Monday, October 26, 2009

Oh! I love typology

Have a look at this, from Tim Keller, reproduced on Jared Wilson's blog (you should buy his book)

* Jesus is the true and better Adam, who passed the test in the garden and whose obedience is imputed to us.
* Jesus is the true and better Abel, who, though innocently slain, has blood now that cries out not for our condemnation, but for our acquittal.
* Jesus is the true and better Abraham who answered the call of God to leave all the comfortable and familiar, and go out into the void, not knowing whither he went, to create a new people of God.
* Jesus is the true and better Isaac, who was not just offered up by his Father on the mount,but was truly sacrificed for us. And when God said to Abraham, “now I know you love me, because you did not withhold your son, your only son whom you love from me, now we can look at God, taking his son up the mountain and sacrificing Him, and say,” now we know that you love us, because you did not withhold your son, your only son whom you love from us.”
* Jesus is the true and better Jacob who wrestled and took the blow of justice we deserve, so we, like Jacob, only receive the wounds of grace to wake us up and discipline us.
* Jesus is the true and better Joseph, who at the right hand of the king, forgives those who betrayed and sold Him, and uses His new power to save them.
* Jesus is the true and better Moses, who stands in the gap between the people and the Lord and who mediates a new covenant.
* Jesus is the true and better rock of Moses who was struck with the rod of God’s justice, and now gives us water in the desert.
* Jesus is the true and better Job, the truly innocent sufferer who then intercedes for and saves his stupid friends.
* Jesus is the true and better David, whose victory becomes his people’s victory though they never lifted a stone to accomplish it themselves.
* Jesus is the true and better Esther, who didn’t just risk losing an earthly palace, but lost the ultimate and heavenly one, who didn’t just risk his life, but gave his life to save his people.
* Jesus is the true and better Jonah, who was cast out into the storm so we could be brought in.
* He is the real passover lamb, innocent, perfect, helpless, slain so that the angel of death would pass over us

Now did that make your heart leap? Did it make you want to dive into the Old Testament? I hope so.

I don't know whether it's instinctive or mechanical or both, or whether staring at the glory of God for long enough should make the mechanical academics instinctive...i don't know. I'm just glad it is, and it's true.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Satisfaction through substitution

We strongly reject, therefore, every explanation of the death of Christ which does not have at it's centre 'satisfaction through substitution' indeed divine self satisfaction through divine self substitution. The cross was not a commercial bargain with the devil, let alone one which tricked and trapped him, nor an exact equivalent, a quid pro quo to satisfy a code of honour or technical point of law, nor a compulsory submission to God to some moral authority above Him from which He could not otherwise escape, nor a punishment of a meek Christ through a harsh and punitive Father, nor a procurement of salvation by a loving Christ from a mean and reluctant Father, nor an action by which the Father bypassed Christ as mediator.

Instead the righteous, loving Father humbled Himself to become in and through His only Son, flesh, sin and a curse for us, in order to redeem us without compromising His own character. The theological words 'satisfaction' and 'substitution' need to be carefully defined and safeguarded, but they can not, under any circumstances by given up. The Biblical Gospel of atonement is of God satisfying Himself by substituting Himself for us.
John Stott, The Cross Of Christ, Pp 159-160

If you've not yet read 'The Cross of Christ' run, don't walk to your nearest bookshop and grab a copy. It's clear, it's helpful, it's heart warming. It may be the most vital book you'll ever read. Increasingly as i go through it, and as i read the Bible, i think that a defective view of the atonement leads to a defective view of God, and vice versa. If Christ death was about bearing our pain, or offering a perfect confession of our sin, we've lost the holiness of God. A holy God demands satisfaction for our sin, not someone to suffer so we know how bad it is. In and through Jesus, God became just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Christ.

Secondly, it may be fed by a poor Biblical Theology, a poor understanding of how the Old Testament is a Christian book. Read Leviticus...why are those sheep being killed? So they can empathise with us? To show us the worst excess of our sin? By way of example? They are being killed, like Christ our passover lamb was, to show that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin, that God, rightly, demands a bloody sacrifice to pay for our sins. This is not a primitive, base understanding of crime and punishment, this is not an pagan idea grafted onto Christianity...this is justice, humbling, sacrificial substitutional justice, which is probably why we dislike it so much...

Monday, July 06, 2009

Trials in James

One of my least favourite Christian ideas is the teaching that says 'when you become a Christian, nothing bad will ever happen to you again.' Kind of a prosperity Gospel lite, the idea if we behave ourselves and don't sin, y'know, too badly, God will bless us and we'll have a happy life, a great family and a good job.

Aside from being hundreds of miles away from the experience of the majority of Christians in the last two thousand years who were faithful witness of the Gospel, but have suffered terribly, it also makes not only Paul, but Jesus (!) and inadequate Christian. Was Jesus faithful to God? Yes, the only man who ever truly was. Did He suffer?

Paul was obedient, trusting, faithful, passionate and active, and yet he had danger on all sides: robbers, his own people, Gentiles, in the city, in the wilderness, at sea, from false brothers and toil and hardship. He suffered many a hungry, cold, sleepless night. This 'Gospel' is self evidently untrue.

Christians do face trials, of varying degrees probably every day. So how do we deal with them? James 1:1-11 has three answers:

We count it all as joy: 2-4
These trials produce inner strength, they produce the deep faith of a mature Christian. James says trials will make people 'perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.' Trials will make us wiser and stronger, they will deepen our dependence on Christ, they will enlarge our heart towards Him. So in them we rejoice.

We pray: 5-8
Suffering through prolonged and difficult times requires help, requires an extra dose of wisdom from God. How do we get that wisdom? Ask for it! God is good and generous. Christ loves His bride and will give her wisdom without fail, without grumbling, and without measure. Do you trust God? Then act like it and ask Him for wisdom without doubt. And He will give it to you, and you will persevere.

We focus on Christ: 9-11
This section might seem a bit random when we first read it. If James is 'the Proverbs of the New Testament,' perhaps we might wish he'd arranged his thoughts a bit clearer instead of going of on a financial tangent when he should be talking about trials. Unless, dealing with money is one of the greatest trials Christians face. Whether we are rich or poor, James has an answer for us. Focus on Christ. If you're poor, exalt, because your life doesn't equal stuff, because you have all you need in Christ, and because one day you will feast with Him, face to face. And if you're rich? Be humble, focus on Christ and remember that nothing you have now will make a difference the moment you die, remember that your pursuits can kill you, and that all you have is passing away. Poor man, rich man, focus on Jesus, who is all we need, and never fades away.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The humility to read

'The Disappearance of God' by Albert Mohler Jr recently came through my door from Monergism Books. Both cheaper and faster than amazon to the US mainland, but anyway. With it came a rather lovely looking pamphlet: 'A reader's guide to the Christian life' filled with ideas about what to read and why to read it. As well as that was a brief, unattributed article: 'The humility to read' which went like this:

I am one person in one place at one time. My experiences and perceptions are limited and coloured by the environment in which i live. Therefore, it would be profoundly arrogant of me to think that i can best grow in the knowledge of God through scripture by myself.

Certainly the Holy Spirit is graciously given to God's children to enable us to comprehend and be conformed to the truths of the Bible. Nevertheless, one of the primary means of grace God uses in the process of our transformation is the universal-historical community of believers. Within that community, God graciously provides leaders of few and leaders of many to equip the saints for the work of ministry.

It is a humbling thing for me to read a book. Most books take at least several hours of combined time to process and i have to forsake other distractions in order to focus and benefit from what i am reading. Most of all, i can't talk back. I am just forced to listen, patiently follow and receive, to think another mans thoughts after him.

One of the new desires placed into the heart of a believer is to think God's thoughts after Him. Let's pursue humility by receiving the thoughts of those who have led us and spoken the word of God to us in the most enduring of all earthly mediums: the book.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Love the Church

I don't know what your plans are for June 20th, but if you're anywhere near Reading, and not on your honeymoon, please cancal them and go to this instead. It'll be stellar.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Blogging every day in June: and other things i haven't done

There's two things you immediately notice when you walk into my dad's office. On one wall he must have about thirty or forty fishing rods, dating back to about his teenage years...i don't think he's ever thrown one away. On another wall there is shelf after shelf of A 4 diary books. These are his fishing diaries. One of the earliest memories i have is of my dad on a sunday night writing up his weeks fishing from his notebook to his diary. If you want to know where he was and what he caught on March 18th 1983, he'll be able to tell you without much trouble. Thats cool to me.

Inspired by this i thought i'd try to write at least something every day in the month before i got married. Since, in some ways at least, having something online is safer than having it on paper (harder to lose) it seemed like a great idea. Except then...well it didn't happen did it! But thats ok. Sometimes you've got it, sometimes you don't. But on the Sunday before i get married on Friday, two days before the arrival of as many English people to set foot in North Carolina since it was, well, English, it seemed good to at least record something. Maybe i'll be bitten by the bug this week. Maybe my list of to dos is already growing the other side of town at wedding HQ.

Am i excited? Yes. Will i be more excited when Canon in D starts and i know Rachel's making her way down the aisle behind me? Goodness me, but a million times yes. I'm getting butterflies just thinking about it. Am i stressed about everything thats got to happen between now and then? A little bit. But not really.

A couple of unconnected things. Losing to Holland in the T20 World Cup is about as irrelevant to this summer's cricket as it can get. There's one main event in 2009, The Ashes are the only thing that matter. This whole summer so far has been ridiculous. If beating the West Indies was like training for a marathon by walking the dog, this is like training for a marathon by carrying a heavy tray of drinks up a flight of stairs. There's too much cricket. If Twenty20 is the way forward then we ought to get rid of the 50 over game completely. Play more Twenty20 to fill the gap if you want, double headers, four games in five days, whatever. In Major League Baseball each of the thirty teams play 140 (!) regular season games and no one complains. The four and five day version of the game is more important, but i can't see Twenty20 going away.

I've been reading 'Sealed with an oath' the NSBT on covenant. It's real good. It starts off talking about why there was no covenant with Adam (because creation supersedes covenant, because covenant serves God's creative purpose of international blessing rather than the other way around) and then goes on to talk about the covenants with Noah, Abraham, Israel and David before two chapters on the New Covenant. It's really helping me to read the Bible as one book, and anything that does that is worth the admission...

Monday, June 01, 2009

It's summer

My Facebook newsfeed is clogged with pictures of the Jazz Club in Reading. Sweaty undergrads and Graduands with mouths open and fingers pointing. It's not a pretty sight, but it makes me happy. But it does mean one serious thing. Summer is here. Summer, rolling meadows, endless days filled with idle distractions, getting a summer job, getting a real job, finding your tent for Forum. Summer is a wonderful time. There is nowhere better than the Chiltern Hills in June and July. I can't wait to show my wife.

Summer is dangerous though, and so without much apology, and only some editing, here's something i wrote just over two years ago... don't waste your summer, use it for Jesus:

John Piper writes this about summer:

Don’t let summer make your soul shrivel. God made summer as a foretaste of heaven, not a substitute. If the mailman brings you a love letter from your fiancĂ©, don’t fall in love with the mailman. That’s what summer is: God’s messenger with a sun-soaked, tree-green, flower-blooming, lake-glistening letter of love to show us what he is planning for us in the age to come—“things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered into the heart of man, God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). Don’t fall in love with the video preview, and find yourself unable to love the coming reality.

What can we do this summer to set our minds, and keep our minds on the things above?

Keep reading the Bible.
I know this sounds like an obvious point, but once there is little work to be done, there is little routine to be kept to...and i need routine to keep me reading the Bible. last year my Graduand period (the bit in between finishing your finals and getting to wear a mortarboard) passed in a haze of barbeques, football and bucky 'o hare. And none of that is bad in itself, we need refreshing after working hard, but to seek refreshment away from the Bible, away from Christ is only to turn your back on what will refresh you. Sit in the sun, read slowly, read lots, read Galatians over and over again. Enjoy the birdsong, enjoy the Word.

Read good books.
I don't think i'm ever going to have as much time on my hands as i did last summer. What a great opportunity to read and read well. Reading Christian books must never become a substitute for reading the Bible, and it must never start to become a dry intellectual fact collecting exercise. But good books can make you long for more of Christ in your life, drive you back to the Bible to bathe in things you hadn't noticed before. Good books can strengthen your faith and your love for the Lord. Take time to read them and think about them and apply them.

Make the most of time with your friends.
especially if you're graduating, and all being flung across the four corners of the country. Spend time with people, enjoy time with people, sit in a beer garden, lie on the grass outside mojos. enjoy the fellowship of your Christian mates, but seek out and don't waste time with your non Christian mates. Use this time to explode for Christ in your house or hall. Use this time to be braver than you've been before. Use this time to live with your non Christian friends to demonstrate that Christ is the greatest, best and most fulfilling reality there is. Pray for them lots.

Prepare for whats next.
Leaving uni is really hard. Going back home for a long time is really hard. Starting a job, even one that you love is really hard. So get ready for it. Pray into it. Think about how you're going to work for Christ next year, or study even better for Christ next year, and delight in Christ with your family. Don't waste time wishing you were back at uni, enjoy the time you've got the prepare for what's happening next...doing the other things in this list should help a bit.

It's terribly easy to waste summer. When the sun comes out i really struggle to remember the eternal battle we're all in, to keep my eyes focused on Heaven and not on the earthly pleasures summer brings us. Use free time wisely for Christ...don't waste your summer.

Friday, May 29, 2009

There are a few reasons i'm not on twitter

I don't really understand how it works, it's impossible to sound like a man whilst saying 'i tweeted that' and i'd be forever writing things like 'Ed is at________ for dinner. Glad he ate first.' It's just too much bother. I am in a bit of a minority though so here's some excellent stuff on Christians using twitter:

Gethin Jones

Josh Harris (this reminds me of something that Craig Mackay said to be once: 'we're all lead worshippers.' very, very wise)
John Piper

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Ruth 3-4: A step too far?

I've been following this discussion with interest. How Jesus is revealed in the Old Testament, the contents of the Luke 24 Bible study is surely one of the most, if not the most important question when it comes to reading the Old Testament Christianly. I've been thinking about this as i've been preaching through Ruth in Teen Church. Here are some thoughts on Ruth 3-4, is it a step too far?

First, I love the book of Ruth. Don't you? It's mixture of the obvious and the subtle, the tragic and the magnificent, the love the flows through it, the grace which drenches it. The fact it's so obviously the Gospel.

Chapter 3 is a great example of all of these things. It looks awful on a first reading: 'Ruth, make yourself look beautiful and go creep up on Boaz in the middle of the night when his heart is merry and no one can see you. But it's beautiful. Spread your wings over me, says Ruth, basically i want you to ask me to marry you. I want you to do for me what God does for Israel, spread your wings over me. Protect me, provide for me, lead me and guide me. Ruth comes to Boaz for redemption with nothing, just like we come to Jesus with nothing.

There are problems for Ruth and Boaz, just like there are problems for us and Jesus. Boaz wants to marry Ruth because he loves her, not because he's legally bound to. He's only a redeemer in the loosest sense of the word, redeemers were brothers of a dead husband, Boaz was an uncle or a cousin at best. He has no legal need to marry her. He wants to marry her because he loves her. This other 'redeemer' might not. That's their problem. Our problem is different, but it's still a problem. Our sin is what separates us from Jesus. Your sin, my sin, our rebellion stops us from being in relationship with the Father through the Son. That needs an answer, just like Boaz and Ruth need an answer.

Jesus is our glorious Boaz. Jesus and Boaz deal with these problems. Jesus dies on the cross, Boaz gets the other redeemer out of the way. Because Jesus loves us, because Boaz loved Ruth. not because they had to.

And then what? A marriage! Revelation 21:1-5 sees the holy city descend from God like a bride prepared for her husband. Jesus has dealt with every problem to prepare us for the Wedding of weddings. Boaz has dealt with every problem to prepare Ruth for their wedding. How Ruth must've loved and trusted in Boaz, and wanted to give her life to him, what else then can we do, but give our life, in faith, trust and joy, to Jesus.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The fall of Rome

Shaeffer's very excellent book 'how should we then live?' traces the development and decline of western thought from the Roman Empire to now. It's great, instructive, helpful and not always encouraging. Towards the end he quotes from Edward Gibbon's decline and fall of the Roman Empire, about the five steps that marked the end of the empire.

1) An increasing love of show and luxury.

2) A widening gap between the very rich and very poor, either in the individual sense or from country to country.

3) An obsession with sex.

4) A freakishness in the arts masquerading as originality and enthusiasms pretending to be creativity.

5) An increasing desire to live off the state.

Given Gibbons wrote this book between 1776 and 1788 and Shaeffer wrote his book in 1976, it could be viewed as an incredible piece of prophecy of what happens when God is left out of the equation...

Friday, May 22, 2009

Narrow, Schismatic and Conservative

Richard Cunningham's talk at Word Alive 07 ranks as one of my highlights as a Relay Worker. He was so confident in the Gospel, so sure that the decision to break with Spring Harvest was right, and so keen to make sure we knew why. It was excellent.

New Word Alive and UCCF were accused of all sorts of things during the weeks and months that followed, one of which was that we were being too 'narrow, schismatic and conservative.' Concerns Richard answers wonderfully:

It’s only as narrow theologically as the gospel demands, but as culturally broad and generous as the gospel permits.

You can watch the whole video interview here

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Three more blogs

I've often considered Reading the centre of the student i can present your with further proof:

Josh John
has just finished his second year at Reading. He's a top boy, and probably the only person to ever turn up to a Reading Family Church prayer meeting with a can of lager.

Josh Betts is RUCU events co-ordinator. We spent a great few weeks at the end of last year studying Galatians together. He once died his hair pink to raise money for a missions trip to India

Tim Hilton is probably ten or fifteen times cleverer than i am. He's studying for a degree in robotics and can juggle five balls at once. He also might be my great-great grandson, but i'm not 100% about that.

***update: it occurred to me this morning that i should have called this 'I like Reading blogs' but never mind.***

Psalm 38

I wonder how close you feel to God today. Whether you're on the mountain top or i the valley. Whether you had a really good quiet time and drove to lunch in the sunshine listening to Christian music, or whether you're fresh out of an argument, haven't read the Bible in days and keep tripping over the same sin habit.

I think judging our 'closeness' to God in the way we feel is probably one of the Devil's best weapons. Our feelings betray us and let us down. They rob us of joy in life, courage in prayer and passion in worship. Never mind robbing us of courage in prayer, they probably stop us praying all together. How...HOW can i speak to God, how can i approach God after what i've just said, what i've just done. I said it would never happen again, and it did. How can He want to hear from me now?

We can approach with confidence by Christ's blood, our righteousness is sat at the Father's right hand never to be does that minimise our sin, does that mean that when we pray we can gloss over it? Not according to Psalm 38.

David is searingly honest in this Psalm. He feels like arrows have sunk into him, like the very hand of God Himself is upon him in wrath. His flesh has no soundness, his burden is too heavy, his wounds sink and fester, he is bowed down, he's filled with burning, he is feeble and crushed. Why? Verse 3 tells us...David tells us it was because of his sin. Because of David's sin he felt like this. Maybe this was when he was on the run from Absalom, maybe shortly after he'd sinned with Bathsheba, but whatever it was, he knew why he felt this way. His sin. That might have been the end of the matter, no one can pray when they feel like that can they? How can God listen to David when he has sinned and felt like this about it? Why does David even think he could?

Verse 9 reminds us that God knows anyway, 'all my longing is before you, my sighing is not hidden from you,' and it probably wasn't a surprise to Him in the first place? So why does David pray? He knows that the Lord will answer, He knows that as he waits, God will answer him. He knows that his only hope, God's grace is his only hope. His hope is not found in glossing over his sin, it's found in waiting a while and hoping that God will cool off before he goes to Him in prayer. He knows his prayers depends on God's never ending steadfast love, they rely on God's grace. Not on hiding away, not on waiting, but on God. God who never changes.

David repents and asks for help against his foes. This time human foes who sought after him because of his sin, these friends who had left him and let him down. But he remembers one thing. He remembers God. He remembers God's steadfast love, he remembers that the law speaks of God's grace, he remembers that as vile as his sin is, God's substitutionary love is greater, deeper. He remembered that, in a way, he probably didn't understand, his sin would sit on his throne forever.

So how close do you feel to God today? I'm not sure it matters. What matters is the Gospel. The Gospel which tells us that your righteousness is safe in Heaven, which tells us that yes, our sin is awful, but yes God's steadfast love can be relied upon. It's great to know that we can come to God with our hands up and say 'yes God, my sin is awful, but i run to you because i know you are my only hope.' How close are we to God? Through Jesus, as close as opening our mouths and speaking.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Researching wedding music

I don't think this version of Canon in D will make the final cut!

Ruth 4:18-22 (or, my favourite genealogy)

I get the feeling that i'll end up coming back to Ruth again and again. I'm currently working through it for Wednesday night teen church, and loving it once more. I guess one of the reasons it works so well is that ion the face of it the book looks like a simple provincial love story, woman meets man, man likes woman, man and woman get married. But underneath that, there's so much more going on.

Mark Driscoll says there are small h heroes in the Bible, who all point to the big H Hero of the Bible, Jesus. Boaz is one of these small h heroes, who redeems Ruth, provides for her and protects her, and is on that level a pretty clear picture of Jesus work for us. But if Ruth and Boaz are the main characters, why do we end with Naomi and Obed? Why do we end with David?

My answers based around an assumption, but i think it's a fair assumption. I think Samuel wrote Judges, Ruth and at least some of the books actually named after him. I think Judges is his pamphlet against human kings, his continual illustration that human leaders do not work, and that for any hope we need to turn to God. I also think he would have known, from reading the Pentateuch that one day Israel would have a human King. I also think he knew that the scepter of this King would not depart from Judah. The King would have to come from the line of Judah.

So all those assumptions being made, Ruth becomes 'this is where Kings come from.' It was written to show disbelieving, humanistic Israel who their King should be. Not Saul the Benjaminite, but David, from Judah.

That's why this genealogy isn't just a weird footnote, it's the point of the whole book! Where do Kings come from Israel? They come from Judah, they're called David, they're chosen by God. Ruth would have shown the original readers the importance of choosing God's King, not any old king. It would have shown them the humble and difficult background of their great shepherd king. And for us? This genealogy takes Ruth from the provincial, rural back waters and puts her at the centre of the universe. It shows that in the darkest of times God is at work to do greater things than we can possibly imagine, not just by providing Ruth (and Naomi) a son, but by continuing His line, His seed, quietly, simply, eternally.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Shaeffer: The Lord's work in the Lord's way

Yesterday marked 25 years of Crossway. Lane T.Dennis, President of Crossway posted this excellent article reflecting on the last twenty five years, and a link to this, 'The Lord's work in the Lord's way' an article by Francis Shaeffer, which has driven the philosophy of Crossway for the last twenty five years...

A storm is coming (1 Chronicles 1-9)

It looms over you like a dark storm the days leading up to it you feel like you're driving towards a city that you can tell is being battered by some seriously bad weather. In short, you just don't want ot go there. But then, when you get there, it's not like you can leave right away. You might be there for days, even a week, depending on your reading plan. I'm talking, of course, about the first eight chapters of 1 Chronicles.

All those names...pages after pages of lists. I thought the Bible was supposed to me about me? This isn't going to give me any practical tips for dealing with my life today...what's it doing here? Bish has been writing about genealogies, and since i'm reading 1 Chronicles at the moment, i thought i'd explore what the opening chapters are doing there.

Chronicles covers about the time from the beginning of 2 Samuel to the exile, but it was written much later than that. Probably after the exiles returned to Judah. Imagine being there then. Your father told you stories that he had heard. Stories of a great king, a great Kingdom, great battles against your enemies...and a glorious temple. You heard about the time when it really did seem like this little provincial town was at the centre of what God was doing everywhere.

But now... how can it be? You've been wiped out by your enemies. The northern tribes have vanished, and no matter what Nehemiah and Ezra say, you know there's little point in even trying to rebuild the temple. Except, there is something. Ezra's written a history book, a wisdom book. It begins wonderfully. Ezra links this small province in Persia all the way back to Adam, all the way through Abraham and his sons through to...well us. There aren't many more exciting things in all of Judah right now than that list.

So maybe this genealogy, far from being dull and skipable, tells us something marvellous about God's plan and purposes being worked out. About the scepter truly never departing from Judah. 1 Chronicles 1-9 exist to show God's people that they have legitimacy and identity as God's people, despite what their eyes and recent experiences tell them. They can still have faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Get the sword, get the trowel. Build and pray.

Genealogies are part of God's word and they do exist with a purpose, we just need to read the Word for what it is, and trust and enjoy that purpose.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

John Piper at the Basics Conference

John Piper's first two messages from the Basic's Conference are now online thanks to the tireless and speedy efforts of the DG team:

We are workers with you for your Joy
Preaching Justification Undiminished

Also, if you're super keen you can follow along with Piper's current sermon (and subsequent movements no doubt) 'Preaching Regeneration Undiminshed' on Twitter.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Why Jonny Can't Preach: A review

'Why Johnny Can't Preach' comes in at a diminutive and readable 108 pages. It's helpful without being heavy, and Gordon writes so well that the pages more or less fly by. That, and the compelling subject matter help to make this one of the most readable books i've enjoyed this year.

The Good.

Gordon self consciously titled the book in the vein of 'why johnny can't read,' and 'why johnny can't write.' The author had been diagnosed with cancer shortly before sitting down to write his opus, in fact that what was compelled him to write. The five chapters deal with three major reasons why johnny can't preach (he can't read, he can't write and he can't interpret the Bible) as well as a couple of chapters on solving the problem. As you might expect from a book that comes from the pen of a dying man (he's now happily in remission) the pages come across very much as a heartfelt plea for a churchwide return to sound, solid, nourishing Biblical exposition. It was stirring and challenging. It made me want to bury my face in the text, spend more time writing, compose my speech better, and read Shakespeare's sonnets. Gordon's main point is that though Johnny can neither read or write, he can learn. He can learn to pay careful attention to texts and he can learnt to write. He can learn to preach. There were challenging and inspiring words.

The Less Good

Gordon's background is in media ecology, the study of how current trends in technology and media influence us and the way we think. This helps with many of his observations, but occasionally leads him to overstate his case, as he sees his subject through his expert lense. I'm not sure, for example, that increased use of the telephone has lead to a deterioration in the pulpit. I'm also not sure that the state of the pulpit is as bad as he makes out, but i've just been very blessed to be part of some excellent, Biblical churches in the last few years.

Overall this was an excellent read, if you want to be stirred, challenged and driven to prayer and deeper thought over your preaching, and preaching in general, buy this book!

Saturday, May 09, 2009


A while before i moved to the States, someone told me it would be hard to stand at any one point of the country and say 'ah ha, now this is America.' And he was right. How do you sum up a single country that contains the Harvard scholar and the Idaho potato farmer? The Carolina NASCAR fan and the California environmentalist? You can't. But whoever told me that didn't tell me something else thats equally true. It's hard to stand in any single state and say 'ah ha, now this is North Carolina.'

My adopted home state is a good example, split into one hundred counties and three regions of almost equal size, culture and the way of life on one side of the state are very different on the other. In the west you have the mountain region, full of, well, mountains, the middle part of the state is known as Piedmont, and contains the Triangle area, a zone containing all but one of the largest cities in the state, and about the only region left in the country where industry is still growing. Slowly the cities turn to farms, and the farms to beaches and you've reached the coastland region, where i live. Put your figure almost anywhere on a map of eastern North Carolina and you're pointing at the middle of nowhere. The eastern part of the state has it's own feel, it's own food, it's own way of life. People here still farm, hunt and fish meaningfully, men wear cowboy boots to church. Barbecue in eastern Carolina is totally different to barbecue in western Carolina, and nothing life what i grew up calling barbecue.

North Carolina is different from itself, as you might expect from a state probably only slightly smaller than a European country. And the people are different too, open, warm and funny. This was driven home to me clearly last night. It was about 1115, and my next door neighbour was standing at the top of the steps that lead to the first floor apartments enjoying the cool evening air. We've had two weeks of 80-90F days, and this week had been full of tornadoes and thunderstorms, but yesterday evening was perfect. Cool, clear and with a wonderful breeze. A great night for standing out.

I hadn't spoken to him much before but last night we chatted for ages about the weather, the economy, the state of the parking lot, his acting career. Then he mentioned, quite matter of factly, that in the past week he had suffered two awful family tragedies. We'd covered four to six weeks of British conversation in half an hour. All this presents a problem. What do you do with people that are, in effect, inoculated to the Gospel? People who know just enough to make them feel alright, but not enough to get sick on it? With people who are happy to stand and pray with you, but never darkened the door of a church building? I'm still not clear whether this ingrained respect for Church as an institution is helpful or not in the long run. Not sure at all.

As for me and my neighbor. I'll keep praying, we'll keep talking, and maybe one day soon i'll get to ring a bell of my own...

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Luther's bedtime

Isn't the end of the day sometimes the most exciting part? Phone off, doors locked...just you and a bed. I've only been up a few hours and i'm already looking forward to it! It's an odd thing going to sleep though. People who know more than i do about it have said that when we're in our deepest sleep, when our organs and brain have shut down for the night that we're pretty much as close to death as we'd want to be... When we're asleep we can't defend ourselves, can't react to warning aches and pains.

The Psalmist says 'i lay down and i slept, but i awoke, because you sustained me.' Jesus sustains us while we sleep. But isn't Jesus the infinitely holy One who we've spent our day sinning against in thought and word and deed? How can we sleep easy knowing that what we've just spent our day doing could and should invoke holy, just wrath. As always, Martin Luther as a level headed, Biblical answer...

In the evening when you go to bed, make the sign of the holy cross and say: 'in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.' The standing or kneeling repeat the creed and say the Lord's prayer. If you choose you may also say this little prayer: 'I thank you my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ your dear Son, that you have graciously kept me this day; and i pray that you would forgive me my sins where i have done wrong and graciously keep me this night. For into your hands i commend myself, my body and my soul, and all things. Let your holy angel be with me that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen. Then go to sleep at once, and in good cheer.'

If you had to sum up Luther in one sentence it could be worse than 'it's outside of you.' We are simil iustus et peccator, and Luther calls us every night to go to Him outside of us, to go to our righteousness, our substitute, our Savior, and remember that He will keep us though the night, and to sleep well, safe in the palm of His hand.

Monday, May 04, 2009

How would you describe The Gospel on Twitter?

Here's Rob Bell's effort, as reported in Christianity Today:

I would say that history is headed somewhere. The thousands of little ways in which you are tempted to believe that hope might actually be a legitimate response to the insanity of the world actually can be trusted. And the Christian story is that a tomb is empty, and a movement has actually begun that has been present in a sense all along in creation. And all those times when your cynicism was at odds with an impulse within you that said that this little thing might be about something bigger—those tiny little slivers may in fact be connected to something really, really big.

May Miscellenia

April was a quiet month on the blogging front, for whatever reason, and a month of contrasts at church. Two of our biggest Sundays, 221 on Easter and 330 on Friend Day, and two deaths in the church, one a tragic road accident. I guess you can't be around a can't be around people long before you see the wisdom, the necessity to weep with those who weep, to rejoice with those who rejoice.

This year i've also really been enjoying going through the Bible chronologically. I was a bit sceptical at first, because, after all, that's not how the Bible was written, but i really like it. I'm not sure whether reading longer chunks is more helpful in say, Leviticus than it would be in Romans, but it's definitely helped my understanding of the overall story line of the Bible, so i guess that's a pretty good endorsement. Reading 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles side by side has proved really useful as well, particularly in appreciating why Chronicles were written. Although i still think i'd put it later in the Bible, who am i to argue.

And for those who know me and are wondering. I was at Adams Park on Saturday. I left North Carolina Thursday evening and got back Sunday afternoon. I had no clear idea of what time it was most of the weekend, but to be there, to see us great promoted with my dad and close friends, to experience the joy of hearing that Bury hadn't won by two goals, that we'd promoted by a goal, and then spill onto the pitch and off, and on again was marvellous. No more awful trips to Grimsby or Macclesfield, no more Tuesday nights at Barnet...hello Charlton, hello Southampton, hello Leeds, hello League One!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Hooray for a well designed Christian book

'Just Do Something' popped through the door the other day. If i was already handing out awards it would be up there in the Best Designed category in 2009:

Saturday, April 25, 2009

CS Lewis on thinking

It might be that humanity, rebelling against tradition and authority has made a ghastly mistake, a mistake that is not rendered less fatal because the corruptions of those in authority have rendered it very excusable. On the other hand it might be that the Power that rules our species is at this moment carrying out a very daring experiment. Could it be intended that the whole mass of humanity should now move forward and occupy for themselves which were once reserved only for the sages? Is the distinction between wise and simple is starting to disappear because all are now expected to become wise? If so our present blunderings would be but growing pains. But let us make no mistake about our necessities. If we are content to go back and becoming plain and humble men obeying a tradition, well. If we are ready to climb and struggle on till we become sages ourselves, better still. But the man who will neither obey the wisdom of others or adventure for himself is fatal. A society where the many simple obey the few seers can live. A society where all were seers could live all the more. But a society where the mass is still simple and the seers are no longer attended to can only achieve superficiality, baseness, ugliness and in the end extinction. On or back we must go; to stay here is death.
CS Lewis, Miracles, P47

Is he right? Maybe. In the next chapter Lewis goes onto talk about common, but 'red herring' objections to Christianity and miracles. 1) People didn't understand enough about miracles in Biblical times to know they were miracles. BUT unless you understand the parameters of nature, you don't know what's miraculous. Unless Joseph understood the way women became pregnant, he wouldn't have been angry at Mary, unless the disciples knew that man can not walk on water they wouldn't have been scared when Jesus did. No one would be surprised if the sun rose in the west one morning unless we understood that it should rise in the east.

2) That the universe is so huge how can we claim that God is concerned with us? Men have known since ancient Egypt the size of the universe, in the Psalms it's used as fuel for praise. No Christian has ever claimed the universe existed for man, it exists for God. No Christian should ever claim that Jesus came to Earth because we were lovely, but because He is love. And if naturalism is right, it still doesn't give us an answer. Old errors don't pass away, they simply change their form.

Are those slightly lazy, ill thought out objections to Christianity and miracles evidence of what Lewis is talking about? Maybe.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Spurgeon on Paul's cry: 'bring me the books!

Justin Taylor quoted this long section from Spurgeon's sermon on 2 Timothy 4:13:

We do not know what the books were about, and we can only form some guess as to what the parchments were. Paul had a few books which were left, perhaps wrapped up in the cloak, and Timothy was to be careful to bring them. Even an apostle must read. . . . A man who comes up into the pulpit, professes to take his text on the spot, and talks any quantity of nonsense, is the idol of many. If he will speak without premeditation, or pretend to do so, and never produce what they call a dish of dead men's brains—oh! that is the preacher. How rebuked are they by the apostle!

He is inspired, and yet he wants books!

He has been preaching at least for thirty years, and yet he wants books!

He had seen the Lord, and yet he wants books!

He had had a wider experience than most men, and yet he wants books!

He had been caught up into the third heaven, and had heard things which it was unlawful for a men to utter, yet he wants books!

He had written the major part of the New Testament, and yet he wants books!

The apostle says to Timothy and so he says to every preacher, "Give thyself unto reading." The man who never reads will never be read; he who never quotes will never be quoted. He who will not use the thoughts of other men's brains, proves that he has no brains of his own.

Brethren, what is true of ministers is true of all our people. You need to read. Renounce as much as you will all light literature, but study as much as possible sound theological works, especially the Puritanic writers, and expositions of the Bible. We are quite persuaded that the very best way for you to be spending your leisure, is to be either reading or praying. You may get much instruction from books which afterwards you may use as a true weapon in your Lord and Master's service. Paul cries, "Bring the books"—join in the cry.

I'm off the sit in the eighty degree evening heat with CS Lewis

Monday, April 20, 2009

Faith and Obediance

Do you sometimes read something that makes you sit up and go hmm? See the interchange of the word believe and the word obey in John 3:36. If you believe in the Son you will have life, if you do not obey, the wrath of God remains on you. No cheap repentance and easy license here.

The Pyros have been writing about the same thing.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Mark 10:17-31 (2)

I don’t know how that makes you feel. Discouraged? Upset? Worried ? Well if that’s the case then you’re in good company. Verse 26 says ‘lo, and they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, who then can be saved.’ Jesus message is so radical that even His closest followers were struggling with it. Who can be saved if it’s this hard? If even a man who looks so good struggles, how can we have any hope? If it’s not just about being good, who can be saved? Is it possible for me to be saved? Jesus answers that question in verse 27 ‘and Jesus looking upon them sayeth ‘with men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.’ How can we be saved? With man it is impossible. With man there is no way we can do it. There is no way this young man, despite his wholehearted obedience to the commandments Jesus listed could save himself. Just no way. With man it is impossible. But not with God. Not with God. With God all things are possible, with God you can be saved, with God this man can be saved. With God you can give up what you need to give up, you can change what you need to change, you can stop going to the places you need to stop going to, you can give a reason for the hope that you have. With God this is possible. I said earlier that the one thing the man lacked was Jesus. This is what I mean. He lacked a love for Him, a heart to obey Him, an understanding that he needs Jesus to be saved, he needs Jesus to save him, not his own efforts. That’s what he needed, that’s what I need, that’s what you need.

Please don’t miss this. Being a Christian means more than being part of a family that comes to church, or going to a Christian school, or going to camp or competing in competition or being nice to your parents or dressing and acting right. That’s the same sort of thing that the young man presented to Jesus as why he should inherit eternal life. It is impossible for us to be saved because of the things we do ourselves. This is what Jesus says. But not with God. God can save us. Not because of our efforts but in spite of them. Jesus would have saved this young man in a flash if he’d wanted to be, not because he’d kept the commandments, but in spite of that fact.

Then Peter speaks. It’s always worth paying attention to what Peter says in Mark’s Gospel because you know it’s normally something pretty daft. Verse 28 says ‘then Peter began to say unto Him, ‘lo, we have left all and followed thee.’ Peter says ‘hey Jesus, look dude, we’ve given up everything, we’ve done what you said, so…what are you going to do about that?’ Peter always has an answer, and in this case it’s a good one. If anyone has given things up to follow Jesus, it’s his disciples. They’ve given up their jobs, their homes, their family, their friends…everything, to follow Jesus as He walks around Israel. Peter wants Jesus to remember than when it comes to giving things up, he’s up there with the best. So what does Jesus have to say to that? Is He grateful? Does He apologise for speaking so harshly to the young man and let Peter know what a great guy He is? Sometimes we’re like Peter, we want Jesus to remember all the great stuff we could have had, all the fun we could have taken part in if it hadn’t been for Him.

Jesus, as we might have come to expect, has a different answer, and a better one. In verses 29-31, we see this answer: and Jesus answered and said ‘verily I say unto you, there is no man that hath left house or brethren, or sister, or father or mother, or wife or children or lands for my sake and the Gospel’s but he shall receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brethren and sisters and mothers and children and lands with persecutions, and in the world to come eternal life.

What Jesus is saying here is that it is worth it to be a Christian. It is worth it to give up what you need to so that you might gain Jesus. It is worth the ridicule, worth being an outcast, worth ‘missing out’ because of what you gain. This verse is true, trust me. When I came to America I left my sister, my father, my mother, my land…most of everything that made me who I was. And now? I miss my family every day, but Jesus has given me Christian brothers and sisters, a home at this church, friends, hobbies, a job. Jesus tells us not to worry, that whatever we think we’ll lose in this life for following Him, we’ll get back much, much, much more in the next life. There will be persecutions. We will struggle and suffer sometimes, people will laugh at us, people will end friendships with us. But it will be worth it. It would have been worth it for the rich young man to sell all that he had so that he could follow Jesus. He would have got it back 100 times. The same is true for you and me. There are things we all need to give up, but it’s worth it.

Jesus says it’s impossible to do this by ourselves. It’s impossible for us to do what we need to do. But with God’s it’s possible, He has done it on the cross. Jesus saving work that we celebrate on Easter Sunday is the ground for all His teaching, and all our hope. We can’t do what we need to do to be saved, that’s why Jesus had to die, that’s why Easter is so important, that’s why our response to the cross is so important.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Mark 10:17-31 (1)

Lets look at a brief outline of the story. Jesus has just come from the famous incident where he holds children in His arms, and tells His followers that they must become childlike if they want to follow Him. Then a rich young man comes and knees before Jesus and asks ‘good master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?’ In 1 peter 3:15 we’re told to always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in you. I think it’s very interesting that this young man came and knelt before Jesus and asked Him this question. He must have seen in Jesus a different hope, a better hope. He must have seen that He was a teacher from God at least. He may not have understood fully who Jesus was, but he had caught a glimpse. When was the last time someone asked you what the reason for your hope was? Do we live differently from the non Christians around us? Do we live like we hope in something different from them?

Jesus’ answer to this young man is both instructive and condemning. He says in verses 18 and 19 ‘why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is God. Thou knowest the commandments, do not commit adultery, do not kill, no steal, do not bear false witness, defraud not, honour thy father and thy mother.’ Jesus answer seems like two different answers, but as we see this incident play out, we’ll understand why He talks as He does. Firstly; there is none good but one, that is God. This is a statement totally opposed to what most people think today. People are regarded as ‘good,’ we’re not so sure about God anymore. People are the judge, God is in the dock. Not according to Jesus. Jesus says there is no one good apart from God. Why do bad things happen to good people? Well, according to Jesus, there are no good people. We’ll come back to this.

The second part of Jesus’ answer is just as interesting. He lists the commandments in answer to the man’s question. Do not commit adultery, do not kill, no not steal. But there’s something missing from this list isn’t there? He’s missed out the commandments that concern man and God. In my experience whenever you ask someone why they deserve to go to Heaven they’ll always say ‘well I’ve never killed anyone or stolen anything, I’m not that bad.’ and that’s exactly what the young man says here in verse 20: ‘and he answered and said unto Him, Master, all these I have observed from my youth.’ He says: ‘Jesus, I’ve done all that, I’ve been doing them all my life, I have kept these commands and kept them well.’ He is, in many ways a typical unsaved member of a church. He does everything, he attends every event, he’s respectful, everyone thinks he’s a good guy…and he’s going to Hell. That’s what Jesus says. Look at verses 21 and 22 with me: ‘then Jesus beholding him, loved him and said unto him, ‘one thing thou lackest, go thy way, sell whatever thou hast and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in Heaven: and come, take up thy cross and follow me. And he was sad and that saying, and went away grieved, for he had great possessions.’

The young man thinks he’s good, good enough for Heaven. We know that Jesus says that there is none good, but God only. This man is not good enough for Heaven. You are not good enough for Heaven. So what is he supposed to do? Jesus says ‘sell everything and follow me.’ So is that how we get to Heaven? Being poor? Living in a hut with no electricity? Do I need to sell my laptop to go to Heaven? The man went away sad because as much as he wanted to inherit eternal life he didn’t want it more than his riches. He was more interested in thirty, fourty, fifty years of comfort here than he was in an eternity of joy in Heaven . Jesus said he lacked one thing…what was that one thing? Saving faith! He lacked a love for Jesus. He lacked an understanding that what Jesus called him to lose was nothing in comparison to what he would gain.

Here’s where tonight’s passage gets really relevant for you and me. Jesus says later in verse 25 ‘it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God.’ Will it be hard for you to go to Heaven? Do you find it hard to be a Christian? Do you find it hard to do what you know is right when you’re at school, or when you’re surrounded by your friends? Are there things, like this mans riches, that you need to give up so that you can enter the Kingdom of Heaven? Do you need to take some things to Jesus and give them up because they are making you like a camel going through the eye of a needle? It was hard for the rich man not to be rich and to be a Christian instead. What would his rich friends say if he gave all his possessions away ‘because God told him to?’ They’d laugh at him, he’d be an outcast. Is that true for you? What’s holding you back from giving everything you’ve got for Jesus? What’s stopping you? Do you think you’re ‘good’ like this man because you’ve never killed anyone? If you think it’s tough in middle school it’s going to get a whole lot harder in high school. If you think it’s tough to stand up for Jesus at high school then trust me, it’s going to get a whole lot harder at university. It just is. If you think that you can just not break commandments and be ok as a Christian, Jesus says theirs is one thing you lack. You lack Jesus.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Lest we forget

Today marks the twentieth annivesary of the Hillsboro' disaster. An awful, awful day. The number of games i've been to, the fanatical way i follow Wycombe Wanderers home and away, i've only felt in serious danger maybe twice so with goosebumps i write, there but for the grace of God go i:

John Alfred Anderson (62)
Colin Mark Ashcroft (19)
James Gary Aspinall (18)
Kester Roger Marcus Ball (16)
Gerard Bernard Patrick Baron (67)
Simon Bell (17)
Barry Sidney Bennett (26)
David John Benson (22)
David William Birtle (22)
Tony Bland (22)
Paul David Brady (21)
Andrew Mark Brookes (26)
Carl Brown (18)
David Steven Brown (25)
Henry Thomas Burke (47)
Peter Andrew Burkett (24)
Paul William Carlile (19)
Raymond Thomas Chapman (50)
Gary Christopher Church (19)
Joseph Clark (29)
Paul Clark (18)
Gary Collins (22)
Stephen Paul Copoc (20)
Tracey Elizabeth Cox (23)
James Philip Delaney (19)
Christopher Barry Devonside (18)
Christopher Edwards (29)
Vincent Michael Fitzsimmons (34)
Thomas Steven Fox (21)
Jon-Paul Gilhooley (10)
Barry Glover (27)
Ian Thomas Glover (20)
Derrick George Godwin (24)
Roy Harry Hamilton (34)
Philip Hammond (14)
Eric Hankin (33)
Gary Harrison (27)
Stephen Francis Harrison (31)
Peter Andrew Harrison (15)
David Hawley (39)
James Robert Hennessy (29)
Paul Anthony Hewitson (26)
Carl Darren Hewitt (17)
Nicholas Michael Hewitt (16)
Sarah Louise Hicks (19)
Victoria Jane Hicks (15)
Gordon Rodney Horn (20)
Arthur Horrocks (41)
Thomas Howard (39)
Thomas Anthony Howard (14)
Eric George Hughes (42)
Alan Johnston (29)
Christine Anne Jones (27)
Gary Philip Jones (18)
Richard Jones (25)
Nicholas Peter Joynes (27)
Anthony Peter Kelly (29)
Michael David Kelly (38)
Carl David Lewis (18)
David William Mather (19)
Brian Christopher Mathews (38)
Francis Joseph McAllister (27)
John McBrien (18)
Marion Hazel McCabe (21)
Joseph Daniel McCarthy (21)
Peter McDonnell (21)
Alan McGlone (28)
Keith McGrath (17)
Paul Brian Murray (14)
Lee Nicol (14)
Stephen Francis O'Neill (17)
Jonathon Owens (18)
William Roy Pemberton (23)
Carl William Rimmer (21)
David George Rimmer (38)
Graham John Roberts (24)
Steven Joseph Robinson (17)
Henry Charles Rogers (17)
Colin Andrew Hugh William Sefton (23)
Inger Shah (38)
Paula Ann Smith (26)
Adam Edward Spearritt (14)
Philip John Steele (15)
David Leonard Thomas (23)
Patrik John Thompson (35)
Peter Reuben Thompson (30)
Stuart Paul William Thompson (17)
Peter Francis Tootle (21)
Christopher James Traynor (26)
Martin Kevin Traynor (16)
Kevin Tyrrell (15)
Colin Wafer (19)
Ian David Whelan (19)
Martin Kenneth Wild (29)
Kevin Daniel Williams (15)
Graham John Wright (17)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

MacArthur: tearing the dress from the Song

I blogged though some of my reading in the Song of Soloman last year. I think it gatecrashed my 'top five books of the Bible' (a list i keep with the other heretical ones i make, 'top five reasons i love the orthodox church' for example) but the more i read it, the more sure i became that it was about Christ and the Church, and then man and woman. Irish Calvinist has linked to an article by John MacArthur who's no nonsense, straight talking exegetical ministry i'm really growing to appreciate:

But it has become popular in certain circles to employ extremely graphic descriptions of physical intimacy as a way of expounding on the euphemisms in Solomon’s poem. As this trend develops, each new speaker seems to find something more shocking in the metaphors than any of his predecessors ever imagined.

Thus we are told that the Shulammite’s poetic language invoking the delights of an apple tree (Song 2:3) is a metaphor for oral sex. The comfort and delight of a simple embrace (2:6) is not what it seems to be at all. Apparently it’s impossible to describe what that verse really means without mentioning certain unmentionable body parts.

We’re assured moreover that the shocking hidden meanings of these texts aren’t merely descriptive; they are prescriptive. The secret gnosis of Solomon’s Song portray obligatory acts wives must do if this is what satisfies their husbands, regardless of the wife’s own desire or conscience. I was recently given a recording of one of these messages, where the speaker said, “Ladies, let me assure you of this: if you think you’re being dirty, he’s pretty happy.”

Such pronouncements are usually made amid raucous laughter, but evidently we are expected to take them seriously. When the laughter died away, that speaker added, “Jesus Christ commands you to do this.”

That approach is not exegesis; it is exploitation. It is contrary to the literary style of the book itself. It is spiritually tantamount to an act of rape. It tears the beautiful poetic dress off Song of Solomon, strips that portion of Scripture of its dignity, and holds it up to be laughed at and leered at in a carnal way.

Friday, April 10, 2009

'i wish i could describe Him to ya'

This is probably one of the best presentations of this i've seen:

Thursday, April 09, 2009

The King

Don't you love the providence of God? Don't you love it when your Bible readings collide? This morning i read 1 Samuel 4-8, Luke 22 and Psalm 89.

1 Samuel 4-8 is both instructive and upsetting. Israel is defeated in battle by the Philistines, somehow they decide that if they take the Ark of the Covenant into battle with them they will be guaranteed success. Wrong, Israel is defeated, the Ark is captured and Eli dies as a result of the shock. But as wrong as Israel was about the Ark being a good luck trinket, they were right about it's power. The Ark is placed in the temple of Dagon, but the statue of Dagon can not stand with the Ark. He falls, his limbs broken off. That's so cool. Then the Ark brings disease wherever it goes in Philistia, and is eventually returned.

Israel have obviously had enough of this. Surely rejecting God and having a king 'like the other nations' is the answer. Of course! Samuel warns Israel what sort of king they will get in return for rejecting God, while, probably at the same time writing the book of Judges. Israel will get a King who will take their sons, their daughters and their crops.

Luke 22 sees the beginning of a dark and glorious coronation. here is God's King, God's anointed, God's man. Here is the Messiah. This is the King who will not Lord over his people as the Gentiles but will serve His people. Willing die for His Father and His people. At least Israel is consistent. They didn't want God to be their King in 1 Samuel, and they don't now. But i love how God works, i love that Israel's rejection of God as their King results in God's Son being crowned King.

In Psalm 89 there is great hope. Hope in God's promise to David, hope that in times when God's people are crushed God is faithful. Hope that God will not hide Himself forever because He is faithful to Himself.

Jesus is truly God's King, crowned with thorns, dying to save His people. Even in darkness, even in rebellion, God is King, God is faithful. Since listening to Carson's talks on Jeremiah i've been thinking about my hearts reaction to God as my King and Father. Do i want a King? or just a forgiver? Someone to kindly overlook my failures. This Easter lets look at the cross. Let's see God's man, the Godman, God's King, Jesus, doing what we could never do for the sake of His subjects. And lets be humbled around the cross, and rejoice.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Trying to understand Judges

Paul linked me to this very helpful online book the other day, when i lamented my lack of understand of the book of Judges. Most of what i'm about to write comes from that, and maybe a little bit from my own study!

1) Judges is about Jesus. Obviously. The whole point of the book is that we need a Judge that will neither be evil or die. And we've got one. We need God to choose our leader, our King, He needs to be God's man, God's anointed. And Jesus is. Judges screams for Jesus. Our hearts should cry to Him and for Him as we read. There was no King in the days of the Judges, we need a King, but not any old human king, God's King.

2) Linked to that, Judges seems to be a polemic against human leadership. Some of the Judges are a pretty shoddy bunch. Look Israel says (probably) Samuel, you're fools for wanting centralised, man made power, this is what it brings. Idol worship, civil war, needless slaughter. Maybe this is Samuel's tract against human Kingship. It shows us how much we need the Godman, how much we need Jesus to rule over us. No human king will ever do it well. Interestingly in Judges Israel is oppressed by foreign powers and rescued by God's judges, in the later history books Israel is oppressed by wicked kings from within and God 'rescues' them by the exile.

3) I see myself so much in Israel in this book. The cycle of sin-oppression-crying out-rescue-sin is pretty familiar. It shows me that my sin is gross. Cosmic treason. It shows me that God is gracious to provide a judge. And if He's gracious to provide Gideon (the mighty man who hid in the gleaning pit) and Deborah and Samson, how much more gracious and generous has He been to provide us with Jesus.

4) Judges gives deeper meaning to Ruth. I think. Israel wanted a King, it needed to be God's King, He had to come from Judah. And in Ruth 4 we see the Kingly line continued. We see that even in the darkest of times spiritually for a nation God's purpose is still at work. He is still planning to provide His King, the King. Israel's rejection of Him would not go unpunished, but they would not go unsaved. Through Boaz and Ruth comes Obed, then Jesse, then David...then Jesus. God is still perfectly at work in the darkest times.

Sunday, April 05, 2009


1) Driving to the airport Monday to pick up the little sister. It was nice to go to RDU without having to leave or being left for a change. And i had a whole week with Catherine to look forward to. Plus a new episode of House!

2) Tuesday was lunch at Blackbeards, very good, then driving to Kinston to have lunch where Rachel's student teaching, and then in the evening, my/our first baseball game. I love college sports, the collision of the amateur and the professional, knowing that the kids scoring touchdowns and home runs one day are learning about economics and history the next. Thats cool to me. And East Carolina won 15-4. And it wasn't too cold.

3) Wednesday it rained. It seems that spring in North Carolina involves some days in the seventies and eighties and some days where it rains like the end of the world. But we went to a civil war fort, Fort Macon, and learn about the war between the states. And i had blueberry pancakes for breakfast. Excellent stuff.

4) Thursday it was time to rest...we did very little. I actually don't remember anything about thursday...but i'm sure we had a nice time!

5) And then, back to the airport. We had a good meeting with the wedding caterer in the morning and then spent about an hour learning about the Estuary that flows through Washington...which was more exciting than it sounds!

6) I've also been reading Judges, a difficult book. It's probably the one i struggle the most with in the Old Testament, it's my Deuteronomy. My new ESV Study Bible has been very useful though, and i'm seeing in the four part cycle (sin, oppression, crying out, saviour) more and more of myself as well. Which is humbling and instructive. And how amazing to have a Judge that will never die and is good!

7) Sunday. Lunch with a family from church, a great time in Childrens church and going out to eat with the junior school kids after the PM meeting. I <3 church!

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Marcus Honeysett: Jesus is the Israel of God

Warm your heart and inform your worship, part one, part two.

Psalm 81: A hedonist's Psalm

Aren't the Psalms a treasure trove. I love reading them because that's where i see myself so clearly in scripture. Not because i've got a King David complex, but because the Psalms are full of questions, frustrations and failures, with a few moments of joy and excitement peeking through. That's why i love the Psalms.

I also love seeing ideas that are bought to their fullness in the New Testament introduced in the Old, which is why i love Psalm 81, particularly the last seven verses.

God reveals Himself as the Lord who bought Israel out of Egypt. He is God, He is good. Surely Israel needs to gain his respect, needs to work hard to repay Him right? No. Verse 10 says, 'open your mouth wide and i will fill it.' That's it. That's what Israel needs to do. To be full we don't need to crawl up the Basilica steps on our knees, we don't need to fast to the point of emaciation. There's actually nothing we can do, except open our mouth. This id death to self reliance, death to works fulfillment. Open your mouth and the Lord will fill it.

There's the tragedy of the Old Testament in a nutshell. Instead of relying and trusting the Lord with open mouths, instead Israel followed foreign gos, Canaanite gods. Instead of following God, who would defeat their enemies, they followed gods that demanded child sacrifice. Why? Well why do we ignore the God who saved us and chase after gods that did not, will not. Sex, fame and fortune, more stuff...these things promise much, but why drink from the toilet when there are fresh streams of water?

But it's not just water. God will feed His people will fine wheat and honey from the rock. That's we open our mouths for, the best of the best. Christianity is hedonistic self denial. Deny yourself the things that you love that will destroy you, for what will give you life. Sin looks great, but it's sugar coated poison... Open your mouth and be fed with life.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Cerulean Sanctum: Why Christian men don't find their purpose

Very thougtful, thought provoking article from Dan Edelen here. Very hard to read in places, and even though i'm not sure all of them are fair, it makes me glad i met my wife on a missions trip really...

Monday, March 30, 2009

Don Carson on Jeremiah

I've finally just finished listening my way through a six part series by Carson on Jeremiah. Very illuminating, encouraging, challenging, scary, difficult, excellent stuff.

A couple of things i noticed:

1) It seems that most of the problems for Israel occurred because Kings, en masse, ignored the most important command to them in the Scriptures. That is, write down and learn and read and obey this law, that you might fear God. Time and again the prophet is ignored when he has a message from God, time and again we see Kings ignore the Word of God. And so they were judged.

2) Sin hardens our heart. Early on in the book Israel is likened to a camel on heat. 'How can we give up our false gods?' she cries. Sin does this to our hearts. Although we know what is right, we don't want to do it. We'd rather protect and provide for our sin instead of giving it up. Eventually we'll be so hard giving it up won't even be an option.

3) God is jealous and personal. Israel makes a cuckold of God. Israel whores after other gods. This language wouldn't be appropriate unless God was personal, unless He was personally affected by the sins of His people, unless His anger and wrath against it was real. Why does God give up Israel? To punish them and to bring them back. He is Hosea, we all are Gomer.

4) In the middle there is grace. Chapters 30-33 are full of grace. There are 14 'restoration oracles' in this block. God will break the back of Israel's oppressors, God will save His people from a distant land, God will restore them nationally and spiritually, God will restore their honour and end their weariness. And on, and on. God is gracious because God is gracious. He will save whom He will save. That's the best news there is.

Go listen!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Driscoll on ABC Nightline

I don't mean to turn today in 'Driscoll Video Friday' but i've just spent a very profitable time watching Mark Driscoll, Deepak Chopra, Carlton Pearson and Annie Lobert debating the existence of the Devil.

I think Driscoll does very well, although i suppose i would. I thought he did pretty well not to just get up and hit Pearson on a couple of occasions. It's very, very sad to see and hear Carlton Pearson and, to an extent Deepak Chopra, falling over the same problems that can be well answered by some high schoolers i know. Very sad. I'm so sick and tired of this lazy, subjective, 'real to you' junk that these guys come up with. Also, somewhat illuminating to see that Deepak and Pearson get angrier and more defensive than Driscoll. Top work. I'm glad the Gospel is true, i'm glad that the whole of life isn't a system of enlightened feelings and knowledge. Thats very sad...and the Gospel is good news. I want it to be true...

Driscoll: Men and Marriage

There have been 23,856 page views of the sermon in the last four days. If you're a man, and you haven't watched it yet, what all have you been doing?

Be encouraged, be rebuked, be challenged, be a bit scared when he starts shouting. It's 71 minutes long including the Q and A at the end.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Transfiguration

I'm preaching on Mark 9:2-13 in Teen Church tonight, another passage thats hard to preach. As with so much of the Gospels, and i'm learning as we go though mark, so much of mark, the answers are hidden in the Old Testament.

Why do Jesus' clothes become radiantly white, more intense than anyone on earth could die them? Because in Daniel 7:9 the Ancient of Days took His seat and His clothing was white like snow, and the hair of His head like pure wool.

Why do Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus, (an odd mix in some ways, David and Isaiah might have made more sense)? Because all the law and prophets bear witness to Jesus. Jesus is the one like Moses who was promises in Deuteronomy 18:15. Israel failed to listen to Moses with great consequences, so we, if we fail to listen to Him, we will suffer great consequences.

Why did this happen at all? To show Peter that Jesus was right. Peter had just confessed Jesus as the Christ, but he still didn't seem to know what it meant. In his mind the Christ would overthrow Rome and restore the glorious Kingdom to Israel. That's what he rebuked Jesus for saying he had to die. But look Peter, this is Jesus, the glorious, beloved Son, you must listen to Him. You must.

Jesus is the beloved Son, the last Moses, the Son of Man, the Son of God. But Jesus is also the suffering servant, the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy that Mark paints Him as all the way through his Gospel.

Peter needed to know this, and listen to Jesus. And so do we.

Monday, March 23, 2009

ESV Study Bible for £24.90

Those heroic fellas at have made the splendid ESV study Bible available for just £24.90 plus postage and packing. Is this not the deal of deals?

Email to place your order...

Letting dead men teach you

Piper blogs about heart devotions and head study:

without a book or a class about what some part of the Bible means and a teacher who is ahead of you, your devotions will probably flatten out at a low level of insight. Year after year you will go over the same biblical ground and find it as perplexing as before. There will be little advance in understanding

Now, for my favourite part of any the books!

Mark 7:1-23 (2)

This is a serious problem. Your greatest need, my greatest need, is to be acceptable to God. We do so much to try and appear acceptable, but Jesus says that appearances do not matter. What we can not see is more important to Him that what we can see. Jesus explains what He means in verses 14 and 15: ’and when he had called all the people unto Him he said unto them ’hearken unto me every one of you and understand, there is nothing from outside that entering into a man can defile him: but the things that come out of him, those are they that defile a man. If any man hath ears to hear let him hear.’ Jesus is keen for people to hear and understand what He is about to say. He starts of by saying ‘listen,’ then He says ‘understand,’ then He says ‘if anyone hath ears let Him hear.’ Three times he asks for people to listen in such a short period of time, what He is about to say is important. What He says turns the world upside down. It is not what we eat that is the problem. It’s not what we wear, it’s not who we hang out with, it’s not the music we listen to or the tv we watch, although we need to make wise Christian choices all of that stuff. Jesus says that there is a problem inside of us that needs fixing. He says that it is the things that come out of him, those are they that defile the man.

What makes us unacceptable to God? What is inside of us, not what is outside of us. It’s who we are that is the problem, not what we do. What we do is only a problem because it is evidence of who we are. In one sentence Jesus turns the world upside down. In one day He challenges, and changes what everyone things about people and their relationship with God. It wasn’t popular then, and it’s not popular now, but look at what He says. Those things that come out of Him, they are what defile Him. Amazing. And terribly important.

In the Old Testament people thought that God didn’t care about people breaking His law, that as long as they were in the right place at the right time they were acceptable to God. Here in Mark some people tried to keep the law genuinely believing that it would make them acceptable to God. Today, some people think that as long as they’re wearing a tie on a Sunday morning in church it really doesn’t matter what they do the rest of the week. Some people hold to the standards and traditions that we come up with because they genuinely think that God will be pleased with them. Here Jesus makes it clear that they are both wrong. It is the inside that counts.

But why? We need a bit more than that, and, it seems, so did the people with Jesus. We see in verse 17 that when He was entered into the house from the people, his disciples asked Him concerning the parable. We see from this that people then were not really happy with the idea that there is something wrong inside of us. They even thought Jesus was telling them a parable rather than just preaching to them. I love Jesus’ response here. ‘are ye so without understanding also?’ He says, basically, guys, if you don’t get this you are really stupid. Don’t you understand what I’m saying? ‘whatsoever thing that enters a man from outside can not defile Him.’ It’s like Jesus is jumping up and down and yelling right now. ‘It’s not the outside that’s the problem it’s the inside.’ We need to get this, just like the disciples did and we need to respond.

So why is the inside the problem? Because that’s where the action happens. Because the inside controls the outside. What does the heart do? It produces, as verse 21 says: evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. Do you see what the problem is that Jesus is addressing? It is these things that make us unacceptable to God, not the food we eat or the clothes we wear. It’s our evil thoughts, our lying, our pride that is the problem. No amount of coat and ties are going to put these things away. These are the things, verse 28 that come from within and defile a man.

What Jesus needed his listeners in mark 7 to understand is that their problem was not outside them, but inside them. That their problems could not be solved by washing their hands, or eating the right food, or wearing the right clothes. It is a tragic thing in the church today that so many people think, and teach, that by wearing certain clothes, by being in the right place at the right time and behaving ourselves we can be made acceptable to God. What a small, unimpressive, puny ‘god’ they have created for themselves.

I started off by asking how we could be acceptable to God. The bad news is that our problem is much worse than we thought, our problem is deep, deep, deep inside of us. The good news, the best news, is that, as we saw last week, Jesus came for people who are sick like we are sick. He came to heal us. He came to save us, to change us the way we need to be changed, from the inside out.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Mark 7:1-23 (1)

I once heard a story of a woman who cooked a ham every Sunday for lunch. And every Sunday she would cut off the end of the ham and throw it away even though it was perfectly good. Someone asked her why she did this and she said because that’s what her mom had always done. So then someone asked her mom why she always cut off and threw away a perfectly good piece of ham? She said it was because that’s what her mom had always done. Then someone asked the second lady’s mom why she always cut off the end of a perfectly good piece of ham before cooking it. Turns out that it was simply because her pan was too short to hold the whole ham.

Sometimes our traditions are like that, sometimes the things we do hark back to another day which has passed, sometimes we end up saying and doing things in a certain way just because that’s what people have always done, rather than because there is any good reason for it. All so that that may be acceptable to God.

How to be acceptable to God is, obviously, the biggest question that the Bible answers, the biggest question in our lives, and the biggest question in this evenings passage. How can we be acceptable to God? In the opening five verses of our story tonight we meet a group, not for the first time, who think they know the answer to that question.

They know how to the be acceptable to God, and they think their job is to go around making sure everyone else is doing exactly what they say. We see something of their rules and traditions in verse 3 ‘for the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands, oft, eat not, holding the traditions of the elders.’ According to Jewish tradition, unless people often washed their hands, they shouldn’t be eating. And yet we read in verse one that Jesus disciples’ were eating bread with ‘defiled, that is to say, unwashen, hands.’ This would have been very upsetting to the Jewish leaders. Not only were Jesus’ disciples being unhygienic, they were surely being unholy, they were surely acting unacceptably towards God. How could they be God’s people if they were not washing their hands? I love how Mark commentates on this incident, twice in these verses he mentions that the Pharisees were upset because the traditions were being broken, not because they saw Jesus do something unBiblical. This situation is close to home sometimes isn’t it? We’ve all met people who believe in things, and defend things that we can not find in the Bible. Well that’s what’s happening here.

Jesus then spends a long time answering them, between verses 6 and 13. Lets look at what He says ‘well hath Isaiah prophesied of you hypocrites as it is written ’these people honoureth me with their lips but their hearts are far from me. How be it in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrine the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups and many other such things you do.’ And He said to them
‘full well you reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.’

What was the problem that these guys had? Why were they so upset with Jesus and then Jesus so angry with them? Because they taught their opinions as if they were from God, and ignored what God Himself taught. They didn’t care about the commandments of God and were more concerned about whether or not people were washing their hands. God had called them to preach but they were acting more like fussy old women. This was not, and is not right. We see the very serious result of that in verses seven and eight. Jesus says that people worship Him in vain, He says that they honour Him with their mouths yet their hearts are far from Him. He wanted people’s hearts. He wants your heart. He’s not interested in just your church attendance record, or just how much you read your Bible, or just how much you serve, He wants your heart to be near Him. Now, He wants you to come to church and read your Bible and serve. But he only wants you to do that because your heart is near Him. If you come to church because of tradition, then Jesus says you worship Him in vain. If you would rather be almost anywhere else in the world than in that sanctuary between 11 and 12 on a Sunday morning, if you sit in church waiting for lunchtime to come, then Jesus says you worship in vain. He says that we are not acceptable to Him.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Mark Driscoll interviews Matt Chandler

A great way to spend 28 can listen here, or watch here

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Rachel's Mum and i have a different view of some aspects of Church work

'so where are y'all meeting?'

'Bojangles in Vanceboro.'

'urghh, Bojanges, why can't you all play racquetball or something?'

'hey if we can not eat, we will not meet.'

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Weekend

Goodness. I love my job, i love being busy, this weekend has been the daddy...i am ready to go to bed and sleep until people start calling me Rip Van Ed.

First off on friday night we watched the ACC basketball tournament at church. Now a year ago i wouldn't have understood the big deal about college basketball, but the south eastern united states more or less closed down on friday to watch the games. And that was just a regional tournament, the national championships start on tuesday, and from thursday to sunday for the next few weekends there are games for twelve hours a day. We left church just after midnight saturday morning.

Saturday was much the same getting to church about two, watching more of the games, hosting a Bible college choir in the evening before getting home about 830. Then we got a call that one of the older ladies in church was in a very bad way in the hospital, so we headed back to to Greenville, stayed and prayed for a couple of hours, and got back just after midnight sunday morning.

For once it was almost a relief that i'm not teaching on a sunday morning at the moment. I was just about awake enough for sunday school and kids church, but it was a struggle. Then back to the hospital then home for an all too short nap, then back to church, rounding everything off with a 15 minute parent meeting after the service.

I'm bushed right now, but thrilled at everything i'm involved in personally, and we as a church are doing. I'm excited about going to work again tomorrow, preaching on wednesday night, and twice on sunday as Rachel's dad is in Tennessee. I'm also excited about going to bed, very shortly!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Is Theology Poetry?

Piper said somewhere that in his youth his was never far from a CS Lewis book. Having spent this week reading 'The Weight of Glory,' which includes the eponymous sermon and seven or eight more, i can see why.

This morning i read 'Is Theology Poetry,' which i believe may be my new favourite, maybe even in front of 'The Weight of Glory' itself. In it Lewis is posed, and answers the question of whether people believe the Gospel because it is aesthetically, poetically pleasing rather than because it is true. I'm not sure this is a question a lot of people are asking in exactly these terms, but the way Lewis answers is very helpful in thinking about how to answer the scientific objections to Christianity.

Lewis starts answering the question by admitting that there is a poetic beauty about the Gospel, that one can see before one is saved by the Gospel. Someone can see it's a great story before they believe and treasure it. But, and here's where the contra starts, there are more beautiful stories that people believe, and, in fact, almost every dogma that people believe has a 'poetry' to it.

Science for example, is life against the void, then man against nature, then man subjugating nature, and then the suns going cold, and the void returning. That sort of 'against all odds' story is pleasing to us, it interests us. It is beautiful in it's own way. More so maybe than the Gospel. In fact it could be argued that the Gospel loses some of it's mythical poetry when the God of the universe incarnates into a man that can sleep in a rowing boat. That's not as poetic as 'God said and it was,' it's just not. Lewis also makes the point that just because Pagan religions involve some ideas that Christianity involves it neither proves or disproves the Gospel. We should expect them to if we believe in common grace. The Gospel, the man Jesus brings blurry mysticism into sharp, Christian focus.

So what of science? Lewis concludes with this, with the 'scientific position' or 'Wellsianity,' as it's also called. There are two massive problems with science. The first is that adherents to the scientific position, or maybe more the layman that follow them believe that they've answered the question that they've been asked. The problem, says Lewis, is not that their answer is wrong, but that they haven't even begun to deal with the question that Christians are asking. Not, 'how did the universe begin' (and Lewis does a good job of deconstructing pure evolution at this point) but, 'why is human thought any more important than the rustle of the win in the trees?' Science can't answer that question, it's not even trying to.

And lastly, science is to Christianity as our dreams are to the real world. Lewis can make sense of why he dreams about dragons when he is awake. The dream world fits into the real world, it is contained by it. Dreams can not make sense of the real world, it is merely affected by them. Christianity can contain science. So Lewis finishes with these famous words:

the waking world is judged more real because it can thus contain the dreaming world; the dreaming world is judged less real because it can not contain the waking one. For this same reason i am certain that in passing from the scientific points of view to the theological i have passed from dreaming to waking. Christian theology can fit in science, art, morality and the sub Christian religions. The scientific point of view can not fit in any of these things, not even science itself. I believe in Christianity like i believe the sun has risen. Not only because i see it, but because by it, i see everything.