Friday, February 27, 2009

Next...A promo to make you cry

I've only ever seen two promo videos that have flat out brought tears to my eyes before, this is number three...

Thursday, February 26, 2009

A postscript on House and 24

Day Seven is the first series of 24 i've ever watched, so apart from the two hour special, i've got no Jack background to work with. Tell me about him... Are we supposed to like him? Is this what happens when our values outweigh our morals? I'm enjoy 24 more than Lost, which i've pretty much completely given up on, although it's clashing with Wednesday night church and important basketball games hasn't helped it's cause.

I know we're not supposed to like House. Can you imagine working with him? Really? And yet, i can't help being pleased every time he's on screen. Not in an Atticus Finch way, but definitely in a 'i wouldn't watch this show if it was called 'Cuddy' or 'Foreman'' kind of way. But more and more in the latest season of House his friendships grow in both dysfunction and closeness. It's obvious Wilson and House value each other, even if they'd never admit it, more so Cuddy and House. Possible spoiler warning. Otherwise why would Cuddy make sure House could get his job back? She seemed more concerned about losing him than he was about losing his job. Why would she value his comfort as a friend more than his effectiveness as a doctor?

And what do the 'House playing the piano on his own and drinking scotch while his colleagues have a good time' scenes mean if not that House is slowing learning the error of his ways?

Or maybe, enjoying them...

Christus Exemplar?

One of the first, and best, Biblical Theology articles i've read was this one by David Gibson on Luke 3 and 4. What follows is not so much the oak tree that grew from Gibson's acorn, but more a leaf, on a branch of that mighty tree.

The various accounts of Jesus' time in the wilderness can either be of great encouragement, or of nearly always condemnation invoking moralising. Preaching or listening to this text can either serve as a fresh coal on the fire or an idea that can squash the life out of our battle against temptation. Text + Context = meaning, so if we want to understand what's really going on in the desert we need to read the account within in it's place in scripture (Bish taught me that in February 2004 and it's still about the most important thing i've ever learnt about how to read the Bible)

Luke 3:21-4:13
Goodness, is there a more unfortunate chapter division in the Bible? I might cast the Numbers 7/8 hat in the ring, but this comes pretty close. Luke 3 ends with a genealogy...boring. Or in fact, key to our understanding of what follows? Why is Adam called the Son of God in 3:38? Jesus is the Son of God right? Luke draws us to the parallel between Adam, son #1 and Jesus son #1. Where Adam failed to be obedient, Jesus succeeds. Where Adam disobeyed God, Jesus obeyed. Jesus is the better son, the perfect son. But there's more in Luke. Every time the Devil comes to Jesus, he is beaten away with scripture. So we use scripture to fight temptation right? Well that works, and wonderfully so often, but often it doesn't, and i don't believe that was what was on Luke's mind when he was writing this. Jesus fights from Deuteronomy...from the desert book, from the time Israel wondered in the wilderness. Jesus is the better Israel, the perfect Son of God.

Matthew 3:13-4:11
Matthew follows the same pattern. There's no genealogy, but Jesus is out of the water, hailed as the prophesied suffering King, goes into the desert and assaulted by temptation. Did he want bread? Of course he did, but the bread of heaven, the real, true manna; the words from the mouth of God, not just loaves that would go stale with time. Matthew records Jesus quoting the same verses as Luke. The same desert verses from the old, failed son.

Mark 1:9-13
I love the way Mark starts his Gospel, no extended reflection, so Christmas story, lets just get on with it. Again the water, the voice from Heaven hails Jesus as a king who will rule and suffer and is driven into the wilderness where He is tempted. There's no record of the temptation itself, Mark seems to see this as a part of the story of Jesus' baptism...but the images are there.

On his death bed Machen wrote 'so thankful for the active obedience of Christ, no hope without it.' I'm glad he didn't write 'so thankful for the moral example of Christ.' Jesus is the perfect Son, everything Adam never was, everything Israel never was, everything you or i will never, ever be. Jesus is our substitute, the Father 'looks on Him and pardons me.' If we read carefully, we can be so encouraged, so fed, so warmed by the wilderness temptations. If not, we risk reading it as just something else we should do, but very much struggle to. I think 'Christ our example' is right and encouraging, but if we get it from the desert, we'll be struggling, and discouraged.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Gregory House and Jack Bauer

It all changed with Bonnie and Clyde. At least thats what Graham Daniels said, and used to play professional football, so he must be right. For the first time in Bonnie and Clyde, we're supposed to side with the bad guys over the good guys, we're supposed to cheer the robbers rather than the cops.

I'm sure it's just a fluke of scheduling, but watching House, and then 24 back to back on a Monday night makes you think of some similarities between the two. Gregory House is the obvious heroic anti hero; addicted to vikiden, rude to patients, colleagues and superiors and with questionable morals outside the workplace. Yet House saves lives. Even if he just sees them as a 'puzzle to be solved' people come in dying, and House makes them well. So does it matter how he does it?

I'm less clear, and at the same time, more clear on Jack Bauer. This is the first season of 24 i've watched to forgive me if i overlook some obvious points. Jack should be the all American hero. he fights the bad guys, he does everything to protect his country, inside and outside the law. But that's the problem, the great contradiction with Jack. On the one hand a great hero, a great man who risks life and limb for others' freedom, and on the other hand a man who sees no problem with a baby being held at gunpoint as long as it gets him what he wants.

What should we do about this collision of good and bad? It's not like this in Maybury, there the eponymous hero of the Andy Griffith show defends his 1950s small town America with a firm fairness, and still finds time to take the kids to the fishing hole. He was a simple 'hero' and watching that show is like a window into a different world. I guess that's exactly what it is.

Jack and Gregory and different, but the same. We're supposed to like Bauer, we're not supposed to like House, and yet they're the same. The lines today are as blurred as they can get. Probably. There's only ever been One hero we can trust totally, only ever been one Man who was totally consistent, only ever One never let anyone down. I like the similarities between House and 24 because they illustrate that what ever our expectations, no man will ever be worth all of our trust. And that takes me back to the Bible, and back to Jesus.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Matt Chandler on training in Godliness

Another reason to admire Matt Chandler, plus the way he sort of dances behind his notes...

'Our grandfather, who art in Heaven' Lewis on Love

' love in this context most of us mean kindness, the desire to see others than the self happy; not happy in this way or that way, just happy. What would really satisfy us would be a God who said of anything we happened to like 'what does it matter as long as they're happy?' We want not so much a Father in Heaven as a grandfather in Heaven, a smiling benevolence who, as they say 'liked to see the young people enjoying themselves' and whose plan for the universe was simply that it might be said at the end of each day 'a good time was had by all.' Not many people, i admit would form a theology in precisely those terms, but a conception not very different lurks at the back of many people's minds. I do not claim to be an exception, i would very much like to live in a universe governed on such lines. But since it is abundantly clear i don't, and since i have reason to believe nevertheless than God is love, i conclude that my concept of love needs correction.'
CS Lewis, The Problem of Pain, Pp 31-32
A voice from a different time can be like a breath of fresh air, and that's what i'm finding Clive Staples to be at the moment. So far, The Problem of Pain is about the best book i've read on the love of God. He reminds me a bit of Tozer in his slightly 'mystical' tone, but it is good for the heart and the mind. The love of God is a deep, rich, terrible thing. We, as Lewis later points out, might often wish that God would treat us differently, that He might let us alone, as an artist would treat a sketch for a child rather than his life's finest work which he labours over, works over and scrapes over. In that case though, we are not asking for more love from God, but less.

Friday, February 20, 2009

My fake suprise birthday day

Today i was kidnapped for my birthday. Rachel picked me up from work early this morning and we headed to Raleigh to the North Carolina museum of art. We had a great time, it was nice to just be near stuff that was older than post world war II. I discovered a love for 19th century American art, but not so much for medieval European art...too much gold leaf, not enough perspective. I could stare at ancient Greek art all day.

Then we headed to Southpointe Mall in Durham, and headed to Barnes and Noble. While Rachel drank a girly coffee and ate my slice of cheesecake i headed off to be depressed by the Christianity section. I hid some of the bad books behind good books...there weren't enough good books to go round, obviously, but at least Joel Osteen's smile is now hidden behind some tastefully covered copies of Piper's 'Taste and See.' They didn't have any Carson anywhere...isn't that awful? I managed to pick up 'How then shall we live' and 'the weight of glory' though, so it wasn't a total write off.

Then to the Angus Barn, a steak restaurant par excellence in Raleigh. And there, at a table hidden around a corner was my actual dad! I had no idea! It was amazing. As split second moments go it was one of the best of my life...i cried a bit and then we sat down to an evening of paternal stories and high end steak...perfect!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Ireland's Worst Driver

Somethings are so funny that you can't even make them up...check out the story of Ireland's worst driver!

Finally Alive: John PIper

'Finally Alive' was described by Adrian Warnock as Piper's most important book. Challies said it's become his favourite John Piper book. It's gate crashed my top three, and i'd agree with Adrian, it is his most important book.

Finally Alive deals with the sometimes murky area of regeneration, of new birth. Piper sets out to answer five questions: What is the new birth? Why must we be born again? How does the new birth come about? What are the effects of the new birth? How can we help people be born again. In 15 chapters and 193 pages he answers those questions.

Piper points out the need for this book in the introduction. The term 'born again' has been almost politicised, it's meaning lost. Studies by the Barna group conclude that born again Christians are little different in practice and living to people who don't claim to be Christians. Piper burden for this book is to reclaim the Biblical truth of being regenerated. Not that it's proved by what we say, but that it's proved by how we live.

Alistair Begg describes this book as having 'crystal clear' exposition, and i think he's spot on. Piper tackles passages from Acts, 1 Peter, 1 John, John and Ephesians and applies them with love and clarity. His chapter on John 3:1-15 bought me a great deal of clarity on what it means to be born 'of water and of Spirit' (very exciting) which is helpful in an area where, maybe even the majority of churches, teach that salvation is by baptism. We are cleansed and new, still us, but new. This is good news.

This is probably one of the most 'popular level' books Piper has written, and ends so strongly. The final section, with chapters on 'How can we help others be born again?' has really stoked my fires for evangelism and personal witness to people and given me a fresh desire to see people saved. This is built upon the firm foundation of the previous section, which talks the role of Gospel proclamation in the new birth. Finally, the section on our faith which overcomes the world made me near enough want to stand on my head for joy. YES!

I can not recommend this book enough, it will refresh, humble, energise and excite. Go buy

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Philippians 1:19-24 (2)

But that’s ok for them, you might think, I’m not a missionary in Ecuador, and I probably never will be. That’s true, but there are so many ways in which we can life to demonstrate Jesus as our treasure right here. The way we spend our money, for example. Do we think about the way we spend our money, do we make sure we have to enough to be generous in the offering on a Sunday morning? Does Christ get the best or our money or just the nickels or dimes that are left over. We don’t hesitate to spend $20, $40 or $60 on clothes, but we’d have to pray about it if anyone ever asked us to give that much to our church.

Spend money in a way that shows that money and stuff is not your treasure, and you will not waste your life. Give money away that you will never see again, and you will get a sense of what Paul means when he says ‘to live is Christ.’ This is hard. We love money, we love the security, opportunity and status it brings. if we learn one thing about our western culture in the current economic climate, it’s that we all love money.

But should we not love Jesus more? Moments after we die, we will know how we should have spent our money in our lives. Forty million years from now, when we have more Christ centered joy in our hearts than we can imagine right now it will seem incredible to us that we thought spending money on ourselves was ever more important than spending money for the sake of Christ.

To live is Christ, says Paul and to die is gain. But what does this mean? How do we make much of Jesus in our death? How can we die to show that Jesus means more to us than life? This is important to think about whether you’re a freshman in high school or whether you’re in your eighties. How will we die?

Death is seen my almost everyone today, including many in the Church as the great enemy, as something to be avoided at all costs. Paul didn’t seem to see it that way. Paul said something quite incredible…he says that to die is gain. This sounds so strange to our ears it may as well be in a foreign language, what does it mean? We see in John 21:19 that Peter would have a death that glorified God, that Peter knew that to die is gain.

But how? Well look at verse 23 with me: for I am in a strait betwixt the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. It is far better to be with Christ, says Paul. Far better. Psalm 16:11 promises that ‘there is fullness of joy in His presence, pleasures forever at His right hand.’ Doesn’t that sound good? Isn’t that what we’d like? Fullness of joy and pleasures forever? Well that’s why death is gain, because that’s what we get being with Jesus when we die. Think of the sweetest times you’ve had with Jesus in your life, and then imagine that multiplied billions and billions of times, and getting better every day, and then you have the slightest, smallest glimpse of what Heaven will be life. The Great Awakening preacher Jonathan Edwards says this on the subject: The enjoyment of God is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of earthly friends, are but shadows; but God is the substance. These are but scattered beams, but God is the sun. These are but streams. But God is the ocean. Death for the Christian is not to be enjoyed, but faced, knowing that it will bring us everlasting joy and happiness at the side of our Savior. Death for the Christian is a vehicle that takes us where we want to go. Paul says it’s better to be with Christ. To not waste our life is to able to say that with him. To not waste our life is to be happy to leave everything behind to be with Him.

This is hard. To view what we can not see as more valuable than what we can see is hard. It’s easy to be happy with a comfortable and safe life. It’s easy to be happy throwing dimes into other’s people’s dreams. So we must pray, we must pray for focus if we’ve lost it, we must pray that we would keep our focus if we have it. We should pray that we would be like Abraham, who was searching for a city as yet unseen, like Moses, who considered reproach for the sake of Christ better than all the wealth of a prince of Egypt, like the Christians in Hebrews 10:34 who joyfully accepted the plundering of their property because they knew they had a better possession with Jesus.

So what is the unwasted life? The life that sees life and death as gift from Jesus to make Him look great. A life that does this by counting everything as loss for His sake, a life which accepts weakness, like Paul in 2 Corinthians 12, as long as if makes Christ look great. A life that will say to Jesus, ‘Lord, you can do anything with me…anything, as long as you are magnified through it, as long as you are my life, you can do anything with me, because you, Jesus, you are worth it.’

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Matt, Challies and Scripture

Former housemate and long time Pro Evo adversary Matt has a linked to a great clip from John Piper about memorizing scripture here.

On the same note Challies is reminding his readers of his scripture memorizing email programme, which i've just signed up for...

Resolved Conference 2009 promo

Friday, February 13, 2009

Philippians 1:19-24 (1)

My burden for my own life, and, consequently in this short time we have together, for your life, is that we do not waste our lives. It’s so easy for us to waste our lives, even coming from a Christian school, even in North Carolina. The Bible makes it clear that our lives are short, that our lives are issuing very quickly either in everlasting joy, or everlasting torment. Our lives are short, we must not waste them.

I know you’re thinking this is an odd topic to start with. We’re teenagers, we’ve barely started to live yet, why are you talking to us about death? Well when I was a teenager, I thought two things about my self, 1) that I would live forever, and 2) that I knew everything. I basically thought I was God Himself. If we are not to waste our lives then we must appreciate how short they are, how every day is a unique opportunity. 1 Samuel 2:6 says: The LORD killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up. James 4:15 says: If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. If the Lord will I will finish this message and get back to Greenville safely, if the Lord will I’ll make it to my 24th birthday next week. Life is short, life is fragile, life is totally in God’s hands, and this is very, very good news.

So, in the midst of all this, how do we not waste our lives? Do we, like the rich man in Luke, store up goods for ourselves in barns and then ‘eat, drink and be merry?’ This seems to be the response of many people, earn as much, get as much and play as much as you possibly can. But one day our lives will be required of us, then what good will the abundance of our possessions be? Jesus says in Matthew 16:25 whoever will lose their life for my sake shall find it. Whoever loses their life for Jesus sake will not waste their life. So can we only not waste our life in dying itself?
Or is there a way to live that is not a waste? I think the best answer to that question comes in Philippians 1:19-24 For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I know not. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.

These words are, of course, written by Paul, a man who did not waste his life, a man who lived with extraordinary passion, courage, commitment, love and joy in and for Christ. So what is the unwasted life? The passage we just read shows us how to not waste our life, and then how to not waste our death.

Look with me at the end of verse 20: so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether by death or by life, for to me to live is Christ and to die is gain. Paul wants Christ to be magnified, to be made to look great, and awesome in his body, whether he lives or whether he dies. This is Paul’s all consuming passion, this is the road of the unwasted life, this is the heartbeat of a life well lived, to make Jesus famous. To life up Jesus’ name in all he does whether in life or in death. We were made for this. Our hearts, our brains, our bodies, our desires are made for Jesus. Made to be filled with this and made to put this on display. CS Lewis wrote that: ‘if I try every pleasure and offer of satisfaction in this world, and yet am not satisfied, I can only conclude I was made for another.’ He was right.

What does it mean that to live is Christ? I think Paul expands on this idea in Philippians 3:7 where he says ‘what things were gain for me I counted loss for Christ’ Previous to this he had been listing everything that he used to hope in and build his life upon. His birth, his social standing, his education. He counted all these things as nothing for the sake of Jesus. Nothing! Can we say that? Can we say that we count everything that we have as loss, as nothing for the sake of Jesus? That we count all our possessions as loss for the sake of Jesus? That we count all our dreams for the future as loss for the sake of Jesus? That we count money or food or sex as loss for the sake of Christ? How can Paul say that? How can Paul mean that? Are even the good things in our life to be counted as loss?

Because Paul was a man who knew Jesus Christ. Who knew that what he gained from Him made everything else look like rubbish. And because of that, He loved Jesus. He loved Him His life was so wrapped up in Him that from his conversion every day until the day He died Jesus was His obsession, Jesus was why he woke, why he traveled, why he spoke. Jesus was it for Paul. Jesus was His life. Is that true for us? Is Jesus the deepest passion of our hearts? Do we love to meet with Him in His Word? Do we think about our witness to Him when we make our plans for the weekend? Do we let Him decide what we look at on the internet? Or how much we spend at the mall? Do we let His Word and Will define our every decision? Do we want Jesus to be our God, or just our forgiver? If Jesus is your God, and your single all consuming passion, and all your decisions are placed before Him in prayer, and made with Him in mind, then you will not waste your life.

My fiancĂ©e and I are called to the mission field in Eastern Europe, and one of my missionary heroes is a guy named Jim Elliot. He and five others, mostly young World War II veterans followed God’s call to the Amazon rainforest to preach the Gospel to the Auca tribesmen, who had never heard it. Five intelligent, married young men set off for the rainforest, a passion for Jesus in their hearts, a desire not to waste their lives driving them forward. Three days after they made their first ground contact with the Aucas they were speared to death on a sandbank in the Amazon River. The world looks at that and sees wasted lives, we should look at that and see lives lived and lost for the sake of Christ, the greatest cause of all.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Preaching and providence

I preached on Philippians 1:19-24 at Bethel Christian Academy's chapel service this morning. I like the idea of Christian High Schools (i think, if only because in Eastern NC at least public/state schools are average at best) but they are hard places to preach. And on top of that i'm not sure i did a great job of it.

It attacked my pride as i drove home this afternoon, realising that when i'm speaking somewhere know one knows me, i want to preach as well as i possibly can, and i knew that today i felt some way off that. I don't think i prepared well enough, i don't think i knew my script well enough, i didn't pray enough, i don't think to a large extent what i wrote was finished. I'll stick it up here in the next couple of days in any case, feedback appreciated.

What bothered me more than anything else as a i drove along an empty and dusty Highway 11 was that what i said just wasn't relevant. That somehow these 14-18 year olds didn't need to hear a message about Christ being life and death being gain. That there was something better, more practical i could have spoken on. How do you convince kids that to die and be with Jesus is better than to live an easy life of accumulation? How do you get someone to wear Christian Hedonist glasses in such a short, impersonal space of time?

So i struggled to believe what i shared was relevant or helpful for their lives. I struggled to think that they needed to be persuaded to count their lives as loss for the sake of Christ, that they didn't need to be challenged about what they wore or how they spent their money. Essentially, i thought they needed to hear something other then the root of the Biblical Gospel.

But oh, then lovely providence. My close friend in dark times of the soul. I picked up 'Finally Alive' and on the second page i read was this paragraph:

That...relevance is what guides my sermons and my writings. In other words i want to say things that really are significant for your life whether you know they are or not. My way of doing that is to stay close as i can to what God says is important in His Word, not what we think is important apart from God's Word.
John Piper, Finally Alive P100

So the feeling i didn't deliver a message well does not have the final say in the matter. A few hundred bored looking teenage faces looking at me (and anywhere but!) is not the final word on whether i preached on a relevant text or not. What good news it is, how it clears the fog. Talk about whats important to God, for that is truly relevant.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Guess the Pastor

Can you name the Pastor who knows how many paces it is from the front door of his house to the front door of his church?

Of course, it's John Piper, briefly interviewed here by C.J Mahaney

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Regeneration is bigger than we think

Regeneration is bigger than i think. Regeneration is bigger that 'a personal relationship with Jesus', regeneration is bigger than starting to go to church on a sunday instead of watching the Hollyoaks omnibus. Regeneration is bigger than you and me.

Regeneration is global, nay universal. Regeneration is getting in touch with nature (maaan). Paul writes to Titus that: he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit. We are saved by the washing of regeneration of the Holy Spirit...we are saved by being made clean and new, by being born of water and Spirit.

But, and here's the huge, heart expanding, humbling news, it's not just us that gets regenerated. The word Paul uses in this verse to Titus for regeneration is palingenesias (according to John Piper anyway), and the only other time that word gets used is in Matthew 19:28 when Jesus says: 'truly i say to you, in the new world (in the regeneration/palingenesias) when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne...'

So what is the regeneration? What gets saved and made new? Creation. You and me, sure, but everything else. The stars, the grass, the oceans, the planets...everything. Jesus is Lord of all, not just Lord of human hearts. This is further mentioned in Romans 8:20 creation was subjected to futility, not willingly but because of Him (God) who subjected it in hope... This was the plan from the beginning, and in the end will lead to renewed men and women, with renewed hearts, living on a renewed earth with Jesus as it's King in glory.

This then makes sense of 'all of life discipleship', of the vision of men like Francis Shaeffer. The church is not a bomb shelter. When we get saved we don't just attend service and mark off days on our rapture wall chart. When we get saved we live! We see what there is of human culture that can be redeemed and we redeem it to the glory of God though Jesus Christ. We don't hide from culture, we engage, redeem what can be redeemed and reject what should be rejected. We rescue people out of slavery to culture by making culture point to Jesus, which is should be easy most of the time, since that's where it's heading anyway!

Will there be art in Heaven? Or music? I really hope so. I really think so. But whether there is or not, Heaven, thank God, will not be sitting on a cloud playing a harp, it will not be some conscious but ethereal state, it will be physical, and real. There'll be rivers, and trees, and goodness knows what else. Christians shouldn't hide from culture, from the material like Gnostics, because culture and the material, like the Christian, is being born again.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Evolution and Exeter

Very interesting graphic (HT: Challies) about how the Wikipedia entry on evolution has been changed over the years. A great example of the power that the ordinary man can wield over popular news. One of the reasons why Wikipedia is such useful and dangerous tool. The pooling of expertise can be used for the common good, or, in this case, to create polemics against people who disagree with you. And another front opened in the debate between evangelical evolutionists and Evangelical Christians...

Particularly interesting in view of Darwin's church, and in the mission week at ECU. The post modern, humanistic, evolutionists will have their point of view, and in theory Evangelicals can have there, but woe to us if we disagree with them.

Aaron, Adam and Jesus

Exodus 32 is in many ways one of the lowest points of the Old Testament. Merely days after Israel has been wonderfully rescued from slavery in Egypt they break commandments, forget Moses, and fall down to worship an idol. Whether they thought the Golden Calf was YHWH, or whether it was to replace Him i'm not sure, but it's still awful. As i was reading it this morning, i spotted something that i'm not sure i've ever seen before, so this post comes with an **original though warning** but i thought it was an interesting road to Jesus from right at the end of the chapter.

Exodus 32:35 says 'the LORD sent a plague on Israel, because they made a calf, the one that Aaron made.' When we first read that it doesn't make much sense, it seems like poor English. Who made the calf, Aaron or the people. We read at the start of the chapter that at the people's request Aaron made the calf from all the gold that Israel had plundered from Egypt...So why are the people going to suffer for what Aaron had done? Surely Aaron should be struck with sword and then plague, not the people themselves? Aaron should have known better, why should the people suffer.

Are they suffering under their, albeit temporary, federal head? Jesus is the Moses we wait for at the end of the Pentateuch, just as Moses is the only one who can represent Israel before Pharaoh and YHWH, so Jesus is the only one who can represent His people in front of the Father. But right here, Aaron has responsibility for these people. Just as Adam was our head, just as Jesus is our head, so for this short time, Aaron is the head. Aaron the brother of Moses, Aaron the Levite. he should be a safe pair of hands.

The head sins, and the people are punished. Moses, the real head intercedes for them, and they are rescued. Jesus is punished so that we will not be. So who is our head to be? Jesus, who lead His people away from sin into freedom, or one, who leads His people into sin away from freedom? Aaron is not an Adamic figure throughout Exodus, he is the father of the priesthood in many ways, but right here he sins and leads his people astray, into judgement.

So who is our head to be, the freedom bringing sin killer, or the judgement bringing sin committer, here Aaron, always Adam...

Saturday, February 07, 2009

I'd pay good money for a CD of Brian Blessed reading the KJV

As long as he did it in the style of the King from Blackadder I of course:

Also, if you're as cool as i am, you'll be fascinated to listen to the audio of flight 1549 leading up to it's safe landing in the Hudson River.

And in exciting iPod news, all the audio from the four previous New Attitude conferences are now online.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Carl Trueman on technology

Carl 'flippin ace' Trueman writes about online communities:

Further, as the language of friendship is hijacked and cheapened by these internet social networks, this cheapening itself is part and parcel of a redefining of intimacy based upon the erosion of the boundaries between the public and private. Self-obsessed exhibitionist celebrities have for many years had the option of the Oprah-style chat show, where they can parade their dirty laundry for all to see; lowlifes have had Jerry Springer and Big Brother and a myriad of `reality TV' shows; but now, with blogs and social network pages, anyone with a computer can continuously flaunt their private lives and conversations, from the boring and trivial to the weird and perverted, for a potentially countless (and faceless) multitude to see.
Now, notions of privacy have always been fluid; but we stand at a point in history where the private could be potentially abolished in its entirety.

I think he's writing in very broad brushstrokes, but he's got a point. What really bugs me is people who complain about Facebook using a Facebook group! You don't have to sign up, if you don't like it, leave! I've also never received an ounce of spam resulting from Facebook, or been worried that my personal details have been sold to some evil multinational.

I do sound like an addict now don't i?


The reminders have been running on TV for as long as i can remember. 'only X days till the digital tv switchover...are you ready?' All over America the analogue TV signal is being turned off and replaced by digital or satellite. This is all the make room for more channels or bandwidth or something else i don't really understand. Anyway, everyone has had a long time to either switch to cable/satellite or get a digital converter for their TV.

But about four or five million people haven't, and so congress has voted not only to delay the switchover by four months, but also to give $40 to everyone who hasn't yet bought a converter box. Now there are a world of issues here, and the right wing media have gone off the scale over it. Twice today i turned the radio on, about four hours apart, and this was the subject. Their point of course is that 1) It's crazy for government money to be spent on people's Tvs, where does that stop? What if i want a digital radio? Or a sit down lawn mower? Isn't America supposed to be a capitalist free market? 2) Obama knows the power of TV and wants to make sure that every traditional Democrat voter can afford to listen to the liberal 'news' about how he's saving their country. (news over here is essentially headlines and comment, it makes me long for Huw Davies and Fiona Bruce) and 3) when did TV become an essential. Can people not service without watching American Idol or whatever else.

There are dozens of political issues here, but there's also a spiritual one i think. Increasingly our culture is built on entertainment. TiVo and Sky + mean we never need to miss a TV show, Wii Fit means that we never need to leave our house to go to the gym, we can achieve our dreams of sporting glory on a PS3, digital TV means there's always another channel to flick to, even if there's nothing to watch on any of them. One package offers 250 channels. 250! Get a huge flat screen and your good to go.

We weren't built to be entertained. Our minds were made to think of the glory of Christ, our hearts were made for deep joy in worship, our bodies were made to serve and glorify Christ. We weren't created to sit on the couch, we were created to worship, with sharp minds and grateful hearts. Where will another Edwards or Whitefield or Simeon or Judson come from if our free time is devoted to watching tv. How will we worship or preach on sunday morning if all our evenings are devoted to television. I'm not advocating Christians getting rid of Tvs (although, given this is the fundamentalist belt, i'd bet i'm not too far from someone who is) i like watching House and 24 and essentially anything involving a ball and thousands of screaming spectators. TV, even 250 channel digital TV isn't evil, but it is invasive, and it can stop our hearts reaching deeply for Christ. And thats not worth all the government money you can spend...

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

A ledge

Sometimes reading the Bible is like a mighty soul satisfying feast, verse after verse, chapter after filling chapter making us glad in our savior.

Sometimes a single verse is like a sturdy ledge on a sheer cliff face:

And everyone who has left houses, or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands or Reading Family Church, or UCCF, or lunches with their family, or time with friends, or afternoons at football, for my names sake, will receive a hundredfold, and will inherit eternal life
Matthew 19:29 (Ed's Special Version)

Monday, February 02, 2009

Four and a half reasons to feast on Genesis

This year i'm following a Chronological Bible reading plan, so as i bade farewell to January, i also waved goodbye to Genesis, possibly now out there on it's own as my favourite book of the Old Testament. Here's why:

1) It is the book of mystery. Amen, God reveals Himself though scripture, He doesn't hide in it's pages, but some of what goes on in Genesis is so wonderfully unique (and not, as we'll see). How did Jacob wrestle with God, why do we need to know about Onan (we must need to, or it wouldn't be in there). Is there another book where genealogies and geography are such a key to understanding the overarching story? Is there another book where and old man's bones in a tomb hundreds of miles away from the scene of the action is the cause for such hope.

2) It is the book of beginnings. It is the book that makes sense of everything, both in the Bible and in much of life. Why is that tree there? Because God spoke and it was so. Why is everything, essentially, a mess? Because the serpent spoke and Adam listened. Is there any hope? Yes, lots, as we'll soon see. Beginnings. Of the universe, of man, of the Gospel. 

3) It is the book of promises. Right from the chapter 3, we see the proto Gospel, the promise of a serpent crusher. Even though it is these hopes that are crushed time and again, the promise towers over the book. It's not Abel, or Isaac, or Jacob, it's someone much better. Abraham is promised a son, millions of sons, and land. The Genesis promises stretch centuries into the future, they hold the book together. As we read of Isaac's birth, near sacrifice, as we read about the ark it makes us cast our eyes and thoughts upon Jesus.

4) It is the book of us. I'm not sure there's much that happens in the rest of the Bible that doesn't happen first, or is at least promised in Genesis. God being gracious to His people, God judging the sin of His enemies, idol worship, murder, human pride, rampant sin, human failure, sexual perversion, God's purposes ruling over all in spite of man. Brilliant.

5) If it were a TV sitcom, it would be taken off the air. Isn't that true? Especially from Jacob onwards, too much sex, too much violence, no family planning, only one real hero in Joseph. And given that list, it would probably be Christians who complained about it the loudest...