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Showing posts from May, 2012

Six thoughts on the Psalms

The Psalms are the biggest book in the Bible and probably hold the dearest place in the hearts of those who read them. They're a collection of songs, mostly by King David but with a number of other lyricists contributing - Asaph, the Sons of Korah - Levites, and many unattributed.

They speaks to the full range of human emotion and are rightly identified as giving permission to say what you're actually feeling. A Christian finds themselves inside the conversation of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and needn't worry about what's appropriate to say - there is room to rage as well as to adore.

Six things I find helpful in navigating the Psalms.

#1 Five books.
There are five books of Psalms, marked out in the structure in most Bible's. There is a rough correspondance in themes between these and the five books of the Pentateuch. You'll find lots about trees and the blessed man in Book 1, as in Genesis. Deliverance in Book 2, like the Exodus. The Sanctuary in Book 3 e…

Six thoughts on Proverbs

Proverbs can feel like the ultimately accessible book. Pithy sayings that are immediately available and applicable. What are we to make of this book? We have it as we have it - what to make of it's form? What is its message?

I'm no expert, but here's six things that seem worth considering...

#1 Proverbs claims to be by King Solomon.
Like the Song of Songs, and stands as one of the three books (with Ecclesiastes) recognised as being by David's son, though the authorship of all three would be disputed by many. These aren't the words of any old wise person, but of the King. Words for a nation, words for the community - but words that immediately carry a Messianic direction. It's going to be about Jesus.

#2 It offers itself as a book of riddles, asking who can solve the problem! 
Intriguing. The sayings are easy to fit in your mouth but rather chewy, requiring some meditation and careful application. After a while one has to ask whether we're meant to just apply …

Six Words on Knowing the Love of God

My puritan hero Richard Sibbes preached a sermon called The Matchless Love and In-being from John 17 about what it means to live in the answer to Jesus' prayer that we be caught up, by the Spirit, into the love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

A prayer answered at Pentecost and every day as we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit - who makes us burst with the love of God.

The full sermon is in my edited volume The Sunshine of the Gospel and here's an extract:
 1. The Father loves Christ, because he is the first object of his love, his own image.
Christ represents God’s attributes, and whatever is good in him, in every way exactly. He is the Jedidiah, the beloved of the Lord. He is the true Isaac, the true matter of joy. He is the first Son, the first beloved.

2. After Christ, the Father loves all that are Christ’s with that love with which he loves Christ. 
There is love of God that gives us to Christ and now we speak of his love in our salvation. He loves Christ, and he loves …

Six approaches to The Story of Joseph

A question about interpretation of the Bible.

Take the story of Joseph, Genesis 37-50.

#1 A feel good hero
A story inspirational enough to inspire Andrew Lloyd-Webber. Is his 1970s Disneyfied reading the true meaning?

#2 Joseph a christ
Or what about the classic interpretation of Joseph for most of church history - that Joseph is a Type of Christ, a beloved son who suffers and figuratively dies, but who is raised up to feed the world? In this, telling the dreams is revelation of the way that he'll lovingly provide rather than arrogance. Jesus says Moses wrote about Jesus...

Or, a more modern reading, that it's a story about either (three variations on 'Be Joseph'):

#3 Suffering in general
People might mean things for evil but God is always working for good?

#4  Providence in general
Similar to the previous, with an encouragement that you might be falsely accused etc but nonetheless finally vindicated. Both #3 & #4 major on the summary verse in 50:20 about the brothers ev…

Six reasons for a Christological reading of the Song of Songs

I'm persuaded that The Song of Songs has a BOTH-AND meaning. It has much to say about marriage and also much to say about the True and Greatest Marriage, the Typical Marriage, the Real that all marriages echo and shadow - the marriage of Christ and his people. Because:

#1 Marriage is really about Christ.
This is Paul's argument in Ephesians 5. Really, he's talking about Christ and the church, though he's talking about marriage. That doesn't mean husband's and wives don't apply Ephesians 5 to their marriages, but that they're meant to finally look to Christ and his church. The greater and eternal marriage sets the stage for our smaller and temporal human marriages.

#2 History
By far the dominant reading of this book historically is to take it Typologically, pointing to Christ. This is to say we've got really got to it's meaning, intention or application if we've not heard it speak of Christ's love for his people. We might draw a true word f…

Six thoughts on the Bigness of God

I like the song, so does my toddler:

Our God is a great big God, Our God is a great big God, Our God is a great big God, And he holds us in his hands. He's higher than a sky scraper, and he's deeper than a submarine. He's wider than the universe, and beyond my wildest dreams. And he's known meand he's loved me, since before the world began. How wonderful to be a part of God's amazing plan. Our God is a great big God (Jo & Nigel Hemming. Copyright © 2001 Vineyard Songs)

No beef with the song, but what are we talking about when we talk about our God being so BIG?

Six thoughts:

#1 The bigness of God isn't creation magnified.
The heretic Arius thought that we should conclude that god is the Unoriginate behind the originated creation. Impersonal, powerful and yet would you want to know the god of the Jehovah's witnesses... as they will tell you, he doesn't really want to know you - prefering to keep his distance.

#2 The bigness of God isn't OMNI

Six Questions Every CU Leader Should Ask

Andy Stanley recently released a podcast of six questions every leader should ask. Read Six points or better still, listen: Podcast
Which gauges should we be watching?Where are we manufacturing energy?Who needs to be sitting at the table?Who is not keeping up?Where do I make the greatest contribution to the organization?What should I stop doing?
Leadership (or Administration) is a grace gift. The questions leaders face might feel less than spiritual but they need asking. What we do is based on what we think matters - for good or for bad. Stanley questions are asked in a growing church situation. Let me translate them to a CU where leaders serve the University by leading the Christian students in mission.

Lots of the life of CU isn't 'organised' but relational involvement in the mission of God. Leaders will choke that mission, or they can faciliate and resource it. Asking good questions will help.

1. Which gauges should we be watching? 
This might not be the president's…

Six words to reveal the heart

About decade ago Donald Miller wrote a book that I probably should have read, it was recommended to me but I never got round to until this year. Towards the end he wrote:

"Alan went around the country asking ministry leaders questions. He went to successful churches and asked the pastors what they were doing, why what they were doing was working. It sounded very boring except for one visit he made to a man named Bill Bright, the president of a big ministry. Alan said he was a big man, full of life, who listened without shifting his eyes. Alan asked a few questions. I don't know what they were, but as a final question he asked Dr. Bright what Jesus meant to him. Alan said Dr. Bright could not answer the question. He said Dr. Bright just started to cry. He sat there in his big chair behind his big desk and wept. When Alan told that story I wondered what it was like to love Jesus that way. I wondered, quite honestly, if that Bill Bright guy was just nuts, or if he really knew Je…

The God Who Failed?

Chris Oldfield is one of our London CU staff, and in this talk at LSE he sets up a dialogue between Professor John Gray and the Apostle Peter (from 1 Peter 1:1-11)
"The belief that a new kingdom was at hand was the heart of his message and was accepted as such by his disciples. The new kingdom did not arrive, and Jesus was arrested and executed by the Romans. The history of Christianity is a series of attempts to cope with this founding experience of eschatological disappointment." (Black Mass, John Gray)vs. A living because of the resurrection of Jesus.
The empty cry of frustration vs. the weight of glory...

Chris Oldfield - 1 Peter 1 - Living Hope & Reasonable Faith(mp3, 27mins)
Chris Oldfield - 1 Peter 1 - Living Hope & Reasonable Faith: Powerpoint
Forgotten is the minor key (Dave Bish, Think Theology)

What's so wrong with adultery?

In The Times today Alain de Botton has a piece that is provocatively advertised which is a trailer for his next book "How to think more about sex".

Can the reader think differently about adultery? De Botton argues that part of our problem with adultery and with marriage is a belief in idealism. We think marriage is easy and that adultery will counteract the challenges.

He's not making moral statements about adultery being right or wrong; he's saying people get adultery 'wrong' if they think it can 'fix' the obvious and inevitably difficulties of marriage. Which could be said of all "sin" - we follow our hearts but outside of Christ on the promise of joy, but there is futility, frustration, emptiness...

I find Alain de Botton fascinating. I've recently enjoyed his book Religion for Atheists and his Channel 4 series on Happiness and Architecture.

He feels like a non-Christian liberal churchman, in that he argues that todays atheists sh…

Be strong and courageous!

Generations of good hearted believers have been sent into action, into martyrdom or monasticism, mission or church planting with the LORD's words to Joshua ringing in their ears. Be strong and courageous. But will it really do to cast ourselves as Joshua in this story? Like David vs. Goliath?

Joshua is Moses' heir which immediately makes him something of a saviour for his people.

Moreover he is promised successful conquest not just of a strip of land but from the Med to the Euphrates....  more land that the people ever had, even at the height of Solomon's reign. Joshua is promised the world, if he will be devoted to the word of the LORD.
" Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you ma…