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Showing posts from July, 2010

Love, Jealousy and Wrath

ht: Glen Scrivener, here's a great illustration of why the love of God should be jealous for his people and so express in wrath at adultery... whereas in this sketch Peter Cook's character demonstrates the exact opposite of love through his indifference and ambivalence towards Dudley Moore's characters adultery.

Francis Chan at UCCF Forum

"We are pleased to announce that Francis Chan will be with us at Forum this year. Clive Parnell will be hosting a seminar with Francis called "Let worship be the fuel for missions flame". Francis Chan is the former pastor of Cornerstone Community Church in Simi Valley, CA. He is the author of Crazy Love and The Forgotten God."

More on Francis Chan at Christianity Magazine

Having heard Chan at Passion London earlier this year I think this is great news. So: Book now for UCCF Forum: National Student Leaders Conference if you have a formal leadership role in your CU or are just keen to see the CU's vision implemented, i.e. to see students at your uni reached with the gospel.

Other speakers include Vaughan Roberts, Richard Cunningham, Mike Reeves. And of course the really exciting thing is that I'm even doing a track "Transformed by the Gracious God" :)

Preaching that goes beyond what I've imagined

Glen Scrivener quotes Henry Ford saying “If I’d asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.” in a brief post that he tags on the subject of "preaching". It's a brilliant connection to make.

When the preacher begins to speak I know what I want, I want instruction, I want inspiration, I want to have the passage taught, I want to be reminded of Christ....

What I should find is that I'm shown the beauty of Christ in a way that my heart never imagined was possible.

And that's what the Holy Spirit delights to do through a preacher, to cast new light upon Christ from his word. To enable me to see with eyes of faith that Christ is more beautiful than I could have imagined.... such preaching would be jaw-dropping, would be eye-widening, would be heart-enflaming. Such preaching does the important task of persuasively showing what the text says and then continue to doing what the text does.

Such preaching says: believe in Jesus, and shows me Jesus th…

I will cover you

David Anderson writes (Gracism, p71):
"How different would your life be if you lived each day committed to the dignity of those around you, especially those in need of special care? What would such a day look like in your world? Instead of families, communities and churches being filled with backbiting or suspicion, how about their being places where believers seek to help each other look and feel their best? How about an environment where I seek to help you succeed and you seek to encourage me? Or more, if I fall or fail will you exploit me and embarrass me because you can, or will you cover me? Is there not a balance somewhere between my sanctification and my missteps? If I ask the wrong question, use the wrong language or hold an unpopular view, will you label, exclude and dismiss me, or will you cover me while inspiring me to new levels of education and growth?" Challenges the way I am with others, in view of the gospel. Is my greatest concern covering my own back - or …

Shrek, Mamma Mia! Ian McEwan and the Bible?

This is a working draft of a seminar I'm doing later in July. The idea is to introduce people to the idea that we all have stories, and to the shape of the Christian story. And then to examine the way that narrative works within the overall narrative of the Bible. It's a really fun subject though it's not been easy to figure what to cover...

Comments and feedback very much sought after:
What's Your Story: Introduction to Bible Narrative Seminar
(updated Monday 26th July)

The Wedding Feast: Intimacy secured by blood (Exodus 24v9-11)

DOWNLOAD MP3: Exodus 24

In Exodus 33v20 Moses will be told no-one can see God and live. The Triune God is holy and people are not – and so in the presence of God bad people die. Let’s see what happens next. The law ended oddly with an invitation, Exodus 24v1-2for the elders to come and eat with God. And so they go up despite the fact that no-one can see God and live! And they see God. And they eat with him!

Q1: How are they alive?
Q2: Not only can no-one see God and live, but John tells us
- John 1v18: “No one has ever seen God,” So what is happening here?

Well, John goes on to say: “…but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known.”  God the Son makes the Triune God known to people. No-one sees the Father, but the Son makes him known. It's always the Son who makes the Father known. #

Notice they see him - v10 - on a sapphire pavement, just as Ezekiel would later see one like a man, in the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD enthroned …

The Wedding ceremony: Promises sealed in blood (Exodus 24v3-8)

DOWNLOAD MP3: Exodus 24

In Exodus 24 we’re in the middle of the giving of the law, what we're expecting from God might not be very attractive... but we find ourselves at a wedding. Moses comes down the mountain and v3: ‘told the people all the LORD's words and laws’

And: they responded with one voice, "Everything the LORD has said we will do."’ They hear the word of God and they respond with faith. Result! That’s what the word of God does – it produces faith in the hearer – a gift from God when his word is proclaimed. Beautiful when that happens – you’re reading the Bible and you believe it!!

The Triune God is present through his word – and in the presence of God they make their vows. They trust Jesus who saved them out of Egypt as he calls them to a distinctive life, until he comes to save the world. Next day Moses reads the words again and they response the same way, and then Moses throws blood on them.... 

Why? What is going on? They have faith in God’s word but …

Eating with Jesus! (Exodus 24)

We spent the weekend at Arborfield Church, with whom we're mission partners. It was an encouraging time to catch up, share on the work, share our lives together again, to be fueled for prayer. On Sunday I preached in their Exodus series on Exodus 24 - Eat with Jesus (25mins). I really enjoyed this thriling passage.
Central to it are these wow verses in the middle of the giving of the law (ch20-31):
...they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank. (24v9-11)
1. The Wedding Ceremony - Promises sealed in blood
2. The Wedding Feast - Intimacy secured by blood
Main application point - it really is good to be a Christian, it's intimate friendship with God by the blood of Jesus. Secondary point, a challenge to hospitality since the Triune God seeks to eat with his people.

The whole of Exodus is a prophecy of the cross.

An brief attempt to summarise Exodus... It's all about the purposes of the jealous God to establish his relationship with his people, crushing the serpent seed who rules Egypt and who seeks to strike the woman's seed Israel (all very Genesis 3:16).

There's lots of fire... a firey bush, a plague of fire, a fire roasted lamb, a pillar of fire, a devouring fire on the mountain, offerings burned with fire, an idol burned in fire...

There's a lot of blood... the blood of firstborn sons, the bridegroom of blood, the river turned to blood, the blood of lambs, blood of bulls thrown on altars and on the people...

In chapters 1-18 Jesus fights for his people to save them through the blood of a lamb painted over the doors, and through the death and resurrection of the reed sea, bringing them to the Mountain. The jealous God will have his first born son and defeat the tyrant Pharaoh. It's about liberation from slavery through dark ski…

Using Biblical Narrative in Conversations

That's the title for a seminar I'm doing at the end of the month. I have some ideas floating around my head for it.  I think I'll want to cover something on the overall shape of the Bible's narrative, and on the brilliance and importance of narrative in the Bible.

But beyond that, what would you cover?

Preaching is about the How? And the Wow!

“they saw God and ate and drank” (Exodus 24:11)

That's the centre of the text I'm preaching on Sunday (Exodus 24).
Two key responses: First, wow! And then how did that happen?
My sermon must unpack the how? And the gospel really drips off the page in Exodus 24 which leads to the next thing... Preaching is for the wow too.

Being informed about how isn't enough, the Scriptures reveal God and so they drive us to worship, otherwise as a wise man once said my sermon would be an idolatrous abomination.
So I'm crying out:

Praise to Jesus who saved a people out of Egypt. Praise to Jesus who invited the elders to come into his presence.  Praise to the one who revealed himself to Moses, and came to them by his word.  Praise to the one who called them to be holy as he is holy.  Praise to the one who who revealed himself and his gospel through the law. Praise to the one who would come from this people, imprisoned under law for 1400 years.  Praise to the one who the blood Moses thre…

What to say about the Holy Spirit?

In September I'll be teaching at UCCF's national student leaders conference, with a colleague, on the subject of Transformed by the Gracious God. Sessions 1 and 2 focus on the Father and the Son, and so on the third day we'll focus on The Holy Spirit. What to cover? The track is meant to give a gospel-centred, Trinitarian take on discipleship and change in the Christian life.

I'm finding David Watson to be helpful. He was a charismatic Anglican evangelist who died of cancer in 1984, aged 50. Converted under the Bash camps of E.J.H. Nash he was encouraged to pursue baptism of the Spirit by Martyn Lloyd-Jones. His 1973 book One in the Spirit is based on talks done at a UCCF conference in 1972, and 38 years on the material is still fresh and helpful, thoughtful, engaging widely and persuasively.

So far, I'm thinking we'll talk about

1. The Spirit and the gospel - regeneration, conviction, being sealed, and in relation to our relationship with the Father which is exp…

Preachers Toolbox: A Sense of Humour

Preachers get taught skills but it's obvious that without a changed heart it doesn't matter how technically skillful you are. Peter Leithart take things from a fresh angle - considering texts like music and jokes.

He argues in Deep Exegesis that Shrek is a goldmine of hermeneutical insight. Everything funny depends on knowing information that the film doesn't provide from the canon of nursery rhymes, fairy tales and pop culture... you can see that in the torture scene about the muffin man, or the matrix scene in the forest and so on:
"Shrek is impenetrable unless the viewer comes armed with a chase of nursery rhymes, fairy tales, and recollections from pop culture. a view ignorant of these resources does not miss some marginal features of the film; he misses the entire meaning. He does not get it." (p115) So it can often be when we come to the text of the Bible:
"Every text is a joke, and a good interpreter is one with a good sense of humor, one with a broad …

The Simple Things

Carla nails the heart of the preacher:
"It's silly but I feel a self imposed pressure to be able to say something smart or original when it comes to talking about God, but time and again it's the simple things he inspires or challenges me with... grace, love, the gospel... if it's my lot, to only speak simply, for the rest of my life. To be unimpressive and at times probably quite obvious, then I am still in. Even the simplest things about the Father, Son and Spirit are engrossing when my mind is switched on and my heart is ready to be moved."More of that please! And you can download Carla Harding on Trinity and Community at Revelation Church, Chichester (27mins):
"...a glimpse into the nature of God... Trinity... Father, Son and Spirit...   not an inanimate object but personality, we're supposed to spend our whole lives getting to know Jesus, falling in love with him... at the centre of this Trinity is relationship, God is a community. Father, Son and …

REVIEW: Rescuing Ambition (Dave Harvey)

Dave Harvey is a leader within Sovereign Grace Ministries and the author of When Sinners Say I Do, which is an excellent book on marriage. A rare example of seriousness about sin and abundance of grace. Last week I spent 24 hours at the Sovereign Grace Ministrieschurch planting conference in South Wales. Dave Harvey was the guest speaker and delivered some of the content of this book. The book was a conference freebie.

Ambition has a bad reputation but Harvey distinguishes between selfish-ambition and gospel-ambition. The former is clearly bad, but the gospel frees us to pursue the glory of God. We prefer the glory that comes from man, but God has shown us his glory in the person of the Lord Jesus (see John 12 for more on that). Hearing Harvey preach this material was a piercing experience, knowing Jesus expose the subtle tendency I have to draw attention to myself, to steal glory from God and advance my own name.

Harvey teaches out of his own wrestle with the application of the gospe…

Divine design is an ever spreading goodness

Genesis 1 and 2 paint a picture of the world. Who knows if they're a decent science text book or not, what they are is brilliant literature. In chapter 1 we see a empty, formless, dark world overcome by the Triune God who establishes the beginning of fullness, form and light - coming out of himself with overflowing blessing, through the Son, and creating a world of other-cented fruitful, multiplying blessers...

In chapter 2 we take a different camera angle. We see the formless and empty wilderness. Then two things happen. A garden is planted in the east, on Mount Eden - from which rivers flow to spread life to the world. And in view of the commission of the previous chapter, this garden will be extended to fill the whole world.

From the dead dust of the wilderness the LORD makes the first man, breathing life into him. Life flowing from God to man, always a spreading goodness. Through the word, by the breath, let there be man. Man is then placed in the garden to work and keep it. Th…

In the company of his people

Helpful post from Mark Thompson: The priority of relationships.
He cites D.B.Knox:
The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him in the company of his people forever. Which is probably an even more welcome modification to the Westminster Shorter Catechism than John Piper makes. In the company of his people is of course not going to be a closed fellowship - since the relationships of the Triune God are a spreading goodness, the Father sending the Son, the sending of the Spirit... there is intimacy and there is expansion. Both tie in with the observations that the son of man came out from his Father sowing the word, and eating and drinking...

ht: David Kirkman.

REVIEW: Gracism (David Anderson)

One of the best books I've read this year is Owen Hylton's Crossing the Divide. David Anderson's Gracism stands influentially behind that book. David Anderson is a leader of a multicultural church and is seeking to overthrow racism and other similar divisiveness in the church by proposing the art of inclusion, called gracism.

"I define gracism as the positive extension of favour on other humans based on colour, class or culture"

Which might sound like an annoyingly Christianised version of positive discrimination.  And  you could read it that way. But actually what we find in this book is a careful unpacking of 1 Corinthians 12's teaching on the body, which is far more subversive than some kind of politically correct agenda.

From 1 Corinthians 12 Anderson develops seven sayings of a gracist: I will lift you up, I will cover you, I will share with you, I will honour you, I will stand with you, I will consider you, I will celebrate with you.

Too rarely are thes…

Jesus comes out from his Father to sow the word (Mark 4:1-20)

This morning I kicked off a summer series in parables at with church. It was a great meeting - great prophetic words calling us to come and listen, and meet with Jesus which I felt really set us up for The Parable of the Sower in Mark 4:1-20. The Father says of his son (9:7) that we should listen to him, so that's what we sought to do. Mark 4 is all talking and about talking, listening and hearing.

DOWNLOAD MP3: Listen to Jesus(35mins)

I'm not sure how good a preach it was, it has been a real wrestle to prepare it mostly because it gets to the inner workings of parables and the doctrine of election, which are neither easy on the mind or on the heart. The passage forces you to speak of Jesus the judge whilst seeking to convey the lavish grace of Jesus coming from his Father to sow the life giving word. It's about 18 verses of the former and only two of the latter, so it should feel hard work, but I'm not sure I gave enough air to the "good" - did I have people b…

The Different Stories of Pixar and Dreamworks

Alex Charchar compares the stories and branding of Pixar and Dreamworks.

"Pixar is a billion dollar company because it knows how to tell a story. They know how important it is and that without a strong story at the core, all the technical wizardry and aesthetic mastery of their films would be overly sweet... When there is a lack of a story—of an idea—there is nothing but average design to be found." Stories their brands tell

Tongues, Prophecy and Parables

I'm not including this in Sunday's sermon on Mark 4:1-20 but it's been a thought I've had along the way about these three forms of verbal communication, all of which take their foundations from the ministry of Isaiah.
"22 Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign not for unbelievers but for believers. 23 If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds? 24 But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, 25 the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you." (1 Corinthians 14)Tongues without interpretation are a sign for unbelievers of their hardness and judgement. When an outsider comes into a Christian meeting and hears an uninterpretted tongue they walk away say…

REVIEW: Pursuing a heavenly vision (Stewart Keiller)

Charismatics can have a reputation for being theologically-lite but Stewart's pokey office in the recesses of the vast Art Deco cinema that Bath City Church own was stacked with serious books, including a desk lined with an an ESV study Bible and a Grudem Systematic Theology etc. Some stereotypes just need breaking.

That said, what Stewart gives us in this book isn't dense theology but a well rooted call to action. He's not showing all his working but he is taking texts seriously.

"This isn't really a 'how to have a vision' book, it is a 'poke' to live life a different way... a provocation...[to] cause the army of the people of God to get up, move out! ...We are a people who have got a mission and mandate from the King of kings..."

This book is a punchy rallying call to the church to be who she is. To take seriously what the Bible says, and to live in the heavenly reality that Jesus and the apostles knew.

In his chapter on Open Heaven he observ…

Tri-Unity is Relational

There's this phenomenon in the evangelical church of conservatives and charismatics who too often stand opposed and apart from one another. There are many ways to characterise these groups, but one is this: conservatives tend to do their unity on paper with clear doctrinal statements, where charismatics favour relationships and are less concerned about writing things down. I'm generalising....

I work for UCCF and we have a "doctrinal basis" which is a statement of core evangelical doctrine. It's often called "the DB" which beyond the comedy association with my initials is a nonsense. Why? Because a "basis" on it's own is nonsense. As "basis" must be the basis of something. And in this case it's the basis (in doctrine) of the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship. Which, to state the obvious, is a f-e-l-l-o-w-s-h-i-p.

A fellowship isn't something that comes about automatically. It's true to say I can gladly ha…