Monday, 30 August 2010

Biblical Theology

Mike Bird has posted a link to what looks like a very good blog on Biblical Theology - it's called
Beginning with Moses.

A good understanding of biblical theology, and how the bible holds together, is I think essential for any understanding of any particular part of Scripture. And a blog like this one will be a great help to us all in that.

Right To Believe Campaign

Yesterday while at church I was made aware of the Open Doors Right To Believe campaign, a Global Petition for Religious Liberty. Please look at the web page here.

On the site you can read about this campaign, I've copied the following:



This year the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), linking 57 countries with majority or significant Muslim populations, will once again introduce the Defamation of Religions Resolution in the United Nations.

It allows governments the power to determine which religious views can and can't be expressed in their country, and it gives the state the right to punish those who express 'unacceptable' religious views as they see fit. So, in effect, it makes persecution legal.

It aims to criminalise words or actions deemed to be against a particular religion, especially Islam. It has the effect of providing international legitimacy for national laws that punish blasphemy or otherwise ban criticism of a religion. It is due to be voted on in the UN General Assembly at the end of this year.

Incredibly, many countries have backed this resolution in the past, but some are now changing their minds. This year, there is a real possibility it could be defeated. And you can help. It's time to draw a line in the sand. Add your signature to Open Doors' petition and join thousands of others across the world.

Please pray for our sisters and brothers in the persecuted church around the world. Please pray that the church will defend, and stand up, for our responsibility to declare the Lordship of King Jesus over all creation. Please sign the petition, share this with your church leader and get your congregation to join in.

An Idolatry of the Mind

I'm preparin for preaching on Isaiah 40:21-31.

Reading John D W Watts commentary in the Word Biblical Commentary series I came across this:

So the people are accused of a lack of trust [verses 28ff] which is akin to idolatry. It is an idolatry of the mind that demands that God and his word make sense to them. They want God to convince them, to listen to their plan which compares him to nations and to governments that they know or that they have known. They expect God to fit his plans to their specifications. (page 96)

Every now and then you read a paragraph written about Israel in the time of Isaiah and it could have been written about the Church of Scotland in 2010.
The idolatry of lack of trust is alive and well among us, too few trust God and his word.
The idolatry of the mind has taken deep root, too many seek to submit God and his word to their feeble understanding, as though our sin darkened minds, and depraved lifestyles, could ever sit in judgment over our eternal, all-powerful, sovereign God.

The promise of strength is for those who wait upon the Lord. Those who have a proper submission to God and his purposes and will depend upon God alone to be King and God.

80-20 or 90-10?

I was reading in the Sept/Oct 2010 Idea, the Evangelical Alliance bi-monthly magazine an article by Phil Green, 'Help people along their faith journey'.

Phil writes, quoting some statistics:
Christian faith is usually firmly established when young: a third of people claim they knew they were Christian before the age of 12; 40% knew somewhere between 12 and 19; 16% in their 20s; and just 9% aged 30 and above. The Faith Journeys project has revealed that the foundation built during childhoos and adolescence is highly significant. (page 22, idea sep/oct 2010)

This struck a chord. 91% of Christians have become Christian before the age of 30. How effectively do we disciple these Christians that they will remain Christian through out the rest of their lives?

We do not give up on the 9% but I think need to ask ourselves how much effort are we putting in to chasing this 9%? Is it too much or too little?

There is a business mantra: 20% of your working effort produces 80% of your results. I'm sure it is simply the similarity of the numbers but I found myself asking, if church engaged 20% of their efforts in work with people under 30 would this achieve a similar result to that recorded by the Faith Journeys project? If so, we should be engaging 80% of our working effort to pursue the 20% or the 9%.
What is the balance of our ministry and service between those under 30 and those over 30?

Thinking of our work with school children, we should definitely increase our expectation that children of school age are well able to make a meaningful commitment to Christian discipleship which will endure into adult life. This should become the express aim and goal of all our work with school age children.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Church in Europe, following or leading?

Another interesting post on the blogsphere from Krish Kandiah at What's Next.

Good question, Krish.

The state of the church in Europe is not encouraging. But, is this post-Christian situation one that all churches, whatever their present situation, will in time have to go through? Often we reflect on the growth of the church in Asia, South America and Africa and ask what lessons do we need to learn for ourselves in Europe. (Often, but not often enough or seriously enough I think!)

But what if this post-Christian cultural context is an natural cultural development flowing from a strong Christian church with deep roots in a culture?
If this is the case then we in Europe should not be seeking to 'return' to church situations we presently see modelled in other contexts, but we should follow Jesus and press through into the glorious future he has for his church.

Well Done The Real Reds

A great result last night!
I don't care if the goals come late, if they are own goals or dodgy off-side decisions, they all count! Let's hope for a successful campaign in the Europa League.

In passing, I'm beginning to think Neil Lennon will in time stand among all the truly great Celtic managers - Liam Brady, Lou Macari, John Barnes.

History and Theology and the New Testament

A very interesting post from Mike Bird at Euangelion - here.

Since I've told you I got it via Mike, I hope it is ok to copy the quote from CK Barrett here:

Some historical element is not only admissible but is in fact essential, without it New Testament Theology will hardly escape degeneration into a collection of texta probantia. And the historian must not scorn the contribution of philosophical questioning to supplement his historical criticism. He who is master of both history and theology will write the greatest New Testament theology’.

C.K. Barrett, ‘Historia Theologiae Genetrix,’ in Aufgabe und Durchführung einer Theologie des Neuen Testaments, eds. C. Breytenbach and J. Frey (WUNT 205; Tübingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 2007), 205-6.
Yes. I wholly agree with this. Christianity is an historical faith, the elements of our faith as recorded in the Ecumenical Creeds are historical events. History alone, however, does not give us all we need, a robust theological approach to our faith, combined with rigorous historical study will furnish real insight into that revelation of God given through Jesus Christ his Son.
I note that Barrett does not mention a master of biblical critisicm. It is possible that this is subsumed within the heading 'theology', however, it need not be. An ability to read the bible well is an essential skill for all theologians, but as with history, it is not enough in itself.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Carson on Niebuhr and Liberal Christianity

One of the interesting points I noted in Carson's book, Christ and Culture Revisited, was his comments on liberal Christianity.

... for liberal theology, which is one form of what Niebuhr calls "culture Christianity": transparently, Niebuhr is not talking about what C. S. Lewis would call "mere Christians," some of whom happen to hold some more-or-less liberal positions on this detail or that economic policy. "Sociologically, Niebuhr says of them, "they may be interpreted as nonrevolutionaries who find no need for positing 'cracks in time' - fall and incarnation and judgment and resurrection." Indeed, they reject "the whole conception of a once-and-for-all act of redemption." This is pretty fundamental stuff. If that is what liberal Christianity is, then Machen, though he wrote three-quarters of a century ago, was surely right: liberalism is not another denomination or any other kind of legitimate option within Christianity. Rather, it is another religion. (pages 33-34)

For too long I and others in Scotland, and in the Church of Scotland, have tried to make common ground with those who deny that God is creator, that there was a fall into sin which has affected all of humanity, that the eternal Son of God became human, that there will be a final judgment by God upon all humanity, that the cross and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ are God's once for all act of salvation - there is no other salvation apart from that achieved by God in the cross of Christ.

It is time to say clearly, denying these high points of biblical revelation moves one outside of biblical, orthodox Christianity. Any liberty of opinion granted to ministers and elders of the Church of Scotland in relation to the Westminster Confession of Faith, does not and cannot extend to liberty of opinion on these fundamentals of the faith.

Liberal Christianity, so called, is neither liberal nor Christian. As Carson quotes Machen, 'it is another religion', and one which I don't want anything to do with.

The Prodigal Son

On the EA Scotland web site this month is the August 2gether cmail. Short reflections on the Prodigal Son, Luke 15:11-31 - well worth a read - here.

Those by Pete Anderson and Keith Short are really good, the third one is by me, so let me know what you think.

Christ and Culture

I picked this book up at Keswick last year and read it when I came home from Keswick this year! Whenever they get bought they all get read!

Carson's conclusion is a good place to start:
To pursue with a passion the robust and nourishing wholeness of biblical theology as the controlling matrix for our reflection on the relations between Christ and culture will, ironically, help us to be far more flexible than the inflexible grids that are often made to stand in the Bible's place. Scripture will mandate that we think holistically and subtyly, wisely and penetratingly, under the Lordship of Christ - utterly dissatisfied with the anesthetic of the culture. The complexity will mandate our service, without insisting that things turn out a certain way: we learn to trust and obey and leave the results to God, for we learn from both Scripture and history that sometimes faithfulness leads to awakening and reformation, sometimes to persecution and violence, and sometimes to both. Because creation gave us embodied existence, and beause our ultimate hope is the resurrection life in the new heaven and the new earth, we will understand that being reconciled to god and bowing to the Lordship of King Jesus cannot possibly be reduced to the privatized religion or a gorm of ostensibly spirituality abstracted from full-orbed bodily existence now. (pages 227-228)

Carson rejects the five options offered by Niebuhr, noting that in his opinion two of these fail the test of being adequately Christian! Carson offers throughout biblical theology as a way of reading the bible which engages us with the bible in our own culture(s) in the hope that this will offer us a Christian way to respond to the challenges of non-Christian and anti-Christian expressions of culture.

Carson at times approves of the definition of culture offered by Geertz:
[T]he culture concept ... denotes an historically transmitted pattern of meanings embodied in symbols, a system of inherited conceptions expressed in symbolic form by means of which men communicate, perpetuate, and develop their knowledge about and attitudes towards life. (page 2)
This is helpful, not least in its brevity, and may be useful to others when writing and talking about culture.

On the whole Carson's book is worth reading as it addresses issues of cultural engagement which rightly press in upon the church and our Christian living.

Glory or Gore in Europe

ok, it wasn't good on Monday evening, 3-0 against Man City is a bad defeat. But, 36 league games to go, if we win them all the championship trophy will be returning home.

I don't know what to think about tonights game in Turkey against Trabzonspor. We had enough chances last week to take a bigger lead into the game, let's hope Joe Cole doesn't try to take any more penalties!

Come on the real reds, time for a big result.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Keswick Evenings -2 Corinthians - 7

The final evening of Keswick week 2, 2010. Joe Stowell, from the USA spoke on 2 Cor 6:3-10.

The secret of contentment is to live no fault lives.
Joe took the expression 'no fault lives' from the analogy of car insurance where there are no fault claims.

We are to put no obstacle in the way of ministry, v. 3. Not material things, what we wear or the car we drive, nor the words we speak.

Our daily choices about how we live may facilitate or obstruct the gospel.

We are to live no fault lives as servants, v. 4.
The Lord Jesus chose to be a servant and he calls us to be servants in our following him.
This has proved to be a continual and on-going problem for the disciples, see Matthew 20.

We are to live no fault lives, as servants, with endurance - a comprehensive endurance, vv. 5-10.
The example of no fault, enduring lives is Jesus.

A good series of meetings on part of 2 Corinthians, I'm not sure I can figure out why knowing there were only to be seven meetings this series of passages were chosen and why we stopped here.

If you are wondering about morning bible readings at Keswick these were really good. The speak was Paul Mallard and he was speaking on Revelation 2 and 3, the Seven Letters. I've decided to post on Revelation in my other blog Reading Together and will comment on Paul's bible readings there.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Tyndale ToolBar

I've found another great bible study resource from Tyndale House.

It's a tool bar which will install into your browser and gives access to a range of bible study resources at the top of your browser all the time. You can find it and install is from Tyndale House.

As with most Tyndale techy stuff there is lots on this, more than I have already discovered. But a great resource - thanks guys.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Keswick Evenings - 2 Corinthians - 6

I'm sorry I missed the Wed evening, playing games with Andrew, but Fiona went along.

So on Thursday evening Derek Tidball spoke on 2 Cor 5:11-6:2

The only sensible way to live is to live wholly for Christ.

1) Motivation - vv. 11-14
v. 11 - the knowledge of the fear of the Lord motivates us.
Derek refered to v. 10, the judgment throne of God, as the source of this fear. In the context that may be right, however, in a wider biblical context I tend to think that 'the fear of the Lord' functions like a kind of technical term meaning something like 'knowing how to live properly the life God has given us to life in his presence under the sun'. Let me know what you think?

Once we have been saved we are accountable for our works, our acts of service and love as Christians.
v. 14 - the love of Christ constrains us. So it is not only 'the fear of the Lord' but Christ's love which motivates our action.

2) Transformation - vv. 15-17.
A life is turned around, see Acts 9.
If only our desires and ambitions were changed like Paul's!
What does our church live for? - A good question we should answer.

v. 15 - a new direction.
v. 17 - if transformed then we should live 'new creation', into which Christ has made us.

3) Reconciliation - vv. 18-21
This is the great message.
"Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe - people and things, animals and atoms - get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the Cross." [Colossians 1:20, The Message, E H Peterson]

God has taken the initiative in reconciliation. The appeal which is made by the ambassador is God's appeal.

4) Application - 6:1-2
is a challenge to us all.
This day needs to be seized.
Consider a packet of processed sugar, all the work that has gone into this product. If it sits on a cafe table and is played with but never used, that whole process is wasted.

What are we doing since God is achieving reconciliation for us in the death of Christ?

New Music

I'm listening to this cd Newworldson, by Newworldson. A friend, Paul, heard them at Frenzy in June and thought they were great - he was right!

A real lively sound which just doesn't sound like four white Canadians.

Check out their web site - newworldson

And watch this youtube clip below.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Charismatic Calvinists? - Convergence

In May/June I re-read Sam Storms 'Convergence: The Spiritual Journey of a Charismatic Calvinist'.

Storms has noticed, as we all have that a 'breach exists between Word-based evangelical cessationists and their more experintially oriented charismatic cousins.' (page 9). His aim in writing is to share his expriences and reflections upon them hoping to address the mistrust and caricature which passess between these two grous.

This is a good, readable book. Many, I think, will recognise some, perhaps most, of Storms life-story and so will be drawn into his reflections upon it.

I think Storms gives a good account of Charismatic theology and experience, sufficient to challenge any cessationist to re-think their position.
Storms describes as the primary point of contention between evangelical cessationists and evangelical charismatics the claim that God speaks prophetically and immediately into situations in our lives, yes in the words of Scripture but not only in the words of Scripture. I think Storms may be right here, but I'm not sure he has offered enough to persuade us of his conclusion in this matter.

I'm not sure that what Storms offers is convergence, so much as a plea to cessationists to recognise their error and engage in charismatic practice. I'm not complaining about him writing such a book, just that convergence doesn't seem to describe what he is pleading for.

Certainly in Scotland the suspicion and distrust which exists between some evangelicals and charismatics is bitter and harmful to the work of the gospel. It might be because of my story I'm more willing to consider charismatic theology and practice as being biblical and godly, but at the very least I think we cannot consider it any less than this.

The following quote gripped me as I share this frustration, after not three years but 17 years!
During these first three years I preached verse by verse through the Scriptures and did my best to honour God and serve his people. But I was growing increasingly frustrated by the problems people faced and my apparent inability and lack of wisdom to help them. (page 38)

So thanks Ian for recommending this book, which I commend to others.

Make Poverty History

My friend Albert has a very challenging post on his iTalker blog.

Encountering poverty whether in Peru or Malawi changes how you think about things. It isn't only retirement that is a luxury of the rich, our meaningless and pointless conversations, the way we get worked up about football or the sales at M&S - we just don't get it.

The great challenge of our generation is global poverty, we need to challenge the evil of economic systems that condemn too many to lives of poverty so that we might enjoy our levels of prosperity and wealth.

Don't retire - make poverty history!

Keswick Evenings - 2 Corinthians - 4

Tuesday eveing at Keswick 2010, week 2, Liam Goligher was preaching on 2 Cor 4:7-15.

A clay jar was a throw-away, disposable item.

1) A paradox at work here, v. 7.
Between a mighty God and a weak servant.
The treasure is as described in v. 6b, (i) the gospel, (ii) the content of the gospel.

Our culture is more interested in containers than contents.
Liam noted the contrast between the container and the contents.

2) A principle at work here, vv. 8-9.
Those called to follow Jesus are called to follow a crucified Jesus.
Endurance, not deliverance, is the work of the supernatural among us.
[I think this is hugely interesting, and probably correct. We may not know success in our ministry or service, but the Spirit will enable us to endure, that having done all we may continue to stand.]
vv. 10-11 - four times 'Jesus', unusual use of 'Jesus' without 'Lord' and/or 'Christ', emphasises the humanity of Jesus.
Jesus life is dying, in union with Christ this is reflected in our experience.
The repeated 'but not' in vv. 8-9 remind us of God's perseverence of his people.

3) A purpose at work here, vv. 13-15.
v. 13 - 'the same spirit of faith'.
We most often see the spirit of faith at work when under pressure or in pain.
v. 14 - what God has done for Jesus he will do, is doing, for me.
v. 15 - unbelievers are encouraged when the see you continue in your faith.

The glory of God is the great purpose.

Liam concluded that very often Christians have this great treasure but don't know it, and so the impact or effect of this great treasure is not seen or experienced in our lives.

Liverpool - Arsenal

This year, could it be this year the title returns home?

I watched the MOTD2 highlights of Liverpool v Arsenal with Andrew (2nd son who has turned out to be a Man Utd fan!!!)

Much better shape about Liverpool than last year, good going forward, although once or twice Arsenal got though the back four just a bit too easily.

Great goal from Ngog, wonderful goal keeping from Reina, which even his error for the Arsenal goal can't wipe out. From the highlights I didn't think the ref did very well. If Joe Cole was due being sent off so were another two or three from each side.

A draw is ok on the first day, let's hope for better in the weeks to come, away to Man City next Monday, so Andrew will be cheering for the real Reds that day!

Friday, 13 August 2010

Keswick Evennigs - 2 Corinthians - 3

I was really looking forward to hearing Derek Tidball preach on Monday evening, as I've read some of his work over a number of years. I wasn't disappointed as Derek was greatly used of the Lord to open his word.

Derek was speaking on 2 Cor 4:1-6, and the contrast between authentic and inauthentic ministries.

1) the contrast between mercy and merit, verse 1.
The mercy of God is the foundation for Paul's ministry, not his merit, and this needs to be true for all authentic Christian ministry.
2) the contrast between truth and spin, verse 2.
This is about the style of ministry. Spin breeds a mistrustful society - a hermeneutic of suspicion.
Authentic ministry is a setting forth of the truth plainly - and you need confidence in the gospel and in the word of God for that.
Truth may not be successful or popular, but our God is a God of truth.
3) the contrast between speaking of Christ and self, verses 5-6.
In the social network, facebook, twitter, blogging (!!) culture there is great self-confidence, we all imagine there are lots of people who want to read all our various thoughts.
The Jesus we are to speak of is Lord, he is a crucified Saviour, he is the creative Word, he is the glorious image of God.
4) the contrast between light and darkness, verses 4-6.
There are blind minds and darkened lives, and only a powerful work of God can bring the light of his glory.
Illuminated hearts will lead to transformed lives.

I found this helpful first time round, and once again preparing this post, and I hope you will find it helpful also.
Derek's address can be purchased either on cd or for download from Essential Christian. Other addresses from all three Keswick weeks are also available.

Tom Wright Virtue Reborn

Over the summer I read Tom Wright's Virtue Reborn.

Wright tells us that this book is a follow on to his Simply Christian and Surprised by Hope. I've read Surprised by Hope, before starting blogging, I thought it was a great book, a companion to The Resurrection of the Son of God.

Wright's contention in Virtue Reborn is that since the Christian's future hope 'is not simply "going to heaven," but resurrection into God's new creation, the "new heavens and new earth"' (page ix), this hope has 'radical implications for every aspect of how we think about Christian faith and life.' (page ix)

My sense is that the focus in this book is very much on how we live the life God has called us in Christ to live, until he comes again.

I like Tom Wright's books, and this one is no different. I think I want to re read Surprised by Hope and then Virtue Reborn to see if I've got the connections sorted before commiting myself to blogging about something that might not be right.

Whether we agree with Wright's view of the Christian hope or not, we cannot avoid thinking deeply about what kind of life we are called to live today and tomorrow. So at the very least this book is helpful in prompting us to this exercise.

If anyone else has read Wright here, let's hear what you think. And watch out for some more detailed posts in the next few months.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Keswick Evenings - 2 Corinthians - 2

Liam Goligher spoke on the Sunday evening we were at Keswick this year on 2 Cor 3.

Liam spoke of:
1) the terrible glory of the old covenant, verse 7
2) the surprising glory of the new covenant, verses 7-10
3) the transforming glory of the new covenant, verses 12-18.

I think Liam made too big a distinction between the old covenant and the new covenant. The major difference between the two is fulfilment. The new covenant is the old covenant fulfilled in Christ. If you make too much of the difference in other way you run the risk of separating the purposes of God in too dramatic a form, i.e. you end up with Christ being a wholly new and unexpected work of God.

Discipline and the Church Fathers

The final section in Hall's book is on Discipline, in these chapters Hall takes us to the biography of Antony by Athanasius as an example of the monastic, desert communities and spiritual life that grew up during this period.

One point of note, Antony was concerned about demonic admonition to an excessive, oppressive spirituality.

Hall writes, "At times it will be difficult to identifu this specific form of demonic temptation, precisely because it is attired in Christian clothing. While all Christians are called to prayer, study adn fasting, Antony warns that demonic temptations distorting these disciplines prod the monk toward an excessive, harsh, unreasonable asceticism. Indeed, Antony advises that it is better to get a good night's sleep than to attempt to remain awake, if such exaggerated vigilance leads to fatigue, discouragement or self-righteousness." (page 218)

I don't know many who face such temptations, but there are a few. Zeal for the Lord is good, a desire for prayer, bible reading and study, fasting and spiritual discipline is greatly to be prayed for in our lives. Yet, this is a wise warning about the dangers, especially of self-righteousness which attend our performance of such spiritual disciplines. If the demons of hell cannot prevent us praying and reading God's word, they will be happy enough to pervert our prayers and study in any way they can, excess as good as any other.

Just one example of the wisdom we can gain from the desert father's, and encouragement to a more serious engagement with the Lord in prayer, bible reading and fasting.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Keswick Evenings - 2 Corinthians - 1

This year, during week 2 of the Keswick Convention the evening celebrations included studies of 2 Corinthians, at least up to 6:11. The speakers were:
Jonathan Lamb - Sat
Liam Goligher - Sun and Tue
Derek Tidball - Mon and Thu
Joe Stowell - Wed and Fri

On Sat Jonathan Lamb opened this series with an address on 2 Cor 1:1-11 - Valuable Troubles

Many contemporary spiritualities can be characterised as "what's in it for me!"
On the contrary these verses display for us the value of trials and sufferings.
1) We share in Christ's life (verse 5)
Since we enter into union with Christ we cannot aviod the weakness of the crucified One.
2) We experience God's comfort (verses 3-4, 5b)
There is no pit so deep that God is not deeper.
3) We help God's people (verses 4-7, 11)
The church is not a community of the strong and powerful, but a community of the suffering.
4) We trust God's purpose (verses 8-11)
Note especially v. 9b, where we trust in the God who raises the dead.
We are to recognise our helplessness and God's powerful faithfulness. In this we can share in a present experience of resurrection, the new life of Jesus breaking out among us today.

A challenging start to the week and helpful perspective on the troubles we all face as something not to be avoided, but something we can know God in.

Prayer and the Church Fathers

The second part of Hall's book 'Worshipping with the Church Fathers' is on prayer. There is a lot of good and interesting material in these chapters, here are just a few of those I noted.

Many of the fathers at times imagined a likeness of God to which they prayed. When this practice was condemned many found it difficult to engage in prayer. An older monk wondered if God would only hear theologically well-informed and well-phrased prayers. Hall writes, 'We do not have to pass a theology exam before we dare to pray. God knows our hearts better than we and accepts teh offering of the heart, even when the mind's thoughts expressed in prayer are foggy. We are called to think ever more truly of God, but God accepts us where we are - delighting in our mumbles - and slowly teaches us the grammar and content of prayer.' (page 118)
And thank God for that!

I appreciate the comment on page 130 that the Lord Jesus, although perfect in every way, engaged in prayer, an activity necessary to maintain the health of his relationship with his Father and the Spirit. How much more then do we need to pray in a way that enlivens our relationship with our Father and the Spirit?

And finally, Hall quotes CS Lewis (not a church father, but used to illustrate a point)
'Every war, every famine or plague, almost every death-bed, is the monument to a petition that was not granted.' (page 159)
The challenge of unanswered prayer in not why didn't God make it sunny today, or find me a parking space, but 14 million affected by floods in Pakistan, 40 million victims of HIV/AIDS in Africa, more than 200,000 dead in an earthquake in Haiti. These are the monuments to petitions that were not granted before which we must bow in humility.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Reading Lists

I've managed to bomb through my reading list over the last few weeks and will be blogging about these books soon.

So I'll have to come up with some new targets for the remainder of this year! Suggestions for good reading are always welcome!

What is an intentionally missional church?

While at the Keswick Convention I picked up a magazine, ‘Mission Matters’, which is a free magazine, and so I hope it is ok for me to share with you part of one of the articles in this magazine.

Bryan Knell, Consultant with the Global Connections network, was writing on the theme, ‘What is an intentionally missional church?’

Missional has become something of a buzz word in recent years, with really being clearly defined. I think that it is one of those terms best defined in action, or perhaps in the six characteristics of a missional church that Bryan has identified.

Before getting to these six characteristics, Bryan writes, ‘changing the culture of a church from being pastorally centred to being missionally centred is almost impossible. Very few established churches have managed to make the change.’

I’m sure those of us in established churches (in this context not newly planted churches) will be well aware of the challenge and difficulties in making this change. However, I’m very grateful for Bryan’s qualifications, ‘almost’ and ‘very few’. I believe that congregation need to become missional. I believe in a God who works miracles, who sees an army in a valley of dry bones. My God can change the established church I serve into a missional church. And he can do it in your church also. This doesn’t remove the need to serve and work for this goal, but encourages us that with God nothing is impossible.

To Bryan’s six characteristics (and so added comments):
1. Vision – the dominant and priority vision of a missional church is to see the Kingdom of God expanded by gospel proclamation and social action. Mission is not limited by geography or method. How healthy a church is, how much it has achieved in the past year, its aim for the coming year and its 5/10 year goal will all be determined by mission.
It is good to see gospel proclamation linked with social action, for too long these have been held separately by too many in the church. There is no one method that fits all, or will achieve all the missional purposes of God – i.e. we need to do more that preaching! I’m challenged by how few of our plans are determined by mission, this needs to change.

2. Decisions – all decisions at every level will be made on the basis of mission opportunities and prospects. “If it does not involve mission, we will not do it.”

3. Equipping/Empowering – the church will make it a priority to train, equip and mentor its members for mission. This will involve helping Christians identify where they can naturally do mission and giving them confidence to make the most of these opportunities. Secondly, it will also involve identifying new circumstances where they can be involved in mission together and thirdly, decide which mission projects will be supported by the church.
It would be good to be part of a congregation where mentoring was seen as part of ‘the minister’s’ role.

4. Preaching/Teaching/Learning – the Bible will be taught through a mission hermeneutic. This means that it will be assumed that mission is the over-riding message, focus, fabric and structure of the whole Bible – Genesis to Revelation; that all the issues that the Bible covers have to be understood in terms of their affect on and contribution to mission. The Bible will be taught not just as valuable spiritual wisdom but to equip Christians to respond to the questions and issues that they face as they do mission.
This is very good, reflects Chris Wright’s work in his book ‘The Mission of God’. We do not have a biblical basis for mission, we have a missional basis for the bible. Let’s get that one the right way round!

5. Worship – worship will be inspired by missional concepts.
a) Firstly, the glory of God which is enhanced when people come to acknowledge him as Lord through mission.
b) Secondly, the prospect of worship in heaven when people from every tribe, language, people and nation will gather round the throne. (Rev 7)
c) Thirdly, worship will be enhanced and invigorated by the testimony of those coming to faith and being blessed by God through mission as it is in heaven. (Luke 15:7)
Some challenging idea here and in the final point.

6. Community – fellowship will be vital because of the challenges, pressures and attacks that Christians are facing as they reach out in mission. People are drawn together when they unitedly attempt a task or face a challenge.

I sense many congregation know they need to change, but aren’t sure what they need to change into. I hope these six characteristics may be helpful for some in find a way forward into mission as a congregation.

Gordon Fee Interview

I picked this up from Mike Bird at euangelion - a source of many great posts!

Gordon Fee is soon to have published his commentary on Revelation, which I'm sure will be worth adding to the shelf. (If only I had more shelves!!!)

There is a video interview with Gordon on line at Grace Communion International. It runs about 30 minutes and is better than minesweeper for a tea break!

Sacraments with the Fathers

I picked up this book while at the Assembly in May and read it while on holiday.

Christopher A Hall Worshipping with the Church Fathers, pub IVP.

I obviously didn't read the blurb on the back because when I started I found the book wasn't what I expected or had hoped for. Not that I was disappointed, just surprised.

I guess I had expected a study of worship, both public worship and private patterns of worship as practiced by the church fathers, and found something different. Hall offers three sections: the sacraments, prayer, discipline (by which he means the call to the desert).

In the first section on the sacraments I really struggled to get over the allegorical interpretations of many passages. Sometimes a loaf of bread is just a loaf of bread, not an allegorical reference to the eucharist!

For example, on p. 39 we read of Gregory of Nyssa teaching that "the method of our salvation became effectual not so much as a result of instruction ... as by means of the flesh which [Christ] assumed ... therefore it was necessary that a means shuold be devised by which there should be in what is done by the follower some kinship and likeness to the leader."
So since in human flesh Christ died and was raised, so in baptism our human flesh shares in his death and resurrection. Now, I think this is right, Rom 6:3-4, but the way of getting there feels a bit strange.

On infant baptism and whether an infant will grow into Christian initiation, we are not to withhold baptism but to trust in God - p. 47. Gregory of Nazianzus teaches that infant circumcision is a model for infant baptism, see Col 2.

I found it helpful to read such comments and notice that the father's were answering the same questions we face when engaging in sacramental ministry, either as those leading a congregation or those worshipping in a congregation.

In general a helpful section and good beginning to this book.

Back from holiday

After a break in July I'm back from holiday and hoping to get back into the blogging again!

While on holiday I finished the three books in Stieg Larsson's series. The third is the best of the three, a real page turner with so many twists you really couldn't figure it out.

Two general comments.
The under current, which sometimes isn't very under, in these books of abuse against women, mostly sexual but not only, is at times disturbing. We can't say that this would only be true in Sweden, because it isn't. I think it is designed to disturb and to remind us that any abuse of women is abuse - zero tolerance begins here.

Also, if these books do accurately reflect life in contemporary Sweden then I'm glad I don't live there. It isn't the violence or abuse that disturbs me here, it is the attitude of the characters to life and relationships. If this is what it means to live in a liberal democracy you can keep it!