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Showing posts from January, 2010

you can't say "your God will be my God" without saying "your people will be my people" Christ & his church always come together

Some studies I've put together on one of my favourite Bible books. It's a book replete with the gospel of grace, and one in which we find a deep association between Christ and his church, and the senselessness of thinking of one without the other. A great story told in a great way.
The Book of Ruth: A Story of Gospel Kindness

See also Esther: A Gospel Story

Why it's okay to stay in bed for the whole of mission week

I met John Hindley while he was serving the Christian Union at Bath during their autumn mission week. Download John Hindley on Why it's okay to stay in bed for the whole of mission week

Catch some of John's preaching on The Song of Song from his previous church, The Plant in Manchester. John and his wife are now church planting in rural Norfolk.

The Essential Gospel by Andrew Wilson

Andrew Wilson's paper - The Essential Gospel is now on the newfrontiers theological papers. Seventeen very helpful pages.

The Bible preaches Jesus as the climax of every story, the fulcrum on which the whole of Scripture turns, the Gospel in every worldview. As those with the profound privilege of preaching the Gospel, we shouldn’t settle for anything less.....  To be honest, so-called ‘preaching’ that simply expounds a Scripture passage, without showing how Jesus is the good news of God, isn’t really ‘preaching’ at all....  I should never stop preaching the Gospel to people.  hen someone becomes a believer, that’s the start of them understanding God’s story, not the end; Paul was eager to preach the Gospel to Christians (Romans 1:15), so I should be too... the Gospel needs to be continually preached to them so that they grasp ever more of its splendour.

Also online, Newfrontiers is publishing it's vision & values over the next year

I'm currently reading Andrew Wilson…

The Concrete Jesus is No Jesus

I mean obviously, but it's strange how we're prone to think of him. Hum this one in your head and see what comes to mind:

EVERLASTING GOD, The years go by but You're unchanging.
In this fragile world, You are the only firm foundation.
Always loving, always true, Always merciful and good, so good. Yesterday, today and forever, You are the same, You never change.

An unseen, dependable, unmovable lump of concrete is not what @vickybeeching had in mind when she wrote the song about our firm foundation, but what do we mean when we use these words? The who is Jesus but is he just solid, reliable, unseen and just for getting us started with building? A concrete foundation on which I build 'my faith'...

He is the one who the writer to the Hebrews says is the same yesterday, today and forever (13:8). The whole letter is about Jesus, and is very concerned with his foreverness and some very specific senses in which he is brilliant. We open Hebrews with the Jesus vs. the angels c…

Interview with Michael Ward (Planet Narnia) by Mike Reeves

The lastest Theology Network Table Talk Podcast is with Michael Ward. Michael Ward, author of 'Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C. S. Lewis', talks with Mike Reeves about what we can learn from Lewis's use of medieval cosmology in his writings.

Take note of the implications for evangelism, inviting people inside Lewis' beam of light...

More at

God and The Problem of Pain, Evil and Suffering

One of the five talks I'll be giving at Plymouth University in February is on the subject of suffering. To help me prepare I've been digging into the way that other apologists have approached the task. I've been feeding my heart from Richard Sibbes' The Bruised Reed. For time reasons I limited myself to five approaches, three books and two mp3s....

Nicky Gumbel - Suffering (chapter 1, Searching Issues).
The Alpha Course
This is the number one objection to Christianity. Suffering is experienced globally, in our communities and individually. It's not a problem for all religions but it does arise in Christianity because Christians say God is good.
1) Human Freedom (or the free will defence), it's our sin or the sin of others that directly or indirectly causes much suffering, the rest is probably due to the fallen nature of the world.
2) God works through suffering - to draw us to Christ, to bring Christian maturity and to bring about his good purposes e.g. Joseph.
3) G…

Making Gravy to the Glory of God?

Noted author and apologist Tom Price post on how to make great gravy.

Possibly one of his most significant pieces of writing. Just as coffee must be made right, the art of making good gravy is to be pursued with much diligence.

Is a Christian a Sinner or Saint? by Terry Virgo

This post is taken from Terry Virgo's blog, as the article indicates this is a somewhat controversial subject, though it seems a shame that it is. Reposted here for your thoughts and interactions.

I was surprised on two occasions this year when preaching to what I will call ‘conservative evangelical constituencies’ and declaring the joy of our freedom in Christ, to encounter the response that followed.

On the first occasion I had been speaking about the glorious freedom proclaimed in Romans 6. On the second I was expounding Ephesians 2 and celebrating the fact that we are new creations, created in Christ Jesus. We are called ‘saints’, holy ones, and are certainly no longer regarded as ‘sinners’.

In Romans 6, Paul celebrates the truth that, whereas we used to be slaves of sin, God has made us ‘slaves of righteousness’ (Rom. 6:18). I deplored the fact that I had seen a poster when in the USA saying that a Christian is one sinner telling another sinner where to find bread. It saddens …

Plymouth CU Mission Week

Christian Unions do mission all year around using their most strategic resource, the CU members (often about 1% of the student population), in clubs & societies, in corridors, in courses and making use of key calender moments (like Christmas, Freshers Week etc).

Many CUs have annual "mission weeks" where they put on extra events to build momentum and offer friends the opportunity to engage their questions and meet with Jesus... and to reach beyond the fringe to the 90% of students they probably don't know.

I'm speaking in February at Plymouth University CU's mission week. The subjects we're looking at (selected by the CU members from conversation with their friends) are (roughly)...

How Atheists Are Right (monday lunch)
How Religion Makes People Judgemental (tuesday evening)
Where Is God When It Hurts (thursday lunch)
Christianity: The True Myth (friday lunch)
Burn Your Plastic Jesus (friday evening)

...subjects set, titles a bit more provisional at this stage…

Modern Christians need to re-discover their roots, if only to prevent them poisoning the church's new shoots with ancient heresies.

Seems to me there are two ways to avoid being a fish who doesn't know he's swimming in water. One is to travel around the world (or at least read widely), and the other is to drink deeply from church history.

Two great ways to do that, Read Lex Loizides' Church History Blog. I heard some great stuff from Lex and from Greg Haslam on Calvin at the Newfrontiers leaders conference last summer.

Another great way is to read and listen to some Mike Reeves at Theology Network. His latest book The Breeze of the Centuries is out soon. See what Greg Haslam has to say about it:

'High school history bored many students to tears. Their idea of visiting the past is like a trip to Chernobyl - grim, and possibly life-threatening! A big mistake when that past is full of insight, and the guide is Michael Reeves. This fascinating volume covers the massive influence of great thinkers, apologists and 'death wish' martyrs like 'food for wild beasts' Ignatius, the courageous …

What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes...

In December my uncle died. To the best of my knowledge he wasn't a Christian and he wouldn't have wanted a Christian funeral, so it was a brief secular ceremony. His death at 60 reminded me of the fleeting nature of life, and that our only hope is found in the mercy of God. My Dad spoke of his older brother, and I gave this reading, which was as close to Ecclesiastes or Psalm 78:33, Psalm 103:15-16, James 4:14 as I could be without citing scripture.

When I remember my uncle I remember him at forty. I remember a man who was fun to be with. I remember the man who let his ten year old nephew sit on his motorbike in the garden at The Dingle and imagine the air blowing through my hair. And then I awake from my memory and I'm not ten anymore, I'm thirty with a newborn son of my own and my uncle isn't here anymore. I remember that life is so fleeting. Everything changes so quickly. It's with this in mind that I've selected this poem, Mutability by our distant cous…

"A Missionary isn’t someone who crosses the sea, but someone who sees the cross"

Quote apparently from Leonard Ravenhill, cited by Ben Powell when our church sent him and his wife and 16 month old daughter to Bolivia a week ago, they fly later this week.

It's a helpful way of saying that whether you go by staying or go by going, a Christian is a missionary, and one who should keep in close sight of the cross of Christ.

Follow The Powells with Newfrontiers in Bolivia

The god of Aquinas and Aristotle: Reasonable but Unrelational?

I had the pleasure of sitting at Mike Reeves' feet last week listening to him teaching on Anselm and Aquinas, essentially from his new book The Breeze of the Centuries which covers the last three years of historical theology at our staff training conferences. Mike tries to hide his own feelings about these theologians as he introduces us to them. Whereas there is much in Athanasius to inspire, Anselm and Aquinas rather show us better how not to approach theology. It's an excellent book, with a second volume to follow (since this one finishes with Aquinas and a monk who found Aristotle's disciple (Aquinas) to give us darkness instead of light...

What's striking about Aquinas is his level of influence on the church (in 1998 John Paul II said that the angelic doctor gives the model of how to do theology) and the way that he's a reason-first Aristotlelian kind of theologian.

I was struck that his view of God begins with reasoning which attributes God should have, like …

What if Matthew's Gospel was about Jesus? (Because sometimes I can't see the wood for the trees)

I find it really easy to treat the Bible as a mirror to try and find myself in rather than a window through which to see Jesus. I know I'm not alone in this - I heard a preacher recently on Matthew 2 doing just this - it was a valiant attempt and I'm not critiquing him here at all. Lots of attempts at application and call to worship Jesus without actually telling us who Jesus is. A bit like chasing the wind. I'm all for application, but we have to start (and continue, and end) with Jesus. My wife and I spent some time reading Matthew over Christmas, not something we often seem to make the time for. Assuming that The Gospel of Jesus Christ According to Matthew is about Jesus then, these are some of our notes...
We open with the genealogy of Jesus (1:1) to tell us that Jesus is both son of David and Abraham. Any son of David is a son of Abraham so some of that seems a bit redundant... unless Abraham is going to be important to understanding who Jesus is, he the one who will b…

History as a Christian: This ends BETTER than it begins

I consider myself honoured to know the elders of Reading Family Church, doubtless men of whom the world is not worthy. Hear what a couple of them have blogged recently about history considered Christianly.

Sean Green observes "...heaven as a better place than pre-fall Eden."
Richard Walker: "...the end is better than the beginning. We find this difficult to follow because we labour under the delusion that history is all about us. Put in simple terms, the next time a loved one gives you a gift (e.g. a box of chocs) and you share that love gift with them, you are, in a tiny way, mirroring the divine eternal love of the Father and the Son and summing up the whole of history."

Peter Leithart says that this makes history a deep comedy. Not just a comedy where all ends well, but a deep one in which it ends better than before. Granted there is frustration and curse in this universe, the gospel keeps sounding its hope-filled melody.

When I'm a gospel-Christian (a call for Christian Tautology)

Having looked at the very familiar funny-walking version of me, here's someone I'm keen to meet more often this year.

I'd like to be better acquainted with being in step with the gospel (Galatians 2:14). Defined not by endless labels and associations (3:29) but holding fast to the true gospel (5:1) which issues not opinion and meanness but in kindness and patience and love (5:16-25) that carries the burdens of others (6:1-3). This isn't doctrinal softness (1:8, 2:11) but a life marked by parental anguish (4:19) for others whose joy and maturity is sought. Increasing depth of gospel-knowledge is then not wielded against others but displayed in a self-giving love and pursuit of the unity that comes from being together in Christ (3:29). This kind of person seeks to make much of the cross (6:14) and is not so interested in error (5:6, 15) as in new creation life and love. Such a person looks like one who has been adopted into Christ, made a son in the divine family. The ki…

We ask how Jesus can claim to be God, better to ask why God became man...

I ask, how can Jesus claim to be God... it would be better for me to ask why God would make himself man.

The answer to the better question is a better answer.
"out of sheer love for us" (Athanasius)

On the Incarnation 2:8

When I'm a non-gospel "Christian" (as if such a person makes any sense)

Let me tell you about a guy I know. He works for UCCF and he's a member of a Newfrontiers church - and he loves those labels (Galatian 3:28), they matter a lot to him, and he cares which labels you wear too. He's interested in what you make of him almost to the point of anxious fear (1:10, 2:12) and will make much of you (4:17) though strangely you'll feel your gospel-joy lessened for being with him (4:15). He tends to be critical of others, even biting, devouring, provoking and envying (5:15,26). He takes it upon himself to sort things out and leads the line against others (1:13, 4:29) and can tell you where all the latest problems are (2:4). He takes himself very seriously, he is after all very zealous and thinks himself better than everyone else (1:13). In public he looks very religious and pious, privately he's pretty unpleasant (5:19-20) though he can play the game and put on the right front like any pharisee would. He looks like a slave (4:30), the kind of person…