Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Passing on the baton

This morning I was sat in Starbucks with Harri who I'm supervising on Relay this year. We had a great time talking church, discipleship, apologetics, Galatians etc... Got me thinking about the other seven Relays I've worked with and where they are now. I've had contact with the previous four in the last couple of days.
  • One spent last evening writing up minutes from his local political party meeting in London.
  • Another spent yesterday learning French in Paris which he's a student worker.
  • A third is a teacher in Brazil where her husband is a student worker.
  • A fourth is at the bedside of his newlywed wife in intensive care in the USA - thankfully she's making good progress after a road accident at the weekend.
The previous three I've not had recent contact with, but they're collectively a youth worker in the Midlands, a speech therapist in London and an accountant in Cambridge.

Relay applications for next year open tomorrow.

Because it's hard being a pastor

Living Leadership invites you:

The annual Pastoral Refreshment Conference aims to provide a place for sustenance of heart and family life, for developing intimacy with the Lord and close bonds of fellowship with others in leadership.

The conference provides a setting for leaders, pastors and partners to seek God together for the on-going refreshment of life and ministry. There is a lot of prayer and worship , inspiring preaching and a safe environment in which to be yourself. Seminar subjects in recent years have included: Grace, Marriage and Ministry; Looking after your Spiritual Life; How to Love Your Church and Leading with a Forgiving Heart. All with a strong ethos of experiencing the grace of God together.

Publicity and Booking Form. Book before the end of November to get best prices.

Monday, September 28, 2009

What's been happening in the last week...

Last week was effectively my first "normal" week of the year. I love the variety of the job and the opportunity to see God at work in multiple situations. Last week included two days in Bristol, one in Plymouth and two in Exeter and all these things for which I'm thankful...
  1. Hearing encouragements from a freshers week  - two new Christians, in response to the gospel shared by a student! That - is - what - this - is - all - about.
  2. Writing and sending a prayer letter to supporters. Those guys are the unseen engine who drive the work forward.
  3. Meeting with Hannah, Brian, Harri and Jo - members of the South West team, reviewing and reflecting on their work, planning ahead, praying and studying Scripture together. I love my team and the way they pour their lives out to serve students and the gospel.
  4. Hearing of an encouraging meetings between the team and church leaders, possibilities of partnership in Cornwall and in Bath. Meeting with Grant, a new church leader in Plymouth, building relationship and getting acquainted with the city. 
  5. Study with the Exeter team, particularly Leading Better Bible Study (Rod & Karen Morris) as we hope to resource CU's better.
  6. Helping Tim A prepare to speak at an evangelistic meeting at UWE. An honour to invest in a gifted young man.
  7. Hearing encouragements from Cornwall. We were invited to help start a CU at a College and now it's happening. 
  8. My end of year review with my supervisor Tim. I'm encouraged to look back and ahead, and thankful for some very helpful observations and training from him. Some work to do in response to that so that I can serve my team better. Meeting with my pastor to develop me as a leader, some much needed challenges and training. I'm so thankful for older men at whose feet I can sit.
  9. Preparing to speak at Bristol CU next week on Philippians 1 - a "what is CU" style talk on the beauty of gospel partnerships driven by the affection of Christ.
I'm thankful to God for the last week and looking forward to what God might do this week...

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Stunningly Still Here

tgc blog, Ray Ortlund:
“If the Lord of hosts had not left us a few survivors, we should have been like Sodom, and become like Gomorrah.” Isaiah 1:9
Did you notice how God intervened this week?
The Church of Jesus Christ did not go completely apostate.
The Gospel Coalition did not disown its Confessional Statement.
Acts 29 did not repudiate church planting.
Together For The Gospel did not fragment in mutual recriminations. Sovereign Grace Ministries did not deny the new birth.
And I did not walk away from Jesus.
We all sinned this week, and a lot. No surprise there.
After all, original sin means our wills are unfree.
But we held fast to Jesus our Savior, and for a whole week.
Truly, the age of miracles is not over.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Song of Songs, about the church

Recently I did a session for my team on The Song of Songs.
Download a version of it here if you'd like:
Love the church: Song of Songs - Lyrics of Love

Relatedly, Dan Bowen posts from Spurgeon on The Song

Making sure that what I say makes sense

Justin Taylor has notes from Peter Kreeft's Socratic Logic:
To make a convincing argument you have to fulfill all three of the following conditions:

Your terms are clear.
Your premises are true.
Your logic is valid.
If you want to critique someone’s argument, you have to show an error in just one of the following:

They are using a term ambiguously.
They are using a false premise.
They are committing a logical fallacy (i.e., the argument is invalid; the conclusion does not follow from the premises).
 Often it takes more than logic to persuade someone, it has to be worth it and not just true. Other times it takes less than logic, because people do things for illogical reasons because it seems beneficial. Either way, I figure it's worth at least trying to make sense.

Watching films

Blockbuster gave us a stack of free dvd vouchers recently - probably to entice us back cos we'd not used the store for ages... a few of these we saw at the cinema but the arrival of Zach has limited that a lot!

***** Gran Torino - another excellent Clint Eastwood film, I could watch him growling at the camera all day.
***** Slumdog Millionaire - brilliantly colourful, the location and the music make it.
***** Revolutionary Road - Sam Mendes with another angle on the American Beauty suburban dream thing, a disturbing drama.
***** The Wrestler - bleak drama about life, the hope of redemption and what happens when you can't find it.
***** Wall-E - smart animation with an environmental message and observations on freedom.

**** The Reader - very interesting drama about Nazi atrocities, about guilt and innocence.
**** Star Trek - the best Trek film in years, hardly a classic but good fun.

*** Yes Man - good fun with Jim Carrey, though a bit too much Carrey overwhelmed the idea for me.
*** State of Play - based on the BBC TV series, a good version that moves it to the US, but the TV series is better. The casting didn't quite work for me as well as the series.
*** The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - not great to watch just before you have a baby, good effects

** The Boat that Rocked - a little bit of fun but really nothing happens.
** Duplicity - poor Clive Owen / Julia Roberts something or other.
** Young Victoria - okaish insight into the life of a young monarch.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Small Talk and Big Hearts

I'm not much good at small talk, and I've probably kept myself too guarded too much of the time. With a little help from my friends I'm learning to change, to show more of myself and find out more about others. I'm finding it's good.

I feel like I have to keep learning basics to outwork the fact that I do genuinely love people and am interested in them, I just find the initial bit of conversations a bit weird!

I'm learning that the gospel gives me freedom to be open and real. We make all sorts of assumptions about one another (we discussed this in our homegroup this week - we all do it), thinking that others are better or more important than us, and that other people don't have our struggles - when we're all wrestling with the same sort of stuff, the stuff of life and grace. And God arranges us together as a body so we can weep together, rejoice together, and not be divided from one another - which is an urge we all seem to find hard to resist.

On my train journeys for work, I'm studying Philippians 1:1-10 to serve Bristol CU in a couple of weeks. I'm so struck by Paul's joy at the gospel partnership between himself - A Missionary of Antioch Church - and a local church in the city of Philippi. He loves it because they share grace in suffering and speaking for the gospel, and that comes with a yearning with the affection of Christ.

Oh to yearn with Christ's affection for others? That can only come, surely, from receiving his affection for me - he who humbled himself even to the curse of a crucified death and was raised by his Father - and will raise me to be with him, he whose affection overcame  all things to enter this world with utter humility. I want to know that affection, I want to know the joy that Paul has and seeks for others, ever increasingly.

Come Holy Spirit, change me - outwork the gospel in my life! 

Given Paul expresses his yearning in praying that's probably a step in the process too - to pray for those I'll meet.

Probably against all advice, Matt Perman posts on a way to go for better small talk be vulnerable. I'm learning. And then, the benefits of talking about the weather

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

What happens if you preach a false gospel?

I love Paul's letter to the Galatians. It's a church formed from his preaching, a people who warmly embraced him and the gospel he preached. However, some time later they have changed direction. Paul diagnoses this as a move from freedom to slavery. That freedom was won by Jesus in his death and resurrection to set them free from the slavery of the present evil age (1:3-5), which manifests in religion and idolatry (1:14-15,4:8). At the outset he takes on the magnitude of preaching a false gospel, which is his charge against the cross-avoiding (6:11) preachers who have arrived in the church. I'm riffing on some observations Justin Taylors blog a few weeks ago here:

What happens if you preach a false gospel? (v6)
  • God is deserted (1:6). Departure from the gospel is to depart from God himself. This is why it really matters. Adopting a different gospel means we've adopted a relationship with a god who isn't there, who doesn't exist. By contrast, the gospel brings us to God.
  • The gospel is distorted (1:7). False gospels effect the gospel, they distort God's message of good news and replace it with a non-gospel, a message that isn't good news.
  • The preacher is damned (1:8). Those who preach false gospels commit a grievous crime but more than that we always preach what we believe, so to preach a false gospel is to believe such a false gospel which takes us away from God. Without belief in this gospel there is no deliverance since no-one has given themselves for our sins, we remain under wrath - condemned. By contrast the true gospel preacher knows God's favour.
  • The church is disturbed (1:7). The false gospellers trouble the church, it is upset and blown around by the erroneous message. By contrast the true gospel gives the church solidity, substance and maturity.
  • The world is delighted (1:10). People are pleased by false gospels. That a message is popular proves nothing either way but part of the trouble of false gospels is that they do tell people what they'd like to hear, whereas the true gospel is offensive, provoking persecution and mockery. That said, the gospel can be expected to bear fruit as it did in Galatia.
A letter beginning this way will ruthlessly expose false gospels but is going to want to draw our attention to the gospel, the one Paul portrayed as "Christ crucified" (3:1) and reflecting his boasting in nothing but the cross (6:14) that revels in freedom (5:1) and inheritance (4:7) that come from the gospel.  That's not to say that this letter is harsh and cold - Paul loves the Galatians, he preached to them, he cares for them like a parent and is bewildered at their change of direction. He is bold but kind, careful and convincing as he draws them back to the gospel of Jesus by proclaiming again that gospel.

Starting University?

I've written up various bits of advice for new students previously here and here, as has my former relay worker Ed Goode. This year, Matthew Weston has some wise words for those starting University this year.

More at UCCF Freshers Site with videos and other helps.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

UCCF Year Book 2009

UCCF's review of the last year is now online annual review, pdf to download plus extra video content online.

Psalm Singing: "if Jesus is not the God of the Psalms, I do not know who he is at all"

A thoughts from outside my churchmanship that is well worth some consideration:

"the whole purpose of the New Testament is that we will believe that Jesus is more than Jesus – that he is the Son of God, and that for us there is only one God, and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things. The burden of the New Testament is to demonstrate that Jesus Christ is the Lord of the Old Testament, the One in whom the whole fullness of deity dwells in bodily form. We worship the God who saves, and in doing so we worship the God who anoints Jesus, the God Jesus who is anointed, and the God who anoints us by the Holy Spirit."
Iain D Campbell

See also:

12 minutes of Mike Reeves on Psalms

New way? The Sermon that misses Jesus

Photo - Matt Herring and others in Paris.

Raised With Christ (Adrian Warnock)

My friend Adrian has almost finished edits on his forthcoming book. The publisher posts an extract:

"Jesus’ resurrection really did change everything. It changed the cross from a tragedy into a a triumph and it changed the Roman Empire into a Christian state. This was the most powerful divine event in the history of creation, and it ushered in a new age of the Holy Spirit’s activity and power in saving and transforming lives.
When considering if Christianity is true, it all boils down to whether Jesus rose from the dead. The lives of Christians today demonstrate that the resurrection is still changing people…" (Raised With Christ, pp 15)

Raised with Christ: How the Resurrection Changes Everything - Adrian Warnock

Monday, September 21, 2009

Raising the bar on Small Groups

For the next couple of months we're studying as a staff team some books to help us serve and resource CU small groups better. Across the region we're meeting to study Leading Better Bible Studies (Rod & Karen Morris) and then Total Church (Tim Chester & Steve Timmis), ahead of some discussion in November when Marcus Honeysett is with us, and hopefully leading on to enhanced training for students in the region.
  • In chapter 1 of LBBS I'm struck by the need for a central purpose to leadership, namely Christ. Furthermore leadership is about knowing Christ and relationships. This is a great governing principle to have.
  • In chapter 2 they explore how adults learn. Many of us might be suspicious of this material, and I confess it's not where I'd look first. That said, it is very helpful to consider the need to "establish a need to learn" (p24) rather than assuming people want to, they note "information for the sake of information is not necessarily a compelling reason... to learn" (p24). Changed life is key, rooted in bringing out the message of Christ.
  • In chapter 3 a great comparison between inductive and deductive learning is given, encouraging us towards induction around three basic questions of observation, interpretation and application. Many styles of doing this are then illustrated though it is noted that method isn't the key. They cite Byer who wrote "our understanding of Scripture will be opened or blocked, more by our obedience than by our study methods" (p102).
This stands out for me: "Grace.. means we must avoid any interpretation of Scripture than shifts the focus away from what God has done for us and onto what we do for him" (p59) We come to see Christ, carefully learning and knowing from Scripture the one who is the completion of the prophetic word (Hebrews 1:1-2), the fulfillment of all prophecy (Acts 13:32-33), the end of David's line (Romans 1:3), the fulfilment of the promise to David (Acts 2:30-31), the salvation told of in the Old Testament (2 Timothy 3:15) and the concern of the whole Old Testament (Luke 24:27) (p60).

Subsequent chapters concern group life and leadership.

Making a Christian Difference

My former supervisor, Gareth Davies is now blogging on the CARE website. His tagline is "Travelling the UK helping others make a Christian difference"
"In the wake of the MPs’ expenses scandal it may be that the electorate is looking for integrity above over-inflated promises. Tired of spin, perhaps we’re beginning to value those who tell us the things we would rather not have heard in the past."

The End of Justin Taylor's Blog

The end of it's previous design and location.
Justin Taylor has moved his blog onto the gospel coalition website.
This combines two great go-to sites.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

All we have is the gospel

I loved gathering my team in Exeter for 3 days last week, to train them about 'loving the church' and to build the new team together over good food, an open Bible, walking in Dartmoor and various other contexts. I'm thankful for gospel-loving colleagues and partners and for the hospitality of Kathy and two households from our church who accomodated us. Thankful also for the opportunity to serve another UCCF team with the same training later in the week, airing the study from my sabbatical. But, hence no blogging.

My great aunt died on Thursday, we heard of home group members facing difficult situations, people facing complicated situations, opportunities to love, opportunities to suffer together and to rejoice together, to be body. Good as it was to study 1 Cor 12-14 with my team I find myself painfully aware of past failure to live in light of the gospel, times I've taken the easier gospel-dodging way.

I had a nightmare train journey home from Southampton on Friday, a short delay on a train led to a missed connection and a 90 minute delay and a taxi from Yeovil to Exeter... the highlight was a phone call from a ministry partner who humbled me by his confession "All we have is the gospel" - how often I think more highly of me, how often I think I'm entitled to better, to trains on time, to having things my own way.

Today was mostly spent with our church family and guests, and then we had the honour of hearing from a former colleague now working with an IFES movement. In view of a really encouraging week it was sobering to realise the privileges we have of strong church partnerships, students who love the gospel and love to have God's word open, something to rejoice in but not take for granted. The week ahead includes time in Exeter, Bristol and Plymouth, meeting with church leaders and colleagues, mentoring recent graduates, preparing evangelistic talks and a day with my supervisor. I have a sense of my inadequacy for the tasks ahead but also of the sufficiency of God's grace and the ongoing support of his people as I stumble along.

No blogging for a week and then a dose of personal stuff... 

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Proverbs 1 Sermon, MP3

DOWNLOAD MP3: Proverbs 1:1-7 - School of Wisdom (Dave Bish, Frontiers Church Exeter). - version from second service.

“the most devastating criticism turns out to be the finest mercy.”
(Alfred Poirier, The Cross & Criticism)

Imagine yourself standing in front of a crowd. Think a bigger than here – thousands. And you’re on stage. You walk out and open your mouth to sing a song. Three minutes later you’ve finished, the crowd goes quiet and the spotlight falls on four people sat at the front. Only the one sat on the far right, from where you’re standing matters. What will Simon Cowell have to say about you? Knowing my lack of talent – despite being married to a singing teacher it’d be: Look, “I think you just killed my favourite song of all time. Not in a billion years. It was dreadful, really dreadful, I’m saying that to be kind…” Or: “Terrible, a complete and utter nightmare”

It’s genius because of the talent and because of the talentless. We love to look on and dish out our wisdom to the hapless contestant. And we don’t just see if people have talent but whether they are wise or fools.
The talented Lucie Jones doesn’t realise how good she is, her folly is endearing. But in the talentless such ignorance is laughable. When the rejected spew back insults at the judges they simply look absurd. Think of the teenagers wanting to show that not all teens deserve an ASBO, departing with a warning “Simon, you better sleep with your eyes open” What fools!

What is wisdom then? Wisdom and folly are common enough to us. What did you do this summer? Took a Staycation – wise move. Didn’t take an umbrella? Foolish… In the absence of the promised BBQ summer, this Indian Summer is welcome though! The wise are practical people, prepared for anything. Able to live. Making do and mending, two years ago everything went in the bin and as we kept upgrading but now the wise move is to repair things. We’re in the early stages of redecorating our house. There’s something deeply satisfying about painting a wall and assembling flat-pack furniture. Such wisdom is good. But, not everything can be put back together with an Alen Key. If seven years of marriage have taught me anything its that a five point plan of action isn’t usually what my wife wants to hear. Not everything can be fixed or needs fixing’ however manly that might make me feel. This kind of wisdom doesn’t always work.

Others pursue wisdom academically. Exeter is a university city. The world is good and full of things to discover, investigate and classify. And yet the human mind cannot understand all things. We dream of an English victory in the World Cup next summer. This is beyond sense.

Could there be a wisdom beyond books and skills, one that is personal? Just as there is a wisdom that comes from Cowell, might there be a wisdom from God? The problem with receiving wisdom from a person is that though we like to give wisdom we don’t always like to receive it. If God had wisdom would we listen?

Today we begin a series in search of wisdom in a 3000 year old book by God. Granted technology has advanced in 3000 years things aren’t all that different - people are still born, educated, employed, eat, marry, sleep and die just as they did 3000 years ago. Just perhaps God could have something to say to the human condition, then and now? Perhaps our maker might make sense of life. We know the kid on stage needs to listen to Simon’s feedback. When God speaks to us, will we listen?

Listen to Proverbs 1:1-7.
But, hang on! - isn’t God opposed to us being wise? Doesn’t God say dump your brain at the door and give up on being able to live in the 21st Century? Doesn’t God want us to be stupid and unthinking? It’s true, God says: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Yet Christians say “Christ is.. the wisdom of God… revealed to us” The issue isn’t having wisdom but how you get it. Having money is fine, but we have a problem with those who steal it by robbing banks (not that they have much money at the moment) or swindling expense claims. Our first parents, Adam and Eve famously saw “a tree that was to be desired to make one wise”. Eating the forbidden fruit and “claiming to be wise, they became fools.” We’re design to be wise. But how? Let us enquire of God…

Look 1:1 – from the pen of Solomon, author of Proverbs. Just as Moses and King David have five books, so too Proverbs comes in five books. If you want to know where that goes, here’s a brief outline (count on fingers):
- Book 1 – ch1-9 has the main drama.
- Book 2-3 cover ch10-29 and paint a picture of wisdom through wise sayings, two-liner’s with contrasts and comparisons and chewy contradictions.
- Book 4 is ch30 shows how wisdom comes from the one who is in heaven.
- Book 5 concludes with the great riddle of the wise wife.

1:1. Start with Solomon, son of the great Israelite King, David. God said to David that his son will reign forever and be God’s son. Solomon is David’s son but he points beyond himself to great David’s greater son, who we meet in the first page of the New Testament: The book of… Jesus Christ, son of David. See Solomon, think Jesus. Jesus who said about himself: “Wisdom far greater than Solomon's is right in front of you, and you quibble over 'evidence’.” Are you listening?

1:7 “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” - That might sound like being terrified of God but that’s not quite what’s going on. Fearing the LORD is about having a right relationship with him – it’s about having esteem for him and trusting him because of who he is. Thing is, our default is to stand in defiance of God, so how can we fear the LORD?

For that matter, who is this LORD? He is the key figure in the whole Bible. The LORD is God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit who reveals himself primarily in the person of the Son, Jesus. Here’s how the story works in Proverbs, especially chapters 1-9: It’s the story of a father and his son. The son is called to do his fathers work and not be a sluggard. He is also taught who to marry and he takes the wise wife, “Lady Wisdom” rather than following the seductive call of “Woman Folly”  A classic story of a Son who works hard and gets the girl! 

Some hear this and say – I’ll work hard and get the girl. Don’t make that mistake! Proverbs isn’t spiritual self-help. Go to Amazon and get “Five Simple Steps to Emotional Healing: The Last Self Help Book You’ll Ever Need” or “Change your life in Seven Days”, to name a couple of current bestsellers on Amazon. Proverbs is a book about what Jesus has done and how he helps us in our helplessness. The son in the story of Proverbs is Jesus. Jesus is the Son of God the Father who can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. Hear what Jesus claims about himself: “Whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise”. Crazy talk, unless it’s true!

Jesus isn’t a slacker, he can say about his work: It is finished. What work? His work was to come and die the death we deserved, on our behalf, and then to rise from death so we can have a new life. And he gets the girl, a beautiful bride called the church. Perhaps that sounds ridiculous? Maybe you’d even say you despise this because it’s foolish and weak? Look at 1v7. Your conclusion classifies you as a fool. Gulp! No-one likes being criticised and that’s a pretty stinging comment isn’t it! And that’s what we’re saying God says about people.
-God isn’t saying people are thick.
-God isn’t saying people have no life-skills.
-There are some very intelligent and very skilful fools in the world! 
Before you come and offer to take the spade off me, I know that doesn’t actually make it better. Yet!

So what is God saying? The people God calls fools are like children who say to their parents: “My allowance isn’t enough, I’d prefer you dead so I could have everything.” Living like God is dead. God confirms this charge against humanity in the death of Jesus Christ on a Roman cross outside Jerusalem. The cross is God’s most devastating critique of humanity. There, God says, this is how foolish and evil you are. God says 1v32: the complacency of fools destroys them… 1v30, because they would have none of [wisdom’s] counsel… they ‘eat the fruit of their way’. Death awaits fools unless something changes. I remember my Science Teacher, Mr Hodgson, newly qualified, he critiqued me after my mock GCSE exams, for which I’d not revised and scored a D. His critique turned me around, led me to knuckle down and get an A six months later. Sweet words wouldn’t have helped.

What does God say? He says you are this bad, worse than we imagine. And I can’t fix myself. The only way to live is to die to our sense of self-importance, die to wanting to prove we’re right and wise and agree with God’s criticism of me. A friend challenged me, for not showing an interest in others. Easy to make excuses, “I’m an introvert” or to deflect with a counter-critique! But the way to life was to agree, and be prepared to change - a work still in progress with which I still need help from Jesus and the church family. Receiving Jesus’ wisdom as v5 says is isn’t a quick-fix but the beginning of a lifetime of learning. I’m aware that giving examples of the benefit of people critiquing me might sound like permission for us to start pointing out one anothers faults. A member of our home group commented last week that its easy to hold back from bringing a contribution in worship, so he’s resolved to speak up if he’s 51% sure it’s a good idea. When it comes to critique the opposite level of caution is needed because its so easy for pride and arrogance to corrupt our words, so easy to destroy people by what we say. We’re best to hold back from offering critique to others and instead to excel at inviting it of ourselves. Asking friends, those in our homegroups to help us to grow – Saying, “where am I a fool, help me fear the LORD”.

God’s critique is never like ours. His words are always pure and intended to give us life. Seeing the wisdom of God in the message of the cross of Jesus, hearing his critique of me, I can say of myself 1v4: I’m simple or a youth. This is the way to 1v33: dwell secure… without dread of disaster, and to v4, gain prudence, knowledge and discretion. In the death of Jesus I see that “the most devastating criticism turns out to be the finest mercy.” (Poirier) You see, wisdom comes not from becoming wise but from believing in The Wisdom of God, Jesus who died for us. At the cross we learn, 1v6: to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles, even the greatest riddle in the final chapter of Proverbs. Those who fear the LORD won’t be experts in facts about Jesus, they entrust their past, present and future to Jesus, from beginning to end. To fear the LORD is to be depend on what he has done for us, to live in relationship with him and know: 14v26-27 "In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence, and The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life" 19v23: "The fear of the Lord leads to life, so that one may sleep satisfied, untouched by evil".

I need to come again and again to his cross to find wisdom. Picture a coke-machine. You put a coin in, but it delivers no coke. The only remedy is to keep bashing the side until the coin drops and activates the machine. So too, the way to grow in wisdom is to have Jesus bashed into my head again and again, receiving his free gift of life. We began on Simon Cowell’s stage so let’s end there: Our natural instinct would be to put Jesus on stage and us in the judges chair. That is folly. Flip it around so that we’re on stage, and he’s in the chair. He speaks with devastating critique but rather than condemning us by saying “Just leave” if we entrust ourselves to him, and ask to enrol in his school of wisdom he will say “yes”.

John 20 (Krish Kandiah) at UCCF Forum

Download audio

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Gift of Administration: I love it when a plan comes together

Nigel Ring blogs about organising the Newfrontiers leadership conference, sharing from the key roles involved. Helpful stuff from a gifted administrator (1 Cor 12:28), a much needed gift for the church!

There is administration to do in my work and I really have to work hard to do it because its out of my gifting - I love the big picture but detail is something I find more difficult. Because it's difficult it'd be easy to convince myself that it's not necessary or even that it's have plans and programmes and budgets and strategy and order.

Thing is, so many of the best things are only possible with advance planning and excellent administration. Great things rarely just happen out of no-where. Reflecting on last year and looking ahead over the next it's a joy to see where a plan has come together and the opportunities that has created for God's people to meet with him, whether Christians growing or those who weren't Christians coming to hear the gospel.

An unformed, unfilled, unplanned blur of a year would have been one without the effects of the creative word of God (Genesis 1:1-2), one lacking the implementation of the benevolent rule of God. He spoke form into the universe and began to fill it, before comissionning animals to continue the filling and then humanity to both further form and fill the good world that he'd made. Shape and structure are the fruit of God's word. It's a stark contrast with the default student life that blurs home and workplace, rest and work and night and day.

For us an unplanned year would have meant not having Mike Reeves and Pete Greasley address the South West students at our regional conferences (which would also not have happened), and no programme of seminars designed to equip leaders with the gospel.Without a well executed plan there would have been no students reading Free gospels (that was a plan that you can track back a good couple of years). There would have been no Robin Sydserf, John Risbridger, Graham Beynon, Nick Howard or Michael Ots preaching evangelistically to crowds of students. There would have been no new staff or Relays to be involved in the work this year, and no communication or salaries or support for them, and no-one praying for what they're doing. No Forum last year with John Piper or with Terry Virgo this year. But then there might not be any work to do either...

I love it when a plan comes together! I look ahead and dare to imagine what God might do through this years plans, even above and beyond them, even changing and adapting and expanding our small vision of what's possible. Faith-filled structure and planning opens the door for the increase and spread of the word of God, the overflow of divine life into a sin-dead world.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Perceptions of Christianity (Krish Kandiah)

Krish Kandiah posts lecture pdf on evangelism

Some really interesting notes on barriers to the subject and these stats on perceptions of Christianity. Whether or not we can or should do anything about these perceptions it is good to be aware how we come across and what we have to face, defeater beliefs that keep people from even beginning to listen or care about Jesus.


My wife and I started leading a home group for our church last night, a joy to see God's people together seeking him. We ate together last Sunday and meeting again yesterday we studied 1 Corinthians 14v1-26 (in view of it being preached last Sunday) and the sought to do what it says, pursuing love, eagerly and earnestly seeking spiritual gifts to encourage, console, strengthen and build up the church - and setting ourselves to continue to pursue those things. Christ's body matters to him and he plans for each of us to play a part in her upbuilding in maturity and by her extension as unbelivers are added in.

Interesting: Marcus on prophetic urging

MP3s: Doctrine of Revelation (Mike Reeves)

Mike Reeves: 4 mp3s Doctrine of Revelation new at Theology Network.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Adoption Song by Olly Knight

Nay Dawson and I taught the Transformed by the Gracious God track at Forum last week, we invited our colleague Olly Knight to lead us in worship at the end of sessions 1 and 3, we used his song "Adoption Song". Olly is a member of The City Church in Canterbury.

Once we were far from God, we were His enemies
Our master was our flesh and we were slaves to sin
We were fa-ther-less, and we had no hope
God chose His only son, and poured out all His wrath
Jesus became our sin, perfection scarred for us
We were re-con-ciled, and made alive in Christ

You chose us to be Your sons and daughters,
Adopted in- to Your family.
With no blame and with Your full approval,
Standing as co-heirs with Christ.

Now we may boldly come, towards Your throne of love
Your grace it cascades down, upon our thankful hearts
And You’ve caught us up, in Your eternal plan
Forever we’ll stand in fatherly promises
On earth we’ll do Your will, until we’re face to face
And Your church will rise, together as Your bride!"

Listen to Adoption Song on the Eben facebook fanpage

Terry Virgo Interview (part 3 of 3)

Terry Virgo continues to take questions from the floor, beginning with his answer to a question about baptism in the Spirit...

Life Long Grace: Dave Bish interviews Terry Virgo (part 3 of 3)

Photo: Harri Guyer, Relay Exeter

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Saving Britain's Past: Bath

iPlayer has a documentary on what happened to the city of Bath after the war, the plans of Patrick Abercrombie & Buchanan and the attempt to preserve the past.

"Series charting the development of the conservation movement in Britain since the Second World War. Architectural critic Tom Dyckhoff describes how Bath, widely regarded as Britain's most beautiful city, was almost destroyed by Hitler's bombs, before narrowly escaping further damage from developers. Plus, a look at the birth of the listings system."

Bath in Time website

Terry Virgo Interview (part 2 of 3)

Continuing my interview with Terry Virgo, mostly considering God's grace in his life.

Terry posts his reflections on being at UCCF Forum

Life Long Grace: Dave Bish interviews Terry Virgo (part 2 of 3)

Photo: Hannah Cordle, Bath CU Staff

Monday, September 07, 2009

What does your termcard look like?

The way we communicate betrays our priorities...

Nay Dawson notes: "This is a great example because right from the start this shows that the CU exists for its non members, it focuses on events that are interesting to non Christians as well as important details of regular CU activities for Christians. Note the important information it contains; dates, times, titles, location and contact details..."

Terry Virgo Interview (part 1 of 3)

Last week I had the opportunity to host an interview with Terry Virgo at UCCF's Forum Conference. It was in a seminar track on Motivated by Grace under the title Life Long. I elected to interview Terry rather than for us both to teach on the subject. In this first part Terry speaks from 1 Corinthians 15v10 as we see Paul speak of being what he is by the grace of God.

In part 2 I ask Terry to share some biography of grace in his life (part 2) before concluding with questions from the floor (part 3) starting with a question about baptism in the Spirit.

Life Long Grace: Dave Bish interviews Terry Virgo (part 1 of 3)

Sunday, September 06, 2009

By this we know love: First back-to-back Sunday at Frontiers Church Exeter

This morning was different to previous Sunday mornings. I left the house just after 9am to walk to church for our first early meeting (9.30am) and was there through to the second (11.30am) after which we had the pleasure of eating with some of our new home group family.

It was good to gather to continue our 'all of life' worship together with the church family, with Matt Giles leading us. We learned a new song from Sovereign Grace Music, By this we know love which was great, and welcomed good contributions in prayer, revelations, tongues and interpretations from the members of the church in both meetings, with elder Andy Arscott speaking on being filled with the Spirit, with a call to worship God and serve one another.

Our new meetings are smaller at this stage but were still well attended and we have some new challenges with keeping to a tight timing, but generally it all seemed to flow well. Next Sunday I'll be kicking off our new six month series in Proverbs which is something I'm looking forward to, though I have some work to do to finish my preparation and I'm trusting that God will provide the stamina to preach twice in one morning., and grace for the strangeness of speaking on the same passage in the same room to different people...

By this we know love that He laid down His life
God’s very own Son, came from Heaven to die
Suspended He hung, as he shed His own blood
What grace in His pardon, by this we know love

New Worship CD from Clive Parnell

My good friend, long time colleague and former member of IndigoEcho, Clive Parnell has been dragged kicking and screaming by God to write and produce a worship CD, you can get it here: You are with me.

For Clive this project has been an opportunity to die to his own way of doing things. The album was profiled at UCCF Forum and I commend it to you.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

UCCF Forum - French-speaking world, Krish Kandiah and loving the church

Open Forum went well on Wednesday afternoon, with some great questions and little controversy -gladly it seems the fellowship is growing in understanding and unity, and openness to explore issues together.

On Wednesday evening we turned our hearts to the French speaking world with pray led by guests from Chad (Daniel Bourdanne) and France (Raphael Anzenberger) - I was particularly struck by the need for church planters in France. It was great to catch up with my friend Raphael and hear about his work. I'd love to see him doing more in the UK but the needs in France are probably enough.

Thursday evening was a particular highlight with UCCF Alumni Krish Kandiah of Evangelical Alliance joining us for a brilliant evening. Simple and clear communication, engaged with the student scene and mindset, calling us to Spirit-filled mission. I was sat at the back of the marquee having come in a bit late (phoning home), when Krish put out an appeal asking if we were unlit, on fire or burnt out matches there was a stampede of students heading back for prayer, a joy to pray with students and then with friends on staff for the Spirit to come and empower us.

Terry's last session on Thursday morning on Ephesians 4 was great as a call to humble unity. Terry modelled the kind of humble not-kick-back unity with brilliant examples and kind words for those he respects and yet differs with, illustrated by his teaching on the grace-gifts of apostleship, evangelism etc.

The rest of our dig-deeper track on Transformed by the Gracious God seemed to go well. We walked through union with Christ, adoption, legalism, walking in the Spirit, the role of the Bible and Christian life in the context of the local church over three days, ending with a time of worship led by Olly Knight using his song on adoption. I'm thankful to have been able to teach on this alongside the unstoppable Nay Dawson. In September 2001 Nay and I were newbie Relays at Forum - who knew we'd still be in this work in 2009, God works in mysterious ways.

This was a week about unity in mission from beginning to end, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Forum 2009 Liveblogging: Terry Virgo interview, Ann Brown on engaging culture, Phatfish and some rain

Tuesday continued well. In the afternoon we got heavily rained on before workshops. I had the privilege of interviewing Terry Virgo for an hour and a half - some great questions and answers, I'll try to post the mp3 at the weekend.

In the evening Ann Brown spoke calling us to engage with culture rather than being suspicious of it, or assimilated by it, to be a people who will shape the world. The whole evening will have been fresh thinking for some students so do pray for the outworking of what was said. To truly engage means working twice as hard but imagine the impact of a generation who connect God's gospel with people.

After hours I ducked into a chilled acoustic gig from Phatfish before being collared to be on the panel at the Open Forum (ask any question about CUs) this afternoon.

Our dig deeper track continues this morning where we'll be shooting down legalism and exploring walking it the Spirit, before that Terry has a fine breakfast for us from Ephesians.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Forum 2009 - Terry Virgo etc.

Briefly, a rainy start to Forum, first few sessions have been good - with Tim Rudge on Isaiah 6 and Terry Virgo on Ephesians 2.

A stunning gospel challenge to know that we aren't just miserable pigs dressed up in righteousness made miserable by a call to fly. We're changed people by God's gospel, saints by grace!

In a couple of hours I'll be interviewing Terry on living life long in grace which I'm looking forward to, before which we have a gig from Phatfish.