Monday, January 30, 2006

Mark Dever Interview

Over Christmas I read The Deliberate Church, and now I'm working my way through his Promises Kept: The Message of the New Testament. I've also read a fair bit at 9Marks in the past, and didn't quite manage to get to hear him preach in his recent tour of UK gospel-partnerships....

Now Adrian has an interview with Mark Dever

Mark Dever blogs @ Together for the Gospel

Loving the Church

Spent some of today thinking about Ephesians 2v1-10, which I'm preaching soon. And then I read James Spurgeon at Pyromaniacs on Church!
Loving the church.

David Field Blogs...

David Field blogs, from Oak Hill College.
"Biblical theology is the discipline which takes that unfolding revelation on its own terms and in its own words and themes and proceeds to study God’s truth by means of storylines and multiple perspectives. There are no definitions of Biblical theology which do not make it sound either esoteric or dull but biblical theology at its best - combined with exegetical carefulness and systematic rigour - is a truly exhilarating way into the Bible. (BT & The Book of Revelation)
David Field's Lecture Notes

Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Glorious Doctrine of Election

This morning we started Ephesians at church. Piers spoke from Ephesians 1v1-14 of five blessings for which we should praise God, namely:
  • Election
  • Adoption
  • Redemption
  • Revelation
  • Consumation
It was a great meeting, really inspiring and encouraging. We heard the word of truth, remembered the truth of God's good news about Jesus, rejoiced in answered prayer concerning the restored health of one of the congregation.... and then Em & I had the pleasure of enjoying hospitality with family from church for the third consecutive Sunday.

This evening ten of us gathered over coffee to think further about Election. This is often considered to be a mysterious, complex even incomprehensible doctrine. My theory is that its no where near as difficult as we might think:
  • Moreover, election is a key doctrine behind evangelism, worship, holiness and joy. It gives hope for evangelism where people are ruled by sin. It gives purpose to worship since God is the one who saves. It makes holy living that for which we were saved. It give great joy because our salvation is secure in Christ, not in ourselves.
  • Secondly, saying election is so incomprehensible is a consession of the plain meaning of scripture to say that its an unfathomable mystery, as we remembered this morning - mystery is simply that which was hidden and then revealed by God to us, namely the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Further reading:

Saturday, January 28, 2006

UCCF Relay Training 2: Day 6

The conference has flown by, and its been a great week of meeting with God's people and hearing from God's word. He has very much been at work among us.

The Day of the Lord
We study Joel 3 together and see the nations called to war against God. They will face him and they will perish, but God's people can find refuge in God. From whom? From God. The one who could kill is also the one in whom salvation is found. We're confronted again by the reality of this, and our hearts lifted as we look to that day with hope. Hope of life in the presence of God, because of Jesus. There's a place... because of Jesus.

Acts 2...
Maurice speaks in our final session. Peter says that at Pentecost Joel 2 was being fulfilled. The Spirit poured out on all to enable them to speak the gospel to all peoples. This signals that the day of the Lord is iminent. Its mindblowing to realise why the crowds were cut to the heart. The terrible day of the Lord is coming, and they just killed the King they were waiting for, the only one who could save them from the coming judgement.

And yet, since God is God, and The Gospel is True, even the ones who killed Jesus can recieve God's grace... they can be rescued. They can find refuge in God, from God. In Christ, from divine judgement. Hallelujah, what a saviour! Can it be? Yes!!

Nathan's photos

Friday, January 27, 2006

UCCF Relay Training 2: Day 5

Day 5 and we're faced in Joel with the Day of the Lord, a terrifying prospect but also with the offer of life for those who will call on the Lord.

Motivating Students for Evangelism
Paula and I lead this seminar. Notes to be posted soon(ish).

Of those who have much, much will be demanded
We look to priorities for the future from Luke 11. This was hard-hitting and challenged us as a staff team as to whether we really believed what we're teaching. Those who really believe Jesus is coming back will truly care for God's people, loving them well and making the most of what has been given to them. Failure to do so exposes unbelief and has a future with those who are unbelievers. In the light of our focus on the Day of the LORD in Joel this is terrifying stuff. We're convicted, seriously convicted. Let us throw away our lives recklessly in the service of the Lord. CU Pioneer Howard Guiness speaks from the pages of his book Sacrifice to challenge us again.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

UCCF Relay Training 2: Day 4

Day 4 and we're back to normal living conditions and into Joel chapter 3. Having been challenged to break our hearts yesterday we're now facing the comfort of God's abundant restoration... something for now and for the future. Later singing of God's Grace Unmeasured is a delight.

Evangelistic Talks
After coffee we're back in fellowship groups as Relay workers give their apologetics evangelistic talks. The group listens to the talks and offers positive and constructive critism. Its a great safe environment in which to grow together. I'm very encouraged by the clarity of my groups talks on a wide range of subjects and issues. Coming to a campus near you soon...

Sexuality, Intimacy and Friendship
Afternoon sessions focus on these important issues, separate sessions for the guys and girls.

The evening is a time for fun, Maurice kicks off the Karaoke followed by entries from each regional team. The South East produce an ironic work of art and earn a well deserved third place. Unbelievably.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

UCCF Relay Training 2: Day 3

Today we discover that Birmingham CU has hit the headlines.

Meanwhile its our world missions / rich-poor day. Joined by World Missions Coordinator John Williams we experience something of the economic conditions that most of the world are subject to on a daily basis. This is experiential learning that challenges us all. Our teaching sessions explore world mission, workplace mission and the challenges of being a Christian in the UK and overseas. Guests from Tearfund and Christian Workplace Associations join us for the day. In the evening we pray around the world for Peru, Japan, Ireland and Great Britain. In an honest mistake we forget to pray for Poland dispite having Wojtek with us - its good later in the week to remedy that.

We're excited to see people challenged about their attitudes to poverty, possessions and material security and about missions in God's world. There's a great family atmosphere to the conference and much desire to be changed by God.

read the song lyrics
Make Orange History (Song Lyrics)

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

UCCF Relay Training 2: Day 2

Day 2 opens with fellowship groups studying Joel 1. We look into the despair of a nation ravaged by locusts without any explanation. All they can do is cry out to God, weeping and wailing. All other hope is lost.

Know the Gospel, Tell the Gospel
This is evangelism day at Relay 2. We open with Maurice teaching us the gospel from Romans 1v1-5. In essence, Jesus Christ is Lord, Repent and Believe. Its refreshing and liberating to think clearly about the content of the gospel message. Later in Telling the Gospel Mo gives three evangelistic talks, two that have succombed to subtle heresy and culture pressures, on genuine message. This gets us thinking about how to critique talks, and how easily we might stray from the wonderful gospel of God.

Monday, January 23, 2006

UCCF Relay Training 2: Day 1.

More conference retro-blogging. Just home from our second Relay training conference of the year. Superb week, my best Relay 2 thus far (of the four I've been to). A great week of remembering together that God is still God and The Gospel is still true

Relay is our discipleship training programme for recent graduates. We're in the business of formacion so they get input in personal study, ongoing supervision, active ministry and at three conferences throughout the year. There are over 50 Relays who are based across the Great Britain and Ireland.

The Relay Workers

Session 1 - That was the term that was
Anna Mac led us through Psalm 95 reminding us that God is still God and The Gospel is still true whether the last term has been good or bad. This set the agenda for the week.

Session 2 - The Bible Book of the Week
The main Bible teaching at Relay conferences is done by the Relay's in fellowship group Bible studies. At Relay 2 we turn to the Old Testament and that meant Joel. A book about God's fierce anger against sin and his lavish grace to sinners, a book about his passion for his glory. Maurice gave us an overview and some advise on how to apply the Old Testament, considering what it tells us about God, its application to the people of God, and the "hooray for Jesus!" application for us as Christians.

The day ended with Relay's going into regional prayer cells and the staff gathering to pray for the week. Its great to be back with family again. There are 14 of us on the Relay staff team and with only 9 days having passed since our Staff conference it was great to enjoy fellowship together again, partnering in the gospel as we serve the Relays.

Reform! Reform!

Join Rosemary's carefully argued campaign for The Reformation of the Christian Bookshop...

Passing the baton

No sooner home from the last conference than I'm back on the road again... That's January in my world! This time its the UCCF Relay Conference Relay 2. This gives us the opportunity to gather all the Relay workers together for six days to consider Mission without Borders. Our main Bible teaching will be done again by the Relay workers themselves as we study Joel day by day... on top of that we'll think about knowing and telling the gospel, about the practicalities of evangelism, and also on sexuality, intimacy and friendship.

At Relay 1 I had loads of sessions to speak in, this week its just one. Kinda nice really! I'm co-leading a session on motivating students in evangelism. I'll also have my fellowship group to look after as we study Joel and have a session in which they can give evangelistic talks and critique each other. What the week will really be about for me will be the between sessions relational grace-stuff, encouraging the good in their lives and being delighted to see how they've grown, meeting them in the hurts and joys of ministry.

Its also a chance to shed the veneer of blogging and spend quality face-to-face time with these people: Kath, Steph. Mo, Andy. Katie, Alison, Curt, Dan, Jonny, Nathan, Phil, Sarah, Sean

Friday, January 20, 2006

On Preaching etc

iMonk on preaching: What's wrong with the sermon? Its too long.
I have no intention of getting into the Chad-Allen-Debate, nor interest in it... but once more iMonk sees clearly It ought to be a parable its that good. Nuff Said.

Get a bigger God!

Steve Palframan is trying to walk the walk, and talk the talk.

Meanwhile I'm listening to Andrew Evans on 1 Corinthians 12 - A Body to Die For, the passage I was studying with Paul yesterday.

Just recieved a copy of Mark Dever's The Deliberate Church. Thankful for that. Review to follow when I've read it...

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Theology is brilliant!

Knowing God is great, and its possible. Our thinking about God is our theology, either its true or its false. But we all have theology. And good theology is brilliant, because its about life-changing, worship-inspiring, joy-filling encounter with the living God in the word of God. Brilliant!

Bob Kauflin says it better than me...
On Musicians and Reading Books 1
On Musicians and Reading Books 2
On Musicans and Reading Books 3

It was being a "worship leader" in my CU that led me to take theology seriously (thats to take theology seriously, not to take myself too seriously). Theology is about all of life, and it should be full of life. Do it, and enjoy it!

(HT: Huxley: Better than skiing, better than sex)

Together in Christ

Tonight at homegroup we wrestled with the awesome, cosmic, mindblowing reality of the gospel that God has revealed to us (in Ephesians 1v1-14)... and together confessed that we struggle to believe and experience the reality what God says. The support of other Christians is such a gift from God as we stumble along the road. Broken people with our messy lives, loved by our great Saviour. We closed praising God (what other response to that chapter), longing for more understanding and experience of the gospel... and for each others needs. And then talked for ages after that.

Reflecting on today, it's been a good day with some challenges. Whether things seem wonderful or whether you feel beaten-up in ministry, the glorious reality is life in Christ. Reminded of God's before-creation-election, and of the hope of inheritance in Christ ahead I face tomorrow with excitement. Glad of opportunities to meet with God's people, with God's word, to grow together in Christ. All jobs are valuable but I think I have the best one :) at least the best one for me to be doing now.

Monday, January 16, 2006

The Confounded Atheist?

Richard Dawkins diatribe continued on Channel 4: Root of All Evil?
Man, this guy is angry! I wont lump all atheists together (though he wants to brand all religion equally facile). I suspect many might be convinced by him but it left me wondering why he was so angry and why his arguments were so weak....

Root of All Evil? The Virus of Faith

So tonight Dawkins turns on religion as a virus transmitted to children to cut off their critical thinking and indoctrinate them. Ian McEwan adds that this cuts off a sense of wonder. Granted Dawkins can draw some really bad examples of religion, but I fail to see how Christianity must stop critical thought and investigation. After all, the first scientists were theologians... and all schools must once have been faith schools.

To his credit Dawkins does get two things right,

1. He sees that liberal Christianity is absurb. It thinks those of us to take the Bible seriously show contempt for reason, but liberals do that and show contempt for faith. He's right to say liberalism makes no sense - though I maintain that reasonable thinking is quite at home in a Biblical worldview. Thinking God's thoughts after him is not an infantile pursuit.

2. He sees that the Cross is very offensive. Barking mad. Why doesn't God just forgive us. I recall Polly Toynbee saying the same last month. He didn't have to mention the cross at all, but he couldn't escape it. He hates it. He refuses to accept it. That, Professor, is the offense of the cross. And it is always the proud who cannot accept it. And Dawkins-evolution is pride-personified: Embryos lack value because they're unevolved, children lack critical thought... and we're so much better than those who went before us.

Dawkins concludes that Atheism is life-affirming. Consider the chance, he says, that we exist. We're priviledged. His is a strange kind of providence. Perhaps Christians have failed to apply the heavenly-mind to the here and now, but it was only last week at our Staff Conference that we were insisting that all of life is important... I stand back in awesome wonder at the power of one who made this wondrous universe. There is one who stands behind it - the same one who came and died on that offensive primitive Cross. The Cross that is God's Power and Wisdom, something that sadly seems beyond the grasp of Richard Dawkins... maybe he'll grow into it.

Dawkins - The Lazy Atheist?
Polly Toynbee: Repugnant Christianity?

Two Sides (2006)

Afraid to say anything
Silence by tolerance' love parade
While the champions of absurdity
Still expect to be understood.

Shot truth in the back
Setting us free to do what we like
Enlightened we turned on each other,
You think we've really evolved?

Two sides to the story,
While we’re written out of history
Two sides to the story,
What went wrong's no mystery

Stay awake all night
In the global city that never sleeps
Working harder, longer and richer
Too busy to enjoy it all

Sold the church out,
Buried in trivia and self-contempt
Planets spin while doors rotate
Our souls remain defeated

Friday, January 13, 2006

UCCF Staff Conference: Day 5

Saving the best for last. Wallace on Nehemiah 8 is superb. Put simply, the walls are of no good without the word of God! "The Spirit of God takes the word of God and creates the community of God" (David Jackman).
  • 1. The church gathers eagerly to hear the word of God - the people insist that their leaders teach God's word to them! Men, women and children together. This is a mark of a healthy church!
  • 2. The church with the highest possible regard for scripture - they understand that God spoke through Moses.
  • 3. The church with a need for faithful preachers - for six hours the scriptures are read and explained so the people can understand the meaning!
  • 4. The church discovering that obedience to the word of God brings joy - are we joyless? do we hold God's word highly?
Obstacles are identified from Nehemiah 8 as lack of trust in God's word, impatience that prevents serious and diligent study, unwillingness to be be distinctively holy, and hesitancy to let God's word challenge traditions and practices (even very recent practices). Everything must come under God's word. The people in Nehemiah soon fall away (by chapter 13), but we look to the true Israelite Jesus in whom there is no condemnation and a better way. Wallaces leaves us with a call to do the work of God, to pray and teach his word to motivate his people.

After coffee, we gather to say goodbye and thanks to the staff who are leaving us. Mike Reeves then teaches God's word to us from Joshua 2 - From Prostitute to Princess: The Lord is willing to save anyone. Gathered in a circle as a family we share communion and praise God before scattering across England, Scotland and Wales to do the work of God with the Christian Unions.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

UCCF Staff Conference: Day 4

Thursday morning, more DIY Theology with Mike Reeves. We look at the simplicity of the doctrine of the Trinity: God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit loving each other. Not, some divine stuff. We explore this in creation, revelation and salvation.

After coffee we meet with Nick Land for a session on how to depression and mental illness. This is very helpful and very relevant. See more at Rob Waller's Mind and Soul Blog. Nick gives us some very practical, thoughtful and careful training in this area. I'm a bit daunted but glad of the support since 1 in 4 people suffer some kind of depression or mental illness at some point in their lives. I'm also saddened at how poor theology can make the problem worse by saying its all down to sin. Some might be but thats not the only possibility.
Part 1 | Part 2 (articles from Christian Medical Fellowship.

Wallace brings Nehemiah 4-6 to us before dinner, on getting the work completed. Biblical narrative swings between character study that moralises and bad Biblical Theology that flattens the narrative, Wallace walks a good path between the two. (Much as John Risbridger did on Judges at our UCCF Team Days in December). Prayer and partnership emerge as key things in getting God's work done. And above all, remembering the Lord!

In the evening we pray for God's work with students around the world. We're amazed and humbled by stories of this work, and drawn to our knees in prayer. We're also able to spend time praying for the 62 Christian Union mission week's happening this term in the UK. How we must pray...

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

UCCF Staff Conference: Day 3

Wednesday! The day begins with Wallace on Nehemiah 3 - the family of God at work. A challenging call to stand side by side for the gospel.

The theology track with Mike Reeves is on Trinity but we're still clearing the ground. First - Theology is great and possible, today we clear out some heresy! Primarily Mike smashes the idols of aristotle and plato and their "divine stuff" that many of the church have swallowed in their theological thinking.

Neo-platanism and socinianism have confused our thinking where we could have looked at scripture instead. They proposed one God which looks very islamic.... our talk of God can't start with "divine stuff" but with Trinity (as interestingly the church of England's 39 articles do!!). We can't talk of "one god" but we must talk about Father, Son and Holy Spirit!

To whom will we compare God? Our analogies are inadequate and dangerous. The ice/water/steam and clover-leave analogies are more rooted in heresy than scripture. Agh! The Bible reveals God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit - not as some divine substance...

In the afternoon seminar Jason Clarke, our new director of training gets us thinking about redeeming the imagination. Every inch of life is Christ's so art is something to do Christianly! Imagination is good! Study is worthwhile because this not some meaningless universe, but its God's world! This is something I've been musing for a while and want to think more about. Had a great chat with Art's Staffworker Ally Gordon during the eveing. Later we gather again to think about the future of UCCF:thechristianunions, glad of our growing partnerships in the evangelical world and seeking to grow that further.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

UCCF Staff Conference: Day 2

Tuesday begins with a bacon sandwich before we gather again to praise God and hear Wallace Benn preach God's word. We're challenged to evaluate our situation, to have clear vision. Above all we must have a concern for the honour of God's name andthe good of God's people. In closing Wallace quotes Richard Baxter - "When we are enjoying God, our people will enjoy him too".

After coffee my training track begins. One track is on being Christian persuaders, an excellent track I did last year. One on Christian Worldviews, one on Bible Study,.... and one on DIY Theology, with Mike Reeves which is the one I'm on.

Mike is a giant of a man, a theological brain in a warm and passionate person with a great sense of humour. The kind of man you can listen to for hours and who wants theology to be done with a pint in the pub, not up some ivory tower. Theology is the evolution. Everyone does theology, either its good or bad theology. Its not for monks and dusty tomes, its about smashing up the minds idols and those of the world, and building proper altars to Jesus Christ! Its a rebellion against the worlds order.

Many do pragmatic theology, a "just do it" mindset looking for what works. We need Biblical theology - God's revelation about himself to us. And that's possible! We can do it! The Bible tells us that God wants to be understood. I was very struck as Mike outlined why theology doesn't work. Jesus said to people who didn't get stuff that the problem was their unbelief not the difficulty of the theology. Jesus says "you should get it, the problem if you don't understand it is that you've not really read it!" The problem is not that its incomprehensible but that we're sinfully slow to belief in Jesus.

Join the revolution! Do theology - prioritise re-searching reality in God's word. Shock, disturb and confront the world. Not rudeness but confronting the world with salvation. Dig deep, and not just for stuff to use but just to grow in God. Hold back from instant application til you get it. And laugh! And enjoy it! Joy in theology, Mike reminds us, pops arrogance.

Later on Tuesday I spend half an hour with Wallace Benn asking him questions about Anglican ministry. My recent doubts about ministry in the Church of England are answered somewhat... On Tuesday evening we look at our future vision for UCCF - Very exciting! We'll stand together against pragmatism, confesssing the gospel of Christ! We'll raise the bar rather than dumb down! We'll work to see the work grow under God, to reach a missionfield rising to 3.5 million students over the coming years. Bring it on!

Monday, January 09, 2006

UCCF Staff Conference: Day 1

Home from our annual staff conference. It was my third one and the best so far. I'll post a series of posts picking up the highlights of it. They're backdated as delayed "liveblogs":

The first night of the conference, great to see everyone again. Immediately a really warm family atmosphere. The first session opened with some time of passionate worship, led by Paul Webber and his very funky bad (esp Pod). Great to stand and acclaim and adore our God together.

Bishop Wallace Benn is our main speaker, on Nehemiah - "On Being Church Builders". The first talk hit us as a gentle, pastoral and sharp rebuke to our prayerlessness, personally and corporately. I'm humbled as I see how arrogant, proud and self-dependent I can be. Nehemiah's first move is to turn to prayer... rarely has that been my first move. Lord have mercy.

If we're too build the local church through the witness of Christian Unions how desperately we need to pray. How we must be concerned for the people of God, not complaining but praying. Confessing sin and seeking the covenant Lord.

After the talk we eat and then move into small groups to pray together.

Off with a smile...

This week I'm offline. This is by necessity, not virtue. In the meantime, lets take ourselves a little less seriously in this virtual world. I'm no expert, I'm no Luther pinning my articles on some great door. I'm a simple blogger airing my mind. That is something probably best done when no-one is listening. Still I feel compelled to click "Create" and endlessly publish what comes to mind. More fool you for reading!! Carl Trueman proves very refreshing. (HT: Kath)

Sunday, January 08, 2006

I want this book

Mark Dever - The Message of the New Testament: Promises Kept

PDF of pages 1-25

More information, at

Basically, its a write up of a series of weekly sermons taking one whole book of the Bible per sermon. Big picture style! Its not what you'd want every week but how awesome to get spend sometime looking at the landscape.
"I was discipling a recent Muslim convert and asked him to teach me the book of Hebrews in three meetings (I thought he would learn it better by teaching me). At each meeting, I would read a sentence or two from Hebrews and ask him where the verse fit into the book’s argument. I did not so much care if he could tell me chapter and verse references; I was more concerned about whether he understood the overall flow of the book, and how any one idea from the book fit into that flow.

As we worked through Hebrews this way, I found that an overview was beneficial not just for my friend but also for me as a pastor. When I preach a passage like Ephesians 2, do I approach the chapter in context? That is, am I using chapter 2 in the same way Paul uses chapter 2 within his larger argument as it unfolds in phesians?

The Hebrews overview also got me to thinking about my congregation. I want the members of my church to become so familiar with the books of the Bible that they know how to turn there as easily as they turn to popular Christian books. So when members of the church struggle with conflict, I will encourage them to read the book on conflict resolution by Ken Sande, but I also want them to have been trained by an verview sermon to immediately ask themselves, “I wonder what James says about this situation?” When members want to learn about the Christian life, let them read C. S. Lewis and J. I. Packer; but let them also think to read 1 Peter and 1 John! When people struggle with discouragement, by all means read Ed Welch on depression; but also read Revelation! When people worry they are slipping into legalism, I hope they know to reach for Martin Luther or C. J. Mahaney on the cross-centered life; but I also hope they know to reach for Galatians. I am even happy for the congregation to read Dever on the church, but I would prefer for them to know Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians."
- Page 17
I like I said, I want this book... and Amazon want to make me wake several weeks for it.... I guess I'll just keep reading through the Bible book by book... enjoying the view.

The Lazy Atheist?

No wonder atheists are angry: they seem ready to believe anything

Madeleine Bunting lays into Richard Dawkins for:
1. Lack of rigorous argument (when Dawkins accuses religion of causing political problems, the problem being secularism is quite capable of causing political crisis)
2. Accusing religions of indoctrination (when Dawkins is quite happy for secular indoctrination to be the norm. Indoctrination is just teaching, Richard... )
3. Accuring religion of removing wonder (when often it actually helps us see more wonder...)
A year ago he was telling us that Tsunami showed the pitiless indifference of creation. His arguments leave me indifferent, they're just poor. But I do pity him for his abject blindness.

Banting concludes:
"Let's be clear: it's absolutely right that religion should be subjected to a vigorous critique, but let's have one that doesn't waste time knocking down straw men...."
Rigorous thought is fine! She goes on to say we should conceed ground to science which I'm less convinced by. I'd rather apply Biblical thinking more widely with care and compassion.

"...One holy catholic and apostolic church"

Notes from this morning's sermon by Piers Bickerseth. This is something of an overview of what is the church? ahead of looking at worship, gathering and then 10 weeks in Ephesians.

Play articulate: Building? Pews? Organ? Sundays?
Can you articulate a biblical definition of church?
The gathering of God's people who confess Jesus as Lord!

1. One Church
Ephesians 4v4-6. One people with one trinitarian God.
But isn't it divided? No - denominations aren't the church but only structures to serve it. The church is one.

2. One Holy Church
Ephesians 5v25-27. The church made holy by Jesus' death.
Made holy and to be holy, imitating Christ (5v1) with family likeness.

3. One Holy Catholic Church
Ephesians 2v6. Raised up and seated with Christ in the heavenly realms.
Catholic, not Romans Catholic. Catholic is an old word meaning something like universal, big and united. The true church is universal. What we see is a physical local expression of that. The reality is on a cosmic scale.

4. One Holy Catholic Apostolic Church
Ephesians 2v19-20. The church is built on Christ, the Prophets and Apostles.
Their teaching is the foundation of the church. If when playing jenga you remove the foundation the tower falls. The church without its foundation falls. 19th Article of the Church of England says: The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in which the pure Word of God is preached....

*structure from the Nicean Creed.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

The Deliberate Church

This is the first book I've read by Mark Dever. I've read some stuff on 9Marks which has helped me think about the priorities of church. The book is clearly something of a response to the likes of The Purpose Driven Church et al. Dever writes out of a decade of experience at Capitol Hill Baptist Church so this is not an off the cuff response to that. I read Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Church about four years ago and found it inspiring as it sought to have vision and convictions thoroughly drive action. In many ways Dever proposes something very similar.

The book is most obviously written for those entering into overall leadership of local churches. That's not my current situation so some of it doesn't have immediate application. However, as someone in ministry his teaching on the marks of elders in the church is a great challenge. Seeing the centrality of character, makes me long to grow in Christ. In this area I'm sure has much instruction for anyone gathering or leading teams for ongoing Christian ministry. Returning to the scripture mandate for those who have character and convictions is a refreshing alternative to the employment of Myers-Briggs style tests to assign people for ministry.

The book excited me about what could be done in church, whilst presenting an honesty that change cannot happen fast. Dever considers patience to be a key virtue for those seeking to implement change. This identified a real long-term love for those he is ministering too. He centralises preaching of scripture to all movement to change a church. Only as God's word is taught faithfully over time will people be changed and want change.

Mark Dever has clear convictions about baptism, eldership and church membership that wouldn't entirely be shared by the church I'm part of which raises questions about total application where I am. He is very convincing and I want to look into this further during 2006. What particularly struck me on the membership issue was the seriousness with which Dever addresses it, even as far as conducting "reverse membership interviews" of existing members to examine their faith. The standards are set high, but one can see that Dever loves his people so much that he does not want them to gain false assurance or dwell in sin.

It should be said that Dever offers no magic keys for changing church. He simply calls leaders to preach scripture, pray and develop personal discipleship within the church, with patience. That mandate should be a great encouragement to many churches that already pursue this, whilst being barracked to implement Purpose-Driven or other models. Others however will surely be challenged not to follow the latest fad for church-growth but rather to be faithful in the God-exalting preaching of scripture.

The Deliberate Church (UK - Amazon)
The Deliberate Church (USA)
Previous blogging on this book

Big Box of Humility

Today I recieved my free copy of CJ Mahaney's Humility. Big thanks to Sovereign Grace Ministries for that. The publisher Multnomah sent the book over from the USA... here's the book with its box, seriously:

The box would easily hold 24 copies of the book... I really appreciate it being protectively packaged but as a hardback in a box it would probably have survived a bit less!

Here's my review: CJ Mahaney: Humility, True Greatness

Friday, January 06, 2006

Passion - 06

Al Mohler on reports from Passion, student conference in Nashville, USA.

""I believe the entire universe exists to display the greatness of the glory of God's grace. And that grace shines most brightly in the suffering of God's son,"" -- John Piper

More at 268 Generation


As you know this site expresses much of what has been influenced in my thinking by John Piper. Justin Taylor posts a letter informing us that John Piper has prostate cancer.
"This news has, of course, been good for me. The most dangerous thing in the world is the sin of self-reliance and the stupor of worldliness. The news of cancer has a wonderfully blasting effect on both. I thank God for that. The times with Christ in these days have been unusually sweet."

"God has designed this trial for my good and for your good. You can see this in 2 Corinthians 1:9, “Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” And in 2 Corinthians 1:4-6, “He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God . . . If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation.”
Piper has taught much on suffering in a life that has not been free of it. Now the trial is more acute. Justin Taylor simply asks that we, Pray for Piper. Cancer affects many, and Christians and our leaders are not immune. The prognosis seems good in this case which is encouraging. Nonetheless death is ahead of everyone - but in Christ death has lost its sting!

Cinema 2006-01: Match Point

Normally I work on Thursday nights. Its pre-term so I wasn't working last night. So we went out for dinner and then to see a preview of Woody Allen's Match Point. Date Night of some sort. The big question of the film is how much of life rests upon luck, upon moments of chance going in your favour or against you. This is something of a dodge on moral responsibility as we see tennis-pro Chris Wilton (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) getting away with things. Scarlett Johansson gives the most human performance, as the struggling American actress mixing it with the posh English crowd - an image of British society its hard to identify with or care about. Its a bit slow though only just over two hours long, and the hypothesis about luck is revealed at the beginning (much like the tragic/comedy hypothesis of Melinda and Melinda) and then tested through the story. I walked out at the end thinking that was all a bit odd. I think there's probably some connections with Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment, a book I might have a shot at reading this year.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Somewhat Self-referential

Um, Rob is blogging about me,
and my gospel-centred (not "centered" !) and frankly far-wiser-than-me buddies David Gibson, Andy Grundy and Jonny Gibson over at

Two Marks of Qualified Leaders

When we write a CV we're asked to lay out our qualifications. Exam grades and experience from which we can be deemed qualified or unqualified for a particular job. In a previous job I was the webmaster for a company developing TalkingCV, an online video-CV package. It didn't really survive the dotcom bust because it wasn't required. Qualifications are qualifications, they can't really be dressed up with fancy technology. Either you are fit for the job, or not.

When it comes to Christian leadership, what qualifies? When I train new student leaders one of the first questions I ask is - "why you?". At least one person will answer - because there was no-one else. And often that's true. But that's not a qualification in itself. Last resorts are not what is required. It would be better to have no-one than an unqualified leader.

Paul entrusted the appointment of new leaders in the churches of Crete to Titus. He gave him two key qualifications. We might expect to see age, experience of leadership in other spheres, success in business. But none of these are there. Instead there are two key marks that qualify someone to lead. This is in the context of church elders, but the standard need be no lower for other leadership responsibility.

Titus 1

Firstly, Titus 1v5-8 - Character.
The two key words here are "above reproach" (or, blameless) and "self-controlled". They're detailed into different areas of life but these are good summaries. Blameless cannot mean sinless, perhaps more like unable to be exposed for sin, and when sin is shown up to accept correction humbly and with repentance. Titus must find those who meet these standards. And, Paul expects him to be able to do so, even in such a young church.

Secondly, Titus 1v9 - Convictions.
Convictions concerning Paul's preached gospel must be held to firmly by those qualified to lead. This is for two reasons, first to instruct God's people in sound doctrine. Strategy and ideas are interesting, but what is needed is sound doctrine. God revealed trustworthy truth about God's eternal salvation plan. Truly practical life-changing teaching (as Paul will outline later in the letter). The second reason is to refute false teaching in the church. This was rife in Crete, and was ruining both the false teachers and those who listen to them, corrupting and destroying them. They must be silenced and called back to sound faith once more.

On the one hand the standard seems very high - and rightly so. Leadership is a responsible accountable task that must be taken seriously and an honourable pursuit. On the other hand, as Don Carson comments, the standard isn't at all extraordinary. Those who seek to lead are to be able to control themselves and hold to the convictions without which the church falls. I feel the challenge of these qualifications. And I long to see my character develop, and my convictions grow all the stronger.

Go there today...

Huxley's blog-birthday

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Maurice McCracken Interview

Maurice McCracken interviewed by Adrian Warnock.
Maurice co-ordinates the UCCF Relay scheme.
Mo occasionally blogs here.

Spiritual Disciplines?

Ed continues to write about Colossians looking at God's sufficient grace. Elsewhere Bob DeWaay writes about Spiritual Disciplines. We're easily tempted to try to add extras to our faith - whether solitude, fasting, study... seeking to gain greater closeness to Jesus. But this is foolish, only drawing us away from Christ. Everything else is no more than a shadow, the substance is Christ.

Perfect Forever!

(HT: Stov)
"Only a fraction of the present body of professing Christians are solidly appropriating the justifying work of Christ in their lives… Many… have a theoretical commitment to this doctrine, but in their day-to-day existence they rely on their sanctification for their justification… drawing their assurance of acceptance with God from their sincerity, their past experience of conversion, their recent religious performance or the relative infrequency of their conscious, willful disobedience.
Few know enough to start each day with a thoroughgoing stand upon Luther’s platform: you are accepted, looking outward in faith and claiming the wholly alien righteousness of Christ as the only ground for acceptance, relaxing in that quality of trust which will produce increasing sanctification as faith is active in love and gratitude…
Much that we have interpreted as a defect of sanctification in church people is really an outgrowth of their loss of bearing with respect to justification. Christians who are no longer sure that God loves and accepts them in Jesus, apart from their present spiritual achievements, are subconsciously radically insecure persons…Their insecurity shows itself in pride, a fierce, defensive assertion of their own righteousness, and defensive criticism of others. They come naturally to hate other cultural styles and other races in order to bolster their own security and discharge their suppressed anger."

-- Richard Lovelace

Monday, January 02, 2006

Dig Deeper

Nigel Beynon and Andrew Sach have compiled some tools to help us dig deeper into the treasures of the Bible. One would hope that we know how to read well enough that we wouldn't need a book like this. Sadly we seem unable to read the Bible properly and thus this book is one of the best things you could read this year.

They remind us to think about authors purpose, context and structure as we read. Beynon confesses that in the past he has sought to find what a text says, without asking why. And what a difference it makes for us to find out not just the what, but also the why.

The excellent introductory chapter lays out a doctrine of the word. They explain that reading scripture is science and art, and that the point isn't just to comprehend a text. The Bible is the word of God speaking with authority to us! We must handle with care - let us not believe what it doesn't actually say, but rather find what God says in his word. At the end of the book they challenge us to draw things together into a summary sentence we can apply and share with those we meet.

Beynon and Sach write with warmth and clarity to equip us to handle God's word ourselves. Each of their tools are explained well, worked examples provided and then further examples for us to work through at the end of each chapter. Ed Shaw from Christ Church Clifton adds an afterword on how his church put these tools into practice. One of the big things I'm involved in with student leaders is training them how to read the Bible. This is a book I've been waiting for for sometime. Now we have it the church is richer.

Ant Adams wants us to read more scripture in 2006. Dig Deeper would be a good companion along the way.

Read an Extract at IVP

See also reviews by David Field and Tim Neale.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

REVIEW: Awesome God

Awesome God - Worship Songs for Children; Sovereign Grace Music 2005

"How do kids learn about God's greatness? One excellent way is to sing songs that express God's character and nature in words that kids understand"
They say that if you really understand something then you can explain it to children. If thats true then this CD is proof that the guys at Sovereign Grace Kids have got hold of the heart of the good news about Jesus.

This is the fourth Sovereign Grace CD I've got hold of. The previous ones have been excellent - Songs for the Cross Centered Life doing exactly what it says on the tin, Upward showing that hymns often express the truth more richly than other songs. Worship God Live capturing the energy of passionate praise. Awesome God follows in the same pattern but with a twist.
"Our God is infinitely more amazing, powerful and wonderful than the entire universe... which He made! ...out of nothing!! (He also made people and zebras and flowers and waves and everything else, too.)"
Musically the CD is tight rock-pop stuff. It is like previous albums very well done musically.

A weakness of some "kids songs" is childishness. This CD doesn't suffer that. It has maturity of truth and musicality, expressed accessibly for kids. They're songs not just for kids but for the whole church to sing. The highlights for me are Almighty Creator, You are Always with Me, You Love which have such energy and catchy lyrics centred upon the awesome wonder of our God.

It will be painful to be without this album, but I feel compelled to lend it to the worship coordinators of our local church. This is a fun and energetic CD exploding with the truth about our Awesome God, a resource to help kids, and the rest of us, to worship him.

Like previous CDs samples, lyrics and sheet music can be downloaded for use. The sleeve says that one of the ways Sovereign Grace Ministries are seeking to serve the church is by publishing and recording worship music. Mission accomplished.

See also:
Sovereign Grace Music
Bob Kauflin - Worship Matters Blog
(with thanks to Bob Kauflin for the free review copy!)
Paul Huxley also reviews this CD.