Skip to main content


Showing posts from April, 2011

"We shape our God and then our God shapes us" (Rob Bell)

Adrian Warnock cites Rob Bell's Love Wins:
"Many have heard the gospel framed in terms of rescue. God has to punish sinners, because God is holy, but Jesus has paid the price for our sin, and so we can have eternal life. However true or untrue that is technically or theologically, what it can do is subtly teach people that Jesus rescues us from God. Let’s be very clear, then: we do not need to be rescued from God. God is the one who rescues us from death, sin, and destruction. God is the rescuer. This is crucial for our peace, because we shape our God, and then our God shapes us." Adrian replies saying:
"I am sorry Rob, God either exists or he doesn’t. We cannot shape him. He is God! He is what he is. We cannot mold him in our own image but must find him in the Bible and worship him." I imagine Adrian will feel a bit betrayed by me here but: I think Adrian missed the point. I agree with Adrian's saying we can't shape our own version of God, but I don'…

Who am I?

‎"If you want to know me 
don't look up my IQ or Myers-Briggs, 
study me in the company of 
the Father, Son and Holy Spirit." 
Eugene Peterson, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, p307

I find strategy and management tools helpful, but for every one look at them, I need ten looks at Christ. And of course, as I grow in my knowledge of Christ, then as Calvin notes in the opening of his Institutes, I'll grow in my knowledge of self. At heart we're relational beings, living with broken relationships and through the gospel we come to live in the relationships of the Triune God, and consequently into deeper relationship with one another.

I have strategies and priorities for the term ahead, but above all my goal is the pursuit of relationship with the Triune God, and then to invest in my relationship with my wife, my son, the five Staff I have the honour of supervising, the members of my home group, a small number of students in the region, others in the church, and those b…

Where is the love of God? The question I'd want to ask Rob Bell.

Over the weekend I listened to Justin Brierley's radio show on Premier Radio in which he interviewed Rob Bell with Adrian Warnock. Both are preachers and authors, and Adrian is part of the same family of churches as I am, and is a friend. The show is worth a listen. Now, I'm firmly on Adrian's side of the fence in this whole thing but... Bell is infuriating and smart and this important debate doesn't have a simple solution.

1. Questions about questions.
He has question asking down to a tee. I wonder if he's read Randy Newman's Questioning Evangelism?  I'm impressed by his apparent commitment to only answer questions after he'd asked the questioner what they thought the answer was. His most common answer was "Do you?" This is a clever way to approach direct questions. It's also really frustrating because he barely gave a single answer in an hour of interview. I'm not persuaded by his conclusions but there are things he and I would agree …

Mike Reeves: Enjoying the Cross.

At our first UCCF Transformission Conference in Exeter in 2007 Mike Reeves spoke on Enjoying the Cross. You can get download the mp3s from the three sessions from Theology Network.
Enjoying the cross (Mike Reeves)

For your diary: Transformission 2011 is on Saturday 22nd October in Exeter with Mike Reeves preaching Jesus Christ. A free one day conference for the South West Christian Unions and any friends of CUs. A launch to a new year of mission on campus as we feast together on a gospel banquet and cry out together for Christ to be known.

More on previous years here: Transformission Page
2007 (the cross), 2008 (the word), 2009 (union with Christ), 2010 (love of God).

Spreading Goodness

Ron Frost is a mentor with Cor Deo in Chippenham, UK, and I have him booked in for a day with my team next month. You've probably never heard of this modern day Sibbesian but use the internet at let him be a friend to you in knowing Christ.
Ron blogs at SpreadingGoodness.orgSermons by Ron Frost from Good Shepherd Church, Oregon USA where Ron is a pastor when he's not working in the UK. I started with 'Triune' from October 2nd 2010 and 'The Cross' from April 17th.

Remember in the garden when you asked me where I was?

What is our God like? Who is he? What is his salvation like?
What about the difficult questions of "once saved, always saved?"
Jo Larcombe loves this song. Chase me by Miriam Jones. She should.
The gospel is surely the Son sent by the Father to bring us into the life of God.
As Ellis Potter says, Jesus question in the garden isn't accusation but invitation. Seeking us.
Chris Oldfield commends this video. He should.
The best bit, says Chris, is a quote from Calvin near the end.

Sanders cites Calvin around 55mins into his lecture.

"We see that our whole salvation and all its parts are comprehended in Christ [Acts 4:12]. We should therefore take care not to derive the least portion of it from anywhere else. 
If we see salvation, we are taught by the very name of Jesus that it is "of him" [1 Cor 1:30]. 
If we seek any other gifts of the Spirit, they will be found in his annointing.
If we seek strength, it lies in his dominion; if purity, in his conception; 
if gent…

Heartfelt Christianity: Delighted by God Conference

Cordeo & UCCF Theology Network are co-hosting this great looking conference in London on June 4th at All Souls. The guys running this are great and I highly recommend it to you.

A blogger commented that its good in the UK that we don't lead with names but with content. So, this conference is about Christ and his word and your heart enjoying him. Cordeo and UCCF Theology Network should mean a burning passion for Christ and so should the four guys who you may or may not have heard of who are speakinng - Peter Sanlon, Mike Reeves, Peter Mead and Ron Frost. And the conference is free.

See also: Delighted by God: Facebook Event

Scripture is a Personal Overture of Love

Ray Ortlund says the message of the Bible is that "The Lover of our souls won't let the romance die, but is rekindling it forever." And Jeremy Begbie makes a similar case in his 'Who is God? - Biblical Inspiration Revisited' in Tyndale Bulletin 43.2, 1992. Begbie is a tastily triune musician and theologian.

In his paper he says that our view of Biblical inspiration struggles between two false extremes - fundamentalism (BB Warfield) and liberalism (James Barr), and he proposes a Trinitarian alternative. Begbie says we need to ask: who is the God who inspires and who is the God who addresses us through these scriptures and not just how did inspiration happen.

Begbie reflects on five overlapping dimensions of the Spirit's agency that may illuminate the nature of biblical inspiration and which are just encouragingly true. I've cut much of the detail.

See the atoning and relating character of the Spirit. "Central here will be the recognition that the Spi…

The Triumph of Love (John Howe)

I've been reading puritan John Howe's The Redeemer's Tears which is his reflection on Jesus' weeping outside of Jerusalem in Luke 19. Having journeyed to Jerusalem since the end of chapter 9, telling all his most famous gospel parables he arrives at the place of his necessary death and the sunrise of his resurrection that will send good news of forgiveness of sins to the world.

Howe invites us "remember that he who shed tears did from the same fountain of love and mercy shed blood too". 

Those tears shed for those who we past hope melt us while there is still hope for us. Jesus' tears "signify how very intent he is to save souls, and how gladly he would save yours, if yet you will accept his mercy while it can be had. He wept over those who will not be saved, from the same love that is the spring of these tears would saving mercies come to those who are willing to receive. The love that wept over those who were lost, glories in those who are saved.wi…

Sing, Preach, Live

When I did the strengthsfinder survey it identified 'input' as one of my top 5 strengths. Basically means I love to collect information because some day it'll be of use to me or someone else. Input ergo Blog.
Matt Giles reviews: The Village Church's God of Victory album'All things in me call for my rejection; all things in You plead my acceptance' Glen Scrivener suggests we offer people Christ'Shouldn’t it placard the Person and work of Jesus and ask “Will you receive Him?”'Lewis Roderick tweets:'Religion makes you miserable, boring and paranoid. The gospel brings life.'

The Messiah and his Technicolor Dreamcoat?

Genesis 37 is a fascinating story. Questions... Why Joseph not Judah or Reuben? Why is Joseph so loved and hated? What's with the Technicolor dreamcoat? What's with the dreams? Why do they want to kill him? Why deceive their father? 

The story, almost self-contained, is the first part of the final section of Genesis. Genesis Act 4: These are the generations of Jacob, the story of his son Joseph.

If we came to it cold we might think it's just a great story, and one worth making a musical about.

But's it's not just a great story, it's a classically Genesis-story.

All about fathers and sons, and sons who are loved, and brothers who aren't their brother's keeper who try to kill their brother, and sons who deceive their father. All very Genesis. And it's a story of a journey from Canaan to Egypt - like Abraham in Genesis 12, though he came back, so will Joseph? And will anyone else go down there and will they come back?

Joseph is the beloved son of his fa…

The Men Who Stare At Goats

Jon Ronson's book The Men Who Stare at Goats, and the associated Clooney caper of a film are great fun. It's about the US army's elite soldiers who can kill a goat by staring at it, amongst other world war winning powers.


Matt Hosier recommends listening to Rob Bell preaching 'The Goat has left the building'.

Me too.

I think it's a little kooky in places - an apocryphal red cord is asked to carry quite a lot of weight, and I could have lived with slightly fewer quotes from rabbinic sources that just make him sound clever. But,...

Connecting the day of atonement to Pilate and the crowds in John 19 is brilliant. The sermon is brilliant. I have serious questions about his books. And this is an old sermon - reckoned to be one of his best... and the trajectory seems different, but this is good.

It's Leviticus 16 and it'll make you laugh, and weep and sing and clap.
(Mike Reeves preached four times from Leviticus recently, not including ch16 - also bri…

Rah! The Good News According to Jack Wills

Jack Wills has a gospel and they're keen to proselytise you. If you're rich and beautiful enough or just prepared to give your heart it you too can live their dream - though really this is no gospel for the poor and the weak and the old and the ugly, this religion wont have room for you.

They pitch to the kind of rah students who make up some of the population of some South West universities - especially Exeter and Bristol... The Jack Wills gospel plays on the idealised picture of student life - lots of time, money, cool clothes and beautiful friends. Hard to imagine why they think that's appealing...

Their recent ad campaign was banned, as The Guardian reports. Jack Wills' Provocative Ads Banned for presenting a risk to younger teenagers.... not sure taking away the advert is going to take away the desire or the appeal though. The current controversy will only help their viral approach to marketing.

One of our interns wrote on the theology of Jack Wills earlier this y…

Spreading Love Wins

Reflecting back on reading Love Wins last week a few things come to mind...
Rob Bell wants people to be generous rather than mean-spirited. He can't quite manage it towards his own heritage in fundamentalism but I think the whole let's get Gandhi into heaven is wanting us not to quickly write people off but to believe for an expansive gospel. He wants people to notice that this world is very messed up and there are a lot of people in need of practical help as well as needing to hear the gospel.He wants people to be aware that sometimes we speak of an ugly god who is lurking behind lovely Jesus.He wants people to know that our God is surely generous and welcoming.He wants people to ask questions rather than just believe because someone said so. And to be honest I support that cause..

Tentatively I think the problem might be this: Bell has a decent diagnosis but appears not to see the Triune God clearly. Or at least, not clearly enough to offer a good way forward. I'm thankf…

Compassionate Evangelists Know Love Wins

From Robert Gordon's introduction to John Howe (May 17th 1630-April 2nd 1705), The Redeemer's tears wept over lost souls (p23)
"Every believer can bear witness that thus it has been with him - that the love of God in Christ Jesus has melted and subdued the obstinacy which no dread of punishment ever could have vanquished - and that the small still voice of the gospel is the only melody that can expel from the human soul, the evil spirit of distrust and of unbelief. And where is this melody to be heard, if it is not in the simple, and unadorned narrative of the inspired writer, when he tells us, on our Lord's approach to Jerusalem, the place where he had been reviled... he beheld the city and wept over it..." The love of God melts us, and makes evangelists like Jesus - who weep. John Howe was a large-hearted man who "never made an enemy and never lost a friend" ministering in Devon and London. Howe preached on the Spirit from Ezekiel, lamenting the lack o…

The Light is the Life of Men

Brian Cox's Wonders of the Universe finished last weekend but is still on iPlayer for the next few days. You don't need me to say it's worth watching. It is. Phil Moore says Cox is: "Patrick Moore’s brain ..transplanted.. into Vernon Kay’s body".

For the last few years Richard Dawkins has been the bulldog of Science, venomously gnawing away against his Christian heritage... Cox is different.

Brian Cox is a worshipper and, as Phil Moore notes, a worship leader. He knows what he loves and he sings, to a spectacularly orchestrated soundtrack. He's committed to telling a better story than everyone else. He wont just tell you "old boats wont do" or "I can build better boats", like Antoine de Saint-Expury makes us dream of the ocean.

His worship of the gods of the Sun and Moon is compelling and enthusiastic. It's loud and visual. Watching him is a bit like watching Louie Giglio's Indescribable videos. Giglio's answer is to say - yes …