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Showing posts from August, 2010

Gospel Wakefulness with Richard Sibbes

In the third sermon of Richard Sibbes' Bowels Opened he preaches Song 5:1 on the invitation to the feast and then the dangers of becoming sleepy, rather than having a gospel wakefulness (a phrase I'm borrowing from Jared Wilson). I'm finding the series very helpful and I share these highlights and a pdf of the whole for your benefit.

DOWNLOAD PDF: Bowels Opened (3 of 20): Gospel Wakefulness

Sibbes sets the scene:
"From this mutual delight between Christ and his spouse we observe next, that there is a mutual feasting between Christ and his church. The church brings what she has of his Spirit; and Christ comes with more plenty."The church is invited to feast with Christ.
 "This is an invitation to the most magnificent feast: The comforts we have from Christ are the best comforts; the peace, the best peace; the privileges, the highest privileges... What could Christ give, better than himself to feed on?"Sibbes shows the excellence of communion with Christ, an…

Jesus brings a new day

Twice this summer former Exeter CU presidents have preached at our church - so much for people involved in CU not being committed to or sticking with church. Another former CU president wrote this:
"the most important thing that happened to me at Uni? I fell in love with the local church"But anyways, today was last years CU president and our new church administrator Dan Partridge on the parable of new and old wineskins in Luke 5:33-39. It was a great morning of being church family, meeting with God, hearing testimony of salvation and healing, and Dan gave us an excellent end to our parables series. Two things really struck me. One was the need to replace old wineskins with new ones. Illustrated from the film Anchorman (verbally):

Repenting of our old life isn't add in Jesus to what you already have. Jesus wont fit and he'll ruin the old (as in the Pharisees failure to understand why the disciples of Jesus-the-bridegroom weren't fasting). Don't sew Jesus onto t… is back is back online, with a new design and database. There will be some fresh new content on September 1st but go explore today.
Follow @beginwithmoses to keep updated.

Big thanks to Mark Owens for stepping in as the new editor, and to David Turner who has done all the tech and design work.

Praying and Poverty of Spirit

“You don’t need self-discipline to pray continuously; you just need to be poor in spirit.”

I read that in Paul Miller's A Praying Life.
Upside down thinking. That'll be the gospel. In my old self I love to think that my ability to be disciplined, or my determination will get me praying. It wont. It doesn't. The gospel shows me my poverty. My bankruptcy. And yet I'm invited. Best news ever.
Matt Hosier said in a sermon on Galatians"We don't need to struggle and strive for the favour of God... we don't need to come and spend 25 minutes working our way into a place where God might find us acceptable. We come straight to God. Even when you arrive 10 minutes late because you've been having a blazing row with your wife and you walk in, and you don't want to worship God and you don't want to talk to anybody,   and you've just come here because this is what you do and somehow you got here when you didn't want to be here, you can still come strai…

The Sunshine of the Gospel (Josiah's Reformation by Richard Sibbes)

Sibbes expounds four sermons from Josiah's life. The first "The Tender Heart" is particularly warm and rich on how to have a soft heart to Christ in the gospel. In this he famously said:
" always under the sunshine of the gospel. Be under God's sunshine, that he may melt your heart; be constant in good means; and help one another."The gospel is the sunlight by which I see everything, I see my sin and coldness, and I see my great salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Download PDF: Josiah's Reformation by Richard Sibbes.

"So come on church!"

We sang some of Matt Giles' new songs at our regional church conference. They're derived from Ephesians after our summer preaching series. For your glory, This was your design and a brand new one:
Download acoustic mp3 for Our God is KingBeing led by someone like Matt is a real blessing to the church, both for his gifting as a musician and leader and because of the Biblically rich songs he providing to help us express our hearts to God.

OUR GOD IS KING (Matt Giles, 2010)
Arise and shine, we are the heirs of God,
Saved to share the riches of His love.
Open your eyes, we are His chosen ones,
He has qualifed us through His Son.

Keepers of His Word, Called to tell all powers that He reigns, He reigns.
Strengthened by His love, Called to tell the world that He saves, He saves.

Our God is King, forever King,
No power can overcome Him.
Invincible, Unstoppable,
His Kingdom always advancing.

Filled with His power, He can do more with us,
More than we can ask or can conceive.
Given to us, the …

Friends woo for Christ and open the riches, beauty and honour, and all that is lovely in him

In the 2nd sermon of the Bowels Opened series on Song of Songs, Richard Sibbes takes up the text:
I am came into my garden, my sister, my spouse: I have gathered my myrrh with my spice; I have gathered my honeycomb with my honey; I have drunk my wine with my milk: eat, friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved: SONG 5:1.PDF: Bowels Opened by Richard Sibbes: Sermon 1 & 2

In this verse Christ accepts the invitation of the bride to come. Sibbes describes us as having a sibling and spouse relationship as the church to Christ. He calls us collectively "my sister, my spouse". He becomes one of us in the incarnation so that he can marry the church. In the gospel:
"The church of Christ is every way royal."Christ has been wounded so that we might gain the true riches of his grace. In the marriage of the church to Christ (1) we have taken his name, Christians of Christ. (2) He has taken on all our debt and we gain all that is his. And (3) those who bring the partie…

The church never has enough of Christ

BOWELS OPENED; OR, A DISCOVERY OF THE NEAR AND DEAR LOVE, UNION AND COMMUNION, BETWEEN CHRIST AND THE CHURCH THE SPOUSE, HER EARNEST DESIRE AFTER CHRIST, AND CONSEQUENTLY BETWEEN HIM AND EVERY BELIEVING SOUL BEING EXPOSITORY SERMONS ON SONG OF SONGS.. Sibbes preached 20 sermons on The Song of Songs that tell of Christ and the church. Some might think this a bit strange, prefering the more popular Mark Driscoll angle that says its just about human relationships. It is that, but more too. Sibbes says: "Only our care must be not to look so much on the colours as the picture, and not so much on the picture as on the person itself represented; that we look not so much to the resemblance as to the person resembled."
"The Holy Spirit has chosen this way in this song, by elevating and raising our affections and love, to take it off from other things, that so it might run in its right channel." What is God seeking to do through this book:
"Let God's stooping to us oc…

What do you make of Tim Keller, Tom Wright and Rob Bell?

At the 2010 Newfrontiers Leadership conference Mick Taylor, Andrew Wilson and Adrian Birks led a other leaders through a discussion of Tim Keller's The Reason for God, Rob Bell's Velvet Elvis and Tom Wright's Surprised by Hope, it's a stimulating series of three 80 minute sessions pursuing doctrine with generosity - wanting to learn from others without just accepting everything.

Download the mp3s on Tracking Theological Trajectories
Session 1 - The Reason for God
Session 2 - Velvet Elvis
Session 3 - Surprised by Hope

Buy the books

Together at Westpoint

We've been at Westpoint this weekend with 1700 others from churches in the South and West area of Newfrontiers (roughly Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Hampshire plus some from Portugal & Spain). Churches in newfrontiers are essentially independent but they're also interdependent and operate under apostolic oversight - teams that establish foundations and serve the advance the church's mission with the gospel and through church planting. It's about family - a family on a mission. Plenty of fun, plenty of gospel.
"Even 4x4 volvo driving, caravan towing cat-owners from Winchester aren't beyond the grace of God" Matt Hosier
Terry Virgo: "Apostolic" vs. "Missional" from Jubilee Church on Vimeo.

This weekend many of us gathered to spend time together, to worship together (led by Evan Rogers and Matt Giles - some great new songs from them).

Brilliant to hear God's word preached by Guy Miller from Bournemouth, David Stroud who leads Newfrontie…

"Great leaders rally people to a better future."

Title quote from Marcus Buckingham via What's best next. Leadership mumbo-jumbo and psychologising-babble or a glimpse of truth? It's along the lines of Henry Ford: “If I'd asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse" Or Antoine de Saint-Exupery:
“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” A Christian has an unbeatable vision of a better future because they have a vision of Jesus . A Christian has the potential to be a leader - not necessarily a politician, a business-tycoon or even a church leader, but someone who is marked by a gospel optimism that lifts others - and called by God to rule the world under God. We know history is a story that is going somewhere, and with a happy ending that anyone can share in. We believe in history. And we're convinced its a comedy.
"This means that a leader must have a talen…

A desire to play a part in seeing new churches planted

In July I was one of 120 delegates at the first Sovereign Grace Ministries [CO]MissionUK church planting conference. I only made half of it but the sessions I was able to attend were brilliant.

What I love about the guys in Sovereign Grace is not that they're perfect people but that they're people who take the gospel very seriously, who hold themselves lightly, and in whom I see evidence of grace (to use one of their phrases) in their welcome and their generosity and their hospitality. The people I know in Sovereign Grace are some of my favourite people and I thank God for their partnership in the gospel.

You can watch two sessions from the conference here, and get the rest from The [CO}Mission website. See also CJ Mahaney interviews Pete Greasley about the conference.

[CO]MISSION UK Wired for Glory from Christchurch, Newport on Vimeo.

[CO]MISSION UK The Pastor's Charge from Christchurch, Newport on Vimeo.

Disappointing Stories

Genesis 3 is a tragedy. It's called The Fall for a reason. Yet even in the darkest moment there is a glint of light:

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:15)

The story moves forward. Next chapter.

This story is a search for offspring and a battle. Abel is born (4v1-2) and is a true worshipper (v4), his brother has the opportunity to crush the head of the serpent lurking at his door (v7). Instead he strikes his brother (v8). He’s a serpent seed (1 John 3:12). Hope is there but is put in the ground (v11), and the ground cries out curse… The story could have been over, but this is not the ending we wanted. Yet.

Oh for better blood (Heb 12v24). Exodus opens with a woman having a son (Moses) while a tyrant tries to strike him. Also Herod vs. Jesus in Matthew’s gospel. When Solomon reflects on life it is Abel’s name he chooses to capture his frustration (Ecclesias…

I've sought God's love but not found it?

As Sibbes approaches the end of his first sermon on The Matchless Love & In-being he addresses objections and questions. This is a helpful style used by the Puritans to stop us wriggling out of what has been said.

To those who say, I've sought God's love and not found it, Sibbes says - wait. Not everyone is called when they're young. Sibbes cites examples of Josiah and Timothy who came to God young, but Paul and many in the crowd at Pentecost were older. So, wait and "in time God will speak to you, and will say to your soul that he is your salvation..." Wait and pray:
"Lord, I do not ask of you riches, I ask not glory, I ask not preferment in the world, I ask none of these: I ask your love, in which all is which is good."And find this love:
"For the love of God it is a rich love, as that love that he bears to his Son. If he loves me once, he loves me as he loves his Son. Now, he loves him freely, and richly, and unchangeably, and with an incompar…

How can we know the love of God?

Richard Sibbes continues in  The Matchless Love & In-Being:

1.Present God to ourselves as he is presented in our glorious gospel. There we see "the Father of mercy and the Father of Christ." Whereas the devil "presents him as a tyrant, as a judge, as a revenger, as one that hates him."

2. Strive to be those God loves. Be in the image of Christ "beg of him, that by his Spirit he would stamp his likeness in us; that as he is light, we may be light; as he is love, so we may have love; as he is merciful, so we may have our hearts enlarged; as he is free in love, so we may be free in love; and that we may be holy, as he is holy; that as he hates sin, so we may hate it; that we may joy in him, affect what he does affect, hate that which he hates; that so he may look upon us, as his own image, and delight in us, as the representation of his own likeness."

3.Keep from being like his enemies." unlike the world and wicked persons that are yet in the stat…

How can we stay faithful to Jesus?

My friend Rich Carding preached on Sunday at his church on Jesus' letter to the church of Thyatira in which we see:

1. Jesus the Son of God is powerful and pleased - he's the Psalm 2 Son who knows his people and sees their progress. He loves his bride.
2. Jesus the Son of God is intolerant and angry - he's intolerant of their tolerance of the seducer Jezebel who wants to lead them astray into adultery. He fights for his bride for whom he laid down his life. Let him win your heart again and drown out the lies.
3. Jesus the Son of God is the victorious lover - he has and will overcome all the liars who want to break up his marriage. His bride lives in hope that the lies will end and her husband will come and she'll have him.

We're given a portrait of the divine husband who fights for his people, even against the seductions of Jezebel who whispers in the ear of the church that she can find a better lover than Jesus. Listen and be encouraged.
Download Sermon on Revelation …

Seven Marks of Being Trinitarian

The first doctrine of Christianity, whatever other nuances is surely this:
"There is one God in three persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit." (For example, UCCF's Doctrinal Basis of Fellowship, point 1)There's a lot more to being a Christian but this is surely fairly key. Strange thing is that this is often considered fairly incidental rather than central and defining. CS Lewis famously called "grace" the defining mark, but grace is really an implication of being Trinitarian isn't it?

Ron Frost reflects on the marks of being truly Trinitarian.
1. Starting point, Trinity is key rather than just a secondary point about God. That means Trinity is on page 1 of your Systematic Theology rather than page 226 (as in Grudem's Systematic Theology.....). That God is Triune isn't the wierd mystery we leave for the theology freaks it's who God is, and turns out he is able to reveal himself.
2. Christology, Christ is key. The centre of the Father…

How did the Father love his Son?

The joyful message of the Christian gospel is that God the Father will love the believer as he loves God the Son. Richard Sibbes continues in The Matchless Love & In-being to ask, what is that love like? 
Did the Father...
"....fence him from poverty, from disgrace, from persecution, from the sense of God's wrath? No. ..the first-begotten Son, the natural Son, he was persecuted as soon as he was born; he was disgraced, calumniated, slandered, and abused to death. He felt the wrath of God... We then may be in the love of God if we be no otherwise than the natural Son was, in whom the love of God was when he was at the worst. In the lowest degree of his abasement, God loved him then as much as at any other time, even when he was accompanied with the sense of the wrath of God. So, reject and beat back all temptations with this invincible argument: It is no otherwise with me than it was with his natural Son."Which is to say, if I want to pray the Spirit's prayer "…

What's stopping us knowing the love of God?

Continuing in The Matchless Love and In-being, Sibbes observes:
1. Outward abundance, goodness and gifting are no sign of God's love.
"God fills their bellies with abundance of outward things, whose hearts he never fills with his love... plenty in outward things, accompanied with [God's] patience, is no true sign of God's love... The way, therefore, to bring those that have not the love of God to love God, is to show them their vain confidence."

2. Does my sin exclude me from the love of God?
" the gospel, this is not put as a bar of God's love, that I am a sinner, that I have committed any degree of sin whatsoever.
None are shut out but those that will be as they are... There is hope for you. He keeps open house for every one.
He shuts out none but those that shut out themselves, that think these things are too good to be true, and therefore will enjoy their pleasures, and go on still and daub with their conscience.
But if their hearts are awakened…

Whose job is it to raise children?

Stu is a member of our home group and the assistant pastor at our church, he's also been a dad since about three months after I became a dad. He's serving us as a church by doing a lot of reading and thinking on parenting - for the sake of his family - and then sharing that on his Blog. In the third post of this parenting series he writes this:
The Bible addresses parenting commands to Dad, not mum.... This is not to deny or minimize the crucial, society transforming role of mothers. Instead, this is a call for men to take God given responsibility and also heart posture towards mum... I confessed and apologised to my wife for making her feel like Rufus was her responsibility and that I am gracious to help her out. Nothing could be further from the truth. She is my team mate who is helping build my home which I am responsible for. I am to help, support, release her in her talents and receive her as a precious gift from God.... God holds fathers accountable for parenting because …

Can I know the love of God?

In The Matchless Love and In-being Richard Sibbes says Yes. We can and we ought to.

To know the love of God is the source of our thanksgiving to God:
"As the shining of the sun enlarges the spirit of the poor creatures, the birds, in the spring time, to sing, so proportionately the apprehension of the sweet love of God in Christ enlarges the spirit of a man, and makes him full of joy and thanksgiving. He breaks forth into joy, so that his whole life is matter of joy and thanksgiving."If we do not know the love of God, we wont suffer for him.
"Who will abide anything for him that he loves not? What does set us to suffer all things that may be for God? The apprehension that he loves us. What makes a man willing to end his life, and to yield up his soul to God? He knows he shall yield his soul to him as to a father that loves him, that will save his soul. Can a man be willing to leave his home here, when he knows not whether he shall have a better or no? Can a man commend hi…

Seven things about the love of God

The two sermon series The Matchless Love and In-being by Richard Sibbes are a wonderful invitation to experience the love of God. At the start of the sermon he recaps some lost sermons on the subject. His summarising remarks are worth noting.
"We never know all, but we may know more, and we ought to know more. So that by consequence there is a perpetual necessity of Christ's prophetical office: 'I have declared, and I will declare,' etc. "And
"When God is the teacher, it is no matter how dull the learner is, for Christ does not only bring doctrine, but he brings wit, grace, and ability to the inward man; that is, not only a declaration, as man does teach the outward man, but he unlocks and opens the heart..."Sibbes notes that now God would makes himself known to us relationally as "the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ". Our knowledge is not complete, but we have the person Christ who comes to us, to our hearts.

From John 17v26 he notes that he h…

Do you have a new heart?

Terry Virgo argues persuasively, and with some controversy, that Christians are not sinners but saints. In this he takes seriously that the believer is a new creation. This is no innovative teaching. Puritan Richard Sibbes wrote in his sermon Josiah's Reformation: The Tender Heart
“It is a supernatural disposition of a true child of God to have a tender, soft, and a melting heart.”Whereas he argues that naturally the heart is
“a stony heart… say what you will to a hard heart, it will never yield. A hammer will do no good to a stone. It may break it in pieces, but not draw it to any form. So to a stony heart, all the threatenings in the world will do no good. You may break it in pieces, but never work upon it. It must be the almighty power of God. There is nothing in the world as hard as the heart of man..... “How then do you get a new heart?
“...Tenderness of heart is wrought by an apprehension of tenderness and love in Christ. A soft heart is made soft by the blood of Christ… I am s…

The Good Samaritan is about the Gospel

I've been arguing this way for a while, as usual Glen puts it better: He saved my life and I don't even know his name

This famous parable in it's context isn't about being a good samaritan but about being helped by the last person you might choose/expect to get help from. A man comes to test Jesus and intends to love his neighbour. This self-justifier asks though, who is my neighbour - i.e. who am I to love.

Jesus asks back, via the parable, who was a neighbour to the man. The lawyer says - the one who helped him. Jesus says go and do likewise... we presume that means go and help others. But the question was who is the neighbour I'm to love, which is to say - loving your neighbour is more about receiving help than giving it.

In the context, where Luke is obsessive about arranging material he's just talked about the disciples receiving from Jesus not working for salvation, and will go on to speak about Mary's receiving ahead of Martha's busyness... and t…