Sunday, April 29, 2007

thing i have learnt

this weekend

  • if you want to build a town centre football ground but hide it so no one will ever know, talk to Banbury United. Behind an industrial estate behind a train station. and it's not as good as it looks in the internet!
  • Michael Ramsden is really really good. And really funny. I'd never really noticed the latter before. He spoke at the Coign Church in Woking this evening talking on 'speaking the truth to a secular society'. It'll be online here soon. Listen up!
  • No matter how much you fall out of love with your team, watching someone else is never the same. Even when these games are more or less just pre season games for next season, i'd still rather be there than somewhere else on a saturday.
  • Tozer is really really good. He gets me excited about worshipping the Lord, not the benefits.
  • On that note, it's so much better to worship the Lord. The benefits are not benefits unless they lead us to Him. It's not Heaven if He's not there. And Jesus is so excellent, so worthy, so lovely that it's easy to love Him. Good and right to love Him.

Friday, April 27, 2007

buddy holly

I've just spent an afternoon in starbucks looking at Isaiah 40 with Alec Motyer. His commentry on it is such that the more you read, the less you really feel like you understand of what he's saying. It's helpful though, and it was good blow away some cobwebs by sitting under the Bible and getting excited about Jesus.

I'm loving all of Isaiah at the moment, i'm reading it in my quiet times and in my 121s, i love how overtly Gospelish it is, and while i am by no means an expert on Isaiah 40 and haven't really yet gone beyond the general, here are some things i learnt this afternoon.

God will be faithful. He will provide atonement for His people. He already has provided atonement for those in exile, and they will return home. God is not a God has forgotten about His people. They are still His main concern, and in this His glory will be revealed.

God's Word lasts forever. Men will wilt and whither like grass, God's Word never will. This is a God worth telling people about.

In fact, He's a God worth shouting about from the top of a high mountain. Come and listen Judah, God is returning with might and with comfort. He will mightily save His people while at the same time gathering the weak and defenceless in His arms.

The message of Isaiah 40 finds in fullest end meaning in Jesus. He is the susbstance to this shadow. It is He who is incomparable (vv12-24). We can trust Him, we canrely on Him. There is no reason to say of Him that he has forgotten us because He is the everlasting God and does not grow weary...He will renew the strength of the weak.

This word obviously was and is for those who were in exile from Jerusalem and what encouraging words they would have been for them, to know that their God was the God of the universe and that he hadn't forgotten them. And those things are still true today. The God who has come, and will come again is still the God of the universe. He is faithful and His Word stands forever.

Much much more work needed here i feel, but it's been an encouraging afternoon...

Thursday, April 26, 2007


i don't know what it was like for you. I remember sitting at the end of my bed, in my attic room at my parents, with a copy of 'the shock of your life' next to me. I remember thinking that i was a sinner, and God was Holy, and that was a real problem. A serious problem. A problem that would see me end up in hell. That wasn't a risk i was willing to take on the off chance that the Gospel wasn't true. Too big a chance.

I do remember being so so thankful that Jesus had died in my place. That Christ, the blameless Holy Lamb of God had died to take away the sin of the world. I remember being so glad that Jesus had died in my place, that He had taken the punishment i deserved. I remember that giving me tremendous peace and happiness. I didn't know that the cross was as much about the glory of God and my eternal enjoyment of Him as it was the forgiveness of my sins, but i knew enough.

It certainly never occured to me that this doctrine would come under attack. Like Cat, i was more than surprised the first time i heard of someone attacking the teaching that Jesus had been punished in my place. I wasn't repulsed by this teaching, i didn't consider it to be barbaric. I thought it was wonderful. Totally wonderful. It meant i could live forever, it meant i could live now, it meant i could pray right there and then and know that the Father, my Father, could hear me. It was great.

1 John 2:2 is simply great news. Great News. No other Bible teaching beats it. It is, as i've said, the very heart of the Gospel. It's not all that took place on the cross, but i would say it was the most important thing that happened at the cross. I really believe that. In 1 John the apostle is knocking down gnostic arguments that some people don't sin. That some people were sinless within the church that John was writing to. John wants his readers to know that if and, more to the point, when, they do sin, all is not lost. They have an advocate before the Father. There is someone there. Jesus Christ the righteous. John could not be clearer. He says 'He is the propitiation for our sins'. John's argument seems to be: ' we all sin, this is bad. Jesus is the propitiation for our sins'. I think thats why he goes there when he does. Thats why he uses the word propitiation.

John puts that forward as our only hope. None of us our sinless. If we say we are, then we make Christ to be a liar. We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. All of us. What does John present as God's answer? What does he want his 'little children' to know about? The propitiatory death of Jesus Christ on the cross. That's the only answer.


'We are often told that we limit the atonement of Christ, because we say that Christ has not made satisfaction for all men, or all men would be saved. Now, our reply to this is that, on the other hand, our opponents limit it, we do not. The Arminians say, Christ died for all men. Ask them what they mean by it. Did Christ die so as to secure the salvation of all men? They say, "No, certainly not." We ask them the next question-Did Christ die so as to secure the salvation of any man in particular? They say, "No." They are obliged to admit this if they are consistent. They say, "No; Christ has died so that any man may be saved if"-and then follow certain conditions of salvation. We say then, we will just go back to the old statement-Christ did not die so as beyond a doubt to secure the salvation of anybody, did He? You must say "No;" you are obliged to say so, for you believe that even after a man has been pardoned, he may yet fall from grace and perish. Now, who is it that limits the death of Christ? Why you... We say Christ so died that He infallibly secured the salvation of a multitude that no man can number, who through Christ's death not only may be saved, but are saved, must be saved, and cannot by any possibility run the hazard of being anything but saved. You are welcome to your atonement; you may keep it. We will never renounce ours for the sake of it." (Charles Spurgeon, Sermon 181, New Park Street Pulpit, IV, p. 135)

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

New website

The new uccf:thechristianunions is online...

i particularly like this page

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Bits and Bobs

Allo Allo

It's French presidential election time again. Let's hope the country doesn't go half mad and nearly elect Jean-Marie Le Pen like last time. If he gets into the run off again we need to ask serious questions about the state of liberal democracy in France. Or perhaps we should just close the country. That would work. It seems the turnout has been higher than at any point in the last 20 years so that should work against him. Sarkozy or Bayrou are probably the main front runners, both of them promising a new direction for French politics following twelve years of gentle economic decline... We wait and see...

Wake me up when it's over

Goodness me but is the Cricket World Cup still going on? It seems like forever ago that Australia took on Scotland in the opening game. It was forever ago. I like cricket almost as much as football sometimes, but you'd have to say this tournament's been a bit of a flop. For those of us without Sky Sports and unwilling to burn the midnight oil to watch the BBC highlights this tournament has been going on more or less in the distant backgroud. And it's not too disimilar for those in the West Indies as well. High ticket prices as well as barmy accreditation rules surrounding what one can and can't bring into the ground with you has probably robbed this tournament from people in the West Indies, which is a great shame because they would have given the tournament the life and colour it's missed. It's probably not helped that the hosts have been poor, and that the two biggest supported sides, India and Pakistan went out in the group stages. Their Super Eight game would have been the first sell out of the World Cup, instead the game that replaced it Ireland versus Bangladesh was watched only by close relatives of the players.

The Irish success has been one of the highlights of the tournament, even if it means that they beat as many test playing nations as the soporific England team. That and the close finish between England and the hosts last night have been more or less the only highlights of this World Cup. Hopefully in future the 'Super Eight' stage will be scrapped, and the eight group winners will play traditional quarter finals. To think that it will take 11 games to get to the final of a sixteen team tournament is madness. Hopefully in four years time the organisers will have remembered what cricket is all about.



Last weej i bought, listened to and enjoyed the new Avril Lavinge album. It's now number one in the album chart. So does that mean it's ok to like her music, or just that a lot of fourteen year old girls have been buying records this week?

Friday, April 20, 2007

Division: what history can teach us

I've recently read 'conteding for our all' John Piper's brief biography of Athanasius, John Owen and J.Gresham Machen. And there are lots of things i would love to say about what i learnt from it, but i want to focus on one particular thing for now. This won't be particularly systematic and is mostly aimed at people who don't see what all the fuss is about over differing views of the atonement, and why the Spring Harvest/Word Alive split is so important.

My 'liberal' friends, i'm not scared of you, i'm scared for you. By liberal i guess i mean people who don't hold the Bible to be the infallible, inerrent word of God, who are happy to move away from historic Christianity to something more acceptable in the 21st century. It doesn't really bother me what stream you fall into, emergent, anglican, charismatic or anything else. Anyway, we're not scared that you're onto something and we need to hide away in north wales or we'll be proved wrong. You can not beat or successfully argue with a literal reading of the Bible. We're scared for you. Scared that for the sake of, well i don't quite know what, ecumenicalism or whatever else, you are turning your backs on the living God and risking an eternity of torment away from His goodness and love. I believe that we must have a multi perspectival view on the cross. Penal substitution was not the only thing going on at Calvary. But i do believe that it is at the heart of the Gospel, and that once you take the heart from an animal it's not going to last long.

I also want to say that it really really is ok to disagree on big issues. We mustn't be dragged into a post modern view of our faith, where every different strand is ok as long as you're sincere. No no no. As Tim Suffield rightly points out evangelicals are supposed to have balls. If Luther wasn't brave enough to stick his head over the parapet we'd probably still be paying indulgences now. If Tydale hadn't had the guts to stand up to the authorities we'd probably all be reading our Bibles in Latin still. And that would be bad. I sucked at Latin. Some issues are big enough to stand up and speak up about. We're not arguing about whether we can wear hats in church, or what the third heaven is...this is the Gospel. This is life and death. This is big time.

In some issues, it really is ok to be liberal. Politics i guess is a good example. But there is nothing in life more important than what the Word of God says about the Son of God for the glory of God. And of course UCCF/Keswick don't have it all right, but i do wholeheartedly believe they've got this right. It concerns me that the tag of 'liberal' is being worn with pride. This is not good. Come back to the Bible. Sit joyfully under it. Come back.

Athanasius and Arianism.

Athanasius spent his whole ministry contending for the truth of the deity of Christ. He was fighting against Arians who said that Christ was created. He was exiled from his own congregation three times, and spent most of that time in the desert living like a nomad, all the while writing to defend the orthodox view of the Incarnation. In fact he was more or less defining what the orthodox view was. He stuck to the scriptures, was faithful to what they said, and Arianism was seen off. Imagine if he, for the sake of unity, decided that it didn't really matter whether Christ was created or not. If, for the sake of unity, he had not devoted his life to correcting error. Risking sending people to Hell in the name of temporal unity is a bad thing. Despite, perhaps because of, all the dispute, the church in this time grew and grew and grew.

The Reformation.

The fullness of the Gospel was preserved in this doctrinal war. I believe that the Reformation is one of the most important post Bible historical events. In fact in the century after Calvin's death churches in the Reformed Tradition grew at an astonishing rate. People had once more started to love and cherish and become bold in the Gospel. Some of our greatest Pastors and theologians cut their teeth on the controversy of Wittenburg and Geneva.

The Second Great Awakening.

Perhaps the best example of 'growth in division' is the second great awakening. The division here was between Calvinism and Arminianism, a slightly (slightly) less important issue than the one at stake today. The SGA was the largest revival in American history, as people came to the Lord and renewed their interest in Him in great numbers. One of it's leaders was Francis Asbury, a man with an 'unusual' style of ministry and close links to John Wesley. Despite the controversy God blessed the fourty-five years of his ministry. His collegue Charles Finney has been described as more arminian than Wesley, and that sort of theology was bound to provoke interest and controversy. This came particularly in the form of Calvinists Asahel Nettleton and Lyman Beecher (Calvinists have better names as well see!) who were also blessed in their ministry by God. In fact it has been said of Nettleton that 'no other minister...was the cause of so many conversions'. Another man clearly blessed by God, more revival in the face of controversy. The differences between these men came to a head at a meeting in New Lebanon, New York in 1827. It ended without reconciliation, and produced possibly my favourite quote. I think this quote shows both the nature of disagreement and illustrates how wet we are when it comes to contending for the truth of the Gospel. So here is Nettleton to Finney
'Finney, i know your plan and i know you do; you mean to come to Conneticut and carry a streak of fire to Boston. But if you attempt it, as the Lord liveth i'll meet you at the state line, and i'll call out the artillery men, and fight you every inch of the way to Boston, and then i'll fight you there'.
Now,doesn't that seem an extraordinary thing for one Christian to say to another? And yet this was carried out against the backdrop of unprecedented revival. Oh that we would be brave enough to mix our words when it comes to the cause of the glory of Christ.

So what can history teach us?

Please don't hear what i'm not saying. I'm not saying that controvery is good, or that it is a strategy for church growth. Although history seems to testify otherwise. These are frustrating and sad times for Evangelicals. And yet at the same time, good times. Bible's are open, truth is being contended for and people are deciding where their passions fall. History teaches us that controversy is good in the long run. As sad as it is at the time, it's good in the long run. History teaches us that not everything needs to be 'just so' in our house to proclaim the Gospel and for the church to grow. These are, as i said, sad times for evangelicals. Lets pray they would be exciting times of revival as well... It's not impossible. It might even be likely.

Bish is linking to a lot of great stuff here, you could do a lot worse than take some time to read them, as well as Adrian Warnock's original.

marching bands of Manhattan

Adrian Warnock writes here about the Spring Harvest/Word Alive split. I think he's spot on. If you know me you'll probably be aware that i think the split is a Good Thing, but a Sad Thing. Good, because it shows that UCCF and keswick ministries are brave enough, bold enough and passionate enough to stand for Gospel truth and prepared to stand in line with the historic, orthodox view of what happened at the cross. And a sad thing because it's always sad when Christian leaders move away from the truth, always sad when something that has worked, as far as i know, well for both sides for a long time has to end.

There is strong anecdotal evidence that disputes of this nature can strengthen the church. Firstly because it makes people think hard and deep about what they believe, and hold their convictions more seriously...secondly because the witness it provides to a watching world. Our disagreements must be different to theirs. We must love over and above our disgreements. We must pray for those who fall away from what the Bible teaches about Gospel issues and part with them with broken hearts. But we must part with them. Thirdly, because it shows that UCCF and Keswick are keeping the main thing the main thing. What the Bible says about the Cross is not a small issue. The whole Bible points forward to it, and looks back at it. So we must get it right. UCCF and Keswick are not being small minded about a minor issue, indeed, as i think the speaker list for NWA shows, there is great room for much unity in diviersity in secondary issues. But this is not a secondary issue.

These could well be defining times for evangelicals. In one hundred years time, when someone sits down and writes the history of late twentieth and early twenty-first century evangelicalism the Spring Harvest/Word Alive split could be a defining moment. Could be.

The website for the new event is found here. I hope, as Paul does that Christians from a broad spectrum will be there. Charismatics, conservatives, conservative - charismatics (yep, tick) pentecostals, anglicans, baptists...whoever will be there, united by a love for Christ, and eagerness to learn of Him from His Word.

Thursday, April 19, 2007



*just like watching Wycombe*

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Men tell us that our preaching should be positive and not negative, that we can preach the truth without attacking error. But if we follow that advice we shall have to close our Bible and desert its teachings. The New Testament is a polemic book almost from beginning to end.

Some years ago I was in a company of teachers of the Bible in the colleges and other educational institutions of America. One of the most eminent theological professors in the country made an address. In it he admitted that there are unfortunate controversies about doctrine in the Epistles of Paul; but, said he in effect, the real essence of Paul's teaching is found in the hymn to Christian love in the thirteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians; and we can avoid controversy today, if we will only devote the chief attention to that inspiring hymn.

In reply, I am bound to say that the example was singularly ill-chosen. That hymn to Christian love is in the midst of a great polemic passage; it would never have been written if Paul had been opposed to controversy with error in the Church. It was because his soul was stirred within him by a wrong use of the spiritual gifts that he was able to write that glorious hymn. So it is always in the Church. Every really great Christian utterance, it may almost be said, is born in controversy. It is when men have felt compelled to take a stand against error that they have risen to the really great heights in the celebration of truth
- J.Gresham Machen 'Christian scholarship and the defence of the New Testament

If we are to really follow Paul's example we must oppose error where ever we find it. We must do this with heavy hearts, knowing the sadness of a family in disagreement, but with fire in our heart also, knowing the importance of good, sound, life giving doctrine. To shy away from controversy is to shy away from a golden oppotunity to make the truth about Christ known. Controversy sharpens our minds as it makes us think deeply about what we believe. It should deepen our love for Christ as it deepens our knowledge of Him. It should make us bold in our proclamation of Him and produce fruit, as it did during the second great awakening. It should be a witness to unbelievers as they see the love with which we disagree with eachother.

We must continue to contend for the truth about Christ in all things. Peoples' eternitys are at stake...

Monday, April 16, 2007

she looks different today

Imagine standing in an upstairs room that affords a view over the neighbours garden. Imagine you see him building a boat. So you saunter down to the fence and call him over...

'moving to the seaside?' you say.
'No,' says he, 'it's going to rain, there's going to be a flood.'
'a flood?' you splutter. 'but look at the weather, look at global warming, they'll be making champagne in hampshire before you know it.'
'nah,' he replies, 'it's going to flood'
you wander away. 'mentalist,' you think to yourself.

Imagine being Noah. Building a stinking great boat, all the time having to put up with people aksing why he's doing it, the scoffers, the mocking. All the time trusting that God is going to be true to His word, and not leave him looking like an idiot. And eventually it rains, and God is proved right, and Noah is as well. He kept building, kept trusting and eventually God saved him from His wrath. I've kind of romanticised the flood in my mind a little bit, but next the cross and the exodus surely its one of the biggest judgements of God in the Bible?

Interesting then that Matthew compares the flood and Noah to now and us. No one now knows when the end will come, just that it will. And just as Noah was building the ark as now, people are working and getting married, enjoying life, messing around in the slums for the want of a trip to the beach. Noah stayed faithful in these times. He stayed faithful, he was alert. Some will be unaware of the coming of the Son of Man until He comes and sweeps everything away.

As Noah did, we must stay awake, We must keep calling people to repent and believe the good news, we must keep living and being seen to live for another place. We must keep going and keep trusting no matter how far off the coming of the Lord seems. We must be trusting, anf faithful and persevering in our faith like Noah was. We must stay awake...

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Holiness of God

My greatest fear.

God's infinite white hot holiness is my greatest fear. Humanistic anthropology contends that people create and worship 'gods' to give them something to trust when they fear nature. Well, whoever came up with Christianity did a pretty poor job, because, like Peter in the boat, i'm far more fearful of Jesus than i am of nature. The Lord is of holier eyes than to see any unclean thing, His wrath burns against sin and will one day consume it. Hell is not an infintely terrible place to illustrate anything other than the seriousness of offending a God as Holy as He is. Isaiah's reaction before the Lord sums it up...'woe is me, for i am lost'. I am finshed, i am cut adrift. On our own we can not stand in the presence of the Lord, or we too will fall apart.

My only hope.

At the same time, because of the way the Cross kind of makes everything work backwards, the holiness of God is my only hope. Partly obviously in the sense that i know and trust that all justice will eventually be done, either there, or one judgement day, but also in a much more personal way. A holy God is my only hope. Without Him working in me my depravity would be boundless, my sin limitless. Apart from my union with Christ, and His righteousness imputed into me, i have no hope. This is why to say 'Christ unites doctrine divides' is so wrong. True, Biblically faithful doctrine gives me life. My only hope is the active obediance of Christ. The things that Jesus did counted to me. Without those things, i am lost, i have no hope. With those things is life, and life to the full.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Paperclip Champion

[this is my script for a five minute mini preach i'm doing at church on sunday. you can listen to it here]

Endings are important aren't they? We saw that on Tuesday evening as eight million people watched the last episode of 'Life on Mars' to find out whether Sam was a time traveller on in a coma. At the same time in spain Chelsea scored a last minute goal to take them through to the champions league semi final, making the end of the game, more important than anything that had happened before. So how does Paul choose to end this great letter? What impression does he want to leave on the minds of the people who have been reading this letter in first century Rome?

The rest of Romans 16 has been taken up with personal greetings, but the start of verse 25 changes the focus as Paul starts to address someone else. 'Now to Him who is able to establish you by my Gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ', he writes.

What can God do? God can establish us by the Gospel. If we want to be established in God and by God, we must be established by the Gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ. These are God's means for making sure we persevere. What chance do we have on our own to stand firm against the tide of apathy and disbelief around us? Very little. So we must rely on God's way of doing it, which is described in verse 25 as the Gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ. We, then, have a responsibility to make sure we are established in the Gospel. To get to know what the Bible says about Jesus. We must have our feet fixed firmly on this solid ground because everything else around us is sand. There is nothing more important for our life than what the Word of God says about the Son of God for the Glory of God. We must get to know it. The Gospel is not just a saving Gospel, it's a living Gospel. An establishing Gospel.

Why does God want us to be established? Why did God the Father send His Son to us in the first place? So that, as it says in verse 26, we might believe and obey Him. This links back to what Paul was saying in verse 25. If we are to believe and obey Him, we must be established in Him. If this was the reason that Jesus came then it's something we need to pay attention to. We need to believe and obey God by being established in the gospel

This is how we participate in verse 27. To only wise God, be glory forever through Jesus Christ. Jesus is our mediator before God, so it is necessary and appropriate for our worship to be directed through Him and to Him. That is how God will be glorified.

One of my favourite things about this passage is that it can be applied so easily. If the reason that Jesus came is to establish people by the Gospel so that all nations might believe and obey Him, then our mission as a church and as individuals is to be established ourselves, and to establish others. To believe and be obedient and to help others believe and be obedient. This is why as a church we are running Alpha again in two weeks and are putting on a healing meeting as part of the Front Edge weekend in four weeks…so that people might hear and become established in the Gospel. So that they might be saved.

Jesus came ultimately so that we might give glory to God through Him. So lets do that, lets be involved in the healing meeting and Alpha, be inviting people and praying for them so that they might be established in the Gospel to the glory of the only wise God though Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Hebrews 12:1-4

The first world of Hebrews 12, 'therefor' shows that it follows on from Hebrews 11. So this is a race we also run. We must be conscience of what the people in Hebrews 11 have done, but now we must carry on, we must take up the baton and run our part of the race. They can inspire us, even if they can't help us. We are nothing in our faith unless we are running.

We must look to Jesus we are told by the writer. Be struck by how central he is in this book, and therefore to the Christian life, to perservering and not falling away. While we run we must get rid of what holds us back, we must throw off the sin that so easily entagles. Get rid of it, stop doing it, stop entertaining it, keep running and keep fighting. It might not even by sin, it might even be something legitimate that is holding us back. We need to identify it and get rid of it. If our sin getting the better of us?

It easy to compare ourselves to others. We mustn't. We must fix our eyes on Jesus, we must keep looking ahead towards the finish, towards the prize. We are saved by our good looks. Not the way we look, but to whom we look. Looks at Jesus are good looks. Keep taking them. Jesus lived a life of faith, and so must the Hebrews who were tempted to fall away and go back to Judaism. It would have been easy for them, it would be easier for us to stray than follow. But we must live in faith as Jesus did, we are not above our Master.

We must be dutiful, dogged, delighted disciples. We must have discipline. God has spoken, we must pay attention.

We must keep looking to Jesus, nowhere else for anything, He must be the focus of our faith and hope.
We must stay Christ centred.
We must keep considering Jesus.
We must die to ourselves. We want to do things by ourselves, we want to be legalistic sinners. We mustn't.

We must 'run with endurace the race set before us, looking to Jesus'

Hebrews 11

There is no one like Jesus, to slip away from Him is a tragedy beyond compare.
10:38 tells us that the righteous will live by faith. Thats how we shal be known, that shall be our badge, our faith in Christ, the test is how seriously we take Hebrews 11. So what is faith?

Verse 1.
Faith is looking forward to God's unseen promises and up to God's unseen presence. Faith, our life, is about looking at Jesus, about having our eyes on Him.

Verse 6.
Without faith it is impossible to please God. How important then a life of faith is.

The Portrait Gallery.
Most of this chapter is remembering people that have gone before and what God did through them. These are imperfect heroes, real peopl who faced real situations, real peer pressure and real cultural pressure, just like us. We need to learn from this. The phrase 'by faith' is mentioned seventeen times in this chapter. We need to pay attention, and walk in faith and with the faithful. As we saw, this is not a gallery of perfect heroes. The life of faith is a life for ordinary people who have lived with an extraordinary God.

Biblical Faith is:
confident action
the action taken in response to God's promises
working extraordianry miracles in ordinary people
working in a variety of situations
working in a variety of outcomes.

Faith is regarded and rewarded by God.

Sarah is in the list. She wouldn't have been on many of our lists, but thats the beauty of it, God can work through anyone who has faith, even someone like Sarah...even someone like Rahab! Wasn't she just a prostitute? She's listed here amongst the likes of Abraham and Moses. She, like them, exibited a faith that was costly. She was dramatically rescued. God is an awesome gracious God!
We should be slow to judge sin and quick to persue faith.

Examples of Faith.
Faith worships in verse 4, as Abel gives his best to God.
Faith walks in verse 5, with Enoch
Faith waits in verse 7, as Noah builds the ark and trusts that its going to rain soon.
Faith trusted in verses 17-19, and God provided..
Faith wins in verses 30-32 as God's people escape from Egypt and claim their land.
Faith is a better life in verses 32-38. The world was not worthy of these people.

Will we therefore trust God and have faith in Him for today and tomorrow, as we claim we do forever?

All their faith was wrapped up in Jesus, as must all our faith be. Faith in God's promises, faith in what Jesus has done. We have seen what faith in this amazing God can do.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Hebrews 9

[this was possibly the best evening of the lot. The choice of songs, what Richard said, the atmosphere at the end. Incredible stuff. God was truly present as Richard defended the Gospel against those who denied and continue to deny the Biblical teaching of penal substitution and as we worshipped afterwards. To be reminded of the truth is such a forceful way was a joy, as was the feeling from knowing that UCCF:thechristianunions are in safe hands.]

The Goal.

The fail to enter God’s rest is to fail life. How do we make sure we don’t fail?

The Problem

The problem we all face is outlined in v27. we are appointed to live, die and face judgement. And we know how we will be judged. Sin is serious and dealing with it is an endless ministry, and it requires blood. Animals had to be killed to deal with Adam and Eve’s sin, right from the beginning sin has required blood to deal with it. The Most Holy Place could only be entered once a year, Uzzah died for being too blasé about the holiness of the Ark. The Priest’s work was never done, sin was never sorted by what happened in the Temple. It was a tireless, bloody work. The Temple was just a shadow of what was to become. The shadow becomes a person in Jesus, the High Priest is Jesus.

Religion is just a shadow.

God is being true to who He is. He can not, will not and does not run around forgiving sin. We are made in the image of God, not the other way around. He will be true to His own character, not to what we want Him to do. It requires blood to deal with sin. This is God’s standard.

The Solution.

Now He has appeared to do away with sin once and for all by sacrifice. He shed His own blood under the weight of our sin. He did this once for all. The tireless, bloody work of the High Priest is done once and for all by the deadly, bloody work of the cross. This is why it’s so suicidal to deny propitiation. It guts the Gospel, it takes the heart out of what the Bible says. It takes away our confidence by denying the work of the High Priest. There is no forgiveness without the forgiveness of sin (v22), Jesus blood is shed to forgive our sins. That’s the only way we can move into relationship with God, that’s the only way we can be forgiven, by our sin being dealt with by the death of Jesus, for our sins, on the cross. This is not a religion, this is a rescue.

[and there you go, what was said on this night if worth far more accurate and complete recording that what i wrote, but i guess it does mean i listened more carefully!]

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Hebrews 4:11-16

The whole letter has been concerned so far with whether the Jewish believers will hold firm to their faith or fall away. It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish, it’s not whether you pray a prayer, it’s whether you hold fast to your confession…


God’s word shows us what we’re like, it discerns our thoughts and our intentions. The Word of God is a critic. The Bible is sharp like a sword, but used like a scalpel, it’s their to help us not to harm us. The word gives us insight. It shows us the sin on the inside that we can’t see. It shows us what we could never see otherwise. Therefore we need to pay attention to what the Bible says. This application seems to basic but it’s so true. God has spoken, we need to pay attention, to study, to listen. Our quiet times are not for point, they don’t exist to boost our legalism. They are there for our health. They should take away our self confidence, not feed it.


We can have confidence in our relationship with God. Jesus is our high priest so lets draw near to the throne of the Father. The temple in the Old Testament was a series on no entry signs. It was there, in part, to show how Holy God is and how hard it is for us to approach God. The High Priest could only enter the Most Holy Place once a year, and that was only the shadow of what was to come. Jesus has passed through Heaven, where it really matters. Jesus is our real, authentic High Priest. He has been tempted and is sympathetic. Jesus is qualified, Jesus is sympathetic. What a saviour! What a High Priest. As the author says in verse 14 let us hold fast to our confession. Keep your eyes on Jesus who is able to bring you to the throne of the Father. We can draw near to God. We can call out in the time of need. This is great news for the Christian.

The word of God and the work of Christ.

The word opens me up, the work opens Heaven up.

The word strips me away the work makes me confident.

Battle is healthy. Fight sin, fight to stay near to Jesus, hold fast to your confession, have confidence in Christ.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Hebrews 3

Focus on Jesus: v1-6
The advice is the same now as it was then, always, always have your eyes on Jesus. For every look you take at your own heart take ten at Jesus. Fix them tight. We must fight to keep them there when we are under pressure, we must be careful of where else our eyes would wander to if they are not kept on Jesus. There is nowhere else to go. The original readers of this letter were being tempted to go back to their Jewish heritage, but the writer assures them that Jesus is worthy of the honour that our attention gives Him, more worthy than Moses. God built the house over which Jesus is faithful...and we are the house! Christ is faithful to His Father over us and for us. This is life, this is how to live, His ability to live in us.

Flee self sufficiency: v7-11,16-19
The writer goes on to remind the readers of their ancestors, who wandered in the desert for fourty years because of their self sufficiency. We must not fall into that trap. We must flee to Christ, away from self sufficiency, flee to the promises of God away from independance. This is as relevant today as it ever was. We must throw our weight on Christ and forget any other way. The Christian life is about Jesus, it's not about us.

Finish Strong: v12-15
We've already seen the dangers of self dependance. Don't harden your heart to the One who is speaking, to the God of the Bible. Daily attend to His voice, get to know His voice and get to know His promises that you might persevere. Do not fall away. Be supple, be obedient. Find out what the Bible says and do it. This is life, there is no more than this. We must hold fast and persevere if we are to be saved, We must keep on believing, keep on living in and for Jesus. It's more important that i'm excited in ten years time about Christ than i am now.

Hebrews 1:1-2:4

[I'm going to try and blog the notes i took from the main evening talks at Word Alive. This isn't wuite as easy as it sounds, partly because of my horrible writing, partly because i can't really remember what were my notes, and what were notes on my notes, and partly because i tended to stop and listen during the really good bit (I've only got three paragraph's for Richard Cunningham's talk, for example), although the reverse isn't true. Mostly because there wasn't actually a bad talk among them. The usual rule of truth = speaker, heresy = me applies]

God is a speaking God.
His past word in History is His present word in Scripture. God is speaking, so we have reason to believe, we at least must listen. Unbelief is only credible, only intelectual if God is a silent God. And He is not. This Word is significant, and if we fail to pay attention, to heed what it says, we will not escape (2:3). God is speaking, are we not obliged to be paying attention. Sometimes we can doubt what Gid is saying, whether we can really hear Him, whether He is really real, whether we are right in what we believe. We mustn't confuse knowing God fully with knowing God totally. We can know God because He has revealed Himself to us...we must pay attention.

God has spoken a final word in His Son.
God has spoken in the past, through Prophets and Angels, and is now speaking through His Son. If the Son is greater than the angels (v4 and 5) then so is His message, and that has huge implications. We must pay attention to what we have heard. Christ is the final word and the final work of the Father. His is an eternal word, and an eternal work, so they are always relevent.

The Word is present and transforming.
God's final word is for every person and every sin. Jesus is the royal Son who has inherited the nations, the royal priest who has dealt with our sin and can now sit down. It's easy to think otherwise, to be worn down by our sin, but we mustn't. We must trust in the Lord, in the great High Priest. We must trust that God's final word is God's final work. And we don't have to guess what God is like, who He is, what pleases Him, we can know because of Jesus, the Son of God, the One sent from the Father. Final word, final work.

We must pay more careful attention.
We can drift away from this message so easily. We must listen to it. How will we escape otherwise. The writer to the Hebrews was warning his readers of just that danger, and that is a no less present word now than it was then. Make sure you don't drift. Anchor yourself in the final Word, the faithful Son, in Jesus. Still waters run deep and dangerous, get in the rapids.

Jesus is supreme and sufficient. Pay attention to Him, anchor yourself in Him, trust Him.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Crossover: 307-312/365/stream

Goodness me but what exciting and defining times these are for evangelicals. I'm sort of updating my 365 here because i want to think a bit about word alive, as well as record all the fun and excitement of word alive. and in my head it works better in one place. But lets see what happens.

I always say word alive is my favourite week of the year, and this year so far it really really has been. From all the conversations at the start of the week that started with 'i really shouldn't tell you this...' we went to Richard's exciting news (all just a little bit of history repeating itself) and thence to wondering whether when they write the history of 21st Century Christianity the year 2007 will be a significant one. Musing over books and the Cambridge seven with Alex, book shopping Dan Hames, my favourite guy to walk round a bookshop with, Richard chasing the heretics off the stage and me feeling ready for a revolution. Disagreeing but uplifting with Winchester people, realising that God is Trinity (my mind fair blew up) has implications as far as mission and personal holiness. Mike Reeves is the daddy. Has Richard Cunningham dyed his hair? The Relay reunion, lets bump stephen, why isn't he popping up? Over he goes, lets bump Mo, mind his head, lets clap him away. 'it doesn't seem fair she's been dragged into my crazy world'. Want to be a Christian? Talk to Drew. The Sh'ley p'tay r'lay. Kapil Kerplunk, 'stop flip flopping' 'i am the prodigal' Pierced for our Transgressions (more later) Hebrews (more later) more people for the church family, more people that i want to be. Tim Rudge taking communion and Jason Clarke taking on the Bible in an hour every day. The three pillars of UCCF...i wonder what they're talking about...oh it us. Spying on surrey, selling out Reading, the campervan. the people in the campervan. We've got our tanks on his lawn. Maybe i don't know, and maybe thats ok. Chicken curry. The worship, Calvin. In my darker moments i want to call my children Luther and Calvin. Why are they dark moments? lets go to China, lets go to Bulgaria...lets just go. It's fair baltic today. You can't spell Skegness without 'Skeg'...did i mention Mike Reeves on the Trinity? Mike Reeves on the Trinity. the king of the one liners. Ruth. Louise? Number nine. Number eleven? I heard pumps. Carson Piper Virgo? See you in Pwllheli...

and this