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Showing posts from August, 2006


Mark Driscoll is a failure. At least that what’s he wants us to see in his book ‘Confessions of a Reformission Rev’, which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading recently. But as we know, God uses failures to build His church.

Confessions is the story of how Mars Hill church ( in Seattle, home of grunge, coffee and Frasier grew from a small meeting in the upstairs room of an existing local church to a group of over 4,000, which is still growing.

But if you’re thinking that confessions is just another church growth book, than you’d be wrong. ‘Confessions’ does contain some great tips about planting and growing a church from scratch in a particular social setting. Driscoll’s advice to pastors in his coaching corner sessions about knowing their congregation e.g. ‘shooting their dogs’ and know what type of animals are in their congregation are really great. These are complimented by some more less ‘faunae based’ engaging and well thought through discussions of eccles…

Leave of absence

Tomorrow I'm off to Relay 1 for the fifth time. It's exciting to think we're welcoming a new year of Relay - recent graduates committing themselves to a year of discipleship in a student context. Imagining what God will do in their lives over the next 10 months is v.exciting.

The whole thing is about living and learning grace together... bring it on! Next Monday we're then joined on site by hundreds of students and the rest of the staff team for Forum, our national student conference.

In my absence I'm handing over the blog to my friend The Trainspotter. He likes to stay anonymous but is well worth reading. He's promised to deliver some thoughts on Mark Driscoll and from Luke's gospel.

What we have seen and heard

Earlier this year I preached for Surrey CU on Acts 3:1-4:4 Amazing (pt1)Acts 3:1-4:4 Amazing (pt2)Later this month I'll be returning to this part of scripture with Reading CU... not to re-preach this but to look at the events that followed it. These are my initial reflections.

What was going on - we had Peter and John and the beautiful gate calling a man to be healed in Jesus' name. Peter then preached and was hauled up before the authorities.

Think for a moment, why would this happen? How could any of God's people end up in front of the authorities for their preaching? One way is by being stupid, rude, foolish. That happens. Christians are sometimes really dumb and it gets us, quite rightly, in trouble. But that wasn't what happened here.

This was different. The Saduccees had Peter and John arrested for preaching the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus. They were ordered to be silent. Everyone had heard about the man they'd healed (in Jesus' name). It was undeniabl…

Dolphins swim against the currents*

I listened to these sermons from Phil Johnson a year ago. I'm convinced that knowing about church history is really important. History might sound dry but when you realise its about real Christian people who werecontending for the gospel its actually life and death stuff, on an eternal scale. The faith, life and joy of God's people, and more importantly the glory of God. The MP3's are big to download but worth the wait. The JudaizersThe GnosticsThe Arians (pt1)The Arians (pt2)The PelagiansThe SociniansThis is also well worth a listen: The Story of Calvinism

There are in the history of the church Men of Whom the World Was Not Worthy. Such people embody Titus 1:9: "He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it."They hold firmly to the Word, and they can instruct and rebuke with it. They know that error needs correcting, and truth promoting.

John Piper serves…

Debbie Flood gets Silver

Great Britain's women's quadruple scull were denied their second successive World Championship gold when Russia pipped them to the line at Eton.

Debbie Flood, Sarah Winckless, Frances Houghton and Kath Grainger took the lead with 500m to go but could not counter a late Russian push.

From BBC News
Well done to ex-RUCU member Debbie Flood for adding this to her Olympic Silver from Athens. Also go look at the new RUCU website, launched today.

Testing, testing...

Meanwhile, Tim Suffield shares an honest reflection from a conference he's been to. I've felt this way, not recently, but it was something that besetted me for a while. I'm sure Tim and I are not the only ones to think like this...(are we?)

Basically I continually found myself thinking ‘I could answer that question better’ or ‘I could explain this more simply’ or even ‘that’s just plain wrong.’ Now, if you know me at all the last one won’t surprise you, although the previous two are perhaps newer. This bothers me. It frankly reduces me to fear and trembling. I shouldn’t be able to communicate theology better than these big famous speaker types, should I? I shouldn’t think that I can, especially if I can’t, should I? How do I act within myself if my aim is to gentley, graciously, lovingly, without self-importance and arrogance, and in fear of being wrong explain and exposit the scripture and point out what I perceive to be errors in others thought. How do I stop myself from …

Charismatic Headcases?

Dan Edelen has some wise words for those of us who call ourselves charismatic: How not to be a charismatic headcase.
Here are the headlines:
1. Stop being so undiscerning2. Stop letting immature people minister to others "charismatically"3. Stop overemphasizing the gifts and the people who have them4. Stop living in a charismatic ghetto5. Stop practicing magicI like Mark Driscoll's definition of himself as a charismatic-with-a-seatbelt. (So long as that seatbelt is the Bible)

Contending for our all

In case for some reason we weren't convinced as to our need to contend for the truth of the gospel today... let us come and weep with Mark Driscoll. PCUSA decides to worship: Rock, paper, scissors. And pray that those who take Jesus' name for themselves would return to the truth.

We have to keep contending for the gospel, reforming the church back to God's revelation of himself and his story in the Bible. The capacity of our sinful hearts for deceit is alarming and heart-breaking. Calvin was right, the heart is a "factory for idols". How we love to supress the truth about the knowledge of God...

Our God is a great BIG God (6)

Previous post: Romans 9v10-13: Election is not by works.
3. Election is not unjust (Romans 9v14-18)

Someone once said that if you find yourself naturally asking the questions scripture raises, as you read it, then it proves you're understanding it. v14 presents one of the ultimate questions to test our understanding... to test our hearts. If people get saved because God says, and based on nothing in them...and consequently others don't get saved for the very same reasons... Then isn't God unfair... isn't God unjust. That's precisely the question raised in v14. Is there injustice on God's part? How can he save some and not others.Warning! It is dangerous to plead for justice before God... why? Justice is what the innocent plead for... and Romans has made very clear that we are not innocent... Furthermore, its quite right to say that the real scandal of the cross is not that God doesn't save everyone, but rather:...the scandal is that anyone gets saved at all. …

Specks and logs

Conversational Terrorism - How NOT to TalkProfessors against stupid questionsWhy good arguments often fail - James SireLove is a fallacy - Max Shulman (as cited in Sire)Jesus, the prophets and apostles alike all used good arguments when they taught the gospel. They were sensible and persuasive. They made sense.

Reading Sire earlier this month was very refreshing. He is concerned for clear argument accompanied with kindness and dependence upon the Spirit of God to change lives. However, I've discovered that its easier to critique others for poor argument, than to examine myself. Instinctively I fail to be be generous and kind, nor to think hard upon the work of the Spirit in others lives. Thus, I find myself challenged and encouraged by Mark Lauterbach once again, On suspicion and discernment:I believe in a doctrine of sin that is serious and deep – but I think it is a wrong application of the doctrine of sin to cause me to hold others in suspicion. I think the doctrine of sin shoul…

What makes church, church?

Ceryn says:
Church is exciting

And Chris Green blogs this:

I don't know if anyone else has spotted this, but there's a fascinating confusion in the CofE's report 'Mission Shaped Church', which might explain why some odd expressions of church get included. On p. 96 it attempts an ecclesiology, and says, The four classic marks of the Church, enshrined in the Nicene creed, as 'one, holy, catholic and apostolic', remind the Church of its true nature and calling...

It then gives a brief summary of each of them, and goes off into more Anglican territory with Episcopacy, and so on. BUT... these aren't the 'marks' of the church. The marks of the church are described in the 39 Articles in classic Reformed style as 'a congregation of godly (people) where the word of God is preached and the sacraments duly administered'. That is, they describe the church observably, in its activities. (On the old Reformed question about discipline as a mark, with a typ…

Concerning Spiritual Gifts

CJ Mahaney
Concerning Spiritual Gifts
1 Corinthians 12-14

Mahaney carries out a swift overview of these chapters, showing that the work of the Spirit are primarily the exaltation of the Lordship of Christ, and love. Gifts are important but not primary.

See also my blogseries:
Christian Spirituality - 1 Corinthians 12-14

Someone buy me a copy of this please

Christianity Today: Calvinism is making a comeback - and shaking up the church.(HT: Justin Taylor)

We need to recover the great doctrines of grace. I'm encouraged to see that in the USA that's happening a bit. Not sure about the UK, though I can think of many promising signs in the local church and in student ministry.

Still, the atmosphere seems saturated with a suffocating blend of man-centredness that diminishes the glory of God...

We must look at God's word afresh, and look at those who have gone before us. Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes in Spiritual Depression (p102):"[it] is one of the most glorious things in the long annuals of the history of the church, and it is still happening. I never tire of telling Christians to read the stories of the martyrs and the confessors and the Protestant Fathers, of the Puritans and the covenanters. Read their stories and you will find not only strong, courageous men, you will find weak women and girls and even little children dying gl…

The Best Wedding Reception Discos in the World Ever, part 2

Mr Fairbairn and I don't dance, we converse:...about the great value of old writers (e.g. Spurgeon says: Why It Is Not Necessary to Adapt the Gospel for Postmoderns)...rejoicing that calvinism makes you stand in awe of "calvinism is the gospel" (spurgeon, again) the institutes are surprisingly easy to to teach isaiah and other big books...jc ryle's five english reformers, and wishing that the reformers had been able to reform a bit further...psalm 115 amongst others...about christian unions...spiritual gifts and other contraversial its best to open the bible and think about hard things rather than sweep them under the carpet...and sit happily in the corner generally bah-humbugging whilst our identically attired wives danced the night away. They were happy, so were we. Many many thanks to Phil & Carolina Rout for their generous hospitality and creating this opportunity at their UK wedding reception last night!

Seven hundred miles

Our UK Summer holiday travels are done. Nice to be back in Reading. Something kinda nice about living out of a backpack for a couple of weeks though, reminds me that I'm an etranger in this world, and someday I'll be truly home. The last couple of days Martyn Lloyd-Jones has encouraged me with his words in Spiritual Depression (further reflections to follow), as has Carl Trueman's reminder that its good to pray the Psalms. Now we're back I might get around to typing up some of the scribblings from the notepad I've been carrying with me.

Gareth Russell has been reading some of the same books as me: Contending for our all.... "controversies around crucial biblical truths should be tackled head-on, so that Christ is exalted. He also makes the point that controversy does not, contrary to common opinion, restrict the effectiveness of the Gospel instead it often enforces it". Like Paul tells Titus leaders must have character and then be able to teach and refute …

Best of Blogs

"Grace is that bizarre missing ingredient that mucks up all human foibles, flaws, and fears. Grace is the thing that turns lives upside down. It is a sweet, beautiful irritant.Grace is scandalous. It makes murderers into apostles, it makes victims into forgivers." Jared @ Shizuka Garden

"All of them will die, many of them without returning to church. Some of those will be our brothers and sisters in Christ who were in sin. I fear that many of them will not have been our brothers and sisters in Christ,
and so they will slip into a Christ-less eternity, face a good and just God
while they are still pleading their own merits for salvation, and fall under
God's deserved penalty forever. We could have helped them, like the man in
I Cor. 5 who was caught in sin (and may have repented II Cor. 2?), or like
the man in Gal. 6:1. But we didn't." Mark Dever on The Southern Baptist Mistake

"Resolved: Not to plant a church or support the start-up of a church without understa…

Holiday Highlights

Halfway through my month of holiday here are a few of the highlights: Lunch at Microsoft. A Reading University graduate works there and we met for lunch at the start of August. The place is very plush and "campus" is a quite appropriate label. It was great to sit and chat about the issues of life and work with Fletch in the in-house starbucks facility. Delighted to hear that he's engaged to be married in 2007.A week in Devon. Particularly walking the gorges at Lydford and Castle Drogo. Its great to get away from the busyness of South East life from time to time. Everything slows down and conversation is easier. Paul and Rebekkah's hospitality in letting us stay with them was a real blessing. Going to Dave & Rach' wedding was also good.Overnight in the Forest of Dean. We caught up with Iain and Hannah and Issy. Iain was my accountability partner when I came to Reading to do Relay in 2000-2002. We'd not seen them for a while but it was great to walk and cha…

August 12th

My little sister got married!