Sunday, August 30, 2009

Mobilising UK Student Leaders for Mission

This week I'll be at our annual national student leaders conference, Forum. There should be about 1000 of us on site, mostly student leader plus the staff & relay teams and guests. We're joined this year by Terry Virgo, Lindsay & Ann Brown, Keith Walker and Krish Kandiah on the speaking team which should be brilliant.

I'm speaking on one of the morning tracks on "Transformed by the Gracious God" and then a workshop which will essentially be an interview with Terry Virgo on keeping going in grace.

This is the highlight of the off-season in student mission, gathering to believe the gospel and be sent afresh by God to live and speak for Jesus on campuses all over England, Scotland and Wales, expectant of what He will do to build the churches of our land, as students unite across denominations and movements to make Jesus known.

Usually I turn up and have the opportunity to serve South West students I know. Having been on paternity leave during our regional CU leaders weekend earlier this year it feels a little strange. They are known to Jesus though, and I'm there to bring his word to them - and I know I'll have the privilege of getting to know them through the week, and I trust seeing God changing hearts, ripples that will flow out to hundreds of campuses and who knows beyond that to the nations...

I think of Forum five years ago, Terry Virgo was main speaker that year too, leaders came from Reading CU and were equipped and affected for mission, then six months later they ran an Alpha course, and Anna Hopkins did the course and God graciously saved her, and now she's about to take the gospel to Paris... we'll be praying for her during Le Monde on Wednesday evening.

I may or may not blog from the conference, I'm sure some will and you'll be able to follow them at UCCF Bloggers and probably on Twitter via #uccf.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Fan the flame: Terry Virgo on The Unquenchable Flame

"If post-Biblical church history has a high spot so far, for me that has to be the Reformation. Luther’s explosive rediscovery of justification by faith rocks the boat not only of the corrupt Roman Catholic church but also transforms the whole of European and indeed world history.


Mike Reeves’ fine volume is so well-written that he carries you along with the magnificent revolution. What days they were! What courage and fortitude was shown! How must we live to guard the truths they restored and be worthy of the price they paid in fighting and dying for such buried and forgotten dynamite!


If church reformation and revolution are still required (and they surely are) and you want to play a part in world history, you would be wise to get your own copy of Mike Reeves’ book, read and digest it and help fan the unquenchable flame into an even greater blaze."

Review from Terry's website. More at The Unquenchable Flame website on Theology Network

Faith and Darwin: Harmony, Conflict or Confusion (Theos Report)

Download Theos Report. Here is a picture of the findings:
A family sits down together to mark the anniversary of Darwin’s birth and the publication of the Origin of Species. According to our research, we might find that grandma would represent a typical Young Earth Creationist. She believes in a theistic God and finds her meaning in the unique significance of being created by God.

Then we would have mum and dad, they are middle aged and in social group C1. Both believe in evolution but have slightly different views. Mum is a Theistic Evolutionist, believing that there is a God who controlled evolution, but dad is an Atheistic Evolutionist. Mum has always believed there is a God and takes the opening chapters of the Bible as a theological but not a literal account. Dad, on the other hand, used to believe in God but no longer does, he thinks that science has challenged religious belief and is more convinced by science. He doesn’t believe there is life after death or in spiritual things.

Finally there is the 25 year old son, he is a young graduate and open-minded. He thinks that evolution is a theory that is still waiting to be proved or disproved and as a result believes in Intelligent Design. He is not convinced by any supposed nihilistic implications of evolution and he thinks that human origins are best explained by a combination of science and the intervention of a higher power.
• Just 37% of respondents agree that Darwinian evolution is a theory so well established it is beyond reasonable doubt, with nearly a fifth (19%) believing it has little or no supporting evidence. 36% state that the theory is still waiting to be proved or disproved.
• An overwhelming majority of people (75%) believe that science can explain many things, but not everything.
• Only 10% consider science and religious belief to be completely incompatible.
• More than half of the population (53%) believes in God. Interestingly, while 8% of people say they used to believe in God but no longer do so, this is equalled by the number of people who believe in God but have not always.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

John Madejski: Everything is borrowed (iPlayer)

On iPlayer. John Madejski's story. At 67, multi-millionaire business buccaneer and would-be playboy John Madejski is to be knighted for a lifetime of giving. He has 250 million in the bank and gives to the arts and education, and especially to his home town of Reading (where we used to live).

"Everything you get in this life you only borrow, you have to give it back one way or another"

Rich Man, Poor Man, A Knights Tale (Available until September 1st)
And don't miss a bit of Michael McIntyre too.

The Melodic Line of Colossians

This is unashamedly from some training I received from Richard Coekin several years ago.
"The aim of purpose of a text applied to the theme or melodic line of the text will give us the main message of the text."

Consider Colossians 1v3-8
v3: Paul prays for the Colossians with thanksgiving; we conclude it is good to pray with thankfulness.
v4: faith is impressive as is love.
v5: faith, love and hope are the tests of being a Christian
v6: the gospel is true and about the future, the gospel is about grace
v7: we should commend our fellow gospel workers
v8: we should speak well of one another.

All of which are good but what if we locate this passage in Colossians.
1. How does Paul know about the Colossians? (4v12, 1v7, 2v1)
2. What does he think of them? (1v3-5,2v5)
3. What false teaching is he worried about? (2v8,16,18)
4. So what is the primary aim or purpose of this letter? (2v6-7,2v4)
5. And what's the primary theme or melodic line of the letter? (2v6&9,2v16&17,2v18&20)
6. How do the following relate to this melodic line? (1v3=8,1v9-14,1v15-23,1v24-2v5,3v1-4v6)
7. If we apply the melodic line to the purpose of the letter, what's the message of Colossians?
Trying 1v3-8 again:
v3-5a: Paul thanks God for their faith that marks them out and the hope they have stored up - they are true believers not needing any extras.
v5b-6: The gospel is true, you can see it growing globally.
v7: False teachers are saying that Epaphras didn't teach the full gospel, but we say Epaphras is a genuine gospel teacher: In Christ you have all you need!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Trouble with Men and Women: Exercises in love and unity

Christians differ in conscience and conviction about what the Bible says about a number of issues. Really everything is disputed somewhere, but if we can concede that there are some things that are utterly essential and others that are open to some dispute, some which are essential for unity, others over which there is room to differ, then one of the most contentious is the role of women.

The issue basically comes down to the role of men and women in marriage, and the role of men and women in the church particularly with regard to leadership and teaching. On the one side is the egalitarian who notes that men and women are both created in God's image and that there is no male and female in Christ. On the other the complementarian who agrees with the previous statement but says that this equality includes order which says men are to lead in the home and the church.

The missional movement in which I work takes no position on this issue, regarding it as a matter on which we can disagree and still carry out our mission, consequently you can find students, staff and churches in our partnership who hold a full range of views on the issues.

Our partner publishing house IVP-UK have published a volume by Grudem on Complementarianism and one edited by Groothuis and Fee on Egalitarianism. Fee spoke at our Staff Training Conference a few years ago. My church and its wider family are broadly complementarian (to varying degrees), and I would agree with the stance my church takes. Churches need to decide a position as they appoint leaders and have more to do with marriage than a purely student context ever will.

My experience is that those who are opposed to the complementarian viewpoint tend to be concerned that it is oppressive to women who will find themselves dominated in the home and their ability to serve in the church restricted. Hannah expresses her experience here of being within the same student movement and church family as I am. I don't doubt there is some abuse, from all theological positions, and that is shameful and without excuse. In the church I hurt other members and other members hurt me through negligence, weakness through our own deliberate fault; but we are called to love by the one who loved us, the propitiation and expiation for our sins.

In marriage what's really at stake is the issue of men stepping up to take responsibility for their household, unlike the original shirker Adam; and women partnering with their husbands rather than being led astray by an outsider, unlike Eve. Both Adam and Eve are held responsible for the fall. The women in our church seem far from oppressed and more liberated and empowered by their husbands leading. Moreover the real issue is that male leadership is to be Christlike leadership which means giving themselves up to death for their wives, and similarly the wife being like the church dies to live a new life in Christ. I think the application of these doctrines makes for a better marriage, one in which my sin is confronted by the gospel of grace rather than accomodated.

In the church one has to deal with the maleness of instructions about the qualifications for leaders in 1 Timothy 4, Titus 1 and the restrictions of 1 Timothy 2 one way or another. I think this has to come in view of a body ministry, which I'm glad our church practises. This means that the elder or the preacher is not the key ministry to have, but rather that every ministry matters in the church - indeed leaders equip the saints for ministry - saying a woman can't be an elder is just saying a woman isn't a man because she's a woman it's no degredation or restriction of her ability to contribute to the body. Where would the body be without women? On a Sunday morning (and at other times) I'm as benefited by the prayers and prophecies and other contributions of women in our church as by the service of other men in the body.

In my mind the issue matters because marriage is meant to be the best echo of Christ and the church and there are ways in which that echo is meant to be heard, and because the life of the church is to look like Christ's body and reflect the life of the Triune God too. Order is something that is evident in creation, the world was formless but God spoke to bring form and orderliness because he too is a God of order not of chaos. I find it hard to see how anyone can draw Egalitarian convictions from the Scripture, but doubtless my brothers and sisters in Christ would query how I can draw my Complementarian views (and a whole host of other conclusions) from Scripture too!

In my workplace though we're not running a church we're a partnership between churches and the principle issue, ahead of having my own doctrinal way, is to have love, and that means some Christian Unions lovingly don't have women teaching and others do - on the basis of how we can best serve and bear with one another's consciences in these matters.

There is liberty. We unite on the gospel. We admit our differences. And we love one another.

Issues that can divide us don't have to be papered over - we can face them head on, respecting that there is room for disagreement with brothers and sisters, without abandoning our own convictions but in pursuit of love. When opportunity comes to teach on what it is to be a man or a woman I want to tread carefully and respectfully, admitting that Bible-loving people have drawn other conclusions on the issue to those I have drawn.

The Egalitarian Evangelical is doubtlessly trying to be Christlike - today I choose to assume the best of others though I confess I've not always done so. This Complementarian Evangelical is also trying to be Christlike, and if so that has got to mean loving others and dying to my self not least because I'm saying that as a husband I want to walk in Christ's footsteps and lay my life down for my wife, a pursuit that doesn't sit well with the arrogance, laziness, pride or divisiveness that I might easily be prone to embrace.

Monday, August 24, 2009

A fairy tale in a field

Paul Huxley on a gospel fairy tale in a field makes for a fresh reading of the book of Ruth, with some reference to Glen Scrivener's Who The Man on parables and Christian Hedonism. Paul writes...
"A man finds some treasure in a field, he covers it up, joyfully buys the field and gets the treasure. Does that sound familiar? That's right. It's the plot of the book Ruth. A man, Boaz, finds a treasure in a field (2:4), he covers it up (implied by 3:9), joyfully buys the field (4:9-10) and gets the treasure (4:13). Of course, you'll recognise the story from Matthew 13:44."
I think this sort of works. The book of Ruth pivots on a move from emptiness to fullness, kinglessness to a king, death to life.. which is a gospel movement that has it's origins in a family fleeing from living in God's house to a self-imposed exile among foreign gods, called back by grace, discovered by Boaz.... redemption though comes not through Boaz but his son Obed from whom comes David etc.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Creation: The true story of Charles Darwin


Damaris has a host of great resources on new Charles Darwin biopic Creation:

"A well-made and beautifully shot film, Creation uses appropriate artistic licence to simplify and dramatise the specific details of the story of Darwin's writing of The Origin of Species - and, in doing so, raises many important and challenging issues around the question of evolution and belief in God."
Nick Spencer, author of Darwin and God (SPCK, 2009).

Watch the trailer:

All I have is Christ

When I was at Covenant Life Church about 18 months ago, we learned this great song:

All I Have Is Christ from Sovereign Grace Ministries on Vimeo.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Eben (Olly Knight)


Listen to the music of my new collegue, Olly Knight of Eben.

Olly is the new Canterbury CU Staffworker and a member of The City Church in Canterbury.

Total Church: Study Guide, Audio & Video, blog

“Paul says that ‘in [Christ] you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by the Spirit’ (Ephesians 2:22). This is not some theoretical entity, nor the perfected church. This is a real, local congregation with all sorts of problems. The community formed by the gospel for the gospel is the community in which God dwells by his spirit” (p29).

Going to University?

A-level results out today, Click here for boundless resources to prepare you for arrival in the student world, watch the videos, connect with CU and church.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Things I love about living in Exeter. 5. Frontiers Church

As a Christian, living somewhere combines somewhere to live, somewhere to work and a church family to be part of. In our first five months in Exeter we found the first two but not the third. My old job in Reading was vacant and I think if we'd been offered that job back we might just have taken it. We went to a church which seemed like the obvious place to be and it's great in many many ways but for some reason it wasn't the place for us. Doubtless much of the fault was ours - we didn't look around and just assumed we'd fit into a church that was technically just like the one we left behind in Reading. The pastor was very kind when we left, which we did quietly and quickly. We continue to have massive respect for him and his ministry and his church and we genuinely wish them all the best with their mission in east Exeter, with much thankfulness for friends we made there.

The first weekend of February 2008 we went to Frontiers Church, after several Sunday mornings waking up sayings "we could always try Frontiers". At the end of the meeting we looked at one another and nodded and smiled. This was home. i can't really explain how we knew. The welcome was friendly, the worship was well led by Matt, Stu preached a stonking sermon, we were invited to lunch with Steve and Liz... the experience was pretty good by all accounts. It's not always like that, it isn't always going to be like that. We found a home.Finding a church family isn't always easy, and all sorts of sociological factors can make settling in tricky - it's group dynamics as well as the friendliness of the church that defines whether someone actually speaks to you or not. What I know is that I love the church and it's good to be home with our church family, one of many great churches in Exeter.

For this season of life, however long it lasts, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else than plugged into our church family. And honestly if you live in Exeter I think you'd love to be part of it too, on mission with in imperfect people who have a passion for Jesus and for the people of our city to know him.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Time Traveler's Wife: Destiny

I wanted to explore some of the themes in The Time Traveller's Wife. Henry and Clare live in a universe that we're told is already written. Henry is a participator who observes but is unable to change things. He does change things by being there - coming out of the woods to get to know Clare - but is unable to re-write things and save his mother from death when he is six years old. We get the idea that people play a passive role in life, or at least one that is unaware of what is going on as events happen.

The circumstances around the beginning of Henry and Clare's sexual relationship and pregnancies suggest they are more able to know what is going on, as they effectively deceive the other. At the heart of the film we see Clare illustrate a doctrine of free will when she declines Henry's proposal, to see what it would feel like to exercise her freedom, before saying yes because her whole life has been about marrying Henry, why would she want anything else? Much like a Christian, no longer a slave to sin but a slave to Christ - free not to sin, free to live for Christ - why would a Christian want anything else...

Throughout death looms as the destiny of characters. We're shown a little of what it means for Henry to live knowing he will die. The reality is that we all live knowing we'll die, we just assume it wont happen to us. Henry has the advantage or curse of knowing when and to some extent how he will die in advance. This isn't the only thing he knows - and the same is true for Clare who knows of Henry before meeting him. His time travelling has given him many benefits - such as a whole lifetime of knowing a woman he only meets for the first time in his twenties, and the ability to cheat some circumstances, but it carries a curse like unexpectedly being away for two weeks over Christmas and turning up naked in the middle of winter. Does his destiny balance out for or against him?

We're asked whether we are victim or beneficiaries of our circumstances? Are we passively pushed around by our genetics and our circumstances, drawn again and again to certain people and places, or is life lived actively and deliberately? However involved or uninvolved the passage of time itself in The Time Traveller's Wife is unstoppable, Henry can take detours backwards and forwards but the clock keeps ticking, running from his mother's wintertime death, through the seasons back to his final winter night - with a sunnier postscript.

Monday, August 17, 2009

“Get up to date: isn’t Christianity irrelevant to modern life?”

Discuss! I'm speaking, evangelistically, to students in Oxford on this title at the end of October and your ideas are very welcome.

J.C. Ryle

Erik Kowalker has started up a J.C. Ryle Quotes blog. We have much to learn from those who have gone before us and this looks like a helpful resource...

“Are you living in any kind of sin? Are you following the course of this world, and neglecting your soul? Hear! I beseech you, what I say to you this day: “Behold the cross of Christ. See there how Jesus loved you! See there what Jesus suffered to prepare for you a way of salvation! Yes: careless men and women, for you that blood was shed! For you those hands and feet were pierced with nails! For you that body hung in agony on the cross! You are they whom Jesus loved, and for whom He died! Surely that love ought to melt you. Surely the thought of the cross should draw you to repentance. Oh, that it might be so this very day!”

Things I love about living in Exeter. 4. Dartmoor

We've really only just scratched the surface of Dartmoor but thus far my favourite place is Fingle Bridge and the Teign Gorge. I take my team there each September for a walk to get to know each other better.

You can park at the top at Castle Drogo and walk down and back up but I prefer starting at the pub at Fingle Bridge walking up the gorge, down and then back along the river. We stumbled across The Duck Race on Easter Monday at Fingle Bridge which is an experience!

There's something about the scale of the gorge and the running water that reminds me of my smallness in a way that is very refreshing.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Things I love about living in Exeter. 3. The beaches

I grew up in the Midlands, studied in Bath and moved to Reading. Beaches are a novelty that I do think I'll ever get used to living near.

By car or train Exeter has easy access to the sandy beaches of Exmouth, Dawlish and Teignmouth, and by road to the stones of Buddleigh Salterton. I love each of these in their own ways. Exmouth is the student favourite, golden sands at the end of the Exmouth branchline - and the place where our church does it's summer beach baptisms. The sand is redder in the other direction but Dawlish, and more so Teignmouth, are well worth a visit. Whether to walk along the sea wall or on the beach itself I love the sea whether visiting socially with friends and family or taking a good book for study purposes. Decent fish and chips available from many outlets.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Time Traveller's Wife

On Friday evening we went to see The Time Traveller's Wife. My wife had read the book, and I'd read half of it - I got half way and she nicked it off me at Cork airport about 3 years ago and I'd never gotten round to read the rest (though I now have).

The film follows the basic thread of the book, Henry DeTamble has a genetic condition that means he spontaneously time travels, with a particular attraction to certain gravitational points - chiefly linked to his eventual wife Clare. It's not a sci-fi but a romantic story, largely about waiting and longing within a history that is already written (no time-changing time travel here, this is not Back to the Future). We see this determinism illustrated in the face of tragedy in the characters and Clare's response to Henry's wedding proposal and the final conclusion of the film.

Comparing the a book and a film is always problematic. The formats are different and a straight copy is rarely going to produce a good film. A lot is cut, including some fairly major characters, leaving a film that still feels a little cramped at 107 minutes but which is perfectly long enough for the story. Somewhere a bit more space would have helped because what's left feels a bit contrived and moulded into the hollywood rom-com genre - hardly giving room to really contemplate the big questions about death and determinism that the film raises..

The ending is slightly different and I think ends up making the opposite point about hope and waiting which has evidently outraged fans of the book, and is a bit disappointing - having not finished the book til after watching the film feels like a win. I don't think the film is as good or as engaging as the book, but that's rarely the case. A decent light Rachel-McAdams-The-Notebook-esque film with hints of substance that are worth pondering further.

Things I love about living in Exeter. 2. The Edge of the City

I grew up in a village so getting out of the city centre matters to me. I've been converted to town/city life having lived in Bath, Reading and Exeter for the last 12 years, but I have to get out sometime!

In Exeter this is made spectacular by two things. First there is the domitory town / suburb of Topsham. A short drive from the ring road or an easy train ride away this is the best place to spend a Saturday morning. On arrival the Antiques centre is worth a browse followed by a walk along The Strand, parallel to the river, and then out along the esturary for a while. On returning The Cafe on Fore Street is a great place to sit with your wife and drink coffee, chat and read the paper - a newsagent is opposite. Returning home with as slight detour to Darts Farm is no bad idea.

On the otherside of the river Exe, at the end of the canal is the Turf pub at Turf Locks. Inaccessible by road, you can park just under a mile away at the of Station Road, Exminster. Alternatively walk the five miles from The Quay, via Double Locks down to Turf Locks along the canal, or take a ferry from Topsham. A great place to go on an afternoon or an evening. On arrival, sitting in the garden looking down the river and out to sea is brilliant, views of Topsham and Exmouth on the other side of the river.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Where is Christ in your preaching?

The motto of all true servants of God must be, “We preach Christ; and him crucified.” A sermon without Christ in it is like a loaf of bread without any flour in it. No Christ in your sermon, sir? Then go home, and never preach again until you have something worth preaching
[Exposition of Acts 13:13-49 published in 1904]

Leave Christ out? O my brethren, better leave the pulpit out altogether. If a man can preach one sermon without mentioning Christ’s name in it, it ought to be his last, certainly the last that any Christian ought to go to hear him preach. [sermon: “A Prayer for the Church” (1867)]

There's more to a sermon than saying the name of Christ but if you don't have any Christ in your sermon it doesn't matter how articulate and wonderful the rest of it is.

More posted by Tony Reinke.

Things I love about living in Exeter. 1. The City Centre

Next week it'll be two years since we moved from Reading to Exeter. I thought I'd share just a few things that I appreciate about my city.

The making of any location is of course the availability of suitable coffee establishments. Exeter is of course populated by the standard array of Starbucks, Costa and Nero in multiple doses, of which the High Street Caffe Nero is by far the best. The best place to drink coffee is probably in Boston Tea Party, the coffee is comparable to elsewhere in the city centre but the architecture and atmosphere exceeds all the rest.

I've yet to drink coffee overlooking the Cathedral Green which would surely be the best place where the new Tea on the Green might just be the place to go, though I've not made it there yet. The Cathedral is one of the major high points of the city centre. Reading once had an Abbey bigger than Westminster (on the site of the current town centre prison!) which if it remained would surely have become a buzzing focal point for the town, Exeter has this kind of focus which adds feature and character that Reading has none of.

Downhill from the Cathedral is The Quay which is my favourite part of central Exeter. The combination of the river side, old shops and the On The Waterfront pub is a winner, and a great place to spend a warm evening or a Sunday afternoon (especially combined with Jazz in the summer).

In addition there are Rougemont Gardens which occasionally offers outdoor theatre in the summer, Princesshay new shopping area and the world's narrowest street, Parliament Street which I only discovered recently.

What does it look like to be a disciple of Jesus?

Glen Scrivener: ...You must know that a Christian is nothing if they are not a worshipper of Jesus and Twelve thoughts on Discipleship.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Your Jesus is too safe (Blog Tour)

Posted as part of the blogtour for Your Jesus is Too Safe by Jared Wilson

Jared Wilson is interested in Jesus.
He knows that there is a problem today.
It's not a lack of interest in Jesus.
The problem is that everyone has their own Jesus.
Their my Jesus. Their I like to think of this kind of Jesus.
As opposed to the Bible version of Jesus.
And Wilson contends that these personal Jesus's are lesser versions, pale reflections and cheap imitations. He is right.

In this book Wilson introduces us to the real Jesus in a style that is funny and accessible, theological and engaging.

Books on Jesus aren't all that easy to find. I can think of John Owen's The Glory of Jesus which is stunning and deep but very heavy going. Or there is John Piper's Seeing and Savouring Jesus Christ which is devotional and inspiring. Or there is Mark Driscoll's Vintage Jesus which is good and funny and in need of serious editing to make it a book rather than just a sermon transcript.

Jared Wilson's book is meaty and engaging, with a touch of inoffensive resurgence humour. What might offend you are some of the facets he shows us of who Jesus is, but that is for you to wrestle with if your Jesus is too safe. This is my new go-to book on Jesus, assuming it gets a UK publisher.

We're given twelve angles on Jesus that hit all the major issues of his identity and work for us. It's not always a comfortable read, because we all slip into the errors Wilson observes, but the humour and style and weight of the content are disarming and inescapable.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Among the dead and the living

Phil Whittall observes:
It seems to me that American Christians and pastors are fascinated by dead British Christians while British Christians/pastors are fascinated by American pastors. What's with that? I read this morning that Josh Harris is a fan of JC Ryle, which in itself is hardly something to get upset about but it did spark this mini-rant. Good for Josh, Ryle is a worthy hero of the faith. But it seems to me that the Yanks get all excited by CS Lewis, CH Spurgeon, JC Ryle, CT Studd and other guys with initials instead of first names. Lewis and Spurgeon in particular are highly exalted, oh and Dr MLJ of course.

On the other hand, if you pay close attention to the names that are bandied around amongst us Limey's are John Piper, Bill Hybels, Rick Warren, Mark Driscoll, Tim Keller, Rob Bell and whoever else is leading some very large church. What you don't seem to find are Brits talking about dead American Christians of any note and any Americans talking about living Brits of any note (our churches are too small).
Seems a fairly true observation. From the British perspective we'd do well to look to our own history with the initialed leaders and others, and when looking across the pond we'd be wise to get to know dead Americans like David Brainerd and Jonathan Edwards (Of course one of John Piper's best contributions to the church is his 'the swans are not silent' biographies which take in many American and British dead guys) and those highlighted by Thabiti Anyabwile in The Faithful Preacher: Recapturing the Vision of Three Pioneering African-American Pastors.

Lex Loizides would be a good friend in developing an acquaintance with those who have walked before us as would Historical Theology at TheologyNetwork.org.

I'm looking seven months ahead with eager anticipation to six hours of teaching Newfrontiers Impacters church history!!

How to drink Coffee

I love coffee, and this is a little theological rambling on why...

Alternatively: Owen Strachen: Shooting Sacred Evangelical Cows: Coffee Drinking

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Can God make a rock so heavy even he can't move it?

Jared Wilson says Yes

Genesis 1 - We shall overcome!

This season will the money of Manchester City and Chelsea overcome the champions Manchester United? This season will the style and substance (?) overcome the dour Scotsman in 10 Downing Street. Who will overcome? The stage is set.

In Genesis 1 we find the earth dark, formless and unfilled. It is the beginning, though the plan of salvation has already been wrought in the hearts of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit before the beginning. The Father's plan of amazing grace will be enacted by the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit, to save the elect as the Son dies as a blemishless Passover Lamb.

The Word comes as the Spirit hovers over the waters and overcomes the darkness. He speaks to say let there be light. Glory is revealed. Day and Night come. Form is introduced on the most basic level and the light shines. Moreover, a light is given to rule the day and another to rule the night. Even at night the darkness does not overcome any more. Light rules. The darkness is overcome.

The waters are formless but lines are drawn. In the presence of Divine Wisdom the horizon is drawn dividing the heavens and the earth, the skies and the world, the land and the sea. The formlessness of creation is overcome.

Still the earth is empty but it begins to be populated by birds and fish, creeping things and all other kinds of creations. Initially in small quantity but commanded to multiply and increase, urged on by the King's command. At the climax of it all is humanity. Made to enact the completeness of God's overcoming. To rule over all things under God, to fill in the missing detail, bringing light and form and filling to the ends of the earth. Man imaging a pale reflection of The Man and his bride who truly complete this overcoming, turning chaos into cosmos.

Truly this overcoming only comes in Christ, the light who shone in the darkness, was killed in the darkness but who overcame it victorious. Yet man too overcomes in Christ, bringing the light of God's word and life into the world, not being overcome and entangled by sin. Man overcomes in filling the creation and in bringing dominion over it - taking responsiblity for that which is entrusted to him whether a paper round or high government office. Man overcomes in forming, not living chaos but in order, with a diary and a plan to see a global dwelling for God and man, a community structured and orderly like the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in whom true fullness is found.

By the blood of the Lamb we shall overcome!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Jekyll & Hyde

I had the pleasure last evening of reading Robert Louis Stevenson's 1886 classic novella Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Like everyone I'm acquainted with the basic idea of the book, it has become part of our culture, but until now I hadn't actually read it.

At about 60 pages its a short and easy read centred round a handful of characters exploring the two sides of Dr Jekyll's personality and character, illustrating the struggle between good and evil within us. Highly recommended.

Warrior Mummy!

Erik Raymond:
“Birth is fraught with mystery, wonder, and danger. As a mother approaches the door of death, she brings new life into the world….In giving birth the woman challenges the penalty of death on mankind for sinning against God in the Garden of Eden (Gen 2.16-17), for each birth insures the continuation of the race. Symbolically each birth strikes a blow on the head of the paradisaical serpent, the champion of death (Gen 3.15). Giving birth was a momentous act of victory. But the regulations of ritual purity did not allow a new mother to exalt herself as divine in her great accomplishment. These regulations relegated her triumph to the sphere of this earth without diminishing her great joy in bringing forth new life.”

(John Hartley, Leviticus: Word Biblical Commentary), pp. 169-170
Another reason women are amazing.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

New blog: John Hosier

John Hosier is in South Africa for a year and blogging about it. John Hosier's blog:


"From pastoring to teaching in Bible College, leading Church of Christ the King, Brighton, UK to writing books about the End Times and Christ's radiant bride, John Hosier has been serving the church for many years. He and his wife, Sue, have now joined Jubilee Community Church, Cape Town, South Africa, for a year from July 2009"

Thursday, August 06, 2009

The School of Wisdom (Proverbs 1:1-7)

We're preaching Proverbs at Frontiers Church Exeter from September til Mid-February. I'm opening the series, these are my initial notes.

Proverbs is a chewy book, it’s not always straight forward – mostly it’s written in pithy phrases that tend to come in pairs that parallel one another as in v2: to know wisdom… to understand words… saying the same thing twice in different words. At times its even contradictory – in chapter 26 we hear that it’s wise to answer a fool and in the next verse it’s wise not to. Is Solomon an idiot? No he knows, wisdom isn’t tick-boxes, it’s about an approach to life and situations. It’s a 3000 year old book but as its writer says elsewhere, there is nothing new under the sun. Solomon writes to a world where people are born and learn, work and marry, sleep and buy, eat and and die – much like today.

Moses has five books, The Law. David has five books of Psalms, and here are Solomon’s five books of Proverbs. We’ll follow the ancient pattern of introducing a letter, which has been adopted by email today. If you want some scaffolding it’s FROM, TO, SUBJECT.

FROM Solomon, about Jesus.
He is the third king of Israel, the last king of the whole nation. Moreover, “son of David” is a title that recalls God’s promise in 2 Samuel 7that King David’s son would be God’s son and king forever. A title given to Jesus in Matthew 1:1. The True Son of David is Jesus, and Solomon shows him to us. We’ll see Jesus all over this book. Four key angles:
1. He’s the true son of the king. He is disciplined by his father. See chapter 3.
2. He’s the son advised by his father about work. The true son who will always do the work of his father, chiefly in going to the cross to save and bring us to God. This theme repeats on a number of occasions. See chapter 6 and repeatedly between chapters 10-30.
3. He’s the son being taught by his father who to marry. A choice between two women, the adulteress Lady Folly and the life-giving Lady Wisdom. And we’ll see him in the final chapter gaining his bride. He is not like Adam who with his wife was a fool – pursuing God’s wisdom by man’s ways. By contrast, he’s the son who marries a spotless and beautiful wife. The wife cleansed by his blood, the fruitful church. See this in chapters 5-7 and also 31.
4. He is personified by Lady Wisdom. In the romance of Proverbs we’ll see Jesus through the son and through his bride. Don’t be freaked out by seeing him portrayed as a woman, he’s not – but we see him in her, especially in chapter 8 where he is with his father at creation, as portrayed by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel.
TO three kinds of people:
1. The simple (v4) – those who know that they don’t know and want to know will grow from this book.
2. The wise (v5) – those who have wisdom already will increase from this book. Those who love the gospel of Jesus can never get enough of his company and will be able to delve deeper into the riches of his the one who is wisdom.
3. The fool (v7) – those who hate wisdom will hate this book. They are those who want to gain wisdom by their own way like Adam and Eve in Eden. Being a fool is a moral issue. It’s not intellect that enables someone to become wise, it’s about the heart.

Chapters 1-9 are built around a father teaching his son who to marry and how to work – we’ll be there until December. In December and January we’ll be in chapters 10-29 gathering wise sayings that unpack more of the character of wisdom. And then we’ll conclude in February in chapters 30-31 draw us back together to behold the one who comes from heaven and gives himself for his bride.

SUBJECT 1v7: The LORD
This is a book about the LORD, who is revealed by the Father through the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit.. Of all books in the Bible it would be easiest to read Proverbs as a human book, full as it is of gritty earthly day to day practicalities. We must take that application along the way but above all, in the drama of this book we are to see the LORD. Adam and Eve grasped for wisdom in their own strength but it comes as a gift from God – a gift given to those who seeing the LORD respond in fear. Those who are wise already have a taste for the LORD and should eat voraciously from him. Those who are simple, seeing the LORD have a hunger to grow. These are humble and wise responses to the LORD. These are to fear the LORD – to be in right awe of him. This is what the book is for. It’s goal is wisdom. Do not find yourself cut down by it – being a fool and despising its content, despising the LORD. Wisdom does not come from school or from Wikipedia, it comes from a profound, sustained encounter with the LORD, developing a life-long posture of awe towards him.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Sovereign Grace (John Kent)

Another quality hymn by John Kent.

Sovereign grace o’er sin abounding,
Waves of love in power swell;
‘Tis a deep that knows no sounding,
Who its breadth or length can tell?
On its glories, on its glories
Let my soul forever dwell.

Chorus:
Sovereign grace,
It reaches the depths of my sin
And kindles a fire within.
Lord, shed it anew
And fix all my passions on You
By sovereign grace.

What from Christ my soul can sever,
Bound by everlasting bands?
Once in Him, in Him forever
The eternal cov’nant stands;
None can pluck me, none can pluck me
From the Father’s mighty hands.

Heirs of God, joint heirs with Jesus,
Long ago this gift was won;
To His name eternal praises!
Oh! what wonders He has done!
One with Jesus, one with Jesus,
By eternal union one.

On such love I’ll ever ponder,
Love so great, so rich, so free;
Ever asking, lost in wonder,
Why, O Lord, such love to me?
Hallelujah, hallelujah,
Grace will reign eternally.

Version by David Ward
Version by Joanna Priest

Contentment

An article I wrote on contentment a couple of years ago is now on Theology Network.
Contentment: how to be content, and hope in the right things.

Let us to warm ourselves at this fire of his love and mercy in giving himself for us

Calvin – ‘We do not, therefore, contemplate him [Christ] outside ourselves from afar in order that his righteousness may be imputed to us but because we put on Christ and are engrafted into his body—in short, because he deigns to make us one with him.’ (Institutes 3.11.10) “It is necessary to note that Christ himself is received into the believer’s heart as well as the believer being clothed externally with his righteousness.” (Anon) We see this clearly in Galatians 3:25-4:7, clothed in righteousness, given the Holy Spirit. Not just Christ's status but Christ himself is given to us. He comes to us in his gospel. This is good news to warm the heart.

Martin Luther“Faith does not merely mean that the soul realizes that the divine word is full of all grace, free and holy; it also unites the soul with Christ, as a bride is united with her bridegroom. From such a marriage, as St Paul says (Ephesians 5:22-32), it follows that Christ and the soul become one body, so that they hold all things in common, whether for better or worse. 
This means that what Christ possesses belongs to the believing soul; and what the soul possesses, belongs to Christ. Thus Christ possesses all good things and holiness; these now belong to the soul. The soul possesses lots of vices and sin; these now belong to Christ. Here we have a happy exchange and struggle. Christ is God and a human being, who has never sinned and whose holiness is unconquerable, eternal and almighty. So he makes the sin of the believing soul is own through its wedding ring, which is faith, and acts as if he had done it [i.e. sin] himself, so that sin could be swallowed up in him. For his unconquerable righteousness is too strong for all sin, so that is made single and free from all its sins on account of its pledge , that is its faith, and can turn to the eternal righteousness of its bridegroom, Christ. 
Now is not this a happy business? Christ, the rich, noble and holy bridegroom, takes in marriage this poor, contemptible and sinful little prostitute, takes away all her evil, and bestows all his goodness upon her! It is no longer possible for sin to overwhelm her, for she is now found in Christ and is swallowed up by him, so that she possesses a rich righteousness in her bridegroom.”
From Luther, Freedom of the Christian

This faith which “takes hold of this treasure, Jesus Christ” - clothed with him, given him into our hearts.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Preaching that cuts with the grain of the Bible

There's probably no more helpful tool to get a handle on when reading the Bible than seeing how books hang together as a whole and not just as a random collection of fortune cookies and random sentences. I remember hearing Richard Coekin unpack the idea of the melodic line in Colossians several years ago and single-handedly changing the way I read the Bible. He helped me to see that, for example, Colossians 1 is a brilliant gospel-encouragement. The whole book is written to call the Colossians to stick with the gospel (2v6-7) and nothing else. And so when in the opening paragraphs Paul writes to them of the hope they have, of the way the same gospel they believed is bearing fruit world-wide and of how Epaphras is a faithful gospel minister he isn't just greeting them but encouraging them that they have in fact believed the true gospel.
More on that Here: Fully Christian?


Books have a purpose and preaching is better and easier when we cut with the grain of the text.

Interview with Dick Lucas on preaching the melodic line of a Bible book. Lucas notes:
It's one of the most important disciplines of the preacher. It's alarming if you go to a church where a team of preachers is doing a series on Hebrews, for example, and each preacher has a different idea what the Book is about. It's absolutely essential to know the way the melodic line, the argument, the theme of the Book, is going.
Simeon Trust:
Principle: We will preach from a particular passage better if we understand what the whole book is about.
Explanation: Books of the Bible and the Bible (as a whole) have a coherent, sustained message similar to the unique melody of a song—waiting to be heard. It unites the whole book, concisely stating what the whole book is about. The theme of any passage will be related (directly or indirectly) to this theme or melodic line. In other words, the Bible does not need an interpreter (it is, itself, an interpretation). Our job is not to interpret the Bible, but to listen well enough and long enough to hear the melody.
Strategies: read and reread, identify a top and tail (e.g. Romans 1.5 and 15.26), find a purpose statement (e.g. Luke 1.1-4), find repeated words and phrases and ideas (e.g. “joy” and “fellowship” in Philippians), follow the Old Testament quotations
Download:
Paul Rees on The Melodic Line
Philip Ryken on The Melodic Line in 1 Kings
More from Simeon Trust Media

Monday, August 03, 2009

Who swings the gospel hammer in your life? (Luther/Keller)

Tony Reinke posts from Martin Luther and Tim Keller
[The gospel] is also the principal article of all Christian doctrine, wherein the knowledge of all godliness consisteth. Most necessary it is, therefore, that we should know this article well, teach it unto others, and beat it into their heads continually.


Some respond, that this is preaching to the choir - but the issue isn't having the information beated into our heads (though we do need some reminder) it's having it capture our hearts, kill our sin, show us the way of godliness, and more than anything else fuel our relationship with Jesus - for in the gospel he comes to us!

Developing a robust Gospel-Unity

Pete Dray has been posting some gems on Christian Unity from Schaeffer and Packer and today proposes two models for uniting students for mission on campus, the second of which has this mark...

In this model, 'tolerance' is defined by loving somebody as a brother or sister for whom Christ died, even when they hold a position of theology that is very different from your own. It is looking somebody in the eye and saying that you are glad they are part of a gospel-focused mission team with you (and saying this even if you might never join their church).

Newday Conference

A serious look at the Newfrontiers summer youth conference:


Read notes from Joel Virgo and Stef Liston's preaching at Newday ....all about a people who are dominated by Jesus!... God is always the chiefly offended party by sin... Take off the lid and let the Holy Spirit in to deal with it.

Don't Go Anywhere (Part 2)

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Don't Go Anywhere (Part 1)

Featuring my brother-in-law and his friend Andrew. Funtimes.

A recipe for Gospel Community

Tim Chester says a gospel community isn't about a meeting but about doing life together:

"It is a group of people who are committed to Jesus and committed to one another, sharing their lives together and sharing mission together. It is about people hanging out together, doing chores together, eating together, serving in the neighbourhood – all with gospel intentionality. That intentionality includes both a commitment to discipling one another with the gospel and sharing the gospel with unbelievers – all in the context of ordinary life and shared life. It’s not a meeting your attend. It’s not a thing you do. It’s who you are are. It’s your identity. It’s your place of belonging."

And then meeting in some shape or form centred around: meal, ministry and mission.


I highly recommend Steve Timmis on the same subject at resurgence, video talks with Q&A. Total Church Lectures by Steve Timmis An exercise he suggests is to re-read the New Testament and read references to church as the word "gospel-community" - it gives a freshness to thinking things through.

Chester and Timmis' book Total Church is the one that I turn to when I think about leading a church homegroup or training students in CU groups. It brilliantly models a three-fold agenda of being gospel-centred by being word-centred, mission-centred and community-centred.

In the autumn I'm hoping to help my team raise the bar on our CU training which can all too easily just be 'how to do a good Bible study' which is necessary but not sufficient.

Exactly as I show you concerning the pattern...so you shall make it

Who has seen God? Who has ascended to heaven to see? Who can know the mind of God? How can we know what he is like and what it would be like to know him?
25:9 Exactly as I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and of all its furniture, so you shall make it 
26:40 And see that you make them after the pattern for them, which is being shown you on the mountain.
This morning Barry preached a stirring message on The Tabernacle from Exodus 25. I'm struck by the way that God reveals reality to us. This is immense grace to show us what he will do. Without these patterns the Cross of Christ would be an event without explanation, we would lack a revelation that we could believe. He gives us patterns that show us the reality of life in the Trinity - with The Ark, The Table and The Lampstand, and the reality of atonement for sin and welcome for sinners by the priest and sacrifice.


Hebrews 8:5-6 They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.” But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises
The LORD spoke to Moses to gather all things they would need - the fabrics for the curtain, the wood for the box, the metal for the lampstand and the cover. Exactly as Moses was shown...  God has made himself known, and he invites us to come - not into a tent with sacrifices but by the one sacrifice Jesus made in space and time and in the heavenly reality. 

Which is something we need to hear more and more about. As Ralph Erskine notes: They that think they know the gospel well enough betray their ignorance. No man can be too evangelical [gospel-centered]

Fight Clubs: Gospel-centered Discipleship by Jonathan Dodson

Free eBook at The Resurgence

Dodson explains:
I simply preached a sermon on fighting the fight of faith and cast a vision for Fight Clubs. People started forming them right away. I quickly wrote an article to give the groups some guidance. The groups went viral. People started meeting all over the city to fight the fight of faith during the week, in bars, coffee shops, and homes. Fight Clubs can vary in health and are difficult to monitor, which is a big reason I wrote this booklet. I wanted to equip our people to fight well, with Spirit-empowered faith and gospel centered motivation. As the church grew, we started some sign-ups but continued to insist that Fight Clubs remain relationship-based whenever possible. Good fighting springs from relationships of trust and confidence. So how do they work? Durden laid down eight rules for his fight clubs, we have three: 1) Know Your Sin. 2) Fight your Sin. 3) Trust your Savior.