Friday, June 30, 2006

EMA: David Jackman - Preach the Word

David Jackman gave the inaugural lecture on preaching, an exhortation against theological lecturing from the pulpit, merely explaining the Bible... when God would have us PREACH THE WORD... This was Jackman doing John Piper's The Supremacy of God in Preaching (see for example: Expository Exultation @ BeginningWithMoses.org)

A challenge to follow Jesus' example. In Luke 4v16-32 we see Jesus preaching Jesus from the Old Testament... and we see some hardened... and some softened. Some filled with wrath, some with awe for Jesus. Jesus interprets scripture and he interprets the people... and he brings God's word to them.

Cotton Mather, puritan preacher...
"the great design and intention of the office of Christian preacher is to restore the throne and dominion of God in the souls of men"
...which he supports from Romans 10v15-15: how beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news? What good news? Romans quotes Isaiah 52v7:
"YOUR GOD REIGNS"
...the point of studying the Bible? The point of preaching the Bible? Answer: The re-enthronement of Jesus in the hearts of God's people.

We were exhorted to consider the culture, where nothing is new and people still have contempt for Biblical ministry... people downgrade preachinga nd their expectations of it... the calling to preach is downgraded... and the preacher is downgraded.

But we must preach the word. And that doesn't mean cool observation about God's word but requires passionate hearers of God's word... letting the Bible speak not speaking about the Bible. The Church is not a Christian University, it is a field hospital... not a training seminar. Are our people being fed? And with this serious task in view we were challenge as to whether our diary reflects the high priorities of preaching and prayer for Christian leaders?

I will also write up notes from John Piper's two talks, firstly on risk is right and second on sustaining grace. Both were outstanding expository exultation... preaching the word... enthroning Christ in our hearts again.

Series : Ephesians

The Spirit-filled Church

Series: Little book of God

A series of posts one per short book of the Bible:

Look at the world from a different angle

Andy taught me to encourage the good wherever you find it... and if you can't find it look harder.

Recently Becci started a trend of getting people to look for something cool every day... and many have followed.Meanwhile Funky Pancake is unstoppable in his eye for the mundane.

Now, Dan Hames and Lindsay Langdon may be cheating (from the 365er's perspective)... but its hardly a crime to be thankful for 150 things... in fact its commanded that we cultivate thankfulness! Worse things could happen than for the blogosphere to give itself to looking at the world from a different angle, with thankfulness to God.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

EMA

So, today was my first ever trip to the Evangelical Ministry Assembly. I'm too tired to blog it in detail now... but suffice to say there was lots of good stuff. Unsurprisingly the talk highlight was John Piper on Venturing in Ministry, or in other words, why RISK IS RIGHT. I will blog my notes on that at the weekend. Other talks were given by Peter Adam & Simon Manchester, along with David Jackman who gave his version of Piper's The Supremacy of God in Preaching.

Meanwhile I caught up with Rich Carding, Jon Hobbs, Steve Casey, Olivia Dunigan, Dan MacLeod, Paula Love, Adrian Reynolds, Ant Adams, Marcus Honeysett, Ben Mandley... met John Gillespie and several others, and saw vast numbers of other familiar faces from a distance. At one moment Rich and I found ourselves sat on the balcony amidst Piers, Marcus, Graham Beynon, Ant Adams and Richard Coekin...somewhat above our station... An added bonus was running into Anna Mackenzie whilst exiting the venue at the end of the day. Nice to be in the company of gospel-loving people on a sunny day next to the gerkin...

Seeing Derek Cross and Marcus there leads me to think about EMA in comparison with my experience of the Newfrontiers Leadership conference last summer... (are we three the only people to have been at both?) I suppose the wideness of the gathering means it doesn't quite have the same all together "family" feel ...and there isn't quite the same exhuberance in worship... but nonetheless very refreshing and Jesus-exalting, particularly thanks to the ministry of Dr. Piper... now if someone could get CJ Mahaney (Newfrontiers 2005) and Piper together over here... that'd be quite something... dangerous probably given the deep passion that both have to preach the word, exult Jesus and see God changes lives!

More notes to follow... and I hope and expect that the likes of Ant Adams and Adrian Reynolds will blog their reflections... along with any other bloggers who happened to be in the crowd.

Two sinners under the same roof



Martyn Lloyd-Jones:
"“We are always to think of the married state in terms of the doctrine of atonement”
Can't really capture four years in a few words, especially at this time of day. Instead these are some of the words that played as Em arrived:
"Sing your songs of freedom
Praise the God of heaven
Love that never fails me
Jesus' blood, Jesus' blood"
-- Martin Smith

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Three Course Meal

Spent a couple of hours this afternoon trying to unpack Romans 9-11 with a group of students at Reading. Hard on the mind, hard on the heart... tasty lessons in God's grace and glory. About 6000 words of me, interspersed with questions and discussion. My side of the conversation here...

The Doctrines of Grace - Romans 9-11 (PDF)

...and now I'm tempted to follow that meal with some of the coffee mountain of filter coffee that my lovely Relay workers bought for me yesterday. And not just fairtrade coffee, but M&S fairtrade coffee... Apparently, Hoops has rarely seen me without a cup of coffee in my hand... hard to believe.

Elsewhere in the blogosphere:

Monday, June 26, 2006

Amen

...all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory... - 2 Cor 1:20 - ESV
This summer we've asked all of next year's Relay to read John Piper's The Purifying Power of Faith in Future Grace. Essentially a 31 day course in Christian Hedonism. I read the book a few years ago and thought I'd re-read it myself ahead of the first Relay conference.

Last night I was reading the comments on the above verse (p104-108) - about prayer. Reversing the order of the verse (and the implication) we see that: We say AMEN through Jesus to the glory of God because all the promises of God find their YES in him. Piper highlights...
  • 1. All prayer seeks God's YES through Jesus - we pray in Jesus name.
  • 2. The give of grace gets all the glory - prayer glorifies the one whom we ask of.
  • 3. Prayer goes to the bank called future grace - we look to God's promises guarenteed by Jesus' achievement at the cross.
  • 4. Our AMEN is our YES to future grace - we agree that God's promises have been made and know that he can do what we have asked.
  • 5. In Jesus name is God's AMEN - Jesus is the guarentee of God's AMEN, God's commitment guarenteeing future grace.
The question is then posed - Are you living in the fullest enjoyment of God's Yes to you in Christ Jesus? Or to put it another way: Have you said yes to all of God's Yes to you? ... the foundation of future grace is Jesus Christ.

How much are my frail prayers shaped and defined by the promises of God. Without God's promises my prayers rise no further than the ceiling. With them, comes great assurance and confidence and joy. No condemnation, total assurance, grace that glorifies God, free grace to a wretched sinner. All these promises are AMEN in Jesus Christ. They are my hope of future grace.

As I've gorged myself in Romans 8-12 over recent weeks I've been refreshed and renewed by seeing the centrality of God's promises in Jesus Christ. They are my only hope and joy. Those promises wielded by the Holy Spirit against sin. God's Jesus-promises are the reason to read the Bible... not by obligation, not for rules... but for life giving God-glorifying promises. And all God's promises are answered in Jesus.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Reading Family Church Student Day

Today I've been speaking at the Reading Family Church student day. Their elders Scott and Sean have become dear partners in the gospel in recent years so it was great to share in the day with RFC.
Much fun and the opportunity to speak on:On Wednesday I'll be incorporating the Romans 9 talk into an afternoon in Romans 9-11. Gorge yourself on the tastiest meal: God's word of grace!

Further reading/bibliography:

Why people refuse Jesus

Romans 9 opens with tear-stained words of unceasing anguish at the unbelief of many. Paul teaches us that people don't refuse Jesus because God's word fails, nor for absence of spirituality, or christian background, or good works...

...neither do they refuse because the church is some how irrelevant and not seeker-senstive enough. Rather it is embarrassment of sin, and the scandal of the cross that leads people to refuse Jesus. Presented with a true Biblical portrait of Jesus Christ it is madness to refuse him... to refuse our maker who is most glorious... and who will openly welcome us, forgiving our sin by way of his bloody death on a cross. I maintain that there is no good answer to the question: Why not become a Christian?

Doug Groothuis, reviewing David Wells, Above all Powers:
"....[some] churches target specific groups and tailor their services to fit specific preferences. The underlying assumption is that “the chief barrier to conversion is sociological and not theological” (p. 289). By catering to certain preferences, and avoiding dislikes, people will naturally come to Christ.

One problem with this perspective, Wells objects, is that it is Pelagian; it assumes that people are not embarrassed by their own sin and scandalized by the Cross of Christ. Rather, non-Christians avoid the gospel because churches fail to fit their cultural sensibilities. Wells writes, Seeker methodology rests upon the Pelagian view that human beings are not inherently sinful, despite creedal affirmations to the contrary, that in their disposition to God and his Word, postmoderns are neutral, that they can be seduced into making the purchase of faith even as they can into making any other kind of purchase” (299). The answer to this theological defection, Wells avers, is a return to revealed truth: “What distinguishes the Church from this [consumer satisfaction] industry is truth. It is truth about God and about ourselves that displaces the consumer from his or her current perch of sovereignty in the Church and places God in the place where he should be” (303).
This is a matter for anguished prayer and earnest evangelism.

Friday, June 23, 2006

File dump my life



The Team in Washington, Sussex including half a Swede.
Sam, Debs, Kath, Hoops, Gareth,
Me, Nay, Jonny, Dan, Ben


Our team days were much fun... exploring the life of Moses with Gordon Showell-Rogers.... discussing Amy Orr-Ewing's Why Trust the Bible (we like it)... BBQ, night-walk... the match... prayer... swimming... pool volleyball... and much conversation.

On which, Kath from HoveActually records a conversation she and I had on the patio after my early morning swim on Wednesday, prior to breakfast: She reviews Douglas Coupland's jPod. We've both finished reading it. Essentially:
...if you like a bit of randomness and ponder what your life would be like on paper if someone dumped the contents of your laptop into a book and published it. I'd be pretty freaked I think...
The glories of Microserf life are history, the dotcom bubble burst... the meaningless is exposed... life is full of boredom and trivia, with the odd moment of depth and confessions of confusion and calamity.
...we couldn't quite figure out if it was a stupid book, a really clever book or just a really interesting concept for a thing and not really a book at all...

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Valley of Vision

Valley of Vision CD coming soon from Sovereign Grace Music. Samples & lyrics here. Some great looking songs based on puritan prayers.

Meanwhile having finished Numbers and moved onto Deuteronomy I find myself drawn back to Numbers 12v3 and surrrounding: "Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth" (NIV)

In what sense was he so humble? How did he become humble? The surrounding dispute appears to be over God's word and the ministry given to Moses... It seems that Moses humility is founded on his listening to God's word, whilst Miriam and Aaron's pride is over them wanting God to speak direct to them... rather than seeking to hear what it is that God has said. God's word should surely be considered with fear and trembling, with seriousness and true humility. Any thoughts?

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Love the Word

"The quality with which one engages in some endeavors can be gauged by its effects. For instance, concerning karate practice, you could say, "If you don't end up sore and achey, you're not doing it right." Or consider cooking: "If it doesn't make your mouth happy, you're not doing it right." Smooching your loving wife: "If it doesn't feel good, you're not doing it right."

Similarly, concerning Biblical scholarship: "If it doesn't increase your passion, and your love for God, you're not doing it right" (Psalm 119:138 [HCSB]; Jeremiah 23:29; Romans 12:11). When Christ is the teacher, the hearts of His listening students are set on fire (kaiomene) within them (Luke 24:32)."
Dan Philips at: TeamPyro. Last month Luke asked me to speak in September for our small group leaders on delighting in God's word, bring it on! One of many summer projects to work on... tasty!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Celebrating Freedom

I am a new creation, no more in condemnation
Here in the grace of God I stand.
My heart is overflowing, let my love keep on growing,
Here in the grace of God I stand.

And I will praise You Lord, yes I will praise You Lord,
And I will sing of all that You have done.
A joy that knows no limit, fighting sin by the Spirit,
Here in the grace of God I stand.

© Dave Bilborough - with modifications
(For the musicians, play it chilled out and slow with conviction)

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Convergence

Sam Storms: Convergence
(2006, Kingsway, UK Edition)


Pro's
  • Charismatic Calvinism rocks - how can you take the Bible seriously and not be both?
  • Good interaction with Ian Stackhouse' The Gospel-Driven Church - some critical but mostly positive
  • Finding the best in Charismaticism and Calvinism!
  • Lessons from Jonathan Edwards' Religious Affections
  • Sam Storms: Christian Hedonist
  • Better than Jack Deere's Surprised by the Power of the Spirit; both in argument and readability.
  • Warmth of affections and seriousness about Scripture
  • Helpful teaching about impressions from God, and very clear on testing by Scripture
  • Don't respond to abuses by prohibition but rather by right Biblical use

Con's
  • Several of typos, at least in the UK edition... e.g. Psalm 19 that should say 119, Joy "expressible" that should be inexpressible...
  • Will the cessationists Storms is writing to read this book? And are there all that many cessationists around these days?
  • Mostly deals with opposed stereotypes - maybe too much caricature?
  • Its more of a letter to Orlando than to Anaheim, that is Storms seems more concerned to make Calvinists charismatic, not to show charismatics that they should be Calvinist - and that would be a very helpful book to have - particularly since in the UK outside of Newfrontiers most Charismatics appear to be Arminian - it could be argued however that One Thing would lead Charismatics to Calvinism.
This book has the potential to be very helpful to the UK church, much as his One Thing (Desiring God made easy to read) has.

See Enjoying God Ministries for more information. Finally, remember that the man who wrote the doctrine of Romans also spoke in tongues more than anyone at Corinth.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Would You Rather?

From Marcus Honeysett, Finding Joy, IVP 2005, p53:


In this first diagram the sinful person on the left wonders how he can ever be good enough for God. He is taught that he needs to perform well and do good works so tat God will be pleased with him. He tries to put this into practice in Christian living. Unfortunately it doesn't work, because law has now power to produce good in us, so he wears a mask of works in order to be seen to measure up, but he knows no joy.



In this second diagram the sinful person wonders how he can be good enough for God and hears that, because of the death of Jesus, God will accept him freely by grace. In his heart he humbles himself, asks God to forgive him. He goes on to live as a Christian because he expects to recieve all the benefits that flow from God's grace, through the cross of Jesus. He know sure hope and the joy of realizing Jesus has done everything he cannot do for himself.

These two people could well appear quite similiar on the outside... but could not be more different. The second is costly. It means confessing your sin and honestly vonfronting the fact that you can never be good enough for God and admitting that you are totally dependent on him and his grace. But it is the only way. And it is the joyful way.

Would you rather slavery, or freedom?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

FREEDOM!

(Romans 8:1-17)

Oliver James wrote in The Times, about Big Brother.... What is the most common reason given by intelligent adults for watching Big Brother or its Celebrity sibling? The self-deceiving spiel is prefaced with “I know its is rubbish, but . . .” Having made this caveat, the speaker feels licensed to spout any old nonsense. Then comes “there’s just something fascinating about it”: the person simply does not know why he/she does it...

The article was followed by a debate asking "Does watching Big Brother make you feel guilty?" - Would you use the preface: "I know its rubbish, but...." An honest reader replies - "Yes, watching Big Brother makes me feel enormously guilty, a complete waste of my time."

Some mundane, trivial or absurd things make us feel guilty... some things more meaningful.... we might feel guilty for past mistakes... failure to meet our standards or other people's expectations on us.

And what about Christians. I wonder what response we might get if we asked around campus - "Do Christians make you feel guilty?" - In my first year at Uni I was sat in the kitchen. One of my housemates came in, swore and then noticed I was there... and so he felt he should apologise... Having a Christian in the room made him feel guilty.

At that point, very early in my Christian life I can't say that my language was much different to his... Others would certainly say that the church makes them feel guilty. Scared of being exposed or judged. Church and the like are avoided so that feelings of condemnation can be avoided.

It bemuses me when those who aren't Christians dress up to come to church meetings – to impress us? Or God?

And if we look at the media the stereotype Christian is miserable and self-righteous... and the stronger their convictions the worse it gets... All of which is rather strange when we open the Bible and see the words: "There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus".

Christian life as told in the Bible is free from condemnation!!! Not because we're good enough for God, quite the opposite in fact... Christians - according to Romans 8v1 can consider themselves not condemned by God... why then do so many Christians feel condemned? And why do not Christians not feel condemned.

Ours is an age, just like every other, where everyone presumes that good people go to heaven... and everyone thinks that they are good... both of which are so tragically wrong.

Before we look to Romans 8v1-17 we must look back and feel the huge weight backed up behind this great promise in 8v1. We must ask "what is the therefore there for".... why are Christians “not condemned”.

It's the second huge Therefore, after 5v1, with another to come in 12v1. Pausing to take in the great vistas of what God has done, and drawing out the implications.
We begin with God's revelation in Jesus. Wrath-revealed, Yes, Jesus “meek and mild” is the revelation of God's wrath and righteousness.

Contrary to popular opinion whilst Jesus speaks much of love and forgiveness, he also speaks more about hell and judgement than anyone else. As judgement is revealed all humanity is left without excuse for sin. No room for excuses... no room for protests of innocence... no room for boasts... no more feeble excuses. The good news of Jesus says: let every mouth be silenced.

Everyone stands condemned not just for the sin we've done, but also utterly infected and corrupted by sin by being part of Adam's race. But, in chapter 3, we see that God put forward Jesus to bear that wrath in our place... and so, 5v1, we are justified by faith, gaining peace with God... So after seven chapters of glorious doctrine comes a majesterial statement of life, 8v1: Christians are free from condemnation. What lavish grace! So let us turn to 8v1-17... seeing what God has done in Jesus... and how we are now to live.

What God has done in Jesus (2-8)

God sent Jesus to condemn sin
By sending his son in the likeness of sinful flesh he condemned sin in the flesh. What does that mean? It doesn't mean that Jesus came and said: sin is wrong. Though Jesus would affirm that. No, it means that God sent Jesus so that sin could be condemned. So that sin could be punished. How? Sin must be punished by God. Yet we presume we'd be spared – aren't we good enough?

But Paul says in v3, God has done what the law couldn't do. We have a sinful nature and so we can't be good. As hard as we might have tried to be self-righteous our feeble efforts were futile. And most of us never tried all that hard in the first place.... We could not and would not clear ourselves of condemnation.

So as things stood we were on death row for our sin – standing condemned for what we'd done. But then God sent Jesus to be condemned in our place. He didn't deserve to be condemned. And so he took our place on death row under God's judgement.
Therefore, sin could be condemned – without us being condemned. And so we are called to stand in Jesus without condemnation. Because the punishment for our crime has been paid – God has no charges against us any more. Free from condemnation!
But God did what we could not do. God sent Jesus so sin could be condemned – not in us, but in him.

Our sin can be condemned in us, in which case we are condemned. Or our sin can be condemned in Jesus Christ, in which case we are free from condemnation! As the great hymn, Rock of Ages says:Not the labour of my handsCan fulfil your law’s demands;Could my zeal no respite know,Could my tears forever flow,All for sin could not atone;You must save, and You alone.

Romans 8v1 declares that anyone who is a Christian is free from condemnation. God has no charge against a Christian because of what Jesus has done. An objective concrete event in history. Done.

It's like American Samoa, or perhaps Wales being told before qualifying begins that they've won the world cup... they couldn't win it ever, and they don't need to try. Similarly, Adrian Warnock says: If you were in court and the judge declared you not guilty, you'd not stand there protesting your guilt... you'd go andtell everyone that you'd been acquitted.

Yet we struggle to believe it? God has done what we could never do: Rock of Ages, again.. Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to the cross I cling; Naked, come to You for dress; Helpless look to You for grace; Foul, I to the fountain fly; Wash me, Saviour, or I die.

What we do in Jesus (9-17)

How then do we live? Christians still sin? But we're free from condemnation... what are we to do?

v9-11 Spirit-filled life
Firstly: All Christians have the Holy Spirit, they're Spirit-filled.
v9. Paul says the Romans are not in the flesh – our sinful nature is not our life.
Rather we have the Holy Spirit. And even more boldly, he says that if someone does not have the Holy Spirit they're not a Christian. The Not Condemned have God living in them by the Holy Spirit. Christians are Spirit-filled people.

v12-14 Spirit-led life
Secondly: Christians owe sin nothing, they're Spirit-led. v12. Christians are not in debt to sin. Rather – he says implicitly in v12, we're obligated to the Holy Spirit. So there is no excuse for a Christian to sin. No compulsion to sin. The door bell rings, and sin is at the door. We don't have to open it.

And if we do we can't blame someone else, or our circumstances... it was simply our sinful decision – and we should repent. But we're not condemned for our sin. Instead, v13, by the Spirit we are to kill sin... v14, as sons of God. And it should be like Father, like Son. God always goes for God's glory, so should we. Why choose junk when you're offered jewels?

Look at v14, This image of being led by the Spirit is about being led to war. v13, led to kill sin. The “not condemned” live in a state of war. Sin is an ever present enemy to be killed. Sin doesn't condemn us anymore – Christ is our righteousness: Hallelujah! But sin is out of place in our lives – it doesn't belong and must be killed. But how?

We don't kill sin with law. Law keeping is a dead end. Law was a dead end to escape condemnation... because the sinful nature keeps us from keeping the law. Law is also a dead end to kill sin. Many fall into the trap of thinking that we're saved by grace, and then we should live by law.

American Samoa, World Cup Winners find themselves in the Finals... but even then they've won - they don't need to now start trying to deserve the cup... its theirs already

That produces miserable Christians. People whose lives are not marked by the victory of “no condemnation” but rather by joyless failure and endless comparison games. It might look holy to be a rule keeper but in reality it is sin – trusting in our own efforts instead of God's grace.

But, if not law, then how? Notice: there are no imperatives here. But there is the truth about God. There are God's gospel promises! Promises such as 8v1. Promises about the freedom we now have.

John Bunyan said of the Bible - “This book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this book” Not because it is a book of rules. No – because its a book of God's promises. Promises centred on the Cross of Christ. And as John Stott has said: “The cross is the blazing fire at which the flame of our love is kindled, but we have to get near enough to it for its sparks to fall on us”

When Em talks about our the flowers in our garden she talks about how she has killed them. But she hasn't really – she's ignored them and they've shriveled up and died. Sin is like weeds in a garden. Weeds don't just die. They have to be aggressively attacked. And the best way to do that is to fill the garden with flowers so there is no room for weeds. As John Owen said “Be killing sin, or sin will be killing you”.

Our lives must be intoxicated with the grace of God. Led to war by the Holy Spirit by obsession with the promises of God. Hear these words from John Piper: “Jesus is glorified when we kill sin by the Spirit, that is, by hearing and believing the promises that he brought and secured by his own blood”. And so Christ receives “double glory” - being our righteousness & working it in us.

Saved by grace... live by grace... the free don't give their body to sin anymore... they give it to enjoying God. Yes I said enjoying God. Christian life is supposed to be free with fullness of joy in God. Do you know that life?

v15-17 Spirit-crying life
Lest you think this is all easy... look at v15-17.We are also those who cry by the Spirit: “Abba, Father”. Abba, the Hebrew for Father... Not the sentimental cry of a child, but the Christian echoing the desperate cry of Jesus on the cross - “Father!”, “Father!” - the desperate cry that knows the terrible offense of sin...

Not the cry of the embarrassed Christian who made a fool of themselves by sinning – that is pride. Rather, the cry of the one who knows the sewer of their own sin... and the glory of the God they have defamed.

As children of God we're to live like Jesus – in every way. Every way but one: Jesus never sinned, so he never repented. But we sin, and so we must continually be repentant... turning again from sin to enjoy God.

Killing sin with the Holy Spirit isn't easy – we will often cry desperately:“Father”. Hear the words of Jerry Bridges: “Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God's grace, and your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God's grace”

There is now no condemnation! Whatever you do. No condemnation! We can't be too bad – we were never good. Our freedom from condemnation has nothing to do with how good we are: its based on Jesus being condemned in our place for our sin.

God did what we could never do. And Jesus faced the ultimate suffering on a Roman cross to achieve that. In v17 we're told that Christian life is conditioned on suffering, provided we suffer... everything patterned on him.

Our suffering is unlike his though. He suffered so we would not be condemned. Our suffer is not to escape condemnation, but because we have. Pursuing joy in God never means a comfy life. Instead it means abandoning my preferences to pursue God's in whatever situation I am in. In lectures and exams... with friends and family... on holiday or in work.

Christian life is for those who know they would be condemned; but for Jesus. Christians are not the nice and decent. Christians confess “Jesus Christ is Lord”... they say openly “I am a wretched sinner” but “I am not condemned!” we say “I am free” we say “I now reign in life by grace”

So, how will we live together as a mission team on campus in the light of this?

Firstly – let freedom be our message! Not joyless and condemned... but let our message be of freedom in Jesus! Secondly – let us not tolerate sin. We wont fight sin by law but lets fight it by the Holy Spirit. Let's not tolerate gossip and self-righteousness, nor lust or selfish-ambition. Let's not tolerate it in ourselves, nor lead one another into sin. Our relationship are battlefield for sin, but they can also be an arena where God's grace can shine.

As the free let us urge one another on with God's promises. Let's keep one another close to the cross... saved by grace, to live by grace... reveling in God's promises.. believing God's great gospel promises: Chief among them this: Romans 8v1, “There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”

See also Adrian Warnock, on this passage

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Power of the Cross

This CD of the worship from the Newfrontiers Leadership conference last July is excellent. As with all Newfrontiers CD's its packed with brilliant songs - particularly new songs like O Church Arise, The Power of the Cross. Scarily I think I'm in one of the crowd photos in the sleeve...

The songs we sang fitted exactly with the superb teaching of the week from Terry Virgo, CJ Mahaney and others... loved it last year particularly sharing fellowship with Marcus Honeysett, Derek Cross, Sean Green and Scott Taylor. Shame I can't make it this year... 2007 perhaps...

Get the CD from Newfrontiers Website

Also picked up Sam Storms' Convergence, the journey of a Charismatic Calvinist. A man after my own heart. I'll review it when I've read more than 40 pages! Thus far, a fair bit of biography with a promise of exploring the common divide between the Word and the Holy Spirit.



"It's not enough to simply defend orthodoxy,
we need to do great exploits for God"

-- Stephen Van Rhyn, Leadership 2005

Review: Confessions of a Reformission Rev

Generally speaking I've steared clear of the emerging church debates of recent years. I've not read Steve Chalke or Brian McLaren. Apparent trends in the church are all very interesting.. but here and now is often more pertinent. A month ago I had a slight change of heart, or perhaps just a desire to read something different. So, I picked up Carson's Becoming Conversant with Emergent, and Mark Driscoll's Confessions on the Amazon Marketplace.

I wont review Carson, only to say that its a refreshing view on postmodernism and on doing church in today's world. He has lessons for us to learn - not least that postmodernism might not be all we presume it to be.


Anyways, to Confessions of a reformission rev. To start with the bit that's caused much blogosphere controversy....(Challies et al) Driscoll's book tells this story of Mars Hill Church from start to today. Early on in the book we see him at work pastorally. I was struck by his honest struggles with doing pastoral work - and moments of not wanting to do it. He admits that people will not like his early pastoral style, but notes "deep down most other pastors think like I do, they just don't say what they think ..." (p60). For right or wrong he takes away the veneer of idealic pastoral work. Caring for people isn't easy, its painful.

Prior to this incident are some very astude observations on the importance of Christology. Everything depends on who Jesus is. And then we "labour with the exalted Christ" and "like the incarnate Christ" (p43). But there is one key area of difference. Unlike Jesus we sin. And therefore we have to repent, and repent, and repent...

Driscoll writes of the importance of solid reformed doctrine. "If you don't know what that means, the gist is that people suck and God saves us from ourselves. For more details... just accept a plain reading of Romans, particularly Romans 9-11" - (p85)

We also hear of Driscoll's work with McLaren and co. He speaks of his admiration for McLaren but says he's curious as to how he is doing "violence to Scripture in the name of pacifism". Ultimately they parted ways. "Though it was hard to part company with these men, I believe that convictions must override community, and we were not theologically likeminded" (p99). He writes with sure convictions but also with honesty and humility, happy to confess his errors and repentance.

Its a great read by a unconventional pastor who loves doctrine, who loves God... who wants us to read Piper and the like. As he talks about the growing interest in postmodernism in the church he reflects "...this is how a lot of my time was spent...(studying postmodernism) in the end, after muttering 1 Corinthians 1:20-21... I simply moved on to preach the bloody death and triumphant victory of Jesus. For my fellow young Christian pastors prone to jump on faddish bandwagons like I did, I would simply urge you to at least do your homework and see if you can find anyone wiser than Jesus to found your life and ministry on. If not, just stick with him" - (p206n10)

As iMonk says:
...give it to the people who dream about actually reaching the men of your city or town with the Gospel. They will appreciate every word.
This book excites me about building church on the foundation of sound doctrine. It excites me about the possibilities of church planting. And it reminds me never to pretend that all is well, or to imagine that I wont make bad mistakes. Nonetheless we can press on with Jesus.

iMonk - why Mark Driscoll bothers you, or not

Monday, June 12, 2006

The Church that shows God

We studied these chapters at the Relay conference last week. Maurice McCracken speaking. I suppose he might blog his scripts but here's some of my notes.

Session 1. 12v1-11 The Church that has the Holy Spirit; Spice up your life
Why study these chapters?
1. Why not! We can talk about "secondary issues"
2. Church matters! Now more than ever we must be committed to the local church.
3. Relay workers could be Corinthian, gifted and young people can easily assume superiority and be a real pain to the local church.

A. The Spirit acts on us to bring the Lordship of Christ (1-3)
This is the key mark of true spirituality. The Spirit is not at work if Jesus is not confessed as Lord. There is a challenge of selfishness and self-promotion vs. glorifying Jesus. Check: Is it my aim that people will confess hrist?

B. The Spirit acts in the church to bring variety (4-11)
The charismata are grace gifts. Service comes ahead of gifts. Gifts are for serving the common good. Serve not by saying "i can" or "i can't" but by trusting Jesus and serving where there is need.
The church has one creed, many gifts.

Session 2. 12v12-26. The Church that shows Jesus; I'm in the middle of a chain reaction
v12 - The church is Jesus... his body.
We're not all the same, and that's the point.
Those who act superior and claim not to know others have forgotten the gospel.
Some seem more important but all are needed.
God serve in the local church! How does the church model the gospel, how can I contribute to my church?

Session 3. 14v1-19 The Church that Works; love machine
Pursue love!
Build the church - v2-5.
Prophecy is better than tongues, because its intelligible.
Pro-tongues, but more pro-intelligibility. And no tongues in the gathering without interpretation. That includes "drivel in my own language" (DB)
The point of the gathering is to build one another up.
So, strive to excel in building up the church.
Building up happens through understanding.
Tongues & Prophecy were then discussed, considering the strengths and pitfalls of different positions.

Session 4. 14v20-40. The Church that shows God; God is a DJ
God is not a God of confusion but peace.
Grow up! In evangelism. "Being spiritual is being gospel" (DB).
Tongues make people say we're crazy, prophecy can bring conviction of sin.
"Our concern should not be maximum gifts used, but rather maximum sinners on their knees" (DA Carson)
Is my motivation to see people saved or to me wanting to benefit?
Church shows God by Order.
The trinity is revealed in the church.
The Spirit is shown by Jesus confessed as Lord.
Jesus is shown by caring for the body
The Father is shown by order in the church.
The Church is for showing what God is like; not for showing what I can do.

Session 5. ch13. The Church that looks like heaven; ooo heaven is a place on earth
There is church that is not like heaven - loveless. Useless.
Five gifts without one love is nothing.
"Love puts up with a lot from people!"
Why does love show heaven? v8 Love never ends.
"Gifts are an ongoing sign of our imperfection"
The church is like heaven (J Edwards), in heaven love is the only gift, and it renders all other gifts needless. The church shows God by showing love.

The Church is about modelling the gospel, so love other Christians
Love the church!

My blog-series on 1 Corinthians 12-14

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Numbers

Over the last week or two I've been working through Numbers in the company of Raymond Brown's BST. I've not yet finished, so these are some thoughts on the road...

Mo said I was brave when he noticed. He may have a point, but this is a remarkable book. Its notable for its title - Numbers. Hardly something that makes it appealing, unless like Rosemary you're a maths geek. Alternative titles are available however. One could call it something like in the wilderness or And God Said.

In the wilderness locates the events. These are the wanderings of God's people in the desert. They could have entered into the promised land, but they declined the opportunity. And then attempting to God in their own strength fell under God's punishment. And the inheritance would wait for the next generation.

And God said captures the events also. God is always speaking in the book. And everything rests upon whether or not they listen to what God says. Frequently they didnm't listen to his clear and simple words. I found myself thinking how stupid they were to disregard what God says. But then I remember that I also am a fool who easily thinks he knows better than God.

The book carries some strange events. Many die at God's hands for their rebellion against his word. Such events seem obscure and remote to us. But this is our God. This is our Creator, the one who spoke the Universe into existence. These are not words to be trifled with. He is not a God to be mocked, and yet so often I do.

Numbers sends me to the Word incarnate. The one who is the ultimate revelation from God. The one whose glory was revealed as he was punished in our place for a purpose. Not just to forgive us, or acquit us, but for the purpose of bringing us to God.

Being God's people, in God's place is a great hope, and yet we live in a generation that thinks otherwise. Pete Lowman reflects at bethinking.org:
...the news media do indeed reflect the world, but they reflect it selectively; the selections and prioritizations are based on assumptions ('these are the kinds of things that deserve to be recorded') that themselves constitute a belief-system. And by continually flooding us with summaries of 'how the world is' that are based on that system, they train us, day after day, to accept its scale of priorities. EU budget: important. People choosing heaven over hell, being 'born again', possibility of God calling a decaying UK very directly back to Himself, maybe even a last warning: marginal.
As Israel faced the prospect of going to battle for the Promised Land several thousand years ago it was daunting. On the one hand they had reports of its appeal, but also of the might of its inhabitants. They had God's promise that it would be their land, and yet they choose not to listen to his word... condemning themselves to his judgement, and to live in the wilderness... when they could have known glory and joy.

I continue to read what God says in Numbers... pray that I would listen. At the start of Relay 3 Anna reminded us that God is still God and the gospel is still true... and further, that God's Word is more sure than that the morning will come:
I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Of Fiction

Someone asked me last week if I only ever read theology. The answer is no. I was carrying a couple of theology books at the time, but that was because my lovely wife had claimed the fiction book I was reading for herself. Anyways, this is my current fiction reading list. I've just finished Saturday, Time Traveller's wife is waiting to be finished by Em....



Always open to tips for things to read next. Stories and imagination fuel the mind. It's easier to sit and watch TV but reading pays great dividends. I've always loved reading, since my parents first took me to the village library some 20 years ago. Books collect and fill up space, but I'd rather live in a crowded house, full of books than without them. Books let me learn from others, and they let me explore and adventure...

See also Book Club by a blogger who has experienced a broken metatarsal.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Relay3

This is a bit of a lazy post-conference post. I've been at Relay 3 this week. The final conference of this year's Relay programme, practicing Discipleship Training in a Student Context.



This of course is Nathan Burley...



Hot weather at Relay 3 required that we go and buy ice cream...



Arts Relay Simeon Pang, and Sarah Brown



A man full of joy, Ed Briggs...



A giant of a man, Sean Clokey



Sometime later, I'll post some thought on Maurice McCracken's talks on 1 Corinthians 12-14. They were excellent and it was a brilliant chilled week to reflect on God's work in the lives of the Relay guys this year... And in eleven weeks we return for Relay 1 2006-2007.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Enjoying the taste of life

Good Company, Good Art, and a Good Laugh by William Edgar.

"As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy." - 1 Timothy 6v17, ESV
"A third type of legitimate entertainment is the meal. My wife and I enjoy sitting down for a good meal, regularly. It’s not just the food, although that is certainly a gift (God could have given us pills!). But it is the fellowship, the conversation, the simple enjoyment of a moment away from the stresses of work. We have a friend in France who is not particularly fond of coffee, but she always has a small cup of espresso after the meal, saying, “c’est le moment du café qui compte” (it’s the occasion of the coffee that matters). Many of us don’t eat slowly. Meals are a bother. No wonder we don’t know how to enjoy le moment du café! In her delightful book, French Women Don’t Get Fat, Mireille Guiliano argues that you can eat well and stay thin. Diets and weight-loss programs don’t work for her, but simple, elegant meals with no snacking and lots of walking and just plain humanity are the most efficacious."

Life and matter are not bad. The things of this world are not to be avoided. This life however is not fit for purpose as a ground of hope. Rather, we put our hope in God, and enjoy all the good things he has given to us.

"They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life." - 1 Timothy 6v18-19, ESV

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Fighting with hearts, minds and bodies

Bob Kauflin reflects on worship at a conference:
Eric also asked me to comment on what we were doing as we sang. We didn’t want to assume that everyone would know what we were supposed to be doing. So after the third song on the first night I reminded everyone that we had come to New Attitude to fight. "What we are doing right now is fighting to trust in Jesus Christ. We are fighting to believe in God and not in ourselves. We're fighting for our hearts to find joy in what HE has done, not in what WE have done." The next morning we showed a video that combined pictures of creation with quotes from Job, and sang Laura Story’s, Indescribable, a song that exalts God’s wisdom, power, and beauty in creation. I then explained that while God’s eternal power and divine nature can be seen in the stars, they aren’t the only testimony God has given us of who he is. He has given us His Word, and ultimately His Son to reveal Himself to us. That’s why we don’t simply go out to a field to worship God. We sing songs that engage our minds with truth so that we understand His acts of creation and redemption more clearly. That in turn moves our hearts to love Him more.

The next morning I took time to explain how we worship God not only with our hearts and minds, but our bodies as well. He calls us to use our bodies to worship Him in all of life, not just when we sing, but that doesn’t mean we don’t use them when we sing. We are called to exalt God’s glory and greatness with our hands, feet, and voices. We then sang Matt Redman’s Dancing Generation and Martin Smith’s The Happy Song. We followed that with Grace Unmeasured, a slower song that exults in God’s multi-faceted grace. The result was truth-inspired passion that expressed itself in lifted hands, jumping feet, grateful tears, and joyful faces.

For those leading worship its really helpful to get an insight into the thinking of others who lead worship, particularly those with experience and clarity of thought that Bob Kauflin has. I'm struck by the level of thought that he's put into this. I expect a preacher to be well prepared for the 20-30mins of speaking he will do, a worship leader often presides over at least as much of the meeting.

Meanwhile Ceryn is enjoying listening to one of Bob's albums, Songs for the Cross-Centered Life, which is brilliant.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

JPod

Microserfs for the age of Google...


Here's one of my birthday presents, a bit delayed because its only not being published til Monday (although the nice people at Amazon got it to me today...)
The special edition of Douglas Coupland's jPod. One of 3000! Complete with massive box, hardback book and JPod figure. Thanks Mum & Dad.
Ethan Jarlewski and five co-workers whose surnames end in 'J' are bureaucratically marooned in JPod. JPod is a no-escape architectural limbo on the fringes of a massive Vancouver game design company. The six workers daily confront the forces that define our era: global piracy, boneheaded marketing staff, people smuggling, the rise of China, marijuana grow-ops, Jeff Probst, and the ashes of the 1990s financial tech dream. JPod's universe is amoral and shameless. The characters are products of their era even as they're creating it. Everybody in Ethan's life inhabits a moral grey zone. Nobody is exempt, not even his seemingly straitlaced parents or Coupland himself. Full of word games, visual jokes and sideways jabs, this book throws a sharp, pointed lawn dart into the heart of contemporary life.

Freedom from Quiet Time Guilt!

Greg Johnson writes: Freedom from Quiet Time Guilt (HT: Adrian Warnock)

"Imagine for a moment you’re meeting a Christian friend. “How’s your relationship with God going?” they ask you. “Well, I’m struggling with my attitude about my job—but God is teaching me to be content and to not gossip when people rub me the wrong way.” A silent stare greets the words, your inquisitor’s eyes staring you up and down. After a moment of awkward silence, the question comes again, “But how is your relationship with God?” Hmm. What wrong with this picture?

Perhaps this has never happened to you. But I’ve found contemporary Christians are often more concerned about my ‘relationship with God’ than with my relationship with God. Whose idea was it to define the sum total of my relationship with God as my devotional consistency? Your quiet time is not your relationship with God. Your relationship with God—or, as I prefer to say, God’s relationship with you—is your whole life: your job, your family, your sleep, your play, your relationships, your driving, your everything. The real irony here is that we’ve become accustomed to pigeonholing our entire relationship with God into a brief devotional exercise that is not even commanded in the Bible."

This echoes the thought I had looking at Romans 12-13 with the guys on Friday morning. Paul sketches out the obvious implications of God's mercy to us - and they're almost all about the way we relate to one another... lots of horizontal community application. Its the same in Ephesians 5 - being Spirit-filled is about how I relate to God's people... Encounter the gospel of grace... thats the way change happens!

On Friday afternoon, Luke and I were talking about some training for cell leaders this coming September.... our conclusion for these guys who lead Bible studies... what do they need? First we thought that we need to grasp the way that Jesus rules by his word (Mark 4) and secondly, about delighting in God's word. Skills aside, how can we teach God's word if we don't see it's authority and delight in Jesus in the word. Which reminds me I must get round to listening to Mike Bullmore - Psalm 119 - The Soul Satisfying Power of the Word

Friday, June 02, 2006

Start, run and finish


I'm reading Numbers with help from the BST by Raymond Brown. More reflections on Numbers to follow in due course. Brown illustrates at one point from the life of Adoniram Judson (9 August 1788 - 12 April 1850). He comments that Judson ministered in Burma for 5 years before he Baptised his first convert.

Five years... we're so quick to reinvent, change plans and give up. Judson ultimately ministered in Myanmar for 40 years and today there are vast numbers of believers in that nation. How we need to learn perseverance, and trust in God's sovereign election. This is helpful to me to remember as this academic year draws to a close, my sixth in contact with Reading University.

Over that time we've not shared Judson's experience - a number have been converted over those years - though there have been times of particular fruitfulness, and other times without. Fruitfulness should not inspire self-confidence, rather confidence in our saviour.. confidence that it is he who saves, in his time.
"Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me." - Colossians 1v28-29
All that is gained is by his work, for his glory not ours. The mercy of God should humble us. As CJ Mahaney write: “Humility is honestly assessing ourselves in light of God’s holiness and our sinfulness.”. Studying Romans 12-13 with Tom & Ed has reminded me again of that... the mercy of God removes all grounds for boasting and thinking of ourselves in anyway other than with sober judgement.
"But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God." - Acts 20v24
Four weeks to go until the end of this academic year... let us not slack off but rather finish our course, testifying to the gospel of grace. Let the word increase, and let God call more to become disciples!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Discovering Ireland.

Yeah, that was cool.
Last week we decided, on a whim, to book a 71 hour holiday in Ireland. From Shannon, to Limerick, to Cork, Kinsale, Blarney and Cobh. Very rested and relaxed.

But, some questions.

1. Was that Les Ferdinand in front of us in the check-in queue at Gatwick?. We weren't the only ones to think so. But, wasn't he playing in SoccerAid in Manchester the day before? And, what is an ex-pro footballer doing flying with Easyjet?



2. Is Kinsale at sunset the best place on earth?
Yes. No picture to show you. Largely because I forgot to pick up the camera that evening. But actually, it was better to soak in the experience than spend time digitising the memory. (Even if I'm doing that in words now)



3. Are people really that stupid?
With reference to watching people climb to the top of Blarney Castle, prostrating themselves before a bit of wall and kissing it. That said, we climbed up... did nothing... and climbed down again. Which probably looked a bit pointless. But I enjoyed it.



4. Are Damien and Sarah really that lovely?
Yes. To let us essentially invite ourselves to stay for three days with them. Very lovely people.



And we read the first 8 chapters of Esther, in the Cobh Bible Garden.