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Showing posts from June, 2010

8 Years!

The first time my wife and I met, 12.5 years ago we barely noticed each other. I'm glad that changed! And I'm very glad to have spent the last eight years walking through life with her as my wife. She's more beautiful now than ever, growing in godly character, flourishing in her new role as a mother - whilst surviving having to work part time too. I'm spending most of today working in Cornwall (enduring the beaches and art shows!), but will be longing to get home and spend the evening with my bride.

For your glory (Matt Giles)

Another new song by Matt Giles. Derived from Ephesians this is another service to our church, and perhaps to yours too. Go to the Matt Giles Music and Download acoustic mp3: For your glory. And Matt explains a bit more about this song on his blog

I was a stranger to the promise of God,
But I was purchased through the blood of His Son.
It is a work not of my own,
So that I should never boast.

I see the Gospel is much bigger than me,
More than a rescue plan to help in my need.
It is a plan for all of time,
To unite all things in Christ.

For Your glory, I'm saved to the praise of Your glory.
Jesus, for Your glory, I'm saved by Your grace for Your glory.

He bought us fully to make one man in Christ,
That we might turn and love the ones we despised.
There is no wall between us now;
All of the walls are broken down.

He is our peace with God and man,
Through His cross our hate was slain.
He is the hope of all to come,
He is our one, our only name.

(c) Matt Giles, 2010

Jesus had a mission strategy

Luke 7:34 "The Son of Man came eating and drinking"

If we had to sum up Jesus' mission strategy as he headed to the cross this would surely be it. Throughout the gospels, especially Luke, we find him constantly eating with people, and spoken ill of for the company he kept.

I'm two weeks out from preaching Exodus 24 where God invites the elders to come and see him and eat and drink with him. There's something about eating and drinking face to face. Eden was a garden packed with food to eat in the presence of God and so will be the new creation (pictures along the way in the tabernacle and Ahasuerus' garden etc.)

Tim Chester notes (paraphrasically):
The goal of salvation is to eat a meal in the presence of God. The Son of Man came eating and drinking: His mission strategy. It’s not complicated, even if it’s not easy. There is a challenge here for us to have a drink or share a meal with non-Christians 3-4 times a week. If we did that 90% of our mission would be …

Can Christians have doubts?

We spent some time at our UCCF South summer school considering the subject of DOUBT with Jason Clarke. Jason's main point was that knowing is Trinitarian. That means knowing is personal and relational. To be a Christian is to be in a trusting relationship with the Triune God. What we know isn't stuff it's persons.
Father Brendan Flynn: You haven't the slightest proof of anything!
Sister Aloysius Beauvier: But I have my certainty!What does that mean for doubt. Some doubt is unbelief which isn't approved by the Bible. But, it means that some doubt is different to that, it's a category we might use to speak of the questions we can ask in the context of trust and relationship. We know that God is there and is trustworthy - the gospel tells us this. Being caught up into the Triune life though doesn't mean I won't have questions. The Psalms are illustrative of this.

There are implications in this for our doctrine of church. If the church is to relationally re…

How could there be day and night before the sun was made?

People ask the question of Genesis 1, how was there LIGHT before the sun, and how was there evening and morning before that? 

Presumably, the same way there will be in the renewed creation:
"They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever." Revelation 22:5

Jesus is The Light of the World, the one who shines out from his Father, the one who said "Let there be light". Having established light in the dark, he then makes the sun and moon, appointed to rule on his behalf, reflecting His light - overwhelmingly in the day, and reflecting that in the night so that the light always shines and the darkness never quite wins (just as the church reflects Christ in the world today)... so too humanity is appointed to have dominion on behalf of Christ, imaging his benevolent rule. Shadows of the life of God.

Why create this way? Because this is what he would do in the pitch darkness of the human heart. As in salvat…

Exercises in Trinitarian Community

When we think about the Trinity the unity in view is unity on a mission of spreading goodness, because that is who God is not just to save but just inherent to the life of the Triune God.

The following is derived from Glen Scrivener's Trinitarian thinking on marriage and family. Glen observes three main threads of heresy between husbands and wives, parents and children, which come from neglecting one of the three aspects of Triune love. I want to try and apply this to Christian community, such as a Christian Union or a local church.
We believe:
There is one God in three persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.The basic idea here is this: You get the kind of community that reflects the kind of God you believe in. Bad community may well flow from having the wrong god. Particularly three classic heresies concerning the Trinity.

At point A there is distinction and unity but not equality. 
This is an Arian community marked by an imposed traditionalism.
The status quo rules and is…

Mike Reeves: I'm too cold hearted to be any use...

One moment a Christian can be burning hot for Christ, and yet in the next can feel so cold. Mike Reeves shares his own experience of this, and then a follow-up question about the challenge of preaching self or Christ.
Taken from the front end of his theology in music.

MP3: Christ and my cold heart, and preaching Christ or self(10mins).
(not the best quality audio - there's an iPod dock on pause pulsing in the background...)

Mike Reeves on Sin & Evil (mp3s)

Two mp3s of Mike Reeves teaching on Sin & EvilMike cuts deeper on sin that we often admit to. Sin is more than law-breaking or weakness. Sin is an issue of the heart, something Mike draws on from the Reformation.

How have you changed in the last year?

It's review season. The first of five staff self-reviews has arrived in my inbox and I've started writing my own. Some people hate having to do appraisals and reviews, I've been doing them for seven years and I take it as a part of the job that I may as well enjoy and value!

Self-reflection can become self-obsession which I want to avoid, we can just curve in on ourselves, become bitter or proud. But, it can be an opportunity to recognise grace in my life and to do so in others, and an opportunity for me to repent and move forward and for people reliant on grace to be thankful together.

As I reflect this year I'm aware of some big changes in my knowledge of God which have shaped my priories and approach to life and the work. As a member of our home group recognised recently my favourite phrase in the last year is "The Triune God" which I'm not ashamed of, and I feel like the application of this has been increasingly rippling through my approach to people…

Permission to fail

Mike Kendall reflects on Rob Green's blunder last weekend against the USA: Free to fail. I want to live in a culture where there is freedom to fail, because that's the only kind of place I'm going to be able to do anything - because I usually fail. Someone has said if a job is worth doing it's worth doing badly, not to be lazy but in recognition that we never do perfect stuff, we just kid ourselves that we do...

The gospel takes the pressure off, means I can admit I got things wrong, means I can grow and learn and do things differently. Sins instinct is to hide and be ashamed, the gospel means I can hold my hands up, show weakness and not be destroyed for it. It gives me the freedom to make a call, and then reflect afterwards that it might not have been the right call. It gives me the freedom to be.

The gospel stops me taking myself too seriously - I'm freed to take Jesus seriously and think less often about myself. I'm free to bear with other, to be kind to ot…

Everything points forward to Jesus

How does the LORD fight for his people in the book of Exodus - he contends with the tyranical serpent Pharaoh not just with plagues but with some significant hints about how he will ultimately act.

The plague of death to the livestock effects Egypt but not Israel:
“Let my people go, that they may serve me. For if you refuse to let them go and still hold them, behold, the hand of the Lord will fall with a very severe plague upon your livestock that are in the field, the horses, the donkeys, the camels, the herds, and the flocks. But the Lord will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt, so that nothing of all that belongs to the people of Israel shall die.”’ 9:1-4The plague of oppressive felt darkness is darkness over Egypt but not over Israel - they remain in the light:
“Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness to be felt.” So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was pitch d…

The Jealous God will 'fight for this love' for his firstborn son

"if what you’re designing is emotionally boring, then no one will care in a meaningful way. If they’re not engaged and feeling something—anything—then you haven’t done your job as a communicator." Alex Charchar: The Power of Emotion in Graphic Design

"...the favorite cure used on our unit: behavioral modification. For a biblical Christian it represents a crazy approach. It seeks to change people from the “outside-in” rather than from the “inside-out”. It dismisses the point that helped launch the Protestant Reformation... real change always starts with a heart change." Ron Frost

Granted there is some significant difference between the emotions and the heart - both Charchar and Frost see the importance of actually engaging people, going for the heart of a person - with an image, or with words. For the Christian to do this without manipulating requires being rigorously persuasive and deeply rooted in the word of God.

What's that got to do with the book of Exodus?

Of Midwives and Sons - The Exodus and A New Creation

Exodus begins with the arrival in Egypt of the sons of Israel, and then moves forward beyond Joseph's day. Joseph has died and "the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied" (1v7) - which is to say they're doing what they were comissioned to do. They still live in Egypt but they are fulfilling the call of God to be fruitful and multiply and increase.

The next section is curious. Joseph is forgotten and oppression comes, from a new unnamed king (1v15 - Shiphrah and Puah the midwives are named, but not the Pharaoh...). This Tyrant enslaves those who were once were blessed by an earlier king. What you do with the descendents of Abraham is what you get from God - bless and be blessed, curse and be cursed...(Genesis 12:1-3) nonethless he acts against them. The tension is set - chaos is mounting.

Women take centre stage next. 1v15-22 is all about midwives, repeatedly.  2v1-10 is all about daughters, repeatedly (a daughter of Levi and daughter o…

"And the stars", or how the horizons of my ambitions changed

I used to think that God's glory was about being impressive. Genesis 1v16 says "and the stars" as what seems to be an after thought. I mean - wham bam. And there's nothing necessarily wrong with that.  In the last year the Triune God has been doing a work in me that I don't think is finished yet.  I'm now more inclined to think of God as the Triune God. God as personal and relational is key.

The gospel of Jesus Christ invites me to participate in their life, adopted as a son of the Father, with the church one flesh with the bridegroom the Son.With this, along with becoming a Dad, I see now the priority of relationships and community ahead of pretty much everything in life. And the key signifier in the Triune God is the Son whose life is one of love, love by dying. The greatest glory is humble service not shining showmanship.

Along with this move I've had my eyes open to look at the world differently -  know your creator more and you see creation more clea…

United Nations: Every man is not an island

A few weeks ago I heard Matt Chandler say that when you start saying "we" about sport instead of "they" you're getting into idolatry and folly. He has a point - sport is good but I don't play for the team...

Equally, it's interesting to watch the collective sense of identity that football gives a nation, especially when we're up against one of our former colonies. Most days we believe the Pelagian heresy that every man is an island, today we think of ourselves together in Rooney. 

England vs. USA cartoon explained

The Resurrection is Relevant

I never knew Nathan Fisher.

He was pastor of Devonport Baptist Church who died last month from cancer, aged 40. His funeral was today and several friends and colleagues will have been there.  But for his illness I imagine I might have come to know him - he was commended to me as someone who would be good partner and speaker for our work with students. Now he's with Jesus who was raised on the third day.

The resurrection really counts.

"Our Western society cannot bear to think about death. The only hope it can find is a form that hides away all forms and reminders of death. But true hope is not found in hiding from death, but in being able to come to terms with its reality. For Christians, death is not the end but a new beginning. It is the condition for resurrection. One Christian lady in her mid-fifties told me recently that she doesn't bother to dye her hair. She said he doesn't mind the process of ageing affecting her appearance. Her perspective has been shaped by r…

REVIEW: Lifted by Sam Allberry

I've had a copy of Lifted on my laptop for about six months waiting to be reviewed. So, big apologies to Sam Allberry that this is only happening now... 
Sam is an Anglican minister in Maidenhead, a West Wing obsessive and blogs at Shibboleth.

Lifted is one of two recent British books on the resurrection. Readers can hardly fail to have missed the blog noise for Adrian Warnock's Raised with Christ. Lifted is along the same theme but takes a different approach.

Adrian considers the historicity of the resurrection and its implications for an experiential Christianity. Allberry demonstrates the importance of the resurrection and its implications for our Christianity to give us assurance, transformation, hope and for our mission. I like both books.

It's a short book that's easy to read, peppered with engaging illustrations and clear interaction with scripture that reflects its origins as a sermon series.

Sam explores the strangeness in our world of our confession "on t…

Don Carson - Exeter - October 4th

On October 4th the Peninsula Gospel Partnership are gathering for a day on gospel partnership and mission, with speakers John Gillespie and Don Carson. A great opportunity to enjoy the gospel, to build partnership and to consider our opportunities for mission.

Use Conference Flyer to book.

REVIEW: Systematic Theology: The Triune God by Robert Jenson

This year I've really enjoyed reading Robert Jenson on The Song of Songs and On Thinking The Human. On holiday I read a third of his books, I'm really keen to read on to the next volume of this series of Systematic Theology but that might have to wait in an effort to keep reading diversely.

This is Jenson's Systematic Theology and the volume title "The Triune God" gives away where he's coming from. He's a Lutheran and Ecumenicalist and an Academic and you can tell. It's a make your head hurt and your heart sing kind of a book. I make no claim to have understood all of it, nor to agree with everything. We get references to "Second Isaiah" and "The author of 1 Peter" which might bug the evangelical but there's no harm in thoughtfully reading things like that.

Get past that and you get a Systematic Theology that is unlike many others. We have no list of divine attributes here. Instead we get a consideration of God that is Trinitar…

Love your speaker

Christian Unions are served wonderfully by men and women who come and open up the Bible and preach Christ at their community gatherings and their evangelistic events.
If you're a CU how can you love your speaker?
How to love your speaker

REVIEW: Solar by Ian McEwan

In general I really like Ian McEwan's books. I've not read all twelve of them, and they might not end up being the classics of our era but he has a way with words and stories that draws me in. The opening chapters of Enduring Love are how to paint vividly with words, and the intimacy and internal turmoil of On Chesil Beach captivated me.

Solar is the story of Nobel Laureate, Michael Beard. Once a hero and now repeatedly married, overweight, balding and never having quite got to where he might have been.

McEwan's brilliance is in creating characters who are frustrated and flawed. People who could have been heroes but really aren't, and then telling us of how their lives fall apart. When you read Atonement you watch the characters trying to sort their lives out but it all frays apart and the justice you're crying out for never comes. Beard's life is one great disappointment. A Nii Lamptey of the science world, the next big star who never fulfilled his potential.


Exodus 24 - Wedding Vows and the Wedding Feast?

Exodus 24 is a funny chapter - it's a transition between the first giving of the law and the giving of the stone tablets and the tabernacle instructions (19-23, 25-31). In between which we get the response of the people to the law, and a response of the leaders to an invitation made to them. Next month I'll have about 20 minutes to preach on this chapter which is brilliant but not going to be easy!

The last words given to the saved-out-of-Egypt people are:
Exodus 24v1-2: Then he said to Moses, “Come up to the Lord, you and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and worship from afar. Moses alone shall come near to the Lord, but the others shall not come near, and the people shall not come up with him.”The conclusion of the word of God is an invitation. How very gospel.

Moses returns to the people with all the words the LORD has spoken and the people respond in faith - to which Moses answers with lots of blood - blood on the altar, blood on the people. Fai…