Thursday, February 28, 2008
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Aren't they beautiful? Don't they explain a heart thrilling truth? Especially in the light of yesterdays reports that prozac is no more effective in some cases then a placebo. What have they got to do with each other? Well, despite, perhaps because of, the advancement in science and technology and medicine, most of us still feel like there's something missing. That we need something alien to fulfill ourselves. Which i guess is why people take prozac. Michael Ramsden tells the story of an investigation that finds that most people feel like at one point in time they were happy, and now they're not. That we've lost something that needs to be regained at any cost. Goodness knows how many dollars spent on research and we get to the end of Genesis 3.
But what's any of this got to do with Isaiah 53? Well, where does the need for medicine come from? it must and can only be from the fall. Not that medicine is evil or anything like that, but simply that people are ill because people are fallen. People are ill because people don't have a perfect, unbroken relationship with God. No one living does. I'm not saying that people sin so God makes them ill, but that sickness is a result of the Fall. Did Adam and Eve ever need prozac? Exactly.
God has dealt with this problem.
He has sent Christ to bear our grief, to carry our sorrow, to be wounded for us, crushed for us, chastised for us. Jesus has died to demonstrate the righteousness of God, and so that we might know God. He restores what is lost. He gives us hope of a future without mental or physical illness. And He does this by punishing His Son for our sin. So to deny this doctrine, to cast scorn on this life giving truth is not only supremely silly, it also robs people of hope.
Theology, proper theology, is not limited to the ivory towered academy in it's effect. It changes people's lives. It's not about pens and paper, it's about people's lives, its about pastoring the broken in our churches. Penal substitution gives us that hope. It gives us the ability to look at objective historical events and say to the sick and suffering: there is hope, there is life, you will have joy. God is righteous but He has made a way for us.
Two great truths. Here then is a doctrine worth preaching, writing about and defending. Because here is a doctrine that imparts life and hope.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
But what we want to do in UCCF is train people to do mission work to our dying culture! I want to immerse them in the Bible AND in pioneering missionary work, mentoring and frontier mission on Britain’s campuses. I do not want to have a “theological upper hand” card played at me to trump that so someone who could be an effective campus missionary can move chairs, when I’m quite sure that taking up of secular work for a year of training on Relay will not be wasted, whatever they go on to do.
Applications for Relay 08/09 close at the end of this week
Monday, February 25, 2008
We are told early on that Josiah 'did what was right in the eyes of the Lord' and after just eight years on the throne, even though he was just a boy, he started to seek the Lord. Four years later he would begin to purge Judah and Jerusalem from all the high places, all the arena's of false worship. It's easy to picture him going on a national tour of righteous destruction as he tries to restore true religion to Judah. And then, i gets better for him...he finds the book of the law, hidden away in the temple, we can only presume under a pile of money that was being taken out, or hidden in a corner somewhere. Quite how you lose something as important (and big and heavy!) as the law probably shows on its own what sort of a state Israel was in.
Josiah's reaction to the law is telling. he reads it and realises what sort of a huge mess his country is in. He tears his clothes and his eager to see if there is anything that can be done, anything that can save his country from the curses that he reads about in Deuteronomy. And there isn't. Huldah the prophetess tells him that covenant faithlessness has gone too far, that people have sinned too much, the evil is too great. Judah is doomed. Josiah, however, will not see this horror. It's here that we really learn something of the man himself. Instead of sitting back and enjoying his reign, safe in the knowledge that he won't suffer for the sins of Israel, he gathers all the people of Jerusalem and Benjamin together, reads the law to them, and makes a covenant with them, with God. This must have been a moving day for the faithful remnant in Israel.
So what are we to make of the story as we leave it at the end of chapter 34? Josiah isn't the King promised to David, the King whose reforms will eventually mean death and Hades themselves being thrown into the lake of fire. And he meets an unnecessarily sticky end fighting a battle that isn't his in chapter 35 anyway...so what are we to do with it all?
I love this chapter, because it speaks so clearly of how important the Bible is. It's the Bible that shows us in relief how much trouble we are in, as individuals, as a culture, and as a nation. Josiah learnt this from the Word, and what was his response? No philosophising, no trying to get out of it, certainly no trying to interpret what he's read in view of the times. But exactly the other way round, the right way round. This leads him to humbling repentance. And God is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, far more keen to relent from the disaster that's coming, if only for a time, than Josiah ever was to ask Him for mercy.
There is nothing more urgent at the moment than for a return to God's Word. Being read, preached, obeyed, submitted to. From Christian leaders to members of the church, it's the Bible that is our main weapon. England in 2007 seems a lot like, in many ways, Judah just before the exile. So this story gives us hope. Hope that all is not lost, that God will answer the humble and repentant. Hope that the Word will do the work if we are brave enough and humble enough to let it. Hope that, although, as then, the end if surely coming, we can work here for good before it does.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Mission week: Realising the Gospel is the best news ever. Seriously. It's so good we almost daren't believe it. I want to stand with Edwards who said 'if anyone ever disproves this Gospel, he should sit and weep, because all hope is gone.
Church: Jonah 4. The grace of God towards Gentiles, the grace of God towards Jonah. Jonah does not come off well in this book...which only serves to paint a bigger picture of God's glory being in His grace.
Family: great to spend the day with my Dad and Grandad yesterday going to football. Even better because we won, but apart from that it's just a great thing to have three generations together for a day.
Facebook: Groups like this reminding me that people still hate/are scared of the Gospel. Shows we're doing something right though. We must preach on.
John: One day i will love the Son with the love that the Father has for Him. Pure, undefiled, white hot love that will never fade, only grow.
Rachel: here in five days!
Saturday, February 23, 2008
In the evening Michael spoke on the topic of meaning, which, as you can imagine was very compelling and thought provoking. The blue rooms were packed, with even the rival attraction of the Students Union results in Mojos not pulling many away. It was a great way to end the week, and dozens of people have shown an interest in the follow up Christianity Explored course, which runs on Monday and Thursday until the end of term.
Please pray for:
Follow up, that me and Jamie would run it faithfully, and that people would come
For the CU to continue what they've started
For people who heard the Gospel for the first time not to forget it
And for CU members to continue to be brave in friendship evangelism even after the end of mission week.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
This evening Michael Ramsden, who finally appears to be shaking off pnuemonia and bronchitis spoke on the topic of 'is the cross bloodthirsty' taking us through violence, and justice, and what it means for God to be just. I had a really good conversation with Rachel, a non Christian who works for RSSL on campus. Numbers were really good as well. So it's been an encouraging day.
Please pray for:
Rachel, that she'd come to know God as revelaed through Jesus
Hearts of damp soil to recieve what was spoken about tonight
Strength and grace for the CU and the team, as we come to the last day
People to be saved, people to sign up for follow up, people to come to the events tomorrow.
And praise God that the Gospel is true!
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Todays lunchbar was on the topic of 'Is Christianity western?' and given by Sanju, a CU guest from Bangalore. We managed to get a room much bigger than the one we'd originally been given at late notice which was really good. We had about 50 people there, and probably twenty guests, most of whom were internationals. And i had my first conversation of the week with a non Christian, Luke, who used to go to church until he got into Physics. Why does no one ever lose their faith when they start studying history? Those people i could i help! But we had a good chat, and he came back to the evening event, which was really encouraging.
After lunch Andy, Dan and i took the question board' (a sheet of perspex with the evenings question on it) out onto campus to get people's opinions, hand out flyers and talk to people. This went really well, even though it was wednesday afternoon so most people were playing sport, we still had some interesting responses and good conversations.
I can't say much about the evening talk. Michael was speaking on 'can a loving God judge us', and during the talk about half a dozen of us went outside to pray for what was going on inside. But there did look to be maybe 25-30 guests there, which is very cool. Things are on the up!
Please pray for:
Tomorrows events, the evening talk is called something like 'how can a righteous God kill His Son'
For good rest for all the CU guests
For Michaels good health
For all the non Christians who have heard the Gospel today, especially the internationals at the lunchbar and Luke.
For even more guests tomorrow
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
'well...i think Reading students are very apathetic, but the CU's working hard'
And there you have it i guess...two CUGs putting the world to rights walking home through the freezing night air. Mission week is hard here this year. I don't know if it's because i used to be so involved here and now i'm not but students just seem less engaged with life than before. I think thats probably the case. It's easy for us and the CU to be wondering whether we've missed something huge, but i really don't think we have. I just think we're living in a pre exile Judah environment where all we can do is preach and pray. But thats ok.
That said today's lunchbar with former SAS man turned Christian Mark was a great success, to the extent that Christianshad to leave the room to make room for all the non Christians who wanted to come. So we sat outside and prayd, which was pretty cool. Tonight Michael Ramsden was speaking on the suject of exclusivity, to an audience of about 50-60 with about 15 non Christians, whilst a varity of events were taking place in halls. Hopefully we'll see more fruit from that.
Please pray for:
Michaels health and good rest
the CU to remain steadfast and faithful in the face of a wall of apathy
Jake to come to tomorrow evenings event as he promised
The salsa dance workshop tomorrow afternoon
CU members to be brave in inviting their friends
People to be saved!
Monday, February 18, 2008
Here at Bridges ahll we've just had a successful pancake evening with perhaps 10 non Christian guests and lots of very good conversations. I gave my testimony, and spoke without notes for the first time which is not something i'll be in a hurry to repeat! It seemed to go well though.
Please pray for:
Jake, a non Christian with plenty of good questions
Me, Lara, Josh and Toby, the CUGs in Bridges
Students to be involved and encouraged with whats going on.
For the events tomorrow, an ex SAS soldier giving his testimony, and Michael speaking on 'how can there be only one way to God'
Sunday, February 17, 2008
1) Today is Rachel and mine's six month aniverary. As someone helpfully pointed out, there's not been much actual going out in that time, but never mind! I'm thankful to God for giving me a woman with a heart after Him, a heart for mission and the church, and who's more excited about systematic theology than celebrity gossip.
2) Bumping into Tom Price in Mondial on friday afternoon. 'This is how they drink it in europe'
3) Seeing ice on my windscreen from inside my car on several mornings this week. Ice from the underneath is surprisingly beautiful.
4) Carl Truman on the Reformation from theologynetwork.org. Clear, easy to understand, grounded, Christ exalting history. It makes my ears happy!
5) Steve Nicols on the Reformation. 'How a Monk and a mallet changed the world'. Learning about Zwingli and reflecting that anyone who starts a theological revolution by holding a sausage supper is clearly worth getting to know.
6) Standing between Tim and Nick in church this morning, being inspired and thrilled by their passion.
7) Off in a couple of hours to the RUCU mission launch... I'm very excited...
Saturday, February 16, 2008
Today i was in chapter 12, a vision of the devils persecution of the church. I've been reflecting all day more or less on 2 Timothy 3:12, which seems to be a promise more than a warning, and this chapter doesn't shy away from the rage of the heaven dismissed devil chasing the church with it's destruction in mind. This is real, this happens today. The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he doesn't exist. He prowls around us like a hungry lion, looking for someone to devour...how will we resist? Revelation 12:11 gives us three ways:
1) They overcame by the blood of the Lamb.
On account of Jesus blood shed for her on the cross, the church will overcome. What are we to do when the devils comes to us with what we did and thought and said yesterday? When he tries to convince us that our sin means we cannot possibly live in relationship with God, what will we do? The problem with those accusations are that they are true. The devil doesn't need to make up my sins, they're right before me. We remember the blood of the lamb. Because Christ died on the cross there is now no condemnation. There is no more punishment due for my sins. Nothing left to pay, it's all been done at the cross. What a glorious truth, and a mighty weapon in the battle against the devil.
2) By the word of their testimony.
Probably not just 'how i became a Christian' but certainly not less than that. Keep preaching the Gospel, to yourself, to Christians and non Christians. Keep it on your lips and it will warm your heart. Keep speaking, believing and obeying the Gospel all the time. The quiet Christian is the troubled Christian.
3) By not loving their own lives even unto death.
How were they able to do that? How can we? By remembering that death is gain. It's hard to defeat an enemy finally when killing them means they win. It's hard to lose a fight when being killed in action means ultimate victory. These truths stir my heart like few other. They make me want to go to eastern Europe, or the subcontinent and spend my life traipsing from village to village with the Gospel and nothing else. And yet, it can be hard. The devil will convince us, by degree, that staying alive and being comfortable really is preferable to living a life of radical Christ like obediance. A new car or giving to the church building fund? A holiday abroad or supporting a missionary? Larger savings or contributing to the translation of the Bible? If our lives are caught up in the here and now, we will struggle to not love them even to the point of death. If we hold all we have cheap, including our own lives, the devils pursuit of us will lose it's vigour and efficiacy.
In Christ is the victory, we just walk on the road of emulation and obediance. But walk we must.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Go tell him!
In the end, the view of Christianity that Rob Bell communicates in Nooma is just too lifeless, too colourless, too anaemic, and sadly in some cases... just wrong. Any message that claims to be Christian and yet comes out with ' My understanding of Jesus’ message is that he teaches us to live in the reality of God now—here and today. It’s almost as if Jesus just keeps saying, ‘Change your life. Live this way'. Not only misses the point to such a large degree as almost to be off the scale, but also runs the risk of misleading both Christians and non believers alike...
The lack of emphasis on the cross is obviously troubling as well. But understandable. If you don't look at the cross long enough, and in the sweep of the whole Bible, you miss the glory, you miss the gutsy, full blooded hope that it gives to sinners, all you see is something that just doesn't fit into an 'emergent' model. All you see is a demonstration of something rather than anything objective. You end up thinking that Caesar killed Jesus. As Gilbert says 'That’s the real tragedy of Bell’s approach to the cross. He’s not willing to stare at it long enough to see its glory. The wrath inherent to it is so distasteful to him, so off-putting to the audience he’s speaking to, that he ends up, sadly, without the resources to tell his listeners about the most profound and most beautiful love in the universe.'
***Update: Carson on Rob Bell***
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
'Using anger and judgement as a starting point in evangelism, is without good reason, unbiblical and insensitive'
of a quote by John Piper from the book 'the Supremacy of Christ in a postmodern world' based on messages from that conference. So is he right? As i think about Reading's mission week next week, it's good to spend some time thinking about the Gospel and how to inject it into todays universities.
So when i'm flyering outside the library next week, will my starting point be God's (perfectly just) anger and judgement and incoming unstoppable wrath? Well, no to be honest probably not. I love flyering, i like the window of oppotunity it gives me into other people's lives, the chance to be a bit cheeky to some of them, and of course, the thought that by passing them a bit of paper their eternity might be about to change is pretty exciting. So when would i go to wrath and judgement? later, but i would get there. It is very very diffcult, probably impossible to be faithful to the Biblical account of the cross without mentioned God's fury at our sin. It's impossible to talk about the Gospel, without talking about the cross, because the cross makes the announcement 'Jesus Christ is Lord' the best news there is, rather than utterly terrifying news. So talking about the fury of God about sin will, and probably should happen fairly early on in evangelism. This is not for shock value, this is because the Gospel is not a self help programme.
But enough me, what about Jesus? What about how He did evangelism? Two striking and contrasting examples i've been living with recently are the story of the woman caught in adultery in John 8: 1-11 and Jesus teaching on Moses in John 5:30-47. John 8 sees Jesus defends the woman from the wrath of the pharisees. Sure, she had sinned, but who among them hadn't? Let he without sin cast the first stone...only Jesus can cast the stone, but Jesus has mercy, Jesus shows mercy. And if the woman goes and really does 'sin no more' (which i take to mean, live a life of repentance and reliance on the grace of God alone) then this approach works. What about John 5? One of those passages that you read and think to yourself 'well goodness, no wonder Jesus got killed'. He tells His jewish listeners that neither He nor His Father will accuse anyone...but Moses, He will accuse them. Now, imagine how shocking that would have been to the legalistic jewish audience! Moses, he's our guy, we're on his team...this Jesus must be stopped. Now Jesus isn't just using it for shock value, but it sure would have been shicking.
What about Luke 18:9-14? This man (the one who cried out for mercy) went down to his house justified, rather than the other. Very scary... This man tursted in his own good works for his justification, and even thiugh he thanked God for them, Jesus calls him condenmed...not justified. So we can see, just from those three examples, that Jesus used a mixture of care, shock and judgement images in his evangelism.
But even then, i'm not sure thats the point. The Gospel is the announcement, proclamation, the warning of facts, concerning the risen Jesus that affect our present and our future. Judgement is a huge part of that message. It's about Jesus, it's not a cardon copy of Jesus. What about the other Bible writers? Paul had no problem calling people accursed in Galatia, he warned the Corinthian church that people had died for mistreating the Lord's Supper. He even rebuked Peter! Peter called false prophets and teachers 'waterless springs and mists driven by storms, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved', James warned people who did not bridle their tongue that their religion was worthless. John, of course, records the terrifying picture of the winepress in Revelation 19, and tells us that it would be better for rocks to fall on some people's heads, rather than for them to face Jesus on His throne. Now, of course, none of that is mutually exclusive with deep and rich pastoral evangelistic sensitivity, but hopefully it demonstrates that talking about wrath in discipleship or evangelism is not unbiblical. Shocking yes, unbiblical, no.
What about insensitive then? Well, we must be very, very careful when we answer people's questions. Why is there suffering could mean from 'why did my mum die last year' to 'look i just want to cause you problems with my questions' and everything in between. So we need to explore that and be sensitive. But we need not, and must not forsake the holiness of God in our evangelism, and what it means for our sins, and our eternity. If my generation has lost sight of one key doctrine, it is the holiness of God. Isaiah had to reinvent the Hebrew language to communicate God's holiness, He is called 'holy holy holy'. Never 'love love love'. God is coming to make war on sin and unrepentant sinners, He is not a frogiveness fairy in the sky. So is it insensitive? Yes, in some cases absolutley, and we must beware in those cases and be sensitive. But it is a little bit like the Hiroshima business man waking up on 6th August 1945 and saying 'my business is in trouble, my wife is sick, my kids are going crazy...don't come here and tell me about the Enola Gay'. And something much much worse is coming.
"When the author walks on the stage the play is over. God is going to invade, all right...something so beautiful to some of us and so terrible to others that none of us will have any choice left? For this time it will be God without disguise...it will be too late then to choose your side. There is no use saying you choose to lie down when it has become impossible to stand up."
- CS Lewis
Friday, February 08, 2008
There’s a whole generation of young people out there now, though, who aren’t emotionally affected by words, whose fires are only stoked when those words are accompanied by great rhythms, skilled instrumentation, and a certain well-recognizable mood that typically accompanies Christian “praise-and-worship.” And the result is that you have young people church-hopping around town, and one of the main criteria of their shopping is “the worship,” by which more often than not they mean “the music.” You have young Christians feeling discouraged because—despite the fact that they sit under faithful preaching of the word Sunday after Sunday—they say they haven’t “felt close to God” in so long. Maybe there’s something important going on there. But there’s also a good chance, I’d argue, that they just haven’t had a good endorphin rush since the last conference they attended.
Dan Phillips tells us a horror story:
and Martin Luther is just brilliant:
Thursday, February 07, 2008
If this idea ever happens, not only will i stop watching football, i'll pretend i never liked it in the first place... The worst quote surely is from Mihir 'man of the people' Bose:
Some fans may feel aggrieved, but their concerns will be outweighed in the eyes of the clubs by the financial advantages.
Monday, February 04, 2008
And this is a serious business. Luke tells us:
When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up the spoils.
"He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters
"When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, 'I will return to the house I left.' When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first."
The devil here is depicted as a strong man, someone who can look after himself and doesn't have too many worries about secutiry. His house is his domain, and he rules it without opposition. And yet, when a stronger man comes, the first man is disarmed. Suddennly his arnmour is useless to him, and he has no defence. he was been overthrown. Revolution has come to his house. This is the work that Christ has accomplished on the cross. He has disarmed the strong man, by his death and ressurection, he has overthrown the devils rule in the hearts of many, and rules there. Revolution has come.But revolution on it's own is not enough. It's not just enough to have the devil overthrown. Our previous passion for the evil one must be replaced with an ardour for our new King, for our savior, the One who has overthrown. Look at the next paragraph. The evil spirits leave the house and can not find rest. So he returns. And what does he find? Not a fortress of love for the new ruler of the house, not a well defended refuge built at the foot of calvary, but instead a house 'swpt clean and out in order'. A house no longer under the devastating rule of the devil, but not aflame with anything else. Just well swept and put in order. Like a show home.
So what happnes? The enemy returns to the house, and the state of it is worse than before. Seven times worse. There was no defence, no home was made for the new King, no preparation made for the hardships to come. On the outside the house looked ok, but it was empty and void. A sitting target.
Our love must be replaced, we must fall for and commit to Jesus wholeheartedly, and more importantly than that, we must make sure that the people that respond to the Gospel in mission week season experience not only revolution, as one king is overthrown for the real King, but also reformation, as the affection and dedication for one king is replaced by affection and dedication for the real King. This is an impossible taks, which is why 2 Corinthians 3:17-4:6 is one of my favourite and most encouraging passages of scripture. We can't make the light shine, God does. Whats our part? preaching the Gospel. Not just to the unsaved but, since the Gospel is God's appointed means of salvation and sanctification, we teach new converts too. And people who have been Christians all their lives. And ourselves. Then, when this light shines brighter than any other Christians will understand why 'don't sleep around' is not a proscription but a prescription. Not something to steal life away, but to impart life and joy. Then we will see not just converts but disciples, people ready to give their all for thier new, revolutionising, reforming, saving, mission enabling King.
I wrote last week sometime about the new book 'Fresh' by Krish Kandiah. Here are what some people have said about it:
“As fresh as its title, this is a brilliant introduction to student life, in accessible, daily bite-size chunks of Christian wisdom.
Down to earth and thoroughly realistic, its focus is 100% Biblical and its tone positive and up-beat, full of practical tips and encouragement.
Every Christian student needs to read it!”
David Jackman (Proclamation Trust)
"After years as a student followed by more in ministry to students I am now a parent of one - so, from every angle I can tell you this is a vital book for all Christians going to uni. Buy the coffee mugs and railcard if you like - but whatever you buy, get this book"
Nick Pollard (Damaris Trust)
It'll be launched in March 2008.