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Showing posts from December, 2010

God in the present tense (download with footnotes)

Here's the complete version of the Bible Overview I've been posting this week, with it's footnotes to reference where everything is drawn from. It was an assignment for a course I'm doing to write a 1500 narrative Bible overview.

Download full version of GOD IN THE PRESENT TENSE as pdf with footnotes

God with us

When Jesus dies the curtain of the temple is torn open and Jesus enters the heavenly tabernacle to offer his once for all sacrifice of himself, so all God’s people may come with confidence into his presence . He is raised from the dead. Before returning to his Father, he breathes on his people and fills them with his Holy Spirit sending them out as he was sent, in his Father’s love. They will know God with them, when they’re persecuted , as they go to the ends of the earth, and to the end of the age, sent with God to fill all nations with his love. God with us.

This loving people are built together into a new temple where the Father makes his home on earth by the Spirit . They are called the church, a people who make their home in God and ‘God’s seed’ (Jesus) makes his home in them; as he fills everything with himself . The church is an ever present foretaste of a day when God will come and dwell in a renewed creation where there will be no temple, for God himself will be the temple…

Robert Jenson's Systematic Theology

Enjoyed Systematic Theology: Volume 1: The Triune God: Triune God Vol 1 so I thought I'd spend some of my Christmas money on the second volume. Not expecting to agree with everything, really not expecting to understand all of it - but am expecting to be encouraged by it.

I'd also highly recommend Song of Songs (Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching & Preaching) which is stunning, and his On Thinking the Human: Resolutions of Difficult Notions is worth a look though I didn't understand most of it.


God in people. People in God.

Then, at just the right time , God comes to dwell again with his people . Not in a canvas tent or a stone temple but in a human body and now people begin to see more than Moses ever saw, as the One who had dwelt with his Father comes to walk our streets . He is called Jesus, and he is called God with us. Heaven is torn open and we see that he lives in the present favour of his Father, and is anointed with the Holy Spirit. This man calls himself the true temple, the dwelling place of God, and promises that if he is destroyed he will be rebuilt to intercede for his people by the power of his indestructible life .

As he prepares to face destruction on the cross he promises to prepare a place for his people where they will live with his Father . Seeing Jesus they have seen the Father . Jesus sends one like himself who will not just live with them, but within them catching them up into the Son’s own relationship with his loving Father where the will cry ‘Daddy’. God in people, people …

God in relationship

This is the third of five posts telling the Bible's story, God in the present tense.

In the tent the LORD meets with his people, via priests, who will repeatedly offer sacrifices and cautiously go into the presence of God on behalf of the people . They remain outside of the land, but God meets them in the tent . God at home with his people.

In the land, David their king has designs to build a temple in place of the tent . His son will do it, and God chooses to make his dwelling there, though he is not confined to it . God in relationship.

King Uzziah charges into the temple uninvited . When Uzziah dies the prophet Isaiah sees a vision of Jesus on the throne , high and lifted up . Refusing to listen to those God sends to them. God removes his presence from the temple , and the model of heavenly reality becomes an empty building. God-departed.

In exile God still meets with some of his people, appearing in visions, with his people in their trials, but it’s all a shadow of what the…

God in close proximity

Seth and Enoch and Noah walk with God but as they spread the world is filled with violence rather than the goodness and love of God . Noah’s family are gathered into a box to escape judgment and everything begins again as they stand at the centre of a formless and empty world . God remembers his new humanity, though Noah is soon shamed in his tent - and we wait for God to do something deeper in his people.

As the world is repopulated men seem keener to dethrone God than to know him . The LORD appears to Abram sending him to look for a city built by God , where his offspring will live. While he waits he meets with God as he builds altars. One night the Word comes to him , reminding him of promises, and walking between the divided pieces of sacrifices. In fire and smoke Abram knows God.

His family becomes a nation, exiled and enslaved, until God remembers and returns to meet with them. Jesus saves this people out of Egypt and brings them to his Father at the mountain . He speak…

God Involved. God estranged.

This is the first of five posts this week in a series God in the present tense, designed to tell the story of God and his people.
Some paint a picture of a distant god who might ‘spiritually’ be with us but who will finally dwell in heaven while we dwell on a peaceful earth. Others say the physical is evil and so god is disinterested in us. And others suggest that if god did come near it would evidently be to smite us and therefore he should be disbelieved.

The Bible tells a different story.

Before the beginning, the Son is present with his Father, given love and glory . They know and enjoy one another’s presence before anything is made, before anything else they know us and give us grace . Against this backdrop God comes into the dark, empty and formless world, announcing his presence in person as the ‘Light’ to spread beams of love into his world and divide the darkness.

God takes man out of the dust and put him in his garden. The Father and Son and Spirit were never alone, and s…

Reading Jesus into the Bible?

Any decent evangelical reader of John's gospel knows that 20:31 is the key to the book - it's where John gives his "author's purpose" to be giving us good cause to believe in Jesus the Christ & Son of God. Consequently we're happy to use this to interpret events many chapters earlier. It's sensible, right?

So how come, when Jesus says in John 5 (Bible chapter 1002) that Moses wrote about Jesus we're afraid to let that shape our reading of things in Bible chapter 1 (Genesis 1) or countless other parts of the Old Testament. We're told when it's done within John it's considered to be reading in context, but if you do it to the Old Testament you're reading into the text?

What's the difference? Ok, multiple human authors involved, but it's the same Holy Spirit inspired Scripture which is meant to make us wise for salvation? And that's the kind of salvation that only comes by calling upon the name of the Lord who came to give…

"Hang on a minute! That was a bit unexpected"

This was the catchphrase of the church we visited on Christmas day where the Scriptures were open at Luke 2:1-12. The point being that the LORD coming in the way he did was a bit of a surprise... and I do see where that's coming from. And I am thankful the Scriptures were open, songs full of gospel were sung among a people who I trust know the Father, Son and Spirit - likely far better than me.

Yet the notion that the Christmas story was a surprise, that Christianity is a surprise doesn't quite ring true.

If you're the god-of-this-age or believe in a philosophers-god (god = people but very big) then it's not what you'd think 'god' would be. This is a distinction worth remembering. But Luke's point in his gospel, along with the other evangelists, seems to be exactly the opposite - that this Jesus came as he did is exactly what we should have expected, after the LORD had spent all history setting the stage and writing the grammar of the gospel, laid out i…

Christmas is the story Moses wrote

We had a tour of a Synagogue as part of our Newfrontiers Leadership training a couple of weeks ago. Our Jewish guides assumed that we would know nothing of the Old Testament. Ironically five of our previous six study days had been on Biblical Theology and The Prophets, and more obviously if Christianity is anything it the message of the Old Testament (though many Christians do run scared of the OT).

Our guides clearly revered the Scriptures, and particularly the books of Moses, but seemed to have no notion that they testify about Jesus (or particularly much sense of Messianic hope at all...). This isn't ironic but tragic, and something that Jesus himself ran into on many occasions. We could have been in John 5 where Jesus challenged the Pharisees for being Moses experts but missing him or John 9 where the Pharisees claimed to follow Moses and not Jesus or Luke 16 where Jesus laments the way the Pharisees have Moses & the Prophets and still miss him.

I preached part of Zechari…

He bore the burden to Calvary

After reading Tim Keller's Generous Justice and spending (inevitably) time in Galatians I've been pondering what it means to 'bear one anothers burdens'. Keller's book shows what the implications of the gospel might look like in defending the oppressed though doesn't perhaps always show the way the gospel drives that, though his earlier The Prodigal God does that stunningly.

To bear one another's burdens...
On the one hand I could give from an excess that I have to meet someone's need. I think that's valuable but not the same thing. Carrying one another isn't just about money but perhaps can be made sense of in that way. If I am rich and my riches can cancel your debt that is good but not quite the same as the gospel. God could have upped the blessings he was lavishing upon us, but he did something more.

If I can clear your debts but the result is that I'm now in debt then I'm carrying what you were carrying. That is costly. That might me…

The Father would intervene

ht: Chris Oldfield from Episode 2 of The Nativity, BBC. 22:00-23:40 mins. Available til 30th Dec. A bit of Galatians 4, a twist of Luke 15...?

Wise Man: Do you believe in God, Balthazaar? as what? a presence? an intellect? someone who created the world & moved on or someone who stayed, watching over us, as a Father? There was a time when it seems the God of Abraham intervened…[sodom, manna, exodus]

Balthazaar: but the days of God's intervention are long past - little more than stories

Wise Man: but isn't that how you deal with a child? nurturing them with constant presence; teaching them to make their own way in the world; making rules so that when the time comes, you let the child go. Because the Father no longer intervenes in the lives of his children, does that mean he's no longer there?

Balthazaar: No of course not

Wise Man: But what if the child had lost his way, or forgotten the things he was taught?

Balthazaar: the Father would intervene

Wise Man: Wouldn't you?


At our last Newfrontiers Leadership training we looked at Haggai as part of a study on the prophets and prophetic. I've been camped out there a bit since then with the help of Bob Fyall's work.
Bob Fyall's BST The Message of Haggai & Ezra. And two mp3s of the same material - mp3 Haggai (part 1) and mp3 Haggai (part 2)

more audios from Rutherford House. ht: Dave Kirkman

Haggai is a great little gospel book.  (though that's true of the whole Old Testament however many Biblical Theology myths might abound.) Haggai's concerns seem to centre upon God's presence with his people, the immediacy of his word to them, with an eye to a glorious future and David's throne. Haggai surely knew what was coming. Much to ponder.

Why Christmas? Tender Mercy & Sunrise

Download Sermon mp3 - 25mins

2. Tender Mercy

What motivates the Lord to come? Is he motivated by our good deeds, our brilliance, our rubbishness? No: “because of the tender mercy of our God” or “because of the heart of mercy of our God”.

The language here is immediately warm and positive isn’t it? He comes not to give us what we deserve – but with mercy. And not just a cold let off but with tenderness, with a heart of mercy. This is a depth of compassion and love for us. It’s the tenderness of a parent comforting a child, not harsh, not dismissive, not cold, but gentle, restoring, enfolding. Pleading our cause, and ultimately the baby born at Christmas gives his life in our place.

This is how God comes in the person of Jesus whose life and death display the tender heart of God. In tender mercy comes “from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.” -- to those who “sit in darkness” and in “the…

Why Christmas? Salvation

Download Sermon mp3 - 25mins

At about 8:02 next Saturday the sun will rise and it’ll be Christmas Day. Except for most of us it will have begun much earlier, as all the pent up enthusiasm and excitement that the retail industry has been building up since August finally bursts through the damn at 4am and someone in the house - especially if there’s anyone under about four foot high - will have kicked off the festivities. We’re taught to wish it could be Christmas every day-ay-ay and some of us really do!

But some of us would rather bury our heads under the duvet until Christmas is over. It might be the stresses of catering for 18 people, it might be the ominous and inevitable moment when the awkward uncle says or does something inappropriate that wrecks the whole day, again.

Or, more seriously, the pain of the year and memory of those who aren’t with us. The winter is cold and cruel. This time last year I was speaking at my uncle’s funeral and we have another family funeral tomorrow.

Christmas is for the healthy, beautiful and successful?

Matt Redmond has some excellent thoughts on who Christmas is for:
"Jesus came for those who look in the mirror and see ugliness. Jesus came for daughters whose fathers never told them they were beautiful. Christmas is for those who go to "wing night" alone. Christmas is for those whose lives have been wrecked by cancer and the thought of another Christmas seems like an impossible dream. Christmas is for those who would be nothing but lonely if not for social media. Christmas is for those whose marriages have careened against the retaining wall and are threatening to flip over the edge. Christmas is for the son, whose father keeps giving him hunting gear when the son wants art materials. Christmas is for smokers who cannot quit even in the face of a death sentence. Christmas is for whores, adulterers and porn stars who long for love in every wrong place. Christmas is for college students who are sitting in the midst of the family and already cannot wait to get out for ano…

The Tender Mercy of our God (mp3)

Welcome the sunrise

Tomorrow I'm preaching for our church on Luke 1:67-80, Zechariah's  prophetic word concerning the ministry of his son, John the Baptist. In preparing I've found these words helping me from two who came before me:
"Zacharias intended, I doubt not, to represent Christ as the author of perfect blessedness, that we may not seek the smallest portion of happiness elsewhere, but may rest on Christ alone, from a full conviction that in him we are entirely and completely happy."John Calvin

"To me they gleam with kindly light: I see in them a soft radiance, as of those matchless pearls whereof the gates of heaven are made. There is an exceeding melody to my ear as well as to my heart in that word "tender." "Mercy" is music, and "tender mercy" is the most exquisite form of it, especially to a broken heart. To one who is despondent and despairing, this word is life from the dead. A great sinner, much bruised by the lashes of conscience, will …

Calvinism vs. Arminianism: A debate in another country?

Two blogging church leaders in my family of churches have been pondering the question of God's sovereignty. I confess it was a debate that used to interest me, but I find myself cold to it today. Adrian Warnock lays out a spectrum of beliefs for Calvinists and Arminians and Phil Whittall has responded from another angle. This seems to be how the debate normally happens and what it's focuseed upon.

My problem is that it has begun to feel like a debate in another country, in which I used to live very happily.

What's happened? Years of relentlessly attractive Trinitarianism from Mike Reeves & others that have shaped my basic consideration of who God is.

Now I start by considering God as Father, Son and Spirit and the language is all of love and superabundant overflowing of that love. Previously I thought of God in terms of omni's and attributes and Trinity as important, necessary and impractical. I stand corrected substantially, and humbled and loved more than I'd …

Another 'love the gospel' weekend

Here's the mp3s from the Bath Spa CU Weekend. I really enjoyed the time together to get to know the CU, to preach Christ to our hearts and strategise together for some frontline mission we'll be seeking to do together in February 2011.

Main Sessions:
Do you know the welcome of God? 36mins
What is Christian Maturity? 53mins
How is your relationship with God? 30min
Your new heart's desire 44mins

Roughly the same as the previous weekend though I preached from outlines rather than scripts. Some bits were probably not so clear this time, but I think others were much sharper. Mp3s from Cardiff CU Weekend.

The Narnia Books and Films: Two ways of understanding power

Hollywood knows power as bloodthirsty lust for more, but Christian power is sacrifice - something yielded rather than wielded, something that makes us more noble rather than crushing others.

On Theology Network Steven Boyer writes on How the new films subvert Lewis's vision:
"I always felt . . . how hard it must have been, particularly for Peter, to have gone from being high king to going back to high school, and what that would do to him, do to his ego. . . . I always thought that would be a really hard thing for a kid to go through." Adamson acknowledges that this emotional turmoil was “not something that C. S. Lewis really got into,” but as director he wanted “to create more depth for the characters, more reality to the situation.” He wanted “to deal with what all the kids would go through having left behind that incredible experience and wanting to relive it.”  This emotional realism was Adamson’s explicit aim, and as a result, the screenwriters who put this scene toge…

I've found a love greater

The heaven's display the glory of God - and the sun most of all in the sky. But what is that? Is it the power of uncountable nuclear reactors pumping out the greatness of God brighter than a very large number of floodlights? Is the glory of God infinite power and oomph? Or, might the glory of God not be told of by the sun by it's relentless walking like a bridegroom, full of purpose, and of it being a source of life, pouring out life (and love) day after day unceasingly, giving of itself for our good.

How is it that Jesus displays his glory? Is it in his impressive acts and miracles, his power to create? Or is it more in the hour in which he was high and lifted up to death? The moment where he gave himself up for us?

How is it that Jesus defeats the devil? What is the power we have if we cast out a demon in the name of Jesus? Is it that Jesus packs a bigger punch? Did Jesus wrestle the devil to death? Or, was it that in the very moment the serpent thought it had struck Jesus d…

Frustrated Reality: Inception vs. Alice in Wonderland

Recently we re-watched Inception and saw Alice in Wonderland for the first time. Both are attempts to deal with suffering in similar and different ways.

Inception's Cobb is a man trying to deal with guilt and loss in his life, while Alice is a girl trying to escape from the social turmoil she finds herself in. Both are drawn into worlds that seem like dreams, and left to wonder whether they're in reality or not. Cobb has his spinning top while Alice can pinch herself to wake up.

The films are both outstanding cinematography, taking us into the creativity of Christopher Nolan and Tim Burton. Both offer great performances, from Leonardo Di Caprio, Ellen Page or from Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter particularly. Both are entertaining.

That said, Alice left me wanting more. Alice goes into her dream world, wins and comes out able to overcome all the troubles, bold and confident, defiant of social pressures in a way that seems deeply unrealistic. Cobb seemingly makes more progr…

A different kind of 'gospel'

Spent the weekend with the Bath Spa University Christian Union, getting into The Gospel together.

Everyone has "a gospel" of course... On Friday lunchtime I'd been on a tour of a Synagogue in London. Positively it was great to see their priority for community and family, and yet in may ways it was so empty. A devotion to the Pentateuch with no Messianic hope. Like Jesus said - they read but miss him, or in Paul's words the veil remains and they're blind to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus the Christ.

This weekend my hope was that we'd come with broken and repentant hearts to behold Christ in the gospel. And by the grace of God I think that's what happened. I'll reflect more on it but I was helped to remember that God reveals his power and glory most of all not with a punch-your-lights-out display of strength nor a god who is our accuser or adversary but rather the Triune God who sends and gives and loves and lays himself down for us.

How diff…

Finding your sweet spot in ministry

I spent Wednesday with my UCCF colleagues being trained by James Lawrence from CPAS. It was a provoking day to think about how to help people find their ministry 'sweet spot'.
"A sweet spot is a place, often numerical as opposed to physical, where a combination of factors suggest a particularly suitable solution." (Wikipedia)James kept us first focussed on the nature of Christian leadership as grace-founded servant heartedness rather than having to be an alpha-male personality.

He helped us think how various tools can help us to see who we are and how we might best do the things that we're made to do. We were given us a matrix to think about ourselves as leaders as a combination of innate talent (developed before adulthood), spiritual gifts neither of which we can do much about, then skills and knowledge which we can do things about, shaped by our temperament and our passions which shape the style and context of ministry. Fit these together and we're at our sw…

If you could ask God one question what would it be?

The members of the Cardiff University Christian Union asked their friends and this is what they said:

How can people who live good lives go to hell and people who have done awful things in their lives get saved and go to heaven? Why is there evil? Why do bad things happen to good people? Where is God in suffering? If you knew people would sin when they were created, why did you let it happen? If there is a God and he is in control why is there so much suffering in the world? Why do some people suffer more than others? Why does God allow people who appear not to deserve it to suffer and those who do deserve it don’t? Why has God abandoned me? If God is real why do bad things happen in the world? If all my friends and family are not Christian why would I want to go to heaven? Why does God let bad things happen? Why does God allow suffering? If God has the power to heal, why are so many people sick? If God can heal everyone why did my brother die when he was 8? Wh…

A Love the Gospel Weekend

Home from a weekend of preaching Christ to my own heart in the company of the Cardiff University Christian Union. Four sessions aiming to be a love the gospel weekend. Mp3s:

1. Do you know the welcome of God? (Mark 15) - 34mins
2. What is Christian maturity? (Galatians 2/3) - 53mins
3. How is your relationship with God? (Galatians 3/4) - 40mins
4. Your new heart's desire (Galatians 5) - 42mins

I was speaking from outlines instead of scripts. This gives an extra freedom in speaking but I think it tends to add about 15% to the length of the talk. Here I also added a 5min intro mini-sermon each time on the purpose of preaching to set our expectations for the weekend, and illustrate where I'm coming from. Whether I made either of those calls right is up for grabs. I'm working through them again for another CU next weekend.

Transformission mp3 Series (Mike Reeves)

Over the past four years we've been gathering students for our one day Transformission conference in Exeter. We've dealt with some weighty subjects but not for the sake of increasing our knowledge but to hear the good news about Jesus again, to repent and believe and to have our hearts warmed and by the Spirit, to be transformed for mission. Each year Mike Reeves has joined us as our speaker.

Load up your iPod with these 12 mp3s. Why not get some friends to do the same - work your way through them together, feed your heart and mind and life with the gospel.

1. Enjoying the cross (1)
2. Enjoying the cross (2)
3. Enjoying the cross (3)
4. The Word of God (1): The Most Valuable Word
5. The Word of God (2): The Christian Word
6. The Word of God (3): External Word
7. Union with Christ (1)
8. Union with Christ (2)
9. Union with Christ (3)
10. Love of God (1): The Loving Father
11. Love of God (2): The Glorious Son
12. Love of God (3): The Heart-melting Spirit

Beginning With Moses mp3 Series

Who is God?

Ron Frost reflects on our relationship to God as Father:
"In what he shared of his faith there was no reference to God as one who is personal to him—of God as his Abba, Daddy. Instead the man spoke of his confidence in his training and his devotion to the truths of the faith as the measure of a sound Christianity. My thought, by contrast, was that a new life in Christ has a real impact on someone."It's a common enough observation of much Christianity - confidence in truth and truths, and yet rare sense of personality and relationality in Christianity. I talk with Christians who can speak readily of God as Creator, as Sovereign and yet is God not fundamentally love? Didn't his love precede his creating? And isn't any authority and power he has formed by his gospel-shaped love that makes it less power-wielded and more power-yielded through the potency of a life-giving Father, the self-giving of the Son and the intimacy that we have through the ministry of the Spir…