Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Kid Adrift

One day you're working with students at Surrey Uni, the next (or 3 years later) they're on stage at Glastonbury - two of them anyways:

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

8 Years!

The first time my wife and I met, 12.5 years ago we barely noticed each other. I'm glad that changed! And I'm very glad to have spent the last eight years walking through life with her as my wife. She's more beautiful now than ever, growing in godly character, flourishing in her new role as a mother - whilst surviving having to work part time too. I'm spending most of today working in Cornwall (enduring the beaches and art shows!), but will be longing to get home and spend the evening with my bride.

Monday, June 28, 2010

For your glory (Matt Giles)

Another new song by Matt Giles. Derived from Ephesians this is another service to our church, and perhaps to yours too. Go to the Matt Giles Music and Download acoustic mp3: For your glory. And Matt explains a bit more about this song on his blog

I was a stranger to the promise of God,
But I was purchased through the blood of His Son.
It is a work not of my own,
So that I should never boast.

I see the Gospel is much bigger than me,
More than a rescue plan to help in my need.
It is a plan for all of time,
To unite all things in Christ.

For Your glory, I'm saved to the praise of Your glory.
Jesus, for Your glory, I'm saved by Your grace for Your glory.

He bought us fully to make one man in Christ,
That we might turn and love the ones we despised.
There is no wall between us now;
All of the walls are broken down.

He is our peace with God and man,
Through His cross our hate was slain.
He is the hope of all to come,
He is our one, our only name.

(c) Matt Giles, 2010

Jesus had a mission strategy

Luke 7:34 "The Son of Man came eating and drinking"

If we had to sum up Jesus' mission strategy as he headed to the cross this would surely be it. Throughout the gospels, especially Luke, we find him constantly eating with people, and spoken ill of for the company he kept.

I'm two weeks out from preaching Exodus 24 where God invites the elders to come and see him and eat and drink with him. There's something about eating and drinking face to face. Eden was a garden packed with food to eat in the presence of God and so will be the new creation (pictures along the way in the tabernacle and Ahasuerus' garden etc.)

Tim Chester notes (paraphrasically):
The goal of salvation is to eat a meal in the presence of God. The Son of Man came eating and drinking: His mission strategy. It’s not complicated, even if it’s not easy. There is a challenge here for us to have a drink or share a meal with non-Christians 3-4 times a week. If we did that 90% of our mission would be sorted. Meals enact and embody the grace of God
For many in middle class western culture we think this must mean have dinner parties which is a major fuss, even if you've got enough guests to invite. Why should it? Everyone normally has three normal meals a day - how hard could it be, apart from challenging cultural norms, for us to do more of this together. I love that yesterday we had a house full of friends - some from our home group, some from the wider church, and some from outside the church. We've got a long way to go yet in echoing the missionary strategy of Jesus, but I want to get there.

Trinitarian people (super)naturally form welcoming and warm communities - places that love to include others, where the door is as wide open as the grace of God is, and where there is mutual love and care. This is not to the dilution of the gospel but for it's amplification. The gospel creates community, a community that loves to speak of the gospel and loves to love like the gospel.

Where does food fit into the missionary strategy of your church?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Can Christians have doubts?

We spent some time at our UCCF South summer school considering the subject of DOUBT with Jason Clarke. Jason's main point was that knowing is Trinitarian. That means knowing is personal and relational. To be a Christian is to be in a trusting relationship with the Triune God. What we know isn't stuff it's persons.
Father Brendan Flynn: You haven't the slightest proof of anything!
Sister Aloysius Beauvier: But I have my certainty!
What does that mean for doubt. Some doubt is unbelief which isn't approved by the Bible. But, it means that some doubt is different to that, it's a category we might use to speak of the questions we can ask in the context of trust and relationship. We know that God is there and is trustworthy - the gospel tells us this. Being caught up into the Triune life though doesn't mean I won't have questions. The Psalms are illustrative of this.

There are implications in this for our doctrine of church. If the church is to relationally reflect her God then it should be a place of trust and relationship, and that means we can ask questions, work through issues, live in mess. The alternative is a dogmatic confidence in certainty (Arianism?), rather than robust relationships that can take questions. Are you participating in a Triune Community - a place where there can be room for questions and relationship, trust and care? Do you give people space to have questions, to air them, to ponder them, to work them through, to listen and not necessarily answer immediately, to feel the difficulties and tensions?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

How could there be day and night before the sun was made?

People ask the question of Genesis 1, how was there LIGHT before the sun, and how was there evening and morning before that? 

Presumably, the same way there will be in the renewed creation:
"They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever." Revelation 22:5

Jesus is The Light of the World, the one who shines out from his Father, the one who said "Let there be light". Having established light in the dark, he then makes the sun and moon, appointed to rule on his behalf, reflecting His light - overwhelmingly in the day, and reflecting that in the night so that the light always shines and the darkness never quite wins (just as the church reflects Christ in the world today)... so too humanity is appointed to have dominion on behalf of Christ, imaging his benevolent rule. Shadows of the life of God.

Why create this way? Because this is what he would do in the pitch darkness of the human heart. As in salvation, so in creation - because this is who the Triune God is. This is how the universe had to be because of who God is. And ok I don't quite know how the physics of all this works, but Scripture is internally coherent enough, it's just very different to how people think when they presuppose that the Triune God doesn't exist.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Exercises in Trinitarian Community

When we think about the Trinity the unity in view is unity on a mission of spreading goodness, because that is who God is not just to save but just inherent to the life of the Triune God.

The following is derived from Glen Scrivener's Trinitarian thinking on marriage and family. Glen observes three main threads of heresy between husbands and wives, parents and children, which come from neglecting one of the three aspects of Triune love. I want to try and apply this to Christian community, such as a Christian Union or a local church.
We believe:
There is one God in three persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
The basic idea here is this: You get the kind of community that reflects the kind of God you believe in. Bad community may well flow from having the wrong god. Particularly three classic heresies concerning the Trinity.

At point A there is distinction and unity but not equality. 
This is an Arian community marked by an imposed traditionalism.
The status quo rules and is determined by those who are "in" who have the power, and they exasperate the rest. The leaders insist upon their way rather than working for others success. In such a community there are no-go areas all over the place, and in the end people leave to find some respect. In an Arian CU people quit to find respect elsewhere, rather than being patronised forever.
Knowing the Triune God would bring a painful transformation to such a community. Such a community is where you want to be, rather than the place you most want to avoid.

At point B there is distinction and equality but no unity. 
This is a Tritheist group which is busy. 
People are different and valued for that but there is no unity. People are just busy and live parallel lives. Anything done together is merely functional. They have meetings for everything and people tend to turn up. The group is highly skilled but heartless, and models something that few outsiders would want to join. The group is driven but most people don't care. Members of Tritheist CU are likely to give up to find genuine familial love elsewhere.
Knowing the Triune God would slow things down and build genuine community, the members would become involved in one another's lives and become people instead of machines. Such a community is attractive instead of exhausting.

At point C there is unity and equality but no distinction. 
This is a Modalist community which is very nice. 
Everyone is loving one another, lost in themselves. Yet a strategic kind of people pleasing lurks as we pretend that we're all the same. Leaders try to maintain peace and things end up looking a bit bland. Disenchanted members leave a Modalist CU because they want their distinctives to be appreciated rather than devalued and ignored.
Knowing the Triune God would shake things up, all those issues previously swept under the carpet would be brought into view, but this would strengthen rather than weaken the unity and equality. Such a community is attractive instead of lifeless.

Those who have been swept up together into the life of the Triune God, bound together by the love of God can begin to form real attractive community. A community marked by asymetrical mutual indwelling. There is distinct-equal unity, united-distinct equality, and equal-united distinction. That is to say the mark of the community is a genuine love that is going places but does so recognising that the members really are not all the same and that the members really all truly belong. They celebrate differences, work together as a body loving one another, considering others ahead of themselves, and reflect the spreading goodness of their God. What kind of community are you in? How can it become more Triune?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Mike Reeves: I'm too cold hearted to be any use...

One moment a Christian can be burning hot for Christ, and yet in the next can feel so cold. Mike Reeves shares his own experience of this, and then a follow-up question about the challenge of preaching self or Christ.
Taken from the front end of his theology in music.

MP3: Christ and my cold heart, and preaching Christ or self (10mins). 
(not the best quality audio - there's an iPod dock on pause pulsing in the background...)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Mike Reeves on Sin & Evil (mp3s)

Two mp3s of Mike Reeves teaching on Sin & EvilMike cuts deeper on sin that we often admit to. Sin is more than law-breaking or weakness. Sin is an issue of the heart, something Mike draws on from the Reformation.

Friday, June 18, 2010

How have you changed in the last year?

It's review season. The first of five staff self-reviews has arrived in my inbox and I've started writing my own. Some people hate having to do appraisals and reviews, I've been doing them for seven years and I take it as a part of the job that I may as well enjoy and value!

Self-reflection can become self-obsession which I want to avoid, we can just curve in on ourselves, become bitter or proud. But, it can be an opportunity to recognise grace in my life and to do so in others, and an opportunity for me to repent and move forward and for people reliant on grace to be thankful together.

As I reflect this year I'm aware of some big changes in my knowledge of God which have shaped my priories and approach to life and the work. As a member of our home group recognised recently my favourite phrase in the last year is "The Triune God" which I'm not ashamed of, and I feel like the application of this has been increasingly rippling through my approach to people, to training others, not always as I'd want but nonetheless making a difference, particularly since the end of last autumn. It'd be nice to think that several years ago I arrived, and had been carrying out a model ministry ever since. No chance. I'm not writing off the past, but I'm glad of change.

This is shaking up my approach to a lot of stuff - and I enjoyed working through some of that with Harri, Brian & Becca this morning under the heading The Application of Trinity to Marriage and Mission.

This means there's things I look back on with anguish. Stuff I've said and done, and not said and not done that I wish were different. I'm not wallowing or imagining that I can do them different, I just need to remember them all - the good and the bad - blotted out by my saviours blood.

I'm so thankful for a great number of people God has put in my life who have shaped me in the last year through their love, their example, their teaching, friendship, writing or other unwitting input to my life. I'm very encouraged but there's plenty I'd do differently too. I'm thankful for my team for bearing with me for another year - that's some serious evidence of grace in them. I'm thankful for the spreading goodness of the Triune God on mission in the south west, and I'm thankful for the Triune God who has swept me up into his life.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Permission to fail

Mike Kendall reflects on Rob Green's blunder last weekend against the USA: Free to fail. I want to live in a culture where there is freedom to fail, because that's the only kind of place I'm going to be able to do anything - because I usually fail. Someone has said if a job is worth doing it's worth doing badly, not to be lazy but in recognition that we never do perfect stuff, we just kid ourselves that we do...

The gospel takes the pressure off, means I can admit I got things wrong, means I can grow and learn and do things differently. Sins instinct is to hide and be ashamed, the gospel means I can hold my hands up, show weakness and not be destroyed for it. It gives me the freedom to make a call, and then reflect afterwards that it might not have been the right call. It gives me the freedom to be.

The gospel stops me taking myself too seriously - I'm freed to take Jesus seriously and think less often about myself. I'm free to bear with other, to be kind to others. And the gospel helps others to bear with me, to spur me on. To be generous to me beyond reason. To pick me up when I drop the ball - to look me in the face and speak gospel truth to me in the moment of my humiliation. so I can carry on.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Everything points forward to Jesus

How does the LORD fight for his people in the book of Exodus - he contends with the tyranical serpent Pharaoh not just with plagues but with some significant hints about how he will ultimately act.

The plague of death to the livestock effects Egypt but not Israel:
“Let my people go, that they may serve me. For if you refuse to let them go and still hold them, behold, the hand of the Lord will fall with a very severe plague upon your livestock that are in the field, the horses, the donkeys, the camels, the herds, and the flocks. But the Lord will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt, so that nothing of all that belongs to the people of Israel shall die.”’ 9:1-4
The plague of oppressive felt darkness is darkness over Egypt but not over Israel - they remain in the light:
“Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness to be felt.” So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was pitch darkness in all the land of Egypt three days. They did not see one another, nor did anyone rise from his place for three days, but all the people of Israel had light where they lived. 10v21-23.
And, when the LORD passes through in wrath, those homes with blood on the doors are spared but not the Egyptians:
‘It is the sacrifice of the Lord's Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.’” 12:27
The people of God are spared, not because they don't deserve judgement but because in his jealous love the LORD holds back wrath from them. We ask how can this be? Like all good questions the answer is Jesus. The tension is unresolved until wrath falls upon the Son who takes their place, dying in the dark, struck down, his blood on the doors of his people.

He does not act in exactly the same way towards everyone, he is a lover - and while anyone can become part of his people, not everyone is his people. Those who remain hard-hearted to him are not saved. But his grace finds out some, not because his people are better than everyone else but because his love is better than everything.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Jealous God will 'fight for this love' for his firstborn son

"if what you’re designing is emotionally boring, then no one will care in a meaningful way. If they’re not engaged and feeling something—anything—then you haven’t done your job as a communicator." Alex Charchar: The Power of Emotion in Graphic Design

"...the favorite cure used on our unit: behavioral modification. For a biblical Christian it represents a crazy approach. It seeks to change people from the “outside-in” rather than from the “inside-out”. It dismisses the point that helped launch the Protestant Reformation... real change always starts with a heart change." Ron Frost

Granted there is some significant difference between the emotions and the heart - both Charchar and Frost see the importance of actually engaging people, going for the heart of a person - with an image, or with words. For the Christian to do this without manipulating requires being rigorously persuasive and deeply rooted in the word of God.

What's that got to do with the book of Exodus?

It has to do with who God is - the key subject of all Bible books. He is the God who (2v24-25) sees, hears, remembers and knows. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (3v6). Persistently relational - He is who He is (3v14). And then strikingly - 20v5: "I the Lord your God am a jealous God" and 34v16 "the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God". Jealousy is a function of his unmatched love (34v6) “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness".

In a lonely monadic deity jealousy sounds bad but when it extends out from the loving commuity of the Triune God it's beautiful. In Exodus we see the Triune God abounding in jealous love for his people, for his firstborn son who has been enslaved by the tyranical Pharaoh but whom the LORD wants for himself. The Father is passionate for his Son and passionate for the people to be adopted in him also. Moses says to the people (14v14): The Lord will fight for you. Battling on their behalf and for them. Through the shedding of blood, bringing them through the water and into the land, he will not stand by and tolerate others having his people. Nor will he tolerate their giving of themselves to idols, even at great cost to himself he will have his people, even to laying down the life of his own son.

What for us? The LORD fights for us - he wants us, he desires to have us. Yes we can say that of The Triune God. Why would we hold back from him? And as we minister the gospel to others: Are we ambivalent to the LORD, for his name, for his people? Is ours a take-it-or-leave-it gospel? Or do we too fight, persuasively, engagingly, passionately, to fight for love with love that the hearts of men and women would be won by the LORD who is jealous for them.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Of Midwives and Sons - The Exodus and A New Creation

Exodus begins with the arrival in Egypt of the sons of Israel, and then moves forward beyond Joseph's day. Joseph has died and "the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied" (1v7) - which is to say they're doing what they were comissioned to do. They still live in Egypt but they are fulfilling the call of God to be fruitful and multiply and increase.

The next section is curious. Joseph is forgotten and oppression comes, from a new unnamed king (1v15 - Shiphrah and Puah the midwives are named, but not the Pharaoh...). This Tyrant enslaves those who were once were blessed by an earlier king. What you do with the descendents of Abraham is what you get from God - bless and be blessed, curse and be cursed...(Genesis 12:1-3) nonethless he acts against them. The tension is set - chaos is mounting.

Women take centre stage next. 1v15-22 is all about midwives, repeatedly.  2v1-10 is all about daughters, repeatedly (a daughter of Levi and daughter of Pharaoh). Emphatically, any son we meet here is the seed of a woman. And we've long been looking for one of those - since Genesis 3:15.
"I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”
The tyrant-king is attempting to strike this son (who is saved through water - like the people he will lead) as we'd expect the serpent-seed to do....  in time these two will face off against one another - a seed of the woman with the power of the Triune God behind him... the Triune God who comes to liberate his firstborn son (4v22-23) so that he may serve him rather than be enslaved by the tyrant. The stage is set.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

"And the stars", or how the horizons of my ambitions changed

I used to think that God's glory was about being impressive. Genesis 1v16 says "and the stars" as what seems to be an after thought. I mean - wham bam. And there's nothing necessarily wrong with that.  In the last year the Triune God has been doing a work in me that I don't think is finished yet.  I'm now more inclined to think of God as the Triune God. God as personal and relational is key.

The gospel of Jesus Christ invites me to participate in their life, adopted as a son of the Father, with the church one flesh with the bridegroom the Son.With this, along with becoming a Dad, I see now the priority of relationships and community ahead of pretty much everything in life. And the key signifier in the Triune God is the Son whose life is one of love, love by dying. The greatest glory is humble service not shining showmanship.

Along with this move I've had my eyes open to look at the world differently -  know your creator more and you see creation more clearly - to see more like Jonathan Edwards' Images of Divine Things - and the stars help with that.
And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. 16 And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. 17 And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.
God makes lights in the sky to mark signs, seasons, days & years, to give light to the earth. This is a temporary measure because in the new creation the Son will take the role of light-giver. In the mean time the lights in the heavens point towards him.

The Sun and Moon are signs of changing seasons, marking the turning of one day to the next - the repetition of which will testify about futility - but for now they show the order of time. And the sun like a bridegroom moving through the sky, east to west, as the Son does to bring his people into the Triune community. And the moon also, reflecting the light of the sun, ruling the night - so even in the night the darkness doesn't triumph.The light rules, the light wins - Jesus does. The evening appears to speak of the victory of darkness, and echoes the death of Jesus, but the night is not totally dark - for the moon shines - and the stars. In the morning comes resurrection - the rising of the sun, the chasing away of all darkness, processing again through the sky. His victory through his loving death for me, his rising to catch me up into his love.

The gospel reveals the Triune God by showing us the Son. In light of this gospel I see the world differently, as it really is - echoing the gospel of the Son who came to die for us his people, proclaiming his glory - singing of his cruciform love. Seeing God and his creation certainly shows my smallness compared to God, but more than that - I'm shown the love of God, and a call to lay down my life in love, as my Lord has for me. A big ambition and calling but not one that can really make sense to the world.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

United Nations: Every man is not an island

A few weeks ago I heard Matt Chandler say that when you start saying "we" about sport instead of "they" you're getting into idolatry and folly. He has a point - sport is good but I don't play for the team...

Equally, it's interesting to watch the collective sense of identity that football gives a nation, especially when we're up against one of our former colonies. Most days we believe the Pelagian heresy that every man is an island, today we think of ourselves together in Rooney. 

England vs. USA cartoon explained

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Resurrection is Relevant

I never knew Nathan Fisher.

He was pastor of Devonport Baptist Church who died last month from cancer, aged 40. His funeral was today and several friends and colleagues will have been there.  But for his illness I imagine I might have come to know him - he was commended to me as someone who would be good partner and speaker for our work with students. Now he's with Jesus who was raised on the third day.

The resurrection really counts.

"Our Western society cannot bear to think about death. The only hope it can find is a form that hides away all forms and reminders of death. But true hope is not found in hiding from death, but in being able to come to terms with its reality. For Christians, death is not the end but a new beginning. It is the condition for resurrection. One Christian lady in her mid-fifties told me recently that she doesn't bother to dye her hair. She said he doesn't mind the process of ageing affecting her appearance. Her perspective has been shaped by resurrection hope. The best is not behind her; it is to come... Death is the transition to resurrection. We can therefore look it in the eye: it has lost its sting." (Sam Allberry, Lifted p100-101)

REVIEW: Lifted by Sam Allberry

I've had a copy of Lifted on my laptop for about six months waiting to be reviewed. So, big apologies to Sam Allberry that this is only happening now... 
Sam is an Anglican minister in Maidenhead, a West Wing obsessive and blogs at Shibboleth.

Lifted is one of two recent British books on the resurrection. Readers can hardly fail to have missed the blog noise for Adrian Warnock's Raised with Christ. Lifted is along the same theme but takes a different approach.

Adrian considers the historicity of the resurrection and its implications for an experiential Christianity. Allberry demonstrates the importance of the resurrection and its implications for our Christianity to give us assurance, transformation, hope and for our mission. I like both books.

It's a short book that's easy to read, peppered with engaging illustrations and clear interaction with scripture that reflects its origins as a sermon series.

Sam explores the strangeness in our world of our confession "on the third day he rose again". This sounds plausible on Sunday but less so on Monday, but should it be that way? As we're shown how it is our assurance and the basis of change in our lives we can see differently. The observation that the resurrection drove change in the early Christian community (p66) is particularly well put. "The fuel for their generosity was this message about the resurrection... I am united with the risen Christ and with all others who are raised with him... knitted to Christ... knitted to one another.. If we find it hard to give of ourselves and our resources, it's most likely because we've forgotten the life-changing message of the resurrection." Not just a new perspective but "resurrection lifestyle will need the presence of a resurrection Spirit" (p69). 

My only critiques of this book are: First, it has 140 pages but only four chapters - which means they are long chapters - I think it'd have benefited from being broken up a bit more. Second, that cover design is really not great. Very minor critiques.

Overall: Lifted is an excellent book on a key doctrine that I'd recommend widely. Have you read it - what do you think?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Don Carson - Exeter - October 4th

On October 4th the Peninsula Gospel Partnership are gathering for a day on gospel partnership and mission, with speakers John Gillespie and Don Carson. A great opportunity to enjoy the gospel, to build partnership and to consider our opportunities for mission.

Use Conference Flyer to book.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

REVIEW: Systematic Theology: The Triune God by Robert Jenson

This year I've really enjoyed reading Robert Jenson on The Song of Songs and On Thinking The Human. On holiday I read a third of his books, I'm really keen to read on to the next volume of this series of Systematic Theology but that might have to wait in an effort to keep reading diversely.

This is Jenson's Systematic Theology and the volume title "The Triune God" gives away where he's coming from. He's a Lutheran and Ecumenicalist and an Academic and you can tell. It's a make your head hurt and your heart sing kind of a book. I make no claim to have understood all of it, nor to agree with everything. We get references to "Second Isaiah" and "The author of 1 Peter" which might bug the evangelical but there's no harm in thoughtfully reading things like that.

Get past that and you get a Systematic Theology that is unlike many others. We have no list of divine attributes here. Instead we get a consideration of God that is Trinitarian, interacting with church history along the way, and with some complicated philosophical and theological thinking.

Throughout though we're invited to participate in the roomy fellowship of the Triune God.

This is the bookish more difficult form of Mike Reeves teaching on Trinity that makes you wonder if you worshipped the true God before (Reeves did his PhD under Colin Gunton who studied under Jenson, who studied under Barth). I found myself reading and re-reading paragraphs partly to get my head round them and partly in awe at how good the gospel really is. The God Jenson portrays, from the Scriptures, is deeply personal and relational and inviting.

"When the gospel of Christ's resurrection is spoken by and heard in the church, it is the very word of the Father to the Son that we hear. When the church prays to the Father in the Son's name, she is taken into the obedient response of the Son to what the Father tells him. As the church speaks and hears the gospel and as the church responds in prayer and confession, the church's life is a great conversation, and this conversation is none other than our participation in the converse of the Father and the Son in the Spirit...." p228.

He later concludes, God is a fugue. Ponder that in your theology of music.

It'll set you back the best part of £20, and that's just volume 1 for 256 pages. The second on the works of God is the same price for 392 pages, which initially makes it all feel very expensive. But, gold isn't cheap and I intend to invest in the next one when I can afford it. Catch something similarly Trinitarian from Ron Frost

Love your speaker

Christian Unions are served wonderfully by men and women who come and open up the Bible and preach Christ at their community gatherings and their evangelistic events.
If you're a CU how can you love your speaker?
How to love your speaker

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

REVIEW: Solar by Ian McEwan

In general I really like Ian McEwan's books. I've not read all twelve of them, and they might not end up being the classics of our era but he has a way with words and stories that draws me in. The opening chapters of Enduring Love are how to paint vividly with words, and the intimacy and internal turmoil of On Chesil Beach captivated me.

Solar is the story of Nobel Laureate, Michael Beard. Once a hero and now repeatedly married, overweight, balding and never having quite got to where he might have been.

McEwan's brilliance is in creating characters who are frustrated and flawed. People who could have been heroes but really aren't, and then telling us of how their lives fall apart. When you read Atonement you watch the characters trying to sort their lives out but it all frays apart and the justice you're crying out for never comes. Beard's life is one great disappointment. A Nii Lamptey of the science world, the next big star who never fulfilled his potential.

Solar tells the story of how his life of mediocrity reaches new levels as his personal and private lives collide, set against a backdrop of climate change science in the Noughties, in three parts set in 2000, 2005 and 2009. McEwan kept me reading, kept me hoping and provides the right kind of ending.

McEwan knows how to write in an Ecclesiastes world instead of in Hollywood, a world where happy endings are uncommon rather than normal, where the main character might not be a hero, a man whose best days aren't ahead but long behind him, where personality flaws and circumstances conspire against us rather than giving us everything on a plate, a world where change might really be possible but where no one really has the will or the power to do anything.

Solar is not a particularly cheery beach read, but it's a story for our times.
Have you read it? What do you think of Solar or Ian McEwan's books?

Discussion Guide for Solar at Readers Place
Study Guide at

Monday, June 07, 2010

Top 10 Conversational Mistakes

Top 10 conversational blunders. I do these all too often... ought to be the most obvious thing but so easily exposes quite how self-obsessed I really am rather than being a lover of God and of people. But then love is about dying...

ht: Phil

Exodus 24 - Wedding Vows and the Wedding Feast?

Exodus 24 is a funny chapter - it's a transition between the first giving of the law and the giving of the stone tablets and the tabernacle instructions (19-23, 25-31). In between which we get the response of the people to the law, and a response of the leaders to an invitation made to them. Next month I'll have about 20 minutes to preach on this chapter which is brilliant but not going to be easy!

The last words given to the saved-out-of-Egypt people are:
Exodus 24v1-2: Then he said to Moses, “Come up to the Lord, you and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and worship from afar. Moses alone shall come near to the Lord, but the others shall not come near, and the people shall not come up with him.”
The conclusion of the word of God is an invitation. How very gospel.

Moses returns to the people with all the words the LORD has spoken and the people respond in faith - to which Moses answers with lots of blood - blood on the altar, blood on the people. Faith and blood, not human effort. A covenant established with vows and with blood - this is like a wedding ceremony.

Then the elders gather to respond to the final word of this phase of the law. What follows us stunning:
Exodus 24:9-11 Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank.
The elders go up and "they saw the God of Israel" - and are not destroyed. They "beheld God" and more that that they "ate and drank". These elders meet God, live and feast with him. How can this be?! Jacky Lam writes:
Remember John 1:18 – no one has revealed the Unseen God except for the seen God Christ himself. They saw the sapphire stone, the throne in heaven! (Ezekiel 1:26, 10:1). They ate and drank before JESUS! This is truly prophetic of what we will be doing with God in New Jerusalem, that we will be eating and drinking with Him at the wedding feast (Matthew 22). And what a fitting time it is to establish this wedding feast, when the wedding vow was entered between God and the Israelites (when Moses read the Covenant out to the Israelites, whereupon they responded in Exodus 24:3) – and after the wedding vow of course comes the wedding feast on the holy hill.
This makes sense to me - this must be a meeting with the Son who makes God known, the one on the sapphire throne (Ezk 1:26, 10:1) which is stunning.  And it's set in the context of a covenant and a feast - which can't help but make us think in wedding terms. This is not the way I tend to think about what happens when the law is given - The law led them to Christ (Gal 3:24)!

Matthew Henry:
"Thus the believer sees in the face of Jesus Christ, far clearer discoveries of the glorious justice and holiness of God, than ever he saw under terrifying convictions; and through the Saviour, holds communion with a holy God."
After the feast, Moses returns to the LORD. He goes to the mountain where "the glory of the LORD dwells" and where the appearance of the glory of the LORD is like consuming fire. Six days there and then on the seventh day God speaks. Moses will be from chapter 25-31 receiving stone tablets recording the words he's heard already, and instruction about the tabernacle, seeing the heavenly tabernacle and being told to build a model exactly fitting what he sees - a model of the meeting place not just for Moses and the elders, but for all the people to come by faith via the priests... and then finally through the greater priest who will enter the heavenly sanctuary (Hebrews 8:1-6).

"They saw God and ate and drank"