Sunday, 27 September 2009

Quote of the day: We're still here!

From Ray Ortlund, on the Gospel Coalition blog:
“If the Lord of hosts had not left us a few survivors, we should have been like Sodom, and become like Gomorrah.” Isaiah 1:9

Did you notice how God intervened this week? The Church of Jesus Christ did not go completely apostate. The Gospel Coalition did not disown its Confessional Statement. Acts 29 did not repudiate church planting. Together For The Gospel did not fragment in mutual recriminations. Sovereign Grace Ministries did not deny the new birth. And I did not walk away from Jesus.

We all sinned this week, and a lot. No surprise there. After all, original sin means our wills are unfree. But we held fast to Jesus our Saviour, and for a whole week.

Truly, the age of miracles is not over.

[HT: Bish]

Finding history on a disk in the desert

You find some historical documents on a disk in a desert cave.

Is it a stone disk with markings, or a compact disk of files?

Which would you be more likely to trust as a reliable source?
The stone disk may be verifiably more ancient. But the CD could contain old data, accurately copied & pasted many times onto new formats, losing none of the original. Would you penalise a community who used advanced technology, presuming that because they did so, they hadn't kept an accurate record of their history?

That seems to be the question behind assumptions on the reliability of the Old Testament with regard to ancient records and manuscripts. Read Peter Williams' short & helpful theologynetwork article.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Insurance salesmen are good

...for something, anyhow. Heading my work email as a sponsored link, came the following quotation.
"I detest life-insurance agents; they always argue that I shall some day die, which is not so."
Stephen Leacock, Canadian economist & humourist (1869 - 1944)

On radio 3 the other day, the presenter asked an interviewee (paraphrased), 'This composer died so young: do you think that he was aware of his own mortality?' It was asked as if mortality was something which only afflicted those who die young. My answer would be, 'Pity the fool who is not aware of their own mortality.'

We should be aware of more than mortality, however:

Friday, 25 September 2009

Love me, love my church

The man who baptised me thinks that the One into Whom I was baptised would say this: "Love me, love my church."

That's not a general, 'Oh yes, The Church worldwide is grand.' No, that's those people to whom I was joined on believing and meet with locally to encourage each other in the Lord. It's those with whom I sit under God's word and seek to live it out together. It's the local body of which, with all my failings and lovelessness, I'm an inseparable part.
We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. John 4.19-21
'Love me, love my church.'

And the love isn't just a fluffy feeling, either. It's called service. And what a joy!
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. John 3.16-18
Love me, love my church.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

"Thou shalt not be unhappy"?

Is our main problem sin against God and his right anger at that, or life's threats to my happiness and my hurt at that? Do we live in a way that fits our answer to that? Carl Trueman mentions how our therapeutic culture has fed into some of evangelicalism in a White Horse Inn broadcast.

In a wide-ranging conversation, he also addresses some problems in "traditional" church worship. Preaching is not an explanation of the Bible for information transfer or moral advice: it's declaring God's word to the transformation of his people. A worship service isn't just a handy gathering, it's a drama of worship.

And since we were speaking earlier of the Hibernian mentality, Carl says of the Scots and assurance, "Few Scotsmen can believe they're going to heaven; no American can believe they're not going to heaven, in my experience!"

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Quote of the day: battling for the unborn (again)

John Piper brings an article to our attention on why the pro-life battle isn't being won by appeal to humanity. It's concise, powerful, and true. He concludes:
[A] “case against sexual libertinism” is good, but by itself powerless. “Cases” don’t affect hormones and passions very much. But there is a power to “put to death the deeds of the body” (Romans 8:13). His name is the Holy Spirit. And he moves through faith by making Jesus Christ the supreme treasure of life - including sexual life.

So, at bottom, the battle for the life of the unborn is the same as the battle for the life of the un-born-again.

Monday, 14 September 2009

The allure of alliteration awry

When a TV programme on Calvin's influence on the Scottish psyche started with a pronouncement that Calvin's theology was, "Dark, dour, and all about discipline," I knew the programme wouldn't be worth watching. You'd think that they'd have read some Calvin for their research!
Joy and thanksgiving expressed in prayer and praise according to the Word of God are the heart of the Church's worship.

Christians rejoice even while they truly sorrow - because their rejoicing is in the hope of heaven... While joy overcomes sorrow, it does not put an end to it.

However many blessings we expect from God, His infinite liberality will always exceed all our wishes and our thoughts." [Commentary on Ephesians 3.]

Christianity is not a matter of the tongue but of the inmost
heart. [The gospel] is not apprehended by the understanding and memory alone, as other disciplines are,
but it is received only when it possesses the whole soul and finds a seat and resting place in the inmost affection of the heart. Institutes
Dark, dour and all about discipline, my foot. That probably just comes from a lack of sunshine.

Billy Graham in 1974

The fascinating and challenging keynote address by Billy Graham to the Lausanne Congress on world evangelisation in 1974, is available to listen here - Why Lausanne? In this wonderful snippet from evangelical history, Graham addressed the opportunities and challenges of the time, as well as speaking of how mistakes of the past led into a lack of evangelism due to liberal theology. He introduced some central expected affirmations of the congress and the interplay of evangelism and social action which was so key in Lausanne. Not a dry introductory session, either, but Graham on fire preaching with vision! Slightly at random, a taster from the middle:
"The source of salvation is grace.
The ground of our salvation is the atonement at the cross.
The means of our salvation is faith.
The evidence of our salvation is works."
[The covenant produced from that '74 congress is well-worth a read, too.]

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Quote of the day: Don't go to the Bible to find yourself

My pastor Chris Thomas, preaching on Psalm 119 Daleth, spoke about causes and dangers of feeling low, and had urged us to express our low-ness and use psalms of lament. He then gave the warning:
If you are low, don't go to the Scriptures to find your low-ness. That can be a real issue, can't it: we can go to the Bible always to find ourselves in it. Go to the Scriptures to find God, and especially in the person of Jesus Christ, in the Scriptures.
[Sermon available here until 20/09/09.]

Monday, 7 September 2009

Quote of the day: the purpose of redemption

The purpose of creation, redemption, and consummation are seen holistically as God’s purpose to glorify Christ by fulfilling the Adamic creation mandate, the universal Noahic promise, the patriarchal covenants, and the Israelite monarchy in Him, thus exalting Jesus as preeminent over the entire cosmos as the agent of creation, the true imago Dei, the Davidic subjugator of all rival powers, the firstborn of the eschatological resurrection from the dead, and the atonement through whom final cosmic peace is found at last (Col. 1:15-23).

- Russell D. Moore, The Kingdom of Christ (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2004)

[HT: Of First Importance]

ROUS found in Fire Swamp

Sometimes myth becomes reality, and fiction springs to life. It appears that people have found a giant rat in a volcano. Brilliant. Tomorrow: The explorers escape from the Fire Swamp, only to find themselves arrested by a 6-fingered man.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

"Speak the word, and your servant will be healed."

While we're thinking about the ins & outs of yet another Bible translation in English, Viggo Søgaard has written an interesting article for Lausanne on advancing Bible translation for non-reading audiences, particularly thinking about translation into audio formats. It's well worth a read.

I find this interesting, both because I think that our culture is a lot less text-based than we might assume, and because I've been led to explore this more through seeking to serve visually impaired and non-literate people in Christian Union work, church and home. I may be known as a reader, and even write a blog(!), but it has broadened and deepened my Bible study over the years to
not rely on reading text, but to memorise passages / books, sing Scripture, and listen to chunks of Scripture as well as 'reading' it more traditionally (I currently use the ESV website with its passage 'listen' function for this last).

I sometimes joked that my job with UCCF involved teaching students to read - and certainly, we regularly had the coloured pens and highlighters out for students to scribble away on printed-out Bible passages, underlining, circling, colour-coding: all tools to read properly, noting the main themes, the flow of argumentation or drama of a text, the poetry or repetition, etc. But I wanted them not objectively analyse the text, but to hear it, to drink it in, to live in it and be transformed by it. Something of that may be helped by considering it in an aural way, rather than stopping with reading & analysing.

And lest you're daunted by the task of ministering to the non-literate, an example from my own church: a married couple have been with us for a while now, whom we invited along from a council estate in the area. Thinking doesn't come naturally for him, or following a flow of thought; and he's certainly not a reader. She's blind. We got them resources on video and cassette, and a large print Bible for him. We also started 'storying' in the little meeting we have on their estate - using a short story from the gospels, telling it simply, getting the 'audience' to tell it back, contributing various bits & correcting each other, then to tell it to each other in 2s & 3s, then to reflect on bits of it with directing questions from the leader. We expected the lady to find this useful: she's fairly quick in thinking, and has the aural experience from being blind. What we didn't expect was for him to be able, a month later, to recite the story almost word for word, and to correct others. He was transformed by it. He reads the Bible to his wife every day, and discusses it, loving it. He testifies: "My mind's so much clearer when I read the Bible." Not a lot involved - just a few resources, a style of 'preaching' that didn't assume the text but instead concentrated on being able to remember the passage by the end, and patient care. But these dear people are hearing the word of God - and by His Spirit, who opens the eyes of the blind and clears the ears of the deaf, they're responding in faith.

Have a read at the article for more on the Bible for non-literate people.

TNIV going off the market

Biblica (IBS & STL merged) have announced that the Committee for Bible Translation is to revise the NIV, to be published in 2011 by Zondervan, and will take the TNIV off the market at that time. The announcement is here, and Justin Taylor as usual summarises it well here.

As I think that the NIV was too male chauvinistic, and the TNIV too far in 'gender neutrality,' this should be interesting. I wonder how much the ESV has harmed sales of the TNIV in the USA? Certainly it seems here that the NIV remained the main translation of choice, so to replace both makes commercial sense.

[HT: Rob]