Tuesday, June 30, 2009

iPreachers and the Podcast Pulpit

I think preaching is really important. Paul's final chapter of the New Testament centres on a charge to 'preach the word'. The preached word is the heartbeat of a local church life, as God comes to address his people.

Today we can download Piper, Driscoll etc and spend our weeks listening to their sermons. My guess is that there are some (young/male) Christians who spend all week working through the archives of these guys, and then whole loads more who've never done that. I used to listen to quite a lot of their mp3s but I think I can probably count on one hand the number I've listened to this year. I still download sermons to aid my own sermon preparation, either to help with my exegesis, as a form of audio commentary, or to help with my communication skills by exposing me to different ways of preaching. I also download for more educational reasons from Theology Network, Bethinking etc, but a Sunday sermon is surely meant for something more. Something special goes on when God commissions this preacher to bring this word to this people on this occasion, Christ coming to his people in the power of the Spirit so that they can once again believe the gospel.

The temptation is to either blindly embrace the benefits of this new technology or be highly suspicious of it. My take on technology is that it's a good servant and a bad master. I blog, I like writing it but it's no big deal to me. I've tied my blog in with Twitter and Facebook to make it accessible to those who might want to read it, such technology makes life easier. On the positive side of new technology I can get access to gifted teachers who can help me to love Jesus more, just as in previous generations I could have read the sermons of a Spurgeon or a Lloyd-Jones alongside commentaries and other Christian books. On the negative side, it's easy enough to be a sermon junkie who is ever listening and never responding to the preached word. The technology simply makes such things available easily, and on balance that's probably good for the church (though there's inevitably more tosh out there than good stuff).

I've cut back because it's hard enough for me to really wrestle with Sunday's sermon from my own church, a word prepared and ordained for our local church at this time. It takes time to apply it with my wife and with our home group. It's very easy to get to next Sunday and realise that I never really took to heart last week's word let alone being ready to receive again. The other difficulty is that I might expect the preachers at our church to be Piper&co when God made them to be who they are for the good of our church. No harm in downloading some supplements but nothing can beat being in the room with God's people as the word is preached.

Slow Portraits by Funky Pancake

The Funkypancake took slow portraits of my wife and I when we visited his home for dinner last weekend.

My failure to stay still is due to my wife making me laugh. She made me cry with laughter whilst trying to keep a straight face.

The Unquenchable Flame: Introducing the Reformation

Mike Reeves' book The Unquenchable Flame is out, and Theology Network has a whole host of resources to accompany it

'With the skill of a scholar and the art of a storyteller, Michael Reeves has written what is, quite simply, the best brief introduction to the Reformation I have read.'
Mark Dever, Senior Pastor, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington, DC

Very much looking forward to reading this whenever my copy arrives from IVP.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Seven years married!

The man said,

"This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called 'woman,'
for she was taken out of man."

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother
and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.

...This is a profound mystery—
but I am talking about Christ and the church.
However, each one of you also must love his wife
as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Jesus is Wisdom (Proverbs 8:22-36)

MP3: Jesus is Wisdom - Dave Bish (20mins)

These are my notes not a script so please forgive lack of detail:
Ever felt out of your depth – in need an expert? Try Parenting. Or, see Gordon calls Sir Alan. Everyone’s an expert in the age of Google and Wikipedia. Progress or regress? People build libraries – curiosity killed the cat, but I don’t see cat’s at uni in the SW. Curious like Zach. God made us to be wise – but wisdom is to be received not grasped.

Proverbs read wrong is holy self-help. Not in church! Proverbs is about Jesus – how to live, not what you expect – Proverbs 8:22-36 hear the supreme expert – hear wisdom speak, speak to all of life. Makes British Library and Internet look like a post-it note.

(muchly helped by Matthew Henry in this section, Henry notes these five characteristics)
Listen and hear: First, His personality.
V22 brought forth by the LORD, V24 given birth, V25 given birth, V30 at his side
Zach not concept, photos, records. A person – as is Wisdom. Who? The person Christ. Lady Wisdom, in story of father teaching son how to work and who to marry shows us Christ, the one the church is to marry.

Second, His eternality.
V22 Before the deeds of old, V23 From eternity, V23 There before the world
Jesus: before Abraham was, I AM. Wisdom precedes all created. He’s before all people.
2nd Adam b4 1st Adam. Unlike all others – his books stand above Waterstones Spirituality – human ideas vs. the heart of God. He wrote the book on life.

He is before the sea. V24 He was there when there were no oceans. Devon! He is before the sea! Makes the pyramids look like prefabs. Makes Stonehenge look like a new build. Prov 28v2: Four managers NUFC get relegated. Ecc 1v10: innovation is repetition. Recessions come and come again. Political corruption comes and comes again. Precedes all: ‘in him was the life of men’.

Third, His creativity.
He can ask: where were you at creation? We’re speechless. By Jesus all that has been made was made.
We imagine: masters of universe, makers of god. He made us. Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel, ‘lady wisdom’ with the Father at creation. 1st Day God said, ‘let there be light’ – Jesus spoke, turned on the lights. 2nd Day God made the expanse of the heavens – v27 –Jesus marked out the horizon. 3rd Day Waters were gathered – v27 – Jesus put the clouds in place. BBC Jet Stream Doc. Jesus made clouds.
Jesus, creator, recreator.

Fourth, His delight, by his Father. How can we know God? Son reveals Father. Son signifies Father. Zach and Dave.V30 Jesus was with his Father. William Cowper: “Myself the Father’s pleasure” 
The Father delights in his Son!

Fifth, His delight in us. Cowper “Myself the Father’s pleasure, and mine the sons of men”. Man climax of creation – even planned salvation & the cross before creation. Joy in us! (though how can he delight in us...?) - how amazing that he who has the eye of the Father would take joy in us... such is adoption!... such is the glory of the cross..


V32 Listen to Wisdom! V34 Daily watch at wisdoms doors, wait in his doorway. For, V35!! Take all opps to get. Come daily to the door. Hang on every word. Bible to adore him. Eternal life is to know Jesus.
Remarkable! Cowper: “Thus wisdom’s words discover, your glory and your grace, you everlasting lover of our unworthy race!” And See the Wisdom of the Cross: “Your gracious eye surveyed us, before the starts were seen above, in wisdom you have made us, and died for us in love” Majestic personality, eternality, creativity and delight. How can he delight in us!? THE CROSS!! Shame + folly, History. Secures favour where there was deserved wrath

Sin isn’t wrong ideas or broken commands – it’s personal turning from Jesus. V36: harms self. What does it look like to refuse wisdom?
a) taking on Stephen Hawking at theoretical physics or Usain Bolt at running. Puffed up self-obsession. Instead of Jesus-obsession and self-forgetfulness.
b) Pity, self-fixing. Puffed up self-obsession. Instead of Jesus-obsession and self-forgetfulness.

Refusing Jesus is to go to the house of Madam Folly to eat. House of death. Wisdom, v36, passes sentence. We all try to solve the riddle of life ourselves – we and all in Arb, Rdg, Wok. We turn from Wisdom to self. 17 year old passes test – unconsciously incompetent. Confess our folly. Face wisdom we can become consciously incompetent and enter his house, v35, 9v5. Eat + drink, know him! Have him! Personal, eternal, creational, delighted. Cowper: “Unfathomable wonder, and mystery divine! The voice that speaks in thunder, says ‘sinner I am thine!’

Saturday, June 27, 2009

No Cross, No Christianity

I nicked this idea from Mark Meynell, in comments on my blog a couple of week ago, but it bears repeating:

No cross, no… divine justice (Romans 3:25-6)
No cross, no… divine love (Romans 5:8)
No cross, no… cancelling of the law (Col 2:14)
No cross, no… defeat of the devil (Col 2:15)
No cross, no… reconciliation between people & God (Eph 2:11-22)
No cross, no… access to God (Hebrews 10:19)
No cross, no… one to open the scrolls of history (Revelation 5:2-6)
No cross, no Christianity (The Bible)

We never move on from the cross,
only into a more profound understanding of the cross.
—David Prior, BST 1 Corinthians

This is the world we live in

Theres too many men, too many people
Making too many problems, and not much love to go round
Cant you see, this is a land of confusion.

So, how do you live in this world and how do you preach the unadjusted gospel in this ever-adjusting world?

ht: Resurgence

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Gospel is Relevant

John Piper on gospel relevance: "If you want to be relevant, say, for prostitutes, don’t watch a movie with a lot of tumbles in a brothel. Immerse yourself in the gospel, which is tailor-made for prostitutes; then watch Jesus deal with them in the Bible; then go find a prostitute and talk to her. Listen to her, not the movie. Being entertained by sin does not increase compassion for sinners."

And Sean Green's Chronicles of Reading: "There is loads going on in the town and Christians need to be engaged with it.”

Fighting for my cause?

Jason Weber at Hope for Orphans, has some great principles, applied to adoption but worth extending to any other issue we hold dear that our church might not...
"...the people who tend to damage the church the most are generally the Christians who are the most passionate for a cause."
1. How many biblical things do our pastors teach on each week that they wish we would “get”?
2. If everybody in my church “got it” then why would God have placed me there?
3. In my frustration with church leadership, have I slandered them or given in to the temptation to complain?
4. Am I talking to others about this rather than to the One who could actually do something about it?

There are x,y and z things that I wish churches and leaders would get but the way I go about making the case matters hugely. Am I actually going to persuade anyone by what I'm saying? Am I responding to a strongman or a strawman - when I make my case am I responding to the real world? What would what I'm asking for look like? For every question I have for others, I should have plenty for myself.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Penal Substitution: A doctrine disliked

From a lecture for PGP Training Course, June 2009, The Centrality of the Cross.

JI PACKER - ‘propitiation… is central’ (Knowing God). The NIV uses the phrase “sacrifice of atonement” four times, with a footnote: “Or as the one who would turn aside his wrath, taking away sin” which offers a definition of what is meant. The ESV uses the technical term propitiation.

Garry Williams: “God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit together purposed that the Son should become a man and as a man bear on the cross God's just punishment for sin in the place of sinners.”
We need to be careful about how we describe this.

Steve Chalke says:  “[Father] brought about the violent death of his Son” leading to an infamous allegation that mention of Punishment leaves Jesus as the victim of “cosmic child abuse”.  John Stott:  “We must never make Christ the object of the Father's punishment or the Father the object of Christ's persuasion, for both [the Father] and Christ were subjects not objects, taking the initiative together to save sinners”. Garry Williams: “The difference between Chalke's caricature and Stott's careful statement is Trinitarian: Father and Son act together, not as two separate agents with their own plans” (ibid)

Which doctrines flow from propitiation?
- Hebrews 2:17 - Incarnation. No propitiation, why the incarnation?
- 1 John 2:1-2 - Intercession of Christ for us. No propitiation, no mediator.
- 1 John 4:8-10 - The love of God. No propitiation, no love.
Some translations have Expiation (cleanse) instead of Propitation.
The cross is for expiation, we are cleansed (1 John 1:7, Heb 10:22) because wrath is averted.

The idea of God becoming abundantly and permanently favourable towards us at the cross is questioned generation after generation. Why?

1. We don’t like what it says about God: If the cross is necessary for him to become favourable, then we’re “sinners in the hands of an angry God”…
Do we really want a God who looks at sin and says a divine ‘whatever’?

2. We don’t like what it says about God and us: If he becomes favourable, he wasn’t before…
Steve Chalke asks in Redeeming the Cross: “And if God needed a sacrifice to placate his anger, how could Jesus forgive sins before his sacrifice had been made?" Which is precisely the issue in Romans 3:21-25. God forgiving people was the great scandal that only the cross could answer! We think the OT is problematic because God kills people, the real OT issue is that he saves without showing how that can be possible.

Emptying the cross of its meaning leads to a man-centred Christianity instead of God-centred Christianity. Saving our blushes and raising our status. Trampling on human hearts (Gresham Machen, Christianity & Liberalism)

I can entirely see why this view of the cross is unpalatable. As I pondered the centrality of this doctrine I feel the battle in my heart, my pride and my comfort would rather not believe this. There is a battle for my heart, moment by moment to hold this central, to stay with the gospel from start to end.

“By this… may judge whether you are Christians in deed and in truth, or such in name only... a nominal Christian is content with proving the way of salvation by a crucified Redeemer. But the true Christian loves it, delights in it, glories in it, and shudders at the very thought of glorying in anything else.” (Charles Simeon, cited from John Piper’s biography of Simeon)

Who would want to make much of the cross? Who would want to revel in Jesus bearing wrath in our place to secure favour for us? Only those who die with Christ at the cross, only those who know a particular work of the Holy Spirit, hardly something to expect to find often? But don't you want it!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Terry Virgo on Elijah

#1 - The Voice of God - 1 Kings 17:1  Download
#2 - A Man Who Stood Before God - 1 Kings 17:1 Download
#3 - A Man of Personal Obedience - 1 Kings 17:1-17 Download
#4 - I Have Commanded a Widow to Provide For You - 1 Kings 17:7-16 Download
#5 - Trusting Through a Trial - 1 Kings 17:8-24  Download -  Download video 
#6 - If the Lord is God follow Him - 1 Kings 18 Download - Download video
#7 - Mount Carmel - Gunfight at the O.K. Corral - 1 Kings 18 Download Download video
#8 - Elijah Prays for Rain - 1 Kings 18:41-46 Download Download video

I don't think there is any such thing as an "evangelistic opportunity"

The way we think about our default position governs how we behave in any given circumstance. The student's default was like Paul's in Athens. There was no point at which he wasn't open and ready to take initiative for the gospel. Our default position determines:
1. What we do while waiting.
2. How ready we are to speak to the kinds of people who come across our path, and how ready we are to go looking for people.
3. How ready we are when God brings the unexpected our way.
Read the rest: Marcus Honeysett: Default Position - Acts 17:16-21

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Esther: A Christian Story

I've been studying The Book of Esther for several years. I love it because it's Christian Scripture and it's because it is brilliant literature.
Here's a resource I've compiled from my studies:
Esther: A Christian Story (pdf)

Thanks to Ed, Carolina, Andy, Joe, RUCU Cell Leaders, Jim, Kenny, Claudia and FCE Student Disciplers amongst others whose interactions over this book have sharpened my thinking, and with whom I've had the joy of being urged on by the kings command.

Song of Songs 3:6-5:1 (Reading Family Church)

Here's the Sunday morning preach mp3 from Love the church weekend at Reading Family Church. One of the many reasons I love Newfrontiers is that it's made up people who love the church. In view of some of my recent study and the passion for church that I share with RFC elder Sean Green, it was an honour to serve them by preaching the word on Sunday morning.

I turned to Song of Songs and didn't follow the popular line taken by the likes of MacArthur, Mahaney and Driscoll. I'm happy to derive lessons for marriage from the Song but convinced that firstly we must read it about Christ and his bride, the church. I outlined my reasons for this during the Saturday sessions of 'love the church' weekend.

MP3: Love the church - Song 3:6-5:1 - Dave Bish (40mins)

This is the ultimate song, like the Holy of Holies… the Song of Songs.
3:6 – see the column of smoke in the wilderness, it’s the LORD (Ex 13:21, Mark 1:3)
3:6 – he smells of myrrh, of death (John 19:39)
3:11 – He’s the King, David’s Son, Solomon, and Jesus (Song 1:1, Matthew 1:1)
3:11 – He comes to his wedding, the day of his gladness.
What was said about Jesus? How does this affirm or challenge me? How can we be increasing our spiritual appetites for Jesus?
Jesus comes for his beloved (4v1). And he begins to extol her beauty (4v1-5) – a perfect seven characteristics, described poetically. Who is she? The bride of Jesus isn’t me, it’s the church. He is (4v9) captivated with the church. How? He sees her. He sees what she is by his blood. Terry Virgo observes – “the church… is not composed of those who dislike talk about the blood of Jesus.” To be churchy is a glorious thing. Speak well of her as he does. God says (1 Cor 3:17) ‘you touch my church and I’ll smash your face’ (Michael Ots) How do you tend to speak of the church? What needs to change? How could we speak of the church to those who aren’t Christians?
4:8 he says come, 5:1 he comes and Christ and the church get drunk on love together. Marriage isn’t entered lightly, it’s taken seriously. Don’t be casual with the church – don’t sit on the edge watching and fault finding, dive in and be part of her. The church is the happiest place on earth, when you’re inside. Know the love of God through the people of God. Look to the big picture – to the end of the story, Revelation 21:9, come see the bride! How can I include my life in the church family? How can I include the church family in my life? How will I “love the church” this week?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Love the church Q&A

I'm trying to remember the questions from our Q&A session at the end of love the church, I think these are most of them...
  • How do we fit together thinking about universal and local church - can we just say we're a member of the universal church? It's true that Christians are to be in the universal church, but the church appears in the world in local congregations under leadership. The church is the context of the Christian life, in relationship with other Christians. NT letters are to local churches, Jesus ministers to local churches and can shut them down. 
  • How can we encourage diversity in the church? My consideration here is that since the all tribes and tongues and cultures will be present in the universal church in the new creation there's no reason why there shouldn't be diversity in the local church, the gospel transcends cultural barriers. Ethnicity and culture is permeable. If the demographics where our church is located are not diverse, don't expect it - but if they are... don't flatten diversity, consider cultures when planning meetings, music and preaching. Be aware that we naturally incline towards those like us, do the opposite. And know, that in Adam and in Christ we all have more in common than any cultural differences. We can celebrate cultural differences.
  • Isn't prophecy the same as preaching? Those who tend to argue this tend also to say women can't preach, but we know that women can definitely prophesy, so you have to work out whether women can preach to the whole church or not. There is some overlap, preaching can be prophetic but the two aren't necessarily the same.
  • If I'm offered a great job elsewhere how does loving the church fit in to the decision? When offered a job we tend to consider location, money, comfort, convenience and how interesting it is. Let's give the effect on the church a seat at the table. It's not that we can defer responsibility for the decision, but we can at least include it in the process!
  • How does church life work for students? Being a student is wierd for church life, it's wierd for life. To live one place for 30 weeks a year, and another for 22 weeks is wierd. Commit quick. Churches can build on students. Commitment to church begins with relationships, and it will hurt in the holidays - but it's better to face the hurt than stay distant. Commit on the basis that you'll attend the funerals of the people in the church if they don't attend yours first - presume you're there for life unless God calls you elsewhere. 
  • What about CU & church? CUs exist for the church - they are churches partnering together through students, supporters, and others from local churches to reach students and see them added into the church. There is no conflict only synergy. Students have more time than they realise and you can commit to both - my experience is that those most committed to CU are most committed to church and vice-versa. The key again, is relationship - involve church in your life and your life in church.
  • What about excellence in church life? We want to do things well to help people understand and grow, the challenge is not to make an idol of making things work well. I want to be the worlds best preacher, not so I can have my name in lights but so I can best serve my local church and I'll study and think and craft my sermons on that basis, likewise for musicians, Bible readers, prayers, prophesiers etc., surely?
  • How can we encourage someone to speak in tongues in a meeting? The fear here is 'what if there is no interpretation for the tongue?' - if the tongue isn't given we don't need the interpretation. You can pray briefly the first time if you're that concerned to avoid craziness. Home groups are a great place to get started in praying in English, praying in a tongue, prophecy, praying for healing etc. Start small and grow. There will be mess in church life and that's ok, the key is to pursue love, to pursue the good of the body. Death to self, life to the body. 

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Love the church

Home from a great weekend in Reading catching up with a lot of old friends and serving Reading Family Church, audio and some notes to follow

Yesterday about 45 gathered for 'Love the church' at the church offices, where I spoke at two of the three sessions. It was a joy to speak on my favourite subject and to air some of the study I'd been living with over the last few months. I also enjoyed Richard Walker on 'I belong to the church' particularly his emphasis on church and Trinity.
  • The first session was a rough overview of the centrality of the church from The Man and His Bride in Eden to the Wedding of the Lamb in Revelation, exploring the romantic comedy of their relationship via Hosea and Ezekiel, landing up in Song of Songs.
  • My second session explored the command in 1 Cor 14:1 to 'Pursue love and eargestly desire spiritual gifts' under the title 'ambition for the church'.
  • This morning I preached Song of Songs 3:6-5:1.
It was such a pleasure to continue the relationship with Sean Green and the church he leads, an honour to serve them and so provoking and encouraging to be amongst them.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Peter Monkman wins Award

Peter Monkman was Head of Art at my old school from 1994-2004 during which my sister and I studied the subject. She's now a Head of Art too. He now works at Charterhouse, Surrey.

BBC News reports he has won the BP Portrait Award this year.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Thirsting for God: Sight of The Cross (William Cowper)

Heard an evangelist attempting to turn people to Christ today by using the 10 Commandments to prove they are sinful - with some success it would seem. God works in mysterious ways... and I praise God for this evangelist. But, I can't help but think William Cowper gets it clearer.... 

"It was the sight of thy dear cross..."

I thirst, but not as once I did,
The vain delights of earth to share;
Thy words, Immanuel, all forbid
That I should seek my pleasure there.

It was the sight of thy dear cross
First weaned my soul from earthly thing
And taught me to esteem as dross
The mirth of fools and pomp of kings

I want that grace that springs from thee,
That quickens all things where it flows,
And makes a wretched thorn like me,
Bloom as the myrtle or the rose.

Dear fountain of delight unknown,
No longer sink below the brim:
But overflow and pour me down
A living and life-giving stream.

For sure, of all the plants that share
The notice of thy Father's eye,
None proves less grateful to his care,
Or yields him meaner fruit than I.

Friday, June 12, 2009

I'm yours for two trillion quid! Cristiano Ronaldo and Gordon Brown, Chick Flick and Sermon Intros

Some links for Friday morning:

Jeffery Hill at The English Blog has a quality cartoon from The Times on Gordon Brown as Cristiano Ronaldo

You’ve Got Lies: Chick Flicks and the World’s Approach to Men and Marriage by Beth Spraul, or 'Chick flicks are porn for good girls'... on which I finally watched Mamma Mia! the other day...

Ros Clarke responds to You've Got Lies with Women, Porn and the Romance of the Gospel which is well well worth reading.

Mike Gilbart Smith offers some great words on writing sermon introductions to catch peoples attention and draw them into the subject of the sermon (ht: Colin Adams)

Developing a gospel-methodology (Exodus 18)

Exodus 18 – Trinity on Mission. I'm preaching Exodus 18 in July, some initial reflections.

Question: How should we run a church?
  • By tradition? That’s ok if your tradition is the ‘apostolic teaching’ but if it’s about doing things how we’ve done them before then the odds are we have diverged from scripture and will miss the wind of the Holy Spirit.
  • By sentiment? It’s nice but you don’t let Gordon Brown carry on just because he waited a long time to get the job.
  • By democracy? The problem here is that the majority is often wrong. Try the spies of the promised land for example. Since when did people know what’s good for them. Besides which, though it’s good for people to be involved isn’t the direction of the gospel receiving from the top rather than popular opinion deciding. The early church looks for qualified people from among themselves to be appointed by leaders - and sometimes they pray at seem to know...
  • By gifting? Having one key person around who everyone gathers. This is fun in the short term but long term it leads to distortion of emphasis, even though we value gifting highly.
Let’s start with the Triune God. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit, loving one another. The Father entrusts all authority to the Son knowing he is trustworthy and will not usurp the Father. He delights to do the will of the Father. The Son receives this authority, he doesn’t take it. He is made head of his body the church. He’s not a dictator but is one who lays his life down and is punished in the place of his body. A God-shaped methodology from that basis is going to look a bit different to, say, a monadic allah who would presumably be remote, unrelational and unmovably sovereign. Set things up with one authoritative leader?

Jethro is a priest of Midian, Moses’ father in law. He’s a believer who rejoices in God’s salvation (18v9) of what he did to the Egyptians in bringing Israel out (18v1, 8-12). just as his daughter knew the true fear of God when she saw blood shed to save Moses life (chapter 4). He offers burnt offerings to the LORD. With Israel out of slavery, Jethro comes to Moses and sees him administering all decisions. This isn’t going to work. Jethro says appoint those who are trustworthy (18v21). Moses appoints these trustworthy men as heads (18v25). Like the son they receive authority. They will judges cases. They will be saviour figures who bring life to God’s people.

A family on a mission derives its methodology from the gospel of the Triune God. Jethro’s language is adopted by Paul in the New Testament for church leaders. Consquently we have elders and homegroup leaders who receive authority to serve. They don’t grasp hold of it. They don’t get elected in a popular vote. It's not 'Church's got Talent'. Humanly they are qualified, divinely they are appointed. In our age we’re suspicious of heriditory peers and monarchs but there is something helpful about the idea of receiving authority as opposed to people electing leaders in their own image, the latter being very similar to idolatry. Democratic accountability to divine standards is deeply helpful.

Headship in marriage also follows the Trinity, husbands like Christ.
All these ‘ordinary’ things reveal the God the believers worship.

It’s not that methodology is strictly a primary thing. It’s not a matter of salvation. But so called secondary things are not unimportant. They are really important because Christian lives are meant to look like Christ. And it’s not to say that any church in any generation has got a God-shaped methodology nailed in theory or practice. But we pursue it.

For our church seeking to be shaped after our God means we have leaders, it means we expect men to lead. And it’s why we’re going back-to-back with our meetings in the autumn. We follow the God who is a family on mission, the one whose love overflows abundantly to create and re-create. This is the Triune God, he has saved us and we trust he has many more people in this city. However discomforting and disturbing changing our models and methods is, we are compelled by God.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Daniel Szabo's Peter Morris - chapter 8

Daniel reads a chapter of his novel every Thursday, catch up on chapters 1-7

The Centrality of the Cross

On Monday I'm giving a lecture on The Centrality of the Cross for the Pennisula Gospel Partnership Training Course. I'm pretty much ready but, if you were me - what would you say? What are the issues? How would you argue the case?

(all of which is assuming that the cross is actually central...)

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Lewis Roderick preaching at Christchurch Newport

I'm a big fan of Lewis Roderick who is an Associate Staff Worker for UCCF in London, you can listen to or watch him preaching on Acts 17:22-34 last Sunday. He's also one of the Prognosis bloggers.

Christchurch is part of Sovereign Grace Ministries, a reformed charismatic network similar to Newfrontiers.

Proverbs 8: Wisdom at Creation

I'm preaching Proverbs 8-9 at the end of this month, and in November. Googling around I found a few references to it... Firstly, there is Michelangelo who famously portrays creation in the Sistine Chapel, notice the woman 'wisdom' next to God as he creates. Secondly, William Cowper wrote a hymn based Proverbs 8:22-31

Ere God had built the mountains, Or raised the fruitful hills;
Before he filled the fountains That feed the running rills;
In me, from everlasting, The wonderful I AM,
Found pleasures never wasting, And Wisdom is my name.

When, like a tent to dwell in, He spread the skies abroad;
And swathed about the swelling Of ocean’s mighty flood;.
He wrought by weight and measure, And I was with him then;
Myself the Father’s pleasure, And mine, the sons of men.

Thus wisdom’s words discover Thy glory and thy grace,
Thou everlasting lover Of our unworthy race!
Thy gracious eye surveyed us Ere stars were seen above.
In wisdom thou hast made us, And died for us in love.

And couldst thou be delighted With creatures such as we!
Who when we saw thee, slighted And nailed thee to a tree?
Unfathomable wonder, And mystery divine!
The voice that speaks in thunder, Says, “Sinner I am thine!”

Anyone aware of any other examples of the reception of this text in previous generations?

Cowpers hymn captures the flow of the latter half of Proverbs 8 well and is a great gospel shape for a sermon on the passage.We encounter Wisdom, the Father's delight who delights in us. But will we listen and live or refuse and die. Wisdom is particularly pertinent in the apparent crises of our day - call in the experts (Sir Alan...) - here is the ultimate expert, Wisdom.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Love the church (promo video)

Gordon Brown: Why don't you like me?

The evergreen Rory Bremner has Gordon Brown singing a bit of Mika's Grace Kelly

Galatians: Biblical Theology and the role of the Law

Australian Newfrontiers blogger Mick Porter is blogging through my favourite New Testament book, Galatians. In Part 12: Biblical Theology and the Law, he offers these diagrams and conclusions:

* Despite what commentaries by some very respected authors say, we were not all under law before Christ and the law is not the universal form of slavery that all people are under today if they don't know Christ.
* Salvation history is vitally important - Paul's arguments in Galatians have everything to do with the order in which things have taken place from Abraham to Christ.
* The role of Israel prior to Christ is essential for all Christians to understand. Israel was the son living under a guardianship waiting to enter the inheritance - and the law was the guardian. The inheritance came but they were unwilling to give up the guardian. Gentiles were under slavery to idols, were offered positions of sonship, but threatened this by also starting to place themselves under the guardian.


The second part of our weekend with John & Sue Hosier was a little 'cheese and wine' evening in Exminster (classy, eh!) with some of the other leaders from the church family. Having heard John's 15 reflections on 40 years in ministry and knowing John would be preaching on Sunday this was Sue's opportunity to share with us. These are the headlines.

Saved not just busy.
Enthusiasm for church.
Rejoicing in the gospel.
Visionary - see it.
Amused at people and life.
Nourishers, plan to be hospitable, and nourish souls.
Tender - better to be naive than cynical.

Long suffering, endure.
Evangelists are a rare breed, value them, and do the work too.
Adventurous not timid or boring.
Devoted - everyone is, but what to?
Even tempered with the flock.
Serve in love.
Happy in God from the inside.
Intercession - he intercedes for us!! - be prayerful too.
Patiently endure with people and circumstances.

I love hanging out with Christians who are older than me. I have so much to learn from them.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Superlative Sunday: Jesus loves the church, me too!

What a morning! A time of worship with gospel-saturated songs and prophetic words, followed by the brilliant John Hosier on Ephesians 3:7-13 which on a mere wordle style analysis was emphatically about Christ and the church. Definitional preaching that held Christ up for us to believe in, to revel in, to see!

 John preached the same message at CCK Brighton last month. I'll add a link to todays version when it goes online later this week.
  • "We cannot afford to be casual about the local church"
  • "The United States of America compares to the church of Jesus Christ like a speck of dust compares to the sun." (Piper, quoted by Hosier)
  • "These are my people" (...and this is my crowd. These are crazy, crazy, crazy, crazy nights.)
And he read the Nicean creed! Could make a case for the Athanasian given its Trinity Sunday, but hey - a creed in Newfrontiers is cool. As John says, sure we don't make a habit of reading them but we really really believe them.

Piper is also excellent on the same passage on the cosmic church

Until Tuesday lunchtime I was contemplating preaching Ephesians 3:10 for Reading Family Church in a couple of weeks. One of the reasons I decided against that was that I knew I wouldn't find a better way to preach it that mimicry of Hosier and Piper. The other reason is that The Song of Songs tells the same doctrines of Christ and the church elsewhere in scripture but with a melody that I couldn't resist.

The Church thrives by virtue of her union with Christ (Mark Lauterbach)

I cite this at length because Mark isn't blogging anymore and this is brilliant. 
Mark Lauterbach, pastor of Grace Church San Diego:

"The temptation of my heart is always to take a work of God and turn it into a self-improvement project. Acts is about the continuing work of Christ to build his church by the Spirit of God and through the witness of his people. Human servants are all over – but Luke wants us to see this is the work of Christ. My heart wants to turn it into a blueprint for what I need to do... Acts 2:42-47 is the end of a passage about the pouring out the Spirit of God by the exalted Christ. It is about how the Spirit of God is the active presence of God in this last chapter of history... Acts 2:42-47 contains no exhortations. It is a description. It is a description of what it looks like in a local church when the Holy Spirit is active.

These are vital signs. “Vital signs” is a medical image. Doctors look for vital signs in a patient. They look for a strong pulse, good respiration, skin color. If they do blood work, they look for acceptable red and white cell counts. Vital signs are the fruit of health. Vital signs in the church are a mark of health. Luke gives five... hunger for God’s word, hunger for fellowship, hunger for worship, the active presence of God, and fruitful evangelism. If the Holy Spirit is active, these will be there. So, I do not think the passage is a template for human initiative. It is a measurement of God’s work...

...This pouring out of the Spirit is not being managed by the apostles. It is being experienced. The fruit is Gospel fruit, possible only in a new birth and the indwelling Spirit. Fruitfulness is not the result of human strategies and planning. It is certainly not the fruit of us deserving it. Fruitfulness is the result of abundant grace. Grace is not God's response to anything in us. But God uses people. Acts is about the continuing work of Christ by the Spirit through his witnesses. Everywhere Luke notes that God uses human means to accomplish his work. But his work is related to their faith not their performance. Paul asked the Galatians in 3:1-5 if their experience of grace and the work of the Spirit in them was due to their merits and efforts or due to their trusting God? Jesus said, 'according to your faith be it unto you' and we are told 'he could not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.

Does this mean faith is some kind of power over God? No, faith is looking to God, hoping in God's Son, turning from self-focus... Acts is no more about human wisdom and planning than surfing is about the surfer creating the wave. The surfer rides a wave, and so do the apostles ride the wave of the Spirit's coming.

...We must turn from anything that would make us think fruitfulness is a result of something other than the Savior's blood bought grace... the downward drag of sin can weaken, wither, or shrivel the fruitfulness that was once there. And God also sends dry times to draw us back to him... in the church we may grieve or quench the Spirit. Or we may simply grow dull because of the working of sin to harden our hearts. Fellowship may be disrupted by bitterness or a pride that thinks it does not need others. Love for Scripture may be quenched by a desire for sin or a pride of traditions. The continuing work of Christ may be hindered by unbelief.

We are called to ask God to see what is hindering the work of the Spirit and bring it to the cross. And we are called to go back to the Savior for fresh grace. We are not to live under a cloud of despair or condemnation. We are to flee to the cross. The heart of the passage is this – the church is the work of the exalted Christ. She thrives by virtue of her union with Him. The church is made healthy by going back to him. Sin will disrupt the church. The Savior’s blood is more than sufficient for forgiveness and renewal."

Saturday, June 06, 2009

John Hosier and 40 years in ministry

John Hosier, Bible teacher, 'retiring' elder of CCK Brighton is with our church family this weekend which is brilliant. Yesterday he shared lessons from his 40 years in ministry.

The Leaders Poole carries highlights from the same material.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Tim Keller on Writing a Sermon

1. Two weeks ahead: Four hours of Bible Study / exegesis.
2. A few days before: Moving from 'what does the text say' to 'what does it mean to me' (life related)
3. The Day before: Six hours editting it down.
4. On the day: Four x1 hour preaching it.

Never yet had to preach a sermon four times in one day, though our church is going back to back services in the autumn so twice is going to become more common. I'm definitely a get ahead kind of person - the four hours at least two weeks ahead is a great idea.

Step 2 seems the really hard step - turning an outline of the passage into an applied sermon, Keller excels at this. And then editting is definitely time consuming but pays great dividends for making the word stick.

Can't help but think it's all too easy to go from Step 1 to Step 4 without doing 2 or 3 at all.

So far Step 4 has only ever been preach it once, though we're going back-to-back services in September so here comes preaching twice...

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Vote and Pray

Matthew Henry on 1 Timothy 2:1-2:

Here is a charge given to Christians to pray for all men in general, and particularly for all in authority. Timothy must take care that this be done. Paul does not send him any prescribed form of prayer... Paul thought it enough to give them general heads; they, having the scripture to direct them in prayer and the Spirit of prayer poured out upon them, needed not any further directions. Observe, The design of the Christian religion is to promote prayer; and the disciples of Christ must be praying people...

Pray for all men, for the world of mankind in general, for particular persons who need or desire our prayers. See how far the Christian religion was from being a sect, when it taught men this diffusive charity, to pray, not only for those of their own way, but for all men.

Pray for kings (v. 2); though the kings at this time were heathens, enemies to Christianity, and persecutors of Christians, yet they must pray for them, because it is for the public good that there should be civil government, and proper persons entrusted with the administration of it, for whom therefore we ought to pray, yea, though we ourselves suffer under them.  For kings, and all that are in authority, that is, inferior magistrates: we must pray for them, and we must give thanks for them, pray for their welfare and for the welfare of their kingdoms, and therefore must not plot against them, that in the peace thereof we may have peace, and give thanks for them and for the benefit we have under their government, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.

Here see what we must desire for kings, that God will so turn their hearts, and direct them and make use of them, that we under them may lead a quiet and peaceable life. He does not say, "that we may get preferments under them, grow rich, and be in honour and power under them;" no, the summit of the ambition of a good Christian is to lead a quiet and peaceable life, to get through the world unmolested in a low private station.

Peter Morris - chapter 7 - read by Daniel Szabo

Catch up in the previous six chapters at Youtube

Martin Luther on 'this royal marriage'

Not Charles and Di, or Charles and Camilla... Christ and the Church:
“Who can even begin to appreciate what this royal marriage means? Who can comprehend the riches of this glorious grace? Christ, the rich and divine bridegroom, marries this poor, wicked whore, redeems her from all of her evil, and adorns her with all of his goodness. It is now impossible for her sins to destroy her, for they are laid on Christ and swallowed up by him. She has her righteousness in Christ, her husband, which she now can boast is her very own… through our marriage all that is his is mine and all this is mine is his..[she] says… ‘my beloved is mine and I am his’”
Like the angel says: "Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb."
And the church is very much invited, she's the bride.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

FREE Download Seven D.A. Carson Books

Tony Reinke links to seven of Don Carson's books that are now available as free PDFs

More at The Gospel Coalition website

12 Steps to Soul Winning

Merrie Theologian turns evangelism trainer:

See the other 10 steps at 'Soul Winning Made Easy'

The Day After Tomorrow?

In 2004 Roland Emmerich brought us Dennis Quaid and Jake Gyllenhaal entertaining us with the possiblity of the jet stream moving and bring a new ice age to much of the northern hemisphere.

BBC has a documentary on The Jet Stream and us which illustrates the British obsession with the weather and our reasons for interest in it. The Weatherman says the future of the Jet Stream is the biggest question for the future of humanity.

Perhaps not quite the biggest, but no doubt it has the potential to make some difference. The Met Office and Co now need to be able to predict the future - which is one of the helpful uses of maths and at the same time something that we're unlikely to ever accomplish. The Jet Stream will move north, and south... the universe seems wired for repetitive cycles of things and we find ourselves living in the middle of it, searching for something solid to grab hold of.

On  iPlayer until June 7th for those in the UK.

Does Chris Moyles Love the Church?

HT: @JoelVirgo yesterday. Chris Moyles on Radio 1, 1hr 10mins into the programme talks about watching a service from Kingsgate Church in Peterborough on BBC1 recently.

He's blown away by a meeting that is "all about Jesus, baptism and having a Happy Day" and notes that he wanted to play the Hillsongs song "Mighty to Save" on his show, but didn't think he could get away with it because of all the stuff about a saviour...

Chris, I'm glad you enjoyed it and would happily assure you that what you saw isn't all that rare. Yes there is plenty of dead-christianity around but rumours of the death of the church are exaggerated. She is very much alive.

Watch That's the Spirit on iPlayer until June 7th.
Simon Mayo on the future of religion, 1hr 50mins into his programme on Tuesday


Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Love the church (The Song 3:6-5:1)

Thoughts welcome on this sketchy outline which should fit somewhere in the upcoming 'Love the church' weekend.

Intro: Do you know the love of God? We all want to be loved. Exploring this in our experience and culture - the desire for acceptance and appreciation. Perhaps some critique but mostly I want to draw on the good of this.

Not just any man: The LORD (smoke in the wilderness), The King (David’s son) who comes and dies for the one he loves, the aroma of the wedding is the aroma of Jesus' death. He comes for his bride - the day of his gladness... the wedding supper of the lamb.

He’s not besotted with ‘you’ (The Song isn’t "Jesus and me"); Christ is besotted with the church whom he loves. He is totally captivated with her, his death has made her shiny and beautiful.

So, be part of the one he loves: Love the church. Orient your life, your Christianity, around the local church and you’ll be caught up in the love of Christ. Get drunk on love as you live out your Christian life in the church, learning to love brothers and sisters and know the love of God through them and with them.

Review: Planet Narnia (Michael Ward)

By Jove, I waited a month for this book to arrive and it was worth it. Michael Ward is a man immersed in CS Lewis' work and in the process came across a key that unlocks the depths of the Narniad. The bulk of the book explores The Planets in the Lewis writings generally, in the Narniad and the theological implications. Brief treatment is given to the context Lewis wrote into, and the connection between his book Miracles and The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, I neither know Lewis or Medieval literature enough to truly evaluate the claims of the book.

I'm drawn in by Ward's observations about The Planets, but perhaps more captured by the ideas of how to communicate ideas in apologetics, in narrative and in imagination. He observes Lewis moving from Miracles to The Lion using the imagery of Jupiter (though 'it is not true') to communicate powerfully and imaginatively the same message. It's a softer approach but more appealling - though there is something inviting even about Miracles. Ward reflects on 'The Alexander Technique' of looking at a beam of light or looking along it: one argues/contemplates, the other enjoys. How much more is achieved by drawing people into a world where Biblical concepts are fleshed out than by mere argument. Ward makes me want to re-read Miracles and The Lion. And I'll then order The Discarded Image on which much of this book stands.

Further pursuing the imagination of Lewis, Ward interacts with Philip Pullman: "If he had lived to learn of Philip Pullman's 'republic of heaven' he  divine dwelling-place; he would have thought it an imaginative solecism because it is anthropocentric. A republic of heaven with its own elected President, would be [an] example of religion as projection,would not have regarded it as a satisfactory alternative to the traditional moarchial conception of the the creation of God in the citizens' own image." Narnia simply has more appeal and all the more with The Planets unveiled. We're invited into a meaning drenched universe. Ward concludes citing from Simon Barrington-Ward: "We come to share [Lewis'] feeling...for the majestic order that runs through all things." 

Monday, June 01, 2009

Terry Virgo interviewed on The Church by Mike Reeves

The latest Mike Reeves interview is up: 
Theology Network tabletalk: Terry Virgo on The Church.
Some priceless stuff in there.
Mike has also interviewed Terry on his other great passion, grace.

Transcript by Dan Bowen

Going to University? Free Student Cook Book and Video Resources

Going to University in the autumn? Or, a church student or youth worker, pastor, parent, grandparent...?

Check out 44 videos to prepare you for student life from Andy Croft (Soul Survivor), Lou Fellingham (Phatfish), Roger Carswell, Krish Kandiah (Evangelical Alliance), Cathy Burton, Terry Virgo, Graham Daniels many others... and order free copies of the student cookbook with recipes from The Vicar's Wife Elisa Beynon, 

Get ready to go!

Review: Just Do Something (Kevin DeYoung)

In a universe without God it really doesn't matter all that much what you do. If there is a God then that begins to raise questions about what to do with my life? Much of the questions about this are new questions, no-one has to ask career questions a few centuries ago - you'd just do what your parents did, nor marriage questions in some cultures - your parents could sort that for you. We are where we are though.

I picked up Kevin DeYoung's previous book 'Why we're not emergent' at Together for the Gospel last year. Some of the emergency engagement went past me, having not read much of that myself, though I liked the chapter the doctrine of scripture. His next book is much smaller and hits the question of guidance, walking between charismatic paralysis and its non-charismatic equivilents. The simple fact is that there's a lot of tosh in the evangelical mind about guidance concerning dreams, visions, fleeces, impressions, doors, verses-out-of-context etc. No doubt there's plenty of evangelical **** which could do with being flushed down the toilet asap. DeYoung is on the case to help us put less faith in ourselves and more in what God is saying.

Come spend some time with final year students (a situation DeYoung also faces at his church) trying to work out what to do next or whether a person is a suitable spouse, where to live, work etc and it's evident that all sorts of big decisions get made for very wierd reasons. People become Christians for wierd reasons too, and while the sovereign purposes of God can live with that, sometimes it might be worth avoiding the associated anxiety and baggage by doing things a bit more by the book.

DeYoung's book comes with a foreword by reformed charismatic pastor Joshua Harris and endorsements from the young, restless and reformed. The book doesn't make comfortable reading as DeYoung turns his sniper rifle on evangelical guidance shibboleths with his charge to search the scriptures and take responsibility for life. This could feel mean-spirited but it's offered from a friendly pastor. This could be mistaken for being anti-charismatic, brushing aside many of the things that we might be inclined to put our confidence in but I think he actually raises the stock of genuine prophetic words which are all too easily trivialised.

"Let's not spiritualize our inability to make decisions in the quest to discover God's will." Much like Jonathan Edwards Religious Affections (or the Sam Storms Signs of the Spirit edition) we find that many of the things we turn to are evidence of nothing. DeYoung changes the terms of the conversation pointing us away from waiting for words on the minutia of life towards active pursuit of godliness and the things God has spoken about - such as 'get a job' or as he challenges men "if you want to be married, find a godly gal, treat her right, talk to her parents, pop the question, tie the knot and start making babies."

Just Do Something raises the cry for God's sovereignty and for Human Responsibility in living. I'm reminded of G.K. Chesterton's comment that an open mind is good, but is also meant for closing on something. Life needs to be lived which entails making some decisions. Every thing we choose is a rejection of something else. That's part of the adventure. This is a good little book that wont solve all your guidance issues, but it will tell you to stop sitting around wondering what to do and get on with doing something.

Visit: Kevin DeYoung's blog. Buy Just Do
from Amazon

DeYoung includes the story of the 91 year old man who died waiting for the will of God ht: Matt Finn

Peter Morris - chapter 6