Monday, December 31, 2007

Why we do what we do (or why those new years resolutions wont make you a better person)

How can a young man keep his way pure? How can I overcome sin? How can conscience be cleansed? How can sin be got rid of? Can I make a fresh start? Can I be clean?

The Pharisees thought that they could be clean by external rules and Jesus rebuked that. The reality is that what drives our behaviour isn't our genetics, our upbringing or a million other external influences upon us. The real issue is our heart. What comes from the heart tells us who we are. And it tells us why we do the things we do. Putting in rules isn't going to change the heart. We need a fresh honesty about the state of our hearts and an answer that fits. Namely, God's gospel by which we gain new hearts and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit - albeit sin remains for now.

Too easy to think that I'm not as bad as I am. Too easy to think that a few rules will fix things, or a few New Years Resolutions. They fail because they can't deal with the source, and they only make things worse - feeding my sinful nature all the more. They feed my addiction to the sweet taste of self-righteousness and simply replace one sin with another. Confusion about my heart will lead to confusion in dealing with my sin - if I think it's circumstantial or genetic I'll not take responsibility for it, I'll seek remedies other than repentance and I'll end up badly confused.

Some years ago I was exposed to some teaching from John Sandford and others that said my 'sin' was down to the failings of my parents or other family - roots of sin passed on in generational curses. I was uncomfortable with this at the time though not immediately able to work out why. It's baptised in biblical language and some Old Testament ideas but otherwise so far removed from reality. Rather than leading me to repent of my sin as a new creation it directed me to search my family history for problems that might explain my problems... No doubt family influences us, but the real issue is my sinful heart and the Holy God - and I need to look to Him and to The Saviour who can deal with me rather than introspectionally looking for some other cause. What I was being fed was christianised-pop-psychology rather than Biblical help.

This morning I ran with Mark Mullery as he preached Mark 7v1-23, a very helpful sermon about the state of our hearts and how Jesus responds to them. Mullery is building on another source of Christian counselling from the CCEF (David Powlison etc) which seems to be Biblical driven with a clear doctrine of sin. The conclusions drawn about the heart are rooted in scripture, in context and applied with the cross in view. This is what I need to hear, even if I don't really like hearing it all that often. I need the light of the gospel of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, revealed in the word of God by the Spirit of God, to shine into my heart and re-make me. The struggle with sin continues for the rest of my life but at least it can be fought with the gospel of grace and by the power of the Holy Spirit. How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word.

Mark Mullery - Jesus on Dirt at Sovereign Grace Church, Fairfax.

Christian Hedonism questioned

I'm a pretty convinced Christian Hedonist but there are questions to be raised and it's suggested that that's not allowed, but why not ask them! I think John Piper has done some good work online and in books (like, When I don't desire God) to respond to apparent problems, but no harm talking about them...
Maurice McCracken questions: I know it’s practically considered heresy to disagree with John "the magic" Piper in some circles, and I want to caveat what I am about to say by saying that there is no one Christian writer who has influenced me more over the last few years than that distinguished American gentleman. Yet, on reflection, I find myself unable to totally wholeheartedly subscribe to Christian hedonism. My questions may be answerable, I don’t really know – but here are my objections...

John Armstrong: My goal is not to attack John Piper, whose work has helped so many to love God more deeply. I did want to question his basic thesis about the motivation of the heart for loving God.

iMonk Michael Spencer Noted: the critical conversation that never happens

Dan Hames begins to respond saying we need a bit more Trinity in Christian Hedonism to deal with it's apparent flaws: 'The glory of God' is the bottom line in theology for many of us today. The 'young, restless, Reformed' types following in the footsteps of Piper have made this the pillar of their outlook... The glory of God is in His love that gives, and spreads, looks outwards, and enfolds the Church into His loving relationship within Himself.

Update:
Dan Hames: Trinity - unity & subordination
Dave K: Trinitarian theology and the offence of God's passion for his glory
John Piper: DG conference on Trinity (mostly Bruce Ware, with Piper on Athanasius)

Update (4/1): Ed Goode joins the party with a lengthy defence of Christian Hedonism
Glen Scrivener - So what about different thinking on TRINITY?

Sunday, December 30, 2007

That was 2007 : September - December

September.

The month began for me at our national CU leaders conference which transformed from being a small conference years ago into a festival of student leaders, gathered to enjoy the gospel with burger vans. I was offline for much of the month waiting for phone companies and ISPs to get their act together. I decided to study Ecclesiastes with my staff team (not Dave Bish Ministries). SGM made their mp3s free to download and I spotted Sanctifying the ordinary. Tom got married and we were very happy about that. Lastly a little blogging from John's gospel about Jesus.

October.

Probably a record month for blog quantity (56). I started studying Esther with Joe. The Forum audios went online. Remembered that the word does everything.
Study the word, change the world - almost a heroes tagline!
And probably the beginnings of the biggest thing God has been teaching me this autumn - a beefed up doctrine of scripture for life and ministry. I had the joy of going back to my alma mater to preach Luke's gospel. Reflecting on the x-ray word. Enjoyed helping Tuck prepare Colossians to study with studennts. Sought to subvert the charismatic debate, ahead of preaching at Arborfield at the end of October. Challenged the views of Mark Virkler and others about hearing God speak. Gained some clarity about God speaking ahead of speaking about that for Reading Family Church. Captured some photo memories. Studied Galatians 3 and revelled in being a son of God with the Plymouth team. Started a brief controversy about children in church. Pondered the scope of what it means to preach the cross. Loved Calvin on Scripture (go read the early chapters of the Institutes).
Caught Driscoll saying Starbucks is "Where lonely people gather together to drink burnt coffee and ignore one another in community." which came to mind as I met people in such places. Wanted to keep looking for evidence of God's grace. Posted about how to test what we hear preached. Plugged LIVING LEADERSHIP: PASTORAL REFRESHMENET CONFERENCE 2008 (book now!). Watched the 24 day 7 trailor, someone resolve the script writers strike please!! Grace. Grace. Grace. And at the end of October: Reformation Day!

November.

55 posts in November. A month that included hosting team training for 25 people in which Mike Reeves wowed us with giants and dragons and Jubilee and Atonement. 2 Timothy was a defining book for the month as I taught it at the Exeter and Reading Christian Union weekends. Many of my posts derived from those talks. The Dynamics of Change were a keynote for me. Election put some backbone into me, a doctrine I love. Mo questioned Christian hedonism. Jason taught us to praise the word. The first South West UCCF Transformission conference was a big highlight. Mike Reeves preaching on the glory of penal substitution. I studied 2 Chronicles with my staff. Term one with them has been a real joy, especially studying Ecclesiastes, 2 Corinthians, 2 Chronicles and Esther with them.

December.

As we tried to build a shed, it rained - theology of rain?. I finished blogging 2 Timothy. Thoughts on eyeballing sin. Heard Adrian on Luke's gospel and Steve on Luke which were excellent. Lots of reflections on the year and then thoughts on God-centred mission and trophies of the cross.

2007, 482 posts and counting.

Seven Days


1. Fellowship with Grace Church Bristol. Happy times upon happy times as we visited the in-laws.
2. Reading The Divine Spiration of Scripture. Still not quite sure what I make of McGowan's argument against using language of inerrancy. But, I definitely love what he says about locating the doctrine of scripture firmly in our thinking about the Holy Spirit, and his material on Calvin's preaching. More to follow I suspect.
3. Musings in Galatians (again). I keep coming back to this gem of a letter as I think about the nature of discipleship.
4. Heroes. Best boxset of Christmas.
5. John Owen's Communion with the Triune God. Good books at Christmas. The experiential nature of reformed doctrine.
6. Pudding and games with new friends.
7. Christmas lunch on the beach.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

That was 2007 : May - August

May

More on Velvet Elvis and 2 Chronicles. Then, Atonement for Dummies which caused a little offence (which really wasn't intended). Terry Virgo started blogging which was very welcome. Birthdays were celebrated at a Duke Special gig. I preached Hebrews 3. I played a little with Two Ways to Live and shared a friend's Gospel Circles. Chris Watson Lee blogged an Anglican Doctrinal Basis. I enjoyed the breathless and heart-breaking doctrine of election with Surrey CU before saying good-bye to them.

June -- "The Daily Mail of Blogs"

Do CU leaders fall away. I reflected on Relay's ongoing lessons in grace. Some Art. Pentateuch blogging. Study or evangelism. Penal Substitution. Saying good-bye to Reading CU I preached Hebrews 10-12 - though I'd get the priviledge of a surprise opportunity to teach them again in November. Why I love UCCF - cos we're a grace-movement. In June Em and I bought our first home, and celebrated five years of marriage.

July

It rained. But I preached JOY at Arborfield and again from Luke 11. Akinola talked about Evangelistic-bishops. I had a great day at Newfrontiers 'Together on a Mission'. The Exeter CU problems with their Students Guild led me to ponder Relating to Authorities. Thankfully by December those issues seemed mostly resolved. Krish Kandiah followed Terry Virgo's lead, and became a blogger. Jeremiah blew me away as we moved out of our house and waited to land in Exeter.

August

More blogging from Jeremiah whilst waiting to move. I embarked on reading Brother Andrew's books, which preceeded breakfast with him in September. More Christian Hedonism in Jeremiah. I tried to avoid anxiety but really found it hard. Mark Lauterbach continued to utter very wise gospel-centric words. Occasional blogger Tim Suffield wrote about Justification with great clarity: "If you’ve got something to do with it - then you’re trusting a dead guy to save you…". The Bible was in the news. I started my new job... combined with moving house that meant going offline for an excessive amount of time, and probably denied you about 40-50 posts... but hey, life went on.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Trophies of the Cross

"I could not endure existence, if the world were to go on trivializing Jesus. It would be hell to me, if the blasphemies obscuring the display of his glory were to succeed in my generation."
Henry Martyn, cited by Ray Ortlund

Which I suppose is what was going through Paul's mind as he walked around Athens (Acts 17:16-17), observing people religiously bowing down to anything and everything except Jesus. His heart provoked, disturbed, distressed such that he was moved into action to go and reason and dialogue in the streets and synagogues about Jesus. As has been lyricised: worship is the fuel for missions flame. Since, mission exists because worship doesn't.

The plain truth of the matter is that I don't believe this most of the time. But I want to. More often I'm like Jonah and I'd rather die than have people come to know the grace of God. Let me not cling to idols and so forfeit grace but rather see grace, savour it, enjoy it, believe it. This bountiful feast, as John Owen puts it, those spiritual fat things of the gospel (p142, Communion with the triune God, Kapic/Taylor/Owen). Owen asks:
Has Christ his due place in your hearts? Is he your all? Does he dwell in your thoughts? Do you know him in his excellency and disirableness? Do you indeed account all things 'loss and dung' for his exceeding excellency? Or rather, do you prefer almost any thing in the world before it? (p151)
I will satisfy myself in something. His repute or some other less worthy cause.
"The souls of men do naturally seek something to rest and repose themselves upon - something to satiate and delight themselves with, with which they may hold communion; and there are two ways whereby men proceed in the pursuit of what they so aim at. Some set before them some certain end - perhaps pleasure, profit, or, in religion itself, acceptance with God; others seek after some end, but without any certainty, pleasing themselves now iwth one path, now with another, with various thoughts and ways...whatsoever condition you may be (either in greediness pursuing some certain end, be it secular or religious; or wandering away in your own imaginations, wearing yourselves in the largeness of your ways), compare a little what you aim at, or what you do, with what you have already heard of Jesus Christ: if anything you design tbe like to him, if anything you desire be equal to him, let him be rejected as one that has neither form nor comeliness in him; but if, indeed, all your ways be but vanity and vexation of spirit, in comparison of him, why do you spend your 'money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which satisfied not?'" (p150).
I ask myself these questions. Henry Martyn (1781-1812) of Truro put this into action, under the preaching of Charles Simeon and inspired by the story of William Carey (see Andrew Fuller) and the diary of David Brainerd, taking the gospel to the nations before his early death.
Here Martyn lies. In Manhood's early bloom
The Christian Hero finds a Pagan tomb.
Religion, sorrowing o'er her favourite son,
Points to the glorious trophies that he won.
Eternal trophies! not with carnage red,
Not stained with tears by hapless captives shed,
But trophies of the Cross! for that dear name,
Through every form of danger, death, and shame,
Onward he journeyed to a happier shore,
Where danger, death, and shame assault no more.
Poem, by Thomas Macauley
The where isn't the issue. All people groups need to hear of Jesus. It's the what I'll do with the where I am. Would it be hell to me that the display of the glory of Jesus is obscurred in the Universities and Colleges of the South West of England.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

iPod reload

Christmas

Jumped on board with the vicar's tradition, Christmas picnic and walk somewhere in Devon. Today - Budleigh Salterton beach, including that Christmas classic - how many parishoners and their vicar can you fit into an old-school phonebox.



Our picnic included Em's second Christmas cake:

Monday, December 24, 2007

GPS Jesus

BBC News reports of a model of Jesus with GPS to deter theives. Why steal a model of Jesus when he is in reality Immanuel, God with us always to the end of the age?

They were God-centred and biblical in their mission

In Doing Missions When Dying is Gain (mp3), John Piper tells the story of Raymond Lull, martyr. This month Evangelicals Now features this God-centred saint:
History tells us that Lull was thoroughly God-centred and biblical in his missionary method. He proclaimed the goodness of God and boasted of the offence of the cross; not ‘building a rickety bridge out of planks of compromise’. Soon after, Lull was thrown in prison and given the death sentence. Through divine intervention this was changed to deportation and he was escorted, through a screaming mob intent on stoning him, onto his previous vessel and warned his return would mean death. However, Raymond’s gospel-driven audacity had him sneak himself off board and remain a further three months in Tunis in secret, in order to build up and baptise the new believers... As a young Christian, he was frequently lulled into apathy and then made tearful rededications to God. Yet in his goodness, God used Lull significantly for his kingdom.
And Imagine, with Dan Hames:
Imagine the Gospel of Mark in the hands, heads and hearts of this generation. Imagine 400,000 gospels handed from student to student at over 250 universities and colleges in Great Britain. Imagine 15,000 Christian students presenting their course mates and friends with the opportunity to hear and respond to the life-changing claims of Jesus Christ.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Adrian's Number 5

Adrian Warnock posts his top referrers. I managed to maintain fifth place from last year. He's a very encouraging man and this is what he wrote:

Holding stable is part of Dave Bish's character, so it’s perhaps appropriate that he is the only site in the top 5 which did not change rank! Dave Bish is another good friend of mine. He traveled out to the edge of London just to meet me for lunch. We have chatted many times online, and his blog is one of the most popular Christian blogs in the UK. He has devoted his life to helping students find Christ—a noble profession.
Top of the list is bluefish designed Justin Taylor's blog.
Adrian's top 10 UK referrers were:

1. me.
2. Terry Virgo - leader of newfrontiers, family of reformed charismatic churches on a mission.
3. Colin Adams - scottish preaching blog, bringing us great links with great frequency.
4. Peter Kirk
5. Dan Hames - uccf worker for http://www.theologynetwork.org/ - one to watch in 2008!
6. Dave Warnock
7. Martin Downes (more bf design) - a welsh pastor-theolgian who excels in bringing great quotes to our attention and doing great interviews.
8. Maurice McCracken - uccf worker for Relay - honest grace-blogging, infrequently.
9. Adrian Reynolds - pastor with sharp theology infused with church history amongst other things.
10. Mark Heath
Being personally acquainted with Dan Hames, Martin Downes, Maurice McCracken and Adrian Reynolds I'd have to say they should all be on your blogroll in 2008 if they're not already.

Virgo and Adams are the newbies who speak for themselves and will inevitably be 1 & 2 next year. Colin Adams posts with amazing consistency about the very pressing need to resource preaching. Terry Virgo is one of God's great gifts to the church in our generation - I love his insight and his pastoral concern and Biblical teaching. Mark Heath has been around for a while and writes good stuff, though not as often as I'd like!

And it'd be fair to say that I don't see eye-to-eye with Kirk & Dave Warnock with whom Adrian Warnock and I both interacted during this Summer's atonement-blogging. I don't have similar referral stats so I don't know where most of the traffic comes from over the last year. I'd like to think I'd write if no-one read the blog but if it was just that then I'd keep a private journal. I really value the interaction I get here and the encouragements received. So, thank you.

Film (2007)

1. Hot Fuzz - Hilarity and gore from Simon Pegg.
2. The Bourne Ultimatum - The only good three-squel this year.
3. Zodiac - Fincher on form, Seven from the angle of the investigators.
4. The last King of Scotland - quality Africa drama with James McAvoy and Forest Whitaker.
5. Babel - Like 21 Grams but not quite so good. Too clever and fragmented for it's own good.
6. Starter for Ten - university challenge with McAvoy. Released 2006.
7. Blood Diamond - big screen Africa with De Caprio.
8. Atonement - more McAvoy, and Ikea Knightly. Same qualities and weaknesses as the book. Like Enduring Love, a good film but the book is better.
9. Amazing Grace - Maybe not brilliantly made but the story is worth it.
10. Sunshine - wierd sci-fi. Sort of Solaris but better.

It's always the case that I'll have missed one or two of the best films through my own ignorance or their unavailability at local cinemas. What must I not miss on DVD early next year?

Films (2006)
Everything released in 2007
Matt Adcock's Top 10

Make me a Christian?

Last week I caught a bit of 'Make me a Muslim' on TV, and this morning John-Paul Flintoff is trying 'Make me a Christian', some of which is discerning (when he realises going solo won't work) but most of which is saddening as he mistakes Christianity for being a do-good religion... which could be as much our fault for poor communiation as his for not seeing it.

Churches don't tend to run 'I want to be a Christian' courses, maybe we should. But then being a Christian isn't merely adopting a lifestyle (which it seems could be the appeal of Islam or Catholicism), it's about Jesus. And offering a moral code for people to follow isn't Christianity at all. Want to be a Christian? Jesus first. And then more Jesus.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

We Three Kings

Rowan Williams was on the radio this week talking about some of the Christmas myths. Various people have reported this in various ways so it's probably worth downloading it from the beeb. More clearly, Martin Downes shows us the real three kings of the Christmas story: David, Herod and Jesus.

Review: Signs of the Spirit

I wish I could say that I'd made it successfully through Jonathan Edwards' Religious Affections. The truth is that I've tried a number of times. I want to say it's just because they're in microscopic fontsize in my Banner of Truth editions of Edwards' works, but it's also because it's hard stuff. Sam Storms knows this and that's why he's graciously given the church this book, Signs of the Spirit.

The book is Storms' (who has also written the excellent One Thing and Pleasures Evermores) interpretation of Religious Affections. The book majors on that, but also includes an interpretation of Personal Narrative which illustrates Edwards beliefs in action.

Storms first outlines the importance of Affections in Christian life. Then explaining a dozen signs that prove nothing about the reality of someones Christianity. They're mostly things that we'd expect to see in a real Christian but they don't prove the person is actually a Christian. These are things such as intense affections, ability to talk about experiences, bodily effects, that affections have come from a scripture effects (Jesus' temptation was demonic though it was built on scripture, twisted to cause sin rather than divine affections). The stunning thing is that many of these things are markers we often take as proof of life in Christians today. Yet they prove nothing.

Then we get a dozen signs that do prove real faith, centred upon affection for the excellence of Christ in and of himself. That's to say, not just love of Christ because he rescues us from hell, nor that he brings us to eternal life in the new creation. No, real Christianity is marked by interest in Christ because of his excellency. This is the idea that John Piper has captured in his question would you be happy in heaven if Jesus wasn't there? Storms, Piper and Edwards stand together in this conviction. And that leads them to revel in showing us Jesus. It's not that we're not to enjoy God for his benefits but that we see him as glorious in and of himself. So captivated should we be by Christ that we can't bear to take our eyes off him to survey ourselves.

In the rest of the book we also gain some cracking perspectives on preaching and praise in the church which we'd do very well to pay attention to. This is my book of the year and one I expect I'll return to again and again. Storms has two great strengths, one is the way concern for Christ permeates his writing. The other is that he writes really clearly. Edwards is hardwork to read but set among Storms writing he appears much more accessible. So much so that I am resolved to go back and attempt to read the original again - which is Storms explicit goal for his readers.

Excellent interview with Sam Storms about the book
See also Enjoying God Ministries

Protestant or Catholic?

We had a great time doing a bit of doctrinal study into the meaning of the Lord's supper and the way we practice it... along the way we recalled the English Reformers who were martyred for the stand they took over the meaing of this part of church life - going to the stake to defend it, but more to defend the completeness of the cross of Christ, the one unrepeatable sacrifice for our sins. On Monday I was in Oxford not far from The Martyrs Memorial, though I didn't have time to go and read it's text again it's a solemn reminder of heroes who contended for the faith in generations past.

I was struck that communion recalls God's gift to us, it's not our gift to God. The direction of travel there is vitally important. He invites us to come and feast by faith, rather than us offering something to him. (MP3 here soon). I was gladened to see that my pastor has thought deeply about which liturgy to use and by his naming of martyr John Hooper as one of his heroes.

I'm struck in the context of the importance of the issue by this year's conversion of Francis Beckwith from Evangelical Protestant to Roman Catholicism... which generated a lot of blogging and much debate about the nature of the Evangelical Theological Society that Beckwith had presided over. And then also Tony Blair's long-anticipated decision to converted from 'Anglicanism' to 'Roman Catholicism'. Some of their reasons will be disclosed, some not. One imagines there were some differences between these two choices. Whatever Blair's reasons it's clear in some sense he does do God after all (unlike new lib-dem leader Nick Clegg who confessed his atheism.)

I wonder how clear it is to them the issues that were really at stake in the reformation about the authority of scripture vs. the church, or the sufficiency of the cross of Christ and the nature of justification. (Hear Carl Trueman at Theology for all in 2006 for more) They must be known to Beckwith, in Blair's case who knows... Maybe it's the beliefs? Maybe it's the rituals? Maybe it's just because his wife is Catholic?

Hundreds of years on the debates and issues are as real as ever though perhaps not considered often enough given the way some people try and claim that there is no difference between Protestant and Catholic theology. Just read JC Ryle's Five English Reformers and see.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Kind Teacher

ht: Hugh Bourne



This happened to me sometime around 2003/4 as I studied Forster & Marsden's God's Strategy in Human History and Piper's The Justification of God and Romans 9 came and devoured me. I'd already embraced much of Christian Hedonism concerning joy and missions between 1999-2003 but in the sacred courts of Romans 9 God graciously changed my heart. He is the kindest of teachers.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Shudcasting

Andy Shudall is in the UK at the moment.

Recently preaching at Christ Church Liverpool:
Luke 4 - Jesus the prophet

More from Andy at http://kiwichronicles.blogspot.com/

Subtle difference that makes all the difference

'Our task is not to tell people that they must believe in Jesus,
but so to tell them of Jesus that they must believe in Him.’

Steve Holmes (ht: Glen Scrivener)

The challenge with that is that it's much easier to tell people what they should do, or at least that's the way it seems in practice. My deceitful heart is quite happy to tell people to change their behaviour but talking about Jesus seems to be so easy to bottle. Yet, what better subject matter! Has to be our first interpretative key to any passage - yes find out what it says but then when it comes to what's the key meaning and message here it has got to be 'what does this part of the Spirit-breathed word say about the Lord Jesus?' -

As I reflect on studying the middle of Esther this week that's a challenging question. There is a passage that doesn't mention Jesus. It doesn't even mention any of the persons of the Trinity. But it does show us the people of God trusting in the promises of God to deliver them - promises that when read as Christian Scripture have their completion in the cross of Christ where all promises of deliverance are yes.

The story shows us that this is the way our God works even when he's not explicitly seen in a situation. Why absent? Could it be due to the exile? Maybe, but then he's explicitly seen in Daniel... maybe simply because the story makes it's God-centred point much better when God is only implicitly present. The book is set in the context of 65 other books so you have the whole sweep of God's story playing in the background. Not to mention that in storytelling terms the impact is stronger when you're asking - why doesn't Mordecai bow? How is he so sure that they'll be delivered? And where will that deliverance come from?

Something I noticed this time I studied it was the way that the Enemy Haman is hung on gallows... from which we can say (?) that he's 'hung on a tree' which is to say he'd be cursed. Which is what happens to those who curse the people of God, they're cursed (whereas those who bless God's people are blessed). Not to mention a foreshadowing of another man hung on a tree for the deliverance of God's people... though that'll be an Innocent deliverer rather than a guilty enemy... Hear the story of God. The story of Jesus.

Top Books (2007)

Not necessarily published this year, but read by me these are ten of the best I've read.

1. Signs of the Spirit - Sam Storms. Religious Affections made accessible. And what a book. REVIEWED.

2. God's Smuggler - Brother Andrew. Why I never read this before I don't know. Shook me up this summer before hearing and meeting Andrew at the Forum gospel festival in September.

3. Growing Leaders - James Lawrence. Recommended by my supervisor a great practical book on grace in leadership.

4. When sinners say I do - Dave Harvey. Marriage the gospel way. I confess my wife and I are still working our through this one.

5. Total Church - Tim Chester & Steve Timmis. Gospel and community!

6. Preaching the cross - Together for the Gospel. The best MP3s of 2006 in written form. Simple. Straightforward. Very helpful.

7. Radical Reformission - Mark Driscoll. Worth it for the chapter 'the sin of light beer' alone.

8. Pierced for our transgressions - Ovey, Sach & Jeffery. Possibly the most important book published in 2007. Readable and necessary for the church. Thankfully this cross-exalting air is what we breathe day in day out in the UCCF family.

9. Taking Sides - David Field. Outstanding 1970s book on Christian Ethics.

10. What is a healthy church - Mark Dever. A little dose of Dever's passion for the church.

Which doesn't account for the fact that I'm about to start reading Communion with the triune God over Christmas...

Smashing idols (Tim Keller)


Three outstanding talks by Tim Keller.

1. Smashing idols - gospel realisation
2. Smashing idols - gospel communication
3. Smashing idols - gospel incarnation

Putting the gospel in, pound the side of your head with it until it drops into the heart and overflows in graciousness. (Coke machine illustration)

Which is what I think Ian Stackhouse is getting at when he calls preachers to keep re-evangelising the church. And what CJ Mahaney is getting at when he calls on us to keep the main thing the main thing. And when David Prior says, don't move on from the cross but get deeper into it.



See also: Thomas Chalmers - the expulsive power of a new affection

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Review: Salmon fishing in the Yemen

Maurice McCracken has made two book recommendations to me this year. One was to read some Jasper Fforde. Which I tried and didn't really get on with - good for a short story but a bit tiresome eventually.
The second was Paul Torday's Salmon fishing in the Yemen. I never seem to read as much fiction as I intend to, so I'm sampling from a fairly short list but this is probably the best fiction book I've read this year. A great story and a very moving one.
It's the tale of a crazy project that lands in the lap of a guy whose life isn't really going anywhere. It's told in the form of letters, emails, interviews and diaries - which initially put me off but the insight into the life of Fred Jones pays dividends and draws you along as events unfold towards their conclusion. I don't really want to say any more because it's a wonderful story and it's probably better not to know where it's going. It's won the BOLLINGER EVERYMAN WODEHOUSE PRIZE FOR COMIC FICTION (whatever that is) and Bill Nighy (that great literary critic) says: "I really loved this book."

My copy came with a book group study guide. See also this one from Damaris - Culturewatch.

Theology for all (Mark Dever)

I didn't make it to the TFA conference this year. In 2006 Carl Trueman spoke and I lived near London. This time it was Mark Dever but I was 150 miles further away. Ed went and blogged all four sessions... 1, 2, 3, 4.

Here are the MP3s...

1. 1 Timothy 1:12-17
2. What lessons can today’s Church learn from the past, particularly the Puritans?
3. How can we build biblically faithful churches today?
4. Given the new issues now facing Christians in the West which may put pressure on Churches not to stand against the tide – how can good theology help us?

ht: The Theologian

Review: His Dark Materials

Over the last week I've spend 26 hours on the train. That's been great for work thinking and reading. From which some reflections on Esther, Lamentations, Sam Storm's Signs of the Spirit to follow in coming days. But also for some fiction reading. That began with Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials Trilogy, and then Salmon fishing in the Yemen.

Pullman is notorious. Partly because part 1 of the Trilogy is currently on screen as The Golden Compass. And partly because he's the opposite of CS Lewis, that is he writes atheistic-ish childrens fiction that we can all appreciate. Initial comments. The books are very reabable and I enjoyed the story. I felt like part 2 rambled a bit in classic second part of Trilogy fashion and that probably the first book was the strongest. It's a good & evil story but things are all a bit different to normal... God is the enemy and has to be got rid of, salvation is needed - even a new start, but the details look kind of different.

Pullman slips in some of his ideas as unchallenged facts. We have multiverses not a universe - many worlds. We have the Bible taken for granted as a corrupt book. Pope Calvin!? We have the fall as a positive move for humanity rather than a 'fall'. And people have daemons, animals who are part of who they are. Pullman has a character state: all the history of human life has been a sturggle between wisdom and stupidity. At which point the Christian is in full agreement. Except he continues: she and the rebel angels, the followers of wisdom, have always tried to open minds, the Authority [God] and his churches have always tried to keep them closed. Pullman painting his multiverse is no more of a problem in itself than Lewis' Narnia or Tolkien's Middle Earth... would you want to live there? There's some appeal but then some strange things.

The books weren't as agressive as I expected in their anti-christianity. The uncomfortable thing is the unchallenged statements that form Pullman's worlds - but the question is whether that resonates with the world we know and live in. I'd guess a Christian parent might want to read these with a child and help them engage with things that clash with a Biblical worldview. And then they might want to pursue the Biblical themes of wisdom and salvation versus Pullman's versions. Investigating, with an open mind, the woman-wisdom of Proverbs, the man called The Wisdom of God and the life he gives. Having a daemon is appealling but could there be something even better - vastly better? Overall they're stories that tackle some interesting ideas and are told in creative ways. I've enjoyed them.




See also Albert Mohler's briefing on The Golden Compass
Tony Watkins on The Golden Compass at Damaris/Culturewatch
and Tony Watkins - Dark Matter, a thinking fans guide.

Trinity for everyone


Mike Reeves - Trinity.

A 30minute evangelistic talk given at Reading University.

Biblical theology asks, “What does the Bible itself say it is interested in, what does it say about that and in what terms does it like to say it?”

“Have you heard the story of salvation presented by means of a study of ‘sweat’ or ‘hospitality’ or ‘the Beast and the Man’ or ‘war and peace’ or ‘marriage’ or ‘mountains’ in the Bible? If not, then please ask your Bible teacher ‘Why?’ since these are themes and categories which God himself has used in history and in Scripture to unfold and explain his great work of redemption. Biblical theology is the discipline which takes that unfolding revelation on its own terms and in its own words and themes and proceeds to study God’s truth by means of storylines and multiple perspectives. There are no definitions of Biblical theology which do not make it sound either esoteric or dull but biblical theology at its best - combined with exegetical carefulness and systematic rigour - is a truly exhilarating way into the Bible.”
David Field - Biblical Theology & Revelation (part 8)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Applied Preaching!

Application ought to be the pointed driving home of the gospel. It is the lively and repeated application of the Word to the heart of the congregation to the end that it might be believed. It is not the derivation of principles which can then be turned into moral instruction. Application is the Spirit’s work of awakening faith in the Christ who we proclaim.

Applied Preaching from Glen Scrivener

Having studied a particularly non-three point chunk of exciting engaging narrative from Esther 4-7 today with one of my Staff that's a helpful thought.

Ed Goode @ RUCU


Emerging from emerging

Chris Elrod: Emerging from Emerging...I’m all for a healthy theological debate…however I will not even begin to entertain a discussion into the integrity and validity of God’s Word (ht: Thabiti)

That was 2007 : January-April

January

First preach of the year on the authority of scripture followed by applying the Bible. That was a start to a year that has in many ways been about the deepening of my convictions about scripture. Next up I preached the opening chapters of Esther at Surrey, which turned out to be my final preach for them. More posting about all scripture. Highlighted the first of many a Mike Reeves mp3s. And this was the moment that will forever stick in the memory of the 60 people who witnessed it. Yes, 2007 was the year the Spice Girls went back on tour - and it began in Ledbury:

February

Reading CU weekend on Jonah. On February 8th I highlighted John Piper's biography of Andrew Fuller and received a phonecall that changed the shape of my year significantly. Mo McCracken talked about serving the local church while I pondered Ecclesiastes, life on the hamster wheel. Soon after which my laptop died. I also came across two old school friends, including Mercury Nominated James Chapman. I read Radical Reformission and looked forward to the publishing of Pierced for our Transgressions. And saw William Lane Craig philosophically walk all over Lewis Wolpert.

March

Continued studying Ephesians with Reading CU and embarked on 2 Chronicles. More of Mike Reeves and some engaging with Dawkins and enjoyed being sons with the London Relays. Oh, and got a new job. I so did not see that coming in January.

April

I started to review Velvet Elvis, which I'm sorry I've not finished reviewing. More on Pierced. Which can trace it's origin back to the issues that caused the birth of New Word Alive. We missed the last Spring Harvest Word Alive, instead taking a break in Cornwall. More of Mike Reeves. And then some more on Pierced, this time from NT Wright. A thought on Ark-building.

When I think about what matters most to me in Christianity it's the centrality of the cross of Christ and the authority of scripture - from these cornerstones everything else follows. The great think about the first third of 2007 is that these things were frequently at the forefront of thinking, living and ministry.

...which was the first 130 posts of the year.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Upon this gifted age, in its dark hour rains from the sky a meteoric shower of facts

Graham Cole - Do Christians have a worldview? (ht: Colin Adams)

Driscoll's 9 Questions

So Mark Driscoll is going to take on all of these questions...
http://askanything.marshillchurch.org/. A church couldn't really survive doing this normally (healthy food is surely expository - which is what Driscoll normally does), but once in a while it's not a bad idea to hit the ones that every is wanting to work through...
#1Do you believe that the Scripture not only regulates our theology but also our methodology? In other words, do you believe in the regulative principle? If so, to what degree? If not, why not?
#2 What can traditional/established churches learn from "emerging" churches?
#3 How does a Christian date righteously; and what are the physical, emotional, and mentally connecting boundaries a Christian must set while developing an intimate relationship prior to marriage?
#4 If salvation is by faith alone (Romans 3:28), then why are there so many verses that say or imply the opposite, namely that salvation is by works (James 2:24, Matthew 6:15 & 7:21, Galatians 5:19-21)
#5 How should Christian men and women go about breaking free from the bondage of sexual sin?
#6 Of all the things you teach, what parts of Christianity do you still wrestle with? What's hardest for you to believe?
#7 Why does an all loving, all knowing, and all sovereign God will into creation people He foreknows will suffer eternal condemnation? Why does Romans 9:20 feel like a cop-out answer? #8 Why do you make jokes about mormon missionaries, homosexuals, trenchcoats wearers, single men, vegans, emo kids and then expect these groups to come to know God in the same sermon?
#9 There's no doubt the Bible says children are a blessing, but the Bible doesn't seem to address the specific topic of birth control. Is this a black and white topic, or does it fall under liberties?

Grace-leaders overflow

Today I went to a pub in Oxford and met with Krish Kandiah, Marcus Honeysett, Ant Adams, Jonathan Green, Michael Jensen and some other people to talk about the future of leadership in the church. A very provoking day. Felt a bit like media reflections on the state of English football and the way everyone presumes they can keep bringing in players from outside... likewise churches simply aren't developing new leaders. What encourages me is that there were around 30 younger leaders at the consultation, I spoke at a newfrontiers leaders school in October where a quarter of the church were there, and wherever I look in the South West I see very gifted student leaders taking their first steps in the work of equipping the saints for ministry... The scene is dark but not hopeless. Jesus will build his church and we need to get doing our part. 2 Timothy 2v2 is key - leaders passing on grace to new leaders who will pass on grace. Having the Krish and Marcus playing a leading role is the consult is encouraging from a UCCF-view cos they were two of the first generation of UCCF Relay

South West CUs Update

My kind of press release:

What happens when Christians students gather around the Bible week by week? What happens as they see the glory of God in the cross of Christ, delight in it and boast in it? God takes hold of them and transforms them. Transforming them for mission. Transformed to live and speak for Jesus. That's my dream for us as Christian Unions across the South West. Mission teams who gather around the word of God to be empowered and equipped to take that same word to those who don't know Jesus. That's what I call Transformission.

It's been great to see that happening as I've travelled around the region in my first few months as Team Leader. I've enjoyed leaving the house to board a train to Falmouth one day, Bristol another. Being part of CU meetings that have been shaped by your CU leaders to be team training. Sitting in on a Lunchbar in freshers week in Bath, and giving one at Plymouth a few weeks later on 'Do you have to bin your brain to be a Christian?'. Hearing of first years in halls confidently opening the Bible with non-Christians, reading Mark's gospel with them. Living intentionally to find opportunities to make Jesus famous in house, hall, course and clubs. All of this, putting Transformission into practice.

It was amazing to see 200 CU members from across the region gather for our one big annual regional event, Transformission on November 24th at Belmont Chapel in Exeter. Mike Reeves wowed us with the glory of the cross throughout the scriptures before we hit the streets to speak of the same cross. What can be better than feasting on the life-giving heart-warming glory-displaying word of God together, seeing the glory of Christ Crucified and knowing the beginnings of the Spirit's transformation in our hearts to send us out as mission teams on our campuses. Respect to the Bath and Falmouth guys who got out of bed really, really early to get there, and prizes for innovation to Plymouth for making Transformission part of their houseparty. If you missed out, download the mp3s from www.uccf.org.uk/southwest and make sure you come next year.

Dave Bish
South West Team Leader

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Jonah's fish

Sam Allberry on Jonah and the fish.. not so much a rescuing fish as judgement on the rebel-prophet. The sea goes calm to save the sailors but Jonah continues to die. And then later is saved when vomitted out onto the land. I think this makes more sense of the scene and helps sort out my general confusion about act 2 of this cracking OT grace-drama.

And for the benefit of Jim Walford, codeword: All-berry.

Zechariah's Song - all about Jesus!


We were up visiting friends for the weekend and dropped in on our old church where we ran into more friends and this was the preach:

Steve Abery at Arborfield - on Zechariah's song - Luke 1.
Really very good.

For lo! the days are hastening on,
By prophet-bards foretold,
When with the ever circling years
Comes round the age of gold;


See also: Adrian Reynolds - on Luke 1 at Arborfield, 2 weeks ago. The one in between may also be great, but I've just not gotten round to listening to it yet.

Jonathan Thomas - on Church Hopping

Some Real Christian blogging

Real Christian Blogging, from Steffy B. Just read it.

Ecclesiastes and Lamentations have become two of my fave books in 2007. The former because it's real and says to hell with all our faking that life is always alright. Sometimes it's hard. Sometimes it's boring. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it's confusing. Going through house-buying this summer was very hard. If God was trying to teach me to trust him by delaying our move by a month where we could have had a holiday, then my stressyness at my wife, my sleepless anxious nights would suggest I failed the test. I'm not proud of that but it happened. Four months later I cannot wait to have a break, I'm very tired. Thankful to be here, but tired.

With Christmas coming this is classic blogger-reflective time and frankly it's been a great year though I never expected it to end living where we are, doing the jobs we're doing in the church we're in.... and whilst that's included the joy of finally being able to get a mortgage (after giving a landlady some 35K since we got married) and having a new job that I love, it's been well hard to leave our old church and move 150 miles away (or further away) from some great friends. And nothing is going to magically fix that. God is still God as he was when Anna Mac reminded me of that in January at Relay 2 in Ledbury, and the gospel is also still true. For that I'm thankful.

Happy Day?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Debunking Christmas

Amidst reports of widespread ignorance of Christianity and boycotting of Nativity plays... Adrian can't resist getting rid of some myths... hard enough to get the trutuh across without having to navigate the lies. I heard of a carol service recently where the message of Christmas was said to be 'love your mum'... Similiarly missing the point we went to a couple of services a couple of years ago where we were told it was all about Mary, and then all about Joseph the next weekend (at a different church)! There's an elephant in the room.... Thankfully at the Exeter student carol service at the football ground it was all about Who is Jesus / Why did he come... a bit more like it!! Mythbusting from Reynolds:

1. Introduction
2. Singing Angels?
3. Three kings
4. Silent Baby
5. Cold Night

Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface, Stamp Thine image in its place:
Second Adam from above, Reinstate us in Thy love.
Let us Thee, though lost, regain, Thee, the Life, the inner man:
O, to all Thyself impart, Formed in each believing heart.

The Mystery Tent

Today I went to London. I stood outside of All Souls and then had much conversation with Clive Parnell at the Borders Starbucks over a Grande Fresh Coffee and a Gingerbread Latte (Clive). Mostly we were brainstorming exciting resources for the upcoming UCCF gospel project but also some really encouraging thinking about the humanity of human beings... and the way people should be treated as people. E.g. When speakers (or bands) come to CU meetings it's common that offering them expenses/gifts is an occasional after thought rather than a pro-active concern to be generous, thankful, valuing of what they've come to do. But we only get there when we think bigger than mere intellectual assent to God's gospel, and start seeing that people are image-bearers, thinking-feeling-eating people. I was reminded of a recent sermon at our new church, from Hebrews 13, reminding of how it's meant to be a joy for leaders to lead - yet how rare any encouragment can be. Easy for us to critique, but how rare to be thankful.

Today I also finished reading Northern Lights. Thoughts some time, but then I also have reviewage to do on Signs of the Spirit and Velvet Elvis and several other books!

Clive's been busy recording...
The Mystery Tent CD out in January

Eyeballing sin

Andy and I finished reading Galatians yesterday.

What do you do when sin is staring you in the face? Whatever your poison how to you face it? Pornography, facebook addiction, religiosity, anger, impatience. Whatever the fruit it's all anti-gospelness, it's all Christ-denial and cross-emptying. It persists in us all but how do we live with it? That's one of the key questions in Galatians. More specifically what do you do in that situation when you're a Christian. The one who isn't a Christian is pictured going with the flow of sin, or being religious. Both are slavery. And equated to one another. But, the Christian is free. Set free at the cross of Christ. Set free to be free.

Consequently when sin is eyeballing the Christian slavery is out of the question. Capitulating to sin isn't necessary, and to impose a rule would be the same as just sinning. (My logic on this is the way that Paul connects and then appears to interchangeably talk about sin and law as slavery, the latter merely satifying the former). If not these then what?

The Christian is free instead to walk by the Spirit and boast in the cross. That's two very fine sounding religious phrases, meaning what? Something like when sin comes eyeballing the Christian he instead says I'll take the opportunity to do good, to do what the Spirit would do here. Boasting not in my having overcome sin but rather that Christ set me free. Rejoicing not in my victory but in his victory. Not in my righteous behaviour, but in his perfect righteousness that has been creditted to my account by his death.

Sometimes however the Christian will sin. Often, actually. With two natures at war within us - though by no means equal. And when I sin what will I do? I can only boast in the cross. I repent and fling myself on Christ declaring I am a new creation, the life I lead in this wretched body is dead - but in Christ I'm alive. I wear him on the outside. He lives within me by his Spirit. And none of this is because I'm good. All of it is his gift. Without Christ I'd be a slave. With Christ I'm a son however my life goes.

Sin lurks and often fools me, my feeble heart yielding to unbelief in the promises of God that are really my life. I weep that I mock God with my sin. I weep that I mock God with my rule-keeping. Actions that look 'good' but are mere shadows and dreams. Actions that attempt paint over cracks of where I'm not really believing the gospel, but instead getting out of step with it. Let me never trust anything but the cross - not the lies of sin that boast ability to satisfy me, nor the lies of religion with their claims to help which are really just further enslavement.

In Christ, I'm a son - and that's enough.


Mo: For too long I have heard (and believed, sadly) that godliness is some type of project involving effort and accountability that one gets on with after trusting the Gospel to become a Christian. It isn't. In fact, that's veering towards the Galatian heresy in my not so humble opinion. Godliness is my battle to believe the Gospel. When I sin, I need to dig out the root of unbelief....

Side-stepping the word of God

Can you bore people with the gospel?

Wise-Mo replied: Surely there is a sense in which the Gospel is never boring and if people find a true presentation of it boring it is their darkened minds? (I'm not sure I totally believe this, but it's a commonly held view amongst Calvinists).

And I said: It occurs to this calvinist that sometimes we use the reality of darkened hearts as an excuse for our poor efforts... just as it's easy for me to slate a sermon for being poor, but it's also entirely possible that the problem wasn't with the sermon but with my heart.

Maybe it's just me but I'm great at diverting God's word away from myself. I can do it by assuming it applies to others more than me. I can do it by figuring out how I would teach it to others rather than me. Likewise I'm more than able to side-step God's word with a whole host of excuses... But, a dull talk is no excuse for me not listening (nor an excuse for a preacher to be dull). And a poor talk is no excuse for me not listening (nor an excuse for a preacher to preach poorly).

The word presents Christ to me to be beheld. That portrayal of the gospel is there to correct and rebuke me, to encourage and instruct me. To examine my motives and change my affections. If I read it, hear it, study it, preach it without being affected then instead of giving me life it'll kill me. I need to get my ears up close to the word of God every Today and get listening.
My life depends upon it.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Christmas Update @ BeginningWithMoses.org

For a number of reasons we (the editors of BeginningWithMoses.org ) managed to miss our November update (reasons such as the handing in of theses, wedding preparations, book publication and new jobs). We also missed December...
So, somewhat belatedly here's an early Christmas present...

Who are you kissing this Christmas?
Biblical Theology Briefing on Psalm 2(Simon Flinders)


The Johannine footwashing and the death of Jesus
(David Gibson)


The distinctive use of the OT in John's Gospel
(Jonathan Gibson)


REVIEW: Old Testament Theology Vol 1&2
(John Goldingay)


Singing the cover versions: Psalms, reinterpretation and Biblical Theology in Acts 1-4 (Jamie Grant)


A Theology of the Gospel (Mike Bird)

Sinner IN THE hands of an angry God

Martin Downes is thinking about Hell, and how it's not so separate from God..

On hell:
"...the unshielded experience of the presence of God in his holiness and just wrath, and the absence of his mercy and grace."
This is a gem in the comments (again by Martin):
"It is no coincidence that the way to the tree of life is blocked by the cherubim, and that the cherubim feature on the temple curtain torn in two at the cross."

Have yourself a Puritan 2008

Follow Timmy Bristers directions

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The LORD is righteous.

With thanks to Kenny for an hour considering the importance of Old Testament narrative, a little chiasmic observation in 2 Chronicles 2v1-12:

1 When the rule of Rehoboam was established and he was strong, he abandoned the law of the LORD, and all Israel with him.
2 In the fifth year of King Rehoboam, because they had been unfaithful to the LORD, Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem 3with 1,200 chariots and 60,000 horsemen. And the people were without number who came with him from Egypt— Libyans, Sukkiim, and Ethiopians. 4And he took the fortified cities of Judah and came as far as Jerusalem.
5Then Shemaiah the prophet came to Rehoboam and to the princes of Judah, who had gathered at Jerusalem because of Shishak, and said to them, "Thus says the LORD, 'You abandoned me, so I have abandoned you to the hand of Shishak.'"
6Then the princes of Israel and the king humbled themselves and said, "The LORD is righteous."
7When the LORD saw that they humbled themselves, the word of the LORD came to Shemaiah: "They have humbled themselves. I will not destroy them, but I will grant them some deliverance, and my wrath shall not be poured out on Jerusalem by the hand of Shishak. 8Nevertheless, they shall be servants to him, that they may know my service and the service of the kingdoms of the countries."
9 So Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem. He took away the treasures of the house of the LORD and the treasures of the king’s house. He took away everything. He also took away the shields of gold that Solomon had made, 10and King Rehoboam made in their place shields of bronze and committed them to the hands of the officers of the guard, who kept the door of the king’s house. 11And as often as the king went into the house of the LORD, the guard came and carried them and brought them back to the guardroom.
12And when he humbled himself the wrath of the LORD turned from him, so as not to make a complete destruction. Moreover, conditions were good in Judah.

Having studied 2 Chronicles a bit recently it was great to look at this - and see this focus on the LORD's who does right. He who always acts in accord with his promises - promises that all find their answer in Jesus. He who is the temple towards all confession must be made. He who is the sacrifice that atones for sin. He who is our perfect king. Another failing king but one who does do what God asked (after he'd sinned) - he does humble himself. I'm no Rehoboam, but I do need the grace that comes to the humble because of the promises of God.

Exeter University Christian Union win crucial vote at Students’ meeting

As the UCCF Team Leader for the South West I have a vested interest in this story. This is very encouraging news for which I'm very thankful both to the Christian Union and Students Guild officers who have worked to see this happen:





EXETER University’s Christian Union won a crucial vote in their highly-publicised human rights battle with the campus Students’ Guild and University authorities. On December 7, their prolonged battle with the University took a substantial step forward when the CU won a democratic student vote at an Emergency General Meeting of the Students’ Guild at which the CU were invited by the Guild to present a motion allowing them to require all officers and members of the CU to sign to a statement of belief.

On January 5, Ben Martin, a member of the Christian Union filed papers at the High Court following the suspension of the 50-year-old Christian Union (CU) from the official list of student societies on campus, and after its Student Union bank account was frozen. The CU had also been banned from free use of Students’ Guild premises, or advertising events within Guild facilities, because the Students’ Guild claimed the CU constitution and activities do not conform to its Equal Opportunities standards.

Following detailed negotiations between the CU, the Guild and the University, and between the National Union of Students and the Universities and Colleges Christian Unions (UCCF), and under the threat of High Court action, the CU has now secured:-

An active Student Union bank account
Re-listing on the Guild’s official list of societies
Permission to use and advertise CU events on Guild/campus premises, and
The right to require all officers and formal (i.e. voting) members of the CU to sign a statement of belief (although, as has always been the case, all events will be open to any students to attend).

At 12-noon on Friday, the Student body voted by 122 to 47 that the relationship between the CU and Student Guild should reflect proposed new guidelines on religious societies as agreed between the National Union of Students and UCCF and therefore, it was acceptable for the CU to ask officers and members to sign up to the aims and belief of the society, whilst all meetings and events are open to all students at Exeter University.

Commenting on the vote, Ben Martin, who has since left the university, said: "This continues to be a long and hard fight for the rights of Christian students to assemble and form as a group of fellow believers under a lawful constitution. We support the rights of any student on campus to assemble and discuss/debate any topic with fellow students in what is a free society. This all began 18 months ago when one student, after 50 years of the CU being on campus, complained that he did not feel able to sign up to our statement of belief. We pray now the Guild will ratify the vote as is right and proper and we will be able to put this all behind us"

Ross Tranter, current CU president added: "The whole CU is pleased with this vote and we hope now that the Guild will ratify the vote so that we may move forward from this matter. We are simply looking forward to getting on with our academic studies and to developing the work of the CU as a well-established, successful and fully recognised society on campus. We hope the Guild will recognise this important vote and not force us to proceed with legal action’

Andrea Williams, Director of the Christian Legal Centre, commented "This vote is an important step forward towards a resolution in this case. It is a victory for common sense, and a signal to the Guild on how students feel about a truly diverse and equal agenda where freedom of religion and freedom of association can be fully respected and integrated on campus. Christian students in Exeter are showing courage and leadership beyond their years and fighting for these great principles of a truly free and democratic society. Universities are the places where the leaders of tomorrow are shaped and moulded, and it is heartening to see Christian students claiming these important principles as their own for the benefit of freedom for all."

‘The Legal Rights of Student Christian Unions’, by Julian Rivers is a paper that rebuts Mark Shaw QC’s Adjudication between the Christian Union and the Student Guild.

Ends.

For further information:

Ross Tranter, CU president 07790 130792; Ben Martin 07922 511 733; Paul Eddy (Media adviser 07958 905716).

Friday, December 07, 2007

Because ALL scripture is God-breathed

I ♥ Five Festal Garments (by Barry Webb) because it gets me off the beaten track and into some very cool books of the Bible. This morning I sat in Exeter station studying Lamentations and nearly missed my train cos I was so immersed in it (bloggage to follow).

When I'm through that I'm desperate to go back through Ruth (reading Judges recently I'm seeing a few things more clearly), and I want to get a bit further with Ecclesiastes... and perhaps spend more time in Song of Songs.

This afternoon I sat on campus in Bath studying Esther 1-3 with Dan - the power of genealogy to unlock a text! Studying Esther with the lads is great... Song of Songs might be a bit too edgy, but it is all scripture, so why not!!

Driscoll on a mission

Terry Virgo reports that Mark Driscoll will be at Together on a Mission in 2008. As does Adrian Warnock. I heard a rumour about that two days ago... ooo. "Mark Driscoll whose emphasis on the Word of God will do us enormous good". With Don Carson, Terry Virgo and John Piper at New Word Alive (with Piper also at Cheltenham Bible Festival and at UCCF Forum), it should be a good year for Bible teaching at conferences in the UK. I ponder who might be at NWA in 2009? CJ Mahaney? Wayne Grudem? Mark Dever? Tim Keller? Liam Goligher? Mark Driscoll? Greg Haslam?

Conferences aren't everything but they can be a good service to the church. I'm looking forward to being at New Word Alive (where I'll be teaching some theology of speech), Together for the Gospel, Forum and maybe Together on a Mission during 2008. What's more vital is good Bible teaching week-by-week in our churches. Hopefully good Biblical conferences serve to equip the church and equip it's teachers for increasingly faithful ministry. The task is simple: Preach the Word. The challenge is to do it.

Going places


1. Bob Kauflin on singing to one another

2.
David Field on some provocative topics to think about

3.
Martin Downes continues to produce great interviews

4.
Ant Adams observes a bad day at the office

5.
Sam Storms reveals his theological quirkiness (which is v.close to my own)

(photo from http://www.funkypancake.com/blog )

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Call yourself a Christian?

Mark Dever in What is a healthy church:

Sometimes college campus ministries will ask me to speak to their students. I’ve been known, on several occasions, to begin my remarks this way: “If you call yourself a Christian but you are not a member of the church you regularly attend, I worry that you might be going to hell.”

You could say that it gets their attention. Now, am I just going for shock value? I don’t think so. Am I trying to scare them into church membership? Not really. Am I saying that joining a church makes someone a Christian? Certainly not! Throw any book (or speaker) out the window that says as much.

So why would I begin with this kind of warning? It’s because I want them to see something of the urgency of the need for a healthy local church in the Christian’s life and to begin sharing the passion for the church that characterizes both Christ and his followers.... More here
Jonathan Edwards would of course note that being a church member is no proof of being a Christian... that takes genuine religious affections. But, nonetheless Dever is right - I can't have confidence when I say I'm a Christian if I've no love for the local church.

Janglings



"It will one day appear that Christ abhors the janglings of men about the place of their own works and obedience, in the business of their acceptation with God"

p263 Communion with the Triune God
(John Owen, eds Justin Taylor & Kelly Kapic).
HT Sean Michael Lucas.
Looking forward to reading this book!