinclair Ferguson, 4th September 2005 - The Heart of the Gospel)

Humility: True Greatness

CJ Mahaney took a bit of time at the New Frontiers conference in July to talk about his new book Humility: True Greatness, somewhat embarressed that he'd been asked to write about the topic. Who doesn't struggle with this?

Read Chapter 1 of Humility: True Greatness by CJ Mahaney

Free Copies of this book for Bloggers

Justin Taylor interviews CJ Mahaney about this book

...and looking forward to Living the Cross Centered Life (Feb 2006)

Mission's Flame

Last week IFES General Secretary Lindsay Brown spoke at our world mission / prayer night at FORUM. He shared countless stories of God's global work through Christian Unions...

"From the 1950s God brought the world to the UK in the form of international students. UCCF leaders such as Freddy Crittenden and Oliver Barclay saw the strategic opportunities this provided for global witness. Students who became believers here could take the gospel back to their own countries. Derek Mutungu became a Christian at Bath University and returned to pioneer a thriving student ministry in Zambia, his home country, in the 1970s. In the 1980s, Antoine Rutayisire came to Christ in the University College of North Wales, at Bangor. He returned home to Rwanda to found the student movement. Today, after civil war in the 1990s, the Christian Union in Butare University is probably the largest in the world; each Saturday over 1,500 students gather for Bible teaching, and daily prayer meetings draw up to 500. Antoine now co-ordinates Africa Enterprise in East Africa."
The story of Derek Mutungu converted in Bath, where I studied, particularly grabbed me. Reached out to in a small way.... and God began a global work... It also struck me because at Bracknell College I "work" with Moses Chikota, another Zambian. He pioneered Bracknell CU and has recieved minimal support from me in the last year. I'm convicted of the need to stand with him this term.

We also sang Matt Redman's Piperesque song "Let worship be the fuel of Mission's Flame". Oh let it that be true... as we press forward to seeing God's people gathered from all nations in worship of God at last.

In the next couple of week's I'll speak twice from Psalm 67 - digging into this vision of the nations praising God and enjoying him and his rule. A work in which we are invited to participate - to bring about the obedience of faith in the nations (Romans 1v5). There's nothing bigger or better to be part of.

Let this be a year driven by seeing those from every people, tribe and tongue come to worship Jesus... a year of eternal proportions and perspective. Let Jesus be famous. His glory. His grace. His rule.


Live for Jesus. Speak for Jesus. UCCF: The Christian Unions

Monday, September 12, 2005

Events Occur in Real Time

I picked up a copy of Faster, by James Gleick in FOPP for a couple of quid a while back. His previous book was about Chaos theory, and I failed to finish that while I was at University studying Chaos (among other things)...I suppose I ran out of time....

Gleick traces the history of time and our changing attitudes towards it. Measures that once served us now crack the whip. Time is the one thing we can't save. It passes through our fingers irrevocably.... and the dream of regaining it still fascinates. Back to the Future is still one of my favourite films... Time is precious. Time is money. Time is something we can give each other. Yet the more accurately we can measure it, the less time we seem to have available for anything...

It struck me while preparing to speak on Genesis 1v27 last week that one of the key points in the much disputed Genesis 1 is TIME. People argue over the definition of "day"... but whatever it means - surely it tells us that God is the one who created a universe that has not just space (Genesis 2?) but also time. We live in God's world in time. (I think Eugene Peterson got me started on that line of thought).

Time obsesses us. My favourite TV show's key plot device is time. Its events occur in real time.... as they happen.... second by second. Just like life. Strangely gripping in the face of a terrorist threat. Yet, reality tv has been doing "events occur in real time" for years and that's nowhere near as interesting to watch.

I followed the cricket online with instant updates and digital transmission. Technology bridges the gaps of time. Space still separates us, but time does not. I can be intimately involved in the disaster in New Orleans, or the drama at the Oval... as it happens even though I'm not there. Once upon a time, I might not even have known about either for days, weeks or months.

What do we do with "the time we have been given"? What will I make of this life? And how do I compute that in view of the prospect of eternity, where time is somehow different?

Its bedtime.

No fuel crisis?

They say there's no fuel crisis looming but there were massive queues at the garage near us this evening....

South Central MTC

Something our church is involved in...
South Central Ministry Training Course.
Bible teachers who rightly handle the Word of God are essential in today’s Church. Within the congregation, home group, children’s club, youth group and amongst the elderly – indeed wherever the Bible is taught – we need people who can teach God’s Word in the power of the Spirit.

Biblical Theology, Doctrine, Bible Books, Practical Ministry... my only hope is that it also includes stuff on keeping spiritually alive... that it is APPLIED. There's more to ministry than understanding and skills.... My involvement with our RELAY discipleship training programme has shown me that. Above all we teach grace, grace and more grace... working hard to see God's grace applied to all of life. Sure there is doctrine to explain. Sure there are practical skills to learn. We need training. And we need it applied to life in Christ.

See also:
Cornhill Training Course (London)
Northern Training Course
NW Training Course
Network Training Course (SE/Wales)

Sunday, September 11, 2005

In the Image of God

So God created man in his own image,
       in the image of God he created him;
       male and female he created them.
Genesis 1v27


Lincoln Six-Echo is a resident of a seemingly utopian but contained facility in the mid 21st Century. Like all the inhabitants of this carefully controlled environment Lincoln hopes to be chosen to go to The Island... reportedly the last uncontaminated spot on the planet... until he makes a terrible discovery that everything about his existence is a lie... and that he is actually more valuable dead than alive...

The Island, one of this summers big blockbuster films. Its fairly mindless action, but there are some interesting ideas at work. Cloned beings, kept alive to be used as resources from which real people can draw at their time of need. A body that you can dip into for a spare kidney or an arm or a leg....

A world in which man plays god like never before... How did we get here? What are we? Are we here by chance? Are we the result of millions of years of mutation? Where does human identity come from? How should we treat each other? And how can we know these things?

This is the territory that we find ourselves in this morning. Almost inevtiably we strike these issues as we turn to the opening pages of the Bible. But we must let God set our agenda. We must let his word speak....



This morning we come to 22 words of God speaking. Twenty two words of information. God has news for us. God has something to tell us today. News about reality. News about how things really are. News that first informs us and then transforms us.

Earlier this summer I was in Bulgaria with my work. As we approached Sofia airport we were informed that it was now 3pm in Sofia. My watch told me that it was 1pm. My body told me the same. But regardless of my feeling, and all the prior information I had... it was 3pm. I could try to insist that it was 1pm but that would do me no good. I needed to conform my thinking, and then my action to reality. And the reality was that it was 3pm.

Today's word from God concern a time that we don't remember. They concern the true origins of our species. It's contraversial ground. But its not presented as just “Christian belief” but as reality. These words from God fly in the face of our education and the media. But God is speaking here. God is telling us who we really are. And such information should begin practical transformation is us.

This small part of God's word comes to us with some poetic structure. Much like the rest of the chapter in which it is found – the material is carefully structured. 22 words. 22 content-packed words.
So God created man in his own image,
       in the image of God he created him;
       male and female he created them.

The content is clear isn't it? Like the rest of this chapter in Genesis 1 its carefully arranged. There is structure and much repetition. In our 22 words we have the phrase “God created man” or “He created him” or “he created them”.... three times... twice we find “in his own image” or “in the image of God”.... and then thirdly we see a distinction... man and him, becomes “male and female.”
Three things this morning:
Firstly, “We are created by God”
Secondly, “We are created in God's image”
Thirdly, “We are created male and female”

“We are created by God”
The very idea of creation and God as creator sends some people into a frenzy of argument and confusion. But that is not the point here. God is speaking to us and stating that he created us. Spoken into existence by Jesus himself, as the Bible will later clarify.

God is the Creator. He created everything. And that includes us. Not simply Christian belief, but objective reality. Such statements, if true, must be universal. If God made everything, then no-one else did....

And that means that anything we've ever been told to the contrary is a lie. Scientists may have their theories but God has spoken. Believe it or not... we are created.

This surely means that we are not sovereign over our lives or other peoples. God is. A creator owns his creation. So we are accountable to God. He has rights over us. We are deliberately made by God to live for God, in deep knowledge of God. Made to bring glory to God. Made to delight in him. Made to enjoy and proclaim him.

Yet this is not the world we see around us... created... and yet deeply in rebellion against the creator. And the more we consider of Genesis 1v27, the worse it seems to get...

“We are Created In the image of God”
“you and me aint nothing but mammals, lets do it like they do on the discovery channel” so sang The Bloodhound Gang. Wrong. We're not just mammals – we're made in the image of God. Granted Genesis 1 doesn't really define the image of God - this really isn't it.

I used to work for a human resources company... People. Human Resources. Just a small step from the view that the film THE MATRIX proposed. People as batteries? Are we just energy sources? Are we just chemicals?
When I worked at the Natwest bank in the centre of Reading people routinely viewed treated me as a machine to achieve sales targets or process money... or a face to release their anger against. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

But its not just in productive ways that this happens. We find ourself in a time when people are also viewed as vehicles for destruction by some. Surely today's date sticks in our throat doesn't it? 9/11.

For years to come we'll remember today as a day when many lives were thrown away. Distant from us but drawn so close to us by the media. A day when wrong views of humanity led to the end of many lives. People as weapons of war? Wrong. Life is not this cheap.

And yet, in the four years since 9/11 – there are around 800,000 people missing from the population of the UK. Enough to create a city over three times the size of Reading... missing, aborted for the sake of a “woman's right to choose”.... aborted, in most cased, for for the sake of human convenience. It is tragic. Human life is not expendible. Life must not be so cheap.

All of thse stem from us disregarding what God has said. From a disregard of Genesis 1v27.... Life is not cheap. Applying this may be costly but it is essential. What will it cost us to give people basic dignity in the work place? What will it cost us to stand peacefully against those who would destroy life for political gain? What will it cost us to stand alongside those who see abortion as the only way out of a painful situation?

If we're not reduced to the status of animales, then we find refuge in self-help and ego massage.... Dirt or deity seems to be the choice.... People reduced to objects for glory or gossip.

God's design is not for the destruction of people or their deification. This is not the glorious picture of humanity we see in Genesis 1. Something has gone horribly wrong. We have our origins in God – we are not dirt, and we are not deity.

O, How we need forgiveness for our defilement of humanity. How we have destroyed and deified what God created... This is not what we were made for. The unfolding of God's story reveals that God always intended for us to live as those who truly reflect his image. Those who live in him.

A new creation is required to restore our image. A second creation. O how we need it. How we need Jesus Christ. Jesus who is God. Jesus who is the image of God. Jesus the true humanity. Jesus the rescuer.

Our only hope rests in our lives being hidden in Jesus. Only if God would look on him instead of us could we have any lasting life at all. Only in him will there be freedom from our apparent obligation to destroy each other and rebel against our creator. Only in him any relief from the disfiguring of God's image in us. Only in him is there any hope of us bringing glory to our Creator.

In Jesus, we're told in Colossians 3v1-4, we find new life. Where Jesus – The Image of God – becomes our life. A life where our rebellious life is dead. A life where Christ is our vision in life. A life where God's word again rules. A life where Jesus Christ again gets glory.

“We are Created Male & Female”
We are created by God. We are created in the image of God. And, finally, we are created male and female.

We live in a time where gender is a big issue. It is viewed as changeable. Flexible. A mere sociological construct. Not only is gender under fire but the nature of human relationships is a matter of hot debate. And even the church appears to be bowing to cultural pressures to endorse the opposite of what God says here....... historically when the creator was denied it was easy enough to see that male and female might also be denied. But now people are prepared to say “yes” to creator... but re-write the rest... and we find “created male and male” or “created female and female”... It is incredulous that people debate this isn't it? Basic biology makes it clear that men and women are diffferent.

We are in deep rebellion against our designer when we find gender denied and we find human relationships marked by mocking, by destructive humour and gossip... bickering.. arguing... hating... treating each other like dirt.... How far from the mandate of Genesis 1v27 we've come...

We desperately need a rescuer. A saviour who will free us from this and bring us to true humanity as we see it in Genesis 1v27.

We're often told that religion is about personal preference and private devotion. But Genesis 1v27 argues differently.

God's rescue of us to be his people will bring freedom from our old obligation to rebellion... freedom from sin... but this is not just a private matter... rather Colossians 3v5-21 tells us that it is fundamentally worked out in relationships... to God but also to each other.

Where the old was marked by hate, self-interest and argument... now love, bearing with each other and forgiveness are the norm. This isn't easy. The need to bear with each other should indicate that the new life we find among God's people wont be easy to live. You don't bear with the lovely but the unlovely... we bear with those we disagree with... rather than pushing forward our own agendas. God says in Christ we are free to be wronged and to love each other. Our new life plays out in the relationships of the people of God.

And it plays out in marriage. Wives submit to your husbands as it fitting in the Lord... Husbands love your wives and do not be harsh with them. I take it from this, and from my own experience... that the old fractured self is naturally self-serving not submissive.... naturallly hating not loving... naturally harsh not kind. Our new life plays out in the relationships of the people of God.

Ultimately this rescue plays out in our restored relationship to Jesus. God's created people no longer in rebellion, but rather hidden in Christ, reflecting the glorious image of God. Colossians 3v10 - the Image of God being renewed within us.... as we relate to God and each other.

In Christ, a new community – a new humanity no longer in rebellion against God. In Christ, a new community being transformed by the Holy Spirit to display the glory of God.

A new community where together ...whatever we do, whether in word or deed, is done in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.... the one who spoke and said:
...God created man in his own image,
       in the image of God he created him;
       male and female he created them.
AMEN.


Extra Reading Colossians 3v1-21

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Pure Sex



One of the exciting developments at FORUM2005 was the launch of PURE, a great new resource on sexuality by our own Linda Marshall. (Note, Linda is from Northern Ireland so it's prononouced something like P-yuuurrr)

It's published in a stylish hardback by the Christian Unions publishing house IVP Books who are making all the other course resources freely available on their website. The first course was at Nottingham CU a few years back when over 90 students gathered at 7.30am on a Monday morning for the first session...

IVP Pure Page

If you asked an evangelical Christian “Should the gospel affect every area of your life?”, they would undoubtedly reply “Yes!” … but in practice many young Christians aren’t sure about what this looks like in practice. In the area of sex and relationships, many are aware of “what they should and shouldn’t do” but actually aren’t very sure exactly why they should or shouldn’t. Pure aims to clearly show the reasoning why by starting from what God says in the Bible and applying that into our lives. Each session is roughly split into a Bible study section and an application section.

Why have a whole six week course on sex and relationships, why not how the gospel affects our work, or language, etc? This is an excellent question – and yes, sex and relationships is only one area among many where the gospel should have its way. But yet, as we read through the Bible and particularly the New Testament, we see that God’s Word itself puts a stress on how the Lordship of Christ should affect us as sexual beings. It is an emphasis the Bible itself has.

Experientially too, all of us will know of people, perhaps even ourselves, who have fallen away because of struggles in this area. We can all testify what a fight it can be to let Jesus be Lord in the world of our thoughts and deeds. Pure was born when we were approached by a Christian Union President who was dismayed at the number of people in the CU going out with non Christians, feeling bitter about being single or sleeping with their boyfriend or girlfriend.

Stylistically, Pure uses a variety of teaching methods to suit all learning styles … from up front didactic teaching, individual reflection, group work (mixed and single sex) and brainstorming. It is fast paced and so hopes to keep everyone’s concentration.

It's great to be a Christian!

Hello!

Home from RELAY and FORUM2005, the first a week in the depths of God's grace for discipleship in Colossians with 50 new Relay workers, and the second delving into Romans 5-7 with New Frontier's Terry Virgo - what freedom we have in Christ! Free from sin! Free from law! Much more to follow on that as I begin to digest it...

Meanwhile, thanks muchly to Trainspotter & Songbird for posting in my absence, I'll retain their able services for a while yet I think.

New Blog Spotted - Welsh Girl

Essential: UCCF FORUM 2005 Blogged:
It's Great to be a Christian! @inthesoure
It's been a while @edsfalliblethoughts
Forum 2005 @ cymraesbach

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Don't be bible teachers

I heard something very wise today when our church minister told me that the whole way he thought about his work changed when he realised he deeply loved the people in his church.

From that moment on he ceased to be a bible teacher, but a pastor who teaches the bible. A true shepherd, a lover of his flock who wants the best for them. A man who sees people, not projects and whose love drives him to serve them the best he could.

That kind of attitude reminds me more of Jesus and, sadly, less of myself. Why do I teach the bible? What is my motivation?

Let's not be bible teachers, but pastors who teach the bible.

I

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Looking for the good

Football doesn't get too many mentions on this blog, but England surely hit a new low tonight at Windsor Park. Congratulations to Northern Ireland who deserved their win and I'm off to look for the good wherever I find it. And as they say, if I don't find anything good, I'll look harder...

dzein dobre!



I had my first experience of year seven this year yesterday... One class were really dreamy saying please and thank you. The other year 7 group were barking!!!
There was one boy there from Poland who could only say yes, no and go home?!!! There were two girls who could not spell their own names and a boy who got up and started wandering around making loopy comments because he was struggling with work!!

Well I'm there for the duration to help these kids, whether they can speak, write, or understand...

Those that can't teach...

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Engaging culture - Elizabethan style

Shakespeare famously said 'all the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players'. But if he's right, what kind of show is going on?

Is it more like 'Who's line is it anyway?' where the LCive Anderson assigned the actors a particular scene and the actors ad libbed their way to wherever they want to go until Clive rang his bell to bring it to a swift end?

Or is it more like a Gilbert and Sullivan musical, where it was imperative that the actors did exactly as the direction said and stuck to the script else it wouldn't work as it was intended, as every word had a gravitas of its own and necessitated the its rhyme, on the next line, in correct time?

Hmmm

Saturday, September 03, 2005

#The wheels on the car go round and round...#


...Not when you are travelling on the M4 east at 7pm at night...I was in traffic for two hours because of an accident...my first real traffic jam, talking of Jam, i was called Treacle by a group of people in a car on the far side lane... I am sure that i didn't taste that sweet when i told them i was married...and in no uncertain terms that i was not available to be called anyone's treacle blondie...

I enjoyed listening to my chick music though and being almost inspired to write a song about impatience and sweet sickly substances....

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Habakkuk's got it!

My great relationship with a man who has been with Jesus for the best part of 2700 years began a few years ago when I was asked to speak on something from the Old Testament. I had quite a choice but in order to narrow it down I enquired of the erstwhile Mr. Bish to see what he thought might be a good idea. I wasn't dissapointed, as a day or so later a brief (and very good) outline of Habakkuk arrived in my inbox. And I was hooked! But there is one thing particularly that stuck out in my mind. We pick up Habakkuk speaking in 3vv17-19 (ESV)

"Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor the fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail,
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
GOD, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer's
he makes me tread on high my places"

I found in these verses something amazing, an attitude I didn't think possible. Habakkuk rejoiced while all around him things went decidedly pear shaped. Habakkuk's situation (which wasn't good to begin with in chapter 1) had got worse, and now he had the threat of a Babylonian invasion on the horizon if not already coming into view. But he rejoiced.

I didn't understand this. How could he be happy when his world was falling to pieces, I thought. But then the Holy Spirit helped me see where his joy was. He rejoiced in the LORD. He would take joy in the God of his salvation. He was in control and over all these things though it might not look like it. He was in His holy temple (2v20) and He would come again in person to judge and to save his people, just as he had done in the past (chapter 3vv1-16)

Habakkuk was filled with joy even in the darkest circumstances becasue his joy wasn't dependent on what he could see around himself. His joy was rooted in the faith which he had in the one true God. He could see past reality to the greater reality of a universe ruled by God who promised that the righteous would live by their faith (2v4). And Habakkuk had faith in his God, that in His wrath He would remember mercy (3v2), that Yahweh was his salvation (3v18) and his strength (3v17). Habakkuk's vision of God was the source of his joy.

This for me was the first step on the path of Christian Hedonism, for I saw what it meant to have joy in God. A joy that nothing on the outside can take away, and a joy that increases as I find out more and more of all God is for me in Jesus Christ. It's a joy that we need to work hard at cultivating with the strength God supplies, but that we don't need to manufacture. And as God is constant so our joy can be as well.

I'll be honest, I don't always feel wonderfully joyful about how good God is and I think that's becasue I lose sight of him and look too much to the world. I go after There are things in the world that promise me joy and fail me. I chase short term happiness becasue I feel it might be better but I get bored of. I place my faith in other things and not God and it all goes pear shaped. But every time I come back to him and see his supremecy in all things in my life and the world about me the joy comes flooding back.

Habakkuk got it. He found that joy came to those who had faith in an awesome God. I want to grow in my faith and know Jesus more so that when the fig tree does not blossom in my life, I can rejoice in the LORD and that when the fruit isn't on the vines in my garden I will take joy because God is in control and will be my strength. I want to get it and enjoy it too.