Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Prayer: Am I mature enough to ask for help?

Prayer is both instinctive and seemingly impossible.

In the late Spring of 1979 I was born six weeks early. As a result I spent the first month of my life in intensive care in a Sheffield hospital. I was small and weak and utterly dependent on others. I would then, and for many more months to come, cry out when I was in need.

Fast-forward twenty years and I've grown physically, intellectually, socially and in many other ways. I'm studying Maths at Bath University. I'd been a big fish in a small pond but I was now a very small fish in a big pond, struggling to keep up with high level mathematics. Would I ask for assistance and direction from my tutor? No, I made every effort to cover up, to pretend things were ok and to avoid the one person who might assist me.

It occurs to me that for all the growing I'd done I had perhaps become less mature too?

What could be so difficult about asking for help?

To pray is to ask.

Jesus' friends asked him: teach us to pray (Luke 11:1-13).
Teach us to ask. Teach us to cry out.
And he said: Pray, Father.

When we do that we're speaking to His generous Father as our Father.

He said, when we do that we'll receive the Holy Spirit. We'll be welcomed into the communion of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as adopted sons in the family of God with the church. We pray together: Our Father.

Coming in clothed in the true Son and so having no need to be ashamed, no need to hide our weaknesses or pretend than we need nothing.

Only he makes this possible.

The Father prayers of the Son (four of them in Luke's gospel) lead him to the anguish of trusting his Father in Gethsemane, and to crucifixion itself. In union with Christ his prayers are ours too, his path ours. We come to know his Father as he does... we go through the anguish of learning to trust and facing the death of our selfish selves.... and come with him into a different kind of life.

In the last year I've deliberately sought to grow in skills and understanding, felt my capacity stretched. Excellence is good and to be pursued. It's good to be good at things - to cultivate strengths. Doing Strengthsfinder a few years ago was some liberating self-knowledge. There are things I can, by the grace of God, do.

And there are things I can't do. This year, I've found myself out of my depth, facing unexpected situations that were and are beyond me. It's been another year of learning to cry out again, of admiting weakness in my ability, situation and character, and turning again to one who is generously for me. I need help from Jesus and his people.

In community, in the church, there are always some who are rejoicing and thriving... and always some who are struggling and weeping.

To ask for help is good. 
To be asked to give help is good.
To receive help is good. 

I'm watching my four year old son learn the same lessons as his Dad. When my four year old is whacked by his two year old brother his instinct is to fix the situation himself with violence. He's learning to come and ask for his parents to intervene, and so learning what it means to pray. Trusting that we can and will act in goodness.

He'll spend the rest of his life learning and re-learning this. Me too.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Review: From heaven he came and sought her

Central to any understanding of Christianity is understanding the signficance of the historical crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth. Everything flows from this. So it makes sense for any Christian who can to meditate deeply on the meaning of the cross of Christ as much as possible. 

I've really valued taking time to slowly read through heavy weight books like John Stott's The Cross of Christ, Ovey, Sach & Jeffery's Pierced for our Transgressions, The Cross from a Distance by Peter Boltand excellent essay collections The Glory of the Atonement and In my place condemned he stood. More pop-level books like Cross Examined are great too.

Chapter titles suggest the focus: "We trust in the Saving Blood", "For the Glory of the Father and the Salvation of His People", "Because He Loved Your Forefathers", "For Whom did Christ die?" and "The Glorious, Indivisible, Trinitarian Work of God in Christ." 

I worked with Jonny and David Gibson on the beginningwithmoses.org resource a decade ago so when I saw they had edited a new book on the cross I pinged them a message and blagged a free copy.

With that said let me tell you a bit about From heaven he came and sought her.

This book is 700 page compendium of essays including contributions by Blocher, Motyer (on the cross in Isaiah), Piper, Schreiner, Strange and the always engaging Carl Trueman among others. As a result some chapters stand out more than others and there is some repetition in the book as authors interact with key texts and historical moments.

The focus of this volume is 'Definite Atonement' which is the writers term for what might more often be called Limited Atonement or Particular Redemption. This is about the effectiveness of the cross for his people. The editors state that "the doctrine (of definite atonement) is a fitting and necessary corollary of penal substitutionary atonement." (p34). This is about "the shared intention and accomplishment of Father, Son and Holy Spirit."

The book claims to offer a Historical, Biblical, Theological and Pastoral perspectives. It's a rich offering on a subject that isn't without controversy. There are historical complexities, hard Biblical texts, wider theological issues and significant pastoral concerns around this subject. I'm glad to have a rigorous approach to hand - the questions are hard - concerning the love and character of God, the possibility of salvation for people and many other areas - but God's people today, and throughout history, do not run away from the hard questions. This book is evidence of that honest pursuit.

I loved the attention to the details of exegeting key texts combined with an unpacking of the historical theology. I found myself encouraged by the exegesis and challenged and enlightened by the historical background.

I stand repentant and enriched, having misunderstood and caricatured some aspects of the debate over this doctrine. Expect the authors of this book, in their rigour, to suggest, imply and demonstrate from the Bible and from historical theology that you're in error in the way you believer and speak about the cross. That might be uncomfortable but better to be called back to Christ more truly than to keep my distance and remain in happy error.

The material presented here deserves engagement whether you come at it leaning more towards a limited or unlimited perspective on the extent and efficacy of the atonement.

Chapter 12, by Jonny Gibson ends like this: "As Husband and Head, Christ died for his bride and body; as Cosmic Saviour, he died for the world; and as the Last Adam, he died for a new humanity. In this regard, Christ truly is the Saviour of the world - an inumerable number of people from every tribe and language and nation.

I'm blogging this at just over half way through the book, in chapter 13 which beautifully shows the centrality of our Union with Christ to understanding what's happening at the cross, showing how "the saving work of God in Christ is Trinitarian", and citing Sanders: "Christian salvation comes from the Trinity, happens through the Trinity, and brimngs us home to the Trinity."... "the eternal Trinity is the gospel Trinity."

I'm finding this book really stimulating for my understanding, belief in, and articulation of the cross... leading me to increased devotion to Christ.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Waste Land: I never thought I would be a work of art

Lucy Walker's film of artist Vik Muniz is fascinating and deeply moving. Muniz is a Brazilian artist who returns to his home country to Jardim Gamacho, thirty miles over the shoulder of the famous Christ our Redeemer statue, Rio de Janerio's major landfill site. A place that is quite literally the end of the line... as working there is for many of its Catadors, who pick through the rubbish to separate out the recyclable material. From them and with them Muniz creates art. One of them later reflecting: "I never thought I would be a work of art"

The 90min documentary explores their world, their stories, the way that Muniz creates art and disrupts the lives of the Catadors offering them hope and the possibility of a different life. Is that good? Is it destructive? Can art really change people? We watched it together as a team recently and I'm still chewing over many of the questions it raises.

Get Waste Land on DVD

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Worship God UK: Bob Kauflin interview (part 2)

Concluding my conversation with Bob Kauflin about church music and the Worship God UK conference he's hosting in 2014....

Who are your role-models/teachers when it comes to music in church? 
Keith Green showed me that you don’t have to sit still when you play the piano. Matt Redman taught me how brief spontaneous moments can allow people to engage more deeply with the songs they’re singing. Paul Baloche has shown me much about what it means to be a humble musician. Stuart Townend has modeled beautiful, thoughtful, and theologically faithful lyric writing. Keith Getty has taught me a lot about passion for theology, diligence in writing, and beautiful melodies. C.J. Mahaney taught me about 90% of what has been important to me as I lead congregational song - listening to the Holy Spirit, caring for people’s souls as you lead, the importance of lyrics, the importance of actually seeking to encounter God as you sing and not merely sing songs, the centrality and power of the gospel, humility, joyful serving, and a bunch of other things.

Why do the words and music we use matter? 
God made us to remember and categorize words with music better than words alone. People forget sermons, they remember the songs they sing. As one writer said, “We are what we sing.” The songs we sing both reflect and shape the way we think about and relate to God, ourselves, and our world. That’s why what we choose to sing every Sunday is so important.

What's your process of preparing for a Sunday meeting? 
It varies, but generally I’ll start to put together a Sunday plan on Tuesday in preparation for our elders’ meeting on Wednesday afternoon. I have a general outline I follow - call to worship, songs, Scripture/prayer/confession, songs, welcome and offering, sermon, song, benediction. We will do communion once a month after the sermon. When I prepare I look at what was preached the previous week, what’s being preached this week, and always seek to make sure the gospel is being clearly presented in the flow of what we do.

How do you respond when someone thanks you at the end of a meeting? 
I say, “You’re welcome. It was my joy.” If they’re open to a deeper conversation, I might ask them what encouraged them about the meeting. That’s not to get them to talk about me more, but to give glory to God specifically for what he was doing in their hearts. I might also mention the contributions of others to what we did by saying, “Thanks so much. It’s a joy to get to work with the musicians on this team. They make it so easy." 10.

Sometimes people say that its more spiritual to be spontaneous than to have planned what you're going to sing... what do you think? 
We should never pit planning against spontaneity. God uses both. Proverbs is filled with exhortations to faithful planning and diligence, but in the end the Lord directs our steps (Prov. 16:1, 9; 19:21). Good planning actually helps spontaneity because we don’t have to constantly think about what’s happening next but can listen for a potential redirection at any moment. Those who are spontaneous every week end up doing very similar things over the long run, returning to the same themes, the same songs, and the same “spontaneous” prayers. Relying too much on spontaneity also trains us to look for the unexpected and strange rather than remember what God has already accomplished for us in the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Why hold a conference on worship in the UK? 
Why should we come? Why WorshipGod UK? Nathan Smith leads the Sovereign Grace Church in Bristol and has been wanting us to come to the UK for a number of years. I’ve had the opportunity to lead at New Word Alive and in a few other contexts, and love the UK. And my wife, Julie, was born in Britain, so I have family roots. And some of us still feel a debt to the mother country.

Why should you come? Our heart is to encourage and equip church leaders and musicians, especially of small churches, who want to see their church passionately singing songs that are filled with the gospel and God’s Word in the power of the Spirit. Mike Reeves will be there as will Stuart Townend, Tim Chester, Jeff Purswell, Nathan and Lou Fellingham, and many more. We want to build on what God is already doing in the UK through others and hopefully contribute to the strengthening of congregational song jn the churches there. As we’ve led WorshipGod conferences in the states for the past 8 years attendees have told us they’ve grown in their love for the Savior, their knowledge of theology, and their musical and leadership skills. We also laugh a lot, give away free stuff, and seek to take God seriously, ourselves not so much. It’s our prayer that you’d be able to experience all that and more at WorshipGod UK, and we’d love to see you there!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Mary's Song

It's a first century equivalent of the Pregnancy-Scan Facebook post. The Magnficat is a remarkable song. Named for its opening words in Latin translation, in English translation the pregnant Mary sings: My soul magnifies the Lord.

Download mp3: Mary's song.

The song, though speaking of the baby Mary is carrying barely mentions the pregnancy, though it's subject is "God my Saviour" who is indeed the baby in her womb.

God steps into her world, like Vik Muniz stepping into the world of the workers at the Jardim Gramacho in Rio de Janerio (in Lucy Walker's film Waste Land). Artist Muniz introduced hope and inspiration to the lives of the workers at a vast landfill site. Is that arrogant interference or presumption to turn up in someone else's world? Or might it be the very best thing that could happen. What happens when Jesus steps into this world?

The God who became one of us
Its a song that captures the essence of the Christmas story in which God comes to us. It's opening words are full of exhuberance and excitement. Is this classic power-play religion? Fundamentialism seeking to whip up a crowd? Where is the British reserve and understatement?

Yet, this is the excitement of a woman at the end of the line in the Roman empire, a pregnant teenager from a poor background. She has no power to wield, only the fruit of deep and careful reflection on her culture and her Scriptures, her song hits many of the notes of Hannah's song, the another young woman 1000 years previously.

Mary quite likely couldn't read or write but she'd evidently meditated deeply on the purposes and promises of God.

She calls for God her Saviour to be magnified... not in a magnifying glass because he's small.. but in the same way we magnify the blazing light of the sun by opening our curtains in the morning. Letting it's light into our lives.

The opening stanza is about the God who has come to her and seen her humble estate. A God she characterises as Holy... holy not in the sense of distance and otherness but holy as humbleness and humiliation. This God her Saviour is in her womb, a baby. Not just come to be with her in her low position but to be born as a baby, weaker than her, utterly dependent upon her... God with skin, God who cries...

I spoke with someone recently who told me about how moved he was by Michelangelo's statue of Mary, not holding baby Jesus but holding the crucified Jesus. He commented that though he wasn't religious, and is deeply committed to maintaining a deeply scientific approach to life....and yet he had been moved by this white carved marble... and inanimate object reflecting something deeply poignant. How do we explain that affectedness? What we can know is that Mary foresaw that - she knew that God her Saviour would be both helpess baby and crucified man.

Come with power in utter weakness to us in our weakness. Come to find us in our weakness, with our questions. Come to meet us where we are. Try Facebook's Year in Review tool - has it been a good year, a bad year? It picks out the most engaged with things you put on facebook this year. That means it reflects the happiest moments... and the most painful. Are you where you planned to be? Have you fallen off the tracks? At the end of the line? And it's not just circumstantial, at times we're culpable for our position.

Our created grandeur marred and broken by the deep problems in our hearts and in the world around us.

The God who challenges us
Mary's child isn't just for the weak, but also for the high. Those like Johan Sebastian Bach who in 1723 put Mary's song to music. The second stanza speaks of how Mary's Child will scatter the proud, dethrone those who elevate themselves and take down the rich. He knocks us off the high places on which we put ourselves...  In his death he will put that presumption that I know how to run life to death...

I'm no Bach but as a child of my time and a member of Adam's helpless race I believe in myself, think highly of myself, feel that I have much to contribute. I stand opposed to Mary's child.

And Mary's Child comes to me in my self-agrandising and brings me down... from my faux greatness to his real humiliation in lowness. He knows what it is to leave the throne and be made low... and he brings me low with him so I can be filled by him. He asks of me what he himself has done for me... he does the work, I need simply entrust myself to him, follow him into life.

A cold statue, a talented artist,... and much more Mary's child, interupt the course of our lives. Presenting us with different questions and a different direction in life. Mary's song is a song about Mary's child, the extraordinary one who comes in utter humility that disrupts our lives. Cry Magnificat!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Patterns, structures, maps and context

The Bible isn't a list of propositions it's a brilliantly written library of great literature - in narrative, poems, wisdom and also in letters. The letters are not just off-the-cuff emails. They're carefully crafted communication.

This term across the South West some of the Christian Unions have immersed themselves in Paul's letter to the church in Rome. It's ideal because it hits the basics of faith in the form of a letter designed to catch the Roman church up into a united participation in God's missionary movement in his world.

There's much structure in the letter. I love seeing the big picture and in a letter like this the context is vital to making sense of the whole.

1:16-18 tells of the revelation of righteousness and wrath in the gospel with the subsequent sections showing how God has long been patient with Israel, in kindness giving them time to repent. They hadn't and so the name of God has been held in contempt. Is it worth believing in this God who seems to care not about injustice? This question builds until at the cross of Christ (3:25) the wrath of God was revealed in the death of Christ - sin comes to death and the case is proved that God is righteous.

The laying out of the gospel story in the history of Israel continues in chapter 4 and much more later in the book. Israel and the law become a vital issue and 'problem' in the movement of the gospel story from Adam to Christ.

Peter Leithart observes, as many commentators do, a chiastic structure in Romans 5-8.
A sandwiching of ideas that highlights the themes. He sees:

A. 5:1-11: The justified have hope for glory in midst of tribulation, because of God's love
    B. 5:12-21: Adam and Christ: Adam's sin reversed
      C. 6:1-14: Death in baptism means deliverance from dominance of sin
        D. 6:15-23: Members are to be presented as weapons of righteousness
            E. 7:1-6: Death to the law through the death of our Husband
        D'. 7:7-25: Bondage to sin provoked by law; a different law warring in members 
      C'. 8:1-17: God delivered where Law could not, setting free from sin and death
    B'. 8:18-25: Creation will be liberated from futility to which Adam subjected it
A'. 8:26-39: Assurance of hope in the midst of tribulation; we will not be separated from God's love in Christ

A chiasm allows for the raising of issues, the developing of ideas and highlighting major themes. The pairs build on each other and our attention is draw to the central section, in this case about our death in Christ's death that ends our brutal marriage to the law to bring us into a new marriage with Christ. One only has to watch people's eyes pop out of their head as they read it to know that its the meat in the sandwich.

Around this centre, parts A & A' both speak about the hope we have even though we suffer. God's love for us means that through suffering we'll grow, and certainly not be separated from Christ. Actually we know more of him in our suffering. The thought is introduced at the start of chapter 5 and concluded at the end of 8 - read them together! (Preach them together?)

Parts B & B' go together to show the transition needed from Adam to Christ, to reverse Adam's sin and to liberate humanity and the rest of creation. Meanwhile we reign in life and yet groan in frustration. Read together we see the reigning and the waiting.

Parts C & C' show that we've been plunged into death with Christ, through his cross and our baptism... so too he put sin, condemnation, death to death as he died as one of us... and so did what we could never do for ourselves. He doesn't come to inspire us or to offer us a new rule book but to put us to the death our sin was heading for and then to bring us to adopted life in the Spirit as surely as he himself is resurrected. Reading both parts together develops the thought more fully.

Parts D & D' tell us that we're radically free from sin to live to righteousness, and yet experience the wretchedness of sin. There is a tension here in which a Christian lives... free and yet torn up inside as we lug around our old flesh in our Spirit-filled bodies. Where D feels overstated and is the kind of text that makes people think sinless perfection is possible, D' alone seems despairing. Together they resonate deeply. Together they show that Christian theology fits Christian experience. The Christian is free and yet constrained, liberated and yet still awaiting final resurrection.

And E shows us that the break from law and death is decisive, not because the law of God died... but because we did in Christ. The ultimate way out of a terrible marriage... our death... followed by our resurrection in Christ our true and better husband who loved us even to his own death for us. And if this is at the heart of his story then the recurring themes of being "in Christ" of union with him, of leaving Adam's helpless race to be born again into Christ is exactly what we should expect. An espousal story of union with the true husband.

It's the Bible's story from creation to new creation. As NT Wright observes, an Exodus story. From captivity to wedding feast... and yet the frustration of life in the wilderness. The framework of the story has been set out in history, it continues and concludes from all that has been done before. This is not a chaotic story, and seeing the structure makes it clearer...

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Worship God UK: Bob Kauflin interview (part 1)

I met Bob in at an airport luggage collection area in 2008. I'd enjoyed his blog on worship and a number of his songs and I'd just picked up a copy of his book on worship. I was glad to hear recently that he's working with my friend Nathan to host a conference on worship in Bath in March 2014.  So, I pinged Bob an email with a few questions to whet your appetite....

Where does your interest in music come from? 
I've been involved in music for as long as I can remember, making up songs on the piano from the time I was 6. My mother was the primary influence and wanted all of her four children to study music of some kind. We had music playing in the house and in the car all the time, mostly classical and standards. By the time I was 12 years old I was hooked on studying classical music and playing everything I could by ear.

Why is music important for Christians? 
That’s a broad question because there are so many ways we can interact with music! Listening, singing, playing. Let me answer as it pertains to congregational song. Music is important for Christians because it seems to be important to God. There are over 50 commands in the Bible to sing, and over 400 references to singing. That doesn’t include references to instrumental music. Because music is so emotionally powerful, it can combine objective truth with subjective response. That’s how congregational singing can help us “feel the truth,” that is to say, it can help us be more impacted by God’s word and deepen our affections for him. Music can help keep our theology from becoming dry and simply a matter of the intellect.

How did you end up being a "worship leader”? 
Of course, every Christian is a “worship leader,” seeking to persuade others that God’s glory in Christ is to be exalted above everything on earth! But I started leading songs in the Sunday meeting in my church back in the early 80s. It seemed a natural extension of my love for the Savior and my musical training.

 How did that fit into "normal" working/family life? (I'm assuming you didn't start out on a church staff) 
 I started by playing the piano as someone else led. In a few years I was the one leading. Because it was something I loved to do and enjoyed doing, it didn’t seem to impinge on my time with the family. Of course, Julie, my wife, might tell you something different! Also, I don’t think my planning then was as thorough as it is now.

 What would you want to say to your novice-self if you had the chance? 
Nothing is more important to communicate to people than the gospel of Jesus Christ. No song, arrangement, vocalist, riff, or technology. People need to see the glory of Christ, not the glory of our presentation. Know God’s Word and depend on it to change people’s lives. See leading songs as a pastoral function before you see it as a musical one. Do more listening than you do talking or singing. Listen to the feedback others give you. In fact, seek it out. Listen to the other musicians that you play with.

To be continued next Tuesday.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Sin, death, wrath and Ashton Kutcher

Warning. This post contains words like sin and death and wrath.
Serious words filled with anguish and emotion and pain and sorrow.

It also has a paragraph about Ashton Kutcher.

Now, I'm not usually a fan of Ashton Kutcher's work but the 2004 film The Butterfly Effect is both deeply disturbing, upsetting and profound. Kutcher's character Evan finds he has the ability to change situations but it becomes apparent that each positive change has negative consequences... the ripples of chaos theory frustrate his attempts to fix his life. Ultimately, Evan concludes the only hope is to prevent his being born. Better not to have lived than to cause such trouble. It's a (sci-fi) solution to the deathly effects of sin but surely not the only way?

In Romans 6 Paul writes to the church in Rome saying:
We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.
The Christian message doesn't say you can fix things with a new inspiration to follow. We shouldn't watch planes take off and feel inspired to sing "I believe I can fly".

A new rule won't help either. This broken humanity has had it. We're not as bad as we might be in every way but in our most honest moments we know the corrosive effects of sin in our hearts. I do.

"Biblically", Sin is a deathly thing.
We may think of it as trivial naughtiness in 21st Century Britain, but God uses it to speak of much deeper darkness in the human heart.
Spufford's HPTFTU isn't far off.
Sin is life's opposite.
It's anti-spirit, anti-creation.
Death is now unavoidable.
I feel it.
I convince myself it's not so bad but I know I sin against those I love the most...

When Jesus stepped onto the public stage - at his baptism in Luke 3 - it's for baptism, a moment in which he's numbered with the transgressors, in which he joins them in going down to death (to then be raised) with us, for us. It's a beautiful scene of triune love - with revelation of sin and death at its centre. Beauty always marred with brokenness. I see my deathly sin - taken seriously by the God of love who comes to us to bring us into his life. His story is all about death - his and ours.

So too, as the Old Testament law vividly draws out the grammar of the gospel it shows that sin brings death - consider the gory image of the sacrifice in Leviticus 1 being de-created, taken apart in every way.
Sin goes to death but another can take my place.
It's shocking to see.
It makes a deep impression.
Death of one to bring life to another.

A Christian isn't a death avoider.
The "flesh", the "sinful nature" can be finished off by embracing its death rather than trying to trivialise its trouble or paper over the cracks.

My sin can be put to death by believing in Jesus.
Trusting his death to also be my death.

The Bible tells how he became one of us to bring our sin to nothing.
To finish it off.
To give it the wages it deserves. i.e. DEATH.
Ending sinful life to empty sin of its poisonous power.
But the Jesus story isn't just death.
if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.
A stark future is ahead. Adam's helpless race faces death.
But any member of that race can instead die in Christ.
Divine wrath will justly bring sin to death - in Adam, in Christ.
"The wrath of God is satisfied" - sin put to death.
Wrath reaching its just completeness at Calvary or in that terrible day to come. Either way, death.

But in Christ death isn't the end, because death cannot keep its hold on him.
...if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his

In Christ, death is not the end of us.
Not living in the first place is not the only solution.
One can be born again, resurrected.
We can pass through death in Jesus' death, and into life through his resurrection.

Down to the grave, up into life. Down and up. No other way.

The principle is called Union with Christ.
What happens to Jesus happens to us.
He died so do we. But if he was then raised, so will we.
He stands justified, so too we can stand justified.

In Christ, death is finished. Consider it so!

Why would I give my old dead body to more destruction when I could receive abundance of life. The gospel invites me to turn again to Jesus, believe in his death, believe in his resurrection and so consider myself dead to my old fleshly life and alive in Christ.

As I live in the present struggle with sin, my hope is sure:
There is no condemnation for those who are IN CHRIST, who die with him, who rise with him...

Friday, December 06, 2013

But why?

Early December and early March are the two seasons in my year when my job steps away from frontline student ministry to be involved in recruitment for new Staff and Interns. That process spreads over the preceding months to connect with people and invite them to apply, but then we come to interview.

Hour after hour of asking questions.
Hearing answers and examining them.
Thinking hard to understand the assumptions behind the answers.
Asking more questions. And then more.

Yes, but what do you mean by that?
Yes, and how did you do that?
Yes, and why did you do that?

It's good practice for normal life, for discipleship, for evangelism. The approach is very similar... the only difference is that in a formal interview permission has been granted to ask and ask and ask.

I find it to be a sharpening experience. A bit exhaustinng but enriching and envigorating.

It fights against just accepting forms of words and jargon and assumed ideas but making me dig deeper, questioning more carefully. Not for the sake of asking. But asking questions in love, in hope, for discovery.

I've been teaching students lately about how knowing Jesus should leads us to being intensely curious, fascinated people who are fascinated with people and all kinds of things. But it's all too easy to revert back into well worn paths and well trodden answers. Life is richer and better and more interesting than that.

I want to rediscover the inner four year old... to keep asking and asking and asking and not just accepting what I'm told. I want to feel the pain and the struggle and the joy and the liberty of hard questions and fresh answers, convinced that in a relational universe its good to ask and possible to know.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

One Forever (Rory Shiner)

I've really enjoyed Rory Shiner's short book One Forever recently which unpacks the centre of Christianity - our union with Christ. Here's his key illustration:

You can get the book and also access the original sermons in audio and video form from AFES.
Saved in Christ
Right in Christ
Holy in Christ
Gathered in Christ
See also Mike Reeves mp3s: Union with Christ