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Showing posts from May, 2006

Emptiness & Eternity - Ecclesiastes 2

Sermon Script. Ecclesiastes ch2. Preached at Arborfield, 28-May-06
Once it was said - Cogito Ergo Sum... I think therefore, I am... Today? Perhaps “Tesco, ergo sum”. I shop, therefore... I am... or even, iPod Ergo Sum... I am entertained, therefore I am.... The entertainment industry offering the keys to happiness wherever we turn.

And we shop, not because we need things but because we think it might satisfy. The Teacher sets up a grand experiment. Richer than Roman Abrahamovich or Bill Gates. He had a flair for pleasure greater than Elton John. It's said of certain things, “that if you have to ask, you can't afford it”. For The Teacher money was no object.

Look at verses 1-11. v1, he turns his heart to consider pleasure. Why? v1, to find out what is good. A noble plan?
v1, but it was meaningless. Why?
v2, what does it accomplish?
He tries wine, v3, and folly. You can imagine him, stumbling out of a pub on Friar Street in Reading on a Friday night... …

An Eye for the Mundane

I'm convinced one of the convictions all Christians must have is that life matters. Not just the big things, but the little things. Dave Simpson has been illustrating this for some time with his photo-blog... now Becci has started something that records the details... one post per day for a year, to see something beautiful. I love this idea. I love it because it is a great way of encouraging the good whereever you find it, and of learning to look hard for good thing. There's no way I have the time to do it en blog. I already risk missing life because I blog too much. These guys help me open my eyes and see all the stuff that God has his eyes on... he who counts every hair on my head... who knows everyone and every situation.

Dave Simpson - Funky Pancake
Becci Brown - Yeah, that was cool
Kath Arnold - Delighting in the Details
Pod Bhogal - Maybe Life Doesn't Suck
Ceryn Oakes - Amazaaaazin
Issy - madfoodscientist
SteffyB - Itsnotsobadafterall

Maybe in a week or so I'll aggregat…

The Songs we sing... must be Christian

What is happening when Christians gather to sing together? Firstly, they may be singing to themselves. Addressing their own soul, calling it to worship the Lord. This isn't the highest priority in corporate worship, more reserved for private worship. Regardless of form or style, what is essential is that we believe the truth about our God and worship him appropriately. It is quite appropriate that our times of worship should not only prepare us to hear God's word, but also begin with it. God's people gather together from their various circumstances, we need to be reminded of the glory of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The leader may be prepared, but the congregation may not be.

When we come together - we are to be together, not alone. Solo-Christianity is no-Christianity. We are called to be God's people together, and true fellowship is a magnificient statement of God's gospel. But it only occurs when we serve one another in love, which requires some interaction. Corpo…

The Soul Food of the Gospel

Al Mohler quotes The Christian Century Editorial: [The Da Vinci Code and Left Behind....] trade on a fundamentally gnostic premise: that most of the church has been duped and that the real Christian belief is a secret that will now be divulged to the privileged reader.... The early church rejected gnosticism and its purveyors (as in the case of the recently rereleased Gospel of Judas) because the gnostics were telling a fundamentally different story from that narrated by the texts that became the New Testament..... When the junk food of the gnostic stories fails to satisfy, churches should be there with the soul food of the gospel.
Meanwhile, John Schroeder notes:
...the church is not here to produce my salvation. The church is here solely to praise God and to reflect His glory and grace. Make no mistake, many will find salvation in that, but bringing that salvation is not the church's purpose... (HT: Milton Stanley)
Nothing like a bit of God-centredness to put the flavour back into …


This evening I met Adrian Reynolds from Yateley and had the pleasure of hearing Ant Adams preach Romans 6 at Reading University Christian Union. I'll let others comment more on what was said (several RUCU-bloggers were present e.g. Ed "Into the blinding light").

I was struck by two quotes... one from John Murray observing that union with Christ is at the centre of salvation, and the other by John Owen, commenting on our constant struggle to have the redeemed believe that they are redeemed(and the unredeemed believe that they are unredeemed). In Christ we are free from sin... it's a master we do not have to obey, a phone we need not answer...

SCRIPT: Posted by Ant on his blog: Homeward Bound


"Postmoderns live on the surface,
not in the depths, and theirs
is a despair to be tossed off lightly
and which might even be alleviated
by nothing more serious than a sitcom"
-- David Wells, Christ in a meaningless world, in Above all pow'rs p177 Preparing Ecclesiastes 2, on the emptiness of life I read David Wells reflection on how Sartre and Camus were terrified of meaninglessness, and how today it's kind of accepted and shrugged off... life becomes trivial. And Big Brother begins another series...

Meanwhile, try these old links again to put a bit of depth in your life:The Cup - CJ Mahaney - Mark 14
The Cry - CJ Mahaney - Mark 15
Doing Missions When Dying is Gain - John Piper

Walking with God?

Adrian is plugging the Newfrontiers Leadership conference which I was at last year courtesy of RFC. It was brilliant particularly hearing CJ Mahaney speak on the cross. Considering a day visit this year... except, no space for day visitors at the moment, I'll keep an eye out for that.

Yesterday I got my booking confirmation through for a couple of days at the Evangelical Ministry Assemby in London at the end of June.

with Peter Adam, Christopher Ash, David Jackman, Simon Manchester and John Piper.

More information on the Evangelical Ministry Assembly

The Pure Course

This was launched at Forum in September 2005... Today reported in the Daily Telegraph: Students are given lessons on how to keep their virginity. The article is ok though its not all that accurate and makes it seem like our ultimate goal is to spread a "gospel of sexual abstinence".. whereas its pretty clear that the course is actually about forgiveness and life knowing Jesus.

The actual course information is here: The Pure Course(NB: requires Norn Irish pronouciation to be authentic). Written by Linda Marshall, UCCF Midlands Team Leader.

We ran it at Reading University in the autumn with upto 40 students turning out at 7.30am on a Monday morning for the course. The same happened at Surrey University on Wednesday mornings with a smaller number.

The Spirit and the People of God

Mo has written:
1. Homogenous Church
2. Ephesians & Homogenous Church

Whilst preparing for a talk on the church for Reading Family Church, in June, I found this by Ian Stackhouse:"As [Gordon] Fee asserts, unity 'requires heterogeneous people to submit their diversity to the unifying work of the Spirit. Homogenous churches lie totally outside Paul's frame of reference. After all, such churches cannot maintain the unity of the Spirit that either Ephesians 2 and 4 or 1 Corinthians 12 call for'. Arising out of this tension is the challenge to live true to the way of the Spirit in whom we have been immersed, rather tan the way of the flesh. The success of the church community in living this way, and not any other way, is precisely what constitutes the witness of God's grace in the world. Unspectacular though it may be, and unpopular hough it may be, it is the maintenance of the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, reinforced in the fellowship that surrounds the w…

Third best aroma in the world

If the greatest aroma of all is that of Christ, from believers (2 Cor 2)... and the second is the prayers of the saints (Rev 20)... the third must be freshly ground coffee beans.


In the end, I realized that we labor with the exalted Christ, which gives us authority to proclaim the gospel of freedom. And we labor like the incarnated Christ, which gives us humility and grace to creatively demonstrate and proclaim the love of Christ to fellow sinners in our culture. And though I needed to be like Jesus and lead our people in kind, I also needed to remember that there is one way in which a Christian should not be like Jesus. Jesus never sinned and, therefore, never repented, but because we sin, we must continually repent if we are to be faithful missionaries. This simple point is important because, while the many emerging pastors I speak with have rightly focused on following the example of Jesus, if they fail to recognize this vital difference between us and Jesus, they will diminish the acknowledgment of sin and the urgency of repentance." - Mark Driscoll
People want practical ministry tips and life advice, but what we really need is doctrine. In Romans Paul…

Reaching for the Invisible God?

The serious problem I see with “law two” in most booklets is the diagram showing men trying to reach God through ethics, good works, philosophy, other religions, etc. This is completely false. The purpose of ethics, etc., according to Romans 1 is to help man escape God and suppress all knowledge of Him. Rebel-lious man never tries to reach God.
(James Jordan, HT:Mark Horne. This is an endnote in the context of positive reflection on "gospel summary" tools...)

The Da Vinci Code (Film)

This year we've seen very few films at the cinema. (Match Point, Syriana, Inside Man, M:I:III). This one was long awaited, and actually we had to wait an extra hour cos we decided not to book in advance and the previous screening was sold out. We got our first glimpse of the new James Bond in action and the news that Captain Jack is back (soon). And then came the film we'd been waiting for.

The story is no surprise and Ron Howard sticks close to the book. Its a classic hollywood film with big sweeping views and great settings - particularly when it comes to the Louvre. The action of course moves on fast from there to several lesser locations, before landing in some classic London spots... and along the way it feels like he's joining up lots of different films without much cohesion.

Hanks and Tautou work well in the lead roles, though it is McKellan who steals the show. Meanwhile, Bettany is pained in his flagillations as Silas, accompanied with a slightly odd accent. Reno a…

Breathless Gratitude

Ian Stackhouse spoke at the last Surrey CU meeting of this year, last night. I think it was the first time I'd heard him preach in person (rather than mp3), though we'd met a number of times and I loved his book on being gospel-driven as a church.

Anyways, during his talk he quoted PT Forsyth, something he does a lot in his book:..."We have churches of the nicest kindest people but who have never known the soul's despair nor its breathless gratitude..." Which is to say that as we consider the gospel we must know the misery, curse and blame we have been under due to sin - and also the unmeasured, amazing, abounding and unending grace that is ours in Jesus Christ.

Earlier I'd met with John Ross in Farnham and he'd shown me a session from Dominic Steele's Introducing God course - in it he describes sin, from Genesis 3, as a our declaration of autonomy. A very helpful term, which leads to the corruption of all our relationships with each other, this world a…


Kept for another year by the grace of God.

Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior
Habakkuk 3v17-18
Whatever the circumstance,
Hallelujah, what a saviour.

Humbled. Amazed. Silenced. Rejoicing.

Emptiness & Eternity

Why is life empty? Why so monotonous?
What is the point? What is success?
Why are comedians depressed? Why are the rich unhappy?
Why is the search for meaning so fruitless?
Is there any hope? Why are even Christians miserable?
Why are we dissatisfied? Why...

1. ENJOYMENT was EMPTY? (v1-11)
God tells us that our pursuit of pleasure wont ultimately satisfy... however much we gain. The Teacher ate, drank, built and shopped... and still saw his pleasure as unsatisfactory and empty.
...what hope for our materialistic culture?
...are the adverts that we're constantly exposed to just wrong?

I said in my heart, "Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself." But behold, this also was vanity. I said of laughter, "It is mad," and of pleasure, "What use is it?" I searched with my heart how to cheer my body with wine--my heart still guiding me with wisdom--and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the children of man to do under heaven dur…


Tom asked: What is it about The Da Vinci Code story that grabs people, causes people to rediscover reading, enjoy the story, reading late into the night, engrossed by the tale? How can we move away from merely evaluating The Da Vinci Code story, merely in terms of - Is it true or false?
Why do we love stories like these? Why have so many of us stayed up late to read that book.... I put off reading it for ages and then read it inside 24 hours, I couldn't put it down. Similarly why did I really enjoy the mindless drivel of M:I:III last week?

Surely part of it is that we have imagination. Our minds buzz with creative thoughts. We love to look beyond where we are, for better worlds and brighter views. Its the same spirit that leads us to write and create, to explore and investigate. We're deeply curious beings who know that we're made for more than the humdrum of life.
...for a better world and a brighter view, some would leave all else, trying to find heav'n on earth... (sca…

Tony Robinson says...

Just watched Tony Robinson's The Real Da Vinci Code on Channel 4. Robinson is a great entertainer but also serious about history. He carefullly shows us that:
...the Da Vinci Code is basically, "rubbish"
...without any factual basis...derived from lots of appealing ideas... not particularly well written (though he concedes thats not a crime)... a story that we might like to be true, but simply isn't. No more reliable a story of history than Monty Python... something that belongs in the realm of imagination.

Good fiction is not a bad thing. The problem here is that it can divert us away from the real story. I'm sure we'll go and see the film, and I'm sure it'll be entertaining... meanwhile the real Jesus story, the one found in the Bible is way more compelling than the fictious gnostic alternatives. Why not take an hour to read one of the gospels in the New Testament?

Huxley's blog relaunched. Much more readable, and as he finishes his exams and heads into Relay I'm looking forward to lots of quality blogging:


A first draft?Shaking civilisation to the very core
A crucial moment in our history
What once was hidden now finally revealed
The greatest story that was never told?
Once before the earth was shaken
Another crucial moment occured
A man nailed to a Roman cross
In the greatest story ever told

Longtime suppressed by authority
Passed down to a sacred few
Complex conspiracy to decieve
Restoring dignity and power to all!
Once again God is dethroned
As men prefer themselves to the King
Offended by God's scandalous plan
Mercy offered freely to any man

With slight of hand and ambitious claim
What was kept secret now made known
Self-proclaimed prophets of truth
Without demand or cost to pay
Elsewhere a word was clearly said
Men speaking of what they'd seen
They would not be silenced or stalled
From calling everyone to the new life
© Dave Bish, 2006

Let grace be grace!

When I've not been in the New Forest with the team this week, I've been studying Romans 11 with Tom and Ed... awesome stuff - when you take time to study it you can tell why Paul explodes in praise at the end of it. Study it for yourself, and take John Piper along to help you...
"God’s aim in history to stop the mouth of human pride and magnify the greatness of his absolutely free mercy. Jews were prone to boast over Gentiles, so God humbled them by making their disobedience the means of Gentile salvation. And more than that: he humbled them by making their own salvation the fruit of Gentile salvation. By the mercy shown to Gentiles they receive mercy. Jewish boasting is ended. And what about us Gentiles? We are prone to boast over the broken off branches of Israel and brag that their disobedience was for our mercy. True. But then God stops our mouths: by making our mercy a means of theirs and our salvation a stepping stone to theirs. And all Gentile boasting is ended.&quo…

Proving it

Reading Acts:Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately. When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. On arriving, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. For he vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ. - Acts 18Loving the story of the Holy Spirit at work in the early church... it was full of struggle and challenge, but also packed with the preaching of God's word, which is matched by people rapidly becoming disciples...
Its great to…

Express Yourself...

We didn't go but some crazy pics from the Surrey CU ball here:

More at Kate's Pics

The Da Vinci Code

It isn't some great new threat to the church, just another person unearthing gnostism to offer us a cost-free Jesus...

Endless books have been written about The Da Vinci Code. All a little unnecessary. Its a good blockbuster type book. Save your cash and have a look at this:

Westminster Theological Seminary have put together this website with some good stuff on it if you do want to think about it by people like Garry Williams, Tim Keller and Darrell Bock:

Big promises

The lovely people at Good News Crossway have added a free copy of Mark Dever's The Message of the Old Testament, to the NT volume that they sent me a few months ago.

Review of The Message of the New Testament: Promises Kept. A review of the Old Testament volume will follow in due course - when I've digested at least a reasonable proportion of the book (which is huge!).

You might remember the box that Humility arrived in. By contrast this book arrived in a box barely big enough to hold it... in all cases, I'm very thankful for free books.


Acts 6. Church-growing:
The word increases, the disciples increase...

We went to Guernsey on our honeymoon, four years ago this summer. On our first evening we decide to walk into the town of St. Peter's port to get a meal. I'd been
to the island before so I confidently led the way, leading my wife through the country lanes into town.

We needed no map. I knew where I was going. I would lead my wife with confidence! Sadly what I percieved as a straight and familiar road was slightly curved and my
bearings were a little off. Soon we were lost. In the evening sun it was pleasant enough but it was our first tense moment.

Eventually we found our way back to where we began, picked up a map from our room and began again... things are not always “romance and righteousness” in marriage, and nor were they in the early church.

The story in Acts begins with great glory, the Spirit sweeping in and changing lives... but the honeymoon doesn't last long and soon tensions and challenges appear. N…

fire and blood

Last night I listened to the John Piper talk from T4G. Afterwards I sat and shuddered and almost wept... on Thursday night I'm suppposed to be "preaching" at Surrey CU. Please pray that my preaching would be glorifying to God... I don't need to be John Piper, nor preach in a particular style or structure... but I want to burn with the gospel like him as I preach Acts 6v1-7... I want to feel the weight of the glory of the gospel... to point people to Jesus.... to exult in Jesus, tasting the satisfaction of the gospel over all things.

the mantle of preaching is soaked in the blood of Jesus and singed in the fire of hell.

Download the talk for $2 from SGM: God-glorifying preaching

Elias Csaba Szabo

Congratulations to Daniel & Ahrna Szabo!

T4G 2008

Together for the Gospel
2008 Conference / April 15-17
Louisville, KY / Registration Opens Summer 2006

Can I raise the funds to go between now and then?
(i.e. Flight to USA, Accomodation and Registration)
Even if I could, would that be a wise use of money?
(given we don't have much, and theoretically I might be heading off to Bible College at some point in 2008, which is hardly a cheap thing to do)

Christ is an almighty Saviour

“When struggling against the corruptions of our own hearts, buffeted by temptations, and mourning over the weakness of our faith, and the coldness of our love, let us still remember, that Christ will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax.

As Captain of our salvation, he combats and conquers our rebellious inclinations, as well as our outward and spiritual adversaries, and hath furnished us with the shield of faith, wherewithal to defend ourselves, and enable us to repel the fiery darts of the devil. Satan, however, will sometimes endeavor to persuade us, that we have no faith, that we are destitute of love to Christ, that we are great sinners, and that the mercy of God, and the love and compassion of Christ, are blessings we have forever forfeited.

To all these suggestions of the enemy of mankind, we are warranted and encouraged to reply: That albeit we are great sinners, Christ is an almighty Saviour; and though our faith be weak, and our love cold, Christ will not qu…