Sunday, December 31, 2006

2006 Blog

January (44)
The year began with a review of Awesome God, the kids CD from Sovereign Grace Ministries. Outstanding. Then we reported an interview by Adrian Warnock with Maurice McCracken. Match Point was the first film review of the year. Books reviewed included The Deliberate Church and Dig Deeper. The big event of the month was retro-liveblogging UCCF Staff and Relay conferences. Meanwhile Rosemary was campaigning for The Reformation of Christian Bookshops - quite right...

February (36)
I began a series on 1 Corinthians 12-14 that would rumble on for quite sometime, occasionally interacting with Adrian Warnock. Also resumed work on my series on Percy Bysshe Shelley's The necessity of Atheism and began a new series in Esther that would resurface later in the year. February also marked the beginning of The Coffee Bible Club, first off - talking about worship. A conversation reaching from Wales to New Zealand, Germany to Cornwall...

March (33)
March took us into Acts at Surrey University. A brief campaign to get Andy Shudall to podcast went no-where... The series on the Holy Spirit and 1 Corinthians 12-14 rolled on. The month ended however with news that Nigel Lee had finished his race, and so the church lost a great Bible teacher. Our loss as Nigel left us, but heaven's gain. This post therefore bears highlighting: Peter Adam on Preaching.

April (24)
More conference retro-liveblogging, this time from Spring Harvest, Word Alive Students gorging ourselves on Colossians. At Word Alive I ran into the 365-inventor Becci Brown and introduced her to a google-search of bloggers at the UCCF stand. Add a little Dawkins satire and another angle on the Holy Spirit from the London Mens Convention.

May (31)
Back in Acts at Surrey University and then I got to meet fellow bloggers Adrian Reynolds and Ant Adam at Reading. Adrian Reynolds (www.adrianreynolds.blogspot.com is one to watch in 2007). Blogging about Worship and Ecclesiastes. Two relatively new Christians, Anna Hopkins and Gareth Russell arrived in the blogosphere with much passion for the gospel. Essential blogrolling.

June (31)
A month to read. JPod. Saturday. A long way down. The Time Travellers Wife. And, Sam Storms' long-awaited Convergence, and Mark Driscoll's Confessions. More conference blogging from EMA with David Jackman.

July (38)
July continued at EMA, with John Piper. I also started to try and write a book on money. That project hasn't got as far as I'd hoped. That's an understatement. Maurice McCracken joined the party and blogged on 1 Corinthians 12-14. From which I turned to Romans 9, Luke 4 and Biblical Theology.

August (18)
A month off work, and not quite the planned month off blog. Back in Acts, My resolve failed me. I then handed over the blog to my good friend the Trainspotter who reviewed Driscoll's Confessions for me. Louise Fellingham's album Treasure was the soundtrack of our summer, and then she showed up at Forum in September. I will blogreview that CD sometime - I kinda had it slated for when thebluefish moved onto the new UCCF website - which seems to have gotten a bit delayed!! A contender for worship-CD of the year, alongside Chris Tomlin See The Morning and The Valley of Vision from Sovereign Grace Ministries.

September (45)

Trainspotter continued with his 4G thinking. A little blogging from UCCF Forum student conference and catching up with Becci Brown again - having her explain her contribution to the art exhibition was one of the highlights of the week. Not often you get to stand in a gallery with the artist. Giving the Sense, the start of a new student year, books, advice for freshers. Romans 7 and Union with Christ was possibly the big event of the year for me (at our South East team days). Meanwhile, The Coffee Bible Club moved on to talk about The Law and I designed some blogs. Myself and some other bloggers reveled in church history with Carl Trueman at Duke Street Church. The importance of "Union with Christ" led me to Richard Gaffin and John Calvin. and I launched my Seven Days feature. The world also discovered Piper is bad . Conversation with Adrian Warnock on GoogleTalk. OOOooo.

October (55)
By October, Piper was back being all about Jesus and I got back on the Galatians bandwagon. Also into James and back into Esther and some great fun in 2 Chronicles. In the last week of October I lost my voice, and we spent a great evening at Grace Church Bristol (www.gracechurchbristol.org) where Matt
Chapman preached on brilliantly on work.
Paul Huxley asked: Which Reformed Blogger are You?


November (33)
More in Galatians, Calvin, Virgo, Marcus Honeysett and Living Leadership, The Cup. It was a massive priviledge to preach Mark's gospel at Surrey, and then later at Reading. Introducing the world to the musical talent of Lisa Francis. A train hit a cow and Christian Unions hit the frontpage of the Times. Terry Virgo's The Tide is Turning stirred my passion for the church once more. And I joined lifewasters.com (www.facebook.com). Oops! And, Jim Walford confessed to being a massive fan of this blog... and then it was December.


All of which makes for a fairly diverse year of blogging. The stand-out themes seem to be Bible time in 1 Corinthians 12-14, Galatians, Esther and 2 Chronicles... designing blog templates and meeting bloggers in the real world... and conference blogging. I've benefitted from the puritans, and the ministries of Mark Dever and Mark Driscoll. Bloghits have grown this year from around 3000 hits a month to around 5000, with a few dips over the summer and Christmas.

418 blogposts made, time to check out for 2006... see you in 2007.

The Genesis of false Gospels


Mark Driscoll - The Genesis of False Gospels (mp3). An examination of false gospels to combat the human sin problem in the book of Genesis. A helpful challenge as the year ends. False gospels deliver nothing ultimate - only the true gospel will deal with our sin. Also enjoying Mark Driscoll on Jonah 3 and Jonah 4. Passionate and provocative preaching of Jesus Christ. (Notes here: Jonah 1, Jonah 3, Jonah 4.)

Friday, December 29, 2006

2 Corinthians 3:17-18

A little book on two of my favourite verses in the Bible... something to read this weekend!


Glorious Freedom
Richard Sibbes
"Description: The original title of this study was "The Excellency of the Gospel Above the Law", being a comparison of the greater and full revelation of God in the New Covenant. Sibbes joyfully shows us how the Spirit of God produces likeness to Christ and consequent great liberty in those who are members of it. One of few Puritan treatises with much to say about the doctrine of adoption. A renowned Puritan shows the transforming liberty which comes from seeing Christ in the gospel. An exposition of 2 Corinthians 3:17-18. This is a book full of affection that will warm your heart and enrich your walk with Jesus Christ."

Also about to start Thomas Pynchon: The Crying of Lot 49. Happiness, good books to read.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Eleven Reasons to Reread Revelation

"Revelation is not a puzzle or a horoscope. Above all, Revelation, thoughout, is the 'revelation of Jesus Christ' (1:1). We learn much about Jesus from the Gospels, as we watch his life, his actions and teaching, and above all his death and resurrection on earth. But we also need to absorb the supernatural vision that Revelation 1:12ff gives us, that makes John fall at his feet as though dead (v17).

We don't need to understand every detail, but we do need to let that dazzling holy purity soak deep into our imaginations. Those eyes like blazing fire, that we encounter either in surrender or in judgement; those feet burning as he walks the earth, amid his churchs; that sword from his mouth that is the piercing Word of God.... Here is an overwhelming force of life that leaves the Apostle (who lent back so easily against this same Christ's shoulder at the Last Supper) devastated on the ground. Our Christianity is incomplete if we have never understood why.

And then that Christ places his right hand on John (v17; imagine how that would feel) and he says: 'Do not be afraid.' He does not waste these words on those who do not need them. And what he adds (v18), we can turn straight into acts of adoration...

...the vision of Christ's glory is what equips John to hear God's Word for his culture. But this is only the beginning... amid all the puzzling symbols, we need to keep anchored (and responsive) to that."

Because of what it teaches us about Jesus (chapter 1).
Eleven reasons to reread Revelation
in Gateways to God, Pete Lowman.

2006 Books (fiction)

I never seem to read enough fiction but here's a few highlights from this year, in order of reading...

Carlos Ruiz Zafon -
The Shadow of the Wind

Cracking mystery story set in Barcelona. Having visited the city in 2005 it was fun to read a story set there.


Ian McEwan -
Saturday

Probably my favourite read of the year. McEwan is brilliant and this is a great story, set in London amongst a series of wierd events. I love the way that McEwan describes scenes and situations. Previously enjoyed Atonement and Enduring Love.

Audrey Niffenegger -
The Time Traveller's wife

Actually haven't finished this since Em nicked it off me at the airport on the way to Cork in June. It's a bit of a strange story of love and time-travel. Looking forward to finishing this sometime.


Douglas Coupland -
jPod

A story or just a concept? Thanks Mum & Dad for the Special Edition! It's Microserfs 2, but with a different twist. If your life was file-dumped into a Douglas Coupland novel would it be more interesting than this?


Gyorgy Dalos -
The Circumcision

A story about a messianic-jewish-hungarian trying to find his identity.

I've enjoyed reading translated books this year, and hope to continue in that direction in the future. Why should I just read British books?



Cees Nooteboom -
The Following Story

Interesting short story.


C.S. Lewis -
The Great Divorce

Classic Lewis theological fiction about eternity! I'd heard a lot of quotes from this before, good to actually have read it.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

What the Bible says, God says



Gateways to God : Seeking Spiritual Depth in a Postmodern world (Christian Focus)
A terrible cover has kept this really good book from selling. A great help to get into the Bible. It's worth it for the footnotes and 70 pages interlude on 21st Century Spirituality (a defence of evangelicalism). The main content that takes us pioneering into Ephesians, 2 Corinthians, Revelation etc is pretty good too!

Pete is one of the pastors of Wycliffe Baptist Church in Reading.
Preparing a couple of talks on The Bible - one on The Authority of Scripture, and the other on Applying the Bible in the 21st Century... I picked up two very helpful book from my bookcase.
“True spirituality isn't a passive consumption of stimulants. It sets out actively to interact with God: to discern the fuel for today's worship in what God has spoken, then to express a response worthy of him – being sure that, somewhere along the line, God himself will warm our hearts”
Pete Lowman, Gateways to God


“As Wayne Grudem puts it, all the words in Scripture are God's words in such a way that 'To disbelieve or disobey any word of Scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God'. And that is sin.
Marcus Honeysett, Meltdown

2006 Books (Christian)

TOP CHRISTIAN BOOKS 2006

I normally do a top ten, this year I appear to have read a lot of good books so I've changed the format slightly and collected books by type.... that leads to a top eight...


CHURCH/MINISTRY:
Instruments in the Redeemers Hands (Paul David Tripp).
A great book from the CCEF on applying the gospel to peoples lives. Also: The Transforming Community (Mark Lauterbach), Confessions of a Reformission Rev (Mark Driscoll), The Deliberate Church (Mark Dever), The Cross and Christian Ministry (Don Carson), The God-centred Life (Josh Moody), The Tide is Turning (Terry Virgo)



CHRSITIAN LIFE:
Glory Days (Julian Hardyman)
This practically shows us how to live all of life for Jesus and demolishes the traditional secular-sacred divide. Similar to this was The Busy Christians guide to Busyness (Tim Chester).



EVANGELISM:

Why Good Arguments Often Fail (James Sire)
A great new book on talking sense in apologetics, warm and thorough challenge that maintains the vital importance of the Holy Spirit in apologetics.




SPIRITUALITY:

Spiritual Depression (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones)
This is a classic and was good to read whilst re-reading Future Grace (John Piper) this summer. Convergence (Sam Storms) was a welcome book on what it looks like to be Reformed and Charismatic. Late in the year I also enjoyed The Great Divorce (C.S. Lewis).


"DOCTRINE":
Putting Amazing back into Grace (Michael Horton)
A popular level introduction to reformed thinking with warmth and good humour. A counterpoint to this was Robert Picirilli's Grace, Faith and Free Will which I can't say I agreed with! The Word Became Fresh (Dale Ralph Davis) was a welcome book on Old Testament narrative. Always Reforming, Above all Earthly Pow'rs and Giving the Sense were three volumes of essays I've appreciated dipping into this year. This was the year I began to read The Institutes of Christian Religion (John Calvin) which is now way up there on my all time favourite books.


COMMENTARY:
Notes on Galatians (J.Gresham Machen)
This book has helped me get a better grip on Galatians. I've also valued a number of the Old
Testament BST volumes this year, though I wish they had more Biblical Theology. The Numbers BST was particularly helpful back in June. Both The Message of the Old Testament and The Message of the New Testament (Mark Dever) were very welcome additions to the bookcase - especially because they were freebies!


BIOGRAPHY:
Contending for our all (John Piper)
Lessons from the lives of Athanasius, Gresham Machen and John Owen. Men of whom the world was not worthy who stood for truth. Fallible heroes who point us to God.


PURITANS:
Overcoming Sin and Temptation (John Owen, eds Justin Taylor and Kelly Kapic)
A classic to read again and again. See also this year: The Life of God in the Soul of Man (Henry Scougal), The Pleasantness of Christian Religion (Matthew Henry), The Reformed Pastor (Richard Baxter), The Art of Prophesying (William Perkins). This has been a year of getting into the puritans. So often they are clearer and more weighty than most new books.


Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Into the mess

An excellent Christmas message from Josh Harris:
Josh Harris - Matthew 1 - Incarnation (mp3)

See also: Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament - Chris Wright (book)

John Piper's last sermon on Romans: Jesus Christ in the Book of Romans (mp3)

2006 Films




So, the rules are... films I saw this year and thought were good. Feel free to post your own top 10 in the comments. I'm well aware that I may have missed the best films of the year (note: A History of Violence listed here rather than in 2005...). I'd like to think I have decent taste in films but that's not guarenteed!


=1. Stranger than fiction

The Story of Harold Crick and his wristwatch....
Will Ferrell plays it relatively straight in a quirky story about the comedy and tragedy of life part I ♥ huckabees part Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
With Maggie Gyllenhaal, Emma Thompson and Dustin Hoffman.


A real loser is someone so afraid of not winning he doesn't even try...
Rather strange story of a disfunctional American family on a road trip across America to get their daughter into a child-beauty pagent.
With Greg Kinnear and Toni Collette and Steve Carell. (the stars of Anchorman thus featuring in my favourite two films of the year...)




A rather disturbing film. Can you ever leave your past behind and start a new life? Watched with our church homegroup... (released in 2005). Great performances from Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello and Ed Harris.

4. The Departed,

An autumn date-night film at my wife's request! Stylish and bloody crime drama with Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio and Jack Nicholson.


Post-Matrix Wachowskis with Hugo Weaving and Natalie Portman. 1984esque.


Spike Lee heist film with a twist. Good fun.


Woody Allen's musings on luck with Jonathan Rhys-Meyers and Scarlett Johanssen in the cliche parts of London.


George Clooney's film on the involvement of journalism in what happens... merely reporting, or involved?

9. Syriana,

Clooney on screen in political film about how evil and money driven the West might be...


Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore drama about divorce and the way it effects children. Disturbing.

Update - 1st Jan 2007... I just realised I left out Junebug, which was quirky fun.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Joy to the world!

Happy Christmas blogreader! Hope you're having a good Christmas day. We've had lots of fun with our church family, young and old, this morning, and then a delicious roast dinner before the Queen's speech. In which she said:

"It remains a time when I try to put aside the anxieties of the moment and remember that Christ was born to bring peace and tolerance to a troubled world."
The Queen

Not exactly, Ma'am... Jesus came to bring peace with God, because we were at war with him... and announce the end of God's tolerance of our rebellion. For that purpose he came to die. A friend mentioned yesterday a plot to give out Easter eggs next Christmas... that'd be quite helpful to draw our attention to the shadow of Calvary that is cast over the birth of Jesus.

And to what end? To bring us fullness of joy... not by playing down the differences between religions but by filling our hearts and minds with a massive vision of Jesus the Christ... to know and love and enjoy him forever!

Here's an alternative Christmas message:



Have a Happy Christmas. Come joyspotting!

Join God's new community, where all barriers of age, race, gender and class cease to matter... the family where all that matters is new life in Jesus Christ.



Dan Hames interacts with The Queen

Sunday, December 24, 2006

The End of the Week





Link of the Day

Adrian Reynolds
posts on
The Cure of Souls


2 Chronicles 35v20-36v21

The Chronicler has told his story from Adam to David, and from David down to Josiah. For around 420 years kings have ruled but now the curtain is falling. If longevity is a mark of faithfulness for a Jewish king then this story doesn't end well. There is no blaze of glory, but rather a damp squib - like a football club changing managers every few weeks as it sinks into relegation. David had reigned for 18 chapter, a glorious story. Solomon for nine... now we'll see four in the space of one chapter, four kings in 23 years.

But, we begin with Josiah. Josiah is like Hezekiah - a good king in so many ways. He was a reformer. And he found the Book of the Law in the House of God. He rediscovered God's word to his people. And yet, as so often the story ends badly. Josiah charges into a battle that wasn't his to fight and then fails to hear the word of God. No-one is neutral to God's word - if we do not take heed then we stand against God's word. God speaks surprisingly to Josiah, but the Chronicler recognises the voice. Where previously the Assyrian King Sennacherib had mocked God's people, now the Egyptian King Neco speaks God's word to Josiah. The tide turns and there is more truth beyond the boundaries of Judah than within it.

Consequently Josiah dies in a battle that God had told him not to be involved in. And so in the days of Jeremiah he dies. What follows is headed "Judah's decline" in my Bible, quite appropriately.

First comes Jehoahaz, who rules for three months before being deposed by Egypt. Then Jehoiakim (Eliakim) who is installed by Egypt for 11 years. Sadly, he like so many of his fathers does "evil in the sight of the LORD". Nebuchadnezzar captures him. Then comes Jehoiachin, a child king who reigns three months, and whose achievement is to have done "evil in the sight of the LORD". Finally, Zedekiah reigns for 11 years, also doing "evil in the sight of the LORD". Gone is the hope of the occasional good king. Zedekiah fails to be humbled as Jeremiah brings God's word to him. He rebels against Nebuchadnezzar and stiffens his neck against the Lord. Suitably, the priests, officials and the people follow their king and mimic the sin of the nations, rather than being the distinctive people of God. They reject God's word, and pollute God's house. The magnificent building erected to be a place holy to the Lord is defiled.

Yet still the LORD sends messengers. Prophet after prophet. He acts in great compassion to send messengers who will bring rebuke and calls for repentance. This is real love - calling God's people back to himself and away from their sin. If only we heard more of that kind of voice today. They are hard words, but love words.

Still they mock, they despise God's word and they scoff at God's prophets. They're like Ahab who only wanted to hear from God what he wanted to hear. They hate God by hating his word. And so, the LORD who is gracious, and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love... finally becomes deeply wrathful towards them. A people called to humble orthodoxy, to love God and his word and his place have embraced spiritual adultery, pride and heresy.

What can be done? A foreign king is sent in by the LORD to evict them from their land - as promised. To make them a byword of folly among the nations. Compassion ceases as young and old, men and women are killed... the temple is plundered and burned down. Yet, a few survive and are carried into exile in Babylon until Persia is established - until the time foretold by Jeremiah is completed.

All this happens to fulfill God's word through his prophet, Jeremiah. And so the land at last comes to rest for 70 years. The 420 years of Kings ends, and the land rests for 70. The week comes to it's close and all is at rest.

So we wait. The last book of the Hebrew Bible closes with words of waiting, of the expectation of unfulfilled promises of restoration, of a new age and a glorious King. A postscript reminds the original audience of their own post-exilic age, where a foreign king has returned them to the land. An apparent fulfillment of Jeremiah's word yet this is less glorious... Cyrus sounds like Solomon, led by God to rebuild God's house in Jerusalem... humbly following God's word and pursuing true worship. But will it be glorious? Were the original audience experiencing the fulfillment of all God's great promises of new life, new covenant...?

Everything waits. The people and the land, all creation waits in expectation of the fulfillment of God's great promises. Hearing those promises all the people should turn from their sin, and embrace humble orthodoxy - learning from the fall of God's people, and throwing themselves upon the mercy and compassion of the God who hears from heaven... And then several hundred years later, in the town of Bethlehem comes a new day...

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Seven Days




News of the Week:



Turkmenbashi dies


Link of the Week:


What would be
if Jesus had not been?
Sam Crabtree,
DesiringGod



Gospel-Centred MP3s:

Once more with feeling...



MP3s from Mark Lauterbach at CrossWay Fellowship

The Gospel for the Lost
Gospel Centrality 1
Gospel Centrality 2
Gospel Centrality 3
Gospel Centrality 4



Plus:
Josh Harris on
The Incarnation
(Matthew 1)



1. Friends

This week has been all about friends, hanging out with Rich & Nicky, with Piers & Carolyn last Sunday. Richard and Patricia on Wednesday and Thursday.

Big meal with Jo, with Tom & Caroline on Thursday. Particularly good to see Jo home from Spain, and Tom from California. Good friends for many years.

Saturday - Ginny. Nice barn in rural foggy wiltshire. Road trip. Pain-au-chocolat!

2. Team

Team Days are always a highlight. This time particularly Stephen Dray on the authority of the Bible and Lyn Penson on Creeds and Confessions (Church History II).

Loving to get into church history more and more. Stephen's stuff was as always great, I was particularly struck by his reference to the way we use the Bible in terms of:

The Regulative Principle (Calvin/Baptists)

The Normative Principle (Luther/Anglicans)

i. because normally Calvin is with the Anglicans.
ii. because this really shapes the way we do church. So the Regulative guys only do what Scripture commands. But the Normative guys just avoid what it forbids. Clearly a lot of overlap but this give some big room for different approaches in the gap between what is commanded and forbidden.

Stephen also reminded us that there is the "Spirit-Led Principle" which covers some of that middle ground. Of course, both other groups are led by Scripture and so are Spirit-led.

Need to think on this area. What do you think?

3. Mrs May's Christmas Dinner.

This is team also, but warrants a mention. Amazing. See also photo of the week.

4. in-laws.

A good day of conversation with the in-laws on friday. Just great.

5. Matthew Dorey



Unique Christmas Cards with Stories

http://www.maths.bath.ac.uk/~mapmdd/xmas2006/

6. Mr Glover's Christmas Dinner

aka, the-Father-in-law. Good food! And news of Pete's road trip... Manchester to Bristol, via Colwyn Bay.

7. Photo of the Week:

The boss eats a brussel sprout for the first time in many years. The world needs to know about this!






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Friday, December 22, 2006

Response to rumours..

Response to unsubstantiated rumours about UCCF: The Christian Unions (issued 21st Dec).
Republished here:

There seems to be a number of wild and unsubstantiated rumours regarding Christian Unions and Students Unions. The following is an attempt to address some of these. Please e-mail the office at email@uccf.org.uk should you have any questions at all relating to the following.

1. That disputes between Students’ Unions (SUs) and Christian Unions (CUs) have a long history which spans decades.

Traditionally, CUs have always enjoyed good relationships with Students Unions. This has been (and continues to be) the normative state of affairs. However, there are some rogue SUs causing problems at the moment, but on the whole, CUs enjoy, and have enjoyed, good healthy relationships with SUs. There have been disagreements in the past, but this has not been “the norm”.

2. That a considerable number of mainstream Christians would have a problem agreeing with/ signing up to the Christian Union declaration of faith. That these beliefs would be characterised by academics, both within and beyond the churches as theologically ‘conservative evangelical’

Christians have been meeting over a set of creedal statements since the dawn of Christianity and the Declaration of Belief IS simply a summary of what all mainstream orthodox Christians believe. The purpose of a DB is to allow ourselves to unite with all Christians of all denominations who confess the core truths of orthodox, historic Christianity. This is why (unlike denominational chaplaincies) we have committee members from all the mainstream denominations in the UK and many from abroad.

3. That the penal substitution theory is rejected by much of mainstream Christianity.

This is simply not true! The orthodox position of the church today remains to be one where the death of Christ is understood to be one of Christ dying our death in place of us to take the punishment that we deserve in our place.

4. UCCF Staff Workers have discouraged students from getting involved with or joining their SUs in the past.

This is clearly not true, hence the disputes in Exeter and Birmingham to get the CUs reinstated.

5. CUs have been accused of being anti-intellectual and intolerant.

UCCF Christian Unions might not agree with all ideas but we tolerate all ideas. All CUs are encouraged to apply their God-given minds, intellect and wisdom to engage with the complex issues that students face today. CUs are often known on campus for robust engagement with a variety of idea’s and worldviews. For example, by holding debates on issues such as “Science v Faith”, “Is the Bible trustworthy”, “What about other religions?”

6. CUs are operated by an external organisation, UCCF

UCCF Christian Unions are 100% committed to student leadership as a principle. It is our philosophy that training, trusting and supporting student leaders empowers students now and develops leaders for the future. Student societies must be led by students. Student leaders have a right to be on campus and a place in the university or college community. UCCF do however provide help and support to CUs through Christian Union Staff Workers (CUSWs). CUSWs encourage CU members to get involved with a local church, provide training and other such resources.

7. CUs have been used to facilitate a wider, negative radicalisation

There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever to support this claim.

8. CUs may end up being used as pawns in the battle being raged by other Christian campaign groups

Again, there is no evidence to suggest this.

9. Conservative evangelical campaign groups should end their attempts to use coercive pressure in this situation.

This is not about conservative evangelicalism! Mainstream Christians and even non-Christians are outraged by the SUs actions at Exeter, Birmingham and Edinburgh. This is about freedom of expression, association and belief and the issues have raised widespread public concern. Both within the Christian community and beyond.

10. Greater efforts should be made towards practical mediation and conflict transformation.

UCCF Christian Unions would always look for constructive ways forward through negotiation and mediation where that is possible. However, this isn’t always possible.

11. CUs should think long and hard about how important they feel it is to belong to Students’ Unions

It is vitally important that CUs remain fully integrated and at the heart of Students’ Unions and campus life. University is a place that is characterised by folks who hold different views on many different things. It’s a marketplace of free ideas in which the CU has much to contribute and have absolutely every right to be part of. Why should CUs be removed from taking part in SU life simply because others don’t agree with their views?

12. Those who wish to belong to SUs should offer to open themselves up to free, fair and democratic elections.

CUs appoint their leaders in a way that is both democratic and fair, but we insist that it should be Christians who appoint their leaders, just as it would be appropriate for the Classical Music Society to insist that it’s leaders be able to play a classical instrument in order to lead the society well, maintain it’s integrity, vision and values.

13. If the Christian Unions continue to hold on to their doctrinal statement, they should consider changing their names.

It’s not appropriate for any group of individuals to tell another society or club to change its name just because they don’t like it.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

A riff on friendship at the foot of the cross

As of today I have 196 friends. Must be true cos facebook says so! What is friendship? A list of names on a webpage? The number of hits thebluefish.blogspot.com gets on Technorati? Can a click of a mouse create a friendship? Friendship takes time and depth. I do know most of those 196 people to some extent but could we call it friendship? Is it the kind of relationship where they know how I tick, and vice-versa? Do they know my struggles and weakness? In how many of those 196 cases do we know what God is doing in one another's lives? In how many is there depth of trust and deep love for one another... If I'm honest, many of my closest friends aren't on facebook at all!

Out in the slightly more real world we see thousands audition for X-Factor and the like... I can't sing at all, and neither can most of these people. The difference is that I have a measure of self-awareness, and friends and family who will tell me the truth. Too many of these people must be hated by their friends and family who wont tell them the honest truth about their lack of talent... Is that friendship? The ability to lie convincingly and passionately to one another?
"Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses."
Proverbs 27v6
That's not to say friends should attack one another but it ought to include some measure of honesty! And not just about weaknesses, but strengths also. A couple of weeks ago I asked a few people who know me well to share what they consider to be my strengths and weaknesses. What could be more helpful!

Often seems easier to see weaknesses in others, and strengths in ourselves. And surely that's where the gospel hits friendship. As a Christian I have one and only one boast: the cross of Christ. There all strengths and weaknesses are levelled out. I'm no longer defined by comparison to other people. Galatians 6 tells me that I am a new creation in Christ. Set free to love others, to bear their burdens and seek to restore them.

The old life of law, sin and performance revelled in comparison, it rejoiced in my victory over others or wallowed in my comparative weaknesses. Now none of that is required! The only goal is for Christ to be formed in each of us. And the more than can happen to you the better for you and for me alike!

I am, simultaneously, a work in progress and a work completed at the cross! Everything that needed to be done has been done. And God's on my case every day. But, on the road I need others to help me. Not people who will win me over to themselves, but who will win me to more joy in Christ. I need people who will help me to discern my sin not by being sin-obssessed but by being Cross-obssessed. Most importantly people who will discern grace in my life, seeing and encouraging the effects of the Cross in me.

I need people who will spur me on. People who will help me to keep on running to the end of the grace. People who will unswervingly point me to the Cross of Christ. People who will help me to lift my eyes from the instability of my thinking, my weak and changing affections and my foolish actions. Lifting my heart and mind to the cross of Christ. Over the last few years I've had the priviledge of studying Galatians with Steve, Tom, Paul, Dave, Debbie, Tim, Ed and Carolina... God has opened my eyes and changed me through that. And those guys have pointed me back to the cross as we've gathered around God's word week by week.

This time around I've been particularly humbled to see that the way I live has the power to show the value of the cross in my life. If I go back to slavery to law or sin or anything else, then I nullify the Cross... if I add to it in anyway then it is of no use to me. But if I will rejoice in it, boast in it, revel in who it makes me and delight in the people it brings me into friendship with... then, then, then the Cross will look big. Not because my life will bring something small into sight. No! The cross is vast. It is magnificent. It shines brilliantly....

Social utilities like Facebook are all well and good, but real friendship is built around the Cross of Jesus. My identity isn't found in having 196 facebook friends. My boast is not found in how many people write on my wall. Where will those things get me? What I need is the Cross, and friends who love the Cross.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Christmas Update at BeginningWithMoses.org

Finally caught up on all the articles that didn't get released because we were offline.

New Articles

THE VIRGIN WILL CONCEIVE
(JAMES HAMILTON)

SONG OF SONGS: A BIBLICAL THEOLOGY
(ROS CLARKE)

HAVE YOU GOT THE WHOLE STORY?
(MIKE CAIN)



New Books

Three new NSBT's Adopted into his family, A clear and present word and Shepherds after his own heart:


And three others... our new top recommendation - Graeme Goldsworthy's Gospel-Centred Hermeneutics, plus Experiencing the Spirit and Signs and Wonders.

www.beginningwithmoses.org - the biblical theology briefings

Seven Days



Link of the Day:

Chris Poteet's Imperishable Inheritance

YouTube of the week:

Chuck Palahniuk's Lecture

(HT: Phil Brooks)

MP3s of the Week:

I recommended these last weekend - but they're so good that I'm going to plug them again!

MP3s from Mark Lauterbach at CrossWay Fellowship

The Gospel for the Lost
Gospel Centrality 1
Gospel Centrality 2
Gospel Centrality 3
Gospel Centrality 4


1. BeginningWithMoses.org

Forty days in the wilderness ends with the return of Moses. Phew! Now I have to catch up on the backlog of articles (which I could have done while we were offline... was a bit busy trying to get it back... )

2. "I'll take you home..."

My train home from Guildford got cancelled. Ruth innocently said the above phrase... then everyone erupted in laughter, and Ruth in embarrassment. But, many thanks to Ruth and Cat for helping me get home earlier than 12.40am which was the time the next train would have got me there.

That evening, see also: Jon Hobb's preaching on the resurrection. Brilliant.

Sad news, no students for four weeks.

3. Team

The Forty Minute Burger with Ed in Channies before with charismatic conversation. Soup-ervision with Ed & Carolina on Friday... walking in California, Cross-boasting in Galatians 6... the warm feeling of being mocked by my Relay...

4. Walking

Dry weather all weekend until we arrived at Dinton Pastures for a walk with James, Becky and baby Evie on Sunday afternoon. Coffee at our house instead :)

5. Lunchbar

Fun to do a talk for Reading CU on >Contradictory, Unreliable, Irrelevant: Why not bin the Bible? Followed by studying Hezekiah with Tom in Cafe Mondial. 2 Chronicles is great!

6. The Holiday

Christmas rom-com "entertainment". Not exactly my idea of fun, but when shared with my lovely wife and some pick-n-mix it's not so bad!

In other news we now have a Christmas tree and a nutcracker - dangerously launching almonds around the room. Christmas shopping is not yet completed.

7. Funky Pancake's Photo of the Week:

It was a close call between this one,


And the fridge.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Church of England?

Interesting development, I wonder where this might go:
A small group met with the Archbishop of Canterbury on Tuesday December 12 and presented A Covenant for the Church of England on behalf of a wide group of Evangelical and Charismatic members of the Church of England with the support of a number of Anglo-Catholic leaders.

The Covenant is the fruit of an ongoing process reacting not to a few local or immediate difficulties but responding to widespread concerns in the national and global church.

The group were listened to carefully and as a result of the meeting it was agreed that there would be further discussion of the issues raised in the Covenant to find a way to maintain the unity in truth of the Church of England.

Rev Paul Perkin
Canon Dr Chris Sugden

The Covenant was drafted by a group under the following leadership:

Rev David Banting, Chair of Reform
Rev John Coles, Director of New Wine Networks
Rev Paul Perkin, Member of General Synod
Rev David Phillips, Director of Church Society
Rev Vaughan Roberts, Rector of St Ebbes’ Oxford
Canon Dr Chris Sugden, Executive Secretary, Anglican Mainstream
Rev William Taylor, Rector of St Helen’s Bishopsgate
Rev Dr Richard Turnbull, Chair of the Church of England Evangelical Council
Rev Dr Simon Vibert, Chair of the Fellowship of Word and Spirit

Read The Covenant
Reported by The Telegraph

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Maurice McCracken & Martin Downes




A little new decor for Maurice McCracken and Martin Downes.

Mo is UCCF's Relay Coordinator. He doesn't blog enough but it's quality stuff when he does. Martin was UCCF Wales Team Leader and is now a pastor. He's building an awesome blog-resource.

Paul Huxley thinks I'm just trying to take over the blogosphere, one blog at a time.... I just want to make things look nice. The campaign continues!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

He is there, and He is listening

2 Chronicles Series:
Overview: Orthodoxy
Uzziah: If the whole body were an eye...
Jehoshaphat & Ahab: Mark my words
From Solomon, to Jehoshaphat, to Uzziah and now to Hezekiah... Hezekiah was one of the shining lights among the Kings of Judah. Not spotless, but when he sinned he humbled himself. Early on he starts to reopen The Temple and reestablish worship there. But I'm going to home in on two incidents. Firstly, as he calls Israel back together for Passover. Secondly, as he faces the mockery of Sennacherib. Above all, we see:


The LORD who hears from heaven....
1. The LORD who hears from heaven....
to accept the intercession of his King
2 Chronicles 30v1-27

Hezekiah makes a broadcast to the nation, calling them to come and celebrate The Passover. The festival that remembered God's rescue of his people from Egypt. They're invited to come and remember their salvation together. It's not just Hezekiah's idea - the King and the assembly agree that this is a good plan.

So the invite is issued. Come! "Return to the LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel that he may turn again to the remnant of you who have escaped from the hand of Assyria". They're warned not to follow in their father's footsteps by being faithless and stiff-necked. Rather they should yield to the LORD and come to his sanctury - come to the place that God has chosen for his name - to the Jerusalem temple. Come, Hezekiah says, and meet with God's people and meet with God - fix your eyes, hearts and will on his mercy. It's a compelling invite to find mercy and compassion and grace in God, if they will return to him.

Yet, offered grace many mock Hezekiah for his message - they look just like the enemies of God. Perhaps they're angry that their idols have been torn down? They're not interested in God's grace to them? They don't like Hezekiah's reforms, his "new" theology and "new" practices....

In sweet contrast some do humble themselves. The hand of God is on them to do what Hezekiah has commanded - for his word in this is God's command! They love this offer of grace and come running. What great mercy this is to turn them from their spiritual adultery to know the LORD once more. And so they come and hold a great assembling. But, they're not really ready for worship - they're not consecrated... this is not worship by the book.

The last time we saw someone not worshipping by the book it was Uzziah The Leper taking over tasks God had given to the Priests. But this is different. Uzziah was proud. Here there is shame, humility and awareness of sin. The Levites are ashamed, the people come to worship in weakness - unclean but desperate to remember their God. Will God strike them down? Hezekiah imagines this could happen - and should happen - and so intercedes for them. He calls out to God to pardon those who seek God. And shockingly, v20, God hears! He hears the intercession of the King for sinful people. The party continues and, v27, their prayers are heard by God in heaven. God hears their worship.

What of us? My temptation in reading this was to take Hezekiah's place in the story and rejoice first that God hears our prayers. But Kings point to Jesus before they point to me. Surely, I'm more able to see myself in the worship of the people, seeking God but not in full obedience to his word. Falteringly coming to him. Our worship is never perfect... our hearts rarely true... our minds swiftly distracted... affections easily led astray.

Like them we depend on the intercession of the King. We depend on the greater King, the greatest King! The one who forever intercedes for us, acquire pardon for us not just in his words but in his blood. Our King, Jesus, is not just the perfect King but the perfect passover lamb! He reigns! He rules! He wins! We come to God to worship and are heard because we come in Christ. In Christ, we are heard. We come for grace and grace alone. We throw ourselves on his mercy in Christ.
"Lord, I come before Your throne of grace,
I find rest in Your presence And fullness of joy.
In worship and wonder I behold Your face,
Singing what a faithful God have I. "

(Rob Critchley)
2. The LORD who hears from heaven....
to vindicate His name
2 Chronicles 32v8-23

The King of Assyria comes and mocks. He blasphemes. He has two strategies. One is that He treats the LORD like the gods of the nations. He mocks and says that no other god has saved their people from Sennacherib. And Sennacherib has evidence on his side - he has swept everyone else aside!

Secondly, he mocks Hezekiah's reforms. Hezekiah has removed their idols and Sennacherib appeals to their mixed loyalties and says they will fall because their King has undermined the gods they loved. He says that their king has deceived them... and so it goes on. The tirade is endless. It's the same sound as those who mocked the call to repentance in chapter 30, and so far removed from the desire of the humble crowd to worship the LORD.

What must it have been like to face this? Jesus knows more than any. He was mocked and blasphemed by the crowds. He faced more opposition and ridicule than any. And yet he stayed on his cross and was vindicated, in his resurrection. God would not let his Messiah be mocked forever. God vindicates his King. His King is right to obey the LORD.

We can trust then that God will act to vindicate his name. The Cross and resurrection prove it. He will get the glory in the end. And God is more concerned about that than we are. When we face opposition, and see our God derided he will stand. And we can cry for that to happen, knowing God's ear is attentive to this cause. He will hear to vindicate himself.

Hezekiah and Isaiah pray and God hears! He acts decisively. The LORD doesn't come to defeat Sennacherib, an Angel is enough to do the job. Sennacherib's army falls in a moment, and then the mighty King of Assyria flees and dies. God wins!

The story of Hezekiah points us to the LORD who hears from heaven! The LORD who is supremely gracious, merciful and compassionate to those who seek him, even failingly. Thanks to our King we turn and find the warm embrace of the God of Heaven!
And we see the God who hears people mock him and acts. Whilst he patiently endures blasphemy for a time he does act and will be shown to win! Our God is mocked and derided, and his ways considered foolish. But, He is not unaware. He wins! He will be vindicated!
HE IS THERE, AND HE IS LISTENING!