Thursday, August 31, 2006

Confessions...

Mark Driscoll is a failure. At least that what’s he wants us to see in his book ‘Confessions of a Reformission Rev’, which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading recently. But as we know, God uses failures to build His church.

Confessions is the story of how Mars Hill church (http://www.marshillchurch.org/) in Seattle, home of grunge, coffee and Frasier grew from a small meeting in the upstairs room of an existing local church to a group of over 4,000, which is still growing.

But if you’re thinking that confessions is just another church growth book, than you’d be wrong. ‘Confessions’ does contain some great tips about planting and growing a church from scratch in a particular social setting. Driscoll’s advice to pastors in his coaching corner sessions about knowing their congregation e.g. ‘shooting their dogs’ and know what type of animals are in their congregation are really great. These are complimented by some more less ‘faunae based’ engaging and well thought through discussions of ecclesiology and leadership and the solutions that Mars Hill came up with. You might not agree with Him, but it’s certainly provides food for thought, and give reasons for why Mars Hill is run the way it is.

For all it’s usefulness in church growth though, ‘Confessions’ is more than a how to manual; it’s also a story - a story of both the growth of a church, and the growth of a man. You can’t read this book and not see that Driscoll loves Jesus, and want other people in to love Him too. That’s why He started Mars Hill, that’s why He’s committed to the bible, and that’s why he works hard at being a Pastor, a husband and a father.

Driscoll though is also very open and honest that he does this work as a sinner, and he’s open and honest about the joys and the sorrows. He tells us about how good it was when things were going well and the church continued to grow and how they solved the logistic problems brought about by a growing church; how he had to protected his church from false teachers; how He’s grown in his ability to preach, how the church had grown, and how finance has been provided for things to happen.

But Driscoll doesn’t stop there. He doesn’t paint the picture that his church is a success because he’s a great pastor. He tells us about the way He’s been tempted; the times He’s had to make difficult decisions that he knew might upset people; the times He’s got it wrong, messed up and hurt; the people he’s had to work hard to love and the times he hasn’t; the difficulty of balancing being a father, husband and pastor, and the times he failed; and I found it both refreshing and compelling.

I think the reason for that is that though I know that is what being a Christian is really like, I often think that we’re alone in our struggles. But ‘Confessions’ shows me I’m not alone. And that’s very refreshing, because often we think that if we admit that we’re finding that ministry hard work, that we actually explained that passage wrong, or said an unkind word to that person that we’re useless. But in Driscoll, we see a man who has messed up but when he has in the light of God’s grace hasn’t given up.

‘Confessions’ also reminds me that I need to be realistic in my estimation of those who minister to me. And that’s a great thing to see, because I need to be reminded that church leaders are not infallible, but sinful human beings like me whom God has given a particular job to do. So I shouldn’t put people (who I usually don’t know) on pedestals of perfection, and neither should I be surprised when people who minister to me sin. Rather, I’m prompted to remember God’s grace to both them and to me in the death of His son, and just how glorious He is that He uses failures like Mark Driscoll, failures like you and failures like me.

Read this book. It’s very good.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Leave of absence

Tomorrow I'm off to Relay 1 for the fifth time. It's exciting to think we're welcoming a new year of Relay - recent graduates committing themselves to a year of discipleship in a student context. Imagining what God will do in their lives over the next 10 months is v.exciting.

The whole thing is about living and learning grace together... bring it on! Next Monday we're then joined on site by hundreds of students and the rest of the staff team for Forum, our national student conference.

In my absence I'm handing over the blog to my friend The Trainspotter. He likes to stay anonymous but is well worth reading. He's promised to deliver some thoughts on Mark Driscoll and from Luke's gospel.

What we have seen and heard

Earlier this year I preached for Surrey CU on Later this month I'll be returning to this part of scripture with Reading CU... not to re-preach this but to look at the events that followed it. These are my initial reflections.

What was going on - we had Peter and John and the beautiful gate calling a man to be healed in Jesus' name. Peter then preached and was hauled up before the authorities.

Think for a moment, why would this happen? How could any of God's people end up in front of the authorities for their preaching? One way is by being stupid, rude, foolish. That happens. Christians are sometimes really dumb and it gets us, quite rightly, in trouble. But that wasn't what happened here.

This was different. The Saduccees had Peter and John arrested for preaching the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus. They were ordered to be silent. Everyone had heard about the man they'd healed (in Jesus' name). It was undeniable. The only hope for the authorities in stopping Peter and John was to ask them to be silent. What did they say? We're just telling people what we witnessed... its undeniable!

And they're released. What happens next? They return to their friends. What would you do? Hide? Leave town?

They prayed. What would you pray? For peace? For favour with the authorities? For protection? Its their priority in prayer that I want to consider here. Two key things. First who they prayed to, and second what they prayed for.

Why is this relevant to us today? This is about the church under persecution. We might say we don't get persecuted in the UK so why is this relevant to us?
Brother Andrew tells the story of a meeting with a Romanian pastor. The pastor asked him - "Are there any pastors in prison in Holland?", receiving an answer in the negative, he was asked why... Andrew replied: "I think it must be because we do not take advantage of the opportunities God gives us". Then the difficult question: What do you do with 2 Timothy 3:12. Andrew opened his Bible and read aloud "All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted". Closing his Bible he said, "Please forgive me. We do nothing with that verse".
(Cited by John Piper in Future Grace)
Something is missing if we're not persecuted. I'm not saying "go looking for it". Nor generating opposition by being dumb. I'm saying God promises persecution if we're seeking godliness. It should be happening. And if we pursue godliness then we better know how to deal with what God has promised will follow that.

Which brings us to the way the church prayed in Acts 4:23-33
ADVANCE TO GO!

1. The Sovereign Lord.
They pray to the Sovereign Lord (v24). When your preaching is met by persecution that might not seem the obvious thing to remember about God. Wouldn't we often ask "aren't you sovereign?" rather than basing our prayer in the sovereignty of God. But they did. This is the Sovereign Lord who created the heaven, earth and sea and everything in them. The sovereign creator.

This sovereign Lord is the one who spoke ahead of time and then had his word fulfilled in the death of the Lord Jesus. The Lord who is sovereign over creation is also sovereign over the work that leads to new creation... headed by the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Jesus, "anointed" by God. Killed at the hands of those (Pilate, Herod and the Gentiles and Israel) who did "whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place". Everything happened as God planned in creation, in new creation... in the life of the church.

They ask of the Lord who planned and worked the death of his Son, they appeal to the one who did this. And they ask of him to stretch out his hand (v30). They ask for his power to be exercised. But not power to protect his people, nor power to prevent persecution. Their concern is elsewhere.

Some want to undermind the Sovereignty of God. Thinking that things such as the relational aspect of prayer are lost if God is utterly sovereign. However, it is only if God is Sovereign that we can pray at all. What use is a God who is not Sovereign? What help is the Lord if all things are not in his hands - we would only be talking to ourselves. A firm commitment to the Sovereignty of God must be our foundation in faith. It is the foundation of our hope, our security, our joy.

2. The Speaking Lord.
The Sovereign Lord is the who who spoke, through the mouth of David, by the Holy Spirit. And then they quote Psalm 2. That's a helpful reminder of the doctrine of Scripture - God speaks Scripture, through men by the Holy Spirit. God spoke in Psalm 2 to prophesy the death of Jesus (v27). God said that people would oppose Jesus. And now his people are likewise opposed. The opposition of Jesus was followed by his triumphant resurrection... what will happen to his people?

What do they ask for? They ask, v29, "look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness". To continue to speak with boldness? Well they certainly have boldness, they stood off against the authorities. What help do they need to do that? And why not ask for escape from the situation.

Remember how the book starts though. Jesus, whose Acts are told throughout the book of Acts, said that the Holy Spirit would empower his people to witness about Jesus. The Holy Spirit through God's people. Any speaking they have done has been God speaking through them. And they may be opposed, as Jesus was, but God would have them continue - and they are compelled to request power to continue to be bold. They could hide away but God's word must be spoken... the word must increase.

What happened next? v31. The place was shaken, like Sinai - God speaking to his people. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit (the power to witness) and continued to speak the word of God with boldness! The prayer was answered... what follows shows that the rest of their request for healings and signs and wonders was also completed in the name of Jessus. This was God's hand being stretched out.
And, v33, "with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all"
If we are to pursue a life of godliness, persecution should follow. Prayerfully let us be prepared. Let us call upon the Sovereign Lord to Speak through his people by the power of the Holy Spirit... so that we would testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.

Acts 6 tells us that as the word increases, the number of disciples increases. Prayer was an essential part of the apostolic ministry, as was the preaching of God's word. And Acts 4 tells us that a key focus of their prayer was seeking power for preaching the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. What will we give ourselves to? Not to seek persecution as an end in itself. Rather, let us also devote ourselves to prayer for power to preach Christ, and then to preaching Christ by the power of God.

That means we have to prioritise prayer together. Too often prayer meetings are booked in small rooms, declaring that they're not for everyone. Let us book big rooms for prayer together. There might only be a few people coming now, but that can change!

This means that when we pray we need to pray for power to preach. That doesn't mean you can't pray about work, or for healing... but our priority should be for God's power to give us boldness to continue to speak his word. The Holy Spirit is given for this purpose... what will we be saying without his empowering?

And this means that we then need to devote ourselves to proclaiming the word of God to people. Verbally explaining the good news about the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, carefully explaining the meaning of it. Take note of Voddie Baucham's words:
"“I don’t know when I adopted it, but my motto is ‘Speakers come from Radio Shack; I come to Preach!’ I believe that our unwillingness to use the term ‘preacher’ today is due to the fact that preaching has fallen out of favor."
Preaching has fallen out of favour and people invent ways to prevent it happening. It might come from Francis and Fraudulant Claims or from religious authorities who want the gospel silenced. The ways are various, but if the word is silenced there will be no new disciples... when the word increases, the number of disciples increases.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Dolphins swim against the currents*


I listened to these sermons from Phil Johnson a year ago. I'm convinced that knowing about church history is really important. History might sound dry but when you realise its about real Christian people who were contending for the gospel its actually life and death stuff, on an eternal scale. The faith, life and joy of God's people, and more importantly the glory of God.

The MP3's are big to download but worth the wait.

This is also well worth a listen: The Story of Calvinism


There are in the history of the church Men of Whom the World Was Not Worthy. Such people embody Titus 1:9:
"He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it."
They hold firmly to the Word, and they can instruct and rebuke with it. They know that error needs correcting, and truth promoting.

John Piper serves the church well with his biographies. And lastly, check out Martin Downes - Against Heresies. His latest quote:

"Heresy always affects morality,
if it's heretical enough"

G K Chesterton



* From John Piper's interpretation of Ephesians 4:14

Debbie Flood gets Silver

Great Britain's women's quadruple scull were denied their second successive World Championship gold when Russia pipped them to the line at Eton.

Debbie Flood, Sarah Winckless, Frances Houghton and Kath Grainger took the lead with 500m to go but could not counter a late Russian push.

From BBC News

Well done to ex-RUCU member Debbie Flood for adding this to her Olympic Silver from Athens. Also go look at the new RUCU website, launched today.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Testing, testing...

Meanwhile, Tim Suffield shares an honest reflection from a conference he's been to. I've felt this way, not recently, but it was something that besetted me for a while. I'm sure Tim and I are not the only ones to think like this...(are we?)

Basically I continually found myself thinking ‘I could answer that question better’ or ‘I could explain this more simply’ or even ‘that’s just plain wrong.’ Now, if you know me at all the last one won’t surprise you, although the previous two are perhaps newer. This bothers me. It frankly reduces me to fear and trembling. I shouldn’t be able to communicate theology better than these big famous speaker types, should I? I shouldn’t think that I can, especially if I can’t, should I? How do I act within myself if my aim is to gentley, graciously, lovingly, without self-importance and arrogance, and in fear of being wrong explain and exposit the scripture and point out what I perceive to be errors in others thought. How do I stop myself from denouncing people as ‘egalitarian synergists’ or whatever within my own mind?

One thought I have is that discernment is probably as much about discerning evidences of grace as evidence of error or poor communication.
This should lead us to be generous with preachers. There might only be something really small to remember, apply, live and delight in. But that's better than nothing. We should expect a lot, but also recognise that we all deliver real stinkers of talks from time to time . Our motives might be good but we just get it wrong. Sometimes that's because of lack of time, or lack of sleep. Perhaps because of something else going on in their lives this week. Sometimes because the preacher just couldn't figure it... desperate hours seeking the Lord in the study and still it just didn't come clearly. Any concern for good preaching surely has to be tempered by this - preachers are still sinners - aim for the best, but be generous, at least as generous as you'd want someone to be with you if you were in their shoes... that and a bit more.

Also charging up to the preacher just after a bad sermon is v.bad. It fails to fix anything, the preacher may be aware of his failings, and when you've just spend x minutes pouring your heart into serving God's people you're probably not able to objectively consider someone's rant against you. It'd be soul-destroying to recieve.

Secondly, I think we have to ask "what is the goal of preaching?"
Cotton Mather said it is about enthroning Christ in the hearts of God's people. That is best achieved by a preacher exulting over the text, proclaiming what it says with power and conviction. If someone's preaching of a passage brings to mind a clearer understanding of the same passage/topic then I need to apply it. I remember hearing my Father-in-law preach, about three years ago, a sermon that was true - he preached from somewhere in John's gospel but I reckoned he actually preached the point of something in 2 Corinthians. That's not ideal for the long-term equipping of God's people and the anchoring of truth in them... but it was still "true".

We should pray for ourselves and for our preachers that when preaching happens we would listen well and they would teach us well.

Thirdly, we do need to test what preachers say.
It's not enough for me to just accept that a preacher said something and swallow it. I should reject error in preaching - I can't apply error about God and be glorifying God. But, in the process of spotting error I must be calling to mind the truth - or recalling it, or searching for it. That truth is something I can apply to see Christ enthroned again in my heart.

There is a challenge for every preacher to be accurate and clear in our communication. The task we're engaged in should be enough to makes us tremble. Teaching God's word is a high calling with high standards of accountability to God. We shouldn't let ourselves get away with poor communication, nor with error. I find myself thinking that I probably preach too often - not leaving myself enough time for careful, prayerful preparation - not just to understand the passage, but to surgical application, and the kind of communication that will make the Word stick - its a tragedy that most of us can't remember a sermon soon after it's happened. And that often includes the preacher.

Fourthly, a technically good exposition of a passage is not sufficient.
A couple of years ago in my arrogance I found myself sitting in church writing my own notes on whatever passage the preacher was preaching. Smuggly I thought my notes better than his sermon. He'd of course spent hours in his study, on his knees over the text but I figured my cursory glance saturated with unteachable arrogance was better. On occasions I may have found a better angle - but I know I rarely allowed it to search my heart or be applied. When Paul tells Timothy to be an unashamed worker who handles the text rightly I don't think he has historical-grammatical method in view, but a character that does not gossip, quarrel or engage in godless chatter... the kind of thing that destroys God's people. My arrogance failed to show respect for my pastor, it failed to listen carefully, it failed to be humle, it failed to apply God's word well.

So, Tim, you're not alone. How you're feeling probably isn't good. Repent, pray that God helps you to love his Teachers more and listen to them humbly.

Charismatic Headcases?


Dan Edelen has some wise words for those of us who call ourselves charismatic: How not to be a charismatic headcase.
Here are the headlines:

  • 1. Stop being so undiscerning
  • 2. Stop letting immature people minister to others "charismatically"
  • 3. Stop overemphasizing the gifts and the people who have them
  • 4. Stop living in a charismatic ghetto
  • 5. Stop practicing magic
I like Mark Driscoll's definition of himself as a charismatic-with-a-seatbelt. (So long as that seatbelt is the Bible)

Friday, August 25, 2006

Contending for our all

In case for some reason we weren't convinced as to our need to contend for the truth of the gospel today... let us come and weep with Mark Driscoll. PCUSA decides to worship: Rock, paper, scissors. And pray that those who take Jesus' name for themselves would return to the truth.

We have to keep contending for the gospel, reforming the church back to God's revelation of himself and his story in the Bible. The capacity of our sinful hearts for deceit is alarming and heart-breaking. Calvin was right, the heart is a "factory for idols". How we love to supress the truth about the knowledge of God...

Our God is a great BIG God (6)

Previous post: Romans 9v10-13: Election is not by works.

3. Election is not unjust (Romans 9v14-18)

Someone once said that if you find yourself naturally asking the questions scripture raises, as you read it, then it proves you're understanding it. v14 presents one of the ultimate questions to test our understanding... to test our hearts. If people get saved because God says, and based on nothing in them...and consequently others don't get saved for the very same reasons... Then isn't God unfair... isn't God unjust. That's precisely the question raised in v14. Is there injustice on God's part? How can he save some and not others.
Warning! It is dangerous to plead for justice before God... why? Justice is what the innocent plead for... and Romans has made very clear that we are not innocent... Furthermore, its quite right to say that the real scandal of the cross is not that God doesn't save everyone, but rather:
...the scandal is that anyone gets saved at all.
That's a scandal! That's what was at stake in chapter 3 of Romans... God appeared unjust. Not because he didn't save anyone, but because he was saving people – and appeared not to be punishing sin... until Jesus was punished for our sin. The word of God puts us in our place – not trusting in ourselves...never letting us think we deserved to be saved.

And so to his argument in v14-18. This is perhaps the climax of the chapter... though v19-29 are vitally important too. Read again. Climax? Yes. At first glance its a simple repetition of the previous section.
Look: Paul said: God saves who he wants to save...
We said: isn't that unjust?
Paul said: God saves who he wants to save...
But dig deeper. He's quoting the Old Testament and the key lies there; in Exodus. God's purpose of election.

God has mercy, freely. Just like in Exodus 33. Its the aftermath of The Incident with the Golden-Calf in the Desert. Moses is pleading for God to first save Israel.. and then to be with them... This is something to revel in. And something that ought to be seen for the scandal it is. The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Israel personify what it means to turn from your Creator to worship creation. And yet The LORD is shows mercy not wrath to Israel.

And this is the foundation of Romans 9! The free and outrageous grace of God. We are like Israel, deeply deserving of wrath for committing the same offense as they did - suppressing the knowledge of God. As James Jordan has said:

James Jordan said:
"The purpose of ethics, etc., according to Romans 1 is to help man escape God and suppress all knowledge of Him. Rebel-lious man never tries to reach God."
He is not coerced by us. He does not show us kindness because of our works, race, heritage, efforts, desire. Out of the essence of his character he is gracious. It seems outrageous. Human beings deserve wrath, and God is not swayed by anything in us.... and yet he shows mercy. Why?

In Chapter 33. Moses says – God go with us or we don't know you favour us and neither will the nations. That is to say – God your reputation with us and with the nations is at stake. In Chapter 32. Moses says- God saves us or we'll think your promise failed, and the nations will mock you. That is to say – God your reputation with us and with the nations is at stake.

In both cases God acts to show mercy to whom he will show mercy. Not because it's deserved. Its not. The crimes of Exodus 32 were heinous... God's people rejecting the worship of their Creator and Saviour to worship creation... much like the charges against us in Romans 1. But God shows mercy for his fame and among his people and the nations.

God hardens, freely: The second quote is from Exodus 9 and is to defend God hardening some. More straight forward. Pharaoh is hardened so that God will be fame worldwide. The idea of God hardening people is difficult for us to swallow but here we gain window into the mind of God. When God hardens it is for his global glory. Whether we can understand how hardening can glorify God, it does. His word says so.

How then is that righteous? Think. What does it mean to be unrighteous? It is to reject God's glory. What is it to be righteous? It is to make God's glory famous. God's purpose of election is the definition of righteousness! Making himself famous!

God isn't coerced. God is freely sovereign in grace and hardening. And when he does it is so that he will be famous among his people, and among all nations. God's purpose in election is God-centred... spreading his glory.
Implications?
God is God-centred! And further, we too are to be God-centred. God saved us in an act of God-centredness, and that is the purpose of our lives in him. Are we obsessed with selfish-ambition, satisfaction with sex or shopping, indulging our sinful nature... or is Christ our obsession in all things.... doing all things to the glory of his name... God-centred? What is the purpose of all things? Whether to harden? Or to be merciful? To make God famous. Don't settle for less than making Jesus famous!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Specks and logs

Jesus, the prophets and apostles alike all used good arguments when they taught the gospel. They were sensible and persuasive. They made sense.

Reading Sire earlier this month was very refreshing. He is concerned for clear argument accompanied with kindness and dependence upon the Spirit of God to change lives. However, I've discovered that its easier to critique others for poor argument, than to examine myself. Instinctively I fail to be be generous and kind, nor to think hard upon the work of the Spirit in others lives. Thus, I find myself challenged and encouraged by Mark Lauterbach once again, On suspicion and discernment:
I believe in a doctrine of sin that is serious and deep – but I think it is a wrong application of the doctrine of sin to cause me to hold others in suspicion. I think the doctrine of sin should lead me to hold myself in suspicion and assume others are not nearly as corrupt in motives as I am. But that is not the case.

The other day I spent more time looking through my prayer list – and saw that often when I looked at someone’s name it really was their sin that first came to mind. This means my heart is predisposed to suspicion of others rather than seeing grace in others. I do not think this is a mark of Gospel transformation.

It is called censoriousness by Edwards and fault-finding by others – the remarkable facility to see your specks of evil and miss my own logs of sin.
Lord, help me to love your people more. Lord, help me to be discerning - to discern evidences of grace in those I serve. Lord, help my conversation to encourage the growth of the Spirit's fruit, to encourage progress in faith and joy.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

What makes church, church?

Ceryn says:
Church is exciting

And Chris Green blogs this:

I don't know if anyone else has spotted this, but there's a fascinating confusion in the CofE's report 'Mission Shaped Church', which might explain why some odd expressions of church get included. On p. 96 it attempts an ecclesiology, and says, The four classic marks of the Church, enshrined in the Nicene creed, as 'one, holy, catholic and apostolic', remind the Church of its true nature and calling...

It then gives a brief summary of each of them, and goes off into more Anglican territory with Episcopacy, and so on. BUT... these aren't the 'marks' of the church.
The marks of the church are described in the 39 Articles in classic Reformed style as 'a congregation of godly (people) where the word of God is preached and the sacraments duly administered'. That is, they describe the church observably, in its activities.
(On the old Reformed question about discipline as a mark, with a typical Anglican shimmy the Articles don't include it but the Book of Homilies does)
What makes church, church?

Concerning Spiritual Gifts

CJ Mahaney
Concerning Spiritual Gifts
1 Corinthians 12-14


Mahaney carries out a swift overview of these chapters, showing that the work of the Spirit are primarily the exaltation of the Lordship of Christ, and love. Gifts are important but not primary.

See also my blogseries:
Christian Spirituality - 1 Corinthians 12-14

Monday, August 21, 2006

Someone buy me a copy of this please

Christianity Today: Calvinism is making a comeback - and shaking up the church. (HT: Justin Taylor)

We need to recover the great doctrines of grace. I'm encouraged to see that in the USA that's happening a bit. Not sure about the UK, though I can think of many promising signs in the local church and in student ministry.

Still, the atmosphere seems saturated with a suffocating blend of man-centredness that diminishes the glory of God...

We must look at God's word afresh, and look at those who have gone before us. Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes in Spiritual Depression (p102):
"[it] is one of the most glorious things in the long annuals of the history of the church, and it is still happening. I never tire of telling Christians to read the stories of the martyrs and the confessors and the Protestant Fathers, of the Puritans and the covenanters. Read their stories and you will find not only strong, courageous men, you will find weak women and girls and even little children dying gloriously for Christ's sake. They could not in and of themselves, but they were given the spirit of power"
The human-centred "gospel" that makes much of us because of God's love doesn't produce such people. That kind of teaching lacks the Spirit's power.

What we surely need is a return to the "plain reading" of God's word... to believe his great promises and humble ourselves. To see that salvation is a great work of God's sovereign grace, not of God's inability to resist me. To see that grace rescues sinners for God's glory. To see that God's love isn't for the sake of making much of us, but to make much of God.

Last night we visited one of the other congregations of our church. It was great to have fellowship with the guys there, and particularly to hear David Horrocks preach brilliantly on Luke 16v19-31. In it Jesus teaches us that being late can be the worst thing ever. We were reminded, through the story of Lazarus and the rich man, that one day there will be a great divide. Then, it will be too late to change sides. And, further, we have all the warning we need now. Jesus speaks of heaven and hell very clearly, and tells us that the scriptures reveal everything we need to know to believe. Those who wont listen to scripture wont be convinced by miracles or anything else, even a resurrection....

Read Calvin. Read the Puritans. Read Owen, Edwards and Baxter. Read Spurgeon, Lloyd-Jones and Piper. And get into the great story. See Carl Trueman's I ♥ Biblical Theology.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Best Wedding Reception Discos in the World Ever, part 2

Mr Fairbairn and I don't dance, we converse:
  • ...about the great value of old writers (e.g. Spurgeon says: Why It Is Not Necessary to Adapt the Gospel for Postmoderns)
  • ...rejoicing that calvinism makes you stand in awe of God
  • ...how "calvinism is the gospel" (spurgeon, again)
  • ...how the institutes are surprisingly easy to read
  • ...how to teach isaiah and other big books
  • ...jc ryle's five english reformers, and wishing that the reformers had been able to reform a bit further
  • ...psalm 115 amongst others
  • ...about christian unions
  • ...spiritual gifts and other contraversial things
  • ...how its best to open the bible and think about hard things rather than sweep them under the carpet
...and sit happily in the corner generally bah-humbugging whilst our identically attired wives danced the night away. They were happy, so were we. Many many thanks to Phil & Carolina Rout for their generous hospitality and creating this opportunity at their UK wedding reception last night!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Seven hundred miles



Our UK Summer holiday travels are done. Nice to be back in Reading. Something kinda nice about living out of a backpack for a couple of weeks though, reminds me that I'm an etranger in this world, and someday I'll be truly home. The last couple of days Martyn Lloyd-Jones has encouraged me with his words in Spiritual Depression (further reflections to follow), as has Carl Trueman's reminder that its good to pray the Psalms. Now we're back I might get around to typing up some of the scribblings from the notepad I've been carrying with me.

Gareth Russell has been reading some of the same books as me: Contending for our all.... "controversies around crucial biblical truths should be tackled head-on, so that Christ is exalted. He also makes the point that controversy does not, contrary to common opinion, restrict the effectiveness of the Gospel instead it often enforces it". Like Paul tells Titus leaders must have character and then be able to teach and refute with sound doctrine. Leadership like that is what the church needs, Christ-exalting leadership.

While we've been on the road, Shudall was on a plane reading God is the gospel. Reminds me that when I next find myself on public transport, a train to Guildford sometime in September I expect, that what I'm reading can open doors... or rather God might use me Philip-&-The-Ethiopian-style to ensure that the word increases...

Mark Lauterback is on form, considering Indwelling Sin and the Gospel: "...all awareness of sin must be drawn from seeing the beauty of God. A Christian's awareness of sin is not from endless introspection but from endless contemplation of God's glory...". That's something we need to think about more!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Best of Blogs

"Grace is that bizarre missing ingredient that mucks up all human foibles, flaws, and fears. Grace is the thing that turns lives upside down. It is a sweet, beautiful irritant.Grace is scandalous. It makes murderers into apostles, it makes victims into forgivers."
Jared @ Shizuka Garden

"All of them will die, many of them without returning to church. Some of those will be our brothers and sisters in Christ who were in sin. I fear that many of them will not have been our brothers and sisters in Christ,
and so they will slip into a Christ-less eternity, face a good and just God
while they are still pleading their own merits for salvation, and fall under
God's deserved penalty forever. We could have helped them, like the man in
I Cor. 5 who was caught in sin (and may have repented II Cor. 2?), or like
the man in Gal. 6:1. But we didn't."
Mark Dever on The Southern Baptist Mistake

"Resolved: Not to plant a church or support the start-up of a church without understanding the existing church landscape, cooperating and supporting in some tangible way existing churches in the area, and considering the community impact of another local church."
Thabiti Anyawile on The Visible Disunity of the Church

"It is not feeling the Spirit that proves my saved state
but the truth of what Christ did perfectly for me;
...It is not inner sensation that makes Christ's death mine
for that may be delusion, being without the Word,
but his death apprehended by my faith,
and so testified by Word and Spirit."
Valley of Vision, cited by Jared @ Shizuka Garden - "That I may always live near the cross"

Meanwhile Ed Goode and Ceryn Oakes have been blogging variously from John Piper's Future Grace, whilst Paul Huxley has been reading Mark Driscoll's Confessions of a Reformission Rev.

Holiday Highlights

Halfway through my month of holiday here are a few of the highlights:
  • Lunch at Microsoft. A Reading University graduate works there and we met for lunch at the start of August. The place is very plush and "campus" is a quite appropriate label. It was great to sit and chat about the issues of life and work with Fletch in the in-house starbucks facility. Delighted to hear that he's engaged to be married in 2007.
  • A week in Devon. Particularly walking the gorges at Lydford and Castle Drogo. Its great to get away from the busyness of South East life from time to time. Everything slows down and conversation is easier. Paul and Rebekkah's hospitality in letting us stay with them was a real blessing. Going to Dave & Rach' wedding was also good.
  • Overnight in the Forest of Dean. We caught up with Iain and Hannah and Issy. Iain was my accountability partner when I came to Reading to do Relay in 2000-2002. We'd not seen them for a while but it was great to walk and chat and watch the river flow by at Symonds Yat.
  • My little sister got married / I have a brother-in-law. I was an Usher for this and that meant I was on the door as my Dad and sister walked in, and as she walked out with her husband. Special moments.
  • Coffee with the Barclays. Four and a half years ago the second Relay conference was held in Leicester. Rich and myself were hosted by Oliver & Daisy. Since then they've partnered in the work I do with UCCF in Reading. They're aged 88 & 89 and are people I loved to listen to. They have such wisdom and insight, and an unstoppable concern for us and the evangelical world today. There are some living legends in the British evangelical world today and I am so honoured to know two of them.
  • Reading books. So far I've worked my way through some odd translated European fiction, James Sire's Why good arguments often fail; John Piper's Contending for our all; John Piper's Future Grace; Josh Moody's The God-centered life; I've also started reading Martyn Lloyd-Jones' Spiritual Depression and been wallowing once again in the outrageous and utterly unstoppable sovereign grace of God as told in the book of Jonah. Grace so scandalous that Jonah couldn't handle it, grace so reaching that it could save the prophet, the pagans and all the people of Nineveh.
  • Rewatching 24. Classic TV.
  • John Newton. Em sang the Amazing Grace at my sister's wedding (with Newton's sixth verse), and yesterday with Rich, we walked, talked about ChildrenDesiringGod and ended up in Olney where we took a look at John Newton's grave. ...saints of old, still line the way... retelling triumphs of his grace!