Saturday, January 31, 2009

Tim Keller in London

Tim Keller one day is in Nashville the next he is back in London on Feb 24th for Urban Plant Life. I am going so may see you there. Here too is another interview about the Reason for God.

One Tim Keller quote I particularly liked was this:

"To be a repenter you have to be really sure that God loves you."

Here are the talks from last time in case you missed them:

Blog Sweep

The ten most redeeming films of 2008. If you want a look Driscoll's Church here he is on usual blunderbust form. He calls himself a Charismatic with a seatbelt which I rather like. He says without it you go straight through the windscreen and lots of people get hurt. Not everyone's cup of tea I know but having heard him speak I can confirm he has a profound anointing upon him.




Bono has some things to say on relationship with God and his father. A Leadership podcast from Andy Stanley which might be one for the ipod. A good book title and so the reviews say also a good book(perhaps particularly if you are a woman)-All I need is Jesus and a good pair of jeans and some wisdom on what 90% of a minister's job is.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Church

Mark Driscoll has a new book out called Vintage Church and Adrian Warnock offers the chance to win a copy for writing a post on one aspect of Church.

So here goes. Last night I was sharing with a crowd of people, most of whom are just starting out as followers of Jesus, what it means to be a disciple. I took as my text that wonderful account in Acts 2:42-48 of the early Church. I gave them four markers or signs of being a disciple and told them that Jesus followers seem to:

1. Be Devoted
2. Be Expectant
3. Be Open to others
4. Be Sincere and Joyful

Pretty standard stuff you might say. Well, I do agree. But it was 'Point 3' that challenged me most as I prepared to speak. The more I lingered on the thought of 'having everything in common' and 'sharing with each other as each had need' I wondered how this could ever have been possible. What made these Christians so different and what truth could birth such selflessness and love? Then it dawned on me, perhaps helped by my recent reading of 'Knowing God'. The early Church knew that Jesus followers were family. It is in families, where they are working well, that we are able to share, love, meet needs and put others first.

To be Church is to be a family with a loving Father at its head.

Here is Packer who seems to agree with me (actually more like I agree with him!)

"What is a Christian? The question can be answered in many ways, but the richest answer I know is that a Christian is one who has God as Father … If you want to know how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all."
– J.I. Packer

One thing confirmed this for me last night. As we finished singing the song 'This is our God' with it wonderful first line 'Your grace is enough' we had a time of praying out some prayers of thanksgiving. One friend simply prayed this:

"Thank you for being my Dad"

I guess that's it. Ten minutes off the top of my head which I am not at all sure will win me a book but there you have it.

"Dad"

That's Church.

Here's the song

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Live: Life




All the fruits of what I think following Jesus is supposed to be all about. Someone asked whether ..'this discipleship thing was six or eight weeks'. Smiling, I told her it was very likely to take her the rest of her life.

All our own work. Adam's design-love it!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

If God wants to save a man he doesn't need you

I woke up at 4.30 thanks to an alarm on my street. The plus was a fruitful time with God which is good as I am preaching 3 times today. Here's today's thought.

At the end of reading MLJ's life I was left sad that I would never hear such preaching as his in the flesh. Or maybe I would?. I just didn't expect it to be in French. This is Miki preaching to 2000 African/International pastors at his annual conference. Perhap's Piper should ask him for next year's DG Conference.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A gift from Cookiesdays

Milton Stanley at Transforming Sermons blessed me with his 'Christmas act of grace' of 00's of free commentaries available on the web. I sent him a stamped addressed envelope to Middle Tennessee and it has arrived all on one DVD. There are 34 on Revelation alone. He has allowed me to pass it forward.

So here is the offer which feel free to tell others about:

Find my e-mail address by following the VIEW MY COMPLETE PROFILE link. Send me an e-mail letting me know you'd like a copy of the DVD, and I'll e-mail you back my postal address. If you'll send me a pre-posted, self-addressed envelope for shipping the DVD, I'll send you a copy--free, as long as you provide postage and a mailing envelope.

Please bear in mind that many of the files I'll be sending you are copyrighted with the stipulation that they not be sold. In other words, free and non-commercial has to stay free and non-commercial.

Culture Watch:The Fear

Spending the day thinking about 3 talks for our youth weekend-50 teenagers-the fear indeed. Listen to these Lily Allen lyrics which are, of course, ironic, but do you know about irony when you are 13? It is so long ago I can't remember:)

"I don't know how I am meant to feel any more...."

What a commentary on our times.

Living water and the power of Biography

Living Water, a set of sermons on John 4 by Lloyd-Jones has just been published. I quite often bang on about MLJ and know that most will be deprived and not read the 2 vol Murray biography. If you want to know about him rather more easily then listen John Piper's excellent talk called 'A passion for Christ-exalting power' given some years ago. Incidentally, these biographies here are wonders for the building of your faith and can be downloaded onto the ipod and listened to as you walk in the park, sit on a train, drive the car, run, feed the baby or go to the gym. They will warm your heart.

Anyway here is a bit from his John 4 sermon by the great Dr:

Possibly one of the most devastating things that can happen to us as Christians is that we cease to expect anything to happen. I am not sure but that this is not one of our greatest troubles today. We come to our services and they are orderly, they are nice ‒ we come, we go ‒ and sometimes they are timed almost to the minute, and there it is. But that is not Christianity, my friend. Where is the Lord of glory? Where is the one sitting by the well? Are we expecting him? Do we anticipate this? Are we open to it? Are we aware that we are ever facing this glorious possibility of having the greatest surprise of our life?

Or let me put it like this. You may feel and say ‒ as many do ‒ ‘I was converted and became a Christian. I’ve grown ‒ yes, I’ve grown in knowledge, I’ve been reading books, I’ve been listening to sermons, but I’ve arrived now at a sort of peak and all I do is maintain that. For the rest of my life I will just go on like this.’

Now, my friend, you must get rid of that attitude; you must get rid of it once and for ever. That is ‘religion’, it is not Christianity. This is Christianity: the Lord appears! Suddenly, in the midst of the drudgery and the routine and the sameness and the dullness and the drabness, unexpectedly, surprisingly, he meets with you and he says something to you that changes the whole of your life and your outlook and lifts you to a level that you had never conceived could be possible for you. Oh, if we get nothing else from this story, I hope we will get this. Do not let the devil persuade you that you have got all you are going to get, still less that you received all you were ever going to receive when you were converted. That has been a popular teaching, even among evangelicals. You get everything at your conversion, it is said, including baptism with the Spirit, and nothing further, ever. Oh, do not believe it; it is not true. It is not true to the teaching of the Scriptures, it is not true in the experience of the saints running down the centuries. There is always this glorious possibility of meeting with him in a new and a dynamic way.

As they say on Amazon "People who bought this also bought...." so if you liked this here is another quote from Dr Jones.

(H/T JT)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Chosen

I quite often get asked about predestination which is always a lively one. I was helped in my understanding of it all by reading the Institutes for an essay a college (most people haven't bothered and they are missing out), by a sermon by Keller and a seminar by Alister McGrath. John Calvin says in Book III we don't know who are elect and who are not so we preach the gospel to all.

This seems like a reasonable plan.

In a discussion last night with some folk in the pub after church my pal Mark said he had always found the lyrics of Martin Smith (of Delirious fame) in his song 'I've found Jesus' helpful in this regard.

"I have chosen to believe believing he has chosen me"

I wonder of Whitfield and Wesley could agree to agree on that one?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Shack-some thoughts

I have awoken at 4am with jet-lag but I suppose it is an improvement on the 3 am of yesterday! It may be a long week.

I read the Shack last summer and found it to be a thought-provoking read but it left me with a niggle and some theological concerns. One factor that prompted me to read it was the affirmation by Eugene Peterson who is one of my 'go-to' people on matters Jesus and theology.

Here is what has got me thinking. I saw some friends recently and they all had been overwhelmed by this book having read it over Christmas. One said that she had never seen God in this way before and asked me why don't we have preaching that shows us a Jesus like this. She attested to being more passionate and stimulated to follow Jesus by the Shack much more than many other things she had experienced in her church over the last few years. That must be a good thing- surely? The observations of others were similar.

Now, pause a moment, either the Jesus of her churches pulpit is lacking in a way the William P Young's Jesus is not or the two Jesus' are different? Is she being given a false or inadequate/lacking Jesus or has the Shack painted a picture of God that is not that of the bible? Or is it in the Scripture and we just missed it?

Then the inevitable question came,

"David, what do you think?"

I shared a few positive thoughts and then I confess offered a few reservations but felt as though I was pouring cold water on the re-launched Jesus that my friends (who have been following Him most of them for over 20 years) had just discovered. I felt like the party-pooper shutting off the children's music half way through a game of pass -the- parcel.

I love it when people are passionate for Jesus.

I really love it.

But here's my caution. There a lots of wallers who have offered views far more erudite and I list them in a moment but for me there are two passages of Scripture that one may like to consider when reflecting on The Shack.

1. Galatians 1:8

Paul says here 'But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!'. Strong stuff you might agree. The warning here is to always have discerning eyes and ears that the Jesus being preached is the one of the gospel. The Jesus of the cross. The Jesus who calls us to deny ourselves and follow him to Calvary. The Jesus of the nails. This may never perhaps be a Jesus that makes the New York times bestseller lists and achieves popular acclaim with the masses.

2. Phil 1:15-16

Paul also writes, 'It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.'

My second thought is this. People are reading this book. It has some things to commend it but also some heresies that are contrary to sound doctrine. What am I to do? Tell them not to read it. Some did that, mistakenly in my view, with Harry Potter. No, I think not. After all, I have read it and parts of it blessed me. I think God, as he was with the Church in Philippi, is able to work for good and bring things in his time and purpose to completion and correct error.

The more challenging point is this. I want to pastor a church where the Jesus I preach is the one of the gospel-the one of Galatians 1. I want my hearers to be in a place where they are able to form a doctrinal view because they know and understand the gospel. The gospel of the Scriptures. The Jesus of the Scriptures. The Jesus of the Cross.

If you are going to read the Shack then maybe reading it with Knowing God by J I Packer in the other hand might offer you some help in seeing Jesus as he is rather than as we might like him to be. We all tend to want the God as we want him to be that's why the people of Israel kept getting in such a pickle.

Here are some resources:

FOR

The case for with William de Young himself



“When the imagination of a writer and the passion of a theologian cross-fertilize the result is a novel on the order of ‘The Shack.’ This book has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan’s ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’ did for his. It’s that good!” –Eugene Peterson, Professor Emeritus of Spiritual Theology, Regent College, Vancouver, B.C.

“The Shack will leave you craving for the presence of God.” - Michael W. Smith

This article is called 'Is the shack heresy?' written by one of the editors of the book.

AGAINST

Maybe you have no idea what I am talking about so let me introduce you to Mark Driscoll who will give you what one might call the case against the Shack.



REVIEWS

There are lots of reviews the widest read and most comprehensive is by Tim Challies but I also commend this post by Dr James de Young.
Andrew has also offered a thoughtful review
which I found helpful

Friday, January 23, 2009

Blogsweep

I go away for a couple of weeks and find that the free world has a new president. Whatever next! I enjoyed hearing this wonderful prayer by Rick Warren.



This simple observation landed with me on how to transform your prayer life. The Top 60 church blogs for you to click about on - I guess I must have come in at 61! (to my knowledge I think to date I have amassed he vast total of 3 readers that I know of) also the Top 100 theology blogs. Michael Jenson has some advice on the 10 worst habits of the preacher complemented nicely by this post of nominations for best preachers-Keller tops the list. My pal Simon should be on it-after all these are all Americans- not one person from the nation that gave the world George Whitfield. Come on USA download Si or indeed Miki Hardy in Mauritius onto your ipods and live a little outside your borders. All the comments on Michaels's post made me consider this post called what kind of preacher are you?

This post
made me think and confirms much that I have been thinking about in recent months about the absense of discipleship and, as it happens, we are starting our own disciplship journey called Live:Life this week. Adam, who has done the excellent communication, tells me it is essential to have the 'v' and 'i' in italics. Why Disney dropped Narnia and a free download of the 7 habits by Covey.

Anyone have a nomination for a few good British or non-American preachers? There must be some....

The Cross across continents

Well I have returned in one piece from Mauritius and feel restored and refreshed. I needed to be. It was a time of friendship and laughter, rich reading, amazing curry and an encounter with an extraordinary church and new friends. Most of my time was spent with my friends Pip, Rolf ,Lilly and Pia on the north of the island in Belle Mare. The aim was a recharge and it happened- thankfully. Good food, walks along the beach, fishing and trips out to see a few things.

My reading was a real blessing. On New Years eve I plucked a book off the shelf called 'The read of my life' which asks a variety of people for their most important read. One essay by Derek Tidball cited Knowing God by J. I. Packer. Now, I have always called this the most widely bought and least read Christian book of all time and sure enough when I looked on my shelf I owned a second hand copy but had never got around to reading it. So with this prompting, I popped it in the bag for my holiday. What a treasure trove of truth unveilied itself from this pastors heart. Reading this book in my early days of faith would have saved me years of bother and confusion- but perhaps now was the right time. In one chapter, he quotes George Whitfield who once prayed 'Lord help me to begin to begin'. I felt I was once again beginning as I read a couple of chapters slowly each day.

'There is no peace like the peace of those whose minds are possessed with full assurance that they have known God, and God has known them, and that this relationship guarantees them God's favour to them in life, through death and on for ever' J I Packer Knowing God

The real surprise of my time was a visit to my friends Annie's church-CTMI. Here there is a story that goes back a few years. Audrey, a dear friend and encourager with whom I pray has spoken often of her daughters church in Mauritius. I must visit and meet Miki she says almost every time I see her and spend some time when them all- "They preach the cross". But when would I ever fly 12 hours to do that? By grace it happened and I found myself sitting in an evangelistic tent meeting outside Port Louis singing songs in French listening to a sermon by Miki on the wide and a narrow gate that made me go forward at the appeal once again in my heart. The gospel preached with holy fire. I finally understood what Audrey had been on about. I spent three days staying with a wonderful Mauritian pastor Fabien and his family. The first person I met gave me a book written by Miki called 'The power of grace'. You should get hold of it if you can. I know I am rambling but my thoughts are not yet formed. Suffice it say that this is one of my most faith enhancing encounters of recent years. I am considering another visit if the Lord enables it to attend this

I also read the epic novel Shantaram which was truly spellbinding. READ THIS BOOK. I also read Memoirs of an ordinary pastor which I left with Fabien who appropriately also ministers in French and English as Tom Carson did in Canada.

I listened to this talk called Running with the witnesses by Piper recommended by this excellent post. Worth a listen.

I have been blessed indeed and must now get up once again and run.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Blogoliday

Godfrey Birtles

I attended our church prayer meeting recently and we listened to a song that really blessed me that someone brought along. Always like to share a find which is called Very God by Godfrey Birtles who, when I looked at the CD, I saw comes out of Betel. They do amazing work with heroin addicts. I can't speak for the rest of the album but I am getting it anyway.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Blog Sweep

I came across the story of Lonnie Frisbee on John's blog (ex Holy Trinity Curate) and thought I might check out the DVD. Rick Warren has some advice on how to trim your sermons. Steve McCoy has collected a great resource on Suburban Christians which seems plenty to be going on with. The internet monk ends the year with a bang and reflects on things we have heard a hundred times before. A link for my pal David who is an artist and a pastor and often observes there is no one bringing these two together. My December driving and walking about ipod listening has been this on Revelation which has encouraged me. Incidentally, I met recently with a lady in my church and she had Rev 2:17 on her heart, a verse I have never noticed before so I have been chewing on it. Finally, another list of music you may have missed and want to download in a fashionably 'year too late' kind of way!

Preached twice at the weekend and am shot but as the festive Coca Cola train ad sings so well 'The holiday's a comin.....The holiday's a comin...'

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Missionaries are OK

I read this fascinating article in the Times called I believe Africa needs God by Matthew Parris. It is radical not least because Parris is a vocal atheist who are not generally found affirming the work of missionaries.

Now a confirmed atheist, I've become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people's hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.

I used to avoid this truth by applauding - as you can - the practical work of mission churches in Africa. It's a pity, I would say, that salvation is part of the package, but Christians black and white, working in Africa, do heal the sick, do teach people to read and write; and only the severest kind of secularist could see a mission hospital or school and say the world would be better without it. I would allow that if faith was needed to motivate missionaries to help, then, fine: but what counted was the help, not the faith.
(Read the full article via the link)

There are lots of potential reflections but one is that the atheist, like the Christian, can take many different forms and Parris is an example of one form that I find thoughtful, generous and appealing. Perhaps he might have something to teach us all.

Friday, January 02, 2009

A resolution or a goal?


I am using January to sketch out the next 18 months before God. The reality for a pastor is that to expect to have a neat plan on the first day of the year after a busy Christmas is never going to happen (at least for me).

I, for one, need a bit more time.

Time to take stock, to be thankful, to reflect and collect my learning and time to assess where I have fallen short and why. Time to get into view the things that lie ahead. Time to see what new habits need forming or what habits need a revisit and some renewed discipline. Time to assess relationships with family, friends both past and present and in my community. Time to look at my health, my Sabbath, my prayer life, my giving. This all takes quite some time and rightly so.

That's why I prefer a goal rather than a resolution. A goal is something to aim at whereas my experience has been a resolution is something to fail at. With goals, even if all the strikes don't hit the back of the net and some don't get kicked it is much more motivationally satisfying.

One area to explore is what to read in 2008. Trevin Wax and Justin Buzzard have listed all their books of 2008 and it is a rich list. I am revisiting a great book called 'The read of my life' which is the follow-up to the wonderful 'Indelible ink' and is a collection of essays on books that changed people's lives. You may find it a help in thinking about what to read.

There are ever more lists of 'best of 2008. Here is some music and some top lists

By the way, some of my January reflection will be on holiday with friends in an amazing house. You'll be jealous so click at your own peril!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

10 questions for the New Year

I have never been a great one for resolutions but I think asking a few questions as the year arrives is not a bad thing. I think it is good to have a bit of grace so why not give yourself the whole of January to mull over some of these.

1. What's one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?

2. What's the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?

3. What's the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?

4. In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?

5. What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?

6. What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?

7. For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?

8. What's the most important way you will, by God's grace, try to make this year different from last year?

9. What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?

10. What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in ten years? In eternity?

(H/T J.Taylor / If you would like even more questions then here they are from Don Whitney)