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. 

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Story's solution

'In the end, it all comes down to this. One day you will stand before God, who will sit in judgement on your life, and you will be found guilty. I suspect you already know that. When that time comes for you- and it will come- only one thing will save you from punishment that is your due- God's Rescuer, Jesus. 

Here is the Story's solution to the problem of evil: perfect justice for evil doers, perfect mercy for the penitent; evil banished forever, and everlasting good restored.'

The Story of Reality, p. 164

Friday, July 21, 2017

With Him

This was from the notes in BiOY yesterday:

Bishop Taylor Smith, former Chaplain General to the Forces, once had a conversation with a young man that went like this:
Bishop: ‘When you think about the cross of Christ, what do you see?’
Young man: ‘I see Christ and two thieves crucified either side of him…’
Bishop: ‘What else do you see?’
Young man: ‘I see the soldiers gambling…’
Bishop: ‘If that is all you see, I think you will have trouble with the Christian life. When I see the cross – with all that – I see old Bishop Taylor Smith. I was crucified with Christ.’

Friday, July 14, 2017

Kept in a state of grace

'I think this little catchphrase, perseverance of the saints, is dangerously misleading. It suggests that the perseverance is something that we do, perhaps in and of ourselves. I believe that saints do persevere in faith, and that those who have been effectually called by God and have been reborn by the power of the Holy Spirit endure to the end. However, they persevere not because they are so diligent in making use of the mercies of God. The only reason we can give why any of us continue on in the faith is because we have been preserved. So I prefer the term the preservation of the saints, because the process by which we are kept in a state of grace is something that is accomplished by God. My confidence in my preservation is not in my ability to persevere. My confidence rests in the power of Christ to sustain me with His grace and by the power of His intercession. He is going to bring us safely home'

R C Sproul

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Poor and the Gospel

I posted a quote from 'The Story of Reality' about the poor that shocked me and may have shocked you too. That's why I posted it to prompt my own and others theological reflection. Of course, it has a context and I do commend reading this brilliant book so you can see it.

In a timely way, to help with some reflection, J D Greear has just written this post entitled 'If you don't care for the poor you don't understand the Gospel'

For the pod: Jesus the Saviour vs Jesus the fake therapist

The General Synod, as noted here, is moving ever nearer towards schism which makes those of us who are part of it so very sad. A pal sent me a couple of sermons by Rev Dr Gavin Ashenden (former Chaplain to the Queen) on the most recent debates about sexuality and on why he has decided to leave the C of E.

Friday, July 07, 2017

Something far more important

'What I am going to say next will come as a shock to some, but here it is. You can eliminate every single thing Jesus ever said in his life about the poor and social justice, and still you will not undermine his main message one bit. As severe as that may sound, this is precisely what one of Christ's closest followers actually did.

The Gospel of John is the last biography written on Jesus and it came to us from the last surviving apostle, the "beloved" disciple John, a member of Jesus' inner circle. Many think it the most elegant summary and most definitive statement of who Jesus was and what he came to do. Yet you can read from John's first sentence to his last and you will not find a single word about helping the poor or social justice. Not one. In John's lone reference to the poor, Jesus is somewhat dismissive of them. That is not because he doesn't care about them, but because he is comparing their situation with something far more important.

....The divide for Jesus is not between the poor and the rich, but between the proud and the repentant, regardless of income or social standing. Miss that and you miss everything'

The Story of Reality, Gregory Koukl, p.144. 

To discover what is the 'far more important' is you will need to read the rest of the chapter entitled 'Rescue' in this compelling and brilliant book...........

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Bits and bobs

1. This is an interesting piece by Tim Keller on the potential of ministry to make you conceited.


'Our influence will grow as we cultivate a way of living and working that feels far less draining over time and far more energized by the Spirit to the point of overflowing. We will experience more and more moments when we feel as if we are living and leading from abundance rarther than out of sheer willpower or our own detached-from-God human efforts'  An Unhurried Leader, p 12-13

3. A friend is reading 'A trip around the sun' and being impacted by the idea of the need to belong before you believe in a post-Christian context.

4. Mrs C is off to Just One with a pal. Do pray for this amazing event.

5. I totally agree with Ian Paul about mitres. They look ridiculous and are add odds with what it means to be Anglican. If you don't agree then read 'Anglican and Evangelical: Can they Agree?'.

6. From time to time, I spot a corporate book that looks interesting like this one. Reminds me of the days when I had a job in the real world :)

7. As readers will know we in the C of E love filling our meeting agendas with discussions about sex (do look the agenda shown on Cranmer's blog linked in the next sentence with words 'persecuted church'- it beggars belief ) We should of course be talking about mission, evangelism and the persecuted church. I have been mulling on the growth of bi-sexuality in young people that the article cites (Point 10). It is often spoken about in these church debates that what we are for is 'Loving committed relationships' (by the way, so to are those in 'the world' as adultery for most people has never been considered life enhancing) but I perhaps question how you can achieve that if you are in relationship with more than one person of different genders or am I missing something? Now, or course it is possible to do so if you exercise abstinence over one or other part of your bi-sexual inclination. Bisexuality is not something I have read or thought about in any great depth but I have been helped by the work of 'Living out' in my understanding of this complex ethical arena. I realize I have more to learn about all this. You might also be interested in this tangential piece 'The revealing Conservatism of J K Rowling'  By the way, did I mention that the average age of a person with their bottom on a pew is 66?

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Five Habits of Highly Missional People

'Mission is not primarily concerned with church growth. It is primarily concerned with the reign and rule of the Triune God. That is why those of us who are not gifted evangelists need to foster habits in our lives that draw us out into the lives of unbelievers and invite the kinds of questions that lead to evangelistic sharing. When our lives become questionable, our neighbours invite us to proclaim the reign of God. If the church grows as a result, so be it.'

Surprise the world, p. 21

I have been praying, reading about and learning about mission. I have recently read a book called 'Surprise the world' which has inspired our summer sermon series. Michael Frost recommends we cultivate the BELLS model of mission:






I really recommend you putting this book in your beach bag as summer reading. It is very short, easy to read and contains habits that if we adopted them would transform our communities and churches.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Monday musing

1. The abuse scandals of the C of E have seemingly been very badly handled.

2. I am currently reading a lot about mission. Michael Frost's idea of 'BELLS' that he explains in his little book called 'Surprise the world' is extremely helpful. I have to say it's also an encouragement that we are doing some elements of mission pretty well- particularly eating which is the 'E' of 'BELLS'.

'Sharing meals together on a regular basis is one of the most sacred practices we can engage in as believers. Missional hospitality is a tremendous opportunity to extend the kingdom of God. We can literally eat our way into the kingdom of God! If every Christian household regularly invited a stranger or a poor person into their home for a meal once a week, we would literally change the world by eating!' 

Hirsch and Ford quoted in Surprise the world, p.48

3. This is an interesting discussion about the Supreme Court gay wedding cake case.

4. 73% of Anglicans according to BSA think sex before marriage is 'not wrong at all'. I would want to ask if the same group think sex outside marriage is 'not wrong at all' and if not what's the difference? Survey data like this makes me despair at the comprehension of the basic tenets of the gospel, the work of the Cross and realization of the scandal of grace in the C of E.

The word 'porneia' means sexual immorality. In deciding how to translate porneia, we need to avoid extremes or too much laxity and rigidity.......Porneia was, in fact, a generic word for sexual infidelity or 'marital unfaithfulness' (NIV), and included "every kind of unlawful sexual intercourse' (Arndt -Gingrich)

Issues facing Christians Today, Page 294

Sadly, too many Anglicans it would seem do not these days read the Bible, let alone owning a copy of Stott's seminal text on ethics.

5. On the subject of the gospel someone on our current Alpha course said this. 'There are only two categories of people- 'sinners' and 'redeemed sinners'. That phrase has stuck with me all this week. Tomorrow we are exploring the question 'How can I have faith?'.

6. This account about MLJ's needing to 'make room for the cross' convicted and moved me.

7. I have a theory that ecclesiastical and academic titles are the enemy of power in preaching.

8. This Spurgeon line from a handout someone gave me following a gathering of one of our Community Groups is worth a ponder:

'He made you for an end. Find out what that end is; find out your niche, and fill it. If it be so little, if it be a hewer of wood or a drawer of water, do something in this great battle for God and truth.'

9. A few comments on Ordination services that a good number of Vicar pals/ Non-ordained folk have been commenting on as many happened across the country this weekend.

a. In a service with so many guests and people who do not yet know Christ to not preach the gospel clearly and accessibly is surely a radical missed opportunity. To steal a cricketing analogy, on the biggest game of the year we should really try to pad up someone who can hit the ball about a bit and with a proven track record for unction in preaching.

b. Why not have a bit of testimony? We have twelve or so folk who are giving their lives for the good of the gospel and in service of the church so why not ask a couple of them why they are doing it. It may inspire others in their own call:

What was life like before you were a Christian?

How did you come to know Jesus?

Why do you want to be a priest?

c. Don't sing the prayers

d. Choose hymns that people know with a tune they can follow.

e. However committed the person, no one wants a service to last two hours.

10. I went to the licensing of the Vicar of my old church last week. Firstly, the bun fight afterwards was a little taste of heaven seeing old friends and faces, eating sumptuous food and drinking good wine. Secondly, in the morning I had discussed whether or not we can be considered 'the treasure' in the parable of Matt 13. The answer of most of the commentators is no. So this bit of the liturgy was interesting to me:

The Bishop extends his hands over the Vicar and people and says:

The Lord declares this day that you are his own, his treasured possession; work together as a people holy to the Lord your god, and may God meet all your needs from his glorious riches.

All: To God be the glory for ever and ever. Amen

Saturday blog-sweep

 Some interesting books for pastors The State we're in Attack at dawn Joseph Scriven Joy comes with the morning When small is beautiful