'Everyone attempts to depict football in the 21st century as a business, yet in no other business would the 'customers' be so abused. Tesco would never order regular shoppers to travel miles to buy over-priced goods, and recieve only disdain for the privilege. Complaints would mount. Profits would slump. Loyalty cards? England fans have them in their hearts, let alone their wallets.'
The parable of the harsh servant is a very humbling and challenging one. The servant himself owes his master ten thousand talents. Now that number basically means nothing to us except that we know it is a lot of talents. But how much is ten thousand talents? Was it an amount that could have been paid back in normal circumstances?
Well, King Herod had a yearly income of just nine hundred talents, and the average yearly income for Gallilee and 'the land beyond the Jordan' was just two hundred talents, so even a King and an actual country couldn't come close to raising the amount that this servant owed the master. Either here Jesus is using hyperbole to make His point, or we are to assume that this servant had acess to the Kings money for a long time. Anyway, the point is that the servant owed a debt to the King that he had no hope of ever paying back. I wonder what he actually spent it all on...anyway.
His master was going to sell him and his family to raise the money that he was owed, as he had very right to do, but the servant pleaded with him for mercy, and the master was merciful to him. He overlooked the great debt that the servant owed him. Isn't that a massive picture of the cross? The debt we owe to Jesus is incalulable, utterly insurmountable. We have no chance of ever paying Jesus off for what we owe Him. We will never be able to work our way into God's favour. He must have mercy on us is we are to have any hope. He must forgive the debt if we are to escape judgement. It's our only hope of rescue from God's wrath.
But the story doesn't end there. The forgiven servant then goes and finds someone who owes him one hundred denarii, a tiny amount given what he owed his master, and choked him and put him in jail until he could pay. The servant master then found out about this, and ended up throwing him in jail as well. Jesus says this is what the Kingdom of Heaven is like, this is how we will be treated if we do not forgive our brothers from the heart. This first servant had no been properly overwhelmed, had not properly understood the greatness of the mercy he had recieved.
Matthew 3:8 tells us to produce fruit in keeping with repentance, and forgiveness is clearly one of those. How can we be angry and hold grudges against people when we consider the great debt that we have been forgiven. How hypocritical of us if we, the forgiven, refuse to forgive. Do we think that we are bigger or somehow nobler than Christ if we don't forgive even though He has? Lets repent, lets forgive and enjoy being living stones of God's temple together.
Went to Wembley stadium on saturday for the first official match since it ws rebuilt. It's amazing, even with capacity limited to 60,000 it was still incredible. It's going to be the best ground in the world when it's full. I can remember watching the last game at the old Wembley back in October 2000 in a pub in Wycombe...to be at the first game at the new stadium was pretty overwhelming. The scale and the magnificent nature of the ground are well worth the wait in my opinion. And a big up to Chiltern Rail for managing the get away so well as well. I was on a train within twenty minutes of the end of the game, which was pretty impressive. But the new Wembley is amazing, possibly even if you're not a complete football ground geek like i am. Get there.
On the way home we took in Harrow Boro' against Horsham at Earlsmead. Another ground i hadn't been to before.
i have never, to my knowledge, had a decent original thought. as such, here are some things from the April edition of 'Evangelicals Now'
'this legislation is unprecedented in its complete intolerance of those who have religious beliefs. The Government did not put forward a single piece of evidence to justify the need for the regulations, has ignored the 72% of the public who opposed it's approach to the law, and has ignored the majority of the 3000 responses to its' consultation. Despite this weak basis to the law, the government is prepared to take the legal landmark of making it illegal for Christians to hold the clear teaching that God loves everyone and wants all people to know Him, but also that extra marital sexual conduct (whether homosexual or heterosexual) is wrong. To think that the Government would prefer to shut down the widespread and compassionate services provided by Christian adoption agencies, drug rehabiliation, homeless shelters and community centres rather than accept that Christians should not be forced to promote homosexual practices is astounding
- Thomas Cordrey P1+2
Oh dear Mr Blair. 10 years and three landslides later is this the best you can do? Along with denying the livlihoods of thousands who relied on the fox hunting industries and taking us into a long and bloody war, you're responsible for this unenforcible shambles as well, meanwhile the NHS staggers from disaster to disaster, inner city schools continue to fail, and kids kill each other on the streets of London. What a waste eh? What a waste.
We need a healthy balance between the academic and the practical. There is no dichotomy between the two. We make no apology for the fact that more PHDs in theology are supervised here than anywhere else in the UK. Anyone who imagines that academic research is a distraction or irrelevant simply doesn't understand the threat that postmodernist deconstruction of the Bible now poses. The recent attack on the doctrine of penal substitution is just the beginning. Not since the Reformation has there been such a need for faithful Pastors who are theological prepared and alert. At the same time, we are determined to prepare men who will not be taken by surprise by all the practical demands of pastoral ministry. What we really need is a return to the pre 19th century pastor theologian model- think of Edwards, Luther and Calvin, where theology is both the queen of the sciences and the servant of the churches.
- Jonathan Steven, Principal of Wales Evangelical School of Theology, P14
I remember when Jonathan was pastor of Carey Baptist Church in Reading came to talk on justification at CU, he pretty much blew me away. I'd like to give a hearty amen to what he says here, (not that it needs it!) and add pastor-theologian to the list of things i want to be when i grow up!
'where's home for you?' 'well, my home church is in Reading, so i guess there'
Home is a funny concept at the moment. Coming back to Guildford where i live and work and go to church for the time being certainly felt like coming home yesterday. But the above q and a shows what a jumbled thing the idea of home is at the moment. In a funny way, wherever my parents are is home, where i was born is home. The same streets i've trodden on for 18 years before going to uni, the same pubs and shops and street corners, the same villages and hills and hedgerows.
But i don't live there any more. I live in Guildford, about forty miles away. Here is where God wants me at the moment. Coming round the corner of the A3 and seeing the cathedral spire in the distance feels like coming home. I'm looking forward to getting onto campus in a couple of hours, because i haven't been there for so long, and i like being there. My room deluged in my mess feels like home. It feels like where i should be.
And then on the occasional sunday when i'm at Reading Family Church, that place feels like home. Coming along the A4 into Reading and seeing the gas cylinders (oh the glamour) feels like coming home. And soon, God willing, i'll be working in Reading. So that really will be home.
Jesus told His disciples that foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to rest. For a few weeks this summer Bulgaria will be home. Wherever Jesus wants us should be our home. Christ Himself should be our home. We are secure in Him, we can rest in Him and find provision in Him. Are those not the things we look for in a home? They are in Christ. We need to look beyond what is temporal to what is not. To the eternity of Christ.
And where will Christ direct our gaze? To Heaven. I wish i would long for Heaven. For the terrible and wonderful moment when i see Jesus face to face, for the time when i'm with Him forever and ever. For the time when pain and suffering will end forever. That's home. That's where i was made for. Nowhere here should truly feel like home for very long, because nowhere is. Christ is for now, and Heaven will be forever...
If you're not trsuting in the life, death and ressurection of Jesus to deal with what happens when you die, all you're doing is trusting your best guess. Your best guess won't be as good as Jesus. It also won't be real. God has graciously and wonderfully made Himself clear in many many ways. Here are three of my favourites, as mentioned by Don Carson.
Psalm 19:1 says the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above his handiwork. I love hot sunny days because in those days it's so clear to see the glory of God. It's so clear to see that there is something else, something deeper behind everything we see around us. Look at the sun, look at the colour of the sky, feel the heaton your face. Thats all to point you towards God. Thats to make your soul cry out 'glory' with joy and fear. It's to make us stand in awe at the Creator. And it's not just sunny days! Look at the clouds, all the chemical reactions needed to keep them going...all sustain by the word of the Lord. And it doesn't even tire Him out! Nature is all around us, God could not have made Himself clearer in it. So stop repressing this knowledge (Romans 1:21) , and come to Him. Delight in the Lord and praise Him for making Himself so clearly known.
Why must people be ceremonially cleased all the way through Leviticus? Why is there a whole chapter about cleansing people with Leprousy? Why did God give Israel the law in the first place? Because 'I am the Lord'. we are to be holy, because He is holy. Israel was to make sacrifices to God on a regular basis. Why? He is the Lord. Inter familial sexual relations are banned. Why? Because He is the Lord. This side of the cross, and the law has been fulfilled in Jesus, we no longer need to observe it. The law shows us what God is like. It shows us how gracious, Holy, just and perfect God is. Is shows us God is relational. The law tells us as much as we could know about God's charecter pre incarnation. Now that might not have been one of the key reasons for the giving of the law, but it was a pretty effective side effect. How did Israel know how to behave? Look to the law. How do we know God is a consistent and eternal God? Because of the law.
To see Jesus is to see the Father (John 14:9). If we had lived 2000 miles away 2000 years ago, we could have looked into the face of God Himself, eaten with Him and touched Him. Now we live by faith, and not by sight, and the Holy Spirit teaches us about Jesus. Jesus is the ultimate revelation of who God is. How do we know God is compassionate? Look at Jesus. How do we know He is loving? Look at Jesus. How do we know that God is just and hates sin? Look at Jesus. All our worship must be directed to Jesus and through Jesus. Through our one Mediator. Through the one who is not an option alongside Buddha or Mohammed, as some people i spoke to this week would have you believe, but through the Risen owner of the universe, who suffered, bled and died that we could worship Him. God is ultimately revealed through Jesus Christ, who lives and rules today.
so has God made Himself clear? Yes, abundantly and graciously. All we need to do is open our eyes, and have our eyes opened.
I headed off to Canterbury just under a week ago not really knowing what i'd find. With my south central centric life thus far i think i was feared that all the building's there would be portacabins and the library a caravan. I was wrong. Caterbury is a majestic campus in early spring, and flyering in the sunshine wearing a t-shirt sure does beat doing it in the snow sharing a glove with Phil Rout.
They were heady days.
But what to say about the week. I think my expectations of mission weeks haved chanaged this year. While i was at uni, certainly in the first two years i thought that mission weeks were very much about the there and then, that people would be saved that week. But now i see them far more as a catalyst to further the personal and corporate evangelism of the CU itself, and to big up courses like Christianity Explored and Bytesize. It's different being an AM as well, knowing from the start of the week that you won't spend the rest of term meeting up with the Arrans' of that particular mission does change your perspective a little bit. I think it makes you keener to get on with it and get stuck in while you can, because time is short.
I like university missions for a number of reasons. Campuses in general are a clash of openess and closedness. People being open to think and learn new things about the world for possibly the last time, and people all at the same time who want nothing to do with 'religion' and staff who are slightly put out that we're giving away free food so close to a lunch hall. I also like them for the selfish reason that they help me not to waste my life. To not waste your life is to demonstrate and live with Christ as the most valuable, most excellent and lovely being in the universe. And mission weeks make it easy, on the face of it, to do that. Even if for all my flyering and questionairing i only directly shared the Gospel twice in the week, both with Muslim guys, both who said things like 'we love Jesus...we love Buddha, they are important people in our religion'. Makes you just want to grab them and shake the truth into them. Thankfully, thats not our job. Do pray for Sahir and Madi, i gave them both a copy of John's Gospel.
Strange coming home, not to be tramping campus with a flyer in my hand and a song in my heart. Not to be veered round by everyone who saw my UKCCU t-shirt before i saw them. Nice i guess, but strange. Strange to think of the places that for a week were the centre of my universe (Eliot, Rutherford, The Venue) that i'll probably never go to again, of all the people i met and prayed for and are now just names on a list.
A strange life sometimes this, but a tremendous one. Life to the full indeed.
Yesterday morning there was a men's breakfast at Centrepoint here in Guildford. Well, it wasn't at Centrepoint, it was at the Methodist church...such are the joys if being a small church in an expensive area of the country. I like it. We look at Daniel 1. I think Daniel is my favourite book of the Bible that i've never actually read. I'd heard it preached on at word alive and Forum, but i don't think i've ever read all of it. I look forward to going there soon. Here are some things i learnt.
It's hard not being at home. Daniel and his collegues were in exile. They weren't at home. They probably believed they'd get back there again one day but for the time, they were stuck thousands of miles away. They were doing well for themselves, or rather, God was doing them well, but they were given different names, which can't have been much fun, and they weren't free. Now i'm not a fan of picking a charecter in the Bible and saying 'yep, thats me' but there are, i think, direct things we can learn from Daniel. It's hard to not be where we are meant to be. Daniel probably longed for Israel, we should long for Heaven. Our home. We need to keep our eyes on Heaven as Daniel kept his eyes on where he belonged. And this will have an effect.
Stand up speak up Why do i think that Daniel was focussed on somewhere else? And why did this have an effect? Verse 8 sees Danial refusing to eat and drink the kings food. The Bible doesn't record what this food was, but we can probably reckon that it wasn't kosher, so Daniel didn't want to defile himself. So he spoke up. He didn't say 'just this once' he didn't compromise himself for an easy life, he stood up for what he believed and for the Lord. And the Lord honoured him for it. Daniel was healthier than anyone who ate the Kings food. He stood out, he did well. He knew that whatever delicious food was on offer it wasn't as good as the Lord. The Lord's name is sweeter than honey, it is honey on our lips. Christ calls us to bear our cross and follow Him. We might want to eat, drink and be merry, we might want to jump into bed with whoever we're going out with...but, Daniel was healthier from not eating the food. And i doubtr it was healthier in a weight watchers way...he was better. Inside and out. Christ is good and sweet and excellent. Things that are not Christ are not. Denying ourselves wordly pleasure is hedonism. Choose what's better.
Resolve I doubt Daniel made this decision on the hoof. If he's not eating the food, why not complaon about his new name? Why not stand out at the first oppotunity? Because we must be in the culture to save the culture. We can't live in our Christian ghettos, cowering under the lifeboat taurpalin and dashing out every so often to get people to join us. Paul became like a greek to the greeks for the Gospel. So we must be in our culture, watching films, reading books, going to the pub, but we must stand out, like Daniel. And we must decide to stand out. When we're alone in our room before going out, we must draw a line. It must be drawn then. It must be decided on then, because we won't be strong enough there and then. We must be strong when we can, and enforce it when we will. We must resolve to stand out. Standing out on a sunday morning is not enough. Jesus owns every day of the week, and we must respond to that.
NB [it's lovely to be sitting in my living room with all the windows and doors open, i'm glad winter is over. No blogging for a while because i'm canterbury for mission week, home for mothers' day and southampton for team days. go and read the Bible!]
1.6 billion people live in people groups around the world with no idigenous witness. thats 1,600,000,000,000 people like you and me, with more or less no way to hear the Gospel, no chance to be everlastingly delighted in Christ.
300 There's a new film coming out about the battle of Thermopolye between the Spartans and the Persians. This film is based on historical fact, don't let anyone tell you that it's based on a comic by some dude called Frank Miller. It's not. It really happened. The end. If you want to watch a really good film about this battle, check out '300 Spartans' which was made in the 1960s. It's class. Whats that? Yes, bad history does make me cross!
4-6 I know i bang about 2 corinthians 4 an awful lot, and i know that all the Bible's great. It really is! But i really love the truth contained in this chapter. It's so encouraging to know that God is working through His Word, and this work, as i've seen a couple of times today is really effective. If anyone's salvation or growth depended on my spluttering 121s or half baked half Biblical advice, they'd really be in trouble. I'm glad that all i have to do is deliver the Word and let it go to work. I'm so happy about that, so i'm going to keep talking about it!
17 I, among many many others have greatly benefitted from the ministry of John Piper. His father died last night, and while Dr Piper more than any of us knows that all this means is that his father is with Jesus, his exceeding joy, we should still pray for him and his family. I'll probably never get the chance to look Dr Piper in the eye and say 'thankyou' for how much of Jesus he's shown me, how hungry he's made me for the Word, so praying for him is the best i can do. I urge you to do the same.
1 The Gospel is actually amazing. I love it. Increasingly i am less concerned about organisations and schemes and labels, and more and more concerned about the Gospel and it's progress. That's all that matters at the end of the day. To think that God would come to earth as a man and then live and die for me, knowing what a mess i am and the stuff i do, to think that He put aside all His infinate eternal Heavenly glory for me. It really blows my mind.
When the ordinances of God are set up in glory and there is glorious obediance to them in the church, it is terrifying to the enemy as an army with banners; for there is lustre and glory in all that is God's, both in the believers themselves and likewise in the ordinances of God Glorious Freedom, Richard Sibbes
Oh man, how good would The Church be if it loved and trusted in God's Word and commands. If it pumped out the Gospel week in week out. If it had more men who really believed in the importance of preaching and leading and were prepared to leave aside comfort and financial security to devote themselves to preaching the Word. More men who believed that what is unseen is more important that what is seen.
I thank God that there are so many churches like this around already, that love and teach and contend for the Gospel. But couldn't it be so much better? My parents' village has neither shop nor post office...but it has a church. Imagine if all the Anglican churches all over the country, all the non conformist churches all over the country looked like an army with banners. If they were obedient to the word and set themselves to seek the glory that was in it. If Pastors all over the country spent their lives calling us back to orthodox, Biblical Christianity. That would be pretty cool.
There is a way that seems right to a man but it's end is the way to death.
How good is good enough for Heaven? How bad is bad enough to go to Hell? One of the most common misconceptions about Christianity is that it's about being good. It just plain isn't. Christianity is not about being good. Yes Christians should shine like stars in a wicked and depraved generation, they should go the extra yard for their friends, and they should love people with a costly love, but as a response, not as works to earn something.
There is, says this verse, a way that seems good to a man. There are things that we can do to appear good, to feel good, to convince ourselves we are good. We can give money to charity, be good parents, buy food for homeless people, buy fairtrade food for ourselves, be moral, try and do the best in every situation. But what does the Bible say? This way ends in death. This is not the way. Mark Driscoll said that 'good people, moral people die and they wake up in hell', and this verse seems to evidence that statement.
I think there are two reasons for this. Firstly, we can never be good enough. What sort of a small insignificant god could be impressed by people's actions. If i could do something that God couldn't, then He would no longer be God. And i'm pleased that He always will be God. All our good deeds are tainted by our sin. We are inseperable from our sin, we are sinful from birth, imputed with Adams sin, and then participating in Adam's sin as soon as we're old enough to know how. No amount of charity collecting will sort that out. And this is good news because God is more just than that. It's good that evil gets punished. Really good. But it means we all need to find a way out of that punishment.
The second reason is that God is not interested in man's glory. If we could work our way to Heaven imagine how proud and boastful we would become. We'd be playing off against eachother for an eternity. Ephesians 2:9 makes this clear. We were saved by grace through faith...so that no one may boast. Christ is to be pre-eminant in all things, including our salvation.
So who can be saved? How are people to be divided at the end of time? People who worship Christ, who love Him and embrace and He enjoy all that He is go to Heaven. And this a gift from God! Thats why the way that seems good to man will end in death, because man will never think of Christ. Man will try and do it on his own. He's not interested in Christ, he wants all the glory himself. So man wakes up in hell. Christ said I AM the way. Christ is how we can have eternal life. This is eternal life, that we know the only true God and Jesus, who He has sent. (John 17:3). To know Jesus is to know eternal life. Not being good. The way that seems good ends in death, and rightly so, because it is not good. Only what comes from God is good. David said in Psalm 16:2 'i have no good apart from you'. I have no good apart from Jesus, apart from my Creator, Savior and Lord. Even when i'm saved and try to do good works, those come from the work of the Holy Spirit in me, not from me. I need to remember that, otherwise i'm like the Pharisee in Luke 18:14 who did not go to his house justified. And thats bad.
So lets reject synergism. Lets reject the idea that we give God any help in our salvation and sanctification. Because we don't, we can't. But He can and thankfully He does. Salvation isn't a matter of believing true facts about Jesus. It's about embracing them and letting them change you and living and dying for them. There's nothing i can do to help God in my sanctification except obey Him, listen to Him and ask Him to help.
And let's get rid of asceticism. Lets stop denying ourselves fun because we think Christ is disapproving. That the command to bare our cross, which we must obey, stops us from laughing or enjoying good food and company. These things are, of course, not our ultimate joy, they are not things to be enjoyed to deny the supremacy of Christ in our lives and purposes and happiness, but Christ gives them to us to enjoy them. So lets do the things we enjoy, lets lie in bed and listen to Moyles on our days off, lets walk in the hills, lets laugh with our friends, because Jesus has put these things there to enjoy, to point us to Him, and the time when we will be with Him. Everything we enjoy should point us towards the time when that enjoyment will never end, everything we hate should remind us of a time when those things will dissapear.
Things that seem good for a man to do to earn eternal life do not end that way. They end in death. But because Christ has saved us, we are liberated to enjoy things as they really are. To enjoy food without becoming enslaved to gluttony, to enjoy friends without becoming enslaved to their opinions, to enjoy wine without being enslaved to alcoholism. Becci Brown says her hope isn't in shells, but that doesn't mean she can't enjoy them. Spot on. Thats what they're there for. My hope isn't in Coke, but life's too short to drink diet coke. It won't get me anywhere anyway. Only Christ will do that. So lets stop being 'good' because we aren't anyway and start worshipping Him, because that is eternal life.
I'm away at the south east new leaders training weekend until sunday. Please pray for all the staff and relays who are involved in speaking/helping out. And for our speaker Mike Reeves. Meanwhile, here are some things to do this weekend:
Read this, and be thankful that Jesus wasn't a weak man who wore a pink dress. Listen to this, and enjoy some good food from a height watch these, and pray that you God would keep you from dying on a golfcourse in Florida.
and maybe look forward to some exciting (well, for me anyway) things happening here next week!