Monday, December 10, 2012

Thursday, December 06, 2012

#8 The Son is good news (Luke 24)

The King has died. Luke shows us what happens next. Jesus predicted his death and his resurrection and here will show us how necessary that was. Then Jesus will depart – so what will happen to his kingdom until the King comes back? How will the Kingdom grow. Luke gathers up the evidence of Jesus’ resurrection appearances to show us.

Luke began by telling us he would record what had been fulfilled. Jesus tells his friends on the road that the Old Testament said that he had to suffer and then enter his glory (26), and that he had to suffer and rise on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins would be preached in his name to all nations starting at Jerusalem. This is the message of the Old Testament. There are things fulfilled.. There are necessary events in history. This is not meaningless. The good news of Jesus is the plan and the story.

If we miss this we’ve missed the message. Which is exactly what Jesus’ friends seem to have done, until he caused their eyes to be opened to recognise him (31), their “hearts burning within” them “while he talked with” them… and opened the Scriptures do them, and “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures” (45).

They weren’t stupid. They knew that crucifixion was for killing people. They knew that dead people stayed dead. There wasn’t a first century naivety about them. Something world shaking would have to happen to overturn the normal course of events. And it did. Before long these friends of Jesus would be charged with turning the world upside down (Acts 17v6).

Jesus departs blessing them. A summary of everything he has been doing, bringing life to them from his Father freely.

Jesus was prophesied in Luke 1, by Zechariah, as the one who would bring the rising of the sun for those in darkness. Now, the sunrise of the gospel has to come to us in the preaching of the gospel – even to us here, and it will continue beyond us and with us to the ends of the earth. They’re told to wait but that waiting is now over, the gospel has begun its journey from Jerusalem to all nations, and has even reached us.

The Spirit has been poured out to all who ask the Father (11v13). Luke and Acts draw on the imagery of Psalm 133, the anointing oil of the Spirit poured out on the head of the High Priest drips down his beard onto his body. Jesus carries us into the presence of his Father, our names on his heart, and the Spirit sends us out to preach forgiveness of sins.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

#7 The Son dies (Luke 23:25-49)

The whole story of Jesus has been about the coming of the perfect son who would bring forgiveness to his new human race, but how can he bring forgiveness to people who are deserving of death? Here at last as we see Luke’s account of the cross we’ll find our answers.

Jesus’ death is the focus of all four gospel accounts. Jesus has been walking towards his death since Luke 9 when he set his face to Jerusalem. And the Old Testament has spoken that this must happen. Luke tells the account of the cross broadly in the same way as the other two Synoptic Gospels, Matthew and Mark do. But there are differences which highlight particularly what he wants to emphasise about Jesus. These three gospels are called The Synoptics and have strong similarities – whereas John’s account is substantially different. All the events recorded at the cross happened, but each writer selects their material to show us a particular aspects of what the cross means.

"Why did Jesus die?" is one of the most important questions to be able to answer. Mark, Paul, Matthew, John, Peter, Moses, Isaiah would all give us different (though complementary) answers... how would Luke particularly answer? Much common ground but what would he specifically draw our attention to?

Comparing what's common to Mark, Luke and Matthew, what's distinctive to Mark and Matthew, and what's unique to Luke reveals he reports:

 The Weeping Women (27-31)
 The Two Criminals (32-33, 39-43)
 Reference to His Father (34, 46) (contrast Jesus’ prayers in Mk & Mt)

We see of the response of the weeping women. Jesus has time for outsiders like this but his focus is to warn them. He warns them because if such things as his death can happen in days of green trees  they should weep for what’ll happen in the days of dry trees. This might be reference to final judgement or to the destruction of Jerusalem, or the persecutions of the church. Jesus is warning that people are walking in the shadow of death and only the rising sun of Jesus’ gospel can bring any hope. Jesus is warning - look at what happens to the innocent son of God... how much worse for the rest of us when judgement comes. Hide in the son!

Luke uniquely includes the story of the two criminals crucified with Jesus. Here are two men dying who deserve to – unlike Jesus the Son. One of them sees that unlike Jesus he deserves to die and so asks for mercy. Jesus promises him, “Today you will be with me.” Jesus’ mission has always been about bringing those who will receive mercy to be with him. The story highlights that Jesus the innocent dies in the place of the guilty, and this is what secures our forgiveness. Come be with Jesus, the crucified one invites us.

Mark and Matthew tell us of Jesus’ cry of dereliction, citing Psalm 22, that he is forsaken by his God. Luke instead tells us that he twice prayed to his Father. Where Mark tells us of a loud final cry, and Matthew of a loud final voice... Luke says Jesus prayed Father. The accounts agree, it's just that Luke reports the words not just the sound. The emphases here are on Jesus asking his Father to forgive and Jesus’ willingness to die, as he entrusts his spirit to his Father.
Father prayers are typically Lukan...
Luke is all about the Father and his Son. Jesus the son in his Father's house. Jesus the son who reveals his Father, and delights to speak with him, who loves to introduce his friends to his Father and their Father... who cried out to his Father in pain in Gethsemane, now prays to his Father for our forgiveness, always entrusting himself to his Father.

The cross in Luke is about innocent Jesus receiving the death we deserve, a warning of worse days to come, and shows us that this is the united purpose of the Father and the Son, to forgive us and bring us to know them.

In 23v45, Luke tells us not just that things go dark but that "the sun stopped shining". In 1v77-78 the Spirit speaks through Zechariah (and Luke's reporting) to tell that the coming of Jesus is like the sun rising bringing forgiveness. Now the sun stops shining. But when it rises on Sunday morning it'll be to spread its warming beams of mercy across the earth, as the good news of forgiveness is preached in the power of the Holy Spirit to all peoples. Feel the sunshine of the gospel...

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

#6 It's all about the Son (Luke 20:9-18)

Jesus is in Jerusalem, the authorities are biding their time to arrest and kill him. Luke has shown us that Jesus really is the perfect son – a second Adam to rule the world justly. How we respond to Jesus is the vital question.


People are questioning Jesus. It’s not pretty because the questions aren’t particularly genuine. Jesus challenges their questions with questions, not accepting their assumptions and directing them towards more important questions. Listen to Michael Ramsden’s talk on Asking good questions from for more on the way Jesus handles these situations.

In the middle of it he tells a parable which goes a long way to explaining the conversations. The story is simple enough. The beloved son of The Owner is sent to the vineyard, and they kill him, seeking his inheritance. He’s the heir of all things. If they will oppose him he’ll give the inheritance to others. Explaining his parable Jesus cites Psalm 118:22. The Peter and John will do the same in Acts 4:11 when they’re on trial, and Peter again in 1 Peter 2:6-7. As Paul says in Ephesians 2:20, Christ Jesus himself is the cornerstone.

You can build for eternity on Jesus, but some will stumble over Jesus and be crushed by him. What people do with Jesus is a moral issue of where people stand in relation to his authority as the king and heir. Here’s is the Father’s message to his world, “it’s all about what you do with my beloved son.” He is the cornerstone – everything stand on him. It’s not about tickets to heaven. As Jesus has told us previously, only the Son knows the Father, so if you don’t know the Son you won’t know the Father.

The eternal life Jesus offers is about relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And because everything comes through knowing Jesus the Father sent Jesus into world. This is illustrated well by Robert Strand’s story ‘The Final Bid’ which Student Alpha have animated as ‘The Beloved Son’.

The kingdom of God is available to all who don’t trip over Jesus but trust him. We don’t win people with philosophy or moral or ethical agendas. The issue is Jesus.

Any offence we cause should be because of him and not because we’ve said or done stupid things about other things, nor because we’ve failed to present Jesus well. The beauty of opening up Luke’s gospel with someone is that we’re inviting them to see for themselves who he is.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Becky Pippert in Exeter (Sat 1st Dec)

It's not too late to book for our day with Becky Pippert in Exeter on Saturday 1st December. The day conference runs from 9am-5pm at Belmont Chapel, Exeter. A day of world-class training from the author of Out of the Saltshaker and into the World for just £15 (including lunch).

Open to all - students, non-students, Christians, non-Christians. This is a Residential Weekend for Falmouth CU, Plymouth CU, and Marjons CU. It is also a One Day Conference for Exeter CU and Bristol CU and the wider church.

Book online via the UCCF website

Monday, November 26, 2012

Guilt-free Bible Reading

I've got a new post today at Theology Matters:
Why are we scared of the very book that defines everything we believe? Why is the Old Testament a closed book to so many of us? Why is the 'what about the God of the Old Testament?' question the one we hope we won’t get asked? It just might be that we don’t read it. Ron Frost, in his book Discover the Power of the Bible suggests a highly innovative solution! Read it. Just read it....   
Continue reading this post on the Theology Matters blog

#5 The Son will be King (Luke 19:1-44)

The journey to Jerusalem reaches its completion. Jesus has shown those walking with him that those with nothing to bring are able to receive his kingdom life, whereas those who are strong tend to stumble.

This is a longish passage. The focus is on Jesus as King. He passes through Jericho and encounters Zaccheus. The tax collector is seeking to see Jesus but we’re told that Jesus is seeking (and saving) the lost. Because he’s near Jerusalem the crowds are expecting the coming of the Kingdom of God. Jesus’ message is about the kingdom of God (1:33, 4:43, 8:1, 9:2, 9:11, 9:27, 9:60, 10:9, 10:11) and they’re expecting a coronation in Jerusalem.

Jesus tells a parable about a King who is about to begin ruling over a country. His future subjects hate him. They don’t want him to be their king (14). This is reflected in the way they respond to him – particularly the third servant who feared him, assuming that Jesus would be against him. And it seems he is against those who won’t receive him.

Luke prepares us for Jesus arrival in Jerusalem with these first two pieces in the jigsaw puzzle. He arrives to the applause of the crowds, praising him as King (38), though the Pharisees ask Jesus to rebuke the crowds for this but Jesus receives their adoration. Do the people really want him as King? How will they respond to his coming crucifixion? It’s often said that these crowds are the same crowds who cry for Jesus to be crucified – we don’t know that’s the case but whatever their motives are, the King has arrived.

And this king is a king who weeps over the city. He has come for the lost and they can’t see him. He sheds his tears for them, and will soon shed his blood for them, as John Howe wrote in his book The Redeemer’s Tears. This king hasn’t come to oppress his people, but to give himself up for them. An utter subversion of kingship and authority.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Video: The Anti-Santy Rant

Anti-Santy Ranty from on Vimeo.

#4 The royal son's feast (Luke 14:1-24)

Jesus’ journey to the cross continues as he illustrates through events and teachings what it means to be part of his kingdom, to enter into renewed relationship with his Father.

Luke shows Jesus coming eating and drinking with people (7v34). Meals are at the heart of his ministry. Meals are a place of friendship, of deeper relationship. If you’re struggling to talk to people about Jesus, or about anything that’s not trivia, trying eating with people. Get hold of Tim Chester’s A Meal with Jesus to explore this further.

Jesus takes the opportunity of a meal to talk about a greater meal, the banquet in the Kingdom of God. His teaching uses the way people respond to invitations and the way they take their seats as a way to expose their hearts towards him. Jesus often eats with tax collectors and sinners, but here he’s at the house of a leading Pharisee (14:1), and they’re watching him.

The King challenges those at this meal about the way they withhold good from people. They’re left speechless by his challenges to them. They have no defence, he’s right. Observing the guests he challenges their pride as they take the best seats at the take, the point isn’t which seat they’re in but what that shows about their hearts.

Ezekiel 21:26 says “Exalt that which is low, and bring low that which is exalted” a saying that is commonly cited in the New Testament. Proverbs 25:6,7 sets Jesus’ parable in the royal court, “Do not put yourself forward in the king's presence or stand in the place of the great, for it is better to be told, “Come up here,” than to be put lower in the presence of a noble.”

This isn’t just about generally being humble, but teaching what it means to have been invited by Jesus to his wedding feast. Come, in humility not in pursuit of greatness. Simply receive.

Next Jesus speaks to the host. The temptation is to invite those who can pay you back with an invitation.Jesus exposes my heart – the way that I act to glorify and advance myself ahead of others, this is an obstacle to me having life in the kingdom of God. Instead of doing this, the host should invite those who have no hope of ever inviting the host back for a meal. Why does Jesus say this? He is showing the host what the Kingdom of God is like. In the Kingdom, Jesus the Son invites people who are helpless, who could never repay. Rather he invites them because he is full of grace. So even something as small as an invitation to a meal demonstrates the key to the kingdom.

You can tell kingdom people, they give hospitaility without any hope of receiving anything in return because this is how God has treated them in Jesus.

And God will even reward this kingdom generosity at the resurrection. One of the guests sees how amazing it will be to eat at the kingdom feast (15). Jesus teaches another parable as a warning to those at this meal.

There are those who are invited to the kingdom who pass up the opportunity for all kind of reasons.

They presume to have better things to do than to feast in the kingdom with the King. His offer is somehow beneath them. They don’t need it, they have better things to do.

The host is furious at this (21) and calls for wider invitations to be issues to those who are poor, crippled, blind and lame. And then further invitations so that the house will be filled but those who were first invited fail to taste the banquet.

Our lives will reveal our hearts. Do we have the kingdom priorities of Jesus.

Sinfully we don’t think it’s good to help people, we pursue personal gain and push ourselves ahead of others, and we presume to know better than Jesus. As Jesus teaches about his kingdom his gospel is an invitation to be helped, to take the lowest seat and to trust Jesus’ invitation and so to taste his feast.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Trinity's song rings out

It's the anniversary of the deaths of CS Lewis, Aldous Huxley and JFK.  Lewis who wrote that Aslan sang creation into being... so very appropriate for the day of his death. It's St. Cecilia's day.

John Dryden wrote an Ode for that day, and the Lutheran Handel added the music: In the beginning. Love. Diversity. Harmony. Music to dance to.

 From harmony, from heavenly harmony, 
This universal frame began. 
Through all the compass of the notes it ran, 
The diapason closing full in man. 

Listen to more with Mike Reeves - Enjoying Trinity 2: The Spreading Love

And then Mike Reeves - Theology in Music

Weak is good, right?

The last six weeks has been a fresh journey in discovering my weakness (which I use as a catch all for everything from physical limitations to sin). Many voices have spoken into this ongoing journey - which isn't done yet by many miles.

A phrase I read several months ago has rung in my ears Manure grows extraordinary, tangible fruit. 

And then I read Francis Spufford's sweary book Unapologetic, which seems flawed in many ways but is so helpful against triteness. Railing against the atheist bus's callous "So enjoy yourself" he says we need better than that.

Enjoyment, he says, is great but it's not everything.
Enjoyment is great when you're young, fit and wealthy - but doesn't carry much weight when things go wrong.

Today, my in-laws are both in hospital. A 33 year old pastor who I met once died suddenly - which is clearly more of a struggle for those who knew him better but I'm 33 and its jarring when someone your own age dies. We spent a weekend with a couple whose first partners had both died. One of my closest friends is ill with a condition that they can't quite figure out. I'm well, but I'm acutely aware of chaos around me.

Spufford suggests: "Everything you fear is true. And yet." And yet.
Christ doesn't make everything go away, but I can acknowledge the rubbish and say "And yet."

Spufford's book is subtitled "Why, despite everything Christianity can still make surprising emotional sense."
I'm also reading Pete Scazzero's The Emotionally Healthy Church.
And I can see Graham Beynon's book Emotions from where I'm sitting, and a set of essays from Harvard calling for leaders to have strong Emotional Intelligence.
Scazzero calls for us to accept vulnerability.
A month before I even heard of Scazzero I heard Paul Tripp say: "I'm a man in the middle of my own sanctification." I think I used to like to think I was somewhere past the middle. We're all unfinished, and this is good.

Scazzero's book left the friend who recommended it to me weeping. It hasn't quite done that for me, but I think that might be because it's arrived a month into my current wrestling with my weakness and incompleteness and limitations rather than being the first voice. Nonetheless a helpful friend to guide my steps.

Not to introspection - far from it - seeing my weaknesses and sin I'm freshly aware that looking at me will do me no good whatsoever. If it depends on me then its game over.
And yet. Christ. 

Beginning, again, to see my own weakness liberates me. I've been here before. And again. I am (I so wanted to write I've been...) quick to assess others. I am quick to think my self to be in the right. Read, self-righteous. But if I'm just  on my way why should I expect others to be the finished article? And if collectively, together, we're all unfinished people we might help one another...  and weak people adorn the good news of Jesus because he's the kind of hero that weak people need. Not an intimidating hero to inspire me, but one who came into the world and died for me, and walks with me.

I've answered the question "Isn't Christianity a crutch for the weak" by showing that Christianity is strong. Today, at least, I'm glad that Christ is for the weak.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

#3 The Son and his Father (Luke 10:20-11:13)

We’ve seen Jesus announced as God’s bringer of forgiveness, and seen that he is God’s son – head of a new humanity to bring life to the world. He goes on to do just that.

Jesus says to tell John (Luke 7:22-23):
“Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.” 
Jesus then begins to talk about his necessary death and in 9v51 sets his face to Jerusalem. Everything between the end of chapter 9 and the middle of chapter 19 happens on the road to his death, before he arrives at Jerusalem.

As Jesus begins his journey to his death we begin to see what life will look like in his new human race. He is the perfect son, unlike Adam and Israel. What will it mean to be part of his new people? This passage will show us that if we receive mercy from Jesus, by receiving his good news about his Father, we will come to share in his relationship with his Father. In other words, humanity will be restored to the life we were always meant to enjoy.

In this passage we have famous material.
The story of the good Samaritan.
The Lord’s prayer.
Someone who has never read the Bible will probably be familiar with this evidence that Luke records.
What do they mean, and why does Luke put them here?

We begin with Jesus praying. See his intimate relationship with his Father – mutual enjoyment in the Holy Spirit. Kings and prophets longed to be inside that relationship but failed, but Jesus makes himself known to little children who bring no works and no wisdom to Jesus.

The next two passages illustrate this. First, The Good Samaritan. An expert in the law comes to catch Jesus out. He asks the best question but Luke shows us his wrong motives. Jesus exposes that he thinks he can do it, but then the expert pushes further, and the parable exposes that real righteousness is far more shocking than he imagined.

The story of a man beaten up is scandalous. Help should surely come from the religious elite and his Jewish countrymen, but it’s left to a Samaritan, hated by the Jews, to help him. Who is my neighbour says the man? Your neighbour, whom you should love, is the shocking Samaritan who shows mercy to the man. Love your neighbour a neighbour like that! Jesus is pushing him to see that he’s not in a position of strength, he’s like the man beaten up on the roadside – he needs help. And Jesus is offering to help him.

If he’ll receive mercy from Jesus then he’ll be free and able to show mercy to others.
“Eternal life is inherited. It is graciously given as a function of being adopted into the God-family. This suggests that the good Samaritan is Jesus himself. He comes to us when we are lost and hopeless. He binds up our wounds and pays the tab. Jesus reverses the question: it is not ‘Who is my neighbour?’ but ‘Who has been neighbour to me?’ And, reading it in the context of Luke 9-10 and the movement to the cross, the answer is Jesus.” Don Carson
"Jesus is the Great Samaritan to whom the Good Samaritan points. Before you can give this neighbour-love, you need to receive it. Only if you see that you have been saved graciously boy someone who owes you the opposite will you go out into the world looking to help absolutely anyone in need." (Tim Keller, Generous Justice p 77)
It’s absolutely fine to apply this story to say we should be merciful to those in need, but Jesus isn't telling the man if he can show mercy he’ll get eternal life, he’s using a story about the scandal of receiving mercy to help him see his own need of a Saviour. The one he’s trying to catch out is the one he needs help from. If he receives that help he’ll find boundless freedom to help others.

The message is much the same at the house of Mary and Martha – one busy sister, and one sister who is listening as Jesus teaches about his Father and his kingdom. One thing is necessary, receive Jesus’ gospel word.

If we let Jesus serve us and receive his mercy, what does it look like? What difference does it make? Wonderfully since His kingdom is all about forgivenss of sins, it looks like sharing his relationship with his Father. His mercy means that the relationship we should enjoy with God as Father can be restored through his mercy.

Jesus’ friends ask to be taught to pray. Jesus says, you can pray “Father”. Jesus’ friends can pray like Jesus prays, they can ask of Jesus’ Father. They can enter his relationship with his Father and has for his kingdom, ruled by King Jesus, to come.

What does life in the kingdom look like? They can ask for God’s help with small things, every day provision, God’s help in relationships in which there is sin, and need for forgiveness – forgiveness that is only possible because King Jesus dies for us.

Jesus’ Father cares about these things. He is a generous Father who will give freely if we’ll have the “shameless audacity” to ask. And not only will he give good gifts, but the Holy Spirit too. Then, when we pray – we’ll pray Father, in the joy of the Spirit, just like Jesus.

Jesus says our names are written in heaven (10v20) this picks up on the idea of Jesus as our high priest. In the Old Testament the high priest would have the names of the people on his heart (Exodus 28v29) and so carry them into the presence of God. The same now happens for us as Jesus invites us into the relationship he has with his Father.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Smug marrieds and true beauty

We've just had a marriage enrichment weekend with our church. It was brilliant in so many ways. Life should not all be marriage weekend's but it was a brief moment of grace that was much needed.

Along the way we came across this quote, from a well known American pastor:
"One of our culture's powerful lies - fuelled by pornography, sinful lust, and marketing - is that having a standard of beauty is in any way holy or helpful. God does not give us a standard of beauty - God gives us spouses. Unlike other standards of beauty, a spouse changes over time. This means if your spouse is tall, you are into tall. If your spouse is skinny, you are into skinny. If your spouse is twenty, you are into twenty. When your spouse is sixty, you are no longer into twenty, but rather into sixty. And if your spouse used to be skinny, you were into skinny, but now you are into formerly skinny. We are to pour all our passion and pursuit of sexual pleasure into our spouses alone, without comparing them to anyone else in a lustful way."
How counter-culturally liberating.
I'm into my wife, as she is. Yes!
When we got married I was into 23 year old.
Now I'm into 33 year old, mother-of-two.
And so on.
No comparisons.
My beloved is mine and I am hers.

Human marriages are echoes of a greater reality - that Jesus is our divine husband who gave himself for his people. That God's relationship with humanity is that of a marital union between Jesus and the church (and adoption by his Father).  So, actually, gospel ministry is marriage preparation and marriage enrichment... Calling us to Christ and to enjoy him. Married or single, everyone is invited to become part of Christ's bride.

I've been reading Psalm 45:1, a Psalm of Christ that declares him to be the most handsome of all people... to be Most Beautiful, to be Beautiful, beautiful. 
My beloved is mine and I am his.

There's nothing in Christ's appearance to attract us to him.
Most people miss his beauty.
Yet by the light of the Spirit, a Christian cries: 'Beautiful, beautiful.'

We're drawn by his heart.
We're drawn by his love.
We're drawn by his crucifixion.
I'm into crucified.

And He is into church. Gandhi might've said I like your Christ but I don't like your Christians. Christ himself would differ strongly - there might be little attractive about the church but Christ clothes her with many-coloured robes, she is beautiful to him. Christ is into church.

Christian, you're into crushed and crucified, because death in him is life in us. Humbled. Thankful. Never with cause for smugness just a sense of overwhelmedness at his love and his beauty.
"Fullness of divine in Thee I see, Beautiful Man of calvary"
"He fought at Golgotha and secured his bride's person... he'll fight at Megiddo to secure her property.... and in between he woos and wins his bride"

Monday, November 19, 2012

#2 The Son is here (Luke 3:21-4:22)

In our first discussion we saw how God will bring forgiveness of sins through one who is born in Bethlehem (chapter 2), who grows up to be pointed to by Zechariah’s son John the Baptist. We rejoin the action at Jesus’ baptism by John.

The theme running through this passage is the question of Jesus identity. Luke records evidence that identifies Jesus as the Son of God. Luke cites the evidence of the Father’s testimony at Jesus’ baptism which echoes what’s said in Psalm 2:7 and Isaiah 42:1-2 expressing the Father’s delight in his Son. Bert de Clos rejoiced over his son Chad when he beat Michael Phelps in the Olympic swimming (video: Youtube saying: ““Unbelievable! Unbelievable! Unbelievable! Look at him, he’s beautiful, I love you!”

Jesus is being identified - and its happening at baptism. Everyone is trying to get clean and he comes to be numbered with the transgressors. His baptism tells us that he will die and rise in our place - inviting us to trust him as he takes our place.

So too the Father sings over his son Jesus. The genealogy links Jesus as a Son to the story of Israel and to Adam the Son of God. Adam (with Eve, in Gen 3:1-6) was tested and failed. Israel were God’s son (Ex 4:22-23) were carried by God but didn’t trust him (Deut 1:30-33). Israel was tested for 40 years, and now Jesus is tested for 40 days – and the issue is “if you’re the Son of God.” For more on Jesus’ temptation read this paper by David Gibson Three sons and the devil

Jesus can be our example in the face of temptation but before that there is good news that he has passed the test we fail. Unlike Adam, unlike Israel he is the righteous Son.Jesus is the beginning of a new humanity – no longer doomed to sin and failure. Everything that was lost in Adam can be regained in Christ. In the Olympics we felt that we won, even though we didn’t compete. Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis weren’t just examples to us they were our champions. They won the race that we didn’t even attempt to qualify for. So too, Jesus is our champion, our “head”.

For a moment we felt ourselves joined to our champions in Sport, crying out “We are Mo”. He was one of us and our champion. Similarly, our cry in life is either going to be “We are Adam” – fallen, failed, unforgiven… or as we respond to the gospel: “We are Christ” – raised up, alive, forgiven. One of these sons of God will be our champion, but which one? As those who live in him, we can trust the word to help us repent and believe in the Son again. At Nazareth Jesus says he fulfils what Isaiah prophesies. He’s the Spirit-anointed Son who has come to bring good news to the world. We call Jesus the Christ which is the Greek word for Anointed one. A title used of Kings.

This king will care for his people. He’ll bring forgiveness for the last and the least, the lost and the little, while the good and the great are going to struggle to believe in him, grumbling and trying to catch him out. Jesus is the starting point with God, he’s the evidence, and when we see him we see one whose Father loves him, wouldn’t it be great if we could know Jesus’ Father in the same way? Luke shows us that when God shows up, he does so in person. Jesus is the Son who fulfils all that was expected from the Old Testament. Will people trust him? Or will he be dismissed as Joseph’s son?

Friday, November 16, 2012

#1 The Son will Bring Forgiveness (Luke 1:57-80)

Luke’s account begins by telling us that he’s presenting the evidence of what has happened and been fulfilled from the Old Testament. His thorough research has yielded this evidence which he shares with us in his gospel. The opening chapters concern the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus, and through encounters with Angels and prophetic songs display the immense significance of what might otherwise look like very ordinary events in the history of the human race.

This is Luke’s emphasis. Jesus is the Son sent from his Father. One who in childhood was left behind, “in my Father’s house” (2v49). He came to invite us into his family. Jesus prays “Father” (10v21, 22v42, 24v34, 24v46) and invites us to do the same (11v2). Through his death He brings forgiveness of sins and so we’re invited to step inside his relationship with his Father.


Like his Son (1:15) and Mary (1:35) and his wife Elizabeth (1:41) Zechariah emerges from nine months of silence and is filled with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit causes him to burst out with a prophetic song about the Lord’s plan of salvation. His son John will play a key role but the song looks beyond John to Jesus the Lord. The prophecy is barely about Zechariah’s own son John, because John is all about preparing for the Lord. The language feels like a military victory. There is a great foe to be defeated and the Lord is going to do it. We’ll see if that’s how things turn out.

Luke helps us to see everything that is happening is the fulfilment of the Old Testament. The coming of Jesus is a new event but not a new idea. It’s what should have been expected, and it’s what David and Abraham saw before. The life-giving rule of God is coming forever, and its coming to all the nations of the world. Salvation will come in the forgiveness of sins. This will be a major theme of John’s ministry in preparation for the Lord coming, and of Jesus’ as he offers forgiveness as the primary need for humanity.

We’re left asking, how is forgiveness possible. After Jesus dies and rises forgiveness will be preached across the whole world. As the preacher to the Hebrews says later, forgiveness of sins comes through the shedding of blood.

Humanity walks in the valley of the shadow of death, but the sun will rise as the Lord comes full of mercy and offering forgiveness. After the resurrection of Jesus the sun’s beams will begin to extend across the whole earth. Jesus will walk through the valley (Psalm 23v4) and the sun will rise (2 Samuel 23v4).

David Gooding helpfully calls chapter 1 “the last hours before dawn”, and then in chapters 2 comes the rising of the sun as Jesus is born. He will go on to walk in the darkness we know, even to face the temptations we face, even to face death… but that death will bring the sunrise, the warmth of a new dawn and a new day in which forgiveness can be preached to the ends of the earth. We’ll see what this looks like as we move forward into the next discussion…

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Hark! How the heavenly anthem drowns all music but its own!


It's noisy.

The world fills us up with its messages. The advertising industry knows that it has to speak in the language of desire, it has to win our hearts, and it throws millions and millions of pounds at doing just that. Our sinful flesh, dead and yet still being carried around by us fights with the desires of the Holy Spirit and our new heart... and the accuser whispers in our ears. All of them seeking to seduce us away from our betrothal to Jesus and into spiritual adultery.

Offering us happiness better than we have.
Offering us a warmth we can't find where we are.

It happened in Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-29)
It happened in Corinth (2 Cor 11:1-4)
It happened to Israel (Exodus 34)
It happened in Eden (Genesis 3)

Sin isn't petty rule breaking. Sin is relational betrayal.

And just restraining ourselves doesn't work any more than the ropes and ear wax strategy employed by Odysseus to stave off the alluring Sirens on his journey home from the battle of Troy. He restrained his crew with ropes and wax, and himself with ropes. Technically he got through alive, but his heart was lost.

Jesus speaks.

Jesus sings.

Jesus outbids the other lovers. He bids until "all else is outbidden!" (Jeremiah Burroughs on Hosea).

Which is good because we keep finding ourselves "here by choice, by a long series of choices for things which, at any one moment, temporarily outbid the things [we] say we wanted most" (Francis Spufford). It's said "You can't always get what you want..." yet we do always get what we've wanted moment by moment. We follow our desires but there is one who desires us. Jesus is jealous for us. With a pure jealousy.
The divine jealousy of he whose Name is Jealous.

The story is told in Hosea 2:14, in Exodus 34, and in page after pages of the Bible. From beginning to end our Beloved seeks to rekindle the romance and bring us home to himself.

Jason defeated the Sirens not with weapons of war but with a musician. He knew what Matthew Bridges knew when he wrote: Hark! How the heavenly anthem drowns all music but its own. Drown out the noise with the alluring song of Jesus.

Jesus sings love that many waters cannot quench.
Jesus sings love that burns with passion for us.
Love burns for us, or it burns against us, and the cross is the loudest of all songs.
Love burns to the death of He Who Is Jealous.
By faith the death of Jealous is my death too - and his resurrection mine.
Let the old, dead and sinful be burned up like a burned offering as Love himself takes my place.
Decreated and then raised to new creation. A new life where the Spirit's fire burns within me.

Awake my soul to sing of Christ who died for me, my matchless king for eternity.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Psalms: Don't miss the title

Psalms are a favourite book. Dip in anywhere, right? Or perhaps read it as a coherent book, a gospel book...  With a few pointers from good friends the Psalms have started to turn everything upside down for me.

Psalm 45 begins like this:
 "According to Lilies; A Maskil of the Sons of Korah; A love song." 
It's easy to skip the title, but a while back I had my attention drawn to them and it's changed the way I read Psalms.
  • Lilies (shoshannim)- probably a reference to the tune, but a reminder that this is a song for Spring time. It's a song around the time of the festival of Passover. Salvation is in the air when you sing this song. Psalm 8 is "According to Gittith" - which means Winepress (big idea in the Bible!)
  • A Maskil of the Sons of Korah. The Sons of Korah are singers best known as the Resurrection Men. Korah had been judged and taken down to the grave in the book of Numbers, but his family lives beyond death. Maskil, usually left untranslated with a footnote "probably a musical or liturgical term" which isn't very helpful...  It might mean something like a song of contemplation or a song meant to instruct and teach people. 
  • A love song. Or a song of loves. This Psalm is commonly considered to be a wedding song - from the rest of it's content. Telling the story, as it does, of a divine marriage - between God and his bride. It's spoken of as "The Song of Songs in miniature." Andrew Bonar says, this is a song "Of the beloved."
And so, the song goes:
 My heart overflows with a pleasing theme; I address my verses to the king; my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe. (Psalm 45:1 ESV)
Bubbling over, boiling over with verses "to the king". A song that is attributed to the Bible as not just the song of the Sons of Korah, but as the word of God the Father concerning his Son. This is a wedding song of Jesus. A jewel among the Psalms, nestled in the start of Book II of the Psalms, songs - that like the time of Lilies - that are replete with references and themes from the Book of Exodus (as Book I resonates with Genesis, and so on.)

Bonar tells us we have
"Earth taught by Heaven to sing heaven's infinite love to man. It is a prelude to the new Song. Every clause in it is melody, and every thought in it is sublimity; but it is just such as we might expect to be breathed forth when the theme on hand was - Messiah the Mighty One appearing as King and Bridegroom."
This Psalm tells the story - the story of the royal wedding, of Christ to his church, the defining story of the Universe. This story has ruined my life and its the best thing that ever happened to me.

See also: Probably a musical term (Mike Reeves) -- 12mins to change the way you read Psalms forever.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Video: Mike Reeves on Trinity

You can now get hold of our series of 9 short videos of Mike Reeves talking about Trinity through these three places...

We hope they'll serve you well as you enjoy entering into the life of God.

The Life of God

We're spending 20 weeks as a church in John 17. We're six weeks in and this is what we've got so far.

#1 Father (Stu Alred)
#2 The hours has come (Andy Arscott)
#3 God gives glory (Stu Alred)
#4The God who gives to give (Dave Bish)
#5 Eternal life (Dave Bish)
#6 Objects of his affection (Stu Alred)

We'll reach 10 by Christmas, and finish the series just before Easter.

Trinity isn't the easiest subject to approach.  You can begin with history, or vast theological concepts and many books on the subject do this. Trinity isn't PhD Christianity, it's Basic Christianity, it's Mere Christianity. Nothing more fundamental than to say Jesus is the Son of the Father, anointed by the Holy Spirit. And nothing is more profound and wonderful.

We've begun with a prayer and are slowly piecing together doctrine as we overhear the conversation of the Son with his Father. This is a softer way in and I think a fruitful approach. It wouldn't surprise me if several among us haven't twigged yet that it's a "Trinity Series" -- and that's fine by me. We're eavesdropping on the life of God and as we get to know the heart of Jesus and his Father we're drawn into their life.

I'm enjoying preaching it (though I'll only be doing one more in the series), and I'm enjoying receiving the series as I sit in the congregation.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Video: #9 Trinity and John 17 (Mike Reeves)

If you want to enjoy the life of God, how would John 17 help? Mike Reeves explains:
Trinity and John 17 from Trinity Media on Vimeo.
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At Frontiers Church we're digging into the doctrine of Trinity by spending 20 weeks in John 17. It's a slow-burn way to get into the life of the Triune God. Turns out its not so complex and incomprehensible, this God loves to make himself known and to welcome us into his life.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

MP3: What kind of God allows genocide?

Pete Dray speaks on this emotionally demanding title at Durham University:
mp3: What kind of God allows genocide? 

The hardest questions shouldn't be avoided.

Video: #8 Trinity and Christian Unity (Mike Reeves)

It's easy to imagine that unity requires uniformity, but that's not true in the life of the Triune God... Mike Reeves talks about pursuit of the answer to Jesus' prayer that we'd be united:
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Tuesday, November 06, 2012

From orphans to heirs (Galatians 3:16,25-4:7)

I preached for my dear friends at Reading Family Church on Sunday. You can download the mp3 here: Trinity: From orphans to heirs (33mins)

We see that Jesus is The Heir of everything (Galatians 3:16) ...but by faith in Christ we get dressed up as Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit. We get Jesus - his status, his future, his relationship with the Father. Jesus gets everything, we get Jesus. 

Video: #7 Discovering Trinity In My Life (Mike Reeves)

Trinity is Christianity 101 but many don't initially built on the right foundation. Mike Reeves shares something of his story here:
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Friday, November 02, 2012

Video: Visit us (What to expect at our church meetings)

Lots of people in our city don't come to church, and have never come to church, but they'd find themselves very welcome if they came along. To ease that we like to share in advance a little of the experience people can expect...

Find out more here: Frontiers Church Exeter
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Thursday, November 01, 2012

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Christian Unity: A luxury we can't afford?

I'm speaking at a Christian Union later this week on our value "we're passionate about unity".

I've heard it said: “Unity is a luxury we can’t afford” . i.e. Christians are such a minority that we need to forget about getting along and just get going in mission. Seems to me the opposite might be true when I hear Jesus speaking with his Father. Unity is a necessity we can't dismiss.

Unity vs. Mission isn't a choice Jesus gives us.

“Father... I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me." (John 17:20-21 ESV)

Jesus prayed for a unity that is: • Doctrinal • Relational • Missional

It's doctrinal - its a unity "just as" the Father and Son are united. Everything we do flows from our personal knowledge of God, as revealed in the Scriptures and experienced by the Spirit's indwelling.
It's for relationship - "be one" - not just formal or functional but friendship.
It's for mission - observation of it makes the gospel believable.

The story of the UCCF is part of a story of the revival of evangelicalism around a renewed confidence in the authority of Scripture and the centrality of the cross sparked by a move of the Holy Spirit at Cambridge University in 1919.

The basis of the UCCF is intended as an inclusive basis – deliberately non-specific about many important issues. I wont pretend it's always used well - but the intention is to gather not to exclude. We speak of it as The Doctrinal Basis of The Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship of Christian Unions. A basis of fellowship, rooted in doctrine. The personal knowledge of God as the basis of relationships for the sake of mission together. This is churches united, family together.

With some variation in phrasing its the same basis as most evangelical churches and the Evangelical Alliance use. Its standard mainstream Protestantism. The goal being to unite as many as possible to give as many as possible the opportunity to respond to the good news of Jesus Christ.

Most division in CU’s is reckoned to concern the CU’s weekly Team Meeting… which represents about 1.5 hours of the 168 hours in the week! Anything that's only about 1% of our time isn't something to fall out over.

Today’s top issue is often whether women can preach, followed by the use of charismatic gifts (the latter was the hot issue when I was a student 15 years ago). Neither is unimportant but neither should be allowed to divide our witness. (For what its worth I think in most CUs you see a pro-women speaking pro-charismatic position today... but it comes and goes like the tide, driven by the local church scene in most cases.)

1. Do make much of the gospel. 
2. Don’t pretend these “non-gospel” issues aren’t important. They are. 
3. Do be ultimately generous on “non-gospel” issues. Rather be wronged for the sake of gospel-loving and gospel-mission. Don't say - Unity only if we do the "secondary things" my way.
4. Do keep it in perspective. No one is obligated to be at everything the CU does – though learning to bear with others a little will do wonders for your Christian character. 
5. Don’t bind your conscience too tightly on “non-gospel” issues – recognise that thoughtful evangelicals come to a range of conclusions on the roles of women, on divine sovereignty, on charismatic gifts, on baptism, on church practice, while still holding firmly to the fundamentals of the Christian faith.
6. Do embrace diversity in team meetings and in mission. By all means possible let’s take the gospel to people.

Much as what happens at a weekly meeting matters I’d like to ask whether we've crossed the divides that The Cross bridges. A university is inherently elitist – but when you’re in church do you connect with non-students and non-gradautes? What about your non-student neighbours - have you considered how to love the young family or pensioner living on your street? And in and out of University what about those of different ethnicity. A Christian is a global person but are we?

Where the battle for unity really rages…

The real issue is us – as our new hearts battle with our old flesh. The only answer is to repent to the crucified Christ and see more of the Spirit’s fruit in our lives. Death to self and life in Christ is the only way to real unity. The big issues of unity are LOVE ONE ANOTHER… BEAR WITH ONE ANOTHER… PREFER OTHERS AHEAD OF YOURSELF… RATHER BE WRONGED… We might like to fight our corner on x,y,z doctrines of church practice - but love is a primary gospel issue.

I'm the big problem when it comes to unity, because I love things to be done my way. And I seem to find it so easy to say to someone else - "you're not really welcome here" rather than letting myself feel uncomfortable.

In Christ, I'll make the first move to relationship.
In Christ, I'll only compare the worst of me with the best of someone else - rather than vice versa.
In Christ, I'll go out of my way to be generous.
In Christ, I'll show hospitality to those unlike me.
In Christ, I'll be quick to repent, quick to forgive.
In Christ, I'll be slow to assign bad motives.
In Christ, I'll rejoice WHENEVER Christ is preached, even if the motives are bad.
In Christ, I'll assume difference gives me an opportunity to learn before it gives me the opportunity to say I know better.
In Christ, I'll defend those I disagree with because I'll have befriended them.
In Christ, I'll pursue unity so that the world might see the Triune God - the Father at one with his Son.

Christ himself was wronged for us in his death and when we share in his death we begin to get the kind of unity that makes no sense apart from Christ. A unity that exists as we collaborate in mission, standing shoulder to shoulder loving one another. A unity that is not necessarily doing everything together but pulling in the same direction, on the same team - no lone rangers. Christian Unity is participation in the divine life.

We sabotage our mission when we spend our time in-fighting. The answer isn't divide, it's learn to love and find our unity in the unity of the Father and the Son. Then the world will see...

Image: Durham CU.

Video: #5 Trinity matters for today (Mike Reeves)

Trinity was the hot topic in the life of the early church - and we need it today too as Mike Reeves shows here:

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Why God Loves Halloween

It's Halloween (or, Reformation Day) tomorrow.

Pete Dray wrote this for a 2011 event at Durham University. One of the most helpful reflections on Halloween I've seen... Why God loves Halloween. Read the whole thing, or just taste this extract
 "What has happened for centuries on All Saints’ Eve – or Halloween – is quite simple. God’s people act out a drama – a drama in which the demonic realm tries one last time to achieve victory, but is seen for what it really is. What is the means by which the demonic realm is seen for what it is? In a word: mockery. 

According to the Bible, the devil’s great sin (and our great sin) is pride. And so, to remind themselves of Satan and the evil realm’s ultimate defeat because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, Christians ridicule them. In fact, this is why the Medieval custom arose of portraying Satan in a ridiculous red suit with horns and a tail. Nobody thought that the devil really looked like this; indeed, the Bible teaches that he is a fallen arch-angel. Rather, the idea of portraying the devil in this way is to ridicule him because he has lost the battle with Jesus and he no longer has power over us. 

 Similarly, on Halloween, the custom arose of mocking the demonic realm by dressing children in costumes. Because the power of Satan has been broken once and for all, children can mock him by dressing up like ghosts, goblins, and witches. The fact that Christians dressed up their children in this way shows our supreme confidence in the utter defeat of Satan by Jesus Christ – there is no fear!"

Video: #4 Trinity changes Prayer (Mike Reeves)

Trinity matters for the way we pray - because it's about who we're praying to and how welcome we are. Mike Reeves explains:


Listen: Mike Reeves on How to Enjoy Your Prayer Life
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Monday, October 29, 2012

Video: A message from Becky Pippert to Exeter

On the weekend of 30 November - 2 December Becky Pippert author of Out of the Saltshaker will be in Exeter. Don't miss out on the opportunity to benefit from her training. Saturday 1st December - Saltshaker day conference is open to all - cost £15 including lunch.

More information here:

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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Leaders who form a culture of grace and change

In the last few weeks Jesus has been teaching me about being weak. I'm freshly reminded that I'm in the middle of my sanctification not at the end of it, and as an unfinished person I'm not strong - despite my own deep sense of self importance.

I felt that afresh preaching on Sunday - probably the second illest I've been when preaching. For the second time in two months I was the fourth victim of the family cold - there's only so long you can spend in the company of illness before you get ill too! I have to ask myself did I fall ill because I've been burning the candle at both ends but I think the honest answer isn't that on this occasion. The weakness of my voice yesterday and its absence this morning is a helpful reminder of my lack of strength in myself and that Christ who became weak for me is my strength.
We don't want leaders who don't know the gospel - what use would that be... but we must not confuse knowing the gospel with the absence of weakness and struggle and sin. A blameless man isn't a sinless man - but someone marked by transparency, growth and struggle with his own sin.

It's important for those who lead to remember that they're just on the journey with everyone else. Paul Tripp's phrase about a pastor being someone in the middle of their own sanctification liberates me to fresh generosity with others...  when the DNA of a church includes that conviction of unfinishedness in ourselves (along with the utter finishedness of Christ's cross-work) there is liberty to bear with one another and carry one another's burdens.

According to the Strengthfinder test one of my top 5 strengths is 'Achiever'. That doesn't necessarily mean I'm good at achieving, but it implies that I like to accomplish things every day. The gospel disarms me completely. Here I come with my hands full of good works and knowledge and Jesus, smiling, takes my hands and turns them over letting all my stuff fall to the ground, inviting me to simply look to him, to receive from him.

Eternal life isn't for good people or geeky people... it's a free welcome into the life of God.
Sermon: The Life of God #5 - Dave Bish

Friday, October 26, 2012

Video: #3 The Heart-Winning Trinity (Mike Reeves)

Knowing the God who Christ makes known changes us right to the heart, as Mike Reeves shows here. With Trinity we don't have a single person god who is alone. With Trinity we have a God who is inherently relational - a Father loving his Son forever. So, forever God is love. Here is a God who knows how to love...

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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Video: #2 Trinity and our good news (Mike Reeves)

In my early days as a Christian I was told Trinity was the thing you don't want to talk about when sharing what you believe with others people. The advice was well meaning but deeply disturbing. Without Trinity isn't god just God is Ruler and We've broken the rules... with Trinity things aren't like that...

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

If Darius had written Galatians...

I'm enjoying The Gospel According to Ezra at the moment with the CU Staff team, working through the the book of Ezra month by month. I've been struck by a refreshing resonance... hardly a surprise since all Scripture sings the same song.

Paul wrote:

Galatians 1:8-9 "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed."

Which from the mouth of the soundly converted King Darius would surely be phrased....

Also I make a decree that if anyone alters this edict, a beam shall be pulled out of his house, and he shall be impaled on it, and his house shall be made a dunghill. May the God who has caused his name to dwell there overthrow any king or people who shall put out a hand to alter this, or to destroy this house of God that is in Jerusalem...”(Ezra 6:11-12 ESV)

As Darius decrees the effectual rebuilding of the temple, urged on by the prophetic ministry of Haggai and Zechariah, paid at great cost to himself, so that it should have it's daily sacrifices to bring a pleasing aroma to the LORD until The True and Greater Darius comes. Darius, converted by the gospel preached by Cyrus anticipates the letters to the Hebrews and to Galatia, striking New Testament melodies as the temple is rebuilt and good news comes to all who join themselves to the people of God, cleansed as priestly ministry resumes.

A ministry that must continue day after day - until its ended by Jesus. Jesus the one who fulfills it at the cost of having himself impaled and destroyed... only to rise again himself into the new and greater Temple. There are many pages in Scripture but just one gospel testifying to Christ in his personal appearances, in its types and patterns and in its moments of prophetic ministry.

Darius preaches Christ as he calls for the rebuilding of the great shadow of the Old Testament - the temple - so that men and women from all nations might look to Christ their true King, temple, sacrifice and priest who at extreme cost to himself invites the unclean to come in, to flee the curse and find refuge in himself. Darius' costly ministry brings the unclean nations to the house of God, much more does the True King, Jesus the Christ whose crucifixion offers life to all the peoples of the world.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Becky Pippert - Coming to Exeter

Saltshaker Exeter from Dave Bish on Vimeo.

Becky Pippert is a bestselling author of Out of the Saltshaker, accomplished speaker but above all she's a Christian who has given her life to sharing Christ with those around her and equipping the church to love people, to open the Bible with those who don't yet follow Christ and see Jesus walk off the pages of the Bible into our lives. She's an evangelist. And she's spending a couple of years in the UK to equip University Christian Unions and the wider church. This term she's touring round the UK and this will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hear her speak in the South West.

If you live in the South West book online at Saltshaker Exeter is for students and is for those who aren't students. While it'll have the feel of training Christians it'll be accessible to those who don't know Jesus --- Becky will be speaking about Jesus.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Transformission 2012: Adopted

Today we gathered in Exeter for our sixth Transformission day conference. The aim is simple - look to Christ. It's my privilege to host the day.

Our theme for the day - adoption into the family of God, with Mike Reeves, Glen Scrivener, Peter Mead and Dan Hames speaking, a veritable band of Christ pursuing brothers.
Watch this space for some extra media from the day. 
You have no idea how worth-the-wait it'll be...

We're thanking God for all those who came - we would've enjoyed Christ without you but it was great to have you there! Thanks for the UCCF South West staff and Relay who did all the behind the scenes work. Thanks for Mike, Peter and Glen for preaching Christ - and Dan who did that and led worship in our main sessions. Thanks for our good friends from IFES, Student Alpha and Cor Deo who joined the party and for Belmont who allowed us to book their building.  

Photo by Joshua Cassidy.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Where the battle for Unity rages

My work with the UCCF is founded on the prayer of Jesus that we should have the same kind of unity that He and his Father enjoy. A mutual indwelling, rooted in the life of the Father and the Son - a unity of in the Holy Spirit.

You can describe this unity doctrinally - but it's meaningless if it's just a formal unity. It needs to be experienced relationally. I've been reflecting on the way I fail to do this. I'm probably known as someone who unites of people - I love to introduce people to one another. Yet so many times I screw it up.

As a wise friend has said: "some of us are prone to be broader than the gospel when it comes to unity and some to be narrower."  I'm sure I do both....

I know I've definitely been overly narrow... which given how dodgy some people probably think I am would almost be amusing if it wasn't so painful and sinful. Truth is, I've approached others with suspicion and defensiveness rather than with generosity and joy.

I am, as Paul Tripp notes, a man in the middle of my sanctification so I hope I'm progressing in this as I follow Christ but I'm flawed, I stumble, I sin...

Last week I went to seek forgiveness from a gospel minister, who did the same in turn. It was a wonderful moment of healing and I hope the beginnings of renewed brotherly affection and partnership in the gospel. It'll be a slow road to recovery but I look forward to the opportunities, forged in the fires of forgiveness, to labour together to make Christ known.

There is a wonderful liberty in having the Holy Spirit show me that I screwed up, and to know him turning me to repentance. I wish it happened quicker. Too many relationships just grow cold. Too many hearts are hardened. Too many partnerships that could be cultivated are disregarded.

We can't necessarily work with everyone, but we can be friendly. We can't necessarily unite with everyone - but we can often unite with more people than we think we can. And when we do finally have to say no to some that no is clearer for the yes's we've been able to say to others.

 A unity that is rooted in shared dwelling in the life of God has room for vast differences, transcending cultures and class, rising above differences in practice and even important Biblical convictions on more disputable matters. A unity in God is a unity that can express in prayer together, and can learn what it means to bear with one another.

The battle for unity rages not over the ministry of women or the continuation of charismatic gifts, the battle for unity rages in the hearts of men and women as the desires of the flesh fight with the desires of the Spirit. Unity is a battle won with weapons of love and kindness, of patience, of preferring others ahead of myself and of rathering to be wronged than to insist on my own way. Those are Biblical convictions to die for, because Christ has died for me and for you and for the people we're not reaching when we're fighting one another.

Christian Unity hurts because its a word to describe the mutual relationships between those who follow Christ. We're weak people on the way. We're people who hurt one another. People who know that even as we do harm to one another Christ keeps hold of us. So when I sin against you, please bear with me and pray I'll do the same for you when you sin against me. Our repentance is good soil for beautiful gospel plants to grow in. And when we disagree on important but disputable matters or differ in so many others ways, it's Christ who breaks down the walls and liberates us to make the first move towards another as he has to us.

What's your story? Where does the battle rage for you?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Creationism Conspiracy?

Andrew Maxwell gathers some companions to take them on a Conspiracy Road Trip to crack the nuts. In the first episodes he attempts to persuade his travellers that 7/7 happened. In episode two he turns to Creationists.

Watch at BBC iPlayer until 22nd October.

I'm intrigued on a number of levels - not least that holding to a young earth view of the world is in the category of crazy conspiracy theorists! Gulp...

I don't want to be harsh on the believers, who knows how much or how little they've been edited to tell a story... but the Creationists don't exactly come across well.

Some of them keep quiet and some are definitely stronger than others - I was most impressed with Sam, who I've subsequently discovered is a CU Leader. Phew! Perhaps they've submitted themselves to something of a fools errand and some seem not to be particularly well equipped for the challenge. Why no one suggests (in the clip we're shown) that whales wouldn't have been in the ark because they'd be in the water defies reason...   Its strange that Maxwell things 6000+ years isn't enough to grow a large population...  even a fairly low birth rate produces huge multiplication quite quickly...  but it's easy to pick holes in anyone elses arguement when you're not in the room eh!

The big frustration is seeing unnecessary dichotomies set up. The suggestion that if you can't hold to Young Earth Creationism you might have to bin Christianity is annoying... it's really not the make or break issue.

Andrew Wilson is ably showing that the question is complex and needs careful consideration... offering 10 evangelical approaches.

Not all questions are equal...   did God create is more important than the process and date of creation... a historical Adam is vital to the good news about Jesus more than determining his date of birth...   It matters that there was a flood but there is room in the literature of Genesis for a number of possible readings about exactly what happened. The text of Genesis 1 is less concerned with dates than it is with showing the character and personality of a relational God of spreading goodness...

I'm glad that this TV show exists and it provokes me to make sure we - the church - equip people well to engage with issues and questions that matter. Questions that can be stumbling blocks but need not always be so. Serious evangelicals hold to a range of views on how to read Genesis and answer questions.

Personally there are some questions on which I have a strong answer, some where I don't know and some where I'm really ambivalent. I don't mean it doesn't matter - I mean there are questions on which a lot hangs and there are questions whose answers don't necessarily make much difference.

Ultimately the resurrection of Jesus is more important than exactly when the world came into being. The resurrection is the chief article of the faith, and I'd love to see Andrew Maxwell run a Conspiracy Road Trip on the suppression of the evidence about the Resurrection, though reading Acts would uncover most of that.

I'm really interested by Andrew Maxwell himself. He's funny and thoughtful, and shows his hand at the end of this programme "My idea of God is a giant eternal loving being who must be in all the texts or none of the texts." (Now there's a 21st Century conspiracy...) Everyone has commitments and beliefs about the world and about God... Maxwell included. And he wants to win people to his viewpoint, why is that? Where does Maxwell's idea come from - and what stops that just being a crazy conspiracy theory too? I'd love to hear Maxwell more. How has he got to where he is? Why does he care about this issue? Why does he passionately care about truth? (He should!) And why does anyone believe what they believe (whether in the 7/7 or Creationism episode)?

And I have to say I quite like the concept of a road trip in which big questions about life are asked. We need more of that!

Did you watch it? What did you think?

Sunday, October 07, 2012

The God who Gives to Give

I preached today for our church on John 17:2 in which we see that the Father gives authority to his Son, and the Father gives people to his Son, and then the Son gives Eternal Life to people.

MP3: The Life of God #4 - The God who Gives to Give - John 17:2 (30mins)

A Christian who doesn't look weak is faking it. Last week we recognised a new church elder and in being introduced to the church he shared that he struggles with anxiety. Jesus says, don't worry because your Father in heaven cares for you. But this leader struggles with Anxiety.

A Christian who doesn't look weak is faking it. I don't struggle there. I struggle with friendliness, relational sin. I don't make a good friend impression though I warm up in the end. I struggle to be interested in others.

This is because of our sin, this is because of the gods we worship. And we become like what we worship.

Everyone worships - not everyone calls what they worship "god" but we all give our hearts to something or someone. Many of us worship celebrity. Or we cast God like a celebrity...

We worship celebrity.
Celebrity is rich.
Celebrity is beautiful.
Celebrity is impressive.
Celebrity is disinterested in us.

We become like what we worship.
We don't become rich and beautiful.
We pick up the characteristics and personality we experience.
We try to impress people rather than admitting weakness.
We become disinterested in others.
We become those who take rather than give.
Our gods destroys us relationally.

Relationship becomes more like fact finding than friendship - catch up on a student's summer on facebook instead of over a meal? People struggle with porn because life becomes about pixels more than personality. Taking more than giving. Perhaps the real issue is prayerlessness not porn, lack of relationship with God??

Hear Jesus and you see something different. Relationship, flowing with life.

The Father gives authority to the Son. Authority seems bad but is good - think of good teachers, the doctor who can prescribe to you, the police who protect you. Yet, it's abused - and my first experience of leadership was abusing others as a leader in the scouts... bitter at being overlooked I led as a bully. I wasn't a Christian, I didn't have the Holy Spirit... thankfully I'm being changed but it's an ongoing battle to love people well. Father gives authority - he gives and gives.
And you might want to take him aside and warn him of the risks and folly of giving away authority - but he says... look at my Son, who only does what he sees me doing, who trusts me, who gives himself even to death... who thirsts to quench the weak.

The Father gives people to the Son. I'm a Dad of boys. Having boys is different to having girls - I observe from church Dads and in the community Dad's group. Christian Dad's want their kids to become Christ-followers... but after that Dad's of daughters are concerned for the occasion when a lad will come in and ask permission to marry her... they banter about pinning him to the wall and grilling him... but it's because everything in their Fathering leads to that day when they give her away to another man.

Call it traditionalism but it's written into reality... similarly that conversation is significant because a few months later he'll walk her down the aisle and the official will say "Who gives this woman to marry this man" - he wont ask me if it's my boy getting married, just the Father-of-the-bride.

God the Father takes the role of "Father of the Bride" giving the church to Jesus. The Bible calls it election...

And we're given to the Son who has authority - authority to give eternal life... which is to say, to give himself and relationship with his Father to people. And John tells us this isn't given to those with the right heritage, family, class etc. Nor for those who choose rightly. It's for all who will receive Jesus.

Do you receive? To start following Jesus - and to keep following.
Receiving from Christ is the A-Z of Christianity.
It's the answer to my unfriendliness - to see that I'm received by this weak God who gives himself to me...
It's the answer to anxiety - to know that the Father truly cares, so much that he gives. And it transforms a community to love, to know Christ giving through us to one another.
The Father gives to the Son, the Son to people, people to more people.
The God who gives to give.

Over to you? What do you make of this authority? How does God shape you? What does weakness look like for you?