Thursday, July 31, 2008
Sunday, July 27, 2008
I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands,
I’d rather be led by His nail pierced hand.
Than to be a king of a vast domain
Or be held in sin’s dread sway,
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.
I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause;
I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause;
I’d rather have Jesus than world-wide fame,
I’d rather be true to His holy name.
He’s fairer than lilies of rarest bloom;
He’s sweeter than honey from out of the comb;
He’s all that my hungering spirit needs,
I’d rather have Jesus and let Him lead.
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Today was the first day i really missed being at home. Today Dan and Becki got married. I love these guys, and i'm so happy that the Lord has bought them to this stage.
Friday, July 25, 2008
I really liked the film. The difficult questions with no answer:
can we settle for a hero who is less than perfect?
do we have any hope in ourselves?
can we only be saved by someone like us?
what affect does mayhem have on people?
what happens when we need to go beyond right and wrong?
can many lives be worth less than one?
how do you reach someone beyond reason?
Bale was a really good character. Deeper and darker, and i guess in that respect more real than in 'Begins'. I can't pick a flat performance, and i really liked Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman. And so to Heath Ledger. Crumbs. An In Utero style performance. I'm not sure that Hollywood has ever come up with a bad guy so unique, so different, so hard, or indeed impossible, to reach. When people have nothing, and indeed want nothing can they be open to reason? It seems not. Heath Ledger was so good, so engaging, so worrying, so fearsome. At times very difficult to watch.
It's an excellent film. I can't get passed how good the Joker was. Was the film more about him than Batman, certainly given what happened after filming closed, it's difficult to get away from that question...
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Justin Taylor reports on the new addition to the NSBT series: Father, Son and Holy Spirit: The Trinity in John's Gospel. If the previous in the series are anything to go by, this will be a must read! My favourite Gospel always ends up being whichever one i'm reading at the time (Matthew) and Luke. But if i had to choose one it'd be John's Gospel.. I like Mark too though! I love it for the 'no messin' approach at the start of chapter one, i love it because of what it shows of Jesus authority, i love the deep emotion of the passion account, and i love the intra trinitarian promises in chapter 17. Here's what Don Carson has to say about it:
Saturday, July 19, 2008
Very challenging indeed. This is in some ways why i prefer preaching from the Old Testament to the New. If i spent thirty minutes talking about the Passover from Exodus 12 it's probably easier to notice the lack of Christ exultation than if i was preaching from a letter, for example. I often find that when i'm in the New Testament i assume the Gospel rather than find out and show how this page is covered in the blood of Christ. I want to preach, i want to enthrone, i want to exult, i want to demonstrate Jesus Christ from the pages of scripture as more valuable than anything we have or will ever have, see or will ever see, taste or will ever taste. Anything ever.
Or maybe good teaching eventually morphs into preaching? The preachers i enjoy the most don't 'just' get excited about Christ while they're in the pulpit, they slowly and Biblically build their case from the text in front of them. Is preaching the overflow of good exegesis? When the preacher sees and applies whats in front of him he can't help but move to expository exultation? Teaching itself is just the communication of information, that's what teachers do in schools. That's not what the pulpit is for, BUT without this information what is it our idol manufacturing hearts are worshipping? I think we need Bible teachers, we need people to explain glory to us verse by verse, but that can't be the end of it. Surely this information then needs to be taken 'to the centre', and this is where it turns into preaching. The Bible is a glorious lens, and we need to look though it.
So this is my burden with the Senior High class tomorrow. Not to show them that Luke 15 is actually about the older son not the prodigal, not to get them excited about Luke's Gospel because Luke was so clever, but to show them how Luke 15 glorifies Jesus and to excite them about Luke's Gospel because of what it shows us of our Saviour.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
It is Hot. I'm giving it a capital letter... Yesterday i remarked how pleasant it seemed in the sun...it was 90F...today it topped at about 93F, thats 34C. Hot. if you stand still for long enough it feels like someones pointing a hairdryer in your face. Hot. But at least it feels like summer. And it means i don't need to pay for the gas to be connected in my apartment!
I must've driven about a hundred miles so far. I'm doing ok, as long as i feel like i'm doing the wrong thing i know i'm doing the right thing. American roads are wide, straight and empty...automatics are easy to drive....it's just all my instincts are wrong. But it's going ok. I managed to get to Greenville on my own pretty successfully today. They even had Coldplay on the radio. I saw a chain gang for the first time though, which was...upsetting.
One last thing, today we were in Kinston and we walk past a cafe that still had segregation! Can you imagine that? In 2008, they still have a room for white people and a room for black people. Isn't that awful?
A week in things are going good. I taught the College sunday school class last sunday, i'm teaching the senior high class this week, and preaching a week on Wednesday. A week in, things are sweet, praise the Lord!
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
No doubt Jesus was tired by this point. Not long had passed since the feeding of the five thousand men, He walking on water, clashing with the Pharisees and healing the Canaanite woman. In His humanity he probably wanted nothing more than to sit and pray quietly with His disciples. But sure enough word got out that Jesus was on the scene, that the Healer had shown up. 'Great crowds came to him'. Maybe hundreds, maybe thousands, but a large number. Did Jesus turn them away? No, He healed them. These people were Gentiles. Did He refuse them help? No, He healed them. Did He send them away hungry? No, He fed them. What a God to worship. What a challenge to us when we tire, when we need rest, when hope for time with our friends. Jesus had compassion on the outsider.
It is probably impossible that the disciples had forgotten that Jesus had just fed five thousand men. Their question in v33 must be read as a request for help. They give Jesus all they had, and He responded. Another great lesson of faith for the twelve. There was more food this time, perhaps more leftovers, but we mustn't reckon that Jesus power to create was limited be His resources. This was simply a lesson, a demonstration. What a lesson it was. Jesus is the champion in providing for those indeed here. Jesus could have done all this without the help of the twelve, but here again is amazing evidence of his use of fallen man to do His work. He could call those who will respond without the use of preaching, and yet preaching and preachers He uses. Here is the Lords grace to those who love Him and will serve Him. He has compassion on those in need, on those with no hope. He can be trusted with all we have, all the time.
After Jesus healing work, the Gentiles praised the God of Israel. This surely is to be the goal of all our work, be it explicit Gospel ministry or not. All our labours in the scripture are to show Jesus as mighty that people would worship. All our visits, all our long days, all our preaching, all our work where ever we are should be that people would worship. That was Jesus' goal here. That must be our goal always, that through us, amazingly though us people might hear and see what an incomparable treasure Jesus is, and worship Him with their whole lives.
Monday, July 14, 2008
Lunch in Vanceboro (not a destination town) with a Pastor and Kids worker from New Bern (the home of Pepsi). Inspiring scenes. "if it's not in that Book, i'm not preaching it". Pastors pastoring Pastors "go and read Titus brother" joint staff retreats planned.
Lunch took three hours, back to church, talking seminary, my first expenses cheque. Plenty of work to do, a year to plan by Friday. Home just after 1700.
Great to be in North Carolina, great to be back at work, great to know and believe the Gospel, great to know Jesus and be with people who know Him better than me...
Sunday, July 13, 2008
And so we trace him (Calvin) preaching on Sundays with one hundred and eighty-nine sermons on the Acts between 1549 and 1554, a shorter series on some of the Pauline letters between 1554 and 1558, and the sixty-five on the Harmony of the Gospels between 1559 and 1564. During this time the weekdays saw series on Jeremiah and Lamentations (up to 1550), on the Minor Prophets and Daniel (1550-2), the one hundred and seventy-four on Ezekiel (1552-4), the one hundred and fifty-nine on Job (1554-5), the two hundred on Deuteronomy (1555-6), the three hundred and forty-two on Isaiah (1556-9), then one hundred twenty-three on Genesis (1559-61), a short set on Judges (1561), one hundred and seven on 1 Samuel and eighty-seven on 2 Samuel (1561-3) and a set on 1 Kings (1563-4).
Before he smiles at such unusual activity of the pulpit, the reader would do well to ask himself whether he would prefer to listen to the second-hand views on a religion of social ethics, or the ill-digested piety, delivered in slipshod English, that he will hear today in most churches of whatever denomination he may enter, or three hundred and forty-two sermons on the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, sermons born of an infinite passion of faith and a burning sincerity, sermons luminous with theological sense, lively with wit and imagery, showing depths of compassion and the unquenchable joyousness of hope. Those in Geneva who listened Sunday after Sunday, day after day, and did not shut their ears, but were “instructed, admonished, exhorted, and censured,” received a training in Christianity such as had been given to few congregations in Europe since the days of the fathers.
Amen. (HT Desiring God blog)
Saturday, July 12, 2008
Was it about the role of women? Or homosexuals? Or is there something more important behind it? The role of scripture in the life of the church. Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire says:
His point seems to be that God is always revealing more of Himself to us. That though the Canon is closed, that's not all we are to expect. Although he says that he doesn't think that God changes, i can't see how he could feel that God doesn't change if He revealed one thing in scripture but then changes that revelation as (coincidentally) culture changes. Or is it that God speaks today through and in accordance with His Word. Not because Evangelicals have bound Him by it, but because that is how He has decided to do it.
This view of scripture is so sad to me. There's so much glory and greatness in scripture. So much bread to be feasted upon. Perhaps this is a rich thing to say to a Bishop (but perhaps not), but anyone who describes the Bible as 'static' perhaps needs to spend more time reading it. And is God restricted by the Bible? NO! He is revealed through it. And who is Jesus? The Word of God! Come on Gene! See the bigger picture, enjoy the Lord as He has chosen to reveal Himself. Commune with Jesus as the Word. Get to know Him in scripture. Worship God as He would be worshipped. And trust the Book. Yes, the Book, with words and sentences and participles and propositions. With laws and commands and demands. Trust the Book, save the world.
Friday, July 11, 2008
A Call to Spiritual Reformation. (Don Cason)
This book more of less reformed my prayer life. If the title is too wordy, think of it as 'praying with Paul', because thats exactly what this book is. Carson takes us, in his own style though the content, heart and vision of Paul's prayers as recorded in his letters. I read this in September 2006 and what i learnt from it still impacts me today. I think we all need help praying from time to time, and this is the book i'd recommend for that.
The Reason for God. (Tim Keller)
I don't do much apologetics reading, but this was excellent. I reviewed it when i first read it and i can only reiterate what i said then really. A few months on i can say that is has helped me think more clearly about the way i present the Gospel, engage with people, think about objections to faith, answer objections to faith. Also, it's as well designed as any book i've read for a while!
Desiring God/Don't Waste Your Life (John Piper)
Well obviously! I've chosen two together because i'm not sure they really work without each other. I don't think that was the way they were meant to be written, but i know a lot of people that really didn't get along with dwyl, and i think that may well be because Desiring God lays such a firm foundation for the application that appears in Don't Waste Your Life. Desiring God was the first Christian book i ever read back in spring 2005. I really think that the seeds planted by these two books are why i'm sitting in North Carolina right now, and why Bulgaria seems to be seared onto my heart.
The Mortification of Sin (John Owen)
Why does no one write like this about sin any more? I have never ever read a book that made me despair about my sin, that drove me to real self abasement before the Lord as this one. WE really need to do this. It's not without encouragement, it changed the way i looked at sin, helped me to see why it is to be hated and made me want to hate it more. We need to the Puritans, we need to read Owen. He's hard but he's so worth it. I think it's best summed up by when i asked a close friend how he was getting on with the book.
'oh man (sits down heavily) urgghh'
Pierced for our Transgression (Jeffrey, Ovey, Sach)
There were a couple of contenders for this, but since i'm an evangelical, and since it's 2008, it has to be this. Do you want to understand the controversy around penal substitution? Do you want to know why this doctrine is 'pure gold'? Do you want to know why New Word Alive exists? Do you want to understand why what Steve Chalke etc are doing and writing and believing isn't new and breathlessly exciting but rather old and deadly? Get hold of this, and soak in Biblical, bloody, glory.
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
Do these things characterize your life?
1. Are you burdened with your sin, recognizing it as an exceedingly bitter thing?
2. Do you run from your sin as you would a deadly serpent?
3. Do you recognize and flee from the insufficiency of your own righteousness in the sight of God.
4. Do you cry to the Lord Jesus to save you?
5. Do you see more worth and merit in one drop of Christ's blood to save you, than in all the sins of the world to condemn you?
6. Are you tender of sinning against Jesus?
7. Is Jesus' name, person, and undertakings more precious to you than the glory of the world?
8. Is faith in Christ precious to you (as a means to connect you to Christ)?
9. Do you savor Christ in his Word, and do you leave all the world for his sake?
10. Are you willing (with God's help) to run in harm's way for his name?
11. Are his saints precious to you?
This week Mark is in Brighton preaching at the Newfrontiers leadership conference. You can read Adrians live blogged version of his first message here. Without being there it's obviously hard to comment (but that won't stop me!) I'm suprised to hear that he worries about Newfrontiers not being missional enough. I thought that was something that we were doing well, Especially with the plan to reach all the major european capitals as well. I was encouraged and challenged by his 'five mistakes Charismatics make'. Very helpful!
Friday, July 04, 2008
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
To me, an outsider, it seems the camps can be defined by two broad brushstrokes. The liberals saying 'we must be relevant', and the Evangelicals who say 'we must be Biblical'. Now, the great shame of that of course is that there is no more relevant message than the Biblical Gospel, as man's greatest need is answered by it. Relevant here sadly seems to mean 'not very distinct from the world at all'.
So what is the church for? Does it exist to preach the Biblical Gospel as handed down from generation to generation, to comfort the weak, pray for the sick, heal the broken, feed the hungry, or does it exist as a sort of comfort shelter for our culture. A nice English thing to have. Nice buildings, nice smells, nice traditions, nice people...just not in my back yard thank you. I'm not sure it's overstating the point to say that the definition of what the Church is supposed to be is at the heart of this debate.
If the latter stance is right then there's no reason why there shouldn't be homosexual or female clergy, there's no reason for the church to pursue this 'discrimination' no reason why it should have special measures in place to say who can lead it, no reason for people who disagree with the Archbishop to make such a song and dance about it. If thats the point of the church, then it, we, should throw away everything that makes us look weird to the world in an attempt to be relevant, to be acceptable. Certainly no reason why we should make the effort to convince people to join our club.
But if the Church really does have a divine mandate to preach the Gospel to every tribe and tongue, then Jensen, Packer, etc are right. We must contend for the truth in our towns and villages, we must protest strongly when what is clearly taught by the Bible is put to one side, we must do all we can to defend the Gospel. We must keep on fulfilling, or at least, attempting to fulfill the Great Commission. We simply have to. Who will hear unless we tell them?
I hope the Anglican Communion doesn't split any more than it already has. I hope it recovers the 39 Articles, recovers Evangelicalism and continues to call all people to believe on Jesus and repent. That said, if we get to the point of no return, if there really is no home for Evangelicals in the Church of England, i fear this issue is serious enough to split over. Because i fear the nature of what the church is is at stake.
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
What does it look like to live like Acts 20:24 is true?
It could look like being on an island in the middle of the Ecuador amazon, and for reasons still not fully understood sixty years later, the native Americans you're trying to reach come at you with spears, and instead of shooting, you...well i don't know what you'd do. Run? Pray? Try and defend your friends? Make for the plane? But it means that despite having the firepower the defend yourself, and see your wife and kids again, you die, because the advance of the Gospel would be harmed if you fought back.
Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Roger Youderian, Ed McCully and Pete Fleming had guns. This only struck me recently. They really really could've fought back. I'm not going to lie, if that was me, i'd be reaching for my holster and shooting, and shooting to kill. But they didn't, because they really really considered the Gospel more important than their lives.