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Showing posts from June, 2016

Welcome to the family of God

Galatians is a gift that keeps on giving. The gospel might be simple enough for a child, but there is depth and nuance that rewards careful and repeated study of the Scriptures - especially when done with a friend, with a cup of the finest coffee for a couple of hours.
1. Departure from the gospel is (1v6) to desert him who called us in Christ. Which is to say that to have faith in the gospel is to be in relationship with the Father by being in Christ. Opposing sound doctrine is to set yourself against Christ and his Father. Heresy defames and derides and dishonours Christ. The gospel is the Father's welcome to the divine family.2. Departure from the gospel is to be severed from Christ (5v4). Which is to say that to have faith in the gospel is (4v19) to have Christ formed in you. Clothed in Christ, indwelt by Christ, baptised into Christ. The gospel is Christ's welcome to the divine family.3.Departure from the gospel is to turn from the Spirit with whom you began (3v3). Which …

"Do you see this woman?"

Extracts from Sermon: Jesus loves good people - Luke 7:36-50 at Grace Church Exeter

1. SHE LOVED JESUS (36-38)
 [36] One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. [37] And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee's house… “A woman of the city, who was a sinner” I wonder if you know someone like that? Perhaps you think of yourself like that? Curtains twitch when she walks by… we won’t speculate about her back story, but you get the idea of what people thought of her, and the hurt, pain, stigma she must feel…

She’s the person who because of their gender, ethnicity, sexuality, track record, assumes – and not without some evidence – that church wouldn’t be for her. Can you imagine what it takes for her to get to Jesus that day? Simon – the host, as we’ll see - hates that she’s there. He makes himself feel better compared to her. She knows. Could…

You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit (James K.A. Smith)

James K A Smith is highly rated as a theologian and philosopher. I've enjoyed his earlier books 'Desiring the Kingdom' and 'How (not) to be secular', the latter an introduction to Charles Taylor's epic A Secular Age, along with his work at Comment magazine that helpfully engages Christian faith with the workplace and wider society.

Smith comes from a pentecostal background but has moved to a more liturgical churchmanship and that's reflected in the tone of the book.

The basic idea is that we're more than just learners, we're lovers. The question is, what do you want? And the disturbing reality for us might be that what we think we want isn't really what we want. We're shaped by our sinful desires and the secular liturgies of our age. For, if we're lovers not just learners, is a starting point, then Smith's next step is to say that we're shaped not just by knowledge but by habit - by the routines and rituals of our days, which ma…

Cruciformity: Learning the way of the cross.

X-marks the spot. It's the crux of the matter.  Trinity is cruciform - the Father, full of love, sends his Son, in the Spirit. The Father is the Father of the crucified Christ. Christ is the Christ who gave himself in our place. A crucified human being is a member of the Trinity. Cruciform love is at the heart of the Triune God.Salvation is cruciform - we're saved by Christ's self-giving death for us. There is and was and will never be any other way into the life of God than through his wrath-averting, penalty-bearing, debt-cancelling death. The seed dies, and then brings flourishing. Darkness gives way to light.Revelation is cruciform  - the cross is the heart of divine revelation, the reference point and the place where God's glory is most vividly seen. The context for everything this God says is the cross... thus human communication of the faith is "Christ and him crucified."Sovereignty is cruciform - we're, as Newton put it, "held in the hands th…

"Held in hands that bled for us"

I spent Tuesday at the Proclamation Trust's annual Evangelical Ministry Assembly. I think it's about 10 years since I last went - it's always felt too far from Exeter, but with a month before we move out of the South West to go the opportunity arose and I'm so glad I went because of... 1. The understated humility of Vaughan Roberts and Adrian Reynolds. Vaughan reflected on how he'd heard older gospel ministers in the past being thankful for God's faithfulness in holding on to them, and how many years later he sees the same in his life.   Granted it was a room of largely British people (and perhaps more culturally conservative than average), I loved the understatedness of the occasion. A large crowd but no hype, just ordinary brothers and sisters together. The tone wasn't so much celebration of the achievements of the last year (good as that is to do) but of thankfulness for God's grace in the gospel, to have kept us looking to him.   2. Being treated t…

What is it like to follow Jesus?

Something in me wants to be able to say you'll be healthy, wealthy, satisfied, fulfilled etc. 
But, chewing over what Paul writes in Romans 8 and what the Sons of Korah write in Psalm 44 (which is cited by Paul) it seems that a life following Jesus is more like 'dying all day long'.
It's the Father's plan to make those who follow Jesus more like Jesus. To conform us to the image of his Son. Jesus was not rich, powerful, privileged. He sunk down and down and down to death.
Is it really that bad?
The secular liturgies of my culture and the hopes and dreams of my sinful heart really hope not. I'm Western, we're winners. But it doesn't take much living before the brokenness of life breaks in to my life or to those around me.
It won't do to try and cover over the cracks, it won't do to just push the suffering out of sight and out of mind... it wont work and it wont help. The hardship of life isn't just the acute moments that can be met with inte…

In Scripture we find Christ himself

From Richard Sibbes on 2 Corinthians 1
God has given us his Scriptures, his word. The comforts that are fetched from there are strong, because they are his comforts. It is his word. The word of prince comforts, though he be not there to speak it. Though it be a letter, or by a messenger, yet he whose word it is, is one that is able to make his word good. He is Lord and Master of his word.

The word of God is comforting, and all the reasons that are in it, and that are deduced from it, upon good ground and consequence, they are comfortable, because it is God's word. He is the God of all. Those comforts in God's word, and reasons from within are wonderful in their variety. There is comfort laid out there for the Christian including:
LibertyFree access to the throne of graceAdoption as a child of GodJustificationBeing an heir of heavenThe promises of graceThe presence of GodThe assistance of his presence. These things out of the word of God are wondrous plentiful. Indeed, th…

What happens to the plane will also happen to you

Some notes on 2 Timothy.

1. The Christian life is union with Christ.
In Paul's letter to Timothy, his parting word to a junior leader he says that the Christian life is in Christ. There is
1v1 the promise of life in Christ Jesus1v9 grace in Christ Jesus1v13 faith and love in Christ Jesus2v1 grace in Christ Jesus2v10 salvation in Christ Jesus3v12 godly life in Christ Jesus3v15 salvation through faith in Christ Jesus The Christian life is outside me - in Christ. It's not about searching for the hero inside yourself - we look to the hero outside of us. I'm not the hero, Jesus is.

2. The Christian life means Christ in me
When Paul reflects on Timothy's family he sees faith that has lived in his grandmother, mother and now lives in him. It's a curious idea - indwelling faith? (1v5)

He then speaks on the power, love, self-discipline (1v7) that Timothy has by the gift of the Spirit God gave him (1v7). This is in stark contrast to the fools of chapter 3, who have "a for…

Small Town Jesus (Donnie Griggs)

I first encountered Donnie Griggs at a conference near Exeter a few years ago - his beard makes quite the impression but more so his diligent commitment to his small town in the USA, to love his town and build a church that is unmovable on things of first importance and flexible on other matters.

Donnie is a regular visitor to the UK and I heard him again in February 2016, again in Exeter. Those messages, along with one by Dan Romer, are worth a listen. Advance UK February 2016. Donnie was again  banging the drum for gospel-centred contextualised ministry and asking his probing questions. There's a reasonable overlap between those recordings and his book Small Town Jesus.

Listening to Donnie in Febraury was another repentance moment in my life, through those sessions I got on the phone to a good friend who doesn't know Jesus to spend more time with him...  decided to re-commit to one coffee shop in our city and start talking to the staff...  resolved again to love people and …

The Wiggly Roman Road: A missional-pastoral tension

I've spent the last couple of years reading through Romans with several people. One of the many intruiging things is Paul's purpose in writing. We get some hints in the first chapter  but the bulk of the explanation is in chapter 15.

Essentially Paul is somewhere in the balkans and has exhausted his missionary opportunities there. His passion is to preach where no-one has preached before and that's no longer possible there. He has his eyes on Spain, and going via Rome is his plan. However, he decides to take a massive detour via Jerusalem to deliver money he's collected from churches for the famine hit Jewish churches, and consequently he's written Romans to be delivered by Phoebe while he makes that journey, before reaching Rome and going on to Spain. Tradition tells us that Paul never made it to Spain but rather ended up arrested in Jerusalem, shipped and shipwrecked to Rome where he was tried and eventually martyred.

Paul is a driven missionary, with a call to …

The Way to Win

The magnificience of foolish weakness. I'm reading The Lord of the Rings with my seven year old at the moment. I'm loving returning to a book that I last read nearly 30 years ago lying on a beach as an 8 or 9 year old. Obviously I've seen the films since but there's nothing like a book for taking you into another world. As JK Rowling has put it:
"Wherever I am, if I've got a book with me, I have a place I can go and be happy." We've reach The Council of Elrond in the last week. It's striking to hear the Company of the Ring debate how to go forward. Boromir - as we might - suggests using the ring against Sauron. He is told that they can't wield it's power - ultimate corruption would follow rather than victory.

There is silence. And then it falls to the little creature from a backwater of Middle Earth, to the Hobbit Frodo to say
"I will go. Though I do not know the way." The great ring of power can only be carried to its destruction …