Saturday, January 31, 2009
It's excellent. Really really good. I'm so pleased Re:Lit exists, if only for this sort of well presented, well designed book. Of course, that wouldn't matter if the content was no good...but it is. Driscoll shares with passion and candour a mix of gleaned wisdom and experience, taking a look at the major areas of the traditional church, as well as a couple of chapters on technology and multi campus churches, which i really enjoyed. What is, possibly, one of the most remarkable things about this book is that we get to page 91 before there's a joke. 'Death by Love' was obviously a book with serious subject matter, but i'd assumed that Driscoll's usual humour would be worked through this book, as with Vintage Jesus and his two earlier books. It just isn't. There are funny moments, but they are far fewer than i'd expected. Does this make it easier to read or better? I'm not sure, but i thought it was interesting.
I loved this book. The chapters are in depth and lengthy but readable, it's helped clear and clarify my thinking about a couple of areas of church life, given me a refreshed vision for my own service my church and The Church, and, most importantly, made me excited about gathering with my church tomorrow.
I probably had four favourite chapters; 'who is supposed to lead a church,' 'why is preaching important,' 'what are baptism and communion,' and 'how can a church change the world?' the last chapter. I think it's worth buying the book for the last chapter alone. In it Mark discusses how to change the world the Church must look beyond changed individual hearts, and towards changing the way culture involves. If culture is a river, the Church needs to be pumping the Gospel in at the source, rather than in the middle. Culture rarely changes from the bottom up. This is why Acts 29 is so city focused, because cities are where the people that form and inform culture are.
Whether or not you agree with all the conclusions reached in the book, especially the last chapter, Vintage Church is still an excellent, excellent read. Like i said, it's made me excited about going to church, serving the church, and being part of The Church, so in that sense, it must be considered mission accomplished!
Buy it here
Friday, January 30, 2009
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Monday, January 26, 2009
Sunday, January 25, 2009
Or let me put it like this. You may feel and say ‒ as many do ‒ ‘I was converted and became a Christian. I’ve grown ‒ yes, I’ve grown in knowledge, I’ve been reading books, I’ve been listening to sermons, but I’ve arrived now at a sort of peak and all I do is maintain that. For the rest of my life I will just go on like this.’
Read the whole thing here.
This surely is the answer to the struggle of the Christian life. Come to Jesus! We need to get on our knees over Scripture and ask that the Holy Spirit would illuminate the glory of God in the face of Christ in the text. We should go to the spring of living water, and drink, search for the bread of life, and eat. Gorge ourselves on the glory of God.
I'm following a chronological reading plan this year. The more Scripture i read, the more i want to. The more i discover, the more i want to discover. Jesus Christ satisfies. But how? Only with a deeper hunger for holiness and Him, only by slamming the doors of sin shut in our hearts and opening up wide, deep, long avenues of grace will we be satisfied. Sometimes we plateau, but this isn't to be considered the norm...Jesus Christ appears, and our hearts come alive...
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Was it an historic moment? Yes, a hundred million times yes. Going from segregation to inauguration in just about a generation is amazing... Has the press gone a bit bonkers over it? Yes, a little bit. There were nowhere near two million people in Washington watching it, it's probably closer to about half that number. But that's still pretty good.
Will Obama actually be a good president? Who knows to be honest. He's hasn't had much experience of leading Illinois, never mind America. He's probably the first president to take over a country in decline rather than on an upward curve, and coupled with the fact that there's probably more expectation on him than any other President in US history...It's going to be tough. He's ordered the closure of Guantanamo Bay (probably not a bad thing) and repealed Bush's policy of not spending federal money on abortions (a terrible, terrible thing...four days in!). His economic plans could well create a huge number of jobless people relying on government pay outs, which is about as far away from the American dream as you can get...It's going to be an interesting four years.
I though Rick Warren really did pretty well with his prayer. I'm no fan of his, but i thought with the exception of a couple of cringing moments, he did as well as anyone could have done. And i'm sure every time i pray in church there are a couple of cringe moments, and that's just in front of a couple of hundred people, never mind nearly a million!
I really hope Obama is a good, financially responsible, morally upstanding President. But more than that, i hope he comes to saving faith in Jesus Christ, the One who always has, and always will rule America. We need to pray to that end...
Friday, January 23, 2009
God’s plan is marching on. We notice again in verse 5 that we’re told ‘Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him’. Why more repetition? Surely for the same reasons that there was repetition in verses one and two. One commentator says that ‘there is great emphasis in the repetition… For he thus retains his readers, as by laying his hand upon them, that they may pause in consideration of this great miracle.’ The next time we ask whether it’s possible for God to do something we need to really ask ‘how big is God?’ Here we see a huge God keeping His huge promises.
The last two verses are given to Sarah, and it’s probably a song. Verse six says: ‘God has made laughter for me, everyone who hears will laugh over me.’ With this miraculous visit and fulfillment, God has turned Sarah’s laugh of disbelief into a genuine laugh of joy. And, of course, as we’ve already seen, the name Isaac means ‘he laughs’. God wanted Isaac to be called Isaac so that every time Sarah looked at her son, she would remember what God has done, and laugh for joy about it. Not only Sarah would laugh, but those in her household and also, those who read this story. Israel would have been expected to laugh with a similar joy when they read this story, because, in a very real way, Isaac’s birth signaled the birth of the nation of Israel. If Isaac had never been born then there would have been no Israel, no nation of God’s people.
Like ancient Israel we can also laugh with joy at what God has done in our lives. Once we were not God’s people, now we are God’s people, once we did not call on His name to save us from our sin, no we can think of no other sort of life. Just as God miraculously called Isaac into existence He has miraculously called us into faith. This is why I started this morning asking why we were here. It’s so easy to get relaxed about being a Christian or coming to church, but our salvation is a breathtaking miracle. It’s a bit like flying. Imagine sitting in a metal tube a few miles above the surface of the earth and traveling at about six hundred miles an hour, only slightly slower than my voice is traveling to you right now. It should be the most thrilling way of traveling that we know, and yet, because flying is such a normal thing today we spend our time reading or watching movies or sleeping, and grumbling when our plane is delayed. We mustn’t let ourselves end up like this about the church, about knowing Jesus. We need to remember that our being saved is a joyful, miraculous thing. Like a ninety year old giving birth, it should be something that we barely dare to believe.
In verse seven Sarah’s song, and our story ends ‘and she said, who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have born him a son in his old age.’ Well Sarah’s right, who indeed would have thought this would happen. And yet it did. A son was born, then a nation, and then another Son.
Who would have thought that a virgin could have given birth? Who would have thought that a homeless carpenter was the Son of God? Who would have thought that His death would bring life to all who believed in Him? Jesus brings the final fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham. Abraham was promised not just that he would father Isaac, but that he would father a multitude of nations. Jesus pours out His Spirit on his followers so that we would ‘make disciples of all nations.’ Jesus shed His blood for the nations that they might be saved. In the birth of Isaac, we see the initial fulfillment of God’s promise to make Abraham a multitude of nations, fulfilled in Jesus and then through us.
So why is Isaac’s birth recorded in the Bible? To stir up faith among God’s people at the wonderful work of our miraculous God. To leave Israel, and then the church, in wonder at what God has done in saving His people, so that we would laugh for joy like Sarah and not become tired in their love for the Lord.
To teach us that His promises are to be trusted. As we saw earlier, Abraham didn’t trust God’s promises and tried to make them work his own way. He didn’t believe that his aged wife could give birth, so he had a son by Hagar. He didn’t believe that God would keep him safe in a foreign land, so he told the king that Sarah was his sister and let him marry her. God wasn’t going to fulfill His promise though Ishmael because Ishmael was possible. Isaac was impossible! All of Abraham’s efforts only took him further away from what God was ding. All God requires of Abraham, and us, is to have faith in His promises.
To remind us that read now that God promised to make Abraham a father of many nations, through the death of Christ this has been made possible, and so to remind us of our responsibility to play our part in the great commission.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
I wonder why we’re at church this morning. I guess our answers would range from the spiritual (‘I want to worship God though Jesus in Sprit and truth’) to the relational (‘I want to spend some time with my friends and church family’) to the more mundane and honest (‘this is just what I do on a Sunday morning’). None of those are bad reasons for coming to church, obviously, but I wonder if sometimes it’s easy to get blasé about being part of a church, about being saved, about being one of God’s sons or daughters though faith in Jesus. Maybe it seems to us that being a Christian isn’t worth it. We seem distant from the days when everything was new and we’ve grown tired of the daily routine of Bible reading and prayer.
I wonder if often times this was how Israel felt. They had lost the wonder of the early years, they had all heard the stories of what God had done generations ago that we read about in the early chapters of Genesis, and maybe, by the exile they felt like we do sometimes. In need of a fresh reminder at the wonderful power of God. In need of a revelation of the purposes of God, and how wonderful it is to be part of His people. Maybe they simply needed to remember that God is always in control, and always working for the good of His people. Maybe we need that reminder this morning as well.I think the story we’ve just read would have served all of those purposes for the Israelites that read it, and hopefully it will do the same for us as well.
Genesis 21:1-7 forms a complete story, about the birth of Isaac, but it’s part of a larger story, the conclusion of a story that started 25 years previous and took many diversions and hit many problems along the way. Before we can understand and enjoy this story in it’s full colour we need to see this back story, so lets take ever such a brief look at the last 25 years of Abraham until this point. The story starts in Genesis 11:30, right after we meet Sarah we’re told ‘now Sarai was barren, she had no child’. Shortly after that God calls Abraham and tells him in Genesis 12:2 ‘I will make you a great nation…’ Genesis 12:4 tells us that Abraham was seventy five years old at this time. Shortly afterwards God visits Abraham again and tells him, in Genesis 13:16 ‘I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth…’ and in 15:5 ‘as the starts of the sky.’ All this time as these promises become more and more incredible Sarah is still barren. So she suggests that Abraham tries to conceive with Hagar, thinking that this must be the way that God was going to fulfill His promise to them. Hagar gives birth to Ishmael and it seems that the wait is over and the tension is relieved.
Abraham and Sarah are happy with this state of affairs for thirteen years until chapter 17, when God appears again to Abraham and says if Sarah in verse 16: ‘I will give you a son by her’ In Genesis 18 God gets more specific about the promise of Isaac saying, verse 10, ‘I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a sin.’ Sarah overhears this from her tent and, perhaps understandably, verse 12 ‘laughed to herself saying ‘after I am worn out and I am old shall I have pleasure?’’
So that’s where we are prior to Genesis 21. So far it’s a story of God making big promises, and His people not believing Him and trying to make God’s plans happen themselves. Sometimes people say that the Old Testament is no longer relevant, but that sounds just like my life sometimes. Lack of faith leading to inappropriate action. It gets even worse in Genesis 20 when Abraham passes Sarah off as his sister to protect himself from King Abimelech. It’s from this point our story starts, twenty five years after God’s first promise, thirteen years after the birth of Ishmael, and a year after Sarah laughed at the idea of bearing a child.
So with out context set, lets look at verses one and two together: the Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did to Sarah as he had promised. And Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had promised.’ The tension is resolved, Abraham has a son! This is a huge step forward in the story of Genesis, in the search to find the serpent crusher, and the story of how Abraham was to become the father of many nations. We can see the emphasis in these verses is all on God’s action. The phrases ‘as He had said,’ ‘as He had promised,’ ‘at the time of which God had spoken to Him,’ demonstrate where the author wants to draw our attention here.
Onto God. Onto the LORD of Israel keeping His promises even down to the smallest details. Again we see, clear as a bell from scripture that God is gracious because God is gracious, not because we deserve it or because we have done something to impress Him. God makes a promise and He keeps it. This is a firm rock on which to set our feet. This is what should wake us up every morning thrilled to be a Christian, because today, and tomorrow, and every day, God will keep His promises. This is good news!
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
So what is 'Bible Delight'? It's a 200 page, 20 chapter journey through Psalm 119, for Bible hearer and Bible teacher. Ash takes a stanza of the psalm in every chapter, with two more on reading and understanding the context of the whole psalm. The aims of the book are three fold. To see whats written, to understand what's written and to sing what's written.
That's what i appreciated the most about this book. Ash is not providing a commentary, though it does provide that function, or a study book, though it does that as well, but a resource four the readers' heart, that we would live and breath Biblical life with more passion, and more delight. Each section is described and applied warmly and pastorally, with Ash never forgetting his initial premise to help us sing.
It's really good: go buy!
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Also, give your iPod a birthday, and check out the faith by hearing audio blog. Especially their best audio of 2008 post. Excellent stuff.
North Carolina has definitely had some extremes of weather since the summer. My first three weeks here the heat was tremendous. Barely out of the nineties all day, it felt like we were living in an oven. Then September, October and November were lovely. T-shirt weather most days, sunny evenings and warm days. Mostly. We only really had one or two days of 'need your coat' weather in the whole second half of 2008.
And now...now it's hurling snow out of the sky. We've had the coldest winter in the last six years in North Carolina, night time temperatures getting as low as -17C!. That's cold. I wonder if i've ever gone through a wider range of temperature in such a short time. I doubt it!
Anyway, i'm off to play in the snow...
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Saturday, January 17, 2009
Friday, January 16, 2009
Justin Taylor and Challies have both commented on how cold it is on the east coast at the moment. Temperatures here have been below freezing since this morning and will stay that way until Saturday afternoon It's not that bad compared to other places though, we're pretty steady in the low twenties high teens fahrenheit, which is must better than the minus numbers further north.
I felt like an old man this week. I was just paying for lunch at Andy's, a cheeseburger place, when one of the cooks, a guy called Jonny who'd been to church a couple of times came over to say hi. Instead of offering me his hand, or palm, or even first, he sort of waved his elbow at me. Perhaps he was doing an Alan Shearer impression, but i doubt it. Anyway, i awkwardly punched it, and we stumbled on with our conversation. Whats going on with kids today!
I've recently discovered the Cranmer blog. Excellent stuff on politics in religion, and religion in politics...especially this article on Rick Warren, Gene Robinson and the inauguration.
And finally, will Kaka sign for Manchester City? Well i hope not, but thats not the point. Is he worth 100M pounds? Well, he's probably not more than twice as good as Zidane was when Real Madrid paid 43M pounds for him in 2001, but if thats what the market says then fair enough. And since Manchester City's owners have got 15B pounds at their disposal it's hardly going to stretch them. This is just the next step on the ladder that started in 1905 when Sunderland signed Alf Common for 1000 pounds. Should he be getting paid 500,000 pounds a week just 'for kicking a ball'. Well, if City want to pay him that, then i guess he should Is this any worse than John Terry getting paid 135,000 pounds a week?
I've never really understood why people get so upset about what premiership footballers get paid. How many other professions are there where thousands of people turn up to watch you work every week, and spend the rest of the week thinking and talking about what they've seen? Should nurses and doctors get paid more? Of course they should, but whats that got to do with the Premier League? It's almost as daft as the idea that footballers should be role models, with amounts to nothing more than a mass abdication of responsibility by so many parents. During all the hundreds of Wycombe games i've watched, many in my formative years, it never once occurred to me that i should want to grow up to be like one of them.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Bursting into Mrs Holt's maths class to assure the children that 'a real teacher would be along soon.'
Teaching a lower sixth class to make jelly and bake cakes during an economics class claiming that he misundertood what 'home economics' meant on the syllabus.
Donning a school blazer and sitting at the back of a year 11 english class without being discovered for twenty minutes.
For this, and many more reasons, Garth Radcliffe is warmly remembered by many from my generation at RGS. He was also one of the men that God used wonderfully, powerfully to draw me to Him in 2002.
Wonderfully, he's written a book: 'A Second Adam'. It combines a well-argued, intellectual case for the historical and physical resurrection of Jesus, with wide ranging, personal applications for how the it applies to our lives.
Buy it here