Sunday, August 31, 2008

Discipleship is about the battle to win the human heart to the gospel, with the gospel, for the gospel.

My two abiding images from the Olympics. Firstly, Usain Bolt coasting to victory, effortlessly breaking the world records. Reminds me of the disciples in Luke 10v17, sent to preach coming back rejoicing that even demons have submitted to them. Jesus affirms that this happened and then diverts their joy to something else. There names are written in heaven, because of the cross to which he's walking, they belong in heaven.

Why point them there? Partly because life is unreliable for joy. The second image I remember is Debbie Flood. She gave it all, so much so that she was unable to speak when interviewed by the BBC. All that effort and no reward. Secondly, because there is something better than even the most extravagant evangelistic exploits. An eternity with Jesus beats anything else. John Newton longed for it: Christ who called me here below, will be forever mine.

Discipleship is about people and Jesus. Discipleship is caught from watching people. Discipleship is taught from beholding Jesus in the word of God by the Spirit. Adoring Jesus.

What does it mean to be human? Not to err, but rather to be an image bearer of God. Imaging forth his glory into his world. And yet, all have deliberately fallen short of that glory. By stark contrast to every other person there is Jesus. The Image of God. And the stunning news of the gospel includes that he wants fallen image bearers to be re-created and transformed to be like Jesus, to be as we were meant to be so that we can forever be with him.

Discipleship prays with Charles Wesley: Adam’s likeness now efface, stamp thine image in its place. Second Adam, from above, recreate us in thy love.

How does this change happen? Tim Chester puts it well: “…CHANGE TAKES PLACE IN OUR LIVES AS WE TURN TO SEE THE GLORY OF GOD IN JESUS. WE SEE THE GLORY OF CHRIST AS WE HEAR THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST (2 CORINTHIANS 4:4-6). MORE EFFORT, FEAR OF JUDGEMENT AND SETS OF RULES CAN’T BRING LASTING CHANGE. BUT AMAZING THINGS HAPPEN WHEN WE TURN TO THE LORD” TIM CHESTER, YOU CAN CHANGE, P23, IVP 2008

The discipler prays for themself and those they disciple, again with Charles Wesley:
FINISH THEN THY NEW CREATION,
PURE AND SPOTLESS LET US BE;
LET US SEE THY GREAT SALVATION,
PERFECTLY RESTORED IN THEE.
CHANGED FROM GLORY INTO GLORY,
TILL IN HEAVEN WE TAKE OUR PLACE,
TILL WE CAST OUR CROWNS BEFORE THEE,
LOST IN WONDER LOVE AND PRAISE
CHARLES WESLEY.

Discipleship battles with new hearts for their affections for Jesus. What comes from the heart is what we do. We go after what we love. I find Neil Postman's introductory comments in 'Amusing ourselves to death' to be very helpful. He notes that George Orwell thought we'd be ruined by the Room 101's, by the things we hate. Aldous Huxley thought that what we love would ruin us because we have "an almost infinite appetite for distractions".

And so in discipleship desire counts. Piper says we praise what we prize. Piper says we become what we behold. If we fix our joy upon things that cannot satisfy we become all the more marred and deformed away from the glory we're meant to display. When, recreated by Jesus, we further behold him, we're transformed slowly, step by step, one glory-degree at a time, to be like Jesus. Transformed by him. Not by self, but by his word, by his spirit, in the company of his people.

Digested notes from part of a seminar on Discipleship.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The West Wing and the battle for my affections.

The West Wing is possibly the greatest TV series (up there beyond 24, Heroes and House). And now I find myself battling with self-control: All seven seasons, all 44 discs of The West Wing for £73.97 (reduced from £208.99). Thankfully I can't quite bring myself to splash out that kind of money on DVDs... even that kind of a bargain. I feel the battle for my affections in the click of a mousepad...

Confessions time, we decided this could be a Christmas present. Last luxury for a while, and a delayed gratification for a few months. Imperfectly working things out. Funny how some days I could probably pay £73 for something without blinking and other days it's difficult... somedays you have to spend more than that on a set of tyres for the car.

It's good to say no. Good to engage with the question of whether or not to spend money on something. There's something joyful about being able to enjoy the creativity of other people, something joyful about the responsibility of spending the money entrusted to me.

The World's Best Bible Reading Program (by Dan Edelen)

The World's Best Bible-Reading Program, as I see it, moves beyond this piecemeal approach to reading the Scriptures. It has nothing to do with the proud announcement that "I read through the entire Bible this year!" Instead, it has everything to do with knowing the word of God and putting it into practice. It's not a one-year reading program, but a "rest of your life until they bury you in a pine box" program. The first way of thinking is marketing; the other is transforming.... Read through one entire book in a single sitting. Obviously, the first five books of the NT are going to require some time. But do it. (You're eternal. Live like it!) These books are whole units and are meant to be read as such. We need to experience their coherence. Trust me; the Holy Spirit will bring the entirety of the book to your mind in the future in a way you've never experienced before.

Go read the rest of it.

If you were discipling a someone who wasn't a Christian...

...and you saw something in their lives that was sinful, should you point it out?

Firstly, about time we Christians got on with making disciples of non-Christians. Otherwise known as evangelism. Great idea.

But, secondly, no. The problem a non-Christian has is that they're not a Christian. Their life is fundamentally opposed to God and any other sin in life is merely the fruit of that bigger sin. The heart needs to be changed before anything else can happen.

This is fairly widely understood - note the football pundit's disbelief as Joey Barton again claims to have turned over a new leaf, to have changed his ways. Maybe he can reform a bit, but he - like all of us - needs a new heart.

If we start targetting the apparent sins of people who aren't Christians the best we do is to replace 'sin' with the sin of self-righteousness. That's no progress at all. This was the tragic approach on Channel 4's Make me a Christian. More like, Make me a whitewashed tomb.

Show people Jesus, let him change their hearts and convict them of sin. And then help them along the way as the Holy Spirit transforms them gradually to be more human, more like Jesus.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Shack (Digested read at The Guardian)


While Christians fall over themselves in joy about the bestseller: 'The Shack', John Crace is hilarious in The Guardian, as always with his digested read:
The Shack. The digested read, digested: God moves in utterly predictable ways.
Mark Meynell gives a more thoughtful review Relishing the trinitarian dynamic, passing time in The Shack.

Andy Larkin on Facebook vs. Mark Driscoll's review of The Shack.

Love the church: it's better together (with help from Tim Chester and Jonathan Leeman)

A common gospel summary, composed by Tim Chester:
“God made you to know him, but you have rejected God. Your sin cuts you off from God and brings you under his judgement. But God sent his Son to die in your place and reconcile you to God. Now you can know God and look forward to being with him after death”
1. This is ok except that it's utterly individualistic. We might assume because of our culture.

2. Jonathan Leeman argues that the issue is not individualism but our anti-authoritarianism. That's to say we think individually "me and God" because we don't want to be subject to the effects of other Christians upon our lives.

Some propose community as the solution, but all the people who believe the individualistic gospel above are probably church members. They go to church. They serve in church. But, they're most likely not to make decision with reference to church, and they'll probably like to sing with their eyes shut - just them and God. And when there are really only two people in the relationship it's easy to slip into assuming both parties are equal... and before long it's advantage me. Anti-authority, yet in the church.

Reacting against that kind of trend of individual, Jesus-is-my-boyfriend Christianity is the modern trend not to read Song of Songs as being about Christ. Why? Because we have songs that make it about Christ and me - not Christ and the church - and that just gets icky.

So we opt to say it's about marriage (which anything about Christ and the church will also be about) - yet Biblically Genesis 2 and Ephesians 5, two control passages on Christ/Church/Marriage lead with Christ/Church and have implications for marriage, rather than the other way around. And, as we see from Matthew Henry there is good reason in the language of the song to associate the man with the Christ, and the bride with God's people (and so by implication 'in Christ' the church).

If we can venture that the old guys from church fathers to puritans etc got it right on Song of Songs then we get to hear the Christ sing of how beautiful his church is. As a body, not as individual members. And his word can stir our hearts to share his love for his bride, and to embrace being a part of that body. Which in turn sets us free to enjoy true charismatic church life (1 Cor 12-14) though that's another post.

In view of this, Tim Chester offers this alternative (in Total Church, IVP):
“God made humanity to know him and to rule over his good creation. But humanity rejected God and ever since we have lived in rebellion against him and in conflict with each other. God chose Abraham and his family to be the beginning of a new humanity. He rescued this people from slavery and made a covenant through which they could relate to him and display his glory to the world. When the persistently rejected God, he promised a remnant who would continue the promise of a people who know God. He promised a new covenant with forgiveness for sin and with his law written on their hearts. Ultimately Jesus was that new humanity. And he rose as the first among many who would enjoy new life in a new creation. God is now gathering his people through the mission of the church and will present them, drawn from all nations, as the perfected bride of his Son”
Pointing us to the centrality not of 'me' in God's plans but of the church in Christ to the glory of God.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Matthew Henry on The Song of Songs, or Love the Church!

Taking a lead from Daniel Newman, after Matthew Mason and Ros Clarke I've been enjoying Song of Songs by accepting this proposal from Matthew Henry:
"The best key to this book is the 45th Psalm, which we find applied to Christ in the New Testament, and therefore this ought to be so too. It requires some pains to find out what may, probably, be the meaning of the Holy Spirit in the several parts of this book; as David's songs are many of them level to the capacity of the meanest, and there are shallows in them learned, and there are depths in it in which an elephant may swim. But, when the meaning is found out, it will be of admirable use to excite pious and devout affections in us; and the same truths which are plainly laid down in other scriptures when they are extracted out of this come to the soul with a more pleasing power." CCEL, Introduction to Commentary on SOS
And so we observe in chapter 7, Christ's love for his bride. His love for the church:
The complacency which Christ takes in his church thus beautified and adorned. She is lovely indeed if she be so in his eyes; as he puts the comeliness upon her, so it is his love that makes this comeliness truly valuable, for he is an unexceptionable judge. He delighted to look upon his church, and to converse with it, rejoicing in that habitable part of his earth... much more reason have they to delight in them, and to reckon a day there better than a thousand. (on Chapter 7)
If he loves his church, let us love her too.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

smallgroupleaders.org (Eric Turbedsky)

When I went to the USA at Easter this year one of the natives I met was Eric Turbedsky of Grace Church San Diego. He works with Mark Lauterbach who was the blogger to read until he stopped blogging.

Eric has put together a great blog for the small group leaders at his church, well worth making use of more widely.... including articles and audio such as Alfred Poirer on The Cross and Criticism, CJ Mahaney on the Adventure of Leadership, David Powlison on Jesus is not 'one size fits all'.

Eric Turbedsky preaching on Acts 12 - Glory

Heroes of faith? No. It's about Jesus.

Technically speaking, we don't want the faith of Abraham, Moses, Joseph etc. That would be wanting a return to the Old Way. We want the faith of Jesus. He began it. He perfected it. The Greats take us to him.

Adrian Reynolds.

Introducing the SW Team 2008/9: Relay (aka The Beautiful People)

Today the South West Relay for 2008/9 start their 10 month programme of grace-saturated discipleship training in a student context. These seven fresh-faced graduates take the place of the infamous Wayne Grudem Karaoke Champions and we'll expect a good performance in January. But, more importantly they're here to grow in grace and engage in pioneering mission with students.

They are Alex Sharp and Becs Williams in Falmouth:

Steve Carkett in Plymouth:

Cat Hare and Matt Herring in Exeter:

Tim Pinkstone and Jen Haydock in Bristol:


SteffyB on what RELAY is (ht: Mo)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Word-driven movements

Timmy Brister: Upon a cursory glance of the early church in Acts and through the letters of Paul to the churches he planted, I found a reoccurring theme of a word-driven movemental Christianity. It was not defined by speed but by the Word, not validated by pragmatic measuring sticks but authenticated by transformed lives faithful to the gospel and mission.

Convictions developed by following the threads through the book of Acts (and beyond): Acts 2:41, Acts 4:4, Acts 6:7, Acts 8:4, Acts 8:14, cf. 8:25, Acts 10:44 cf. 11:1, Acts 11:19, Acts 12:24, Acts 13:5, Acts 13:48-49, Acts 14:1, 3, Acts 15:36, Acts 16:31-32, Acts 17:11-12, Acts 18:5, 11, Acts 19:10, Acts 19:20, Acts 20:32

This is how the church will make progress. This is how we'll grow the local church through Christian Unions in Universities. Let the word of God spread... let God speak and then things change.

Introducing the SW Team 2008/9

Working in the student missionfield is a matter of constant change. A third of the missionfield, and a third of our missionaries leave every year replaced by freshers. Likewise in UCCF as we serve the students things are ever changing.
From last year Kenny Robertson, Jim Walford, Alex Banfield Hicks, Claudia Chan and myself remain.
Last week Su Ann Ward left the South West Team and has been succeeded by Hannah Cordle, a Bristol graduate who joins us as the new Christian Union Staffworker for Bath.
Hannah will work with the Christian Unions of Bath Spa and Bath Universities as they set out to be pioneering mission teams, student-led partnerships of local churches who seek to reach students and so grow the local church as students become Christians.

There be giants!

Stephen Murray, with Dan Hames in the comments on: the plan of certain angels was dilute and corrupt the line from Eve to attempt a sabotage on the coming Seed.

More here: Musings on Giants and Noah, his sin, his shame and his sons.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

God gave us truth-laden Stories (Probably my final post at Digital H20)

We've been working through the book of Jonah at church recently. I'm loving it but it occurs to me that all the preachers are finding it hard to deal with the book being narrative. It's not easy, particularly when we're usually schooled more to deal with Romans and Galatians and want to cherish propositional truth. But, God has given us stories... [read more]

The Faithful Elder is to exhort by sound doctrine


Ed Goode now lives in the USA and is preaching Titus:
...the faithful Elder is to exhort by sound doctrine. He is to protect and prosper the spiritual life of his people. To preach that Jesus is the point of creation, the lovely, glorious, champion of every single page of the Bible. To stir up love for Him from them by preaching. Doctrine is for joy. Doctrine is not a dull, old fashioned, divisive thing that should be kept inside the class room. The most glorious, joy giving, sweet tasting, promises exist in this book, and they come to us if the form of doctrine. And Elders of the church are to exhort those in the church with it. Given the fearful warnings found in scripture, no one would presume to teach without a clear call from God, and no one in their right mind should preach anything other than what’s in this book.

Driscoll: from Newfrontiers to the Sydney Anglicans...

Sydney Anglicans interviewing Mark Driscoll (video)

On a British evangelical perspective this crosses a classic boundary that has stood between charismatic evangelicals and 'conservative' evangelicals.

If conferences represent movements then John Piper has crossed this before by speaking at the Evangelical Ministry Assembly (from the Sydney Anglican camp) and for Newfrontiers.

My dream is that New Word Alive will grow to represent a coming together of both groups and a recognition that if both 'sides' can value the ministry of Mark Driscoll and John Piper maybe we can value one another, partner together and learn from one another more than we might imagine.

Top 10 posts: what people read from the blog archives

One of the downsides of blogging is that it's utterly instant - articles are on your frontpage for a few days and then they disappear into archives until someone uses google to find something. Off the frontpage these are the most accessed pages here in the last few months...

1. The Wayne Grudem Song
2. Teach the Bible or Preach the Christ
3. Our God is a Great Big God - Romans 9
4. The Grace of My God by Matt Giles
5. Preach the gospel and if necessary use words
6. Michael Ramsden mp3
7. All I have is Christ
8. The Myth of Secular Neutrality
9. Without doctrinal clarity movements become bad institutions
10. Blogging influence by Technorati

Saturday, August 23, 2008

DISCO is why I don't do evangelism...

There are all sorts of reasons why I don't do evangelism.

1. Delusion. I convince myself that it's not necessary. This could be for any number of reasons such as thinking people don't need Jesus, thinking Jesus is unimportant or irrelevant. Denying hell. Being unimpressed with Jesus. As Adam Beattie says - "delusions are lies, we need the truth". Giving me training in skills wont help me to overcome delusions. I need a heart captured by the gospel - changed by the great doctrines of salvation and revelation.

2. Inability. Sometimes I can't work out how to explain things, how to translate into language that can be understood or how to engage with the issues others have. I need some skills training, but mostly I need a more thoroughly Biblical worldview so that I can see how the gospel engages with all of life. And, I need doctrine of grace so I can go and give answers that may not be brilliant but which would be ok. I need freedom to fail.

3. Sin. Sometimes I'm simply disobeying what I know. All disobedience of God's word is sin. I need the Holy Spirit to change my heart. Skills wont help this - my heart is the issue.

4. Courage. I get scared. I get scared of meeting new people. I get scared of speaking about Jesus. Usually this is because I fear people more than Jesus. I fear ruining friendships or being embarrassed. The early church prayed for boldness. That's a prayer I need.

5. Opportunity. Sometimes I don't do evangelism because I can't move for Christians all around me. My job means my colleagues are Christians. My marriage means I live with a Christian. And my Britishness means I dare not talk to my neighbours. Yet, since when was I, as a Christian, meant to be a victim of circumstance. In the power of the Holy Spirit the gospel sends me outwards towards others, to engage them as fellow image-bearers in need of Jesus.

The basic problem in these is my heart. My heart needs the gospel. And by the gospel and for the sake of the gospel change is possible.

Edit: I'd also say, that sometimes I don't do evangelism because I'm actually doing something that is genuinely more important for me to be doing at that moment to bring glory to God, which might be.... eating, sleeping, working or any number of other things. Fact remains, I'm not convinced I get down to shaping my life around introducing others to Jesus anywhere near as much as I might do.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Goodbye to The Class of 2003

Yesterday we said goodbye to the UCCF Christian Union Staff Worker class of 2003. This is my class. UCCF Staff work for between 3-5 years normally. Not all that many complete five years...

We lost Phil Marshall who quit, moved and married Linda early on. Nat Ayling, Alice Jackson and Andy Weatherley left a while back to study and do global and local church ministry... Pod, Clive and I switched to other roles within UCCF without completing our full five.

Which left Cathy Midmer, Mark Stone and Kath Arnold who left yesterday. It's been a joy to serve alongside them. Many memories, and having just returned from the latest new staff Orientation yesterday it does genuinely feel like a very long time sine the dozen or so of us fresh-faced staff gathered at Hothorpe Hall in August 2003. That week Martin Downes challenged us from Paul's last words to the Ephesian elders to discharge our ministry and teach the word.

The UCCF family has changed since then. Once a staff worker always a staff worker, but generation after generation rises to serve the next new generation of students. Some of this week's new staff were freshers that we worked with back in 2003. That's the way it works. One thing is true - the gospel remains the same.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Crazy conference season begins

In the next six weeks I'm going to spend time at five conferences. I'm not really a massive fan of conferences, with some exceptions I'm happiest either studying alone or getting out doing the stuff rather than sitting in lots of sessions. But, for all that I'm still kind of looking forward to what's ahead.

1. UCCF New Staff Orientation. Less a 'conference' and more a training event for our new staff. I'm going to this for about 29 hours which includes giving some training on Evangelism with Nay Dawson. I'm looking forward to catching up with guys we interviewed earlier this year now that they're starting work. Good to be able to work with other members of the Leadership Team.

2. Relay 1. First of the residential conferences for our ministry interns. Another brief visit, this time to teach on Discipleship with Claudia Chan. I love Relay and I love Relay conferences because everything is about grace. Somehow, this will be my 16th Relay conference.

3. Forum. The big conference of the season. Nine hundred people on site at Quinta in Shopshire including around 700 student leaders, John Piper, Graham Daniels and Delirious, and the launch of our gospel project. Teaching on Loving the Church (with Anna McCracken) and Studying for Jesus. Always an exciting conference.

4. South West Team Days. This is more a gathering than a conference, and I'm hosting and teaching for our new team on Galatians. Thirteen Staff and Relay who work with students in the South West gathered to build fellowship, pray for students and set our focus for serving Christian Unions in mission during 2008/9.

5. IFES Evangelists conference. And at last, one that I'm a delegate at! One hundred current or emerging evangelists from across Europe being trained in Austria. I'm excited by the opportunity to get some training to help me develop in this area.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Damaris: Tools for Talks

Mark Driscoll challenged Newfrontiers leaders to watch everything to learn about culture... this is a bit of a shortcut for some of that. It wont help you understand culture fully but it will give a supply of film quotes, clips and illustrations to help demonstrate the way that the gospel engages with people where they are. It's already relevant and knowing where people are coming from helps us show that more clearly.



Damaris: Tools for Talks

The Evangelical Vote: Can Christians engage with politics without sinking into shibboleth debates

Andy Shudall at The Coffee Bible Club: Never mention politics, ethics or anything controversial? writing off the back of the recent Obama, McCain, Warren forum at Saddleback and ahead of the New Zealand elections.
"As His Church we must live in this world and speak loudly and prophetically His Word with all the energy He gives us. But can we discuss issues like abortion, the politics of US foreign intervention, the economic impact of globalisation, interventionist and free market economics, the impact of Israeli politics on the stability of the middle east, the rights of the individual and the obligations of society, the ethics of policy and politics in any given nation with a keen gospel ear and a clearly tender heart?"

"There needs to be a recapturing of the grand story of the bible"

Video-preaching: Is there a preacher in the room?

Mark Driscoll does it. John Piper does it.
Bob Hyatt critiques the idea of running multiple venues with one preacher.
The celebrity church must die. And doing anything – like video venues – that prolongs its life, even in the name of the lost, runs counter to the best interests of the Church in all its expressions, big and small, and its mandate to see more people not only reached, but gifted, trained, and sent.
I have to say I'd feel somewhat short changed just to watch a preacher on screen rather than actually in the room. I don't know anyone in the UK who is doing this, but I imagine someone will. It feels odd to me because it surely encourages us to be person centred, I can't see how it helps raise up future preachers. I know there are advantages in terms of coherence between congregations, and I know that Driscoll uses campus pastors to do everything else - and that those guys preach 3 months a year. But why not all year?

We need more churches, but let's build them around leaders who are qualified and able to teach. Podcasting and vodcasting preaching is (a bit) like reading a book. It's beneficial, but when I come to meet with my church we should be able to find someone from amongst us who can lay a feast from God's word for us.

Ted Kluck, Fight Club Revisited

Ted Kluck rewatched Fight Club.
I loved this when I saw it as a 21 year old in my final year at University. I've not seen it for several years, partly because I remember it as my favourite film. I keep thinking of rewatching it but wonder if it will have aged well. The same question could be asked about similar big films of 1999 like American Beauty and The Matrix.

Conference preparation and other blogs to read

Second day back at work, continuing to work on seminars I'm doing at conferences in the next few weeks. Today - working on 3-4 sessions on Galatians!

New to the blogroll this week: And highlighting a two who have become colleagues of mine this week: And one who ceases to be a colleague, don't forget them...

Monday, August 18, 2008

Charismatic sanity is restored by focus on Jesus

Dan Edelen is spot on in his analysis of the needs of the charismatic movement:
  • Problem: In our rush to regain a proper pneumatology, today’s charismatics abandoned a proper Christology. Solution: We need to get the focus back on Jesus.
  • Problems: Too much of the charismatic movement is self-centered. People rush around looking for a spiritual fix for selfish reasons. Too many are obsessed with more power. Too many leaders lack even the most basic humility. Solution: Get the cross back into the picture
  • Problem: The movement is awash is Old Testament rituals or theology that were fulfilled in Jesus. Solution: Get back to the New Testament and its New Covenant. Problems: Too much of the charismatic movement is self-centered. People rush around looking for a spiritual fix for selfish reasons. Too many are obsessed with more power. Too many leaders lack even the most basic humility. Solution: Get the cross back into the picture.
  • Problems: Discernment of any kind is sorely lacking at all levels within the movement. Many charismatic teachers craft entire theologies from disconnected or lone passages of Scripture. Solution: Build a holistic worldview by teaching the Bible from cover to cover, not from topic to topic.
UPDATE: Dan Edelen continues by observing more traits to watch for

On Preaching Christ (Mark Driscoll @ DWELL London)





Six questions:

1. What does the scripture say?
2. What does this mean, i.e. to the original audience and to us?
3. How can I make it memorable?
4. The apologetic question—How are people going to resist this? (which takes time 45mins+, “Some of you are thinking this . . .” which stops people walking away from what you've said.)
5. The missional application—What does this mean for our community?
6. The Christological Question—How is Jesus the hero?

ht: Adrian Warnock

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Stu Alred on Jonah 1

A convicting-stirring-gospel focussed talk that reflects the outworkings of the Together on a Mission conference into our church...

Seven things


  1. David Capener interviews Hugh Bourne about newfrontiers etc.
  2. Contemplating charismaticism at Digital H20
  3. Yesterday, I tidied my office, and my very lovely wife suggested I should buy more commentaries... since I don't really have any on my favourite Old Testament books (Ruth, Esther, Song of Songs, Lamentations and Ecclesiastes). Recommendations anyone? Particularly on Song of Songs - I'm keen to study it with people in 2009 but I'm no-where near knowing what to do with it yet.
  4. Second week in Jonah at our church. Mp3s not online yet. I love this book. Basically, I love everything in the OT.
  5. Usain Bolt. 9.69, and he didn't even sprint the whole way... Phenomenal.
  6. Back to work on Monday. Three and a half weeks off has been very refreshing if not especially sunny (except for the week in Guernsey). I'm now well up for the new year and bracing myself for crazy conference season - what a privilege to be employed to teach God's word.
  7. Kate Adie on journalism - observing a weakness in 24-hour news, which no doubt afflicts blogging too. I post this in praise of those who blog rarely but with quality, compared to those of us who blog frequently. Rolling news has its place, but sometimes you need some serious journalism:

Hers is the voice of a different age of broadcasting, when reporters like her in flak jackets were out on the front line gathering the facts. “In these days of 24-hour news, you tend to get reporters standing by the satellite dishes instead of discovering the story,” she concedes, and her disdain is clear. She tells me about the time she passed a small demo outside Euston station and spotted a reporter broadcasting from above on a flat roof. “I spent about 45 minutes talking to the police and the demonstrators and nothing much was going on. It was a bit of stand-off.” Kate then climbed up to see the young presenter and discovered that the girl had been too busy churning out reports for various BBC outlets to go and interview anyone. Kate says: “I later heard her speaking to camera about the ‘threat of violence’ – she was trying to make predictions and I thought: no, that’s not news.” (Interview in The Sunday Times, 17 August 2008)

Mark Driscoll on harsh language

The main critique put to Mark Driscoll seems to be about his use of language. He's speaking on the subject at the upcoming Desiring God conference. Doug Wilson's book on humour, A Serrated Edge makes some similar observations. John Frame isn't convinced and suggests that if you read Wilson's book you 'don't try this at home'.



And John Piper on why he invited Mark Driscoll to do this:

They gave it everything

So, Katherine Grainger, Annie Vernon, Debbie Flood and Frances Houghton got beaten by the Chinese and only took Silver. When you look at Debbie in this video you know they gave everything. And really, that's all you can do. Run the race. Row the course.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

FREE Resources

Downloadable resources to accompany the UCCF Gospel Project are now available. The project itself which aims to put 400,000 Mark's gospels into the hands of students, launches at the Forum conference from 1-5 September.

Included in this suite of resources is Stay FREE - a course for new Christians which I've written. This is a set of four studies to work through with a new Christian whilst taking them to your local church.

Also available FREEDOM by Maurice McCracken, studies to help Christians get to grips with Mark's gospel. More resources coming soon.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Guestblogging for Marcus Honeysett

I'm still guestblogging for Marcus Honeysett for a few more days...

Dawkins Purple Logic: "Atheists must assume the existence of the Creator... even while they argue so forcefully against him"

Cornelius Van Til and Francis Schaeffer surely outwit Professor Dawkins with some help from a blogger...
…what is ‘purple’ is a good object lesson in how NOT to organize a society. As I have often said before, as a scientist I am utterly convinced that everything in the universe is purple and operates on the principles of purpleness. But as a citizen and a human being, I want to construct a society which is about as un-purple as we can make it. I approve of looking after the poor (very un-purple). I approve of universal medical care (very un-purple).
Richard Dawkins, meet Francis Schaeffer (or irrational rationalism)

Before 'In the beginning'

"Something existed before creation and that something was personal and not static; the Father loved the Son; there was a plan; there was communication; and promises were made prior to the creation of the heavens and the earth. (a claim Schaeffer support from 6 texts) ...the whole conception is rooted in the reality of the Trinity. Without the Trinity, Christianity would not have the answers that modern man needs... God could create by a free act of the will because before creation there was the Father who loved the Son and there was also the Holy Spirit to love and be loved." (p18+26, Genesis in Space and Time, Francis A. Schaeffer, IVPUSA, 1972)

Francis Schaeffer sets out to show how the Book of Genesis sets the scene for man to live. Assuming that we will at least consider the claims of the Bible, he stacks up Biblical arguments to make his point convincingly and shape our concept of what reality is. This challenges modern theories and yet presents a more compelling story than those who would say there was once utterly nothing and then everything. The Book of Genesis opens by saying: there was God. And then there was this.

Francis Schaeffer resources at bethinking.org

The Cosmo Headline Technique for Blogging Inspiration

Bloggers write to be read, otherwise we'd have private/offline journals. So, if you're wanting to be read it's worth taking action to make what you write accessible. You could do worse than these: The Cosmo Headline Technique for Blogging Inspiration.
ht: 10 ways to improve blog traffic in 30 minutes or less.

World changing: how to restore the church to her glory

CH Spurgeon: If we pant to see the Word of God increase, multitudes added to the disciples, and a great company of those who are least likely to be saved brought in, there must be an adequate instrumentality. Nothing can avail without the operation of the Holy Spirit and the smile from heaven. Paul planteth, Apollos watereth, and God giveth the increase. We must never begin our catalogue of outward means without referring to that blessed and mysterious potentate who abides in the church, and without whom nothing is good, nothing efficient, nothing successful.

Come, Holy Spirit, heavenly dove, with all thy quickening powers. O Spirit of the living God, if it were not for thy power we could not make the attempt, but when we rely upon thee we go forward in confidence.

As for the ostensible means, would any church prosper, there must be much plain preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I have been struck lately in looking through the history of the Reformation, and of the times before the Reformation, with the remarkable downrightness of the testimony of the early preachers. If you look at the life of Farren you find him not preaching about the gospel, but preaching the gospel.

So it was with John Calvin... it was the same with Luther. Luther's preaching was just the ringing of a big bell, the note of which was always, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and live! It is not of works, lest any man should boast, but by faith are ye saved, and by faith alone." They spake this, and they spake it again; neither did they couch the doctrine in difficult words, but they laboured with all their might, so to speak, that the ploughman at the plough-tail should understand, and that the fish-wife should comprehend the truth...

We must keep to this. This must be the hammer that we bring down upon the anvil of the human heart again, and again, and again. God forbid that we should glory save in the cross of Jesus Christ our Lord! God forbid that we should know anything among men save Jesus Christ and him crucified! Look to him—not to the priest, not to your good works, not to your prayers, not to your church-goings or your chapel-goings, but to Christ Jesus exalted. Look to him in faith, and God is willing to forgive you, able to forgive you, to receive you, to make you his children, and for ever to glorify you with himself.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The world came into existence by virtue of a sermon preached by God.

"The world came into existence by virtue of a sermon preached by God. We live in a day when some would ask, is preaching still relevant, is preaching still necessary. It is, only if you are Christian. The Bible begins in Genesis 1 with God being the first preacher. Creation comes into existence by God's proclamation. We see God is our creator. He creates by preaching. Ten times, God said. And seven times, God saw. When God's word goes forth it accomplish. It accomplishes life. We are following in the example of God. In his image and likeness. Which includes preaching. It reveals God. It creates order. It brings life. It creates an environment in which life can come into existence. The preached word brings the church into existence. It divides. It has authority. It accomplishes what it was intended to do. In Genesis 3 there is another preacher. The serpent. He preaches to our first parents. He undermined God's word, God's authority, bringing death. The question is not - will there be preaching, but what will be preached? Where there is a low view of preaching, the serpent will preach. Oprah is discipling America. One of the serpents lies is that we need not preach...."
Mark Driscoll: Putting preachers in their place at Text and Context conference

Go Wayne Grudem!


Noticed a bit of fresh blog traffic for the Christian karaoke classic, posted here earlier this year: The Wayne Grudem Song!

500 miles

We travelled 500 miles from Exeter to St Neots and back via Reading on Tuesday and Wednesday. It's good to spend time offline and with friends.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Martin Downes on Young, Restless, Reformed (Collin Hansen)

Martin Downes can be relied upon to bring substance and history to the table. From his review of Collin Hansen's Young, Restless, Reformed...
This is not yet your grandfathers Calvinism:
The encounter with Calvinism often begins not with Calvin, or Edwards, or Spurgeon but with Moses in Exodus, with Jesus in the gospels, or with Paul's letters. Testimonies are provided throughout the book of young people who encountered Calvinism in the preaching, or the reading, of the Word of God. And they met it when they saw that the things of first importance, and how they impact a life in conversion, are shaped by Reformed adjectives. Depravity is total, grace is irresistible, election is unconditional. Is there more to Calvinism than this? Of course there is. However, for many who are new to Reformed theology, it is met not in its grand historic vision or presentation (as found in the great churchly statements of the Heidelberg Catechism or the Westminster Confession) but in relation to the power of God in salvation.

All about God: Trinity (Adrian Reynolds)

Adrian Reynolds' basic English systematic theology is coming! Here's an extract, on The Trinity:
God is three persons in one
We are one person. Sometimes we may have different feelings, but they all come from inside the one person. One of the most important ways that God is different from us is that he is three persons. This does not mean that God is three different beings. Time and time again, the Bible calls God One. But as One being, God is also the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit – all at the same time.

This is, of course, very difficult to understand. We should not be surprised that understanding God is difficult – it is all part of him being different to us. In fact, the Bible does not try to explain how God can be three persons in one. Instead, it simply shows us it is true. How do we know God is more than one person even though he is one being? Sometimes God uses the words “we” or “our” to describe himself. The Old Testament (the first part of the Bible) also uses very different words (such as “the King” or “the Servant” or “the Spirit of God”) to refer to God.

In the New Testament, this becomes clearer. There are several parts of the Bible which refer to all three persons of God together. Christians call this [the Trinity] though this is not a word that comes from the Bible.

As it is hard to understand, we may think that it does not matter if we believe this or not. However, it is very important for everything else we know about God to get this part right. For example, later on we will say that God has always been loving. But God cannot be loving if he is not three in one. Before the world was made, whom did he love? How did he know how to love? The answer is that he loved himself. The Father loved the Son, the Son loved the Spirit, the Spirit loved the Father and so on. It is only because God is three in one that he can also be loving.

The Bible shows us clearly that the three persons are all fully God. The Father is God. The Son is God. The Holy Spirit is God. Yet God is also one being. So God is One and God is also Three. We often describe this using the words “three-in-one.”

The three persons of God do different things. For example, only Jesus the Son came to die on the cross. The Holy Spirit lives in Christians. But there are also things that all three do. The Bible teaches that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit all took part in making Jesus come back to life after he was killed. We need to be careful that when we talk about “God” we know what we mean. Sometimes, in the Bible, God is used instead of “Father.” This is often the case in the New Testament. At other times “God” means Father, Son and Holy Spirit all working together. This is often the case in the Old Testament. The word “LORD” written in the Bible in small capitals refers to the Jewish name YAHWEH which Christians believe is God the three-in-one: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

This is one of the most important things we can know about God. It shows us that the God of Christianity is not the same as the gods in other religions. Hinduism, Islam and so on worship different gods, not the three-in-one true God.

ALL ABOUT GOD at theknowledge.org.uk

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Make me a Christian / The Genius of Darwin

Tom Price reflects on Richard Dawkins' latest attempts to proselytise for Darwinism. As Tom notes some of the logic is fine, and yet it doesn't prove the case for Dawkins' religion. This evening I watched Make me a Christian, reflections at Digital H20 which is at least as disturbing an attempt at proselytising, following in the footsteps of last years Make Me A Muslim.

"We're looking forward to getting alongside the Chinese in the final"

I'm not normally interested in rowing, but I knew Debbie Flood when she was a student, so this is good to hear: Great Britain's quest for their first ever women's rowing gold is on course as Katherine Grainger's quadruple scull qualified for next Sunday's final. Silver last time, on course for gold this time.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Feeding on Jesus in the first 39 books

Over at Marcus Honeysett's Digital H2O here's what I'm mostly writing about... If we only operate with a 27 book Bible we rob ourselves of the roots and foundations on which the gospel stands. Our gospel will be flimsy and appear 'new' when it is rooted in everything God has ever said, the God who reveals all this plans. Amos 3v7: For the Lord GOD does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets. That's spoken into a context where God's people were silencing their prophets, and so robbing themselves of the life-giving knowledge of God. We do the same to ourselves if we silence the law and the prophets by not permitting them to sing their true melody, about the Christ.

I want to thank Ed Goode for the prompt to write on this theme this week over at Digital H2O.

Ole Hallesby on Prayer

Hallesby (1879-1961) wrote:
"Jesus comes to a sinner, awakens him from his sleep in sin, converts him, forgives him his sins, and makes him His child. Then He takes the weak hand of the sinner and places it in His own strong, nail-pierced hand and says: 'Come now, I am goig with you all the way and wil lbring you safe home to heaven. If you ever get into trouble of difficulty, just tell Me about it. I will give you, without reporach, everything you need, and more besides, day by day, as long as you live.' Prayer, p30.

John Piper: Hell-less preaching is powerless preaching



ht: Colin Adams

Thought this morning from reading Genesis, in TOTC by Derek Kidner, p72:

"It is the serpent's word against God's, and the first doctrine to be denied is judgement. If modern denials of it are very differently motivated, they are equally at odds with revelation: Jesus fully re-affirmed the doctrine."

The Dark Knight with overtones of atonement?

Pete Myers:

One of the big themes, it seems to me, is the hero/anti-hero... with the play off between Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent. Who will be the real hero for Gotham? With the Macbethian slide of Harvey from near-perfection to crazed madness, and the true colours of the Batman tested to the limit, the crucial twist at the end of the movie is the Batman taking the guilt of Harvey's fall from grace upon himself. Of course, this for me defeats the entire moral point the whole film is trying to make.

The most unbelievable moment of the film, I felt, was when the people of Gotham are travelling on two ships, each armed with explosives. They have the detonator for the other ship. Unless they blow the other ship, the Joker threatens to blow them both up at midnight. Thus, this cinematic reversal of the prisoner's dilemma allows the writers to fire home their one big point about the nature of mankind: we're (well at least most of us) essentially good. But... if that's true... then it leaves one big question: if we're all essentially good, then why is Gotham so messed up?

--hence perhaps why Mark Kermode thought that this set piece could have been removed from the film altogether. Alongside such virtue...

The police commissioner can't trust a single person on his force... the city is in absolute ruin, overrun by crime overlords... there's not an honest person in Gotham. And - here's the killer - if the heart of the masses was essentially so good, then why do we need Harvey as a leading light, and the Batman as an atoning force?

Gotham's real problem them is the corrupt authorities, corrupted by their power? The criminal underworld is all but defeated by Harvey & The Batman by the time the film begins. So, bring on Joker fueled anarchy to bring down the schemes of the authororities so the good people can prove themselves? Hmmm.

Friday, August 08, 2008

How should we feel about hell?

Sometimes evangelicals get described as advocating a caricature of God as mean and vengeful. Some will never accept that God would judge sin - though we do all seem to want justice. The difficultly of people accepting this is compounded by the perception of how those who believe in hell consider it. The idea being that we somehow speak of hell either with glee or cold detachment. I'm sure that happens. I've heard people do it, and probably been guilty of the latter myself. It shouldn't be this way however.

I think there are two key emotions with which to speak of hell, in no particular order.

Firstly, we should consider hell with anguish. On the one hand, the idea of people facing divine judgement forever is horrible. When Paul writes about this in Romans 9 he does so with unceasing anguish. It's a tearstained chapter. From a people-centred approach hell is heartbreaking. There's also a struggle in the heart of God who we know desires the salvation of all the people he has made. As Ezekiel is commissioned to preach to a people under judgement he is sick to his stomach at their peril.

But there is more at stake and that brings us to the second. We should consider hell worshipfully. All things were made for the glory of God. When God isn't worshipped it's abhorrent. It's the definition of evil for God not to be worshipped - because God is that glorious. For the worship of alternates to be eternally tolerated by the God who is sovereign over all would be for him to deny himself. When the victory of Jesus is completed his people will celebrate the vindication of his name.

I'd love it if no-one went to hell. I'd love it if everyone worshipped God. The absence of the second however means that hell awaits many - and I consider myself to deserve it. The glory of the Christian gospel is that though I did not worship God he provided a way for me to escape hell. Not only that but to come into personal eternal secure relationship with him forever.

On Chesil Beach (Ian McEwan)

I'm a fan of Ian McEwan's writing, his descriptive language draws the reader into the moments he creates, slowing down time to allow us to take it in.

This is probably best evidenced in the opening of his Enduring Love, but also in Atonement and this his most recent book On Chesil Beach.

It tells the story of Edward and Florence on their 1962 wedding night, watching the awkward virgin couple whilst slipping away periodically to explore the stories that have led them to this moment. The events happen ahead of the apparent sexual revolution of the 1960s that makes these circumstances appear to be from another world - and I'm guessing that a wedding night on which husband and wife both engaging in sexual intercourse for the first time is probably quite rare outside of most religious marriages today. History would say the awkwardness is avoided by not waiting.

What I find most striking in this story is the way that the couple are fatally bound by the cultural pressures around themselves and so unable to enjoy both physical and personal intimacy that could otherwise be a delight to them.
it rather amazed him, that he had let that girl with her violin go. Now he saw that her self effacing proposal was quite irrelevant… all she needed was the certainty of love, and his reassurance that there was no hurry when a lifetime lay ahead of them…. Love and patience — if only he had had them both at once — would surely have seen them both through…. this is how an entire course of a life can be changed — by doing nothing
McEwan shows us all the unspoken fears, feeling and thoughts that flow through the minds of Florence and Edward which they're strangely unable to share with one another for fear of upsetting the moment, or worse unpicking the vows they've made earlier in the day. Theirs is a union strangely absent of the security and grace that makes marriage so glorious.

Tony Watkins comments at Damaris.org: One of the remarkable features of Chesil beach is that the action of the tides sorts the pebbles by size down the length of the bar. The largest stones are shuffled down to the Portland end, while the smaller ones drift towards Abbotsbury. The danger for Edward and Florence is that the emotional tides in their lives will just as inexorably drag them apart. It all hangs on whether they can act towards each other in grace, forgiveness and patience, or whether they will harden their attitudes, underlining their inability to change.

Vernon God Little (DBC Pierre)


God knows I tried my best to learn the ways of this world, even had inklings we could be glorious; but after all that’s happened, the inkles ain’t easy anymore. I mean - what kind of..... life is this?

Jesus Navarro commits suicide in the Texas town of Martirio (Martyr) after carrying out a massacre. Vernon Little becomes the scapegoat, and goes on the run to Mexico as he tries to work out what life's about. DBC Pierre's debut novel won the 2003 Booker Prize, and is apparently the book most unfinished by British readers. That was me too until this morning, having bought the book several years ago in a 3 for 2 along with Life of Pi (Booker Prize winner in 2002) and something else..
At first I wasn't sure whether I liked this book at all. The language takes a bit of getting used to "written in contemporary vernacular - with the use of foul satirical language and a witty irony" and Vernon is hard to warm to. The story is, however, intriuging enough to have kept me reading as Vernon desperately seeks to avoid what seems to be inevitably coming to him only to be framed in comic circumstances with no apparent way out.

Tony Watkins: Vernon’s story is full of teenage fantasies and naive hopes, a feeling of helplessness, and a rising sense of injustice. On one hand you feel a deep pity for this kid with his awful home situation becoming the focus for the townspeople’s hysteria and need for a scapegoat. On the other hand, Vernon is not a pleasant character - he swears constantly, his mind is in the gutter and you’re not sure if you can trust him. One wonders in what ways Vernon’s ways of thinking reflect the past of the author, whose real name is Peter Finlay. He’s a recovering gambler, alcoholic and drug addict who has relied on crime and swindling his friends to finance his habits. He confesses to having been a fantasist who evaded responsibility and imagined that he could put everything right.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

"In a well-crafted book there would be a plot."

John C. Wright, writes about "The Golden Compass that points no where". Wright gives an interesting analysis of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials - contending that the books are neither good stories or really atheist. I think Wright makes some interesting observations about the plot and the lack of atheism...

What I find more interesting today is Wright's analysis of the nature of stories and storytelling.

(It should be said I'm probably out of my league in writing about story and I'm a bit way about any claims to define the formula of what a story should be. I dropped English Literature after GCSE, which I regret. I enjoy reading. The last fiction book I read was Ian McEwan's On Chesil Beach, which I found to be a deeply engaging and moving story. I'm still ploughing through Dostoevsky's vast The Brothers Karamazov, and on a rainy morning last week I read Dan Brown's Digital Fortress, because there was a copy where we were staying... Could three books be more different?)

Wright writes:
"In telling a tale, a narrator is trying to cast a spell, to deceive the reader (with the reader's cooperation, or course) into the illusion that the events being portrayed are unfolding before his eyes. The basic ingredient of the magician's cauldron, is, of course, verisimilitude. The events need not be real, or even realistic. They can be larger than life or smaller than life or true to life. They do not need to follow the logic of real life cause-and-effect. But they must follow the story-logic of make-believe. The author can say what happens: but he cannot say, like a child playing a game, that it only happens because of his say-so. If the events or plot elements appear out of nowhere and vanish with no consequence trailing after them, it is too much unlike life. The event seem to be inauthentic, inorganic, unnatural, and each thing that happens does not seem to be happening because of what the story requires, but merely because of what the author wants. If your plot has events and elements that don't fit into the rest of the plot, if the plot is arbitrary, the spell is broken, artistic integrity flies out the window, and the reader is betrayed."
My wife is reading The Book of Esther and I'm enjoying talking about it with her. I love the book not just because it's in The Bible, but because it seems to me to be an outstanding piece of writing, where characters and events are brilliantly set up, the plot progresses and resolves.

For example, the inescapable peril of the Jews is setup in the first chapter. We meet the King who rules the whole world - no escape. We meet the King whose laws cannot be revoked - no way out of his laws. Suspense is maintained because we don't know why those details matter until the end of the first act (chapter 3). In chapter 2 the presence of a secret Jew is established and the writing of Mordecai's heroices in Ahasuerus' Chronicles. Both are essential details in the second act of the story though again during the first act we don't know why we should know these things, but we know them... The other reason I love the book is that without making a single explicit reference to God sits perfectly among the other 65 books it's packaged with. The story makes sense in it's Biblical context, picking up details recorded much earlier in the Biblical plot (chiefly concerning the genealogies of the main characters - which are provided in the text), and is a story of salvation, much like the bigger story in which it sits. Esther as part of the Bible coheres. The story works.

On screen The Dark Knight is good seems to work well as a story too. Important details are slipped in along the way that we'll need later - such as Ramirez mother being in hospital, the sonar phone. Themes continue from the first film. Story arcs resolve. And it cries out for a third part, setting the stage for that without giving away what that'll look like. Mark Kermode says there are things that could be removed - and to be fair 153mins is a long film - could they? If so, what...

God gave us stories. The best stories. The best told stories of all.
Stories full of meaning - with characters and propositions and events and consequences. No surprise that the people he made have always loved good stories.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

"The Joker is the only character who isn’t crazy"

"What’s fascinating to me is that the Joker rejects the belief of secular humanism that man is basically good. He believes that all that is needed to reveal man’s depravity is a little push."

A Splendid Theatre

Tony Reinke has a starbucks cup from John Calvin:
"In the cross of Christ, as in a splendid theatre, the incomparable goodness of God is set before the whole world. The glory of God shines, indeed, in all creatures on high and below, but never more brightly than in the cross, in which there was a wonderful change of things - the condemnation of all men was manifested, sin blotted out, salvation restored to men; in short, the whole world was renewed and all things restored to order."

With a sense of mischief, Marcus gave me his keys

So last week Marcus covered for me while I was on holiday. This week I'm covering for him. A mutual friend commented privately: "I love the way in which Marcus says stuff - confidently, assuredly and quite often with a sense of mischief". The worrying thing is that I'm not sure there's anyone I know personally who has had more influence on me than Marcus. Anyways he's given me the keys for a week so I thought I'd start with this: Breaking out beyond expections

"I wish I was a universalist"

Ever since I became the topic of a conversation on xmedia I've popped in occasionally to see what's being argued about, this one has been there for a while. Felicity writes:

"Someone please convince me! I'd be the happiest person in the world if I thought everyone was going to heaven, but it doesn't seem to be the case. I can't cope with hell, the thought horrifies me and I almost lost my faith over it. Keep thinking surely if God is loving and powerful he could fix it for everyone? It just seems so hard to have faith, why would God make it so hard and uncertain if eternity hangs in the balance? I'm just clinging to the possibility that God will do something as people die, or maybe even in between death and the last day..."
In September I'm preaching on part of 2 Corinthians and the issue arises in the text. Paul writes of himself, before exclaiming 'who is sufficient for these things' (who can handle this responsibility!): ..we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.

There are only two categories of people here. Those being saved and those perishing. And then the objections fly. But, I wonder, what are the alternatives?
  1. Everyone goes to hell? No-one has ever got very far pushing that view.
  2. Everyone (or the otherwise hell-bound) ceases. Dawkins and his new atheists like this as do many who don't like the idea of hell. And trying to escape God's judgement is a wise move, but believing in annihilation after death is just that isn't it - a human idea to vanish hell rather than a serious reckoning with the offence of sin, the holiness of God and the necessity of hell. Initially feels better but ceasing to exists is a disturbing idea.
  3. Everyone goes to heaven? Felicity things she'd prefer this as to many in the discussion thread. But if everyone goes to heaven then you need room there for Pol Pot and for Paris Hilton. Everyone has to include everyone doesn't it - otherwise we're just moving the line slightly to include a few extra people who we deem to deserve being saving.
  4. Second chance? Alternatively you say that after death there is a way out - whether the christianised error of purgatory or reincarnation.

Felicity admits she is 'clinging to the possibility that God will do something as people die, or maybe even in between death and the last day' (point 4), and 'I'd be the happiest person in the world if I thought everyone was going to heaven' (point 3).

And yet, as C.S. Lewis wrote (cited by Amy Orr-Ewing, But is it real? p97)

"In the long run the answer to all those who object to the doctrine of hell, is itself a question: 'What are you asking God to do?' To wipe out their past sins and, at all costs, to give them a fresh start, smoothing every difficult and offering every miraculous help? But He has done so, on Calvary. To forgive them? They will not be forgiven. To leave them alone? Alas, I am afraid that is what He does." (The problem of pain, p130)

Not so much alone, but rather abandoned from all God's favour to experience his good and holy response to human rebellion. Here is why Christians speak of Jesus so much. Here is why Paul always goes around announcing that the old king is dead, long live the king - Jesus is Lord! Spreading the aroma of the knowledge of Jesus everywhere.

An aroma that is the odour of putrification to some and life to others. What aroma? Not the smell of moral improvement and human effort. That is death to everyone - Christian or otherwise. The aroma of the good news about Jesus. The proclamation that he is victorious. This smells of life. This is fresh coffee, fresh bread and grilled bacon on a saturday morning to the Christian.

This announcement is like water. To some it is water thrown on hot oil that makes it spit and fume and flame. Without overly revisiting my talk on Hell at Exeter University earlier this year - whilst I spoke of hell I did mostly speak of the free gift of life offered by God in Jesus, and yet this speech was termed by one student to be worse than the actions of a paedophile.

To others the water of the gospel is the refreshing needed by a parched person on a summer day. It is the comfort they need in their affliction. It is a fresh start, a new life, a new creation. He becomes sin for us, we become righteous, he takes our poverty and we gain his riches - this is the great exchange of Calvary.

God has done it. Already. No need to wait until death, or after death. This life is freely offered now. God has found the way, and it is the way to be the happiest person in the world - Paul says as much of himself, though he loses all things outwardly, the gospel has reconciled him to God now and forever. His ears hear the song of Christ's rule. His nose catches the sweet scent of the gospel. His eyes see the glory of God manifest in Jesus in the scriptures. He's a renewed creation, being ever-increasingly transformed to be like Jesus whom he will one day be with, not with all people - but with all who come by the way God has long since opened for anyone to come through.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Blogging Influence: Technorati Rankings

Technorati.com ranks blogs by their influence through linking. Influence comes by
a) Writing good stuff that others pick up on and link to.
b) Linking to good posts. Commenting is good, so is picking up something, highlighting it to your readers and interacting with it on your own blog.

Mine is messed up at the moment due to the recent URL change, though they only consider the last six months so that'll right itself in time. So my ranking is currently 179,694 and 59,167 - probably should be more like 100,000ish (98,472 on Sept 18th). I thought I'd see where my blogroll ranks... Influence, reader quantity and content quality aren't necessarily related. These just cover the current ** blogs by technorati influence which are the ones I read most. Brits in bold.
1,747: Tim Challies
1,868: Justin Taylor
10,948: Abraham Piper
12,337: Bob Kauflin
15,716: Adrian Warnock

17,460: Thabiti Anyabwile
32,225: Tony Reinke
42,931: CJ Mahaney
47,001: Colin Adams
62,133: Ray Ortlund 
85,957: Tim Chester
114,049: Terry Virgo

124,453: Owen Strachen
129,410: Milton Stanley
141,102: Wittingshire
144,278: David Field
157,192: Martin Downes
252,202: Glen Scrivener
257,572: Stephen Murray
271,202: Mark Meynell
277,083: Dave Simpson

305,873: Dan Hames
356,267: Ros Clarke
392,676: Chris Watson Lee
430,032: Marcus Honeysett
437,231: Ed Goode
437,231: Matt Adcock
437,231: Remy Wilkins
455,882: Rosemary Grier
463,038: Adrian Reynolds
463,038: Krish Kandiah
525,730: Lindsay Langdon
605,272: Tom Price
606,637: Mark Heath
606,637: Phil Whittall
606,637: Jonathan Bowers
784,967: Sean Green
870,932: Andy Shudall
870,932: Kath Arnold
870,932: Tim Wilson

870,932: Sam Allberry
964,335: Ant Adams
964,335: Pete Dray
1,113,405: Scott Taylor
1,294,390: Cat Hare

1,294,390: Bobby Sparks
1,294,390: John Lanferman
1,655,777: Pete Jackson
2,638,010: Chris Oldfield
2,638,010: Peter Williams

3,324,847: Andy Cottingham
4,549,429: Kenny Robertson
Unranked: David Matthias
Unranked: Greg Pye
Unranked: Mike Kendall








A UK Christian Bloggers chart by influence then looks something roughly like this...
If you're convinced you should be in there please comment with appropriate Technorati ranking! I'm sure it gets increasingly accurate as it goes down the list - particulary since I've not checked my entire blogroll - and for all it's length there are plenty of other blogs out there beyond my blogroll.
I'll publish a revised version in due course - record your ranking in comments to make sure you're in.
1. Dave Walker
2. Adrian Warnock
3. Colin Adams
4. Tim Chester
5. Dave Bish
6. Terry Virgo
7. Titus 2 Talk Teamblog
8. David Field
9. Martin Downes
10. Dave Warnock



11. Mark Meynell
12. Dave Simpson
13. Dan Hames
14. Ros Clarke
15. Chris Watson Lee
16. Glen Scrivener
17. Marcus Honeysett
18. Ed Goode
19. Matt Adcock
20. Adrian Reynolds.
21. Stuart Townend.
22. Krish Kandiah
23. Daniel Newman.
24.Hugh Bourne
25. Tom Price
26. Mark Heath
27. Phil Whittall
28. Rosemary Grier
29. Sean Green








Also on my blogroll and influential are:
3,187: Scot McKnight 5,305: Michael Spencer 5,470: Pyromaniacs 6,508: Tall Skinny Kiwi 6,681: Ben Witherington 8,683: Dave Walker's Cartoon blog 9,535: Pulpit Blog 10,835: Steve McCoy 16,323: Doug Wilson 17,004: Timmy Brister 34,984: David Wayne 42,509: Dan Edelen 99,884: Expository Thoughts 132,665: Titus 2 Talk 180,023: Dan Cruver