Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Reformation Day!

It's the anniversary of the start of the reformation (so tradition has it), with the nailing of Luther's theses to the door. What to do with such a day?

1. Enjoy the grace of God in the gospel.
2. Go to Theology Network and find out, who is that Luther bloke? And while you're at it, order a copy of Mike Reeves' The Unquenchable Flame and find out how we got where we are... and enjoy the best Christian book you're likely to read this year.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Isn't Christianity Irrelevant to Modern Life?

So, I'm in Oxford to speak at an event for the University Christian Union at 1pm on "Get Up To Date: Isn't Christianity Irrelevant to Modern Life?". Your prayers are appreciated. Pray things like: that people come, that I speak clearly, that the question time is beneficial and that people become Christians...

...all just a few yards from where Ridley & Latimer were martyred for holding to the gospel.


The event seemed to go well and I had some good opportunities to speak with people. My reflection is that I could have pushed harder on the way we dismiss things about Jesus that we don't like - some of his hard teaching about himself and about us to further show that the problem of relevance is real and rooted in our existing convictions and priorities as we search for a "stepford Jesus" - often when we say Jesus isn't relevant to my life plan, we actually mean "I don't like him and his plan for the universe". I came in 5mins short of the time I was given so I really did have time to do that. I'm hoping I'll get another shot at this title sometime and would love to develop the material further.

More events from oiccu media including recent talks by Vijay Menon and Tom Price. Similarly download Marcus Honeysett: Is Christianity all about being religious? from ciccu media

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Graduating in the summer? What will you do...

You might be able to get your hands on a graduate (or any) job and go serve Jesus there which would be great... That's the normal approach for the vast majority, not just short-term but long-term. For some it's worth investing a year in your discipleship. This might be with a view to longer term plans or as a preparation for the 'normal' workplace. You might go and work for your home or uni church which is a good idea or you could work with campus-based mission teams as a pioneering missionary and give 10 months to building the church with students from a whole range of local churches... whilst being discipled and trained by a UCCF staff member... The Relay year is really about enjoying the grace of God:

Find out more about what Relay is
"What Relay workers do, where they are placed and who they work with varies across the country – we can tailor what you do to your experience and gifts, as well as needs in various Christian Unions – but we hope that there will be one feature at the heart of everyone’s Relay experience: understanding more of what the grace given to us in Jesus is, and how it radically changes the way we live."

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Clive James on Scepticism: Golf Ball Crisps and Global Warming

A Point of View: Scepticism (mp3, 11mins)

ht: Matthew Mason

Can charismatics and non-charismatics live together?

Can charismatics and non-charismatics live together? Yes. Of course. And they do. But how? So here's some theory, it's a stereotyped and simplified and it's not my idea.  They are scribbles from a morning with Mark Bonnington. Among evangelicals we find charismatics and non-charismatics. The charismatics may perceive non-charismatics as being "word" people while the charismatic is perceived to emphasis "word" and "spirit". It's a broad-brushstroke but observable enough.

Charismatic Christianity is a fact of Christianity today (probably globally the majority?), as is non-charismatic Christianity.

The distinctives of charismatic Christianity are an emphasis on experience and exercising the full range of spiritual gifts today. These aren't necessarily exclusive to charismatics, for example many non-charismatics sharing the puritan emphasis on affections, but you won't find charismatics who lack these two emphases. That's not to say those things define them - just look at the endorsements on Pierced for our Transgressions to see that it's the cross that we hold in common. Cross-centredness is an evangelical distinctive, not a distinctive when we contrast the charismatic and the non-charismatic believer.

Bonnington argues that to some extent the shape of our Christianity depends on our integrating points. I've heard people suggest that personality plays a big part (y'know introverted non-charismatics, extroverted charismatics - if so I'm something of an exception as an introverted charismatic, along with a lot of others I can think of!) but it's the Bible that drives all good-hearted believers. We all want to be 66-book Christians but we inevitably have favourite points which end up carrying more weight for us.

So take cover and view some stereotypes! 

The non-charismatic might turn most to Romans to draw their Christianity together - this is to stereotype a propositional and doctrinal focus. Doctrine and propositions are things to die for.

But, three types of charismatics might take a different emphasis. Some turn to 1 Cor 12-14 and major on the importance of gifts in the body of the local church. Some turn to Luke-Acts expecting signs and wonders and power for mission with a high value on baptism in the Spirit. Some turn to Matthew-Mark-Luke and look for Jesus-style kingdom ministry with much healing, intimacy and the like.

I'd argue all four belong in evangelicalism but when they try to live together things can be a bit tense, because discipleship, ministry, evangelism might begin to look really different depending where you're coming from. Somehow we need to work it out. We can't just say, do it on my terms (and leave your distinctives at the door) so we need a way to live together, celebrating one another's approaches and learning from them. Taking the best from each other, recognising that we have differences, not sweeping them away or saying they don't matter - developing robust enough fellowship that we can actually disagree and still love one another and work with one another. Understanding those who emphasise some things differently and realising that we can learn from them and work with them is a beginning.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Raised With Christ: How The Resurrection Changes Everything (Adrian Warnock)

Raised With Christ: How The Resurrection Changes Everything from Adrian Warnock on Vimeo.

Pre-Order Raised with Christ

Oh! Supernatural Bible Reading

Jared Wilson is writing gold again, this time reflecting on finding Christ in the Scriptures...
"That's not typology," he said, "that's an instinct." My best guess is that gospel-wakefulness makes the difference. Typology is mechanical. Instinct is supernatural. I think this is one reason why, for all my appreciation (and utilization) of good scholarship, when a blogger goes academic about the Christian life and ministry, my eyes glaze over. It is why something John Piper said at the last Gospel Coalition Conference resonated with me so strongly: "Commentaries can be sermon killers. No commentary has the word Oh! in it." I think that's the difference between Christian instinct and Christian typology: the word "Oh!"

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Proverbs 5: Sex in a Different Position (Stu Alred)

We hit Proverbs 5 (part 5 of 17) today in our series at Frontiers Church Exeter.

An excellent morning worshipping God for the cross which brings us to intimacy with God in the great romance of Christ and his church, and then an excellent sermon on sex, with great applications to singleness and marriage.

Proverbs is a multi-faceted book. It's a book about the son Jesus, but one in which we also see other sons and ourselves. Applying the gospel of Jesus through that lens brings a message of grace and freedom to live in Christ. I commend this one to you.

Download mp3 (2nd service): Proverbs 5: Sex in a Different Position
Get the worksheet from Stu's blog.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

My X-Factor Opinion

Given I'm speaking at Oxford University on Friday I thought I'd kick off the next seven days with something high-brow...

The nation is divied between Strictly & X-Factor though iPlayer and ITV Player mean that it doesn't have to be a choice. Two of these shows is too much and we're an X-factor house. Two weeks in, two acts gone (Rikki & Kandy Rain) in here's my guess at where this is all going... Might be proved totally wrong in a couple of months but it's only TV... I reckon:
  1. Jamie 
  2. Joe (probably the actual winner...)
  3. Lucie
  4. Danyl 
  5. Stacey
  6. Olly
  7. John & Edward (just for the sheer absurdity of it)
  8. Lloyd
  9. Miss Frank
  10. Rachel
And the top 6 are streets ahead of the next four which sort of makes the next four weeks a little less than interesting before the real competition starts. Interesting to see the way we begin to root for talent, for total strangers, and feel like we know them... and the way that as a nation we find ourselves draw together by such things. Something draws us in.

What do you think?

Update: Midway through Week 3's live show I'd push Danyl up the list - owned the stage. 

Phil Wilson On Mission in France: Learning the reality of union with Christ

I first met Phil when she came to visit her older sister who was a student at Reading years ago - now they're both working with IFES in mainland Europe. Phil was interviewed by ABH at Forum this year:

Relay Homestart Interview with Philippa Wilson from UCCF: The Christian Unions on Vimeo.

"Having the ability to speak taken away from me really exposed a lot of insecurity and sin in my life. And looking back at this year that I've spent in France, I've often not been able to see how God's been at work in me. And I feel a lot of pain about how huge my lack of trust in God's been and how small my joy in Christ is when everything else has been taken away. And even this afternoon when I was thinking about it I was just tempted to despair, but what God has been teaching me is that whatever the circumstances, and whatever my sin the gospel's still true. I'm significant because Christ is significant and I'm in him. My life is fruitful and will be fruitful because Christ is fruitful and will be fruitful and I am in him. And the cross means that however I may feel God is as committed to me as he is to Jesus because I'm in Christ. And I'm just learning more and more that my hope just has to be 100% in Jesus. Which is an awesome thing."

Friday, October 23, 2009

Together by and for the gospel

I spent some of this week in Oxfordshire with the rest of the UCCF Leadership Team (LT). We had much to discuss but I really appreciated some input we had from two guests, Mark Bonnington of Kings Church Durham on charismatic spirituality and Krish Kandiah of Evangelical Alliance on student mission. Both were though provoking and inspiring, for their input and the subsequent discussion from others. I felt a fresh desire to raise the bar in the work we're doing, but also a humbling to lovingly seek the interests of others, though it seems almost irresistible to fight for my own way.

Tim led us through the opening chapter of Habakkuk 1, a refreshing call to take our struggles to God rather than blog-ranting about them. Knowing who he is we can call on him! And we did. I always enjoy the opportunity to talk and pray with the rest of the LT, and particularly appreciated it having missed the previous meeting in June due to my sabbatical.

On the way home last night I called in at UWECU in Bristol to speak in their F.R.E.S.H. series on Studying for Jesus - attempting to catch them up in God's creation vision of man forming and filling the world as he works in the image of God - something afflicted by curse and liberated by Jesus. I hope it was a beneficial evening for them. I've enjoyed teaching on this subject in the past and wish it'd been more on the agenda when I was a student.

Tim Keller MP3s

Until now only a small number of sermon mp3s were available from Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York where Tim Keller is the pastor. Now they've opened up their resources with 150 free downloads. No substitute to the preached word in your local church on a Sunday morning but a useful additional resource for your commute to work...

Download: Free Timothy Keller Sermons

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Christ in the Old Testament

Supposing you were planning an eight part series from the Old Testament, what would you cover? The point would be to see the gospel unfolded, and as Martin Downes shows - it is the Old Testament that gives us the meaning of the cross and resurrection which happened 'according to the scriptures'.

Realistically you've got to hit Genesis 12 (promise to Abraham of a global blessing through Jesus), Leviticus 16 (the day of atonement which Jesus fulfills), 2 Samuel 7 (the promise of great David's greater son) and Isaiah 53 (the suffering servant). But what else goes in?

Here's an idea...

(1) Genesis 1 The Word Shines (how the word of God forms and fills the creation and anticipates the new creation in which we see Jesus)
(2) Genesis 2-3 The Tree of Life (and how a serpent-crushing seed will get us past the angels to it)
(3) Genesis 17:7 The Heir: Inheritor of all things (that all things point to Jesus, all promises are his)
(4) Exodus 26 The Pattern: Exactly as you see it (on the tabernacle, and meaning thereof)
(5) Leviticus 16 The Day of Atonement (sin, guilt and wrath dealt with)
(6) Leviticus 25 The Day of Jubilee (he comes out to blow the trumpet)
(7) 2 Samuel 7 The Great King (the promised seed is God's son who rules forver!)
(8) Isaiah 53 The Suffering Servant (he dies for us)

But that leaves out some amazing stuff.... maybe it's best just to go book by book, The Gospel According to Genesis etc? Maybe we could just teach Matthew or Mark and unpack the meaning from the Old Testament? Really coming to Christ is the lifetime exercise of studying all Scripture so such a series is a bit unnecessary but sometimes it helps to flesh out the storyline from a high altitude. How would you do it? What would your series be?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

UCCF Transformission 2009: Mike Reeves. Union with Christ

On Saturday 17th October about 300 students from Christian Unions across the South West gathered for a day of encountering Christ in his word at our annual TRANSFORMISSION conference.

We were joined again by preacher Mike Reeves on the subject of Union with Christ!! Mike begins by taking us back to the reformation, and then we dive into The Song of Songs with Martin Luther, revel in some Romans and all the way, having our hearts called away from ourselves to Christ!

Transformission 2009: Union with Christ (1)
Transformission 2009: Union with Christ (2)
Transformission 2009: Union with Christ (3) (including Q&A)

and... we sold 100 copies of Mike's book The Unquenchable Flame which is exciting - imagine a generation catching the spirit of the reformation.

Thanks to all those who came, to Mike, David Salisbury & band, Dan, Susie & Jerram for fronting things, for Joe, Ed and the other techies, to the Relays for helping with drinks and clear up.

mp3s from 2007: Mike Reeves - Enjoying the Cross

mp3s from 2008: Mike Reeves - The Word of God

Friday, October 16, 2009

A foretaste of Transformission

Mike Reeves on Union with Christ. Come to Transformission for more of that!

Persuasive, Passionate People

In a little under an hour and a half we've got eight recent graduates coming to our house for the day. During it they'll each give a short talk, engaging with a question a friend of theirs is asking, role play some q&a and then receive constructive feedback from one another, under the watchful eye of Alex from Christian Persuaders.
"We should, I believe, be praying and working for a whole new generation of Christian thinkers and apologists who will dedicate their God-given minds to Christ, enter sympathetically into their contemporaries' dilemmas, unmask false ideologies, and present the gospel of Jesus Christ in such a way that he is seen to offer what other religions systems cannot, because he and he alone can fulfil our deepest human aspirations" John Stott
They've talked to their friends, prayed, prepared and read Deconstructing Defeater Beliefs by Tim Keller. I'm looking forward to watching our guys in action. Some of them are on their way full of terror, others full of confidence. The gospel of grace meets both of those conditions. My hope for the day is that this is a beginning of more engaging personal evangelism with their friends, and just possibly we might unearth a few who might go on to speak publicly too. Grace sets the tone as a place for growth, for empowerment for ministry, for enabling one another, for building confidence to go and do the stuff - however much our fleshly/lawish tendencies want to hide or impress.

At least eight times today in words I'm going to be persuaded again of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and probably countless more times as I watch brothers and sisters encourage one another. Bring - it - on.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Ten Years of Fight Club

A decade a go Fight Club was released in the US & Canada, a month later in the UK. Based on Chuck Palanuik's novel of the same name I think it's still my favourite film. I really enjoyed the book and the film is equally good - my only slight regret is that I didn't see it at the cinema, only getting the opportunity on DVD six months later. One of those timely films at the end of a century, and surely one of the better films not to win best picture at the Oscars - no complaints at American Beauty getting it instead (ahead of Cider House Rules, The Green Mile, The Insider, The Sixth Sense)

Some day soon it'll be time to dust down the DVD and give it another watch.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

What about the differences between Matthew and Luke's genealogies?

Question from a friend on facebook: " ...arising from prayer meeting at work this morning... whe are the geneologies in Luke 3 and Matthew 1 different? is it because one is Mary's and the other Joseph's? if so which is which and why do they both end with Joseph?"

First - genealogies are part of the Bible! A part we might be inclined to ignore but which God put there - and Matthew even put in for the first page of his gospel, which isn't just a Jewish gospel but one for all nations, something evident from the reference to Abraham in 1:1 and the great commission of the book's final chapter. I once wrote a series in Matthew for a Christian Union, we covered chapters 3-8 but I really wanted to start in chapter 1 but figured it was a bit ask to have the first Bible study a fresher might be in one of Matthew's genealogy - hard but tasty!

In Matthew we have to say that we're given some good hints of why he includes it. He wants to show us (1:1) Jesus' relationship to "David the king" (v6) and Abraham - which is an emphasis on Kingly Authority and Global Blessing. They, and the exile, provide the structure of the genealogy, which concludes with "Joseph, the husband of Mary to whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ". Combined with the story of Jesus' conception this only shows us Jesus' adopted genealogy - and it follows the line of the house of Judah royally, listing the kings and emphasises Jesus as the heir to the throne of Israel.

Luke's genealogy, in Luke 3 works differently. It's in reverse back to Adam the son of God and set in the context of Jesus' temptation serves to highlight Jesus as the true Adam son of God and true Israel son of God. The issues arises because the genealogies are different - they both run with Joseph and are the same from David backwards but different in between. Luke's doesn't follow the kings but rather a line from David's son Nathan down to Joseph. I take it this is the real line of Joseph. Luke isn't looking to emphasise the royalness but rather his divine descendancy... something that anyone has since it's traced from God to Adam and onwards - but put with the temptation/testing of Jesus in the wilderness, like Israel in the wilderness, it shows him as a special Israel-like son of God. See more on that in David Gibson's Three Sons and the Devil.

That at least is my thinking...  your comments?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Proverbs 4 - The Wise Son Lavishes Grace On Us!

Preached on Proverbs 4 in the latest part of our series at Frontiers Church Exeter.

Wisdom: It's not what you think.
  • Summary: We think we’re meant to ‘get wisdom’ to face the day, but Jesus is the son who does! He doesn't abuse his wisdom for his own ends, in his wisdom he lavishes grace on us in the mess and trouble.
  • Faith aim: Repentance from trusting self, new trust in Jesus, receiving more of his grace.
Proverbs 4: first service (26:05)
Proverbs 4: second service (26:37)

I might post my full notes in a bit.

Do Reformed Charismatics have an image problem?

Marcus ponders this question which speaks to two labels I don't mind using to describe me.

He notes: ."..I know a lot of people who are charismatics who want to strongly identify themselves with the very core of evangelicalism, by their doctrinal convictions and their mission-mindedness. We are Christ-centred, cross-centred, scripture-centred, grace-centred, faith-centred. Passionate to build churches to the glory of God. Not only so, but among some of these friends I number preachers and other Bible handlers of an astonishing degree of gifting: exegetically good, powerful in application and full of the Holy Spirit."

I remember in my early days as a Christian, at University, getting the impression that being charismatic and having 'reformed' theology were polar opposites. It was only when I met Marcus, and then read people like Grudem, Virgo, Mahaney etc that I found to my relief that the two can and do go together.

Twitter: "not all [charismatics] are bipolar and crazy" - Amen to that!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Jesus is better

Stop working at being good enough - you will fail perpetually - and ask him to do it for you. He will. And its brilliant.

The underrated gift of administration

Some Christians give the impression that spontaneity and lack of planning is the way to be spiritual. I'm all for flexibility but in the world that God exquisitely formed and filled, I'm all for administration... Stu Alred writes:
'Kubernesis' translated 'gift of administration' in 1Cor12v28 is referring to the helmsman, pilot or ship master. The role involves implementing vision, releasing, planning, delegating and monitoring. Those gifted at this task for the Church will need to be persuaded of the bigger picture. They need to have a deep conviction of the Church and a heart for the city.
5 duties of a navigator which are applicable to Church:
  1. They know where we are going. Know the heart and vision of the leaders.
  2. They know where we are at the moment. Measure and monitor how we are doing clearly and honestly.
  3. They are able to communicate effectively with people. Build teams, motivate and empower others to achieve our goals.
  4. They are able to foresee problems and find solutions. Offer innovation and ways of doing things more effectively.
  5. They literally make things happen. Own and love the vision.
I see from the work I'm involved in the vast advantages of administration - good things get to happen, great conferences, great evangelistic events. Work done off-the-cuff is occasionally outstanding but usually it's not. And it's not just the big things, I'm more likely to benefit the body on a Sunday morning, or a Wednesday evening or any other point of the week if I plan to, if I prepare myself to come and serve others, identify evidence of grace in others lives, and bring the word of God to bear on others. I'm also more likely to pray.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Gospel partnership fueled by gospel affection

I had the joy of serving Bristol University Christian Union last night by preaching on Philippians 1:1-11. We posed the question, what is a CU? It fits with Paul's description of partnership in the gospel between himself, a missionary from Antioch and the members of a Macedonian church. Not a society or an organisation or a meeting, though partnerships may have those - but the name for a set of relationships for a particular purpose. We discovered gospel partnership fueled by gospel affection leading to gospel love and gospel speaking.
...Paul's own deep longings for the come with the affection of Christ Jesus himself- almost certainly meaning "the love Christ has for you, which is also at work in me for you". Such an uninhibited display of affection makes it clear that Paul was not an academic! He was, in fact, a passionate lover of Christ, which made him an equally passionate lover of Christ's people. Much can be learned here by those who have pastoral care of any kind, including parents for their children. Paul's emotion, after all, is simply the outflow of his theology and the spirituality that issues from such theology. His theology has to do with the gospel, which has God as its source and sustainer. Whatever else, those whom we love in Christ first of all belong to God. God has begun the good work in them that he has committed himself to concluding with eschatological glory. That good work is the result of the affection of Christ Jesus, through whom God has brought this "good news" on behalf of his people.... this works... if the caregiver also shares in the affection of Christ Jesus, by having a good measure of the same affection, predicated on being participants together in the gospel."
Gordon Fee, Philippians IVPNTC, p51
I want more of the affection of Christ - more of the gospel. And I long to have it's outworking in love for others with whom I can then partner in the gospel, suffering together, speaking together. Paul prays with joy for the Philippians because he has this, and he prays that their love would abound. Mine too! Mine too! More gospel-centred theology leading to gospel-fueled relationships.

Planning and spontaneity

I am a big fan of responding spontaneously to the Spirit of God and of his gift of administration.

Some think that the only way to be spiritual is to avoid planning. However, far from beneficial this tends to reduce quality and lead to shallowness. 

I've heard preachers say "I planned this but God has just given me this instead" and then listened wishing for the planned, prepared, edited talk... crafting a sermon makes a massive difference. Given God is the great former and filler (Genesis 1) it seems to me that use of a diary, advance planning and preparation have the possibility to be very spiritual activities. I need God to meet me in my study not just at the pulpit.

I remember reading of how Stuart Townend plans to lead worship - he looks very spontaneous 'in action' but really is ultra planned with various different plans that he can use depending on how things go. More planning not less gives freedom for spontaneity. A detailed script means I can paraphrase and digress if necessary, knowing with clarity the main thrust of what I want to say and the reasons and arguments that support what I'm saying.

And I think of the great value of big conferences (and small ones) and know that it makes such a difference to the event to be able to book a really good speaker (knowing that such people are in demand... late bookings don't work), and knowing that it serves a speaker (and their family, their work etc) well to be able to prepare thoroughly, seeking God in his study rather than just working at short notice - though I'm amazed at how flexible and servant-hearted some speakers are to short notice invitations.

The other extreme is to be rigid to the plan, unable to flex - whether in response to the work of the Spirit or to the weather, the circumstances etc. Because we planned to isn't always a good reason to execute the plan, but at least if you have a plan you have the option!

Bob Kauflin shares on this subject, Jeff Purswell interviewing CJ Mahaney on this subject

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Bible Enjoyed

Why are we reading the Bible? Discovering treasure and wonder for amazement. The goal is the glory of God, when hearts are set on fire for him and his truth, as we are made wise to salvation; discerning and spiritually clean and sharpened;

Sticking "out like a sore thumb in the evangelical world with regard to gender roles both in marriage and Church"

Stu Alred searches for men and women of conviction...
Men made to lead as head (1cor11v3) to provide (1Tim5v8) to protect and guide morally (Gen2v16-17) (Eph5v26) and to lay down his life down for his wife just like Jesus did for the Church. (Eph5v25)... Our women should feel loved, valued, treasured, prioritized, cared for, covered, secure, prayed for, supported, lead well and released into all kinds of ministry. Teaching (Titus2) Leading ministry areas, mission and loads more.
People think that this is all very wierd sounding, but what I see on the ground in my church looks far from wierd. There are all kinds of fears that seem to be expressed of what it might mean - usually of men being abusive and women being abused - and wherever you have people that is possible.

I may be blind to my own context but I seem to see women empowered and men taking responsibility and being servant-hearted within my local church context. Which isn't unique to those taking this kind of theology, and certainly not to newfrontiers. What I don't often see is many people paying a lot of attention to this important issue today. My guess is that the evangelical norm today tends to play down differences in male and female roles rather than offer clarity and direction on them.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Little life or big freedom

Reading Galatians 2:11-3:! again today it occured to me again how Peter's way is concerned with small things like 'I don't want to sin here' and 'What will people think of me?'. These questions are concerned with details and  the self and denies the cross. Paul's gospel answer draws Peter and the Galatians and us to the public portrayal of Christ crucified in the apostolic preaching. It's big and looks away from self and makes much of what Jesus did. The gospel is simply bigger and better.

Downplaying the practical in Preaching

Jared Wilson writes on why he downplays the "practical" in his preaching. It's a very thoughtful post and I commend it to you. You might not like it, but hear what he is and isn't saying and consider what difference it might make to what happens in those 20-45minutes on Sunday, and beyond.

As I wrestle with Proverbs I'm finding the same - it's so easy to rush to the implications of Proverbs for our living wisely as Christians (which the New Testament does at times), but if we rush to cast ourselves as the son we might just miss the true son. Solomon knows he's not the true ultimate king of Israel so he passes on the baton to the next generation, and on and on until the true son - the one who is Wisdom. Only after we get to Him dare we think about how we're to live...

Theos: What do people believe?

Interesting statistics from the latest Theos research, noted by Church Mouse...

Three substantial groups, making up 3 out of 10 people...
...12% did not know whether they believed in God, 
10% didn't believe in God, but did believe in a higher power, 
 9% didn't believe in God but are a 'spiritual person'.
Bears some thought for conversation and preaching about Jesus. When preaching it's worth noting that certain types of people are more likely to show up to an event than others and it's worth engaging with them, but also worth being aware of the population in general....

  • What difference does it make to seek to communicate the gospel to people who aren't sure what they believe? Why aren't they sure? Why should they be?
  • How might we present Jesus to someone who believes in something higher... why do people think there might be something or even someone more?
  • What about those who would consider themselves spiritual - what do they mean, why is it appealing to be spiritual?
Conversationally, probably best not to assume anything and just ask questions and listen... 
And asking questions that probe a bit further than "do you believe in God"...

Theos also make some very interesting observations about the relationship between belief and education.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Flash Forward: "You fear that what you saw will come true, I fear that it wont..."

Flash Forward at Demand Five seems like an interesting new series, starring Joseph Fiennes.

Basic idea - everyone blacks out and sees a moment six months in the future - do you fear that the future you see wont happen or that it will? ...quite aside from why people blacked out and why they saw the future this could be an interesting study in hope and the effects of knowing something about the future.

Jesus: Your Best Life Now (Glen Scrivener, 2009)


Monday, October 05, 2009

UCCF Evangelism Podcast: Kanye West and Forgiveness?

Clive Parnell presents the latest UCCF Evangelism Podcast:

Kanye West, Taylor Swift, Jesus and us. Engaging with culture - sharing the gospel. This podcast looks at how we can take something from popular culture and share the gospel through a talk. Clive Parnell connects Kanye West with John 8 - how do we receive forgiveness? How do we exercise grace?

Free Conference: Mike Reeves + Christian Unions, Exeter (Transformission 2009)

In just under two weeks I have the excellent Mike Reeves coming to Exeter to spend a day with students from across the South West unfolding the glorious doctrine of Union with Christ. If you're a South West student - or if you're not a student but are a supporter the work of the Christian Unions then you are warmly invited to join us for this free one day conference... meet God in his word, stand with us in prayer and see what God does...

17. Oct 09.
Belmont Chapel, Western Way, Exeter, EX1 2DB

Join with Christian students from across the South West. Come and stand together at the start of a new year. Have your heart warmed with the freshness of what Jesus has done as Mike Reeves teaches us about our new identity in Christ. Know the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. Pray for the advance of the gospel in our region. Be motivated to go and make Jesus known on your campus.

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” Galatians 2:20


10.30 Doors open, refreshments available.
11.00 Session 1.
12.30 Lunch, bring your own.
13.30 Session 2.
15.00 Refreshments.
15.30 Session 3.
16.45 End of the day.

Cost: Free, please bring your own lunch.

Facing a task unfinished

Next Sunday I'm speaking on Proverbs 4 in the latest part of our series.
I'm very glad that it's not Sunday yet.
Your prayers appreciated in the coming days.

I've also got the joy of serving Bristol University Christian Union later in the week, speaking on Philippians 1:1-10 which I'm looking forward to. The week also holds some study time, meeting with ministry partners, two of the staff team, Relay and other exciting prospects.

...and when that's all done I have ceilings to paint.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

This is the world we live in

A world to be recreated.
(Genesis 1:1) Genesis 1:1 ‘In the beginning’ – Jesus the lamb who sheds his blood and takes our place is set for the task before creation. The Father’s plan of amazing grace predates creation 1 Peter 1:19-20, 2 Timothy 1:9, Titus 1:2..
Just as creation comes by God speaking (1:3) so too the new creation comes in exactly the same way – 2 Cor 4:6 – as the gospel of the glory of God in the face of Jesus is shone into our hearts.

A world to be cultivated.
(Genesis 1:2) Genesis 1:2, 27-30 – God paints the broad brushstrokes and appoints man to do the detail, colouring in the maps, planning in the details, using a diary, And hiefly through the ultimate Image Bearer Colossians 1:15, who brings God’s life to his world. God does this by speaking. Things into being and the spread of his word continues the process of bringing divine order into creation.

A world to be populated.
(Genesis 2) Genesis 2:24-25 – the man and his bride walk with God, she lives because he was wounded – and this refers to Christ and the church Ephesians 5:32. – one day to be a global people, a multitude from every culture and every where, gathered by the spreading of the word of God.
A world to be liberated..
(Genesis 3-4) He is wounded to save the world. And that is necessary because man overthrows God in search of wisdom Genesis 3:1-7. The world is cursed and frustrated. It waits for glory but is left in emptiness – personified by Abel (hebel) whose name is Meaninglessness… lost hope. Only a later son, the second Adam will lift the curse by his death – that speaks a better word. Comes to bring life to the world.

The direction of the gospel is outward from God to us – and so too the shape of the Christian community isn’t a crowd of individuals but an ecstatic community: "...personhood is ‘ecstatic’, in terms of a going out or being drawn out of oneself by the Spirit into the life of Christ, a life lived for and with others. So we might also say that persons are ‘eccentric’, that they find their lives in the lives of others. Enter the man curved in on himself, who stubbornly refuses to go out of himself and smugly stays at home in and with himself. He is ego rather than ec-centric, finding his life in and living his life for himself... sin "the urge towards relationlessness and dissociation". And the sinner? "The sinner is, to put it simply, a person without relations, with no relation to God or to self".
Matt Jenson, The Shape of Our Sin - at The Other Journal

"Our so deeply curved in on itself that it not only bends the best gifts of God towards itself and enjoys them...but it also fails to realize that it so wickedly, curvedly, and viciously seeks all things, even God, for its own sake. Martin Luther.

  • Without the gospel I’m defined by me and the things I do: “I’m busy juggling lots of things, including evangelism” My world is about me.
  • With the gospel I’m defined by my relationships with God and with others: “We’re a community on a mission” The world is about God's plans which find even me. 

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Ever since I tasted Ben and Jerry’s Caramel Chew Chew I haven’t needed any training in how to tell others about it

Or in the words of John Piper:
“you can’t commend what you don’t cherish” (p17).
Go read the rest of Jim Walford on Ben & Jerry's Evangelism Training.

Reason number #876 that I love my team.

John Piper's Seven Reasons We Need Small Groups

John Piper, in preaching on John 5: The Love of Human Praise as the Root of Unbelief

He has given pastors to the church “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12). I believe in what I do. And I believe that it is not enough. Here are the seven reasons I gave the small group leaders.
  1. The impulse avoid painful growth by disappearing safely into the crowd in corporate worship is very strong.
  2. The tendency toward passivity in listening to a sermon is part of our human weakness.
  3. Listeners in a big group can more easily evade redemptive crises. If tears well up in your eyes in a small group, wise friends will gently find out why. But in a large gathering, you can just walk away from it.
  4. Listeners in a large group tend to neglect efforts of personal application. The sermon may touch a nerve of conviction, but without someone to press in, it can easily be avoided.
  5. Opportunity for questions leading to growth is missing. Sermons are not dialogue. Nor should they be. But asking questions is a key to understanding and growth. Small groups are great occasions for this.
  6. Accountability for follow-through on good resolves is missing. But if someone knows what you intended to do, the resolve is stronger.
  7. Prayer support for a specific need or conviction or resolve goes wanting. O how many blessings we do not have because we are not surrounded by a band of friends who pray for us.
So please know that when this small-group ministry of our church is lifted up, I don’t think it’s an optional add-on to basic Christian living. I think it is normal, healthy, needed, New Testament Christianity. I pray that you will be part of one of these small groups or that you will get the training and start one.

"A plum pudding of a book"

Name the book and the endorser: here

Friday, October 02, 2009

Let love to your Saviour influence and excite you to pray

Visiting Peter May's home last month I stumbled across a copy of Edward Bickersteth (1786–1850) 'On Prayer' from the mid 1800s. It's brilliant. Chapter 10 is particularly good: On the Spirit of Prayer for the Enlargement of the Kingdom of Christ. It stood out because he's a forefather of the pastor of our old church back in Reading. Here's a taste:
Such passages as the following plainly point out an extension of the Gospel which has never yet tuken place.
  • ' All the ends of the earth shall remember, and turn unto the Lord, and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee.'
  • 'All kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him.'
  • 'All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thoe, :(Ud shall glorify thy name.'
  • ' The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.'
  • ' Blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved.'
  • ' The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our God and of his Christ; and he shall reign forever.'
Observe the fulness of each of these expressions.— Surely they foretel the universal spread of Christianity. To deny this, would, as Edwards has observed, be in effect to say, that it would have been impossible for God, if he had desired it, plainly to have foretold any thing that should absolutely have extended to all the nations of the earth. To suppose that these are merely highwrought figures, and that events answerable to them are not likely to take place, is little short of supposing an intention to mislead others. We may, then, rejoice in the delightful prospect which the Bible, thus opens before us. But these promises involve a, duty, as well as convey a cheering prospect; the duty of exerting ourselves to promote the coming of this kingdom. Among other means of doing so, the duty of prayer is of the first importance.
It pleases the Almighty generally to work through prayer, as it is prayer that gives God, who is jealous of his honour, All The Glory. When blessings come in answer to prayer, the praise is more generally ascribed to him... As a real Christian, you will be an immense gainer by the enlargement of the kingdom of Christ, and the increase of the communion of saints... there seems a special efficacy in United Prayer. Much that has been said on social, family, and public worship, applies here. Let Christian assemblies, in every .part of our land, come frequently together to pray for the coming of Christ's Kingdom; and it would be one of the happiest signs of its approach. Let love to your Saviour, benevolence towards man, your own interest in this promised and happy era, the remarkable signs of the times and your plain and positive duty, all combine, and influence and excite you really and often to pray, thy kingdom come.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Mike Reeves interviews Don Carson

Table Talk 10: Studying Theology to the Glory of God

Previous Table Talk interviews with Terry Virgo, Keith Small, Ron Frost, Tim Rudge, Mike Ovey & Andrew Sach, John Piper, Wallace Benn and Andy Bannister are also available at Theology Network.

Art for the Glory of God

My colleague, Ally Gordon at Evangelical Alliance on:

Art for the Glory of God 

As an artist and creative arts coordinator for the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship I am often asked how art gives glory to Jesus Christ. The story of art is rich with those who have glorified God through excellent art from the painterly genius of Rembrandt and Cranach the Elder to the musical magnificence of Mendelssohn and Bach. There is no shortage of believers who wrestled with the significance of what they made before the glory of their Creator yet today there are few Christians of evangelical faith on the national arts platform. One can't help but ask why?
James Elkins, professor of art history at the Chicago Institute of Art writes, "contemporary art is as far from organised religion as Western art has ever been and that might be its most singular achievement.[1]" Why do so few Christians enter the arts today? Why don't artists like coming to church? Perhaps we are still experiencing a cultural hangover from the Enlightenment or still working out our reformed theology of images. As people of God's Word we might feel a bit sheepish when it comes to pictures. We value clarity, especially in preaching, but art is anything but clear, often mysterious and at times a bit emotive.
The Dutch art historian and jazz critic, Hans Rookmaaker, suggested two possibilities in Modern Art and the Death of a Culture (pub. IVP 1946), "The artist who is a Christian struggles with great tensions. An artist is expected to work from his own convictions but these may be seen by his atheist contemporaries as ultra-conservative if not totally passé. On top of this he often lacks the support of his own community, his church and family."
Rookmaaker wrote over half a century ago but his words are still prophetic to our times..... 
Go read the rest.