Sunday, December 30, 2007


I'm not sure there's anything as good for realising one's own mortality and smallness than standing by the sea in a strong wind. it's so big, so lethal, so loud. It'll be there whether i like it or not, doing it's blowing, it's coming in and it's going out, it's entertaining and scaring. The sea is there. So often a friend on a warm day, it's just odd, in a humbling way to think that if i got into the sea it could kill me in moments, literally in the middle of December just a few minutes would be enough. It's very weird, but in a very liberating way.

One of the best books i've ever read is Shaeffer's 'The God Who is There'. And thats what the sea reminds me. There is so much there, so much in the world that is not reliant on me, which is a very comforting thought. We have eternity written on our hearts, which is why we, like Mr Anderson somehow intrinsically know that there's something else there. How can we not wonder when we look at the beauty of the sea and the sky, the seemingly eternal rolling in of the waves, how can our hearts not yearn for somthing more than celebrity big brother and more food.

Our minds were made to know Christ, our hearts were made to love Christ, our bodies made to fit the indwelling Holy Spirit. Thats why what we see with our eyes will never satisfy us. because there's more, there's bigger, there's deeper, there's more satisfaction. Thats why nature is so big, so good ,so wide, to make our hearts long for something more than what we can see. Thats why getting out from behind a computer is such a good idea, why going for a walk can expand your hearts, why just standing and staring at the sea can be such a deep experience. Because somewhere in our hearts it gives us a trace of the bigness and glory that we are made for, made to behold and enjoy.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

2007 in review

This is my 185th post of 2007. Not as many as i probably would have liked at the start of the year, but still not a bad effort. It's been a good year, an interestin year, a hard year, and a year where i feel like i've grown a great deal in the Lord, and (much less importantly) enjoyed blogging very much. Here are som highlights:

The first month of the year was dominated by two things: Relay 2 and a brief overview of Operation Auca (1,2,3,4), something that stirs me greatly whenever i think about it. Relay 2 was exellent, probably my favourite Relay Conference, although it's hard to have a favourite because they're all so different.

I blogged more this month than any other (26 times) which is pretty good going given that Surrey Mission week was going on at the time. I think this month i started trying to blog every day, which lasted for about a week. I might try and get back to that soon though. Highlights included reading Ecclesiastes and watching little miss sunshine for the first time, feeling foolish, and discovering Richard Sibbes (thanks Bish!)

March followed February as is it's wont, and i travelled eastwards to Cantabury to help out with the mission week at UKC. It was pretty much the warmest mission i'd ever done, flyering in t-shirts and stopping to eat ice cream really doesn't seem right! I read some Proverbs and heard Matt Benton

April means one thing...Word Alive, and this time Word Alive meant one thing that would define the blogosphere for months to come. others have called it the 'atonement wars' so i'll steal boldly from them. This years word alive was a joy to be at as a relay, and as someone who loves sound doctrine. It was a priveldge to be involved with UCCF when something as momentous as this took place. I thought about the personal saving neccesity of propitiation and reflected upon division and marching bands.

In May my 365 came to end. it was a good year. Thought and wrote about the Holy Spirit. Sitting in Bish's front room listening to Carolina reading hers about and then reading mine out is a memory that will last with me a long time. If you're graduating this summer you need a really really good reason not to do Relay. I made my coffee and Bible blog debut delighting in the atonement and read about Calvin.

I always knew writing about Nooma would be provocative, but i never thought it would become my most commented on post. I remember trying to close down discussion and then leaving it when it got to 20, and then being amazed when a checked a few months later to see there were 31 comments on there, ranging from the supportive to the frankly bonkers. I stand by every word i said... the time in between has only shored up my convictions about the suicidal danger of the emergent movement. In other news, it was Relay 3, which was lovely and our last team days where we learnt about prayer.

July was a slow one. I went to Malta with my family, wrote about statements of faith, then went to Together on a Mission and Bulgaria...and that was about it! Oh hang on, and i met Rachel, which was very good!

I recovered from being in Bulgaria, and as a result, sadly not much happened here. And i mean sadly because blogging helps me think, and i needed to think a lot then... I wondered why we do mission and misunderstood Judges. And i moved back to Reading.

Another slow month as i started work and talked on Skype leaving me little time for meaningful blogging. Again, a pity. I went to TFA which was great, and spoke on Psalm 16 in church.

Reformation day, being delighted that i could own and read the Bible in a language i could understand. I still view the Reformation as hugely important and significant which i guess puts me in the minority. England failed at sport, but it was ok. To be fair, it's hard to view the rugby world cup as a failure anyway. I thought about white men and sunday school.

Another lean month. Although in my defence i was in North Carolina for the middle part of it. What a great place that is, i'm back there two weeks today. Anyway... I preached on John and Colossians, thought about manners and my iPod.

As the year ended i thought about sin and Obadiah and Mark Driscoll joined Facebook.

So that was 2007. I'm off to Cornwall for new years tomorrow so thats probably that until next week. Happy new year...

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Virgin Birth

Two or three times in the last couple of days i've heard or read the virgin birth mentioned or written about in the same breath as the three wise men, or the bleak mid winter...that is to say something about the nativity that isn't important, and probably isn't true. Now, lets face it, it doesn't really matter how many wise man there were, whether they were wise or men, but it matters very very much whether Jesus was born of a virgin. Lose the virgin birth, lose Jesus. And we like Jesus, i'm glad i'm on His team.

Dave Mathis writes this:

Yes, the virgin birth is well worth contending for. And everything worth contending for is worth rejoicing in. No human person existed prior to conception like the preexistent Jesus. And no human being was virgin born except this man. This is a unique glory of the God-man. What a magnificent Lord, Savior, and Treasure!

Top 07 of 07

I love reading, i find few things relax and make me think more than sitting in my front room reading. The fact that the bulb blew in october and me and my housemate still haven't got round to replacing it does lend an ambient light to the endeavour as well. Here are the top 7 books i read in 2007, they weren't all published this year, and i've probably missed some crackers...

Pierced For Our Transgressions (Jeffrey, Ovey, Sach)
Brilliant. The most important book i've read this year. It sold out at Word Alive just before Easter as the publishers underestimated it's demand. Luckily i got my copy free from UCCF (thank you very much!). This book defends the Biblical doctrine of Penal Substitution clearly and lucidly. It's splits itself into three parts, a Biblical defence, a historical defence, and then a contemporary contextual defence. It's very readable. If you haven't picked up a copy yet, do it now!

The Pleasures of God (Piper)
What a happy God we worship. Not one eternally frustrated by people not worshipping Him, not one constantly in a fair fight with the evil one, not a God who has to work on a plan B just in case. A God who has perfect pleasure in all he does, in His Son, in His people, purposes and plans. I read this towards the end of Relay and it lifted my heart at an otherwise sad time. One to return to again and again.

A Man in Christ (Steer)
A biography of J.Hudson Taylor. What a man this guy was. Sailing to China when there was more or less no effective missionary endeavour there, the first man to press relentlessly into the interior of the country. Hudson suffered the death of his first wife and countless children, separation from all he knew in England, poverty, opposition from the Chinese authorities as well as other Christians, derision from all at one point or another, and a brutal civil war. Yet he continued. He never took an offering for his work at public meetings, he never ceased to pray. Reading this on a summer team in Bulgaria inspired me. Here was a man who did not waste his life.

The Mortification of Sin (Owen)
I'm fairly sure i read this this year or late last year, but whenever it was, it continues to have a profound effect on me today. I've never read a book that has made me want get inside my chest and throw my heart away because of it's sin before. This one did. It still affects my prayer life today, as i pray that i would hate sin not because of what it does to me, but because of what it did to Jesus, and that i would hate the evil of it. This book will make you desperate to be sanctified more and more. It's pointless to deny Owen is hard to read, because he is, but very very worth it.

Glorious Freedom (Sibbes)
Anyone who spends 250 plus pages expositing two verses and still being read three hundred and something years later is clearly worth listening to. Sibbes is such a man. His work on 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 is thorough and Christ exalting. The picture Sibbes paints of the freedom, the glory of God, the excellence of the new covenant over the old is brilliant. He's not the most well known of the puritans, that much maligned group, but on this evidence he certainly should be.

The Mission of God (Wright)
I haven't finished it yet. Doing about a chapter a week from the beginning of October means i've got two more left. It's very good though. Wright seeks to discover, recover and defend a missional hermeneutic of the Bible, so as far as i'm concerned he's preaching to the choir. It's been great to live for so long in the grand sweep of God's plan for Himself in the nations. It's very readable, very comprehensive (chapter topics range from monotheism in the Old Testament to what ecological mission looks like today) and very good.

Captured by Grace (Jeremiah)
Rachel's dad gave me this, by a guy i'd never heard of so i was excited to get off the beaten track for a week or so. This book is a brief biography of Paul and William Wilberforce shared through the lens of the song 'amazing grace'. Now if that sounds like a recipe for disaster it really isn't! Each chapter starts with a verse from the song, shares something from the lives of either or both of these men, and then sets it within a Biblical frame work. God's love oozes off the pages, it was a great read.

Signs of the Spirit (Storms)
I haven't finished this yet, but i hope to by the new year, so it counts. This is, of course, Storms interpretation of Jonathan Edwards' Religious Affections. Part transliteration, part explanation and with lots of long quotes from the original. How the popular church needs Edwards sound Biblical thinking today. His clear, relentless Biblical surge that real affections should be directed to the person of Christ Himself, rather than the benefits of knowing Him, or the revelation of Him, or the experience of knowing Him is both challenging and uplifting. One day, maybe after finishing this, i'll try to read it in the original. Until then i am very thankful that Sam Storms has done this. Thanks Bish!

So, there's actually eight there. But top 08 of 07 isn't quite as catchy. In the last couple of days Machen's Notes on Galatians and Carson's 'The Cross and Christian Ministry' (complete with a new red and white cover) have popped through the door, so i'll look forward to getting into those in 2008, along with Piper's 'The Future of Justification' as well as a couple of others on my shelf that i haven't got round to yet. Coupled with that it seems that 2008 will be a good year for books with J.I Packer, Mark Dever, Don Carson and Mark Driscoll among others all publishing new books. I can't wait!

Sunday, December 23, 2007


Mark Driscoll is on Facebook.

According to the video on his profile he's going to use the page to deal with some 'issues and controversies' as well as answering some of the questions that arise on the page. With the 'ask anything' preaching series coming up in January, i'm sure this will be interesting. It's cool to see Facebook being used in this way, i'm sure mark will do it well.

Also i'm currently reading and enjoying 'Signs of the Spirit' Sam Storms' interpretation if Edwards' 'Religious Affections'. Its making me love Jesus very much, and remember that He is the centre of all real Christian experience and affection. It's probably too late to make it onto my Top 7 of 07 book list...but then again it wouldn't be the only book in there i'm yet to finish...

Friday, December 21, 2007

Why sin is sinful

1) It denies the satisfying power of knowing God

'this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and the one who you sent Jesus Christ.' (John 17:3). Eternal life is not about merely living forever, just as tje joys of Heaven are not about some sort of eternal orgasm. Eternal life means to know Jesus. And this life is satisfying. There is nothing that we need that God withholds from us. If He dresses the flower in beauty how will He also not give us all we need? The answer is that He will. And He knows we need ti. Notice i'm saying need not want, i haven't gone prosperity gospel bonkers. We sin more often that not because we don't believe this. Whether it's in the material arena, in the sexual arena or in the lying to friends arena, when we sin, we deny that knowing God is satisfying. And that makes sin sinful, and horrible and detestable. The Bible is not a rulebook to deny us a good time, but a guide to joy in Christ. A joy that will never fail.

2) It's idolotry.

I find it easy to read of the failings of Israel and Judah in the history books and sneer at them for their stupidity. But how am i any better when i sin? They had the wisdom of Soloman to teach them about God, but something much much better than Soloman is here...Jesus! This is really the inevitable consequence of my first point. What happens when you seek pleasure in something not of God? You turn it into an idol. This is why God is supreme in His own affections, because if anything else was God would be an idol worshipper and would cease to be God. We worship the living God, so lets honour Him by finding all our satisfaction and joy in Him rather than something that makes us feel or look good.

3) It denies the goodness of creation.

Ever wondered why porn shops don't have windows? I guess it's a lot about not being able to see in, but a lot more about not being able to see in. We were made for bigness, for beauty. The Lord has written eternity on our hearts. This is why we sit and wonder at creation, why we lie awake in the middle of the night wonder what's 'out there'. Because we know something is. No one goes to the Grand Canyon to say 'look how great i am'. We are, like the Trinity 'extasis in hypostasis'. Happiest to and when we look outside of ourselves. Sin is a suicidal inward turning of ourselves away from the sun, and the Son. We were created to look outside of ourselves for greatness and satisfaction, not towards us. Sin not only denies the goodness of God, but of creation.

4) It can cost us everything (or most things)

Paul tells Timothy to want to be used for honourable purposes in God's house. I long for that. Now this doesn't mean i'll preach to hundreds every week and that millions will download my podcast, i think it just means long, wholehearted, faithful servie in God's house. Sin will tear us away from these dreams, make us drink at the cracked cistern of the world with it's lies and deceptions. If we want to fight the fight and run the race we must compete, by grace, according to the rules. The life giving self denying, joy giving rules. Sin not only turns our attention away from these things, but may mean we lose our heart for them alltogether.

5) Sin is never satisfied.

I refuse to believe that murderers or sexual aggresors wake up one morning and decide to commit those acts. It must start somewhere and then grow out of control. God told Cain that sin was creeping at the door. Sin whispers to us, we must not listen. Soon we will need more and more stuff to be satisfied, more and more pleasure, more and more deviance...and we won't even know it's happening. Just one more will never be enough, it will only make it worse. Just one glance only feeds our appetite. Sin is a all consuming monster, not an animal that can be filled. It wants all of us all the time.

6) Alas, and did my saviour bleed.

Sin, my sin, your sin, cost Jesus His life. Owen in 'the mortification of sin' (buy it, read it, weep) says that the most effective way of hating sin is to remember primarily what it did to Jesus, not us. Think of the nails in the hands, the thorns in the skull, the sobbing gasps for air. Every pain wracked breath and cry to kill my sin. Think of Jesus, the eternal and beautiful son of God coming to earth and being born in a stable, suffering, sweating, sleeping, losing but ultimately winning for us. Dwell on the love that communicates. And train your mind to fight and hate sin.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Paris in the spring

The audio from my talk at Reading CU is now online here...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Hello Christian freshers' part 2

So that was your first term at uni... Glad to be home? I recently joked that at this time of year you could tell which student was in which year because of how they looked. Freshers: eager to get home, eat home cooked food, go to pubs they know the names of. Second years: looking forward to seeing family, but their life is more or less at uni now, so less excited overall. Third years: so busy they haven't even noticed it's Christmas yet...well some of them at least.

If you haven't settled into a church yet, i'd say two things: keep trying, but don't worry. Keep trying because you're going to be around in your uni town for the majority of the next two and a half years (probably) and you need support, stability and accountability while you're there. You need somewhere you feel at home to gather with brothers and sisters and worship the Lord together. You need people who are going to miss you if you're not around for a few weeks. So keep trying. Don't necessarily go to the church where all your friends are, but go somewhere that the Bible is taught, and where people look out for you. Truth and community, that's what you're after. Lots of other things, but those two need to be top of any list.

But don't worry. To an extent of course you're unsettled. You might have been at your home church for eighteen years before coming to Uni, so things are going to be weird going somewhere new. But keep trying, and make it a priority in the next term. The same truth and community advice applies. Church is important, and sometimes it can take a long time to find somewhere that you feel at home. This won't happen if you're still going somewhere different every week by March though. So make your choice soon.

If you're involved in your Christian Union, and if you're not you're missing out, keep in touch with your hall group and friends over Christmas. They'll be the people you look for when you go back, so stay accountable to them, don't fall off the radar over Christmas. In the same way don't ignore your friends or church at home and long to be back in halls. Make time for your family and friends and home church because thy are too valuable not to. Be committed to CU and in so doing be equally committed to your unsaved friends. Don't fall into the sacred/secular divide of saying 'i can't see my friends because i'm doing too much CU stuff'. You'll make me crazy.

In the second term you'll probably need to start sorting out somewhere to live for next year, which is pretty scary. Be strategic in your living choices. There might be a group of three or four other Christians that you want to live with but is that really the best choice for the glory of God. It's hard being the only Christian in a big house, but better to be there than not most of the time. So think hard about that. Try to live in single sex houses if you can. It's just better.

Rest well in the Lord over Christmas and come back ready and eager to make disciples of Jesus Christ in 2008!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Obadiah (2)

So who are God's friends. We see a clue in verse 13 when Judah is referred to as 'my people'. There must have been a great cheer when that line was first spoken... We see the flip side of God's opposition to His enemies, to the proud is eventual hospitality to His friends, to the humble and reliant. So who are God's friends?

His people. God will ultimately defend and has won the victory for His people. There was no way around this for Edom, and there's no way around it for us either. In verses 15-17a we see what God will do for those who love and worship Him. He shall judge their enemies, as Edom has done, so it shall be done to them and their lofty perch will be of no help to them. But there will be somewhere to escape...Mount Zion, Heaven, home. It will be holy. Thats where God will take His people. There God's people will rest. And it will be holy. It will be burningly perfectly holy. There will be no more sin, no more judgement, no more betraying brothers, no more of anything that isn't holy and perfect and pure in the eyes of the Lord. Jacob shall possess their own possessions once more, a once for all jubilee.

But there's more. Here, in verse 18 we get a clue that what is being looked ahead to here isn't just the return from the exile, it's not just a temporal revenge on Edom, or on all the enemies of God's people. Verse 18 talks about Joseph, another brother. And his people are in the already fallen northern kingdom, between them, we're told, they will consume the house of Esau. But this didn't happen did it? The northern kingdom didn't return in the same way the southern kingdom did... so what is Obadiah talking about? Surely the very end of time, when Jesus returns for His people, and to make war on sin and sinners, that's when God's will consume His enemies forever.

And God will bring His people home. We see in verse 20 that the exiles of the host of the people of Israel shall possess the land of the Canaanites as far as the Zarepheth. Israel is coming home. They will return from the exile for God has spoken. These words would have been overwhelming for their first hearers. They will return, they will be home again. But is there more again? Well possibly, but there's more work to be done here i think. The Kingdom belongs to the LORD. That's how we know that these things will come to pass. That's what we learn of God. That He is the God of all the nations. That He can sovereignty use Edom to judge Judah and then judge Edom for it's treatment of Judah. And we can't work that out. How can God be just and do that? Well, because He's God, and God is just, and what He does is just.

God judged Judah for their repeated and unrepentant sin against Him. For their self reliance and idolatry. To an extent the same things He would judge Edom for. If Edom was taught by their judgement that God is the LORD of all and that He will be obeyed then the judgement showed Judah that the only way to live is by total reliance on God. Why the difference? Because Judah were the people of God. Despite all their sin against Him, despite seventy long, hard years in exile, they were God's people, and the victory is God's.

So was Obadiah right? Well Edom was destroyed about a century later. Judah returned from Exile. God's people were back. But the temple they built made those who could remember the original temple weep. But it all sounded so glorious, did God change His mind and downgrade the homecoming? No, the real home coming of God's people came years later. He was born in a stable, grew up as a manual labourer and was executed as a criminal. His name was Jesus. The ultimate fulfillment in what God called His people to in the Old Testament is found in Jesus. Any explanation of the Old Testament that doesn't find it's meaning, or work itself out, or look through the lens of Jesus, is going to miss the point.

What did the original readers learn? That God hates pride, He hates sin and He'll judge it absolutely. God has enemies and they will lose. God has friends, and their future is glorious. God's friends are those who will bring Him glory be their liberating, joy filling self reliance on Him. This is what Judah needed to learn, this is what we need to remember. See the result of Edom, see the result of Judah...and cast every hope, every dream and every security on Jesus, because the kingdom is the Lords.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Baxter's day

I found this on Pure Church, Thabiti Anyabwile's blog. It's from Richard Baxter's 'Christian Directory'

How to Spend a Day with God
A holy life is inclined to be made easier when we know the usual sequence and method of our duties--with everything falling into its proper place. Therefore, I shall give some brief directions for spending the day in a holy manner:

1. Sleep. Measure the time of your sleep appropriately so that you do not waste your precious morning hours sluggishly in your bed. Let the time of your sleep be matched to your health and labor, and not to slothful posture.

2. First Thoughts. Let God have your first awaking thoughts. Lift up your heart to Him reverently and thankfully for the rest enjoyed the night before, and cast yourself on Him for the day which follows. Think of the mercy of a night's rest and of how many have spent that night in hell; how many in prison; how many in cold, hard lodgings; how many suffering from agonizing pains and sickness, weary of their beds and of their lives. Think of how quickly days and nights are rolling on--how speedily your last night and day will come! Observe that which is lacking in the preparedness of your soul for such a time, and seek it without delay.

3. Prayer. Let prayer by yourself alone (or with your partner) take place before the collective prayer of the family. If possible, let it be first, before any work of the day.

4. Family Worship. Let family worship be performed consistently and at a time when it is most likely for the family to be free of interruptions.

5. Purpose. Remember your ultimate purpose, and when you set yourself to your day's work or approach any activity in the world, let holiness to the Lord be written on your heart in all that you do. Do nothing in the world for any other ultimate purpose than to please, glorify, and enjoy Him. "Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Cor. 10:31).

6. Diligence. Show that you are not sluggish and servant to ease. Keep out idle thoughts from your mind. Do not waste precious time. Diligently carry out occupation.

7. Temptation. Be thoroughly acquainted with your temptations and the things that may corrupt you. Watch against the master sins of unbelief: hypocrisy, selfishness, pride, flesh-pleasing, and the excessive love of earthly things. Take care against being drawn into earthly mindedness, excessive cares, or covetous designs for rising in the world. Maintain that modesty and cleanness of speech that the laws of purity require. Strengthen yourself against impatient, revengeful pride.

8. Meditation. When alone in your occupations, improve the time in practical and beneficial meditations. Meditate on the infinite goodness and perfections of God; Christ and redemption; heaven and how you deserve eternal misery in hell.

9. Time. Place a high value on your time; guard it more zealously than you guard your money. Do not let worthless recreations, idle talk, unprofitable company, or sleep rob you of your precious time. Make sure that you are not merely never idle, but rather that you are using your time in the most profitable way.

10. Eating and Drinking. Eat and drink with moderation and thankfulness for health. Never please your appetite in food or drink when it is prone to be detrimental to your health. The Apostle Paul wept when he mentioned those who "are enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame--who set their minds on earthly things" (Phil. 3:18-19).

11. Sin. If any temptation prevails against you and you fall into any sins, repent quickly, whatever the cost. It will certainly cost you more if you continue in sin and remain unrepentant.
Do not make light of your habitual failures, but confess them and daily strive against them.

12. Relationships. Remember every day the special duties of various relationships: whether as spouse, child, employer, employee, pastor, leader, follower.

13. Bedtime. Before returning to sleep, it is wise to review the actions and mercies of the day past, so that you may be thankful for all the special mercies and humbled for all your sins. This is necessary in order that you might renew your repentance as well as your resolve for obedience, and in order that you may examine yourself to see whether your soul grew better or worse, and whether you are better prepared for suffering, death, and eternity.

May these directions be engraved on your mind and be made the daily practice of your life. If sincerely adhered to, these will be conducive to the holiness, fruitfulness, and quietness of your life, and add to you a comfortable and peaceful death.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Puritans and compromise

I like this idea very much:

meet the Puritans in 2008

But this article makes me very sad:

Common Compromise

Obadiah (1)

It's been a great three days spending time with this prophet. The shortest book in the Old Testament is certainly not short on meat. The book seems to split up nicely into three bits, one long and two short, so these thoughts will break up into two over the next couple of days. This one on 'who are God's enemies?' and tomorrows on 'who are God's friends?' and 'who is God?'. A lot of these ideas come from Mark Dever's excellent sermon on the book. Read me.

Does God have enemies? I guess it depends who you ask. The Muslim fundamentalist would probably say America, the extreme Hindu might say Muslims and Christians, the atheist student might say Christians...but what would we say. Surely we think the idea of God having enemies is outdated...God is good, God is love. It's human to hate...but divine? The idea seems ridiculous to our sanitised western religion.

But how would we find out for sure? And what's it like to have an almighty enemy? Having a persistent human enemy is bad enough, but an almighty One? No thank you. What's Obadiah's point of view? Well we see from verse three that the proud are God's enemies. Jerusalem had fallen to Babylon in 587BC and their near neighbours to the south east had done nothing to help. In fact as we'll see later they'd done worse than nothing. Obadiah is clear as to where his message comes from in verse 1, the sovereign almighty God. He is stirring war against Edom from Babylon, Edom will be made small (v2).

Why was Edom such a proud place? It's hinted at in verse three and four. They dwelt 'in the cleft of a rock', literally Edom was a high mountainous place, hard to get into or out of, and it seems they had all their security in that. They had no awareness of God. In fact times were good. Judah's fall had eliminated their local trade rival, and all they were surely secure from the same fate that had befallen Judah, secure as they were in their high rocky kingdom. Edom's pride had deceived them (v3) they were about to learn that security apart from the LORD is no security at all. God will bring them down, He is neither impressed nor put off by their strategic position (v4) Edom on their deceptive pride had not given a single thought to the King of the nations.

Nothing can save Edom from complete ruin. Thieves only take what they want, grape gatherers leave gleanings (v5) but Edom will be torn apart. (v6) Any nation anywhere at any time that put its security in defence, or economics or isolation will not escape judgement. Anyone in any place at any time who puts his trust in something other than the LORD will not escape judgement. We need to be more aware of this than anyone...what is the way of Christ? Surely humility.

But what had Edom done? In answering this question we in some ways push further into the mind of God than we can grasp. God used Babylon to judge Judah for their faithlessness, and then judged Edom using Babylon for essentially not helping Judah...then judged Babylon for what it did to Judah. Until we grasp the power and goodness or our God who is outside time, we will struggle with this.

Verse 10 says it was because of the violence done to 'your brother Jacob' Edom will be judged. Obadiah was an effective user of history and language. Edom was not an impassive passer-by when this happened to Judah...Edom is his brother. Edom is Esau (v6,9,18) Judah is Jacob. Edoms crime looks much much worse now. In verse 11 we see they 'stood aloof' on the day when Judah was pillaged, they cast lots for Jerusalem at her gates. Judah's own kin, with all their shared history stood and watched as people gambled for his city! God loves justice, Edom will be humbled for their actions. Neither the wise nor the strong can save Edom from the Babylonian onslaught. Note the warning that the allies that Edom trusted in are the same ones who will now destroy her. Not only do we see Edom watching passively in Jerusalem's overthrow, but they cut down those who fled. The few who escaped and braved the mountain pass to seek help from their brothers were cut down. Those who were found alive were turned over to their terrorisers. Some believe that the language is so brutal here because some of Obadiah's relatives were among this number. It's certainly not impossible. Edom acted worse than the thieves and grape robbers, and this towards their own brother. This towards, as we'll see next time, people who were in fact, God's friends.

so what can we learn from the first 13 verses of this book? Firstly that God opposed the proud. In fact He hates them. He will destroy every lofty perch and starry nest. All those who do no consider Him worthy of a thought will fall before Him. Taking security in anything and anywhere other than in God in Jesus Christ is suicide. These things needn't always be bad in themselves, be they relationships or possessions or a job, but we turn them into idols and justly invoke God's pure anger against us for it. And third, God's enemies are the enemies of God's people. While Christians pray for their leaders often their leaders ordain their persecution. This God hates, as we see here, those who do not aid Christians in their plight, those who participate in the killing and persecution of Christians are, among everyone else, the enemies of God.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

sixty six books

As i think about preaching in church in january, i'm drawn ever closer to Exodus 12, and the passover account. So rich in narrative and application for us today. It occured to me, while thinking about it, that the passover, and subsequent flight from Egypt was the most significant event in Israel's history, and the cross is the most significant event in ours. nifty non?

I've also had a great time in Obadiah today, preparing a Bible study for tomorrow. Reflections to's going to be good.

And, twenty copies of Grudem's Systematic Theology arrived courtesy of, it's been a good day!

Monday, December 10, 2007

just a few things

This is post 501! Thats halfway to one thousand, which seems remarkable. There have been times this year when i've thought about letting this blog quietly dies, mostly due to time constaints (having a girlfriend in America means that blog-time quickly turns into skype-time) but i still really enjoy blogging, it still helps me to think and i manage to upset some liberals now and again, and those are reasons enough for me. So on we go.

Yesterday i dived into the Christmas carol concert season at the Madjeski Academy for the south Reading churches carol service. I don't know if i'll manage to stop last years record of five (RUCU, USCU, Reading Family Church, The Community Church Bourne End and Chichester College CU) but i've got my eyes on at least a couple more. Last night Christmas made me cry and singing carols made me want to be a frontier missionary. I'm not sure thats normal. It also gave me the chance to reflect that some, if not most popular carols we really should sing all year round. Take 'joy to the world' for example. It's amazing. There's no reason in my mind why we can't sing that in May or August. I'd definately take it over the majority of the slightly wet, pop-rock contemporary worship songs.

I guess i've known for a while that my views on how the Christian relates to the law are somewhere between controversial and not exactly mainstream. (viz. that since Christ is the fulfillment of the law we who are found in Him no longer need to try to obey it. Grace motivated obedience replaces rule keeping) Studying Galatians 3 in the last few weeks has helped me think about this again, and clarify it somewhat. But something which i'd never noticed before that Lawrence helped me to see on friday was a role of the Holy Spirit in the new covenant i'd never really noticed before. Basically that, we no longer need to look at the law to find our perfect standard, because with Spirit opened eyes we can see the Lord and be changed, and we no longer need to have the law testify against us when we sin, because the Holy Spirit will testify to us and make us hate our sin. Is that right? It sounds pretty cool.

Friday, December 07, 2007

a dad and an illustration

One thing i love about our multi faceted jewel of a Gospel is how it is illustrated in so much of life. From the poor, homeless immigant being welcomed in to Israel in Ruth, to the culmination of the great redemptive story at Calvary, and so many places in between, we can see illustrations of the Gospel. And thats what i love about my relationship with my girlfriends dad at the moment.

Now my girlfriend is from america, lives in the Bible belt no less. There are more than fourty churches in the phonebook for her 15000 population town. I still can't work out whether thats good or bad. Good i think. The world needs more churches. So because of her background there's a whore lot of cultural stuff that i have to work through in relating to her parents, especially her Father, especially when meeting them for the first time.

I was nervous, i'd been travelling for about twelve hours, and there he was at the airport. And i thank God for our relationship as it is now, i'm glad that we're able to spend so much time together while i was there, and that now we can just call each other for a chat on a friday evening. So now we know eachother, our relationship has changed. I still find myself standing up when he calls on skype to talk to him, and still make sure i call him sir at every oppotunity, but there's relationship, friendship there now which we both enjoy. Formality and respect, but fellowship and love also.

Of course, you can see where i'm going. The relationship i have with God, my Father is hopefully marked by the same things. Fellowship, love, but as much repect and honour as i can fit in on my side. Where there was fear and uncertainty now stand love and friendship. Where failure comes, there's grace. Now, obviously as with all Gospel analogies, this is seriously one died to affect this relationship, it's primarily because we're brothers in the first place we can get on so well, but it's taught me about my relationship with God my Father in a new way. And i like that.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Whats Abraham got to do with it?

In many ways it can surprise us how little the new testament really explains things on its own. The bst way to explain what happened at the cross, for example, may well be to look at the old testament accounts of the first passover and the day of atonement. And good stuff it is.

On friday me and Laurence studied Galatians 3:1-14, i'd eaten a ceremonial bacon roll beforehand so i was ready for what Paul had for us. It can seem at times that Paul is just indulging his knowledge of Judaism to wow his opponents. Or we could think that Paul is just jewish point scoring. We can think that studying this is of little point, because it all seems to technical, so obscure, so unrelated to anything that we might encounter. But it's not. In Galatians 3, particularly verses 4-14, Paul is constructing the building block, the foundation stone of the whole church. That is justification by faith...the just, by faith shall live. He sends his opponents fleeing to the hills with his superior knowledge and application of Abraham and how he relates to Jesus, how Jesus is not abolishing the old testament law, but rather is it's apex, it's matrix.

How does Paul start his arguement? Does the Spirit, that the is the deposit, the mark of saving faith come by faith or by works? By works of course, sneer the opponents. But then Paul plays his ace. Abraham. How did Abraham get right with God? How did he live? By faith. Woah! If Abraham was justified by faith, what does that mean for the rest of us? Well, continues Paul, it means that those who are the real sons of Abraham are so by faith...not by circumcision or food laws. Faith. Scripture forsaw this, that God would bring the gentiles in by faith preached the Gospel beforehand to Abraham. And what was that Gospel? In you shall all the nations be blessed...

Now, if you asked someone what the Gospel was, and they gave you that response, you'd be pretty surprised wouldn't you. I would be. But Paul uses it here to illustrate that this blessing comes about by faith, not by anything else. Abraham is important for that reason. Justification by faith is not a new thing that started at Calvary. It started before time, and was preached to Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation. Paul's trump card. So why does the law not justify anyone?

Verses 10-14 give us two reasons. Firstly, because the one who does them shall live by them. That is, no one can keep the law perfectly, which is what is neccesary, so they are cursed by their failure. But more importantly, they are cursed because God has ordained that the righteous shall live by faith, so He will justify no one because of the works of the law. The law curses people...stop it! The righteous shall live by faith...start it! But how? Or rather, who?

Just as Paul starts with Abraham, he ends with Jesus. Jesus becomes the curse, cursed is everyone who hangs on the tree. He becomes all that we are, that through Him we could be everything we could never be. What effect does this have? It means that the promise given to Abraham (received of course by faith) can come to the gentiles. What starts in Abraham ends in Jesus. Abraham and Jesus don't represent different Gospels, or different Gods, rather, Jesus is the root, and the shoot...the reason behind and the solution to the Gospel preached to Abraham. Thats why all nations shall by blessed though Abraham, because from Abraham comes Jesus, and before Abraham was, I AM says Jesus.

So this is not obscure Jewish theologising. This is the Gospel. It started with Abraham, it is fullfilled in Jesus. It comes by faith, not works. Not works not works not works. By grace through faith. Our salvation is blood blood blood. And nothing else. Paul's sends a rocket to blow his opponents away. He gives us hope and light and life. Christ became a curse, we get the blessing. What a Gospel!