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Showing posts from April, 2010

The Gospel in Esther (1) The Scandal of the Bride in the Royal Garden

WE HATE AUTHORITY AND ASSUME FEMINISM. In the 21st Century west when we read Esther 1 we almost automatically see a despotic king abusing his wife by trying to parade her in front of his guests having had a few drinks. We have an inherent distaste for authority and an assumed feminism that makes the scene unbearable when a powerful king calls and exiles his wife and seeks a new one.

What if that's not what's going on? 

Picture instead the king as a positive figure.
This man is the king of the whole world from India to Ethiopia, nothing happens outside his domain. Having overcome the chaos at the start of his reign he sits down in the third year. Victorious, as is expected of the great kings in the third year/day. He holds a great feast in his house for his people. The king is glad, delighting in his people and his kingdom, overflowing in abundant blessing. He holds two further feasts in his royal gardens. The scene is deeply colourful and reminiscent of Eden's garden and th…

The Leaders Debates

Recapping ahead of the third and final debate tonight...

So far I don't think we've gotten much deeper than that which is frustrating me as I try to work out whether to seek to re-elect the incumbent MP for my constituency (Labour) or seek to have him replaced with someone else, as a microcosm of how things should go nationally. None of the parties is perfect nor will any of them be able to perfectly implement their policies nor deliver the new creation now. I'm trying hard to exclude what's best for me and my family from the decision and think on a society kind of level which isn't easy. And so with the clock ticking I'm still a floating voter...

Evangelism is speaking of Jesus

WHY DOES EVANGELISING FEEL LIKE TORTURING? Too often it's because we've turned it into selling a product that we're not sure people need or want. I spent a year in retail banking doing that - and while it had its occasional highlights it's less than joyous.

As my former employers would tell you, however, there is another way.

Now, don't hear this as being about being less persuasive or less reasonable, less engaging or using less apologetic, but hear it: Glen Scrivener: Christ-centred evangelism and doing the stuff wont seem half as unappealing.

Here's a glimpse before you follow the link: "Evangelism is speaking of Jesus. It’s lifting Him up by the Spirit (which means Scripturally) so as to present Him to the world as good news. So we say ‘Taste and see that the Lord is good.’ We basically hold out the Bread of life saying “Tasty isn’t He??”"

Go Wayne Grudem

New Word Alive saw a re-release of the South West Relay 2007/08's performance of their song Go Wayne Grudem, with some fresh camera angles, lyrics and video quality. Filmed by Matt Dolan these are the lyrical, choreographic and performing talents of Jo, Jemma, Kate, Jack, Ed, Steve, Jonny, Andy and Sean who were interns on my team two years ago. Just for fun, from a karaoke competition at one of their training conferences. They won.

The one with Gordon Brown and that Bigoted Woman

On my lunchbreak I'm watching the media have a field day with Gordon's gaff in Rochdale, privately calling Gillian Duffy "that bigoted woman" after a positive public conversation with her. They're loving it for the same reason everyone else is. Gordon Brown is the most shameful and awful man in Britain. No one else has ever turned from a conversation and vented to someone else. No-one else has ever said one thing publicly and another privately. No-one else would ever do that. Oh, hang on...

Your god is an egotist! (Trinitarian reflections on Ezekiel 36)

It's a common enough charge. How self-important and self-centred a deity to want people to worship him and to smite them if they don't. No wonder his people are forever turning to other gods? These questions arise in Ezekiel 36. The nations of the world are mocking because of the exile of the Jews from the land - they're mocking the god of Israel. And his response is to act to vindicate "my holy name". Who is this god?

He is the LORD, Father, Son and Holy Spirit who has loved Israel when she was a nobody and made her somebody, it was he who beautified and clothed her only to see her whore after anything and everything instead of returning love to him. The exile of his people from the land he'd given to them was the ultimate sanction after generations of deep patience... it was his jealous love burning against them. Now, just as if he'd destroyed his people after bringing them out of Egypt, when they made a…

London 14-15 May : Matt Chandler, Francis Chan & Louie Giglio

7pm on 14 & 15 May is Passion London with Francis Chan and Louie Giglio at Wembley Arena. On the morning of May 15th is Matt Chandler at Three Hundred at Jubilee Church in North London. These men are gifts to the church who its worth hearing from. I commend both events to you.

(The Triune) God's Pursuit of Glory in Love

Glen Scrivener is doing some fascinating engaging with John Piper's theology. Piper has deeply shaped me but I share Glen's concerns that he's not always clearly Triune, and can't help but wonder that many of the objections to his theology come from some false distinctions he makes. I love his ministry and I'm also finding these posts from Glen to be important.

We did it all for the glory of love (part 1) including an Bible overview of God's motivation.
We did it all for the glory of love (part 2)
We did it all for the glory of love (part 3) - arguing that it's not Glory before love, or Love before glory but Glory by love. Excellent and very helpful.

Evangelism with Rebecca Manley Pippert

OUT OF THE SALTSHAKER by Rebecca Manley Pippert was the second "Christian" book I read after becoming a Christian 13 years ago. It's a great practical book on what it means to be normal in sharing Jesus with others. Here she is in conversation with Nay Dawson at New Word Alive. Nay is a friend who I've worked with for the best part of the last decade - she's an exemplary and inspiring evangelist.

"Dave Bish is dead" (Ecclesiastes 2:12-3:22)

ONE DAY THAT WILL BE TRUE. Sooner or later. It's unlikely to be a headline in the media or even on blogs, but the ultimate statistic will catch me up some day. The clock is ticking with the sound of inevitability.

Where can the quest of Qoheleth turn - when you follow the Great King what can you turn to? In Ecclesiastes 2-3 he first turns to consider wisdom and folly and madness.. He concludes that there is a qualitative superiority of light over darkness and wisdom over folly. Walking blind is not better than having sight.

Yet, he furiously concludes that a grievous thing happens! Whether wise or fool, death comes to all. Cancer doesn't check your worldview. The passing of time is ignorant of your good works. Death shows no partiality. It's cant and trite and weird to say otherwise.

This is hateful to Qoheleth. He hates life. Spirit-inspired Scripture says as much, and there is no reason to think that this is a quote of something false. Life lacks endurance and memory an…

The Gospel in Genesis: The Life and Times of Isaac

WHEN JESUS SAID MOSES WROTE about him, what did he mean? These two heart-warming brilliant looks at Isaac give a pretty good flavour. Listen to Rich Owen on Genesis 27 (mp3) - you'll love the opening "recap" of Genesis in the first few minutes!! And then read Richard Walker on The Gospel According to Isaac.You can taste a bit of James Jordan's Primeval Saints in what they're doing and a whole lot of gospel as they read Genesis not about us but looking for the promise of the gospel.

When I first began to see Genesis this way the big book begins to hang together and make sense. Stephen Dempster suggests in  Dominion & Dynasty (NSBT): A Study in Old Testament Theology (New Studies in Biblical Theology) that we follow the threads of geography and genealogy through the Old Testament - wise words. And above all the two threads of the two humanities - the serpent seed and the serpent crushers / promised seed.

REVIEW: Song of Songs, On Thinking the Human (Robert Jenson)

DON'T JUST READ YOUR HEROES. That was a warning I was given nearly a decade ago at a UCCF conference. A warning to make sure I don't just drink from the same authors all the time and so have my self affirmed and never challenged, but to drink widely, to remain open to learn from all kinds of people. Less heroes, more humbled, more helped.

These days my reading time is limited - I'm more likely to be found building megabloks towers or playing chase round the dining room table than with a book in my hand - which is more edifying than many books.

Here's (the) two books I've really enjoyed reading this year. They're both by Lutheran theologian Robert Jenson. I value him for his rooting in church history, for his Trinitarian emphasis and his clarity that salvation is very much relational.
First is his commentary on The Song of Songs. Readers will know this is one of my favourite books of the Bible. Jenson roots his commentary in church fathers and reformers and gives …

Don’t tell them, show them. Preaching on the Big Screen

I PREACHED AT CEMETERY JUNCTION the first two times preached in church. Sounds like a great place to preach, right? In reality it's a fairly grey cross roads on the A4, with shops, pubs, a church and a cemetery... Bishop Alan's review of the new Ricky Gervais film "Cemetery Junction" got me thinking about preaching.

Two of Alan's observations struck me..
"At the first pub lunch of the project some basic questions needed sorting – is this Reading? If it is, how do we make it seventies? If it isn’t how do we weave a credible place together? Is it about the place or the firm, or the family or the girl? Who are these people? How and why do they matter and know each other and what are the implications? Sadly a lot of these basic questions were not answered, or answered ineptly, and the result is to sabotage the whole film."Decide which road to take. This is the fairly obvious lesson for any communication. You need to know what you want to say. Tangents and a…

300 Leaders - Matt Chandler in London - May 15th

Jubilee Church have invited Matt Chandler to be with them for a weekend in May. I've been listening to Chandler's preaching for a few years and highly commend him to you - one of the best of the Acts 29 crowd.

Pastor Tope Koleoso writes: Every so often the opportunity arises for us to hear and learn from strong leaders who God has used in a significant way. Matt Chandler is a good friend and in recent years, God's anointing on him and accomplishments through him have been evident. In seven years of pastoring, he has seen The Village Church, Dallas, grow from 160 people to over 6,000. He is both charismatic and reformed, and his strong sense of purpose has only been heightened by a recent diagnosis of brain cancer.

Seven ways to be a missionary at University

From Matt Jensen at Resurgence. Easy enough to translate these to a UK context. Headlines here, go to resurgence for the detail.

1) Know non-Christians
2) Think about where you will live
3) Join the Greek system
4) Get involved (not just at church)
5) Start a small group in public
6) Serve the community
7) Practice radical hospitality

And when you do that you get students reaching students

MP3s: Being in Christ is astonishingly wonderful

My wife and I are taking some time this week to listen to a series of sermons by Derek Cross on Ephesians 1. We haven't done this sort of thing for ages, but it's really warming our hearts. The series title give you a flavour. Derek is a leader at Woodlands Church in Derby. Each sermon is about 30mins.

1. Included in Christ for the praise of God's glory
2. Adopted as God's sons
3. Forgiven by God's grace
4. Involved in God's great plan

We start a series on Ephesians 1-2 in our church this weekend that Stu & Andy are preaching over the next couple of months. Should be outstanding.

What is the Bible? Saying something better than it's "the word of God"

Richard Walker is asking: How would you answer the following question in one sentence? "What is the Bible?".

The implications are really quite profound methinks. Lots of different ways to approach it but some are really better than others. The whole question of how we define our Christianity is really important - what I like about Richard's approach is that he's seeking to be thoroughly Trinitarian.

What's Elijah doing in Mark's Gospel?

HIS LAST WORDS ARE MISUNDERSTOOD. Mark tells us that the crowds who hear Jesus famous cry of desolation (Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani) mistake him to be invoking of Elijah to save him. Mark knows this wont happen and advances to immediately report Jesus' final cry and his death. In account that's so condensed as Mark is, it's always seemed a bit strange to me that this detail included - why not cut it out? We've had plenty of misunderstandings before and this could just be another one of those...

I'm pondering this because I'm re-preparing Mark 15:33-40 to preach in May. I can't see myself giving much time to the cry or Elijah - I'll probably just focus on the cloud (darkness) and the curtain... but for now Elijah is standing in the middle and he's got my attention.

The cry is important because it shows again the relationship of the Father and Son (having twice seen how the Father is pleased with his beloved son - in Mark 1 & 9). The cry is also…

Echoes of Eden: The King of the World holds a feast in his garden etc.

AFTERWARDS YOU CAN'T BELIEVE YOU didn't see it before...
"In Esther 1v5-6 we get a vivid description of King Ahasuerus' palace garden court and it has many similarities to God's temple furnishings. The King in Ch4v11 has a strict rule that no one may enter his presence uncalled without dying much like the Holy of Holies. In 5v2 who does the King allow in? His beautiful bride Esther."
David AnthonyJust a couple of the very cool things in the book of Esther.

John Owen's Cake & Biscuit Evangelicalism

NOTHING BETTER THAN CAKE AND BISCUITS for a little analysis of evangelicalism. Mark Walley writes about the common slips made by conservative, charismatic and Jaffa cake evangelicals:

As you all know, the difference between a cake and a biscuit is this: When a biscuit gets old it goes soft, when a cake goes old it gets hard. Perhaps old is the wrong word, maybe it'd be better to think about it as being out of the heat of the oven for a long time. When biscuits are out of the heat for a bit they start to get soft and malleable and fall over at anything. When cake is out of the heat for a bit it gets hard and is better for hitting people with than for sustenance. This is what John Owen is driving out with the —by now much anticipated quote —the second we take our hearts or minds off Christ then our hearts start to harden to his glory or our minds start to soften in our view of it....

Go see John Owen's words on this

Have you heard the good news?

Now the promises were made to Abraham
and to his offspring… who is Christ.
Galatians 3:16, ESV

GOOD MEN WOULD WISH IT were true, said Blaise Pascal. Words that could be said of many things. England winning the World Cup. Peace on earth, or just in your household. Family or fame or fortune. There are a great many things in this world that we long for, some of them noble some of them ignoble, some of them realistic, some of them entirely unrealistic.

Pascal was talking about Christianity. He believed that in Christianity we have a story that is both persuasively cogent and attractive to the heart. Few would argue with him, but looking at some Christians you could be forgiven for thinking that being a Christian is no more than a necessary evil. Whilst it may provide some inconvenience in life it’s useful to those wishing to avoid hell and have a pleasant voyage into eternity.
In pointing the finger at these ‘some Christians’ I’m inevitably pointing three fingers back at myself. I k…

The Son dies for us and we become sons with him

When Mark records the historical events of Jesus death we see events occuring in darkness, in the middle of the day. This is unexpected on any other day and at any other crucifixion. But this is not any other day, this is the day that all history has been leading up to, the day that all of Mark's gospel has been leading to. Witness the departure of the bridegroom. Witness the promised day when he would be handed over and crucified. In Biblical terms the darkness is easy to interpret - the world begins in darkness until God brings light, and the return of darkness is repeatedly the presence of divine wrath against sin...

"God is wrathful because God is righteously Jealous because God passionately loves"
What happens at the cross is a function of God's love for us. The bridegroom loves us. The bridegroom is jealous for us. And so is wrathful. But the Father, sharing the same love, sends him to die in our place. And if it is love that motivates the cross, then to speak o…