Monday, January 23, 2012

The Good God (Mike Reeves)

Which god do you believe in? Which god don't you believe in? Important questions that aren't always well answered.

"Reeves’ light touch & theological wisdom combine to provide a truly helpful book - both clears your mind and warms your heart." Terry Virgo

Mike Reeves gets to the heart of everything with this pop-level book on the Father, Son and Spirit. His  way with words is both clear and engaging. He'll move you from wierdness you never realised you believed to the bright sunshine of the gospel in which you will know and enjoy the Triune God more fully. Whet your appetite with these quotes

"Since God is, before all things, a Father, and not primarily Creator or Ruler, all his ways are beautifully fatherly. It is not that this God ‘does’ being Father as a day- job, only to kick back in the evenings as plain old ‘God’. It is not that he has a nice blob of fatherly icing on top. He is Father. All the way down. Thus all that he does he does as Father. That is who he is. He creates as a Father and he rules as a Father; and that means the way he rules over creation is most unlike the way any other God would rule over creation. "

"many theologians have liked to compare the Father to a fountain, ever bursting out with life and love (indeed, the Lord calls himself ‘the spring of living water’ in Jeremiah 2:13, and the image crops up again and again in Scripture). And just as a fountain, to be a fountain, must pour forth water, so the Father, to be Father, must give out life. That is who he is. That is his most fundamental identity. Thus love is not something the Father has, merely one of his many moods. Rather, he is love. He could not not love. If he did not love, he would not be Father."

"the shape of the Father-Son relationship (the headship) begins a gracious cascade, like a waterfall of love: as the Father is the lover and the head of the Son, so the Son goes out to be the lover and the head of the church. ‘As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you’, he says (John 15:9). And therein lies the very goodness of the gospel: as the Father is the lover and the Son the beloved, so Christ becomes the lover and the church the beloved. That means that Christ loves the church first and foremost: his love is not a response, given only when the church loves him; his love comes first, and we only love him because he first loved us (1 John 4:19)."

Follow @enjoyingtrinity and buy the book in March.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Ex-Chief to Lead Church

We arrived in Exeter a little over four years ago. It took us a while to find a new church family but finally we found our home at Frontiers Church Exeter. After a whole lot of soul searching we walked into a meeting at the start of the Spring term.

A highly gifted 26 year old was leading worship, a 58 year old bald man gave us the warmest of welcome's and a 23 year old was preaching from the flood in Genesis - the best young preacher I've ever heard by several miles. We met with God. We turned to each other after the meeting and smiled. We knew we were home.

And we knew that this four year old church was a place with both real depth and a phenomenal investment in raising up a new generation of leaders. Now, four years later that 23 year old is 27, his Rugby career is over, and will become our lead elder this Sunday.

He's five years younger than me and I'm thrilled to be led by him. I'd met him once before that first Sunday morning meeting - he was the church student worker then and had come round for lunch as I began to acquaint myself with the student scene in the city. Another man in a long line of church leaders converted at University! The transformation God has wrought in his life is brilliant to see. Evidently a large part of that had already happened before I first met him in late 2007, but his trajectory in maturity as a leader has continued strong. To us, it was obvious that he was the next leader of the church on that first Sunday morning, and we joined ourself to the church family knowing that we could rally behind him. He's become a friend and someone I'm very glad to have watching over me, caring for my soul and speaking Gods' word into my life and that of my family.
New Leader. New Season. from frontierschurchexeter on Vimeo.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Seed of the UCCF: Faithfulness to the Word, germinated by a remarkable outpouring of the Holy Spirit

The story of the beginnings of the UCCF may be best told by Norman Grubb, to whose God-given vision the first Conference owes its inception. He writes:

The real foundation of the IVF (now UCCF) was laid at a Committee Meeting held in Trinity College, Cambridge, early in 1919. Men had begun to pour back into the Universities after demobilisation, and all the various Varsity unions and societies were being restarted. The SCM had I think ceased to function at Cambridge during the War but had now resumed its activities and was going very strong under the guidance of a most capable secretary.

The CICCU, on the other hand, had been kept alive throughout the War by a small group of undergraduates, but did not rapidly increases its numbers afterwards. There were still only some fifteen regular attendants at the Daily Prayer Meetings in early 1919. But most of these fifteen were very keen men, whose faith had stood the test of the war experiences. Realising the keenness of these men, and the new tide of spiritual life which would flow into the SCM if the CICCU were joined to them, many and urgent representations were made to the CICCU to link up and become a kind of devotional branch of the SCM, the Dean of Pembroke being the chief spokesman.

Finally it was decided that in order to settle the matter once and for all, delegations from the two Committees should meet. The meeting took place in the SCM Secretary's room in Trinity, the CICCU's representatives being the President, D.T. Dick, and myself.

After an hour's conversation which got us nowhere, one direct and vital question was put: 'Does the SCM consider the atoning blood of Jesus Christ as the central point of their message?' And the answer given was, 'No not central, although it is given a place in our teaching.' That answer settled the matter, for we explained to them at once that the atoning blood was so much the heart of our message that we could never join with a movement which gave it any lesser place.

From that time onward, it was perfectly clear to the members of the CICCU that their decision had to be the same as their predecessors before the War. Although they gladly recognised that individual members of the SCM might be true servants of Christ, yet as a Movement it had apostasized from the truths upon which it had been founded, and the CICCU must remain absolutely separate, in order to give a clear witness to the University to God's way of salvation through Christ.

This decision was also the real foundation of the IVF for it was only a few months later that the realisation dawned on us that if a CICCU was a necessity in Cambridge, a union of the same kind was also a necessity in every University of the world, with the isolated exceptions of those where the SCM still maintained its original witness to the truth of God's word.

But vision and faith and aggressive action do not come through mere loyalty to truth. One can have all that, and yet as an individual or union be dead, powerless , stagnant. The Gospel must be preached 'with the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven' (1 Peter 1:12).  

The seed of the IVF was the decision to be faithful to God's Word, as just recorded; but it was a remarkable outpouring of the Holy Spirit which caused that seed to germinate and blossom into a worldwide movement.

Student camps and house parties had not yet been restarted at Keswick in the summer of 1919; but hearing of the way the CICCU was going ahead at Cambridge, Mrs CT Studd was led to give an open invitation to members of the CICCU and one or two from Oxford to form a party. Twenty-nine came.

It was about the third day of the Convention when conscious that things were not going too well, a memorable prayer meeting was held in the drawing room. About five of us were there. We did not separate until 2am, by which time we might have been seen in all sorts of different postures, and laughing instead of prayer, for the burden had been wholly lifted off us, in the glorious assurance that the Holy Spirit had come and was going to flood the house party. And He did.

The blessing fell the next morning, the atmosphere was so charged with His presence that men were getting alone with God having things out and coming back transformed. Frank Millard of the CSSM was one, Jack Warren another, Noel Palmer of Canada another. The spirit of prayer was so upon us that every night during a week of perfect weather, bands of us were out in the wood by the lack praying and along the Keswick streets by day, singing choruses!

The blessing was carried from there to the Eastbourne CSSM, to which a large number of us went. Then back to Cambridge, where the spirit of prayer remained upon us, and when CICCU men met for tear it was to get down to long times of prayer together afterwards. There were a number of remarkable conversions that term (*elsewhere, Grubb mentions 16 converted); one can think of three or four whose names are well-known in evangelical circles today.

Meanwhile Noel Palmer, who had been at Cambridge recovering from a wound and had been fired by contact with the CICCU had gone to Oxford to restart the OICCU. Regular communiques used to be sent to the CICCU reporting progress and asking prayer.

I cannot remember the exact day but it was sometime about the middle of the Michaelmas term, 1919, that one day in my room, God gave me the clear vision of the IVF that was to be. I saw that not only must there be this witness in every University but that God was going to do it. Probably the fact of Noel Palmer's catching the vision of starting an OICCU at Oxford and his going to do it, enabled God to open our eyes to the much bigger thing.

Anyhow, the immediate outcome was that we saw that the first step towards the realisation of the vision would be to have an Annual Inter-Varsity Conference, at which we would get as many as we could from other Universities, and enthuse them with the vision of starting a branch in their own Universities. So the first Inter-Varsity Conference was arranged mainly by Clarence Foster, Leslie Sutton and myself to take place at the Egypt General Mission Headquarters at Drayton Park, North London. About sixty came from Cambridge, Oxford, London and one man from Durham. What a wonderful thing it now is to look back over the intervening fifteen years since 1919 to see how God had brought the vision to pass.


Now it is for succeeding generations of students to maintain the twofold foundation of the IVF. Loyalty to the truths of God's word, and a soul-winning work amongst unconverted students. This can only be done successfully by much travail in prayer, resulting in fresh outpourings of the Spirit upon individuals and unions, and a bold and faithful witness.

Recorded in Donald Coggan, Christ and the Colleges, 1934.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Richard Sibbes' God's Spreading Goodness

Get ready to think differently about the puritans. Let Ron Frost introduce you to the sweet puritans, chief among them Richard Sibbes.

"English Puritans of the Stuart era were divided by a number of questions. The greatest these asked what constitutes salvation and restoration from sin. 
All agreed that it was by grace through faith. But few could agree on how to define sin, grace, and faith. Richard Sibbes consciously followed Augustine, Martin Luther, and John Calvin in defining sin as self-love and grace as God's redemptive love in Christ.
His theology centered on the love of God expressed through Christ and offered by the Spirit; and faith as a response to that love.
This produced a winsome and transforming theology of union with Christ and communion with God. In this he was a counterweight to the spread of moralistic Puritan theologies in his day."

Get Ron Frost's perfectly readable PhD on this via Lulu.com R N Frost: Richard Sibbes' God's Spreading Goodness Check the lulu homepage for discount codes (PRICETHAWUK 20% off til Jan 20th) If you've got a few quid to spare then I highly commend Ron's book to you. I've also published two edited volumes by Richard Sibbes, also via Lulu.com

Monday, January 16, 2012

Pastoral Refreshment Conference

For whatever reason many church and ministry leaders seems to lack support, encouragement and refreshment in their Christian lives. This cannot be a good thing.

I've watched over recent years as my friend Marcus has been raised up to meet some of this need across a wide spectrum of churches. He's received a growing sphere of influence through his service of leaders, particularly through the Pastoral Refreshment Conference which he hosts.

It runs twice in February, the first week with Terry Virgo speaking is fully booked but there is still space at the second, where Peter Maiden of OM is preaching (8-10 Feb 2012).

There are still places available for leaders and spouses (full time or elder-level or equivalent). Come and be refreshed and encouraged. Enjoy God in an environment specifically tailored to the needs to church leaders. 

Previous delegates say: 
"The best ministers' conference I have been on - booked" 
"A must for all Baptist ministers" 
"An unmissable oasis" - an Anglican leader and wife 
"The best conference for Christian workers"

Book now for yourself, or offer to book your church leader in

Monday, January 09, 2012

Nothing wrong with comfort food

Last winter my friend Tom took me to Raymond Blanc's cafe in Oxford. The taste of the onion soup stuck with me for hours afterwards. It was wonderful. Even though my journey home from Oxford that day took a cable-theft related seven hours (should have been about two and a half hours), lunch had been sweet.

Today I finally got round to making my own, and whilst it clearly wasn't as good as the real thing it was pretty tasty. There is so much that is good to taste in this world and it's not to be despised but to be enjoyed. I have Jesus and (so) I can enjoy good food too, even if my toddler refused to touch it.

I appreciated this slight critique of Christian Hedonism not because I've got stones to throw but because it gets things the right way round on this:

"God gives himself to us. That is he gives us our righteousness. He gives us himself. We don’t have to sit around desiring him. He is ours, just as we are his. That is what the cross was about. And in my mind he did this so we could get on with life, and enjoying the things he has given us to enjoy, which according to Ecclesiastes, are for fold: the toil of our hands, wine, bread, and breasts, the ones belonging to the wife of your youth. So rather than sitting around and talking about how much one should desire God. Why don’t you just give them God. Give them Jesus. Forgive them their sins as God commands you to do, so that they can all go about the things they enjoy, the things God has given them to enjoy, like fixing my guns, and Jeep, making great whiskey and wine, preparing good food, and loving on their wives, in true hedonist fashion." 

The recipe is here Soupe a l'oignon and it made enough for us to have tomorrow too, and to share if anyone drops in...