Wednesday, November 28, 2012

#6 It's all about the Son (Luke 20:9-18)

Jesus is in Jerusalem, the authorities are biding their time to arrest and kill him. Luke has shown us that Jesus really is the perfect son – a second Adam to rule the world justly. How we respond to Jesus is the vital question.

WHAT’S GOING ON HERE?
People are questioning Jesus. It’s not pretty because the questions aren’t particularly genuine. Jesus challenges their questions with questions, not accepting their assumptions and directing them towards more important questions. Listen to Michael Ramsden’s talk on Asking good questions from bethinking.org for more on the way Jesus handles these situations.

In the middle of it he tells a parable which goes a long way to explaining the conversations. The story is simple enough. The beloved son of The Owner is sent to the vineyard, and they kill him, seeking his inheritance. He’s the heir of all things. If they will oppose him he’ll give the inheritance to others. Explaining his parable Jesus cites Psalm 118:22. The Peter and John will do the same in Acts 4:11 when they’re on trial, and Peter again in 1 Peter 2:6-7. As Paul says in Ephesians 2:20, Christ Jesus himself is the cornerstone.

You can build for eternity on Jesus, but some will stumble over Jesus and be crushed by him. What people do with Jesus is a moral issue of where people stand in relation to his authority as the king and heir. Here’s is the Father’s message to his world, “it’s all about what you do with my beloved son.” He is the cornerstone – everything stand on him. It’s not about tickets to heaven. As Jesus has told us previously, only the Son knows the Father, so if you don’t know the Son you won’t know the Father.

The eternal life Jesus offers is about relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And because everything comes through knowing Jesus the Father sent Jesus into world. This is illustrated well by Robert Strand’s story ‘The Final Bid’ which Student Alpha have animated as ‘The Beloved Son’ .


My Beloved son from ALPHA COURSE on Vimeo.

The kingdom of God is available to all who don’t trip over Jesus but trust him. We don’t win people with philosophy or moral or ethical agendas. The issue is Jesus.

Any offence we cause should be because of him and not because we’ve said or done stupid things about other things, nor because we’ve failed to present Jesus well. The beauty of opening up Luke’s gospel with someone is that we’re inviting them to see for themselves who he is.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Becky Pippert in Exeter (Sat 1st Dec)

It's not too late to book for our day with Becky Pippert in Exeter on Saturday 1st December. The day conference runs from 9am-5pm at Belmont Chapel, Exeter. A day of world-class training from the author of Out of the Saltshaker and into the World for just £15 (including lunch).

Open to all - students, non-students, Christians, non-Christians. This is a Residential Weekend for Falmouth CU, Plymouth CU, and Marjons CU. It is also a One Day Conference for Exeter CU and Bristol CU and the wider church.

Book online via the UCCF website uccf.at/saltshaker-exeter.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Guilt-free Bible Reading

I've got a new post today at Theology Matters:
Why are we scared of the very book that defines everything we believe? Why is the Old Testament a closed book to so many of us? Why is the 'what about the God of the Old Testament?' question the one we hope we won’t get asked? It just might be that we don’t read it. Ron Frost, in his book Discover the Power of the Bible suggests a highly innovative solution! Read it. Just read it....   
Continue reading this post on the Theology Matters blog

#5 The Son will be King (Luke 19:1-44)

The journey to Jerusalem reaches its completion. Jesus has shown those walking with him that those with nothing to bring are able to receive his kingdom life, whereas those who are strong tend to stumble.


WHAT’S GOING ON HERE?
This is a longish passage. The focus is on Jesus as King. He passes through Jericho and encounters Zaccheus. The tax collector is seeking to see Jesus but we’re told that Jesus is seeking (and saving) the lost. Because he’s near Jerusalem the crowds are expecting the coming of the Kingdom of God. Jesus’ message is about the kingdom of God (1:33, 4:43, 8:1, 9:2, 9:11, 9:27, 9:60, 10:9, 10:11) and they’re expecting a coronation in Jerusalem.

Jesus tells a parable about a King who is about to begin ruling over a country. His future subjects hate him. They don’t want him to be their king (14). This is reflected in the way they respond to him – particularly the third servant who feared him, assuming that Jesus would be against him. And it seems he is against those who won’t receive him.

Luke prepares us for Jesus arrival in Jerusalem with these first two pieces in the jigsaw puzzle. He arrives to the applause of the crowds, praising him as King (38), though the Pharisees ask Jesus to rebuke the crowds for this but Jesus receives their adoration. Do the people really want him as King? How will they respond to his coming crucifixion? It’s often said that these crowds are the same crowds who cry for Jesus to be crucified – we don’t know that’s the case but whatever their motives are, the King has arrived.

And this king is a king who weeps over the city. He has come for the lost and they can’t see him. He sheds his tears for them, and will soon shed his blood for them, as John Howe wrote in his book The Redeemer’s Tears. This king hasn’t come to oppress his people, but to give himself up for them. An utter subversion of kingship and authority.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Video: The Anti-Santy Rant

Anti-Santy Ranty from 10ofthose.com on Vimeo.

#4 The royal son's feast (Luke 14:1-24)

Jesus’ journey to the cross continues as he illustrates through events and teachings what it means to be part of his kingdom, to enter into renewed relationship with his Father.

WHAT’S GOING ON HERE?
Luke shows Jesus coming eating and drinking with people (7v34). Meals are at the heart of his ministry. Meals are a place of friendship, of deeper relationship. If you’re struggling to talk to people about Jesus, or about anything that’s not trivia, trying eating with people. Get hold of Tim Chester’s A Meal with Jesus to explore this further.

Jesus takes the opportunity of a meal to talk about a greater meal, the banquet in the Kingdom of God. His teaching uses the way people respond to invitations and the way they take their seats as a way to expose their hearts towards him. Jesus often eats with tax collectors and sinners, but here he’s at the house of a leading Pharisee (14:1), and they’re watching him.

The King challenges those at this meal about the way they withhold good from people. They’re left speechless by his challenges to them. They have no defence, he’s right. Observing the guests he challenges their pride as they take the best seats at the take, the point isn’t which seat they’re in but what that shows about their hearts.

Ezekiel 21:26 says “Exalt that which is low, and bring low that which is exalted” a saying that is commonly cited in the New Testament. Proverbs 25:6,7 sets Jesus’ parable in the royal court, “Do not put yourself forward in the king's presence or stand in the place of the great, for it is better to be told, “Come up here,” than to be put lower in the presence of a noble.”

This isn’t just about generally being humble, but teaching what it means to have been invited by Jesus to his wedding feast. Come, in humility not in pursuit of greatness. Simply receive.

Next Jesus speaks to the host. The temptation is to invite those who can pay you back with an invitation.Jesus exposes my heart – the way that I act to glorify and advance myself ahead of others, this is an obstacle to me having life in the kingdom of God. Instead of doing this, the host should invite those who have no hope of ever inviting the host back for a meal. Why does Jesus say this? He is showing the host what the Kingdom of God is like. In the Kingdom, Jesus the Son invites people who are helpless, who could never repay. Rather he invites them because he is full of grace. So even something as small as an invitation to a meal demonstrates the key to the kingdom.

You can tell kingdom people, they give hospitaility without any hope of receiving anything in return because this is how God has treated them in Jesus.

And God will even reward this kingdom generosity at the resurrection. One of the guests sees how amazing it will be to eat at the kingdom feast (15). Jesus teaches another parable as a warning to those at this meal.

There are those who are invited to the kingdom who pass up the opportunity for all kind of reasons.

They presume to have better things to do than to feast in the kingdom with the King. His offer is somehow beneath them. They don’t need it, they have better things to do.

The host is furious at this (21) and calls for wider invitations to be issues to those who are poor, crippled, blind and lame. And then further invitations so that the house will be filled but those who were first invited fail to taste the banquet.

Our lives will reveal our hearts. Do we have the kingdom priorities of Jesus.

Sinfully we don’t think it’s good to help people, we pursue personal gain and push ourselves ahead of others, and we presume to know better than Jesus. As Jesus teaches about his kingdom his gospel is an invitation to be helped, to take the lowest seat and to trust Jesus’ invitation and so to taste his feast.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Trinity's song rings out

It's the anniversary of the deaths of CS Lewis, Aldous Huxley and JFK.  Lewis who wrote that Aslan sang creation into being... so very appropriate for the day of his death. It's St. Cecilia's day.

John Dryden wrote an Ode for that day, and the Lutheran Handel added the music: In the beginning. Love. Diversity. Harmony. Music to dance to.

 From harmony, from heavenly harmony, 
This universal frame began. 
Through all the compass of the notes it ran, 
The diapason closing full in man. 

Listen to more with Mike Reeves - Enjoying Trinity 2: The Spreading Love

And then Mike Reeves - Theology in Music

Weak is good, right?

The last six weeks has been a fresh journey in discovering my weakness (which I use as a catch all for everything from physical limitations to sin). Many voices have spoken into this ongoing journey - which isn't done yet by many miles.

A phrase I read several months ago has rung in my ears: Manure grows extraordinary, tangible fruit. And this: Another futile thing that happens on earth: upright people being treated as though they were wicked and wicked people being treated as though they were upright..

And then I read Francis Spufford's sweary book Unapologetic, which seems flawed in many ways but is so helpful against triteness. Railing against the atheist bus's callous "So enjoy yourself" he says we need better than that.

Enjoyment, he says, is great but it's not everything.
Enjoyment is great when you're young, fit and wealthy - but doesn't carry much weight when things go wrong.

Today, my in-laws are both in hospital. A 33 year old pastor who I met once died suddenly - which is clearly more of a struggle for those who knew him better but I'm 33 and its jarring when someone your own age dies. We spent a weekend with a couple whose first partners had both died. One of my closest friends is ill with a condition that they can't quite figure out. I'm well, but I'm acutely aware of chaos around me.

Spufford suggests: "Everything you fear is true. And yet." And yet.
Christ doesn't make everything go away, but I can acknowledge the rubbish and say "And yet."

Spufford's book is subtitled "Why, despite everything Christianity can still make surprising emotional sense."
I'm also reading Pete Scazzero's The Emotionally Healthy Church.
And I can see Graham Beynon's book Emotions from where I'm sitting, and a set of essays from Harvard calling for leaders to have strong Emotional Intelligence.
Scazzero calls for us to accept vulnerability.
A month before I even heard of Scazzero I heard Paul Tripp say: "I'm a man in the middle of my own sanctification." I think I used to like to think I was somewhere past the middle. We're all unfinished, and this is good.

Scazzero's book left the friend who recommended it to me weeping. It hasn't quite done that for me, but I think that might be because it's arrived a month into my current wrestling with my weakness and incompleteness and limitations rather than being the first voice. Nonetheless a helpful friend to guide my steps.

Not to introspection - far from it - seeing my weaknesses and sin I'm freshly aware that looking at me will do me no good whatsoever. If it depends on me then its game over.
And yet. Christ. 

Beginning, again, to see my own weakness liberates me. I've been here before. And again. I am (I so wanted to write I've been...) quick to assess others. I am quick to think my self to be in the right. Read, self-righteous. But if I'm just  on my way why should I expect others to be the finished article? And if collectively, together, we're all unfinished people we might help one another...  and weak people adorn the good news of Jesus because he's the kind of hero that weak people need. Not an intimidating hero to inspire me, but one who came into the world and died for me, and walks with me.

I've answered the question "Isn't Christianity a crutch for the weak" by showing that Christianity is strong. Today, at least, I'm glad that Christ is for the weak.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

#3 The Son and his Father (Luke 10:20-11:13)

We’ve seen Jesus announced as God’s bringer of forgiveness, and seen that he is God’s son – head of a new humanity to bring life to the world. He goes on to do just that.

Jesus says to tell John (Luke 7:22-23):
“Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.” 
Jesus then begins to talk about his necessary death and in 9v51 sets his face to Jerusalem. Everything between the end of chapter 9 and the middle of chapter 19 happens on the road to his death, before he arrives at Jerusalem.

WHAT’S GOING ON HERE?
As Jesus begins his journey to his death we begin to see what life will look like in his new human race. He is the perfect son, unlike Adam and Israel. What will it mean to be part of his new people? This passage will show us that if we receive mercy from Jesus, by receiving his good news about his Father, we will come to share in his relationship with his Father. In other words, humanity will be restored to the life we were always meant to enjoy.

In this passage we have famous material.
The story of the good Samaritan.
The Lord’s prayer.
Someone who has never read the Bible will probably be familiar with this evidence that Luke records.
What do they mean, and why does Luke put them here?

We begin with Jesus praying. See his intimate relationship with his Father – mutual enjoyment in the Holy Spirit. Kings and prophets longed to be inside that relationship but failed, but Jesus makes himself known to little children who bring no works and no wisdom to Jesus.

The next two passages illustrate this. First, The Good Samaritan. An expert in the law comes to catch Jesus out. He asks the best question but Luke shows us his wrong motives. Jesus exposes that he thinks he can do it, but then the expert pushes further, and the parable exposes that real righteousness is far more shocking than he imagined.

The story of a man beaten up is scandalous. Help should surely come from the religious elite and his Jewish countrymen, but it’s left to a Samaritan, hated by the Jews, to help him. Who is my neighbour says the man? Your neighbour, whom you should love, is the shocking Samaritan who shows mercy to the man. Love your neighbour a neighbour like that! Jesus is pushing him to see that he’s not in a position of strength, he’s like the man beaten up on the roadside – he needs help. And Jesus is offering to help him.

If he’ll receive mercy from Jesus then he’ll be free and able to show mercy to others.
“Eternal life is inherited. It is graciously given as a function of being adopted into the God-family. This suggests that the good Samaritan is Jesus himself. He comes to us when we are lost and hopeless. He binds up our wounds and pays the tab. Jesus reverses the question: it is not ‘Who is my neighbour?’ but ‘Who has been neighbour to me?’ And, reading it in the context of Luke 9-10 and the movement to the cross, the answer is Jesus.” Don Carson
"Jesus is the Great Samaritan to whom the Good Samaritan points. Before you can give this neighbour-love, you need to receive it. Only if you see that you have been saved graciously boy someone who owes you the opposite will you go out into the world looking to help absolutely anyone in need." (Tim Keller, Generous Justice p 77)
It’s absolutely fine to apply this story to say we should be merciful to those in need, but Jesus isn't telling the man if he can show mercy he’ll get eternal life, he’s using a story about the scandal of receiving mercy to help him see his own need of a Saviour. The one he’s trying to catch out is the one he needs help from. If he receives that help he’ll find boundless freedom to help others.

The message is much the same at the house of Mary and Martha – one busy sister, and one sister who is listening as Jesus teaches about his Father and his kingdom. One thing is necessary, receive Jesus’ gospel word.

If we let Jesus serve us and receive his mercy, what does it look like? What difference does it make? Wonderfully since His kingdom is all about forgivenss of sins, it looks like sharing his relationship with his Father. His mercy means that the relationship we should enjoy with God as Father can be restored through his mercy.

Jesus’ friends ask to be taught to pray. Jesus says, you can pray “Father”. Jesus’ friends can pray like Jesus prays, they can ask of Jesus’ Father. They can enter his relationship with his Father and has for his kingdom, ruled by King Jesus, to come.

What does life in the kingdom look like? They can ask for God’s help with small things, every day provision, God’s help in relationships in which there is sin, and need for forgiveness – forgiveness that is only possible because King Jesus dies for us.

Jesus’ Father cares about these things. He is a generous Father who will give freely if we’ll have the “shameless audacity” to ask. And not only will he give good gifts, but the Holy Spirit too. Then, when we pray – we’ll pray Father, in the joy of the Spirit, just like Jesus.

Jesus says our names are written in heaven (10v20) this picks up on the idea of Jesus as our high priest. In the Old Testament the high priest would have the names of the people on his heart (Exodus 28v29) and so carry them into the presence of God. The same now happens for us as Jesus invites us into the relationship he has with his Father.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Smug marrieds and true beauty

We've just had a marriage enrichment weekend with our church. It was brilliant in so many ways. Life should not all be marriage weekend's but it was a brief moment of grace that was much needed.

Along the way we came across this quote, from a well known American pastor:
"One of our culture's powerful lies - fuelled by pornography, sinful lust, and marketing - is that having a standard of beauty is in any way holy or helpful. God does not give us a standard of beauty - God gives us spouses. Unlike other standards of beauty, a spouse changes over time. This means if your spouse is tall, you are into tall. If your spouse is skinny, you are into skinny. If your spouse is twenty, you are into twenty. When your spouse is sixty, you are no longer into twenty, but rather into sixty. And if your spouse used to be skinny, you were into skinny, but now you are into formerly skinny. We are to pour all our passion and pursuit of sexual pleasure into our spouses alone, without comparing them to anyone else in a lustful way."
How counter-culturally liberating.
I'm into my wife, as she is. Yes!
When we got married I was into 23 year old.
Now I'm into 33 year old, mother-of-two.
And so on.
No comparisons.
My beloved is mine and I am hers.

Human marriages are echoes of a greater reality - that Jesus is our divine husband who gave himself for his people. That God's relationship with humanity is that of a marital union between Jesus and the church (and adoption by his Father).  So, actually, gospel ministry is marriage preparation and marriage enrichment... Calling us to Christ and to enjoy him. Married or single, everyone is invited to become part of Christ's bride.

I've been reading Psalm 45:1, a Psalm of Christ that declares him to be the most handsome of all people... to be Most Beautiful, to be Beautiful, beautiful. 
My beloved is mine and I am his.

There's nothing in Christ's appearance to attract us to him.
Most people miss his beauty.
Yet by the light of the Spirit, a Christian cries: 'Beautiful, beautiful.'

We're drawn by his heart.
We're drawn by his love.
We're drawn by his crucifixion.
I'm into crucified.

And He is into church. Gandhi might've said I like your Christ but I don't like your Christians. Christ himself would differ strongly - there might be little attractive about the church but Christ clothes her with many-coloured robes, she is beautiful to him. Christ is into church.

Christian, you're into crushed and crucified, because death in him is life in us. Humbled. Thankful. Never with cause for smugness just a sense of overwhelmedness at his love and his beauty.
"Fullness of divine in Thee I see, Beautiful Man of calvary"
"He fought at Golgotha and secured his bride's person... he'll fight at Megiddo to secure her property.... and in between he woos and wins his bride"

Monday, November 19, 2012

#2 The Son is here (Luke 3:21-4:22)

In our first discussion we saw how God will bring forgiveness of sins through one who is born in Bethlehem (chapter 2), who grows up to be pointed to by Zechariah’s son John the Baptist. We rejoin the action at Jesus’ baptism by John.

WHAT’S GOING ON HERE? 
The theme running through this passage is the question of Jesus identity. Luke records evidence that identifies Jesus as the Son of God. Luke cites the evidence of the Father’s testimony at Jesus’ baptism which echoes what’s said in Psalm 2:7 and Isaiah 42:1-2 expressing the Father’s delight in his Son. Bert de Clos rejoiced over his son Chad when he beat Michael Phelps in the Olympic swimming (video: Youtube saying: ““Unbelievable! Unbelievable! Unbelievable! Look at him, he’s beautiful, I love you!”

Jesus is being identified - and its happening at baptism. Everyone is trying to get clean and he comes to be numbered with the transgressors. His baptism tells us that he will die and rise in our place - inviting us to trust him as he takes our place.

So too the Father sings over his son Jesus. The genealogy links Jesus as a Son to the story of Israel and to Adam the Son of God. Adam (with Eve, in Gen 3:1-6) was tested and failed. Israel were God’s son (Ex 4:22-23) were carried by God but didn’t trust him (Deut 1:30-33). Israel was tested for 40 years, and now Jesus is tested for 40 days – and the issue is “if you’re the Son of God.” For more on Jesus’ temptation read this paper by David Gibson Three sons and the devil

Jesus can be our example in the face of temptation but before that there is good news that he has passed the test we fail. Unlike Adam, unlike Israel he is the righteous Son.Jesus is the beginning of a new humanity – no longer doomed to sin and failure. Everything that was lost in Adam can be regained in Christ. In the Olympics we felt that we won, even though we didn’t compete. Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis weren’t just examples to us they were our champions. They won the race that we didn’t even attempt to qualify for. So too, Jesus is our champion, our “head”.

For a moment we felt ourselves joined to our champions in Sport, crying out “We are Mo”. He was one of us and our champion. Similarly, our cry in life is either going to be “We are Adam” – fallen, failed, unforgiven… or as we respond to the gospel: “We are Christ” – raised up, alive, forgiven. One of these sons of God will be our champion, but which one? As those who live in him, we can trust the word to help us repent and believe in the Son again. At Nazareth Jesus says he fulfils what Isaiah prophesies. He’s the Spirit-anointed Son who has come to bring good news to the world. We call Jesus the Christ which is the Greek word for Anointed one. A title used of Kings.

This king will care for his people. He’ll bring forgiveness for the last and the least, the lost and the little, while the good and the great are going to struggle to believe in him, grumbling and trying to catch him out. Jesus is the starting point with God, he’s the evidence, and when we see him we see one whose Father loves him, wouldn’t it be great if we could know Jesus’ Father in the same way? Luke shows us that when God shows up, he does so in person. Jesus is the Son who fulfils all that was expected from the Old Testament. Will people trust him? Or will he be dismissed as Joseph’s son?

Friday, November 16, 2012

#1 The Son will Bring Forgiveness (Luke 1:57-80)

Luke’s account begins by telling us that he’s presenting the evidence of what has happened and been fulfilled from the Old Testament. His thorough research has yielded this evidence which he shares with us in his gospel. The opening chapters concern the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus, and through encounters with Angels and prophetic songs display the immense significance of what might otherwise look like very ordinary events in the history of the human race.

This is Luke’s emphasis. Jesus is the Son sent from his Father. One who in childhood was left behind, “in my Father’s house” (2v49). He came to invite us into his family. Jesus prays “Father” (10v21, 22v42, 24v34, 24v46) and invites us to do the same (11v2). Through his death He brings forgiveness of sins and so we’re invited to step inside his relationship with his Father.

WHAT’S GOING ON HERE?

Like his Son (1:15) and Mary (1:35) and his wife Elizabeth (1:41) Zechariah emerges from nine months of silence and is filled with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit causes him to burst out with a prophetic song about the Lord’s plan of salvation. His son John will play a key role but the song looks beyond John to Jesus the Lord. The prophecy is barely about Zechariah’s own son John, because John is all about preparing for the Lord. The language feels like a military victory. There is a great foe to be defeated and the Lord is going to do it. We’ll see if that’s how things turn out.

Luke helps us to see everything that is happening is the fulfilment of the Old Testament. The coming of Jesus is a new event but not a new idea. It’s what should have been expected, and it’s what David and Abraham saw before. The life-giving rule of God is coming forever, and its coming to all the nations of the world. Salvation will come in the forgiveness of sins. This will be a major theme of John’s ministry in preparation for the Lord coming, and of Jesus’ as he offers forgiveness as the primary need for humanity.

We’re left asking, how is forgiveness possible. After Jesus dies and rises forgiveness will be preached across the whole world. As the preacher to the Hebrews says later, forgiveness of sins comes through the shedding of blood.

Humanity walks in the valley of the shadow of death, but the sun will rise as the Lord comes full of mercy and offering forgiveness. After the resurrection of Jesus the sun’s beams will begin to extend across the whole earth. Jesus will walk through the valley (Psalm 23v4) and the sun will rise (2 Samuel 23v4).

David Gooding helpfully calls chapter 1 “the last hours before dawn”, and then in chapters 2 comes the rising of the sun as Jesus is born. He will go on to walk in the darkness we know, even to face the temptations we face, even to face death… but that death will bring the sunrise, the warmth of a new dawn and a new day in which forgiveness can be preached to the ends of the earth. We’ll see what this looks like as we move forward into the next discussion…

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Hark! How the heavenly anthem drowns all music but its own!

DOWNLOAD AUDIO: GOD IS JEALOUS - WATERFRONT CITY CHURCH 

It's noisy.

The world fills us up with its messages. The advertising industry knows that it has to speak in the language of desire, it has to win our hearts, and it throws millions and millions of pounds at doing just that. Our sinful flesh, dead and yet still being carried around by us fights with the desires of the Holy Spirit and our new heart... and the accuser whispers in our ears. All of them seeking to seduce us away from our betrothal to Jesus and into spiritual adultery.

Offering us happiness better than we have.
Offering us a warmth we can't find where we are.

It happened in Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-29)
It happened in Corinth (2 Cor 11:1-4)
It happened to Israel (Exodus 34)
It happened in Eden (Genesis 3)

Sin isn't petty rule breaking. Sin is relational betrayal.

And just restraining ourselves doesn't work any more than the ropes and ear wax strategy employed by Odysseus to stave off the alluring Sirens on his journey home from the battle of Troy. He restrained his crew with ropes and wax, and himself with ropes. Technically he got through alive, but his heart was lost.

Jesus speaks.

Jesus sings.

Jesus outbids the other lovers. He bids until "all else is outbidden!" (Jeremiah Burroughs on Hosea).

Which is good because we keep finding ourselves "here by choice, by a long series of choices for things which, at any one moment, temporarily outbid the things [we] say we wanted most" (Francis Spufford). It's said "You can't always get what you want..." yet we do always get what we've wanted moment by moment. We follow our desires but there is one who desires us. Jesus is jealous for us. With a pure jealousy.
The divine jealousy of he whose Name is Jealous.

The story is told in Hosea 2:14, in Exodus 34, and in page after pages of the Bible. From beginning to end our Beloved seeks to rekindle the romance and bring us home to himself.

Jason defeated the Sirens not with weapons of war but with a musician. He knew what Matthew Bridges knew when he wrote: Hark! How the heavenly anthem drowns all music but its own. Drown out the noise with the alluring song of Jesus.

Jesus sings love that many waters cannot quench.
Jesus sings love that burns with passion for us.
Love burns for us, or it burns against us, and the cross is the loudest of all songs.
Love burns to the death of He Who Is Jealous.
By faith the death of Jealous is my death too - and his resurrection mine.
Let the old, dead and sinful be burned up like a burned offering as Love himself takes my place.
Decreated and then raised to new creation. A new life where the Spirit's fire burns within me.

Awake my soul to sing of Christ who died for me, my matchless king for eternity.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Psalms: Don't miss the title


Psalms are a favourite book. Dip in anywhere, right? Or perhaps read it as a coherent book, a gospel book...  With a few pointers from good friends the Psalms have started to turn everything upside down for me.

Psalm 45 begins like this:
 "According to Lilies; A Maskil of the Sons of Korah; A love song." 
It's easy to skip the title, but a while back I had my attention drawn to them and it's changed the way I read Psalms.
  • Lilies (shoshannim)- probably a reference to the tune, but a reminder that this is a song for Spring time. It's a song around the time of the festival of Passover. Salvation is in the air when you sing this song. Psalm 8 is "According to Gittith" - which means Winepress (big idea in the Bible!)
  • A Maskil of the Sons of Korah. The Sons of Korah are singers best known as the Resurrection Men. Korah had been judged and taken down to the grave in the book of Numbers, but his family lives beyond death. Maskil, usually left untranslated with a footnote "probably a musical or liturgical term" which isn't very helpful...  It might mean something like a song of contemplation or a song meant to instruct and teach people. 
  • A love song. Or a song of loves. This Psalm is commonly considered to be a wedding song - from the rest of it's content. Telling the story, as it does, of a divine marriage - between God and his bride. It's spoken of as "The Song of Songs in miniature." Andrew Bonar says, this is a song "Of the beloved."
And so, the song goes:
 My heart overflows with a pleasing theme; I address my verses to the king; my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe. (Psalm 45:1 ESV)
Bubbling over, boiling over with verses "to the king". A song that is attributed to the Bible as not just the song of the Sons of Korah, but as the word of God the Father concerning his Son. This is a wedding song of Jesus. A jewel among the Psalms, nestled in the start of Book II of the Psalms, songs - that like the time of Lilies - that are replete with references and themes from the Book of Exodus (as Book I resonates with Genesis, and so on.)

Bonar tells us we have
"Earth taught by Heaven to sing heaven's infinite love to man. It is a prelude to the new Song. Every clause in it is melody, and every thought in it is sublimity; but it is just such as we might expect to be breathed forth when the theme on hand was - Messiah the Mighty One appearing as King and Bridegroom."
This Psalm tells the story - the story of the royal wedding, of Christ to his church, the defining story of the Universe. This story has ruined my life and its the best thing that ever happened to me.

See also: Probably a musical term (Mike Reeves) -- 12mins to change the way you read Psalms forever.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Video: Mike Reeves on Trinity

You can now get hold of our series of 9 short videos of Mike Reeves talking about Trinity through these three places...

We hope they'll serve you well as you enjoy entering into the life of God.

The Life of God

We're spending 20 weeks as a church in John 17. We're six weeks in and this is what we've got so far.

#1 Father (Stu Alred)
#2 The hours has come (Andy Arscott)
#3 God gives glory (Stu Alred)
#4The God who gives to give (Dave Bish)
#5 Eternal life (Dave Bish)
#6 Objects of his affection (Stu Alred)

We'll reach 10 by Christmas, and finish the series just before Easter.

Trinity isn't the easiest subject to approach.  You can begin with history, or vast theological concepts and many books on the subject do this. Trinity isn't PhD Christianity, it's Basic Christianity, it's Mere Christianity. Nothing more fundamental than to say Jesus is the Son of the Father, anointed by the Holy Spirit. And nothing is more profound and wonderful.

We've begun with a prayer and are slowly piecing together doctrine as we overhear the conversation of the Son with his Father. This is a softer way in and I think a fruitful approach. It wouldn't surprise me if several among us haven't twigged yet that it's a "Trinity Series" -- and that's fine by me. We're eavesdropping on the life of God and as we get to know the heart of Jesus and his Father we're drawn into their life.

I'm enjoying preaching it (though I'll only be doing one more in the series), and I'm enjoying receiving the series as I sit in the congregation.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Video: #9 Trinity and John 17 (Mike Reeves)

If you want to enjoy the life of God, how would John 17 help? Mike Reeves explains:
Trinity and John 17 from Trinity Media on Vimeo.
iPad? iPhone? Get the Vimeo App to view this video

At Frontiers Church we're digging into the doctrine of Trinity by spending 20 weeks in John 17. It's a slow-burn way to get into the life of the Triune God. Turns out its not so complex and incomprehensible, this God loves to make himself known and to welcome us into his life.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

MP3: What kind of God allows genocide?

Pete Dray speaks on this emotionally demanding title at Durham University:
mp3: What kind of God allows genocide? 

The hardest questions shouldn't be avoided.

Video: #8 Trinity and Christian Unity (Mike Reeves)

It's easy to imagine that unity requires uniformity, but that's not true in the life of the Triune God... Mike Reeves talks about pursuit of the answer to Jesus' prayer that we'd be united:
  iPad? iPhone? Get the Vimeo App to view this video

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

From orphans to heirs (Galatians 3:16,25-4:7)

I preached for my dear friends at Reading Family Church on Sunday. You can download the mp3 here: Trinity: From orphans to heirs (33mins)

We see that Jesus is The Heir of everything (Galatians 3:16) ...but by faith in Christ we get dressed up as Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit. We get Jesus - his status, his future, his relationship with the Father. Jesus gets everything, we get Jesus. 

Video: #7 Discovering Trinity In My Life (Mike Reeves)

Trinity is Christianity 101 but many don't initially built on the right foundation. Mike Reeves shares something of his story here:
iPad? iPhone? Get the Vimeo App to view this video

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Friday, November 02, 2012

Video: Visit us (What to expect at our church meetings)

Lots of people in our city don't come to church, and have never come to church, but they'd find themselves very welcome if they came along. To ease that we like to share in advance a little of the experience people can expect...


Find out more here: Frontiers Church Exeter
iPad? iPhone? Get the Vimeo App to view this video

Thursday, November 01, 2012