Saturday, December 31, 2005

Last Warnie of 2005

Slightly disappointingly my nominations didn't achieve...(there's a need for more UK Warnie Winners in 2006 methinks.) That said, Mark Lauterbach recieves the last Warnie of 2005. Very well deserved. I've been reading Mark for a while and he's wonderfully gospel-centred: GospelDrivenLife:
Making the most of the cross and empty tomb

Take a look at these for a sample of what he's writing...
On Gospel-Driven, On Church and On Genealogy

Grace Unmeasured

Grace unmeasured, vast and free
That knew me from eternity
That called me out before my birth
To bring You glory on this earth

Grace amazing, pure and deep
That saw me in my misery
That took my curse and owned my blame
So I could bear your righteous name

Grace (grace, grace)
Paid for my sins and brought me to life
Grace (grace, grace)
Clothes me with pow’r to do what is right
Grace (grace, grace)
Will lead me to heav’n where I’ll see Your face
And never cease to thank you for Your grace

Grace abounding, strong and true
That makes me long to be like You
That turns me from my selfish pride
To love the cross on which You died

Grace unending, all my days
You’ll give me strength to run this race
And when my years on earth are through
The praise will all belong to You

© 2005, Bob Kauflin,
From Worship God Live. MP3 Sample

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Makes me weep

Matt pointed me to this Letters expose 'breathtaking' rudeness of church life. Makes me weep that this is done in the name of the church.

That said, firstly, I'm not all that surprised - Christians make mistakes. I've love to explain it all that away but some of it was probably done by genuine Christians. We're not perfect people saved by doing good. We're counted right by God by grace - by God's gift to us, not by anything we do.

But secondly, the church is a mixed bag, Jesus said as much. There are plenty of people who are church-ians rather than christ-ians who've not really grasped the transforming power and beauty of the glorious good news about Jesus Christ. Such people need to be instructed in the faith. Why they want to hang round in the church, serve in in but not believe in Jesus confounds me...

Being a Christian is not attained by doing good. Rather by admitting you can't do good. But it is also unable to leave an unchanged life. Encountering Jesus Christ is transformational - doing so would be the best thing that could ever happen to you.

What Christians believe is what produces good works. Even more, we're saved by God to be a community of people zealous for good works - thats the tragedy of the above report. And the way Christians belief says a lot about the reputation of what they believe. Either our beliefs get reviled by people claiming to be Christians but being unchanged, or they can be adorned as the transforming power of knowing Jesus is revealed in the ordinary day to day different lives of Christians.

This Week

I said I wasn't going to blog til the new year. I'm still taking something of a break even if not entirely... meanwhile I'm enjoying digging into 1 Corinthians 12-14. Superb! And enjoying quality family time out in the snowy real world.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Look back, look forward...

"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works." (Titus 2v11-14)
What do we have to show for 2005? What has the year been like? Is it simply another year on the treadmill? Is all of life ultimately futile? We could be tempted to think so. Can there be more? Let there be a resounding "yes!" Futility is a way of life open to humanity, if we will ignore the judgement of God and try to live under the sun, under our own rule (try Ecclesiastes for some light festive reading). Such futility is not inevitable. Life doesn't have to be this way!

There are two places we must look,. Firstly, back two thousand years to the birth of Jesus - at that point in history grace appeared. Jesus Christ, truth incarnate bring an offer of salvation for anyone who will accept it. A rescuer offering us an alternative to futility. Our former life of separation, of loneliness, of meaninglessness can be replaced. An offer extending to all kinds of people, the good, the bad and the ugly. A resuce that includes an invitation to become part of a new community - a community where there is relationship, where gluttony is replaced by self-control, emptiness by joy.

This isn't just a lifestyle choice to fend off futility. This a way of life, waiting for another appearing. A second place to look. Life centred up the gracious and glorious Jesus Christ. Life waiting not for nothingness, but waiting for Jesus to return. Waiting for glory to appear. Our lives matter because they are lived in the light of the past and the future. He will come to take his people for himself. For those who claim to have recognised his first appearing there is a charge to be his people, changed in character from what we were previously.

If we miss his first appearing and its command to us we'll surely not be ready for his second. God has not left us in the dark, he has revealed himself. All the tragedies and celebrations of 2005 are overshadowed by the two appearings of Jesus Christ. One in the past, one to come. Both speak to us in the present. Not calling us to self-reformation and new years resolutions. No, Jesus stood in our place on death row so that we could be rescued by him. So that we could be called into a new life, in a new community, with a new future. Look back to when grace appeared, look forward to when glory will appear.

Happy Christmas! - blogging resumes here in 2006.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

TV and Preaching?

Steve Palframan asks what is worse, television or bad preaching?
See also: Palframan News

2005 Top 10.... Films I've seen (released this year)

This year hasn't been a great year for films methinks. Last year we missed some of the best films - The Village, Garden State, Collateral and Enduring Love - which gives me some hope. Mark Kermode's best two films from the year are my number 1, and A History of Violence. Which means I've missed one good film.

1. Crash (blogged)
(are we safe from ourselves, best film by a mile)

2. Elizabethtown (blogged)
(superb, success, failure, life, and in need of some edits, a shorter directors cut on dvd would be welcome)
3. Hotel Rwanda
(deeply moving film that we saw in July)
4. King Kong
(mindless with cool effects, bit saggy and slow though, lets hope Jackson could give us a shorter dvd version)
5. The Island
(mindless fun - you need one of these every summer)
6. Hitchhiker (blogged)
(crazy fun)
7. Broken Flowers
(bit slow but good because of Bill Murray)
8. Melinda and Melinda (blogged)
(woody allen does sliding doors)
9. Sin City
(wierd but kinda cool)
10. Million Dollar Baby (blogger)
(good drama, if a bit disturbing)

Mentions also for Hitch and Wedding Crashers which were funny, The Life Aquatic was a bit disappointing but still kinda fun if you like Bill Murray doing his Lost in Translation act (see also Broken Flowers). Sideways was ok. And The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe was alright, LOTR on a budget...

Top Ten 2004

Seen Top 10 (including DVDs released)
1. Crash, 2. The Village, 3. Garden State, 4. Collateral, 5. Enduring Love

Friday, December 23, 2005

Wojtek @ Vue

One for the Relay guys... we went to see Narnia at Bristol Vue Cinema the other night and I ran into Wojtek Kaftanski, who you'll remember from Relay 1. Bizarre! Good news is he'll be at Relay 2 too!

ChSA - Christian Unions in Poland

Confused bigotry?

Elsewhere, David McKie offers comments on civil partnerships. He observes something of a south & east, north & west divide in application numbers. He posits this simply as grounds for enquiry. Tony Blair meanwhile evidently things that the south & east are more progressive.

Next, McKie turns his eye to the Christian protests in Belfast. People exercising a write to freedom of speech and religion. He finds fault in their argument as they quote parts of Exouds and Leviticus whilst overlooking other parts. I have sympathy with him. What we have in Exodus and Leviticus are laws given to another people in another time, which never seem to be universally applied. They have much to reveal to us of God's unchanging character, and human need of rescue by a saviour...

The second appeal is based on 1 Corinthians 6v9, a text from a letter to a very troubled church community. This community is rife with sin and believers taking one another to court for their troubles. They are reminded that they were all once sinners, but that now God is their judge. This church includes those who were formerly, immoral, idolatrous, thieves, drunks and homosexuals. This is no prim and proper church - everyone has dirt in their past, and no one is pretending otherwise. Their sin was a former way of life. They are a community of forgiven sinners. Likewise, one hopes the Belfast protestors.

Such a text seems somewhat inappropriate with which to chide non-Christians entering into civil partnership, its concern is discipline within the Christian community. All non-Christians are sinners - showing up particular sins is hardly revelatory! All non-Christians will sin (as will Christians). Its "natural". (One has to wonder though if homosexuality is natural, and most people espouse evolution - as another guardian article yesterday did - how does one justify homosexuality as progressive when under the principles of survival of the fittest a gay couple will not reproduce... a "gay gene" is surely recessive....[Credit to Rick Warren for that line of thought, HT Louie Marsh])

According to Romans 1v26, everyone has been turned over to their sin by God in a first act of judgement, to be followed by a final judgement. Everyone a sinner, homosexuals and gossips together. Everyone is tarnished and corrupted by sin. God's wrath is being personally revealed, how we need a savior! And what a salvation is also revealed in Jesus Christ! Not a self-righteousness, but a righteousness that can be given to the worst of sinners for free. A right standing with God not for the good, but for anyone. This motivates Paul to speak of the grace of God in Jesus Christ, to speak of the opportunity to be reconciled to God.

Polly Toynbee recently declared the idea of a saviour dying in the place of sinners to be the most repugnant thing about Christianity. The Bible disagrees, it is the glory of the gospel. It is the pinacle of the story. Too much for Toynbee to swallow, perhaps also for McKie and Armstrong. O, that they could see. McKie allows some careless christians to exuse himself, Armstrong explains Jesus away as a myth.

Jesus himself speaks about the value of studying scripture. He says that the effort is fruitless and valueless if it does not bring one to believe in him. True understanding of scripture produces a well-founded belief in Jesus. Without that no-one has suceeded in understanding it. So, in a last word to the Christmas Exegetes at The Guardian, read again and again. Come and humbly hear Jesus once more. Come and examine the evidence on its own terms with great care. Come and see what is offered. Recieve this free gift this Christmas. And then, perhaps, turn again to teach these scriptures.

We wish you a mythical Christmas?

Karen Armstrong writes that "the Christmas story was not intended to be factual". The problem is that Luke, particularly, is a meticulous historian, seeking to write an accurate history. The other gospel writers are no different. I have to wonder if she has even opened the texts she critiques.

She says that the gospels are not accurate biographies. They are not comprehensive biographies detailing every detail of Jesus' life. They are designed to teach us about Jesus, often with explicit statement of "authors purpose". (see also - John's purpose statement). John, like Luke, wants to record accurate evidence of what happened so that we could believe that. Neither has any interest in fiction or myth. Armstrong believes that Luke and Matthew make events happen in particular ways but they state what happened and it is the events, not their agenda, that drives things. She cites particularly Jesus' birth in Bethlehem rather than Nazareth. Luke says there are particular specific reasons why this happened. They gospel writers arrange their material carefully but they dare not play with the truth.

Armstrong further notes that the Christian story is marked by inclusion of outsiders. Quite true! But this is inclusion around the person of Jesus Christ and his good news. However, this never implies that Christians shouldn't claim to know the truth. They distinctively do - because the truth became a person, and it is that person Jesus Christ we have encountered and been included by. This is the word incarnate inviting any kind of person to come to him, but on Jesus' terms not our own.

Armstrong further misapplies such inclusion of sinners to say that this prevents us saying that certain things are wrong. She rightly denies the right to be "self-righteous" in condemnation of others. But Christians are by definition not self-righteous, they have renounced self-righteousness to recieve it from Jesus. Jesus welcomed all kinds of sinners but called them to leave their sin behind. Whether adulterers, tax-collectors or murderers like the apostle Paul. History is not forgotten but it is no burden either.

I'll grant that I'm not sure what benefit is really gained by identifying the particular sin of non-Christian people. Sin is sin. And that can be said, but it has to be accompanies by an invite to even the worst of sinners (as Paul called himself) to come and find life, forgiveness and welcome in the abundant grace of Jesus Christ.

Armstrong observes the deep irony of the capitalisation-fest that Christmas has become,. This is indeed most distasteful to Christians who are well aware of the fleeting nature of earthly treasures. We are wrong to buy into this. The good of "generosity" is sadly corrupted by human greed.

Armstrong's tirade continues with observations about women in Luke's gospel. Jesus grants women great priviledge, more than their culture would have done. It is note worthy that it is women who are witnesses of the death and resurrection of Jesus. A myth writer would have changed this detail since women's testimony was worthless at the time. But Luke and the rest are unable to avoid the truth. Armstrong goes on to say that female church leadership should be allowed if women are to be well treated. This is irrelevant to the issue of the content of Luke's gospel.

Meanwhile, Matthew is branded a male chauvinist because of his ommission of the angelic message to Mary, since he only tells of the visit to Joseph. This is an argument from silence displaying something of a feminist paranoia. The accusation lacks foundation and is opposed to the whole of the Bible which gives men and women equaly dignity in God's image from the start. When Paul goes on to write of the fall it is women who take blame in 1 Timothy 2, and men in Romans 5. All are sinners. All can be saved.

Finally, Armstrong misapplies Jesus' words about leaving family to follow him. She says that he is shown to devalue family. Likewise when Paul teaches the benefits of singleness. Again, one wonders if she has read Luke's gospel. Jesus is teaching about the infinite value of following him rather than the the lack of value of family.

This is the Jesus who didn't call people to a life based on myth but on evidence and truth. He called people to consider his words carefully, as to his gospel-writers. The New Testament writers have no notion of being fiction-writers. Paul explicitly makes the historicity of the Christian claim the foundation of belief. Whilst a Hindu faith survives if none of its history happened, the Christian faith is utterly undone if it is based on fiction. Christian faith has always been based on evidence about God who stepped into human history.

A consumerist orgy is a misunderstood celebration of the wonder of Jesus' incarnation. But the story is not at fault. A better approach would be to humbly ask that child, who grew up, died and now reigns to give us eternal life. The gospel writers are clear that those who will humbly ask will recieve eternal life, freely. Whoever they are.

All can say is that I hope Karen Armstrong might re-read the gospels with appropriate humility. Perhaps for her like so many others, Jesus will walk off the pages and she will find in him eternal life this Christmas.

Christmas Exegesis at The Guardian

One of the things I love about the week leading up to Christmas is the way that otherwise competent journalists turn into Bible teachers. Be nice if they heeded the stern warnings that scripture issues to those who presume to teach before they started doing this. My next two two blogposts respond to a couple of yesterday's articles.

See also The Guardian

Gateways to Grace (3)

Luke 3v21-4v30

Jesus is assumed to be Joseph's son (noted in Luke 3v23 and 4v22). We already know otherwise as careful readers of Luke's book. Mary was told that this would not be Joseph's son - and since she's still a virgin that would be biologically difficult too.

Luke the historian gives us detail of Joseph's entire genealogy. He tracks all the way back to the creation and to Adam's divine sonship. Even as a supposed son of Joseph Jesus has divine origins but there is more here than that. God declares Jesus as his son in 3v22.

The genealogy is followed by Jesus' temptation. Not an example to us, but a testimony of his divinity., This is God's son having his identity tested. "If you are"... and he is. Where God's son Israel fell to temptation in the wilderness, this Son is different. Satan seeks to manipulate Jesus' identity for his own ends, but fails. This is the Son of God par excellence, no-one's puppet.He withstands temptation and returns empowered by the Holy Spirit to teach the people.

At Nazareth in the Synagogue he teaches from Isaiah 61v1,2. Not some metaphorical interpretation, but "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing,". Good news for God's people! Hope of rescue! Today! Rooted in time and space God's promises are being fulfilled. But the response is not vitriolic but one of rejection. The people are enraged, they want proofs and signs but he will not supply. They seek to kill him, but he elludes them. The people love Jesus until they must accept him as not just an amazing teacher, but also the divine son. He will not bend to their whim anymore than satans. The son of God will not be anyone's puppet, he will be who he is on his own terms. Luke shows us this. Will we listen.

David Gibson on this passage at

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Gateways to Grace (2)

Luke 2v1-3v20

Rooted in time and space Luke records the arrival of Jesus. Caeser Augustus rules. Quirinius is Syrian Governor. A census is called so Jesus must be born in Bethlehem, as his parents must travel there. He comes into history. He is born in the city of David (2v4, 11). This is a royal birth. This is the birth of Jesus the Christ. He is God's king

He comes as a peace-maker, a welcomer of outsiders, a light to the whole world... he comes to bring life and to judge. He will be responsible for the rise and fall of many. He is the great judge and saviour.

Later in the reign of Tiberus Caeser, with Pilate, Herod, Philip, Lysanius in power in the region and under the religious leadership of Annas and Cauaphas, John is preparing the way for Jesus to come. Luke gives us excessive historical detail - these events happened. Our faith in Jesus can rest on secure foundations - that is Luke's purpose. John speaks of Jesus the one who reveals God's salvation, the coming of the Lord to his people... He will bring the Holy Spirit and fire, life and judgement. He is the great judge and saviour

Mary treasures these things up in her heart (2v19, 3v51). She dwells upon the identity of this child. We should do likewise. Jesus is the Saviour, Judge and King... how will we respond to him?

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Gateways to Grace (1)

Luke 1v1-80

Having spent the autumn working through Luke 9-19, I thought I'd return to the start of the book. Given Christmas celebrates the incarnation of Jesus its good to come back and look at it.

Chapter 1 is laced with divine intervention. We're given the stories of Zechariah being told of the birth of a son to him, John the Baptist. Then of the forthcoming birth of Jesus to Mary, and then the birth of John. Around these are two psalms - one from Mary and one from Zechariah.

Mary speaks of the God who keeps his promise to Abraham, remembering and saving his people (47,55). She had previously been told (31-33) that her child would be named Jesus (Saviour) and would be Son of God, reigning on David's throne forever. The birth of this saviour and king follows in chapter 2 (The Angel's message to the Shepherd's parallelling his message to Mary)

Whilst Mary had been quick to believe, Zechariah had doubted and so been silenced. His voice returns and he is filled with the Holy Spirit (67), as Elizabeth (41) who leads him to testify about the glory of God. Zechariah had been told that his son John would be a Spirit-filled man who would turn the people back to the LOrd, making them ready for the Lord (14-17). Zechariah then, at the birth of his son, testifies that God has already saved his people. It is as good as son. The prophets had predicted it and now it was happening (70). A great rescue, saving his people. A salvation that would bring forgiveness for sins (77). A saviour who John would prepare the way for. Already the Cross casts its shadow back over this life.

This is what God had promised through the prophets, and then through his messenger. Now it is happening. God is at work in this situation and God is revealing. He has not yet been born but Jesus is the Saviour and King. This is God's plan stretching back long before the appearing of Jesus. Back before time in fact, though that much isn't explicit here.

Luke is careful to direct our attention to Jesus. This story is not about Zechariah, or Elisabeth, or Mary, or John. Jesus is already the hero of this story, and he's not even been born. The expectation is high going into chapter 1.

Theophilus (3) reads Luke's words gaining further certainty of what he has already believed. He has believed in Jesus who died and rose, and ascended. The great King, a king whose birth was expected to bring salvation and whose life and death would achieve it. When he reads the final pages this expectation will have become a reality - (24v46-47) - "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations..."

Glimpsing the invisible, embracing the visible

They say, "United we stand. Divided we fall". Unity between Christians is highly sought after. Some love to denounce other believers but the gospel demands unity. How does it work? What does real unity look like....?

Unity Achieved!
One of the key things that the Cross of Christ achieved was peace between people - removing the dividing walls and hostility between those who were once separate from God and each other. It follows that every Christian is a member of the church global. This is not optional it is simply part of what it means to be a Christian. All too easily we make our message about person X needing to come into relationship with Jesus. That is true, but the full message of the gospel also includes person X being brought into unity with person Y and Z who are also in relationship with Jesus.

Unity is not a default thing. And its not just about wearing a Christian badge - it is a cross-centred cross-achieved thing. It occurs at the place where humbled believers can gather. Without the cross unity will not be unity.

Unity Enjoyed
Travelling around the world and the UK in 2005 I've been greatly enjoyed the experience of being part of God's new community. I've found myself able to express my unity with believers in Bulgaria this summer, and at Warwick and Bath Universities as I've visited as a guest speaker for their Christian Unions this autumn. We were united before and after these occasions, but that unity wasn't expressed. In all three cases we share great unity in the gospel, in our Biblical convictions and in commitment to student evangelism.

Christian unity is a beautiful thing. As Bonhoeffer said the idea of Christian Community is great, but the experience is hard. That's true. And we have to work that into the equation. The experience is hard because the experience requires expression in relationships. And that's where the challenge comes, Christians are forgiven sinners but they'll still sin. And sin hurts, especially in relationships.

Nonetheless expressed unity is great. Some of my great highlights this year have been those brief moments of fellowship with believers far away from where I normally am. Glimpses of the invisible. We live and work scattered and our unity doesn't require daily expression, but when it is possible the benefit is great. The best thing for me about the UCCF Forum and Word Alive and New Leaders conferences is the expressed unity as we pray together, have fellowship, worship corporately and recieve the same teaching.

Its a joy to be united with others. That joy though less intense is even greater in daily experience, the sorrow and celebration, smiles and irritation of the community I'm part of though my local church and in mission-field ministry of UCCF. Nothing compares to God's glorious power at work in the church and Christ Jesus.

How much unity do we need?
People celebrate that pastors meet together to pray weekly. Should individual congregations meet with other congregations with such frequency? Should they do everything together? Is that necessary? I don't think so. The local church has work to be getting on with and it takes time to build genuine relationships locally. We don't need big to be effective, small can even be more effective.

Broader unity exists between those who share common faith in the Cross of Christ. And between such people there should not be division. One should not however confuse not doing everything together with lack of unity. To step out of the church context into a Christian Union context, the Christian Unions at Surrey and Reading are united by the cross and by shared vision and purpose. But they work separately most of the time to do the work God has given them. So too the church must labour.

Unity in practice?
So what does Unity look like in practice. Some of it is clearly invisible. But it also has pockets of visibility. Christian Unity bridges the divides between people, divides of age, class, race. This is the formidable beauty of the church. Whatever my age, in the church I founded expressed unity with those of different ages and experience. Its amazing.

This alone is why University Christian Unions are not church, but only mission teams. They only have students in. I am utterly confounded by youth and student churches. Why would we purposefully deny ourselves one of the greatest things the gospel gives us? And we might say that these things are part of the broader local church - but such unity requires expression. A student is not in authentic church if they only ever get fellowship with students.

In our church we have four mixed congregations. The real unity happens inside the congregations. There is a badged-unity beyond that, and some other unity - we share leadership, teaching programmes and general vision for a geographic area and that is expressed occasionally as we meet as one. Essentially though we are four small self-contained churches in which unity happens between otherwise separated people.

Unity - in conclusion
Our unity exists. It must be remembered that unity is a cross-wrought achievement. No cross, no unity. This unity is largely invisible, being a reality for every believer around the globe and throughout history. There are those who will wear the christian badge and claim affinity with the church who are not truly church - and with them we cannot stand united - we can be civil and kind and gospel-sharing towards them, but nonethless at disunity. But for all such cases, there are many more with whom God has acquired for us great unity, in the glorious power of the Cross of Christ.

Our unity requires expression. Genuine relationships - people relating with people. Then the unity not only exists but is expressed. Its why the members of a local CU and local church should meet together regularly together and in smaller groups - to express the unity that the gospel has achieved and be encouraged together by that, and by the remembrance of the gospel that unites us. The testimony of God's united people is a phenomenal feat, it is supernatural. The world can look on and see our love for one another, and they can listen in to find out how this miracle has come about. That's unity worth having, we need to embrace the visible unity of the church.

Our unity requires expression. Developing relationships, networks and connections based on Cross-centred unity is of great value. We stand together. And we can learn from each other and support each other. We can share ideas, resources, news and pray for each other. Such unity risks having a merely ethereal existence. Even if local unity is the norm, glimpses of the invisible are truly precious.

The cross of Christ removes the dividing walls and creates God's new community. What is then required is the expression of that unity in the forming of relationships that would never have existed without the cross. I'm thankful to God for church, for expressed unity with other Christians.

Introducing Tim Neale

This seems worth a look - Tim Neale, newly arrived in the blogosphere.

The Marks of a Pharisee

Doug Wilson identifies four marks of pharisees

Monday, December 19, 2005

2005 Top Ten... Posts on my blog

Of the writing of many posts in 2005 there has been no end. Here's a selection of ten of my favourite posts at the blue fish project during 2005. Words get written, appear briefly and then get lost to the archives. Sometimes they need to be recalled. Sometimes its just nice to remember them.
I've written a number of series this year, on Luke's gospel, on the little books of God, my favourite to work on, as yet unfinished is this one:
The necessity of atheism

Hopefully most of the dross has never got past being saved as a draft. Of course that's blatently not true, I've posted around 300 times this year and that simply can't all be worth saying. Maybe its all one big ego trip? Maybe my fragile words can be of some help to others.

Hopefully my rambling here has lead to more coherence out in the real world. Of course that also isn't all that likely. Many words have been said this year that I shouldn't have said. And thats before you get to the unuttered thoughts that go round and round my mind.

I hope I've written honestly and from a foundation of Biblical truth. I hope I've written kindly and graciously, and that grace has been my theme. When it hasn't I've been wrong. Which only serves to remind me of my desperate need. And yet praise God the that I end this year, as I began it, a forgiven sinner. Free! Justified! And in the real reality, satisfied.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Richard Cunningham Interview

Adrian Warnock has interviewed UCCF Director Richard Cunningham. This is well worth reading for anyone involved in Christian Unions, but also in the UK Evangelical church and beyond. Headlines, as expected, are high view of the Cross and of local Church.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Amusing the world to death...

Rosemary and Milton spotted Rob's post on Media & the Gospel. Its very good. As a lover of films I'm challenged, not so much to abandon the pursuit altogether but to examine my life. A created Universe can be enjoyed and appreciated, but nonetheless I do not exist to be amused.

Titus is challenged by Paul (Titus 2v7-8) to have a seriousness in his life and ministry. Stott's commentary on Titus notes the comments of Lloyd-Jones:
"I confess freely, I cannot understand a jocular evangelist... God back and read the lives of the mean whom God has used in the mightiest manner, and you will invariably find that they were serious men, sober men, men with the fear of the Lord in them"
(considering Romans 1 where God's wrath is mentioned 10 times)
Likewise Richard Baxter:
" cannot break men's hearts by jesting with them"
As I think about training students as Christian leaders seriousness is strangely lacking in many, particularly among young men. Having fun and being entertained are higher priorities from preachers, times of worship and life in general than the blood-earnest seriousness of the gospel. Those who have seriousness shine above them. O for more young men to embrace the gospel with due seriousness. (And I say men because it appears that young women often have more seriousness about them, though also there we need more too).

The spring term has two priorities for me. One is evangelism, a deeply serious matter. The other is beginning to work with around 60 new student leaders on my patch. A matter also requiring much seriousness.

See also: Evangelism like Jesus

Relay Bloggers

10/53 Relay workers are now blogging (plus three of the Relay staff). Welcome the latest addition:

relay bloggers: andy witherall | alison young | curt harrier | dan deacon | jonny hannan | katie vivyan | nathan burley | phil abbott | sarah brown | sean clokey | relay staff bloggers: dave bish | mo mccraken | kath arnold

Who are you?

Rach spots Face Recognition. Who are you?

Best quotes from Krish Kandiah at the Surrey CU Carol Service... leaving aside his blue peter hibernating hedgehogs... the thing that struck me most was that there are no first class lifeboats (Titanic). Jesus Christ comes to bring peace with God and peace between people, bridging class, race, age and any other divide between people... making a peacemaking people. Who am I? Peacemaker.

Meanwhile Huxley is asking whether we're seeker-church. While Purgatorio check whether we're going hyper... Though, like Andy, I have to wonder...

Maybe wrapping up the charismatic blogdebate Challies has his interviews with:Handled carefully, iMonk proposes a Humility Zone. That is, being able to agree that we don't agree on everything and that scripture may not be totally clear on every question we have. This is what we've tried in UCCF for 75 years. Our Doctrinal Basis lays out some convictions as the basis of fellowship, but leaves open a whole load of questions that evangelicals can differ on. Humbly we can work together though we disagree on charismatic gifts, womens ministry, baptism and even sovereignty, within the common ground of our core convictions.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Are we safe from ourselves?

At the weekend I watched what will probably rate as my best film of the year (to be announced in the next week or so). Paul Haggis' CRASH. Its a magnolia-esque twisting tale of interconnected lives (minus the offense of Tom Cruise). Sandra Bullock comments on the dvd that in the wake of 9/11 this film poses the question not of whether we're safe from the world out there, but are we safe from ourselves. We're given the stories of heroes and villans, how become villans and heroes. There are twists and turns that will shock and surprise.

And that brings me to what I've spent the last three days studying with our team in Southampton. John Risbridger has taught us from Judges. A book of heroes and villans, and villans and heroes. A book that exposes our own folly... we are no better than them really... we are not safe from ourselves. How we, like Israel, need a perfect rescuer. The world of Judges cries out from over 3000 years ago the same thing. The world of Crash cries out for redemption.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

My experience of Narnia

While Em's been out at her staff meal I've been to see The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe with Phil, Rich & Nicky and Ruth. Much fun.

The first observation was the excessive adverts and trailers. That did give me a first glimpse of the new superman film depicting humanity with a great capacity for good... and more promisingly Pirates of the Caribean 2. Finally after half an hour the film began.

It goes as read that the plot is excellent. Its a great kids adventure story with some extra depth for those who know where to live. You'd not guess what C.S. Lewis probably intended from the book or the film, unless you know the Christian story. But thats because its allegorical. Having produced my own version of this story in Bulgaria in July the story is fresh in the mind and it's basically faithfully done.

The acting is obviously lead by the children. This is always a tightrope to walk. They do well I think. None are stunningly good but they hold the fort well. Tilda Swinton plays a good White Witch though not as evil as I'd have her. Still, its a PG isn't it! Thats the human front, the rest is down to CGI. Director Andrew Adamson (Shrek) is clearly familiar with animation and the CGI characters work well. The cockney badgers were fun, and Liam Neeson just about worked for me as Aslan. The Aslan CGI is good though inevitably not as overwhelming as the human imagination can manage.

CGI battles are now familiar from the Lord of the Rings. Kingdom of Heaven managed a pale imitation. Narnia gives us much more colour and once you forget that the budget is lower its good and the target audience lower, its enough quality. I'd read a number of reviews that were really critical of the production quality. Its fairly good. There's a new mountain range scenes that look much more studio than New Zealand but thats ok.

As Eds mum observed Polly Toynbee is wrong. The film is no Christian diatribe. Its not the greatest gift to evangelicals in 2000 years (or even since Mel Gibson). Lewis doesn't teach a particuarly clear doctrine of atonement in his allegory. Much better to read the actual stories in the Jesus' biographies in the Bible. I remain amused by the way that the film has brought secularist to a welcome degree of honesty about Christianity, or at least the twisted version of it that they've picked up from somewhere.

My verdict, its a good family film. The book remains better.

See also:
Repugnant Christianity
Offended by grace

Sing to the Lord

Speaking Lord, revealing truth
Your word stands firm, creating all things
Sovereign Lord, your plans succeed
Your people rejoice, to live within your care

Seeing Lord, nothing is hidden
You know our hearts, our deepest sin
Saving Lord, rescuing all who believe
You are our protector, our great hope

Sing to the Lord, shout with joy
The new song of our salvation
Celebrate that he is the --
Speaking, Sovereign,
Seeing, Saving,
Steadfast -- Lord our God!

Steadfast Lord, always the same
Your ways faithful, forever true
Steadfast Lord, for you we wait
You justified us, glorious one

© Dave Bish, 2005 - from Psalm 33

Monday, December 12, 2005

Blind Man Sees

I preached on the story of the blind beggar in chapter 9 of John's gospel twice in the last 14 months, once at Royal Holloway Christian Union, once at our church. John Frame's insight into this incident is superb: A Blind Beggar Becomes an Apologist.

"...apologetics is a simple business, and every Christian is called to it. Whenever somebody asks you to give a reason for your faith, you should be ready to give it..."

Francis Shaeffer and Douglas Groothuis on apologetics, at Groothuis also blogs, at Culture Watch: Thoughts of a Constructive Curmudgeon. Groothuis also wrote an afterword to the US edition of Marcus Honeysett's Meltdown.

Remembering, Allan Kelly

Allan Kelly. July 7th 1919 - Dec 12th 1995

Ten years ago my Grandfather died. It was the first death that really impacted me. Other relatives had died when I was much younger and I'd not really processed it. My paternal grandfather had died when I was six months old. Allan was my maternal grandfather, he died in a hospital in London in the winter of 1995. That was where I last saw him, but its not what I want to remember of him.

My Grandad was sixty years older than me so most of his life was before I was born. I don't know that much of the details. I know he taught in the Sunday School at his church in Clapham. I know he spent most of the Second World War in a Prisoner of War camp in Poland - a country I would first visit as a missionary 2.5 years after he died. He never talked about his time in Poland, for obvious reasons. Those are conversations I would have loved to have had, and not just about that but about the rest of his life. But I was a kid, and such things weren't of as much interest then.

What remains is his family, my Gran, my aunts and my Mum. They are what has lasted in this life. One of my first memories is riding in the back of his car in Harrow, I think when we stayed with them as we moved from Dronfield to Earls Barton in early 1983. Many memories of at their house.

For most people London and July 7th mean terrorism, but for me that is a connection that reminds me of my childhood. July 7th was his birthday, and London was the place that I know because of him. As children my sister and I would spend weeks with our grandparents in London, visiting the sights and exploring the underground.

What I remember most of him though was our slow afternoons of playing Chess together. I did defeat him once, a year or so before he died. But prior to that his record against me was spotless. And the reason was that he took care and attention over the game. Care and attention repeated in the refurbishing of my aunts home, now named for him, and evidently repeated in the rest of his life.

At his funeral I heard testimonies of people from his church. The realities of death and life in the next age began to strike me that day, as I cried. It was another 18 months before I became a Christian but this was a significant moment. Nothing in this age lasts. Death is not the quite great statistic, not everyone will die. But everyone will face Jesus - either in death, or when he returns. Care and attention with regard to Him is what is truly required.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Seven Things

So, Cat asked me to do this...

1. Write a book that is worth reading
2. Learn to sing
3. Leave Europe
4. Become a Father
5. Learn NT Greek
6. Start driving again
7. Record my own album

1. Sing
2. Dance, and neither do I want to
3. Keep the house tidy
4. Use a Young Persons Railcard anymore
5. Speak in Tongues
6. See without my glasses
7. Resist Blogging my life away....

1. Her passion for Jesus
2. Her singing voice
3. Her cheeky grin
4. Her natural blondeness
5. Her silly sense of humour
6. Her nose - even when pouring with snot like it is today
7. Her honesty

1. Grace
2. What would that look like
3. Depends on what you mean by
4. Piper says...
5. No
6. Where?
7. Really?

1. Aldous Huxley - Brave New World
2. George Orwell - 1984
3. Douglas Coupland - Girlfriend in a Coma
4. GK Chesterton - The Man Who Was Thursday
5. Harper Lee - To Kill a Mockingbird
6. Ian McEwan - Enduring Love
7. Ian McEwan - Atonement

1. Eternal Sunshine
2. Fight Club
3. American Beauty
4. O Brother, Where Art Thou
5. Back to the Future
6. Adaptation
7. ...and anything else in our dvd collection

1. Pod
2. Bec
3. Nathan
4. Sean
5. Ceryn
6. Ed
7. Kath

Am I an Atheist?

At face value its a bit of a stupid question I suppose. After all I'm a Christian blogger. I'm a Christian preacher at our church. I even work for the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship. Outwardly everything looks in order. All the pieces are in place. But why then raise the question. The Bible is full of instruction to pray. Calls to be devoted to prayer. Devoted to a dependence on God. R.W. Dale said: "work without prayer is atheism..."
Why then am I so prayerless?

Perhaps because I've been preaching for five years, and so have a modest level of competence. Perhaps because I've been writing online for seven years, with a modest readership - my hit counter says 100 people a day...why? After eight years living as a Christian I know how things are supposed to work.

The more I know the more I should be driven to my knees in prayer. For all my basic competence without God I have nothing. Without his saving of me I am lost. I could bumble along but I would have no future. Competence is a false hope. As false a hope as my Curriculum Vitae. Only by the power of the Cross of Christ can I do anything at all. Its power in my life is the reason why I'm not an atheist, but my life so easily lags behind. I could puff up my soul with empty words, but true life is found only in Jesus Christ.

My interpretation of reality gets shaped by what everyone says. People say that what I do is a good thing, but its not good its the only thing I can concieve of giving my life to. People say that I'm preaching well, but thats only by the grace of God. I am not an atheist because the grace of God reached out to me. I am not an atheist because God provided, in Jesus, a genuine hope for salvation.

All the deception of my sinful nature, the lies of my ego and the lure of fleeting pleasures have nothing real to offer me. I must stand humbled. As Carl Henry said, "how can anyone be arrogant when he stands beside the cross?" The shockwaves of God's grace must continue to reverberate through my life. The shadow of the cross cast over every moment. The power of the Holy Spirit bringing life where death would otherwise reign. All I can say is "God, have mercy on me a sinner."

Thanks to Josh Harris for sparking this line of thought: Preparing a sermon with Josh Harris and John Stott

Christmas Explored?

Celebrating CHRISTMAS seems to be increasingly unacceptable. In the name of religious tolerance its being replaced with winterval, festival of lights and that sort of thing. The religious tolerance argument doesn't really hold though because other religious festivals are openly celebrated. And those of other religions don't seem all that offended. A few years back I gave a Muslim colleague a book about Christianity in our "secret santa". Many of my secular colleagues were deeply offended. He however seemed to really appreciate it. This seems similar. It looks like a secular anti-christianity agenda. And of course, this unoffending secularism presumes all religions to be equally false...

Now, that said, secularists have the right to their views. And I don't overly see the necessity to celebrate Jesus' birth on a particular day. The incarnation of Jesus is incredibly important but Christians don't keep special holy days - we can remember the incarnation every day! And likewise, Jesus' death and resurrection...

For most people Christmas isn't really about Christ - in the same way that the 72% of British people who claim to be Christians aren't particularly concerned about Christ. Christmas for most people is about tradition and family and escapism. And in that case surrendering it to be a secular holiday is probably ok with me.

But, if we're going to develop a context of religious pluralism then its only fair to provide some way for people to find out about Christianity rather than eliminating it from the picture. What I'm saying is that pragmatically its only fair to give us Christians a share of the picture - if you really want a fair secular society.

In such a context, I see no need for Christians to be ashamed to proclaim the message that has shaped our nation for a long time, and which if true has eternal and cosmic implications. We need to learn how to dialogue and live together now that our culture is becoming more pluralistic (we're probably a long way off 1st Century Athens yet though). Spreading ignorance and refusing to talk robustly about things isn't the way to do that though - rather lets rediscover the ability to debate rigorously.

Whatever you want to call the national holidays and celebrations that centre on December 25th (which probably wasn't the day Jesus was actually born...), why not take the opportunity to engage rigorously with what the Christian message is actually about? Worldwide it's proclaimed and believed.... can't hurt to find out what its content is, to ask questions and see if it makes sense. Carol Services that churches hold exist largely for that purpose and its amazing to see how many people come to them even in "secular" Britain... Ask, who this Jesus claims to be. Ask, why he came. Look at his life. Look at his death. Look at the claims of his resurrection. 2005, try Christmas, explored.

UPDATE: Justin Taylor on the origins of Christmas. Interesting.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Sing with me... how great is our God!

One of the pleasures of the last seven days has been studying Psalm 33 with several people.

v1-3 - The Singing People
Its a great community song, sung by believers to believers. Its an encouragement to sing, shout, praise and give thanks musically to God. A call to worship. Its the song of the "righteous", the "new song" of salvation, calling for the fitting response to our big God by those God has saved through Jesus' death.

v4-9 - The Speaking Lord
The Lord speaks truth (4), creating the universe (6) and effectively making things happen (9). So, let us praise him! What God says happens! What he says is true! We are counted righteous, his promises are true.

v10-12 - The Sovereign Lord
Human plans are thwarted by God, but his plans stand forever. How favoured are his people. So, let us praise him!

v13-15 - The Seeing Lord
The Lord sees everything. Nothing is hidden from him. This might seem like a reason to fear, but it is given to motivate praise. God sees our sin and yet we live - how sufficient is his saving of us! His grace is not turned away by human sin, it shines all the brighter. So, let us praise him!

v16-19 - The Saving Lord
People try to save themselves by their own strength. But salvation is from God not from men. Our gifts, our minds, our abilities are not the reason we're saved. He saves. We take no credit at all. All credit goes to him. So, let us praise him!

v20-22 - The Steadfast Lord
Hope in him! Trust in him! Hope in him! Praising him for he is the Speaking, Sovereign, Seeing and Saving Lord! This is our God! Hallelujah, what a saviour!

"How great is our God, sing with me
How great is our God, and all will see
How great, how great is our God"

Seven Things?

Frankly I object to this sort of thing on blogs.... Cat however wanted me to do it... so here we go.....
Seven things to do before I die:
1. Write a book that is worth reading
Actually, I really can't be bothered with this. Sorry Cat. That said, equally narcissistically here's some Blogspotting.... Ant Adams and Luke Wood read my Narnia posts. Dave Kirkman picked up my top books list and shared his.

Friday, December 09, 2005

The Cross-Centred Community

Galatians 6, Talk at Reading University Christian Union

“Hill Valley – A Nice Place to Live” Some of you weren't even born when it came out but nonetheless its my favourite film trilogy. Back to the future. As Marty and the Doc travel between times they encounter two versions of their town in 1985... one is a nice place to live, the other kinda looks similar but is more like Hell Valley than Hill Valley.

Where would you rather live? The world thinks of church as the last place on earth it would want to be... and yet God's vision is the church as the hope of the world... The best place to live.

Bonhoeffer said that the idea of Christian community is great, the experience is hard... I wonder what your experience is?

End of term. How have you found being part of the community of the Christian Union as a mission team? Are you committed to relationship with one local church? Or are to standing on the sidelines, dating church, dating the CU...

Maybe you've embrace and enjoyed Christian community? Maybe you've found it really painful. People are strange creatures and community is hard. We can stand outside and watch, or we can dive in and get involved.

It happens with Britain and the EU. We talk about it as “out there”. The EU out to get us... opposed to us. But we are the EU. Its not out there its here. Its the same for church and CU as community. Its not some conspiring thing out there... it is this. Us. You and me....

Read the rest of the script... .The Cross Centred Commmunity

Update: Rob Wilkerson is talking about the Gospel and Criticism - good further reading.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Bob Horn 1933-2005

Press Release

2005 Word of the Year

blog was dubbed as word of the year in 2004. This year: podcast. TallSkinnyKiwi is not overly impressed - "it's just audio". He's got a point. 2005 is the year I finally switched from unmetered dialup to broadband... downloading audio has finally become a viable thing to do.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Necessity of Atheism Q8

Continuing the series of responses to
Percy Bysshe Shelley's The Necessity of Atheism

If he is reasonable, how can he be angry at the blind, to whom he has given the liberty of being unreasonable?

I'm not entirely sure where this question arises from. But I'll try...

The blind referred to here are evidently not the physically blind but the unreasonable. The question takes it that God gives people the liberty of being unreasonable and is then angry at them for being so.

There are unreasonable people. And it is true that God makes people as they are. We saw that in the answer to question 7 previously.

Romans 1v21, ESV:
"For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened."
It is God who causes peoples hearts to become futile (unreasonable?) but this is in partnership with their own failure to honour God - which is an unreasonable action in the first place. Thus as they pursue futile thinking they get deeper into it. The argument of Romans 1 says that them becoming futile is God's anger at them. So yes God causes people to become unreasonable in the thinking but this is his judgement of them for their inherent unreasonableness.

The question rather presumes a virtuous free will on the part of man. Biblically it is fairer to speak of responsible action. Man, made responsible to honour God failed to do so... and thus incurred judgement leading to deeper unreasonableness.

I might return to this question again, however the next question also pertains to freedom and free will. Q9 - If he is immovable, by what right do we pretend to make him change his decrees? Can, does or will God "change his mind"....

2005 Top 10... Christian Books I've read this year

1. Finding Joy - Marcus Honeysett
I'd been waiting two years for this since I heard Marcus was writing it. Didn't disappoint. Practical journey into the grace of God.
2. Humility - CJ Mahaney
No books by CJ on my top 10 last year which suggests I'd not read any of them. I've read most of his books this year. The latest, humility is great. A bit like Piper Mahaney's stuff is all the same... but its all about the Cross so I'm not complaining. Still waiting for my free copy from Sovereign Grace Ministries... but Grace Church Bristol sent me some so that's great.
3. God's Lavish Grace - Terry Virgo
I stood on stage at Forum in September and said that this was the best book I'd read this year. It was at that point. It remains excellent. Very similar to Honeysett's book.
4. The Roots of Endurance - John Piper
My Barcelona holiday reading. Simeon's story alone makes this biography worthwhile. Picked up from Oxfam in March... who on earth didn't want to keep this book??? Also good by Piper et al this year, Sex & the Supremacy of God.
5. The Glory of Christ - John Owen
Hardest read of the year. Owen is one of the voices behind Piper's God is the Gospel. He writes densely and engagingly about the glory of Christ. Read this one in Bulgaria.
6. Whoredom / God's Unfaithful Wife - Ray Ortlund
Another light read for Bulgaria. Terry Virgo recommended this at the NewFrontiers Leadership conference in July. Traces the theme of God's people as God's wife throughout scripture. Our sin is horrific. His grace is phenomenal.
7. Pure - Linda Marshall
Linda's little book of love. This is a great foundation for God glorifying relationships. Doubles as the book for the course. Bible studies at the end of the chapter force you to engage with the material.
8. Not Even a Hint - Joshua Harris
Now re-titled as "Sex is not the problem - lust is". Its a quality anti-legalism book, applied into the context of lust but it should stretch further too.
9. The Gospel-Driven Church - Ian Stackhouse
Ian is a pastor in Guildford and this is I think a very good book. The first few chapters on the centrality of gospel preaching for the church are particularly helpful. Not sure on the sacrament stuff beyond that, I need to read it. But the preaching / worship stuff are worth the price. It is a bit dense to read, but this is a pastor-theologian writing and we need more of them.
10. Going the Distance - Peter Brain
This book saved my life. Justification by faith means I don't have to be a workaholic.

My rules are simple... its a list of Christian books I've read this year. Only one book per author permitted. Special mention to Five English Reformers (JC Ryle).

Last year's list here. Book of the year 2004 - Joshua Harris: Stop Dating the Church.


New look at Ed's Fallible Thoughts...


Do visit the remodelled

Monday, December 05, 2005

Repugnant Christianity?

Narnia continues to provoke press-coverage. Polly Toynbee today:
"Of all the elements of Christianity, the most repugnant is the notion of the Christ who took our sins upon himself and sacrificed his body in agony to save our souls. Did we ask him to?"
I'm not going to criticise Ms Toynbee for writing this. Its exactly what I'd expect. She has a secular mindset and its amusing to see her comment on how Narnia invades children's minds whilst Phillip Pullman's secular agenda is marvellous... But what really caught my eye was the way that she singles out the Cross of Christ as the most repugnant part of Christianity. She's seen the very centre of the message.

And why is it so repugnant? She protests that we never asked for this to happen.... what right has God got to offer rescue to us? The underlying issue I think is human self-reliance which doesn't want someone else to sort out our problem.
  • John Stott - “Far from offering us flattery the cross under-mines our selfrighteousness”
  • John Owen - “fill your affections with the cross of Christ that there may be no room for sin” - including pride.
  • Martyn Lloyd-Jones - “Nothing but the cross can give us this Spirit of humility”
  • Carl Henry - “How can anyone be arrogant when he stands beside the cross?”
Toynbee has clearly encountered church through her life and speaks in her article of her encounter with Norman Vincent Peale - writer of the power of positive thinking (hardly the bastion of biblical perspective). It seems she's frustrated at bullish powerplaying christianity which she associates with American republicanism. That's probably something of a different breed to biblical christianity, and indeed to british christianity. Toynbee rejects what she has experience, and would rather redeem herself than be redeemed by a man on a cross.

The wisdom and power of God are so far removed from the wisdom of humanity. Secularism raises its voice as a self-proclaimed norm. But the wisdom of God remains. Meanwhile the Guardian has an editorial commenting on its increasing religious coverage... this it says is because of a raised religious profile in politics. I'm happy to hear the perspectives of secularism and I hope to hear more of Cross-ism. Whether in the debate on civil partnerships, faith schools or adaptations of C.S. Lewis' novels - I'd like to hear of the Cross.

Yes, the cross is offensive, repugnant to human pride. We presume so easily that the cross is the problem, perhaps we should look in the mirror. This message demands humility. We Christians must be cross-centred, and thus less proud and bullish, rather humbled. When I worked at Natwest, a Sikh colleague saw this implication of grace... strangely I often forget it. Its time to stand beside the Cross again.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Offended by grace?

"The Last Battle.... many readers have been infuriated by his condemnation of the former wise and gentle Queen Susan, as no longer "a friend of Narnia". She is cast out of paradise for ever because at 21 she speaks of her earlier experiences as only a childhood fantasy. She is also said to be "too keen on being grown up" and "interested in nothing nowadays except nylons and lipstick and invitations". Apart from the fact that these seem very small sins, it is hard to believe that Susan could have changed that much in only a few years, and forgotten her joy in Narnia. It seems deeply unfair that Edmund, Susan's younger brother, who has betrayed the others to the Witch, is allowed to repent and remain King Edmund, while Susan, whose faults are much less serious, is not given the opportunity. It has been suggested that some of these problems arose because Lewis himself did not think things through carefully;"
Grace seems too hot to handle for Alison Lurie (His dark materials, The Guardian). Unbelievable that someone would turn their backs on grace? Deeply unfair that Edmund is shown grace? Whether or not you buy Narnia as an allegory (I'm not sure I do) these two certainly serve well as illustrations of God's glorious grace. Let grace be grace, says the apostle Paul. It is not merited. It is freely given. Amazing. Lewis didn't fail to think it through, no he captured something of the offense of the gospel. (HT: Gareth)

Friday, December 02, 2005

Not to us

December 3rd, 2005.
UCCF: The Christian Unions, South East.
Regional Worship Leaders & Musicians Training Day
at Winchester Family Church.
Prayer appreciated for us in this,
and particularly for Nay Dawson and myself who are speaking.

UPDATE: - 18 students from across the region came. Very humbling cos I didn't expect that many. Praise God! What a miserable wretch I can be...
Thanks to Winchester Family Church for use of their building. And thanks to the students too!!

Not to us 1 - Sing of the Cross
Not to us 2 - Stand beside the Cross (humility)
These talks plus Nay's seminar notes should go up on the UCCF South East website soon.

One more Warnie...

Adrian wants nomination for a last Warnie of 2005

Here's my nominations:

1. Paul Huxley - Rock Badger.
Paul is one of the guys I disciple so I'm inherently biased here... but the reason to award him is that he's consistently writing about God's grace. And that's good enough for me. Recently he's contributed to the charismatic debate, and previously blogged some quality interactions on calvinism.

2. Rosermary Grier - Etrangere.
Rosemary is another grace-blogger. An ex-Relay worker she's now on the missionfield in Belgium. Her insights are wonderfully inspiring and Biblical. Rosemary is well read and thoughtful and as she experiences being a stranger in a foreign land that adds further depth.

3. Ant Adams - Homeward Bound.
Ant is a pastor in Derby and writes some top-class stuff that is worthy of much attention. Writing quality stuff on the Bible, on doctrine... on life.

New on the scene, and contenders for 2006... keep an eye on these:
Nathan Burley is full of quality insight from interesting angles. Ceryn Oakes blogs with firey welsh gospel-driven passion... And, if he ever starts blogging again Maurice McCraken is always good to read.

Splashing around in Bath

So yesterday was my visit to the wonderful city of Bath. Sadly it wasn't at its best. Pouring rain does not do the views or the architecture justice. I arrived at about 1.30 to meet Matt, who'd forgotten I was coming. When we realised this we managed to meet up at the University. Slightly surreal conversation about Narnia and then about some Maths, in the Claverton Rooms.

Decamped to Matt's office where Damo also works... and managed to distract a second postgrad from his studies. Back to the Claverton Rooms for hot chocolate with Dr & Mr Harwin.... and then downstairs to the Parade Bar for coffee with Mr.

Next stop one floor down in the delightful Choices restaurant to meet some CU Leaders, and also Maths postgrad number 3, Adam. Encouraged by stories of what God is doing in and through the CU this term... and fun plans for Christmas evangelism - including Wade on the Parade on Tuesday 6th.

Then came the CU meeting. It was great to be with them, to worship with them and personally I considered it a real priviledge to bring God's word to them. Hard for me to judge the merits of the message but it was encouraging to chat to people afterwards about it. Pleasant surprise to run into another maths graduate, Glen, who gatecrashed the party. Cool also to run into Sam, Paul and a few others.

Essentially I spent the day with five friends who'd done Math's undergraduate degrees at Bath. Four Christians, and one not... and yet only one of those four arrived at Uni as a Christian.

Who knows if I'll ever return to speak at Bath, but it was a pleasure to go for a first time as a preacher and serve my old CU in the richest of tasks.
Talk Script (PDF).