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Showing posts from March, 2006

Apathy and Discernment

Challies on the future of the church:"In our day churches are filled with people who simply do not care about the purity of the church. There are countless numbers of professed Christians who care nothing for any type of theological precision or defining characteristics of the faith.

There is a shocking apathy among those who profess Christ. Coupled with this apathy is a terrible lack of discernment and a lack of appreciation for those who value and display discernment. Too often evangelicals seem not to know how to discern truth from error, and just as often do not seem to care. Apathy and a lack of discernment together make a potent force that forms a serious threat to the church--perhaps the most serious threat we face today. So many other threats--the pernicious new doctrines that arise, the loss of confidence in the Bible, the rise of teachers and leaders who deny fundamental doctrines--these would be swept away if evangelicals simply stopped being so apathetic and displayed …

Nigel Lee: Gaining Christ

Ant writes that Nigel Lee has finished the race:"Nigel Lee died in the early hours of this morning after his long battle with cancer. He is now with the Lord he loved and served so passionately. Brilliant for him, but sad for those who remain. Remember his family in your prayers. And be inspired by his example, to use all you have and are, to serve Christ, and to serve him until you too make it home."I had the priviledge of working with Nigel on the Reading University mission in 2001. It was a really hard week of mission. Nonetheless my memory of the week is spending time hearing him faithfully preach Christ daily, even to small numbers, always with great joy. That week taught me many lessons about evangelism and about ministry for which I'm most grateful.

The last time I saw Nigel was when he spoke at Forum 2003 on 1 John as I started work on staff with UCCF. An exhilarating week in God's word. His service most impacted me though through the way he served those serv…

The Spirit-filled Church: Filled with the Spirit (Marriage)

Paul's teaching being filled with the Spirit continues with an explanation of submission in reverance to Christ. The first concerns marriage, the second parents and children and then finally masters and slaves....

Ephesians 5v18-33

There are words for husbands and wives, but we must note that in v32 Paul says he is first teaching about Christ and the Church. The way that Christian marriage works will teach us much about the way that Christ loves his church... his people, predestined in love to be in Him... chosen before time to be made holy by his sacrifice...

Christ is the head of the church and saves it - v22-24
The headship fo husbands over wives teaches us about Christ and the church, and from this wives should submit to their husbands. And this echoes their submission to the Lord. Submission is a dirty word in the 21st Century western society. But we must see Christ as the model of submission here. From this an order is established - Christ: Church.... Husband: Wife. This submis…

Putting Amazing back into Grace

"The Spirit's calling grace is the "straw that broke the camel's back." And that camel's name is Pride" Michael Horton's Putting Amazing back into Grace is one of the best books I've read. He cuts to the heart of the reformed faith and calls us to savour the great doctrines of grace. Horton is aware of our struggles with them and presents the heart of the gospel with warmth, clarity and strong argument.Too often our Christianity is man-centred, preoccupied with our efforts, our commitment, our faith rather than with faith's object, Christ! Too often, despite our efforts to avoid it, it ends up being all about me. Only the doctrines of grace and the Holy Spirit's work will change that.

Get it from Amazon

The Spirit-filled Church: Filled with the Spirit

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
What does it mean to be filled with the Spirit?

The reality is that this is a hot question in the church today. Probably it shouldn't be but it is. Some consider it to concern fresh-experiences of the Holy Spirit. Others have talked about it as us having the Holy Spirit and then leaking, so requiring re-filling. Is being Spirit-filled something that happens as we pray for one another? Is it the way we practice our faith?

What we need to consider first is what this passage says!Addressing one another in songsMaking melody to the Lord with all your heartGiving thanks to God in the name of our Lord Jesus ChristSubmitting to one anot…

Let God speak!

Following on from When God Speaks, pleading for people to get the Bible open... Here's something from Peter Adam, part of a longer article coming to in April.
Expository Preaching is the preaching of the message of a book of the Bible, usually verse by verse, paragraph by paragraph, chapter by chapter, by explanation and application of it to the congregation. It was the preaching method of the Reformers, and that of Early Church preachers like Augustine and John Chrysostom. Here are 15 Incontrovertible Arguments in favour of Expository Preaching:-

(1) Preaching through the books of the Bible, verse by verse, chapter by chapter, respects and reflects God’s authorship. God did not gives us a book of quotable quotes, nor a dictionary of useful texts, nor an anthology of inspiring ideas. When God caused the Scriptures to be written the medium that he used was that of books of the Bible. If that was good enough for the author it should be good enough for the preac…

The Spirit-filled Church: Grieving the Spirit

In Ephesians 4v30 we're warned against grieving the Holy Spirit. This is towards the end of a chapter that began with instruction to maintain the unity of the Spirit (v3). In God's amaing plan to bring everything under Christ's rule he creates a united people. That unity in Christ happens through by the Holy Spirit. The third person of the trinity who unites us.

The body is to grow by exercising Christ's gifts so that it doesn't get blown around by the waves and winds of false doctrine. John Piper illustrates this as a challenge not to be jellyfish and leaves, but rather to be made into dolphins and trees... transformed together by Christ... transformed as we live together and speak the truth to one another.

The argument continues with more and more focus on the way God's people speak to one another. The essence of relationship is speech. We could speak lies to one another, arguing and fighting. Or we can speak truth and peace. Anger that leads to sin gives the d…

Confidence in Ministry

This is a highly abridged and re-worked version of a talk I did at Reading CU last week. This was for a pastors prayer group: Confidence. What does it look like to be confident? Confident in life? Confident in ministry? We're told to be self-confident by our culture. Confident in our achievements, education, influence, image... we're not immune. We see the size of our congregation... the response received... the hours we work... Most pastors work 60 hours a week... yet those we serve expect more like 45 hours a week... fairly normal working hours! (Ref: Peter Brain - Going the Distance) Are we trying to justify our existence... to them? To God? To ourselves?

Self-confidence is folly and yet very appealing because it makes much of us. It's like Cats and Dogs. "A dog says, "You pet me, you feed me, you shelter me, you love me, you must be God." A cat says, "You pet me, you feed me, you shelter me, you love me, I must be God."" (Cat & Dog Theo…

The Spirit-filled Church: Five Foundations

What does God tell us about the Holy Spirit and the Church, in Ephesians?

God's amazing plan is to establish Christ over all (1v10, 1v22). Everything God is doing is drawing attention to Christ. All the work of the Spirit points us that way. The Spirit implements this work of Christ-exaltation. The Spirit effects this work of Christ-exaltation. He is self-effacing in his work, not drawing attention to himself but pointing us always to Christ - the Spirit-filled Church must be a Christ-centred church... without the Spirit we wont look to Christ... with the Spirit we will be drawn to him.

Firstly, we're sealed with the Spirit. 1v13
The Holy Spirit is a marker of God's grace to us. The Spirit is God's guarentee of God's work in our lives. This is something objective in our lives. God says - "mine". God says "got you". When? When we heard and believed the good news of God's amazing plan. We heard and believed the word of truth - the good news of sa…

When God speaks

One of the struggles of ministry is that people very easily try to put God's word aside. We remember what we know and forget where we learnt it. We become familiar with the truth and think we know how things work. And so God's word gets put back on the shelf. And I begin to rule.

It matters because God's word is the way God rules in my life. Without the word Jesus is not being Lord in any practical sense. Of course, just because I have the Bible open every day for my work doesn't mean I will pay attention to it. I'm quite capable of reading it and then forgetting it. My sinful nature looks to tempt me. And I'm easily convinced by it.

Paul teaches Timothy about the importance of guarding God's word, and thus God's gospel. It must be remembered, reflected on and taught constantly. 2 Timothy 2v14-19 God is sovereign and requires changed lives, so you rememember to teach the gospel of grace
People catch themselves in pointless disputes and gossip. Such things …

The Spirit-filled Church: Ephesians

We've been studying Ephesians with church this Spring. Its mind-blowing stuff - showing us God's amazing plan... his cosmic, corporate plan to gather his church in Christ. Loving the church!

Sunday morning was our AGM in the service so everything else was cut down a bit - a few of us then gathered again in the evening with our pastor to explore Ephesians 5 in a bit more depth - a real life Coffee Bible Club....

I wanted to explore a theme from that: what does Ephesians say about the Holy Spirit?These are the specific references:
1v13-14: The guarentee of redemption2v18: The means of access to the Father2v22: The way God lives in the church3v5: The revealer of the gospel3v16: The way Christ dwells in our hearts4v3: The bond of our unity4v30: The one who is grieved by division in relationships5v18: The one who fills us to live with understanding and wisdom6v17: The Word of God is the Spirit's sword6v18: The one in whom we my plan is to spend some of this week explor…

Social Action vs. Evangelism

Let conversation resume at The Coffee Bible Club.
Kicking off with Social Action vs. Evangelism.

Photo by Funky Pancake - with a sneeky tea on the end

Christian Spirituality

I've spent the last couple of months working through 1 Corinthians 12-14 with CU small group leaders and with the guys I've been discipling. Here's all of that blogged:1 Corinthians 12v1-31 Corinthians 12v4-111 Corinthians 12v12-311 Corinthians 131 Corinthians 14v1-121 Corinthinas 14v13-251 Corinthians 14v26-40Issues: Disgraceful for a woman to speakIssues: Prophecy in CU?Issues: Unity in CU?Christian Union Cell Notes
Notes on ch1-4 by Dave Hooper, ch12-14 by Dave Bish1 Cor 11 Cor 21 Cor 31 Cor 41 Cor 121 Cor 131 Cor 14

Issues: Unity in a Christian Union?

UCCF: The Christian Unions stand united on the basis of shared vision, values and doctrine.

Our Visional Basis of Fellowship is to make disciples of Jesus Christ in the student world - by students living for Jesus and speaking for Jesus

Our Valual (?) Basis of Fellowship is with evangelical unity (detailed in the doctrinal basis) and student leadership (supported by Staff, Relay and local church)

Our Doctrinal Basis of Fellowship are recognised evangelical distinctive doctrines about the gospel and scripture. (See Doctrinal Basis). Such statements are the historic norm of the church, and are constantly disputed by those who would avoid these life-giving, life-changing truths.

Defined from the teaching of 1 Corinthians 12-14 this is unity from the Spirit's confession that "Jesus is Lord". Elsewhere in 1 Corinthians Paul says that all Christian conviction is the Spirit's word, the mind of Christ which is "according to the scriptures" and concerning "Christ a…

Issues: Prophecy in a Christian Union?

This is not a UCCF policy document. These are simply my reflections on scripture. The application of scripture in a Christian Union on matters secondary to salvation must be done with due care, prayer, understanding and explanation. Different contexts will mitigate somewhat different applications, depending on differing needs to consider, protect and love other Christians and their consciences on these matters.... with due attention to what God's word says.
Christian Unions are interdenominational mission teams. They unite Christians in evangelical convictions from across streams and denominations to do evangelism on campus, with student-leadership.

This inevitably means a mix of different convictions about the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The Christian Union isn't the local church but it does exercise a degree of self-care in small groups and central Team Training meetings. In these members are exercising some ministry among their peers.

Should that include prophecy, in a conte…

Issues: Disgraceful for a woman to speak?

This is the first of three additional posts dealing with particular issues raised by 1 Cor 12-14, particularly in the context of a Christian Union. In all, my thoughts from scripture not any form of UCCF policy statement. The next two posts will consider prophecy in CU and unity in CU.

When I approached 1 Corinthians 12-14 I knew it tackled Spiritual Gifts, I'd forgotten that it also raises issues about the role of women in the church. This post does not going to attempt to deal with everything in the area of women's ministry. 1 Corinthians 14 doesn't deal with whether women can teach, but rather with women's role in testing prophecy....

1 Corinthians 14v33a-35

1. Some say remove it from the Bible as non-biblical. This is because it appears not to fit. But it's there in the early manuscripts... and we can't just go editing the Bible just because it jars with us!

2. Some say its about gossiping women. But Paul says that the reason is submission because of law. Proba…

Christian Spirituality: 1 Cor 14v26-40

What is the goal of anyone's contribution to a meeting?How are tongues to be exercised?How should prophecy be exercised?How and why should it be tested?What will be women's role in this?Why this role?What is Paul's conclusion to these chapters (v39-40)?What does it mean, from ch12-14 (and in view of ch1-4), to be fitting and orderly?What specific challenges must we take action on from these studies?Contributing without chaos
Every contribution is to be for strengthening the body. People may bring all sorts of contributions, a song, a word, whatever someone contributes it is not for themselves but for the benefit of the body, for its growth in the gospel, in unity in Christ.

Tongues are limited to two or three and must be translated. Without that the person must be silent... without clarity there is no benefit to the body.

Again, two or three are to share prophecy. Like tongues the gift is under the control of the person exercising the gifts. A prophet prophes…

Christian Spirituality: 1 Cor 14v13-25

Why is clarity important for individual believers?Why is clarity important for believers together?How does this shape our motivation to pray together, and the way we do that?Look up Isaiah 28v9-13. What is the purpose of unintelligible tongues there?What then will tongues point unbelievers to?What will prophecy point an unbeliever to?Summarise the big idea of v1-25.How can we ensure that our meetings have clarity?For the individual Christian
Whilst an uninterpreted tongue has some benefit for the individual exercising it is more beneficial if what is happening is understandable. The tongue-speaker's spirit is able to speak to God and be edified, however their mind is unfruitful. What they should do? The greater good will come if they ask God for interpretation. That way their mind and spirit are both fruitful. Paul isn't down on tongues at all - its a gift from God which he has more than anyone else. Nonetheless its richer for an individual not just to have tongues, but also in…

Christian Spirituality: 1 Cor 14v1-12

1 Corinthians 12v1-31 Corinthians 12v4-111 Corinthians 12v12-311 Corinthians 13After the strong warnings of chapter 13 we might be tempted to hold off from exercising gifts. But the Biblical response to bad use of gifts isn't not using them, its using them rightly. And so Paul continues to show us the most excellent way - the way of love and using gifts for the common good. Remind yourselves of the main teachings of 1 Cor 1-4. Keep this in mind as you study this chapter.Why does Paul say prophecy is better than tongues? Who benefits from prophecy?What does Paul want the Corinthians to do? (v1, v12)What would that look like in practice?Paul contrasts prophecy and tongues and their use in the church. As he describes them we can begin to infer something of a descriptive definition of prophecy. Prophecy brings a revelation from God that can be understood intelligibly. The result of this prophecy will be the strengthening and comfort of the church.

Tongues on the other hand, unless inte…

The Gift of Hospitality

This weekend we've had the blessing of recieving the gift of hospitality. Not so much by exercising it (though we love that too), but in recieving it from others. Big thanks to Big-Eye-Tony, and Funky Pancake and his family for the company and the food yesterday and today. Yummy! Church in action.

This week is 1 Corinthians 14 week on the blog. On Monday-Wednesday I'll be exploring the passage, and then on Thursday to Saturday exploring some particular issues that arise, particularly in the context of a University Christian Union.

Pray like a Calvinist!

On Thursday at Surrey CU John Benton spoke from Acts 4v23-31 on How can Christians find courage?. John spoke gently and sensitively, carefully explaining the word of God.

It's humbling to sit at the feet of such a wise and experienced pastor. Youthful enthusiasm is often so full of confidence and fresh ideas, but our generation have so much to learn from those who have gone before us.

Through John, The Bible once again proved itself to be exactly what we need. No surprise - this is God speaking, and without God's word student mission is meaningless. And it is mission we're gathered to do.

The passage concerns the response of Peter and John after they're released from their trial. Their crime was preaching Christ. They were asked to stop but refused. How do they respond? What we find was spot on for a student missions context. The Spirit of God speaking through his word. Brilliant!

They pray to the Sovereign Lord! They pray to the speaking Lord! And they ask for him to act …

Podcast Shudall!

US-based ex-Relay Jordan Gropp has started a web campaign to get Andy Shudall to upload audios of the Bible teaching that he's doing in New Zealand, with Christian Unions there. This is a noble campaign.

Andy has taught several generations of Relay workers in the UK the abundant grace of God faithfully from the scriptures. He did the same at my wedding.

The essence of Relay is passing on God's grace so you could make a case for the rest of us simply blogging (and living) God's grace (there are legion current and ex-Relay bloggers....). Still, Andy is far away and we'd all love to hear his cheeky scouse voice remind us again of God's grace. Bring on the shudcast!


Join the campaign by adding a comment on Jordan's blog

Andy's blog | Andy also began The Bible Coffee Club

Christian Marriage

Pyromaniac Dan Phillips asks some great questions about Christian marriage.

Really challenging - at the heart of every situation the gospel must be central. Tim Rudge advised me a month before I got married that marriage is "two sinners living under the same roof". Further advice observed that marriage is about when "sinners say I do". And in that context the first point is not that Em is a sinner, but that I am. And above all we're both dependent upon the grace of God in Jesus Christ.

Seeing and Savouring Jesus!

The MP3's of talks from our recent UCCF regional Leaders weekend are starting to get put up on our website. Our South East ones aren't there as yet, but you'd be mad to miss Marcus Honeysett's talks on 1 Peter at the Midlands weekend.

Listen in to Christian Hedonism for young Christian leaders!!1 Peter 1v1-2v101 Peter 2v11-3v121 Peter 3v13-4v111 Peter 5v1-14Resource PageFor more from Marcus, see Finding Joy


For UniS:Word and Reading Cells...

"Not simply be analyzed"

"Then, about ten years later, came the fall of 1979. I was on sabbatical from teaching at Bethel College. My one aim on this leave was to study Romans 9 and write a book on it that would settle, in my own mind, the meaning of these verses. After six years of teaching and finding many students in every class ready to discount my interpretation of this chapter for one reason or another, I decided I had to give eight months to it. The upshot of that sabbatical was the book, The Justification of God. I tried to answer every important exegetical objection to God’s absolute sovereignty in Romans 9.

But the result of that sabbatical was utterly unexpected—at least by me. My aim was to analyze God’s words so closely and construe them so carefully that I could write a book that would be compelling and stand the test of time. What I did not expect was that six months into this analysis of Romans 9 God himself would speak to me so powerfully that I resigned my job at Bethel and made myself a…

Christian Spirituality: 1 Corinthians 13

Previous Posts: 1 Corinthians 12v1-31 Corinthians 12v4-111 Corinthians 12v12-31
V1-3 Love is essential Recapping what we saw in chapter 12,
what is good about tongues and prophecy and other gifts?How can they be totally devalued, according to v1-3?How does this challenge the Corinthian lust for gifts?How must our priorities about gifts / love change?We come to one of the most famous passages in the Bible. Its the classic passage read at Weddings,... and yet it is in the middle of three chapters on what it means to be spiritual, in a letter to a church in charismatic chaos. Rather strange text to pick for a wedding! And yet we see the appeal, words about love.

Paul begins by speaking about tongues, prophecy and self-sacrifice. All of them he says are nothing without love. We've just heard of the great good of gifts and of serving one another, but now we find that these can all be nullified if one essential thing is missing. Love is essential. This also means that self-sacrifice is not…

Charles Simeon

Charles Simeon (1759-1836) was born in Reading. Most of his life was spent serving as the vicar of Holy Trinity Cambridge for 54 years, amidst much suffering. He once wrote that a nominal Christian is happy to prove the importance of the crucified redeemer.... but the true Christian delights in the cross, rejoices in it, glories in it and shudders at the thought of glorying in anything else.

His ministry was a model for many, and his influence lead to an increased evangelical presence within the Church of England. To gain some perspective on Simeon's ministry we could look at someone like John Stott whose global gospel-ministry in the Church of England has been similar.

John Piper's biography of Simeon:
MP3 Version | Text Version

Tony Blair: doing God?

Tony Blair is back in the new for his Christianity. Years back Alistair Campbell ruled that Blair in public politics doesn't do God. And yet now he calls God back into the equation. Comments in the BBC News report about tonights interview with Michael Parkinson conclude Blair is justifying his decision to go to war. But from the clip I saw yesterday I'm not sure that's what he was saying.

Seems to me that Blair was saying that either our conscience judges us, or God does for our actions. That is not to say "God told me" but rather I'm accountable to God for what I did. Meanwhile Evan Harris of the Liberal Democrats and the National Secular Society warns about allowing private religious faith enter public politics. Classic secularism!

And yet the Bible things that all of life is fair game for God. Moreover God is God over all of it. That doesn't mean we can necessarily say "God told me" to go to war. But rather that a Biblical Worldview is supposed…

Acts 3v1-4v4 : Amazing (Part 2)

Continued from Part 1
Jesus is Amazing

Peter says – don't be amazed at us – look at Jesus.
You killed him but God raised him. God glorified Jesus – do the same!!!

If I saw someone is glorious that's just my opinion. When God speaks it's a different thing. He has authority. And he says Jesus is glorified. Risen and glorious. Amazing.

Jesus is amazing – resurrected and witnessed. Cornerstone of the gospel. Peter and his fellow eyewitnesses testify. Spirit-filled witnesses to God having glorified Jesus.

Be amazed at Jesus! And see that the resurrection is vital
Talk about it with people. Can you defend it?

Forgiveness is Amazing

Remember who Peter is talking to. It's the mob who murdered the Messiah.
It's the crowd who cried "Crucify him!" Peter says they were ignorant – no excuse. Culpable.

In fact God was fulfilling his purposes. If they repent then
a) their sins blotted out / wiped out
b) times of refreshing come from God.

Look at who got forgiven! These were the peopl…

Acts 3v1-4v4 : Amazing (Part 1)

Is anything amazing anymore?
She's living the dream. Chantelle Houghton. A genuine It girl for the 21st Century. Famous not for being famous, but for “not” being famous.

Big Brother might have been the vehicle but this is not George Orwell's world. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Aldous Huxley however feared we'd be drowned in a sea of irrelevance and triviality. This is our brave new world.

Richard Dawkins fears that religion has taken away our sense of wonder. Dawkins has the wrong foe. It is the entertainment industry that has stripped us of wonder.

And what are we left with. Chantelle's vacuous cry of “o my god”. We're dying of banality. What is more astounding? That the media continue to pedal her before us, or that we continue to allow ourselves to be amused to death by her.

Everything is astounding.
And nothing is astounding.

And so we come to an event that brought a city to a stand still. It wowed them. Not a story of fake sheikhs or fake…

Christian Spirituality: 1 Cor 12:12-31

What image is used in v12?What is this supposed to teach us?What objections are raised in v15,21?What is wrong with the objections?How is each objection refuted?What sort of diversity is good for the body?App: How must the way we treat one another change?App: How must my desires change?Whatever our roles in the body we are one body in Christ with one Spirit. One with many different parts. We cannot say that we do not belong. Everyone is needed – we should not be jealous of others or want to be what we are not. No-one is useless. The body would be wierd if it was all one part. God arranged it as it is - and either way you can't opt out!We cannot say that someone else does not belong. We are not self-sufficient. Everyone has a part to play – though some may require extra modesty and attention. The parts we might think we don't need get extra care and extra honour from God. He arranged it and honours each part.

Furthermore our diversity leads to greater unity. We are dependent o…