Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Son of Man came....

English pastor and author Tim Chester once posed the question, "How would you complete the following sentence: 'The Son of Man came....'?  There are three ways that the New Testament completes that sentence; while the first two are well known (and might have come to your mind when you read Chester's question), the third is surprising:

  • "The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45)
  • "The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10)
  • "The Son of Man came eating and drinking" (Luke 7:34)
While the first two oft-quoted verses tell us about Jesus' purpose in coming- to serve, the give his life as a ransom, to seek and safe the lost- the third describes his method. How did Jesus come? He came eating and drinking. 

Surprise the World, p.44

Monday, August 14, 2017

The view of the stars

I was struck this morning by this quote Justin Taylor posted. How profoundly this picture of the comforts of the earthly clouding out our view of the heavenly is painted by Soren Kierkegaard.

Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855):
When the prosperous man on a dark but starlit night drives comfortably in his carriage and has the lanterns lighted, aye, then he is safe, he fears no difficulty, he carries his light with him, and it is not dark close around him.
But precisely because he has the lanterns lighted, and has a strong light close to him, precisely for this reason, he cannot see the stars. For his lights obscure the stars, which the poor peasant, driving without lights, can see gloriously in the dark but starry night.
So those deceived ones live in the temporal existence: either, occupied with the necessities of life, they are too busy to avail themselves of the view, or in their prosperity and good days they have, as it were, lanterns lighted, and close about them everything is so satisfactory, so pleasant, so comfortable—but the view is lacking, the prospect, the view of the stars.
—Søren Kierkegaard,The Gospel of Suffering, trans. David F. Swenson and Lillian Marvin Swenson (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1948), 123.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Divine reversal


'The act of Jesus was to reverse this structure: communion first, conversion second. His table fellowship with sinners implied no acquiescence in their sins, for the gratuity of the reign of God cancelled none of its demands. But in a world in which sinners stood ineluctably condemned, Jesus' openness to them was irresistible. Contact triggered repentance; conversion flowered from communion. In a tense little world of ancient Palestine, where religious meanings were the warp and woof of the social order, this was a potent phenomenon'

Ben Meyer quoted in 'Surprise the world' which inspired our current sermon series on missionary habits.

Don't miss the next installment on Sunday and make this little book your August read....

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Four Tuesday Bits

1. Philip North gave what some have hailed as a prophetic word on the poor directed to clergy to New Wine last week and this morning I have read it. It's a challenge to those of us not ministering on estates and also to the church planting strategy of the HTB/New Wine network. It is worth a read and some reflection. A pal who was there said it was, and I quote, 'electrifying'

2. Roger Olson has summarized what he considers to be the basic tenets of liberal theology.

3.  An interview with Eugene Peterson pre-gay marriage gate.

4.  18 books on suffering

5. Apparently research shows that sabbaticals are good for organisations which is good as I am about to take one.

6. Interesting post about Google doing what the church perhaps should be?

7. I am walking a stretch of the Camino and a friend met the man who wrote 'Taking God for a Walk' so I've bought it as preparatory reading.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

More Focussed Thoughts

1. A pal asked Nicky Gumbel what he thought of Focus and he replied 'Best Focus Ever'. I tend to agree, although I haven't been to all of them so I am unqualified to judge. He also told me that Nicky says that to him every year which is the mark of the 'enthusiast/ optimistic/glass half full DNA' of our movement. 

I enjoyed not having famous speakers. R T Kendall was the only 'name' and, were it me, I would have had him teaching on the main stage.When you make huge effort to make your movement younger, the danger is you ignore the wisdom and ability of the old. Those who have persevered and run the race arguably have the most to impart to us. Apart from Nicky, who was stirring and brilliant as ever, it might be nice next year to have space for one or two of the older sages of the HTB network and have them teach us the Bible from the front. 

2. In my many discussions about the state of the C of E with Vicar pals over the last week, one quoted Bonnhoeffer who said it doesn't matter that you are walking down a train away from the engine it's still going in the same direction. The only way to go another way is, at some point, to get off the train.

3. I am planning to walk a stretch of the Camino as part of my sabbatical. 

'There was never a pilgrim that did not come back to his own village with one less prejudice and one more idea.'

Chateaubriand

4. We are preaching a little series inspired by the book 'Surprise the world'. This quote struck me from it from another book he wrote called 'The Road to Missional'

'Trailers are tasters, short film versions of the soon to be released feature, and they usually include the best special effects or the funniest scenes or the most romantic moments, depending on the film, of the upcoming feature. now, watch those around you in the theatre at the end of each trailer. If it has done its job, usually one person will turn to the other and say, 'I want to see that movie'

This is a great metaphor for the missional church. If it does its job well, people will see what it does and say, "I want to see the world they come from' p. 86

5. Every week I pray with a bunch of pastors and we are due to discuss this talk over breakfast during August. It is packed with interesting thoughts on evangelism to a post-Christian world. It's ten years old but its themes still very much chimed with me.

6. If you are wondering what Keller would say about post-modernism ten years on then listen to 'The Closing of the Modern Mind'.. You'll need 90 minutes and a notebook and pen. Here is a taster:



Thursday, July 27, 2017

Unfocussed thoughts.

I am at Focus 17 which is a Summer conference. 

1.  I bought a book by Bill Johnson called 'Defining moments' and Sam Storms' book about J I Packer. It made me wonder if they have ever met and whether anyone, apart from me, would buy books by the two authors at the same time. 

2. Talking of J I Packer, the big idea of Focus so far is the Sovereignty of God. We've had some terrific teaching. Not sure Focus would be quite Jim's bag but who knows...

3. A chap I bumped into remembers me saying in a talk that Satan put sin on the roulette wheel and lost. I can't recall ever saying that and can't quite fathom what on earth that statement means. 

4. The same fellow credits me with the term 'hinge verse' which is apparently one that opens the door to a theological truth. Can't recall ever saying that either. 

5. On the first evening, the worship was fearfully loud. So loud, in fact,  that my wife and I had to leave. Has worship music become louder or have I just got more grumpy? It was Donington Monsters of Rock rather than my preferred volume which is Bob Harris country. Fortunately,  someone has now turned the volume knob down a bit. 

6. A pal always refers to Ken Costa as Kevin Costa which really makes me chuckle. 

7. Met and prayed for a dear couple (French and Polish) in their sixties who became Christians reading the Bible. Their story was extraordinary. They feel called to Armenia and randomly (Sovereignly) I have a missionary friend I met 25 years ago when selling fags to the Russians who has a wonderful ministry to that nation. Who knows what may come of a chance encounter in a bookshop? Might be a 'defining moment'. 

8. A wonderful young women spoke this morning but I didn't hear what her name was.  So anointed and glowing. She is not yet 30, a Pentecostal theologian and about to start teaching at St Mellitus. I was struck by her story of being affirmed aged 8 by an old lady in her church. 

9. I had lunch with the new Vicar of my old church and we were both amazed how many people we both had in common. He's a terrific fellow. 

10.  I told my friend not to count how many squares his church has on the Focus map. No good can come of it. None of the NT letters seem greatly interested in how many coloured squares you have on a map.