Friday, 29 December 2006

Fueling mission's flame

Matt Redman has something right!

"Let worship be the fuel for mission's flame
We're going with a passion for Your name
We're going for we care about Your praise
Send us out

Let worship be the heart of mission's aim
To see the nations recognize Your fame
'Til every tribe and tongue voices Your praise
Send us out

You should be the praise of every tongue, Jesus
You should be the joy of every heart
But until the fullness of Your kingdom comes
Until the final revelation dawns
Send us out

Every tribe, every tongue
Every creature in the heavens and the earth
Every heart, every soul
Will sing Your praise, will sing Your praise
Every note, every strain
Every melody will be for You alone
Every harmony that flows from every tongue
We'll sing Your praise, we'll sing Your praise
We'll sing Your praise, we'll sing Your praise."

Not saying it's congregationally sing-able or anything, but not bad lyrics.

Shopping in UCCF style

My housemate's moving out so I'm shopping for much house stuff. And behold! IKEA is producing coasters in UCCF colours -

No, I'm not buying them. Unlike Pod, I'm not out to paint the world in the brand design colours of the Christian Unions!

Thursday, 28 December 2006

Sunday, 24 December 2006

Cantabile

Today started with taking a Christmas service at an old folks' home near church - for which we've taken the service once a month since I was a toddler. I started singing solos there each month as a cute-'un, an elderly lady from church accompanied the hymns on the battered old piano and my Dad preached; in more recent years my singing solos is not so cute but excellent to remind them of the gospel (and they love joining in), and I accompany the hymns on the nice electric piano with weighted keys and a lovely organ sound (my Dad still preaches, though I think he wants my brother to try it sometime). I miss it for most of the year when I'm not there any more!

Today ended with a family carol-sing at home. There is something wonderful about singing praise to God and encouragement of God's word to each other.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. [Col 3.16]

Saturday, 23 December 2006

Grace through the fog

I do like Norn Irish culture after all. Some of it anyway - I can see the grace. On Thursday afternoon because of the fog, my 18:45 flight from Birmingham was delayed and we ended up at 20:30 (having been in the airport 3 hours) being checked onto coaches to Manchester where our plane was waiting to take us to Belfast International from whence we'd have a coach to Belfast City - our destination! (In the end I got to my parents' at 02:00.) Fun. But all the while the bunch of us was laughing and joking about it. Which is a refreshing perspective that I do my best to cultivate - I mean, in the grand scale of things, what's a few hours in an airport or coach? But I don't usually suceed at getting the English on board with this! Whereas it only took one joking comment and we were all away among the Norn Irish returnees. I do like this Norn Irish attitude: the laid-backness, the making a joke of everything, the not taking ourselves too seriously. In some areas anyway...

And I was very glad that I'd thought at the last minute to pop my mp3 player in my handbag - if one has to travel for 2 hours up the M6 after 3 hours in an airport, doing so to the sound of Lou Fellingham's Treasure album and Piper on Sustaining Grace has got to rock.

So, from the ridiculous to the sublime there is grace: from a measure of grace in each culture to sovereign sustaining grace in Christ. Piper's quatrian on sustaining grace is worth learning:
Not grace to bar what is not bliss,
Nor flight from all distress, but this:
The grace that orders our trouble and pain
and then, in the darkness, is there to sustain.

Tuesday, 19 December 2006

Understanding dispensationalists

For a while I've been reading Poythress' Understanding Dispensationalists, because I didn't understand how an evangelical could have a dispensationalist hermeneutic given the gospel insistance on the eternal unity of Jews and Gentiles achieved in Christ outlined in Paul's letters. So, I thought, if I don't understand how a Christian can be dispensational, I clearly don't understand dispensationalism well enough. And Poythress' book is marvellous.

Clear and gracious, Poythress helped me understand dispensationalists (does what it says on the tin and all that). He thinks dispies and covenant theologians aren't as far off now as we think, and picks out a few key issues which challenge dispensational theology or call for more study.

At the risk of giving the impression that Poythress' study is as narrow as the following, I was then interested to be reminded of Stephen Sizer's IVP book Christian Zionism: Road-map to Armageddon? by a friend who's going to be in the church Sizer pastors. I think I have it somewhere, but haven't read it yet. But I found he's got a few lectures of the same title summarising it here. Interesting stuff. I'm becoming increasingly convicted of the importance of historic theology, or studying theology in its chronological context, or knowing some of the history of the development of doctrine, hermeneutics, epistomology and so on. Sin so easily blinds us not only to certain areas in which we are currently wrong, or certain ways in which we each tend to sin according to a sinful personality, but also certain areas chronologically in which we are prone to error or sin different from those before and after us. We do well to read dead Christians and know the history of church & doctrine so to be corrected.

Which leads me nicely into what I'll study next, having dispensed with dispensationalism: Athanasius. I'm very excited.

In Christ

"The Christian faith has no geographical centre.
There is no one race that dominates it.
There is no preferred language for its expression.
There is no privileged culture for its home.

"There's no place, no race, no tongue or culture which is the centre that holds it all together.

"No, it is a person. And not just the founder of a religion. The incarnate, resurrected and reigning Christ whose death is the only ground for our forgiveness and whose resurrection inaurgurated that reign that is going to cleanse the entire universe of evil. ... Jesus Christ is not great. He is incomparable. He is in a category all of his own. He is unique."

[David Wells, The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern world]

We are a displaced, dispersed, disparate people, only defined and placed and gathered in Christ. We pray towards no city or temple but Jesus Christ, we are pilgrims to no place but that which will come down from heaven with Christ's coming, we insist on no one language for worship but anticipate the full healing of Babel's curse, we recognise no one human culture as Christian but recognise sin and grace in each and look to all things being united in Christ.

Saturday, 16 December 2006

Avoiding confusion

A wee bit of advice Mo passed on when taking the Midlands team through Jonah:

God is God; you are you: try not to get the two confused.

Wednesday, 13 December 2006

I will not sing of shepherds

It's Aston, Cakes & UCE CUs' joint Carol Service this evening (w00t!) and I hope we'll sing some of the great carols which speak so clearly & well of what was actually going on at Christmas: Hark the herald, Joy to the world, Once in royal, O little town (after you've got over singing to a town, v1!)...

I admit I get bored halfway through While shepherds watched and start trying to not laugh at the apalling poetry which neither reads nor rhymes well, and the extremely snowy palestine of In the bleak midwinter cracks me up (quite apart from trying to make snow last over several notes) - and as for Away in a manger, it's sentimental drivel with a not-so-completely-human Jesus who doesn't cry.

How about this poem? [ht Phil Ryken]

Praise God for Christmas
Praise Him for the Incarnation
for Word made flesh.
I will not sing
of shepherds watching flocks
on frosty night
or angel choristers.
I will not sing
of stable bare in Bethlehem
or lowing oxen
wise men
trailing distant star
with gold and frankincense
and myrrh.
Tonight I will sing
praise to the Father
who stood on heaven's threshold
and said farewell to His Son
as He stepped across the stars
to Bethlehem
and Jerusalem.
And I will sing
praise to the infinite eternal Son
who became most finite
a Baby
who would one day
be executed
for my crimes.
Praise Him in the heavens.
Praise Him in the stable.
Praise Him in my heart.

(Joe Bayly)

Sunday, 10 December 2006

Is the Bible sexist? 3

Part 1: In the beginning, they were equal in dignity in God's image.
Part 2: Perverted rebels - why we are sexist & object to sexism.
The Bible gives the only explanation for sexism and reason for our objecting to it - we're both from God, but we're perverted rebels. But

The Bible not only explains out sexism, it judges our sexism.
The trouble with trying to claim that the Bible’s sexist is that it turns the accusation back on us. You who claim that we’re equal in dignity – yes, we are – but you say that while cleverly manipulating the men in your project group so you can get one up on them. You say male chauvinism is wrong and that the Bible’s sexist; while you pressure your girlfriend into having sex. You say the Bible is anti-women while you spend between lectures with your girlfriends alternately slagging off men or ogling male stars like they’re meat rather than people. You claim to judge sexism but you do exactly the same thing!

You may not like what the Bible says, because it says we owe God honour and thanks, and points out how perverted we are; but it’s laughable to try to take the moral high ground and say the Bible’s sexist. The Bible judges our sexism – because God cares about his image, about us who bear it, and he takes our distortion, power abuse, manipulation, sexist jokes – he takes it all very seriously. God’s word explains and judges our sexism and God will judge sexism when Jesus comes back to make a new creation in which we’ll have perfect dignity restored in perfectly harmonious relationships, respecting each others roles and goodness from God.

Now all I’ve said from the Bible has been quite negative of us.
We thought we’d take the Bible to court and instead we find it’s the court order
of the judge, declaring us guilty of sexual perversion in our very core
attitudes and thoughts, and pronouncing the judgement.
So now let me tell you of the only non-sexist, unperverted person who ever lived: Jesus. As we all do, the leaders in his culture had a distorted view of the dignity and roles of men & women – they even said that a leader or teacher shouldn’t speak to a woman in the street: even his wife! Jesus rejected that distortion.
  • He initiated conversation with a woman and proceeded to tell her that he is the Messiah – something the Bible records that his male disciples didn’t understand till later!
  • He’s financially supported by some prominent female followers
  • He welcomes women to listen to his teaching like a disciple – when it was assumed that only men could understand God-stuff
  • When he rises from the dead, he arranges for women to be the first witnesses, the ones who tell the (still rather confused) male disciples
Jesus didn’t treat women in the perverted sexist way of his culture or of ours – he treated them as equal in dignity and different in role, as his Father had designed.

So how is that good news? Great, so maybe one man wasn’t sexist. But that one man, not declared guilty by God’s word, was judged anyway. Not for his perverted attitudes, his sexism because he had none, but for our perversion, our sexism. And to anyone who asks to be counted in him, he gives new life – life to be transformed from our sexism, selfishness, greed, shame, corruption, rebellion, to be like Jesus: loving and respecting God and each other.

The Bible is not sexist: rather, it explains our sexism, judges our sexism, and reveals the only answer to our sexism.

Now, I haven’t covered the particulars – I’ve given us the broad sweeps so that now you’ll know a bit more of the context in which to ask questions! But before I take questions [leave a blog comment if you want], I’d like to challenge you – don’t drink in assumptions about the Bible and dismiss it: read it and see. Because sexism, perverting God’s design in us, and judgement, is much too serious to dismiss on the basis of prejudice!

Saturday, 9 December 2006

Is the Bible sexist? 2

Part 1. They were equal in dignity and personhood, because they’d been made in God’s image. They were together with no shame, and God had said it was really good. So what happened?

We’re now in a world of sexist jokes, of slagging off the other sex, of power play, of manipulation... We’re in a world where, according to a Warwick report just out, 5 year olds give teachers sexist abuse! And the Bible’s real to this too: it goes on to describe not this good harmony of equality in complementarity but men abusing women, women manipulating men... You see, we got our dignity and equality from the creator: he was the source, and it derived from him. They enjoyed each other under his rule. They fitted together under his rule, as equals. But rather than enjoying that dignity and equality they got from God, they rebelled against him. And we rebel against him.

There was no sexism, no male chauvinism under God’s good creator-rule. But we decide that we want to rule; we want to decide what’s good. But you can’t rebel against the source of goodness and remain completely good!
You decide that your tutor doesn’t really want you to understand his subject better; he’s just being mean. Who’s he to say what’s good and what’s not? So you and a couple of friends depose your tutor, take over his office, and now you decide what makes the grade. You award A’s to yourselves, of course, and... pretty much everyone else. Well, that's all nice to start with, but are you actually good academically? Not without teachers you aren’t... and not if everyone else is getting A’s either!

If you rebel against the tutor, who declares what’s good and what isn’t, then goodness actually goes out the window. You get discrimination, or falling standards, bribery, and general corruption right until some other student deposes you in a military coup.
The man and woman rebelled against the one who makes good, gives good and declares good – enter corruption, power-play and sexism, stage left.

Same now: we don’t want our own roles; we want to usurp God’s role. And in doing so, we pervert God’s design. You’re worried about sexists? I tell you it’s worse: we’re all sexual perverts!

God said the gender war would start: they’d rejected dignity as God’s creatures so the man would be abusing his power trying to rule harshly over the woman; and they’d rejected harmony like God so the woman would be trying to manipulate the man for power. They’d rejected the giver of harmonious dignity so they’d attack each other’s dignity.

The Bible, far from being sexist, describes life as it is. It doesn’t cause our sexism, it explains the cause of our sexism. We know we’re equal. We know we’re different to animals: how many animals have seminars on sexism in society, or counselling sessions on relationships?! We know we’re different. We know at best it can be beautiful. And we know that at heart we’re pretty perverted.
Just look at the number of books in Smiths (probably even in the uni bookshop) trying to sort us out on sex, gender & relationships. For goodness sake, we even nod sagely when someone says, "It’s like... men are from Mars, and women are from Venus!" We don’t have to go so far to find why we’re like we are: we’re both from God, but we’re perverted rebels.
And we recognise the perversion only because there was a good plan to start with: the Bible gives the only explanation for sexism and reason for our objecting to it - we're both from God, but we're perverted rebels.

But the Bible not only explains out sexism, it judges our sexism.
The trouble with trying to claim that the Bible’s sexist is that it turns the accusation back on us.
But that's for the next post.

Friday, 8 December 2006

Is the Bible sexist?

Lunchbar at the wonderful Warwick CU (I did go all nostalgic, yes) on Is the Bible sexist? Now, as well as being my alma mater, Warwick's the uni with Germaine Greer on the teaching staff. Here's what I said (in installments!)

When I was asked to speak on ‘Is the Bible sexist?’, I was rather surprised. I thought, 'Sexist? But I think it’s actually quite positive about men!' Oh ok, I’m not going to get away with that. I guess you’re here because you think the Bible is sexist in being down on women in some way rather than men. You probably have questions about roles, and if you’re in the arts or social sciences your lecturer or seminar tutor has probably at some point voiced the assumption that the Bible’s sexist when you’ve been discussing a text, film or aspect of political history. Well, at university we don’t want to swallow assumptions unquestioningly, so if we’re going to make claims about the Bible, let’s look at the Bible to examine them.

I won’t deal with specific examples in the Bible because we need to get its big picture first – so I expect that you'll have questions about particular things in the Bible, to ask in the question time after I’ve spoken. In fact, I’m going to propose that the Bible doesn’t cause sexism but explains our sexism and judges our sexism.

First of all: the Bible explains our sexism.
Let’s go to the very beginning of humankind: Genesis (beginnings) ch1. The opening has a rhythm to it:
God spoke, 'Let there be...', it was, it was good, that was day 1;
God spoke, 'Let there be...', it was, it was good, that was day 2;
and so on, right up to halfway through day 6.
On day 6, God spoke, 'Let there be living creatures, according to their kinds,' it was so, & it was good. But that wasn’t the end.
God speaks again – and he doesn’t just say, 'Let there be...' but he converses,
"Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground."
So God created human beings in his own image.
In the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
So right at the beginning, God decided to make creatures unlike all the others, to reflect him, able to know him, to relate, to communicate with him and each other. He made them male and female, reflecting him in relationship, equal in dignity and honour because unlike the animals, they were created in God’s image, to rule over the rest of creation. They together were given this rule, together were given creation to enjoy, together were commissioned to work – 'Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it.' They obviously had different roles in that filling the earth bit at least: but they were given the work together. Together they were made to know and honour their glorious creator. They weren’t identical: God had his plan of beauty in diversity and made not just a tribe of men with asexual reproduction or a tribe of females but a man and woman to complement each other. (Not 'You’re lovely Adam' 'So are you, Eve!' but they fit together.)

They were equal in dignity and personhood, because they’d been made in God’s image. They were together with no shame, and God had said it was really good.

So what happens? That'd be for the next post.

Williams weighs in

The BBC reports on Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams' Times Higher Education supplement (not online) article on suppression of CUs in universities. His article was called, in a rather Anglican reserved but fair way, "It is not a crime to hold traditional values." In it he said, "The danger in issuing sanctions against a body whose views you disapprove of is that it looks like a fear of open argument." Richard Cunningham had made much the same point in his article in the Guardian, but sadly more people listen to Rowan Williams - well, when he says something understandable by non PhDs anyway. Of course, Mr Williams does not say he agrees with or supports the CUs' beliefs, but he at least has spoken out that they have a right to express 'traditional values'. Read the rest of the BBC report here

Wednesday, 6 December 2006

Machines and miscellany

My 2 hour driving lesson this morning was relaxing. Relaxing?!? Well, I had come straight from battling my printer for an hour to no avail, so relatively, it was quite fun... but I do think I'm ready for my test!

Once upon a CU meeting... the music sec and I decided that our end of year prayer & praise meeting should include a brief word from the Bible - we'd not got a speaker for a talk, but we decided we wanted to hear from God and respond in our prayer & praise meeting: rather a waste of a meeting otherwise! So, not having a speaker, we asked Rich Fairbairn, then CU pres, to give a few words of exhortation. Now, we should have known really... Rich Fairbairn was not just going to give a 'few words' once we'd given him the chance to expound God's word to CU. He preached on Hebrews 13. Now, a good few years on, he's been preaching around Reading and Guildford CUs, and RUCU helpfully recorded him on Mark 14 [HT: Bish] Good stuff. I'd like to take credit for sparking off his preaching ministry, but it was going to happen sometime, and God blatantly gets all the credit anyway.

Tuesday, 28 November 2006

Monday, 27 November 2006

Men turned into jellyfishes

TeamPyro's Spurgeon post this Monday is worth reading, as Spurgeon contemplated the lack of seriously convinced sceptics (and convinced Christians) in 1874. As so often with Spurgeon, he could have been talking about today.

Our society doesn't often argue persuasively for unbelief; it assumes it.
Our response too easily is to leave off arguing persuasively for belief, and assume it.

Yet what happens then is that in private we assume the gospel to be true, and in public engagement - whether when chatting with friends about a TV programme or in not chatting with non-Christians at any time at all - we assume the gospel not to be true. That is, we don't announce it to be false, but we buy into the lie that with our non-Christian friends we have to speak as if we assume it to be false. We have to speak from their perspective. With Christian friends and acquaintances, we mention God, we interpret things from the perspective of the gospel. With non-Christian friends we refrain from mentioning God seriously and certainly from talking about the gospel's relevance to the latest film plot under discussion, effectively thinking & acting as if it isn't true.

That the man Jesus lived perfectly 2000 years ago, revealed God to us, died under God's wrath for us, who love to rebel against him, having been given by his Father God to do so, and rose again to give new life to all who believe in him, redeeming us from the tyranny of sin, will come again to judge the living and the dead and receive his own into eternal glory to resurrected bodies with him forever - if this gospel is true then it is true for every part of the world, every person, every age, every time, every culture and every language. It is true when talking with those who do believe it and it is true when talking with those who don't. It is true so we must be doing theology - delving into it more and applying it more - when we're chatting with kids, when we're lounging on the sofa, when we're in the car, when we're lying down & when we get up. Theology is not a private matter. When you're conversing about a film, converse as a believer in this gospel; when discussing your children's education, discuss it as a believer that Jesus Christ is Lord; when bantering about behaviour in a football match and a ref's call, banter as a believer in the judge of the living and the dead.

Our society assumes unbelief. Don't let those with whom we speak think that we assume it too.

Sunday, 26 November 2006

Jesus is Lord

Harking back to a couple of weeks ago, the final talk of the UCCF Graduate Network Conference was by Richard Cunningham, replacing John Stott who'd had an accident a while ago and is resting. He spoke very well on Romans 12.1-4 and other passages relating to Christ's lordship in our lives - and Sean has posted notes.

Monday, 20 November 2006

Christian seclusion

Sometimes it's good to withdraw a while from 'the world' - BUECU and Wolverhampton CU both enjoyed houseparties this weekend in the Quinta, with BUECU having clear & challenging talks by Andy Weatherly on Romans 3, 5, 6 & 7-8! While there we got hold of the Saturday Times, and read up on their front page report of our own news, detailed in another report inside, with commentary article... Some temporary seclusion - going as far as almost into Wales(!) for a weekend, can be good. Seclusion from the world of the sort that we are forced out of involvement in a public body though... not so good. Another of their analysts, while rather confusedly aligning CUs who want to be Christian-led, with Islamic fundamentalists recruiting terrorists on campus, decided that persecution helps them flourish. She also acknowledged secularism and atheism as religions in competition with the others.

This kind of thing leads to concerned supporters of CUs advising me to not let the students be distracted from evangelism on campus. This is admirable advice. The BUECU is not being distracted from evangelism on campus - they're encouraging it and doing it in every way possible from chatting with friends and organising small group 'dial-a-crumpet' evenings to subject-specific apologetics talks in departments and events for international students. But being able to book rooms in the Guild regularly (where one can actually have food at a lunchbar) and advertise as a Guild society is a part of evangelism that they're not going to let go of easily. To imagine that such things do not matter is wishful thinking.
I have sought to serve IFES groups where they are banned from religiously secular campuses, and evangelism is jolly difficult! The path is clear - first the groups are banned from Student Union property / affiliation, then from university property - advertising - rooms, then the non-Christian students accept the dogma that Christianity is non-academic & irrational, then Christian students believe the lie that they have nothing much to say - that the gospel doesn't engage with their friends and studies. It doesn't lead to a huge mission just off campus!
We aren't going to accept that we are illegal until we are ruled illegal - exactly as Paul did at every stage of his missionary journeys. He didn't hesitate to plead his citizenship, knowing that the government is God's servant for good. It's not that he started a public campaign to change the blatantly corrupt and anti-Christian government, but he did take every opportunity to show the government that the gospel was legal and that Christ is Lord and God. He did so not to fight for his rights but because Christ is Lord and his gospel is supremely good, not illegal - for Paul to point this out to authorities in court in every country and town he entered was recorded by Luke as being just as much part of his mission as was his synagogue preaching or Areopagus speaking! Therefore while keeping on with evangelism, we will spend some energy on this process, because Christ cries 'mine!' over every square inch of his world, and because his gospel engages with every person at every area of their life and world. (And as with Paul, in the outcome neither a mob-rule otherwise nor an emperor's dictate otherwise won't stop the mission we've been entrusted by the sovereign saving God.)

So yes, pray for the evangelism of these CUs. Pray for Christ's lordship to be proclaimed clearly and not given up as a pietistic offering to the god of non-engagement.

Thursday, 16 November 2006

Why trust a cross?

In Don's middle talk of the UCCF Grad Conference (that between Psalm 1 and 2 Tim 4, noted below) he expounded Romans 3.21-26. He started by noting that the Trinity or resurrection are no longer the sticking points in student missions - rather, sin, wrath and exclusivity are the hard ones to get across. Yet those things are exactly the background and context for Romans 3.21-26. The first thing for 'getting' the solution is to 'get' the problem. A weak view of sin leads to a dissipated view of the cross (and vice versa). From here I hand over to Sean, who's helpfully posted his notes.

Tuesday, 14 November 2006

Worse and worser

Continuing with talks by Don Carson at the UCCF Graduate Network Conference last weekend: this time on 2 Timothy 3:1 - 4:3. Here my notes were more sketchy as I was more tired, I'm sure Dr Carson was speaking quicker than before, and I probably didn't note down some of the main things he said because they were obvious... which isn't a good way to take notes! Still, there's a lot to learn from this if you take time to look at the passages while reading the notes. It won't make sense otherwise.

Is the contemporary obsession with the End Times dangerous? Carson proposed that moreso is the complete ignorance of being in the last days - the fixation on the here & now, not laying up treasure in heaven but on earth, not eagerly awaiting Jesus' return. Here Paul writes that we're in the last days (cf 1 Jn 2, 'last hour') - the time between Jesus' ascension and coming again.

False teachers in the last days - in 1 Tim 4 the focus is on the demonic influence; here in 2 Tim it's on the lifestyle. It's all getting worse? From bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived? What's the situ? Carson referred to the old D-day - VE day analogy. On D-day the war was won, decisively. It was obvious that the Allies had won. But the war still went on until VE day - and actually that period showed some of the worst battles in the war. So D-day was won with the cross. We know who's going to win! But Satan, knowing his time is short, doesn't lie down & admit it's over: some of the worst battles are between the cross & the VE-day of Jesus' return.

It is in that context that this passage comes, with its catalogue of evil:
1st 4 are selfishness (lovers of self, money, proud & arrogant)
2 are socially destructive behaviour (abusive, disobedient to parents)
4 privitives (ungrateful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving - all showing lack of grace)
2 more speech-behaviour (slanderous, without self-control)
2 privitives (untamed [brutal], unloving of good)
4 probably on the false teachers' character (treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than God)
--> having the appearance of godliness but denying its power.

We are to "avoid such people". How? This isn't to be applied to anyone who's ever had anything to do with these things - then we'd have to start by avoiding ourselves. But vv6-7 these are people who prey on the vulnerable (suggests a sneaky infiltration into Christian homes, & immorality - men out for power and women weak out for affirmation). I'm not sure what else Carson said on 'avoid such people' - anyone else who was there have anything to fill in?

Is this passage rather negative? Is finishing a grad conference on this passage not rather depressing rather than encouraging? There is a necessity to see the reality of evil and not be surprised by it. So...

1) Hold the right mentors in high regard vv10-11
Say to others, "Watch me" as Paul could - not suggesting a cult person control thing: he says that he hasn't 'got there' yet, not apprehended, but God has apprehended him so he presses on. We're to immitate him as he imitated Christ. (It occured to me today as studying 1 Thess 1.6-10 with a student that God's really into plagiarism in the Christian church - not to produce mini-MEs but mini-Christs. In a sense: without undermining his revelatory, salvitic and ontological uniqueness.) Find men and women with a foot planted firmly in heaven and yet so related to what's going on here, and hold them in high regard.

2) Hold few illusions about the world vv.12-13
If you love righteousness, unrighteous people will find you embarassing. You'll attract some & repel others - stench of death to some and the aroma of life to others. NB Discussion doesn't make evil go away. We're not basically good. Don't go Polly-Anna-ish. We're not all nice theists just needing a dose of Christianity to become Christians; we're a world in anarchic rebellion.

3) Hold on to the Bible vv.14-16
Back to Psalm 1: the controlling factor in the life of the righteous - enjoying and meditating on the Word.

4) Hold out the Bible to others ch4.1-8
Paul appeals not only to Christ, and God, but God in Christ judging the world! Preach the word. Keep your head. It won't be easy. I'm dying, says Paul, and he'll give me a crown, and to all who love Christ's appearing... [link again to looking forward to God in Christ judging the world.]
So how live like this? 1 Cor 7.29-31 The world defines self by these things - but all these are relativized by the gospel. These things 'as if not' --> they're not the ultimate good, ultimate goal. I.e. if you want to build a happy marriage or home, dont live with it at the centre of your life!
Christians don't overcome by close fellowship but by evangelism.

Sunday, 12 November 2006

Only 2 ways to live?

Carson on Psalm 1: 2 ways to live. Then, said he, 'I could stop here. But that leaves us with a question: are there only 2 ways to live?' Most of us aren't consistently in one of these ways or the other. And in the Bible, it's hard to find any characters not profoundly compromised at some stage... 2 ways to live? Isn't it more like a spectrum? How is it just 2 ways to live? What do we do with texts like this? Carson had 3 points to help us consider this:

1) Remember where we ourselves are in culture - ambiguity is lauded, absolutes are despised & rejected. We are culturally located, so we're going to be more sympathetic to those texts that underscore our struggles or ambiguity. Be aware of cultural location so that you can better listen to Scripture (eg in this case, paying more attention to the absolutes so they transform you.)

2) Genre This is a wisdom literature psalm. Sets out choices in polarities. Cf. Proverb's contrasting Lady Wisdom vs. Dame Folly - there's no middle lady who's mostly wise but gets messed up sometimes! In the NT Jesus is the most powerful Wisdom preacher (NB he doesn't only preach this genre, but he does preach this genre.) He preaches with remarkable antitheses which we tend to ignore, liking the parables better, because we enjoy stories (see point 1). The narrow or wide gates / roads. Good or bad fruit trees. Sand or rock foundations. How about a middle-sized road, a mostly good apple, or a clay foundation?? But we need to hear what makes us uncomfortable. Also, note that Jesus reads people so as to address the weakest point in their defense - doesn't deal with each the same.

3) 1 John. So why does the Bible give us these polarities and reflections on our compromise & brokeness? If we were only to have the stories of compromise, we'd accept it as norm and stop fighting. If we were only to have the polarities, we'd either be crushed or proud.

John is transparently concerned to have his readers see that Christians do sin. Ch.1:8-10. But no so they justify sinning - 2:1! But then, John says that
- if you're a Christian you'll love Christians and if you don't, you aren't.
- if you're a Christian you'll not love the world, and if you do, you aren't.
- if you're a Christian you'll not sin, and if you do, you aren't.
- if you're a Christian you'll practise righteousness, & if you don't, you aren't.
How so? How can John merrily write "If you say you don't sin you make God out to be a liar" and then write, "No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God." It's like a teacher telling a pupil, "You cannot chew gum here!" That's not an ontological statement (clearly the pupil physically can chew gum!) but an ethical mandate (in this class, we do not chew gum!) So, sinning is not done here. It misses the point completely to stick up your hand and say, "But God, look, I'm doing it! haha!"
So, we don't only remember that we have an advocate with the Father whenever we sin, but we remember that we cannot sin. Don't go soft on yourself.

The only time this will be worked out in perfection is in the new heavens & new earth.

Carson gave some comments on integrity. The word root is integer - wholeness. To be the same on the inside as on the outside. Now, this side of the consummation we all lack 100% integrity. There are desires, thoughts, that we don't act upon. There is corruption inside under the Christian veneer - the problem is if instead of being fought and brought back to the cross, it's allowed to fester until the person walks away - the ugliness was nurtured. [I thought here that that sounds like James' double-minded man.]

Dr Carson led us in praying what our constant prayer should be in the light of this, "Lord, make me as holy as a pardonned sinner can be this side of the consummation."

2 ways to live

Carson on Psalm 1 from the UCCF Graduate Network Conference - notes.

vv1-3 The Righteous described

v1 - negatively
Progression: walking, standing, sitting. Starts with walking in the counsel - worldview, godless perspective - of the wicked. We don't start by overtly denying Christ's deity; we listen to the world's perspective, then walk, act, & think accordingly. Then {standing in the way of} = doing things their way, indistinguishable from them. Then sitting in the seat of scoffers - now not only hang out with them but mock and consider condescendingly those with whom we once shared faith, at those who don't walk like us.

v2 - positively
Carson pointed out how Hebraic parallelism leads us to expect something like, 'But who walks in the counsel of the upright, stands in the way of the godly and sits in the seat of the thankful.' Yet the poet breaks with this: rather, they hit you in the face with only one antithesis: delight in and meditation on God's law. This isn't mechanistic: "Reading the Bible is good for you like eating fruit is good for you"! But it's transformational. "Whereas you are not what you think you are; what you think, you are." Or Proverbs, "What a person thinks in his heart, so is he." Cf Deut 17:18-20, Romans 12.1-2. The only alternative to picking up the world's "think" is another framework altogether.

v3 - metaphorically
Many streams in Israel were seasonal, but this tree has been planted by several streams so its leaf doesn't fade, it's fruitful. In fact when other plants keel over, he's still prospering: life and fruitfulness. And vv.2-3 strongly imply that the watering agent is the word. Cf Jer 17:5-8

vv4-5 The Wicked described
The negation here is really strong: "Not so the wicked; not so!" Utter negation of everything that is above: the wicked do walk in the counsel of teh wicked, going with the sinner, and scoffing. They don't delight in God's word. They cannot be likened to a fruitful tree. They're not lifeful, planted, fruitful; they're rootless, lifeless, useless, worthless. It's spelt out further in v5 - they won't stand in God's people.

v6 Final contrast made: the way of the righteous vs. the way of the wicked
The Lord knows the way of the righteous: he blesses it, watches over it. Whereas the very way of the wicked will perish. In eternity to come, no one will be talking of Hitler, Stalin, etc, but every glass of water given in God's name will be remembered. The way of the wicked will perish.

Carson then considered: only 2 ways to live? For a future post...

In the middle of nowhere ("Wales")

A fab time at the UCCF Graduate Network conference. The Don spoke (well, of course) on Psalm 1 (and the importance of associated black & white wisdom literature like Proverbs' Lady Wisdom vs. Dame Folly, Jesus' the broad & narrow gate, sand vs. rock foundation, etc, 1 John's he who is born of God doesn't sin...), Romans 3.1-26 and 2 Tim 3.1 - 4.8. Richard Cunningham spoke on the Lordship of Christ in our life, work and engagement with culture, mostly from Romans 12.1-4 (extended into chs 12-14), and others gave seminars on work, engagement with culture, and confident Christianity. A marvellous and most worthwhile weekend.

While there I caught up with not a few Warwick CU grads, a good number from my old Relay year and Sean Clokey, who counted as the conference attendee who I didn't know but popped up with an, 'étrangère?' Mo hosted the conference admirably, showing something of what he's being doing while not blogging for yonks.

And finally...
Lindsay Brown's book was out in advance at the conference! Over the years Lindsay (Gen Sec of IFES) has inspired and encouraged many of us to be world Christians through his recounting of Christian students who have witnessed in their universities, founded IFES student ministry in countries across the world, escaped the sword, worked for Christ in their workplace, transformed governments, been martyred, were used of God in revival, suffered imprisonment, led mission teams to wartorn areas, were mocked, mistreated, and generally privileged to take part in God's mission with the joy of the Holy Spirit through faith in Christ. Now Lindsay is moving on from being IFES General Secretary, he has finally put some of this into print - I think it'll be available at www.10ofthose.com or IVP when officially out on 1st Dec.

Tuesday, 7 November 2006

Holding the mirror in love

Paul Tripp on 'People, the Serpent, and personal ministry' - what principles can be drawn from Genesis 3 to develop our understanding of personal ministry? [Having already considered Genesis 1.]

"We should hunger for the simple dependence of Genesis 1, where everything people thought, said, and did was based solely on the words of God.

"The voices of the world appeal to a core delusion in sinful hearts, the desire to be God, able to understand and live life on our own. We need people in our lives who love us enough to call us back to a life with God at the centre.

"We need the words of God (Scripture) to make sense out of life. We need to listen for the one reliable voice of the Creator. His Word alone can cut through the confusion of the world's philosophy and our own foolishness to make us truly wise. Real knowledge begins with knowing him. Wisdom is the fruit of worship, and received on bended knee. It is the product of a life lived in submission to the One who is wisdom, Christ.
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called "today," that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. [Heb 3.12-13]
"The Hebrews passage clearly teaches that personal insight is the product of community. I need you in order to really see and know myself. Otherwise, I will listen to my own arguments, believe my own lies, and buy into my own delusions. My self-perception is as accurate as a carnival mirror. If I am going to see myself clearly, I need you to hold the mirror of God's Word in front of me."

- Paul David Tripp, Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands

I love this book. It's one of those that I keep a pencil in hand and underline, and if I notice I've not paid sufficient attention to a paragraph, go and re-read slowly. The only danger is that the whole book will be underlined when I finish. It's worth it. A few quotes can't communicate it - this is soaked in the Bible.

Monday, 6 November 2006

Four a waste of time...

The disadvantage of telling my partner in West Midlands crime (ok, gospel student ministry), JB, that I was having a day off today having worked the weekend. He tagged me with a 4-meme.

Four jobs you've had in your life

  1. UCCF Staff Worker
  2. String quartet member (for functions, weddings, etc.)
  3. Shop assistant at the best Christian bookshop in the world
  4. IFES Team member in Belgium

Four jobs you wish you had would love to have if you weren't joyfully content with the job you have.

  1. UCCF Staff Worker (did I say that I love my job?)
  2. Commisioning editor for some great Christian publishing company or other
  3. Manager of a Christian bookshop... in Belgium perhaps
  4. Church worker (hm, unspecific or what...)

Four films you can watch over and over again

  1. The Princess Bride
  2. Au revoir les enfants
  3. Shrek
  4. La vita è bella

Four cities you have lived in

  1. Belfast
  2. Coventry
  3. Nottingham
  4. Brussels

Four TV programmes you love to watch

  1. CSI
  2. Have I got news for you
  3. Er, I don't really watch TV
  4. But I could name some books instead...?

Four places you've been on holiday/travelled to

  1. Hungary
  2. Italy
  3. Island of Islay
  4. France

Four websites you visit daily regularly

  1. My email website
  2. www.uccf.org.uk (for wonderful resources and... job admin)
  3. www.etrangere.blogspot.com (to check others' blogs)
  4. www.thebluefish.blogspot.com (Dave writes good stuff)

Four of your favourite foods

  1. Roast lamb with real mint sauce
  2. A sandwich spread with paté with green peppercorns, diced red pepper, sweetcorn & fried mushrooms. It's not for delicate eating, but is it good.
  3. Liège waffle just heated up to be warm & sticky - with ice-cream on if it's summer & you're having it as a full meal :)
  4. Wholemeal rolls with slices of Braeburn apple & mature cheddar cheese, grilled. Simple & delicious.

Four things you won't prefer not to eat

  1. Prawns, shrimp & other such seafood
  2. Barbecued octopus tentacles (once sent from Japan by a generous voyaging Uncle)
  3. Sushi (I confess I'm a pleb - I don't get the attraction)
  4. Violently artificially coloured things (make me feel ill thinking of them, never mind stop me sleeping after)

Four things you wish you could eat right now

Well if it were lunchtime, then...

  1. Jacket potato with mature cheddar cheese and fried mushrooms
  2. A few pieces of Galaxy chocolate
  3. A braeburn apple
  4. What is this? I'd be full after #1!

Four things in your bedroom

This is ridiculous.

  1. My large IKEA Billy bookcase inc books and CDs
  2. My violin, violin stand and music
  3. Wardrobe
  4. Bed (surprise!)

Four things you wish you had in your bedroom

  1. Curtains which match the colour scheme (the material for this is currently sitting in aforementioned wardrobe waiting to be made up)
  2. Why wish for more?

Four things I'm wearing right now

This really is getting daft: where did you get this meme from, Jon?

  1. Navy jeans bought back in the day when Etam existed in the UK
  2. My old navy Warwick Uni hoody: I'm on a day off!
  3. A navy top
  4. Navy socks

Four people you'd really love to have dinner with

Now that's a better question! Except that those who spring to mind are in 2 categories: those I'd love to have dinner with and with whom I do sometimes have dinner (family, friends), and those who are dead and I won't have dinner with until the marriage supper of the Lamb. So I'll go for the 2nd category... (oh, and Jesus is first... but I sort of do have dinner with him already and saying I'm looking forward to the marriage feast of the Lamb assumes that he'll be there as the supreme focus, fellowship and glory! He doesn't merely fit in a list of four.)

  1. My grandfather on my Dad's side. He was converted through the witness of a Christian student friend and in a Nicholson mission meeting in 1922, became a foundation member of Queen's Uni Belfast Christian Union (then Bible Union), learnt the Hebrew alphabet on the boat to America and studied theology under Machen & Vos in Princeton '23-'25 (becoming life-long friends with fellow student John Murray in the process - hanging out with Murrary, Van Til, Stonehouse & E.J.Young!). Having learnt from Machen the fight for the Reformed faith in presbyterianism, he returned to a compulsary year at the Irish Presbyterian College in Belfast and found himself in the same fight for the gospel against rank heresy. Forced to withdraw, he became one of the founding ministers of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Ireland, managed the Evangelical Bookshop, edited the church's magazine for 53 years, ministered the gospel faithfully in Belfast overseeing 2 churches, was one of the founding trustees of Banner of Truth Trust, with others set up the Leicester Ministers' Conference, wrote The Momentous Event, was a founding member of BEC (now Affinity), served on committees of the Evangelical Fellowship of Ireland and the Evangelical Library in Belfast. In his vision for world mission he arranged for members from the EPC to serve with Scottish Free Church missions in Peru, South Africa, India and Christian Witness to Israel. He went to glory a little over a month after my birth and I keep meeting people randomly all over the place who tell me how much they appreciated his ministry... So I look forward to catching up with him in the new heavens & new earth and praising our Saviour together.
  2. Athanasius. I guess Piper's talk on him influenced me on that one.
  3. The apostle John. And Timothy. And the writer to the Hebrews! And... ok I'll stop that.
  4. John Owen.

Four things I'm thinking right now

  1. I'm looking forward to heaven! What makes me want to have dinner with the above guys is that they all extol Christ, and faithfully lift him up so as to exhort others to extoll Christ, whom I love and look forward to seeing face to face!
  2. I'm hungry.
  3. It's lovely that I'll be going round to my pastor's family for dinner this evening before orchestra rehearsal.
  4. I must practise the violin for orchestra rehearsal!

[Yes, I'm a linear thinker.]

Four of your favourite things

  1. The Bible
  2. My violin
  3. Books. Good books. Well-written theology books, literature with enough thinking content... (C.S.Lewis narrowly missed my '4 people I want to have dinner with' list.) Just don't make me choose.
  4. Walking at sunset / dusk in the country, preferably by the sea with waves slapping in against rugged coastline.

Four people I tag

I don't like tagging people. So this comes strictly as take it or leave it, as you like. In fact, pick which '4s' you want to answer...

  1. Peter G
  2. Dave
  3. Anna (or maybe there was a reason why Jon didn't tag you - like that you hate memes, or that he wants the internetted computer)
  4. Catherine (though I suspect that a) you're not reading this and b) you wouldn't want to waste your free time doing this when you could be climbing a mountain)

Friday, 3 November 2006

Thankfulness




I walk through this park to the train station on average twice a day. If one has to live in Birmingham, and rush to/from a train station twice a day, passing through a park en route is a wonderful blessing!





Speaking of blessing, I picked up Sovereign Grace Music's 'Worship God Live' CD from EMU, a distributor making some of their stuff available in the UK - and which looks interesting itself (though they're more expensive than SGM and still only accept credit cards!) , so am enjoying the song 'Grace unmeasured' which we sang at the Fulwood Conference these past couple of days.

Tuesday, 31 October 2006

Trick or treat?

When I was a young warthog... at hallowe'en kids dressed up in impressive costumes, knocked on the door and chorussed the entire stanza of, 'Hallowe'en is coming and goose is getting fat...'. Which at least required some effort in the dress and some ability to memorise a few words and speak ensemble. Even if it is wrong with roots in a syncretism of pagan druidism and Roman Catholicism. Now I've just had 2 separate kids at the door huddled in coats, in the dark and rain, mutter, 'Trick or treat' (at least, I think that was what the second one said from behind his scarf). I gave him a mandarin orange I had to hand - he'll need the VitC tomorrow when the cold takes hold.

That's the trick, now for the treat:

I do think it an infinitely preferable idea to celebrate today as Reformation Day. For twas on 31st October 1517 that a 30-something Augustinian monk called Martin posted some 95 points for discussion on his university town church blog. The Pope sent a bull after him, and then put him on a diet of Worms, but Martin burned the bull and wouldn't recant at the Diet as he was captive to God's word. Hm, for much more worthwhile reflections on Reformation Day see Dave, Pyro and Challies' most impressive round-up of most who are joining in the celebration today. And for a celebratory song this fits the tune of supercalifragilisticexpialodocious if you start with the chorus! Before, of course, you sing Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott!

Now I'll get back to composing a lunchbar talk on why there's one way to God in a world of many religions. The answer is Jesus, but I'll fill it out a little.

Sunday, 22 October 2006

The land of CovWarLeam

Down in Coventry on Friday, gathered to celebrate Jo's birthday [LHS of RH photo].

Then Chloe popped in from over Cardiff-way! And we worked out on Saturday morning that we hadn't seen each other in over 2 years. Shocking - but lovely to catch up in person on Saturday rather than on the phone.

Then it was out to Jonny's local with Peter and... Rich, who turned up from Reading-way (via Leicester, where he'd been speaking at CU). And I hadn't seen him in over 2 years either so that was another great catch-up - next time I'll just insist he brings Nicky.

On Saturday afternoon, Miss Amy Jarman married Mr Jonathan Lee, which means I can no longer call her AJ. It was all very lovely and exciting, as Amy is waving to indicate:

And at the reception I achieved one of my life's (lesser) ambitions: I got a photo of Pippa smiling. For the record, Pippa smiles an appropriately joyful amount, but not for the camera. I think it was the combination of Amy's wedding, Dave, and my pleading which did it:

It was, as always, wonderful in a gospel-and-Christian-love way to be back at Emmanuel on Sunday morning - they always make me feel I'm very much in the church. Bill preached on Hebrews 2.1-4 in his series on Hebrews, pointing out that while we may think the big dangers to the church are such as immorality in the church, or current popular heresies, the writer to the Hebrews considered the great danger to be drifting. Just merrily, inperceptably, gradually, effortlessly drifting. Therefore we must pay closer attention to what we have heard!

And it was lunch at the James' before back to Birmingham in time for evening service in my church - in our series on the Fruit of the Spirit, Pastor Chris is helping us consider how God exhibits these characteristics, because it is in beholding God that we grow into his likeness - if the fruit is of the Spirit of God, it is because he is like that. This week was on faithfulness and we looked at Lamentations 3 and God's faithfulness - intrinsic and eternal as he cannot deny himself, tied to his truthfulness in our understanding as he reveals himself inseparably in his word, and in all he does - before looking at Matthew 25 and the call to be a faithful steward of what God entrusts to us.

Finally, I see on Saturday my November EN arrived, providing me with great reading material as well as information & stimulus for prayer, for the train journey down to Swansea tomorrow. Together with All things for good, which I'm determined to finish soon!

Books on the bandwagon

CT did an article on "The Top 50 Books That Have Shaped Evangelicals: Landmark titles that changed the way we think, talk, witness, worship, and live."

The list makes for quite depressing reading, is of course from an American perspective since it's CT, and of course, has been a matter of great debate. In the Christian blogosphere many have offered critiques, and more just got on with the job of recommending 50 good alternatives by which we should be influenced, either sticking to 10, or a bite-the-bullet 50 books you should leave on the shelf. I'd say if the shelf then has that lot left on it, finish the job and burn the shelf.

Then Marc took the biscuit with a 50 potential Christian bestsellers.

Wednesday, 18 October 2006

God and crying

A while ago I posted on the view of God given in one of Francis Cabrel's songs (which JB objected to me playing this morning - not for the theology, but because it was French): an impotent, sad god, come down to sit on the edge of the world, crying to see what we've made of it. Rather, this is the truth about God, crying, & what we've made of it - Boice on Gen 18.20-21, in which the Lord says, "Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know." Read Boice's comments.

Sunday, 15 October 2006

Theology is the Revolution

Smiley Mike Reeves on theology d'après Gideon (Judges 6.22-27)
Theology is smashing up idols - smashing up the idols in our minds and in our world. And not just smashing them up but replacing them with (v26) proper kinds of altars to the Lord our God: replacing them all with Jesus Christ.

The story here is: Gideon is surrounded by the idolatry of the Mideonite regime. And he begins the revolution against it by bulldozing Baal. And that is theology! It's not just reading books, studying languages, whatever. It is about rebelling against the world order, not just the Mideonites' little regime; rebelling against the whole world order as it rebels against God. Rebelling against it, bringing down the system, utterly replacing it; that is theology. Theology is The Revolution.

...

Theology is washing our brains by the Mediator rather than being brain-washed by the media.

A CUSW does not live on coffee alone

I haven't posted for almost a week, apart from the Pascal quote which generated an inordinate number of comments. Outside of the blogosphere, I've been dashing everywhere and each time arriving just in time.

Saturday SLOBS Got some quality small group leaders, who took a good few hours on a Saturday morning to get prepared for leading their small groups. No slobs in this SLOBS - one even suggested Saturday morning for our weekly training session! And not even a coffee in sight. Quality. Haven't discovered any of them blogging yet though...

Expresso after a rain storm. JB was surprised to witness me down an expresso after we'd both been soaked to the bone (umbrellas unavailing) going through town in a rain storm for a meeting that didn't materialise. Apparently drinking expresso makes me more hard-core than he'd thought. I don't know about hard-core: I was drenched, cold and facing the return trip back home, and there wasn't any filter coffee!

Coffees without coffee Meetings with strange (but lovely) student CU leaders. A couple in Wolverhampton and a couple in Aston. Strange? Well we met for coffee and they didn't want anything to drink! Strange but true. But encouraging to hear of relationships strengthening in Wolverhampton with more freshers than ever before, and very interested non-Christians coming along to meetings in Aston. I love that God has Christian students take part in his reaching of other students with his gospel. And that I get to share in it.

Rich Harvest My church mission week, with BCM helping out. This included a "Rich Coffee Morning". I mention this not that I was able to go to Rich Coffee, but because a coffee theme is developing in this post, perhaps because I'm hoping to redeem myself to my fellow-Coffee Bible Club Bloggers after having admitted a regular absence of coffee in my life.


© 1999 Mantis Design

So, who's for a bit of oh-so-holy must-have-coffee Christian busyness then? Midlands Staff Day in Nottingham included a look together at Chester's The Busy Christian's Guide to Busyness. Challenge for me: "We are called to balance work and rest. But we are not called to balance service and self-indulgence. You were bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). All of your life is now to be lived for Christ's glory and in his service." While we wrestled together with those of my colleagues with husband, wife & parental responsibilities on how gospel priorities & family responsibilities fit, I was compelled to praise God for my parents, who lived the following gospel priorities with us:

Whatever we say about ourselves, our true values come to the sufrace in our aspirations for our children. Do you hope your children will be comforable and well-paid? Or do you hope they will be radical, risk-taking gospel workers? If it's the latter then what better way to further that end than by modelling it for them? And not only modelling it, but involving them in it. What does family time actually mean? Watching the television, eating Big Macs, trips to the shopping centre? What values do these enforce? What about making the service of others what unites us as families? What about weekly times when the whole family does something together for the good of others?

Tuesday, 10 October 2006

Pascal the Piperite

Les stoïques disent : « Rentrez au dedans de vous-même. C'est là où vous trouverez votre repos » - Et cela n'est pas vrai.
Les autres disent : « Sortez dehors et cherchez le bonheur en un divertissement. » Et cela n'est pas vrai. Les maladies viennent.
Le bonheur n'est ni hors de nous ni dans nous. Il est en Dieu, et hors et dans nous.
- Pascal, Pensée 26 [Edition Livre de Poche 2000].

Friday, 6 October 2006

Spanish kill Englishman in Belgium

470 years ago (6th October 1536), an Englishman called William Tyndale was strangled and his body burnt in the Flemish town of Vilvoorde, near Brussels. The incription on the local monument (seen in the link) blames the Spanish, who ruled the low countries at the time. (Nice trick - avoid Luke 11.47-like charges.) So who was this Englishman that the Spanish wanted to murder him in Belgium? Well, the French Wikipedia entry claims that Tyndale was a humanist. But that doesn't help overmuch, because the French have a tendancy to claim that anyone killed for a matter of principal by governing authorities in the past few hundred years was a humanist. It being generally accepted since 1975 that Liberté, Egalité & Fraternité are the only things that are worth dying for, everyone who ever died for a cause must necessarily have died for being a humanist. I suspect that many God-centred martyrs would turn in their graves on hearing that, if they weren't already enjoying God's presence well beyond the bounds of their graves.

Tyndale translated the Bible into English for the common people, at a time when it was only available in Latin for priests. The people weren't allowed to read the Bible. The Catholic church tries to get round this, objecting along the lines of, "We aren't against people reading the Bible! There wasn't demand for the Bible in English from the common people! Besides, portions were already available in English here and there." Well, if you effectively teach people that to be a good Christian they just need to go to mass to check the priest's doing his job right on their behalf in a mysterious God-language, then sure, you won't create much desire to read the very words of God in your own tongue. Keep God at arms length, keep from hearing what he said and says, and you can continue to be religious... God's word was silent in the land.

Tyndale saw the need for God's word and pressed ahead despite opposition - famously saying, "I defie the Pope and all his lawes. If God spare my life, ere many yeares I wyl cause a boy that driveth the plough to know more of the Scripture, than he doust." And he saw the opportunity - the printing press.

He fled to the continent (he was fluent in most continental languages as well as Biblical Greek and Hebrew!) to publish the work, smuggling his New Testament into England in barrels. Betrayed and arrested in Antwerp in 1535, he was held in a castle until his heresy trial of 1536 and murder. What did he do in the castle? Mope? Feel sorry for himself? Do exercises to keep warm? No, his letter to a local landowner contains requests for a warmer coat as his is worn through and he's ill with cold - but most of all, for his Hebrew grammar, dictionary, and Hebrew Scriptures, so he could keep working on the translation of God's word for the common person.

He was just one man, who in translation made some mistakes. But thank God for how much he can use just one fallible man for the propagation of his powerful word, which is able to open not only the eyes of the king of England, but of all in whom the Spirit works.

Church & CU

Mike 'Smiley' Reeves' paper on church and CU is now available online here. Well worth the read (open it, see how long it is... get over it: it's well worth the read) for any Christian. We have such a tendency to individualism, compounded by our good concern for personal salvation, that frequently we have an ecclesiology only worthy of a Tobiah-like taunt.

Anyone else want to get Smiley Mike blogging?

Thursday, 5 October 2006

When justification isn't required

There's a lady with an accent of a non- anglo-saxon, celt, pict or scot variety, who keeps ringing my landline. She launches into trying to sell me a mobile phone - or rather, she would insist, give me a free mobile phone with a remarkable deal and marvellous gadgetry. How lovely of her.

The sceptic in me immediately looks for the catch and jumps in with, "Thank you, you've phoned me before - is this the one where it would cost £35pm after the first 6 months?" Oh NOOO, she cries, not at all: listen... But leaving aside my curious scepticism, [and does any Brit not find it wierd/wrong that Krispy Kremes donut café in the USA not only has such strange spelling of Crispy, Cream, and doughnut, but also gives away a free doughnut simply on request?], what's really wrong here?

Last time she (or one of several poor telesales ladies with similar accents and phone deals) phoned, I'd learned from experience - it's lovely to be polite to the poor people, but I haven't time to waste. "Thank you," I said, as soon as she'd told me of a free mobile with x, y & z, "I'm not interested in a new mobile phone at this time, goodbye." And as I was putting the phone down, a thin wailing voice came back: "But whyyyy?"

Eh? I now have to justify not buying something? I have to justify not wanting to have the latest in mobile phone technology? What, have I committed a crime against the economy? Headline: Woman arrested on charges of anti-consumerism. The court heard recordings of calls from telesales rep X to... It is an etirely perverted attitude to things, which requires justification for not consuming, updating, etc.

Instead of using what things we have to serve others to God's glory, we use others to get what things we want to our own glory. Now that needs justification.

Tuesday, 3 October 2006

Stealing glory

"...the grand story of the Bible. With all of its locations and people, with all of the dramatic events of nature and history, at the centre of the story is the Lord. It is his story. Paul summarises the story this way, "For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen." (Rom.11:36).

"We were made for his glory, and we are called to display his glory in everything we do. This theme of glory is the last of [the] three overarching themes [of the story of redemption]. Sin makes us glory thieves. There is probably not a day when we do not plot to steal glory that rightfully belongs to the Lord. When we compete with one another for glory, we fail to experience the unity that can only be found when we join together to live for him.

"At the bottom of a broken marriage, a shattered family, or a forsaken friendship you will always find stolen glory. We crave glory that does not belong to us, and we step on one another to get it. Rather than glorifying God by using the things he has given us to love other people, we use people to get the glory we love. Sin causes us to steal the story and rewrite it with ourseves as the lead, and with our lives at centre stage.

"But there is only one stage and it belongs to the Lord. Any attempt to put ourselves in his place puts us in a war with him. it is an intensely vertical war, a fight for divine glory, a plot to take the very position of God. It is the drama that lies behind every sad earthly drama. Sin has made us glory robbers. We do not suffer well, because suffering interferes with our glory. We do not find relationships easy, because others compete with us for glory. We do not serve well, because in our quest for glory, we want to be served.

"But the story of Scripture is the story of the Lord's glory. It calls me to an agenda that is bigger than myself. It offers me something truly worth living for. The Redeemer has come so that glory thieves would joyfully live for the glory of Another. There is no deeper personal joy and satisfaction than to live committed to his glory.

- Paul David Tripp, from Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands: People in need of change helping people in need of change.

Sunday, 1 October 2006

Church & Theology today - intro

Yesterday I went to the Theology For All conference in Richmond where Carl Trueman was speaking on Church and Theology today: What is really at stake? The day was marvellous, and I was glad to be able to chat through some of what we heard with Dave Bish, who I'm sure was also as glad as I(?) to be at a conference where real coffee was being served. It was also good to see Gareth Batten, of my Relay year, and to see that Nathan Burley exists outside of the blogosphere. Gareth has already helpfully posted an overview of the talks, with the declared aim of getting in there before Dave & me. Given that he posted at 5pm, which was an hour before I was even on my coach for the 3.5 hour journey back home, I consider that a rather low aim. I'll post when I get my notes typed up - think of it as the extended version. But admittedly, unlike Gareth and Dave [*click!*], I have no accompanying photos of CRT in full flow.

Tuesday, 26 September 2006

Build this house

Lou Fellingham's new CD Treasure is very well worth getting. This song is typically beautifully sung, but more, is a challenging prayer: [mp3 sample]

All I have and all I am is Yours
There's nothing that I have on earth
that doesn't come from You
I lay aside my pride and wordly worth
To serve You is the greatest thing
that I could ever do

    For unless you build this house
    I am building it in vain
    Unless the work is Yours
    There is nothing to be gained
    I want something that will stand
    When your Holy fire comes
    Something that will last
    And to hear You say well done
    Giving Glory to You Lord
    Glory to You Lord
So easy to desire what others have
Instead of seeing all the gifts that
You have given me
So help me fan the flame which You began
And burn in me a love for You
that all will clearly see

"What do you do?"

There are many strange perceptions out there about what a CU Staff Worker might do.

I do not do this [HT: Fearners] I'm not aware that anyone does think I do that, but just to set the record straight.

There's nothing like a good communications strategy...

CU member: Who are you?
étrangère: I'm the new Andy Weatherly, only shorter, blonder, more Northern Irish, and female.
CU member: Nothing like Andy then.
étrangère: Well, no, not really.

So why not let the CU members define the job?

CU member: Who are you then?
étrangère: I'm the CU Staff Worker :-)
CU member: Oh, you're the one who takes them for coffee? [With a nod towards the 2 leaders]
étrangère: Something like that [2 leaders smile brightly]

Or the university multi-faith centre chaplains?

étrangère: Hi...
Friendly Chaplain: Yes, I know you!
étrangère: Em, I don't think so...
[FC has a moment of insisting he knows me, followed by the realisation that he doesn't. Then...]
FC: Good to meet you - you'll know all about me! [Aside to students:] They get briefed on Chaplains, you see. [Back to me:] Andy will have sent you all my emails!
étrangère: Er...

Well, why don't we see what non-Christians think?

Orchestra member: So what do you do?
étrangère: I help students study the Bible to check out who Jesus is and what they're going to do about it.
[After a while, he calls me back, indicating the lady beside him]
Orchestra member: She's a vicar's wife!
'Vicar's wife': Hi. He says you're 'some sort of Christian' & that you do Bible studies?

Driving instructor: What's your job?
étrangère [concentrating hard and going into 3rd gear]: I work with students...
Driving instructor: We'll be turning right at the next junction
étrangère: ...I help them [check mirrors, signal] investigate the Bible, and [mirrors, slow down] who Jesus is, so [down into 2nd] that they'll trust in him...
Driving instructor: SLOW DOWN - how much of the road can you see?
étrangère: [slow down, take corner]
Driving instructor: Well done.
étrangère: ...and know how to follow him.
Driving instructor: Ah, ok. ... Well I won't be asking you any more questions as you clearly can't concentrate on the road at the same time.

I gather the explanation doesn't get any easier as time goes on. There's something on it here, but there's only so much you can...

Sunday, 24 September 2006

Profoundly tagged

Jonathan flung tagliatelle my way across the blogosphere (I know, how rude). It means I'm supposed to answer the following questions (and he expects me to be profound!) Here goes...

Why do you blog?
It helps me think through things more carefully (in putting them in writing) and introduces the accountability of making the thoughts public - so I can check that I'm analysing things in a gospel way and for the building up of the church and God's glory. I also find it helpful to keep track myself - if I haven't posted in a while, it forces me to question, 'Have I not learnt anything? Been challenged by anything?...' Then hopefully sharing such things does build up others and leads to helpful interaction which does me good too. Oh, and it's fun.

How long have you been blogging?
It looks like I started on 7th July 2005. Which I did. So that's... oh you work it out; I did a maths degree.

Self portrait.
A self portrait doesn't have to be of the artistic variety, does it?
Why do readers read your blog?
Well? You're reading this - why? I'm not a mind-reader! Anyway, not all readers read my blog. The vast majority of readers read books and have no idea my blog is here. Good for them.

What was the last search phrase someone used to find your site?
If I found out site stats I'd be captive to them. I know me - I'd start trying to get more, or I'd feel proud of what I have (or probably both). So I've deliberately no idea if anyone ever used a search phrase to find my blog. I rather doubt it.

Which of the entries gets unjustly too little attention?
Justice has very little to do with the attention given a blog post. I mean, how often do you hear of someone falling down on the ground with a despairing cry of, "If there was any justice in the world, people would comment on my post on the price of cheese!" Deary me.

Your current favourite blog?
Tough one. I do visit Dave's often for his gospel-full posts, and Ref21 is always helpful & interesting, and sometimes has me in fits of laughter also (usually at Carl Trueman's alter egos). But that's judging blogs partly on frequency of visiting, and there are others I love for other things.

Which blog did you read most recently?
JB's obviously, only to see I was tagged! Who made up these questions?

Which feeds do you subscribe to? Breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Which 4 blogs are you tagging with this meme and why?
I really don't like tagging people. OK, if you're reading this and want to do it, consider yourself tagged - comment to say so, if you like.

Saturday, 23 September 2006

Flag waving

Dave Bish made me the banner you see above. Thank you, Dave! He has admitted to having a cunning plan to make the blogosphere look a bit nicer on the eye, and so far, so nice.

As you can see, his banner inspired me to a whole new colour scheme for étrangère. I like to think that it hints at the various cultural influences in my strange foreigner composition. I'm in England (see profile), with a penchant for things Belgian or at least francophone (see title), and hail from Nor'n Iron (er, stretch the politics to geography for a minute and see colour scheme). I'm also an stranger on the earth because I'm no longer estranged from God (see content - I hope). But if waffle isn't your thing (hmm, waffles), ignore that.

Yes, I know it's not long since my last redesign. Ah, such a transient world.

Confessions of a bibliophile

I confess...

I'm finding English novels boring. Correction, contemporary English novels. I can delight in a C.S.Lewis (and do - I can go on about Till we have faces, Perelandra, The Great Divorce or Narnia for a considerable length of time). I started devouring Milton the other day and am eagerly awaiting when my copy of Paradise Lost will drop through the letterbox (admittedly poetry not novel). And I lost count of how many hours sleep I lost in teenagehood reading and re-reading Tolkien. But Shriver, who has won so many awards? And Coupland, who has had such insights into our culture? I couldn't get into them.

I'm not disparaging those who do: we have different characters (praise the Lord!) and find different things interesting!

With me? Well, I can be intrigued by a plot, and want to know what happens, but if the use of language isn't brilliant, the technique fascinating (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night time), the characterisation so well done that you think you know them in real life (La Neige en deuil), the world so well-crafted that there isn't a hole in its whole history, culture or linguistics (The Lord of the Rings), or the ideas philosophically meaty (Perelandra; not the self-obsessed psychobabble that pop novels come out with), I'm bored. I'll vaguely want to know what happens, but I'll be bored while I find out.

I have laugh out loud with delight moments at a beautiful sentence or phrase, a brilliant philosophical idea, or a grace-ful character.

Generalising again, I love French novel style. I think it's because francophones care for their language. And not just in the particular Academie Française way, but they love it. They romance it. They enjoy it. The writing of a novel is not in the plot - it is the art and science of écriture. There's also an element of classical education. The French novelist commonly assumes the reader is familiar with Judeo-Christian, Greek, Roman and French philosophical & cultural references. Philosophy, politics & anthropology is often played with like the mention of the weather in an anglophone novel. Now obviously that can be dull, but in those I've read, it adds deep colours to the palate which make the painting dance with richness beyond the contemporary.

I'm not just francophilising. I know there are so many great English novels out there that I haven't read yet (this isn't difficult to fathom, as I've read relatively few of the classics). I never thought otherwise - I read very few novels at all. I enjoyed relaxing last year to reading Vanhoozer's 'Is there a meaning in this text?' (it's a delight to read). Only, I had thought to engage more with pop culture by reading a contemporary English novel every so often. And I'm now not sure I can do it: time is too short for boredom. So I'm on a hunt - tell me your favourite 'greats' (go on, surprise me with contemporary greats!), and why. You may think me a moron and have different taste, but tell me why I should enjoy your 'greats'.

Thursday, 21 September 2006

The 'Pope', the 'Prophet' & the 'Peaceful'

Well, it was all over the news, and here are a few blog posts about it:

Piper offers 10 points on 'How Christians Should Respond to Muslim Outrage at the Pope's Regensburg Message About Violence and Reason'. His post does what it says on the tin (I do like that: his messages always tell you in the title what they're about!) - he outlines some of what was actually said by the Pope (something we don't hear in the Muslim critics' war cries), discusses it and gives some suggestions for how we should respond.

Rick Phillips, over at Ref21, posted a couple of interesting secular American opinion articles, notable of which was Anne Applebaum's after which Rick named his post: Enough Apologies! (I do feel like it's missing an 'already' - as in, 'Enough apologies, already!'. Yeah, like, watevver.) Good piece. Rick concludes, 'See - there still are real men in America, even if most of them are women.'

The first of these to post was I think Challies, with his aptly titled, "Who's reinforcing negative stereotypes?" which is about the non-reaction of those thousands of 'good peaceful' Muslims of which we're told, who complain that it is politically insensitive comments which reinforce violent stereotypes of Islamic culture/politics /Islam, but who don't complain as much about reality of violence within Islam. Which probably brings us back again to some of Piper's 10 suggestions on how we should respond.

Grace & peace.

Monday, 18 September 2006

Be a dolphin

Dave's got some great tips for freshers (and I'd say not only freshers) over here.

Monday, 11 September 2006

Glory Days

Some students asked me for a top 5 books for this term. That's a hard question (though I'm loving it) - usually different people need different books at different stages of life, thought and maturity. I'm still pondering it - at the time I only managed to say Cross-examined by Mark Meynell. Now I've definitely got another to add: Glory Days by Julian Hardyman.
[From the publisher review] You love to paint but Christian meetings fill up all your free time. You could cut it as a professional sportsperson but think missionary work might be a better use of your life. You’re interested in party politics but worry that it’s not much of a spiritual pastime.

Many believers subconsciously divide their lives into Christian activities (church, prayer, Bible study and evangelism) and everything else – the glory bits and the rest. Julian Hardyman shows that God is just as interested in our work and family, our hobbies and skills, our politics and sporting prowess, as the things we think of as spiritual.
Your suggestions on a top 5 books for students would be welcome in comments. Just bear in mind it's Fresher term and we're talking students from many different church backgrounds - I'm not necessarily asking for your top 5 books, or top 5 Christian classics. Current contenders apart from the 2 above are Let the Nations be Glad!, Out of the Saltshaker (which seems like the Marmite book on evangelism - love it & find it life transforming or hate it and know you're not Rebecca Manley-Pippert), Know & Tell the Gospel, Pure, A Call to Spiritual Reformation, Dig Deeper!, & God's Big Picture.