Friday, 28 December 2012

The Mystery of Sin

Found here
What do you and I marvel at?

Acts of (miraculous) power, but Jesus is different. He never said, Did you see what I just did? [healing a sick person] Wasn't that like... totally awesome-super-hardcore-amazing? So here's a question...

What did Jesus marvel at?

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Come Though Long Expected Jesus.

A video we showed on Christmas day - fast forwarding through thousands of years of anticipation of Christ.

Like it? Please buy it here

How N. T. Wright "Ruined" Jesus Films

Peter Leithart tells of how N. T. Wright ruined his enjoyment of "Jesus" films:
Several years ago, when The Passion of the Christ was making headlines, I realized that N. T. Wright has spoiled every Jesus film. Once you’ve read Wright, you realize that none of the movies get Jesus right. Pharisees and scribes are reduced stock villains with caricatured Jewish features. Pilate has to make an appearance, and Herod, but we are given no sense that first-century Israel was the powder keg that it actually was.

No film ever gives us what Wright says we should be looking for: a “crucifiable” Jesus, a Jesus who does something so provocative to make the Jews murderously hostile. In the movies, Jesus is a hippy peace-child, a delicate flower of a man, a dew-eyed first-century Jewish Gandhi. Why would anyone want to hurt Him? Maybe because He’s so annoyingly precious; but that’s not the story of the gospels.
He goes on to talk about how Wright stole Christmas too, here

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Growing Up...

Simon Le Bon reflects as he writes about losing his faith in The Atheist's Guide to Christmas:
Religion helps people cope with many things. It helps them deal with death. And I believe in marriage - I doubt the institution of marriage would have existed without religion. To some extent, religion has upheld essential morals and modes of behaviour. There are some really important values in all religions.

However, I think human beings go through different stages. As a child you have someone looking after you. And then you start to break away from that, and eventually you achieve a degree of independence from your parents. Maybe humanity neeeded a parent and that was the part that religion played. Maybe we're at a stage now where we are growing up and ready to achieve a greater degree of independence.
I can't speak for other religions, but when it comes to Christianity, Le Bon speaks better, perhaps, than he gives himself credit.

Monday, 24 December 2012

International Christmas 2012

Christmas is a time for going the extra mile serving one another. For me, it's the one time of the year that I peel vegetables. Problem is at this time of year, preparing veg is no mean feat. It's something of a Peel-athon and can definitely be described as a multi-sport endurance event, requiring a squillion repetitions of the same monotonous action as quickly as possible in slightly different ways for each variety of vegetable.

At one point I thought my wrist would cramp. Fortunately, my experience in triathlon, meant I could avoid that, by starting each new vegetable variety slowly and increasing rhythm to a sustainable pace.... Parsnips, carrots, swede, cabbage, potatoes, sprouts, garlic, onions... by this time I was crying! Had I attempted to prepare the cranberry sauce from stratch and not out of a jar adding the orange juice and port, I probably would have collapsed!

Anyway, who cares about that...

Tomorrow, (seems to be taking on the form of a tradi... value - I forget tradition is a dirty word) when many nations will gather around my dining room table.

In Continent terms, only Australasia and North America will be absent. I invited Antarctica, but they gave me the cold shoulder!

In case conversation wanes over the course of the afternoon, (although I can't see that happening) I have prepared some Christmas quizzes. You could have a go yourself!

Looking forward to it.

He became like us so that one day we could become like him. 1 Cor.15:47

Happy Christmas!

Some Carols - Most Definitely Not Gangnam Style

It's sixteen years since I did something like this... Less a hankering more a realisation.

To finish... not music, but ten exquisite minutes on the truth of Christmas.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Competing Origins

Professor Brian Cox writes about the origin of the universe in The Atheist's Guide to Christmas:
The scientific creation story has majesty, power and beauty. and is infused with a powerful message capable of lifting our spirits in a way that its multitudinous supernatural counterparts are incapable of matching. It teaches us that we are the products of 13.7 billion years of cosmic evolution and the mechanism by which meaning entered the universe, if only for a fleeting moment in time. Because the universe means something to me, and the fact that we are all agglomerations of quarks and electrons in a complex and fragile pattern that can perceive the beauty of the universe with visceral wonder, is, I think, a thought worth raising a glass to this Christmas.
On the other hand, Glen Scrivener writes:
In the beginning was the life and love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Before there was a universe there wasn’t nothing, there wasn’t chaos and there wasn’t a lonely god. Our origins are not darkness but entirely light.

But when this God creates, the equation changes. Suddenly there is something else other than God. The Father, Son and Spirit are radically relativised! They are not everything. God ‘makes room’ if you like for something else to be alongside. In fact, for something else to be drawn in.
Read on here.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Friday, 21 December 2012

A Christmas Presentation with Gloves

Photo from
[Hold up a black glove.]
Consider this glove. It didn’t just appear out of nowhere. At a given point in time, people made it. They got hold of all the raw materials and wove them together to form it.

This glove looks like a hand, (it's made in the image of a hand), but it can’t do anything that my hand can do, it can’t shake my hand, or pick up a cup or even punch me in the face. It’s pathetic! However, if my hand enters the glove, [Put black glove on left hand] then the glove becomes able to do all those things, it can pick up a mug, shake a hand or punch me in the face. Although I'm not going to do that because I am incredibly strong and could knock myself out!

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Some Sevens

Jesus' famous beatitudes (blessings) in Matthew 5 have parallels in other parts of the Bible. Jesus gives 7 "Woes" to the Pharisees in Matt 23 and in Revelation there are 7 more "beatitudes." When you line them up together, they may for interesting reading. (Order below is Matt 5, Matt 23 then Revelation)

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.

Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near. Rev. 1:3

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Second Postscript on Reflecting the Life of the Trinity

Having talked about how the life and time of Isaac are a picture of the gospel here, I found myself reading Isaac's story again this morning and remembered something my good friend Peter H said when we once discussed this. I paraphrase:

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Postscript on Reflecting the life of the Trinity

Something I didn't mention on Sunday and they never would have needed to say in ages gone by, but that Steve Holmes sums up well: If we want to reflect the life of God in our communities, we need to be physically present in them.  Interacting through social media, whilst currently all the rage, is not enough. He goes on:
I was at an academic conference on the theme 'The Communication of God'. A Jewish philosopher was speaking to us about the promise of online communication; he was passionate and committed and fairly persuasive. (I was already involved back then in running an experimental online theology discussion group, and so I was ready to be convinced.)

At the end, however, someone stood up and commented, 'As a Jew, this will work for you - you believe in the power of word, of text. For those of us who are Christians, who believe the Word became flesh, textual interactions will never be enough.'
Read the article (3mins max) in full here.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Sermon Notes: Reflecting the Trinity in Life

We are dust – glorified dust. Everything we make, eat, surround ourselves with, wear, read, watch is glorified dust. We have come from below – from the dust (Gen. 2:7) and when we die, we return there (Gen. 3:19).

But when Christ entered our world, he did not come up from below, he came from above, from Heaven itself (John 3:31) He was a totally new kind of human – one who lived in perfect fellowship with God by the power of the Spirit. And in his great love, through the cross, he has raised us up into that life of his. We are united to him at the very right hand of God. We are co-heirs with him. Jesus gets everything and we get Jesus who joyfully shares all he has with his people.

We have eternal life now, because eternal life is fellowship with Jesus and his Father. John 17:3

Just as the Father sent the Son so that the world might know God and be reconciled to him, so now Jesus (who has been given all authority) sends his church into the world so that the world might know who Jesus is and what he has done. Jesus says as much in John 20:21 As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you… So what might our lives and communities look like if we are seeking to reflect / imitate something of the surpassing greatness of this God?

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Make People "Opt-In" to Porn

The government is consulting on whether to force Internet Service Providers to put porn filters on their servers.

If successful, people would have to opt in to porn when they signed up for the service from their ISPs rather than it being the norm.

The advantage of this is that fewer children and young people would be exposed to the ravages or porn unwittingly, long before they had the moral framework to process it or the wisdom and resolve to resist it.

Please support the campaign by asking your MP to back it. Takes no more than two minutes if you click here:

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Ashdown Countdown

Due to the wonders of technology, this post comes from a tent in a forest in the middle of Sussex!!

I'll be disappearing off to Ethiopia next summer with a bunch of school boys and my soon to be wife. This weekend we have a taster of what it will all be like.

So far so good, no injuries, no diseases, no awful weather conditions and the team's efforts to cook on a Trangia were most passable!

Bring on the real thing!!

Now, where's my head torch?

Monday, 22 October 2012

Embracing Imbalance

If you're the kind of person who is always trying to balance God, always tempering talk of abundant grace with reminders of reverent awe and justice, then read this...
“We don’t need to minimize the intimacy God offers us in order to protect our respect and awe for God, we just need to remember who our Father is!”
and then go here.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Repeating C. S Lewis on the Overflowing Love of God.

Not long ago, I posted this quote from the Screwtape letters. Given what Scott said this morning it bares repeating:
One must face the fact that all talk of his [God's] love for men, and his service being perfect freedom is not (as one would gladly believe) mere propaganda, but an appalling truth. He really does want to fill the universe with a lot of loathsome little replicas of Himself - creatures, whose life, on it's miniature scale, will be qualitatively like his own, not because he has absorbed them, but because their wills freely conform to his. We want cattle who finally become food, He wants servants who can finally become sons. We want to suck in, He wants to give out. We are empty and would be filled. He is full and flows over.
For context and post in full, click here.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Here is Love: Sermon Notes

Presentation only has a hope of making sense when viewed in tandem with the notes.

Numbers below correspond to slides in the presentation.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Parable of Permanence

As my eyes turn more towards thinking about how to prepare for married life (hence the paucity of posts here), I recently stumbled upon a book on marriage by John Piper...

I haven't read the book, and probably won't, but the title alone: This Momentary Marriage - A Parable of Permanence, sums up beautifully and succinctly the joy and temporality of marriage.

I have at times felt a little uneasy about the way we in the church endorse marriage.  (Make no mistake, I think it should be supported strongly. Yet...) It sometimes comes across (probably due to my own insecurities), as an end in itself.

Piper, I think balances the tension well, when he addresses his wife in his acknowledgements at the end of the book. He says:
Noël, if we live another twenty years (till I am eighty-two and you are eighty), the marriage will be sixty years old. And judging from what I see in the Bible and my memory, it will have been a momentary marriage. But it has been so much more than momentary. It is a parable of permanence written from eternity about the greatest story that ever was. The parable is about Christ and his church. It has been a great honor to take this stage with you. What exalted roles we have been given to play! Someday I will take your hand, and stand on this stage, and make one last bow. The parable will be over, and the everlasting Reality will begin.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Monday, 20 August 2012

From Affairs to Playfairs - From Glory to Shame

Catherine Hakim writes in the Telegraph that the reason our divorce rate in the UK is so high is not because we're unfaithful, it's because we are not unfaithful enough...

I think I've given up trying to figure out just how nuts we're going...

I can only guess that her article is plausible because the culture in which it is produced largely believes that it finds it's primary meaning in consumption and self-gratification rather than self-denial. Even if deep down we know it is better to give than to receive, we still can't help but worship and be enthralled by those who get / achieve more than those who give.

But then this article is only the tip of the iceberg. It seems - when push comes to shove - we will happily tear our souls, our families and our social structures apart, so long as we "get" gratification in the process. (Prov.8:36, Ec.9:3)

The only way to live or die is to give in to the counterintuitive notion that in giving (losing) our lives to Jesus, we find them. (Matt.16:25)

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Chocs Away - Here We Come Zimbabwe!

Tomorrow evening, through the kind provision of a friend, I fly to Zimbabwe.

Through connections in our church (e.g. these guys), a team of us are going out there to bless and be blessed! I go a week earlier than the rest, because I need to be back for the start of the school term and want to have more than just a week there.

I've been asked to speak at a mid-week church meeting on Seeing Jesus in in the Old Testament and also at the Sunday meeting too, so my first week will be busy in prep for those! :-) Please pray that what I deliver blesses those who hear it.

Some pray for our safety for which I am grateful, but then I am reminded of the words a great woman of God said to me once - the safest place to be is in the will of God. Whether I am at home or away, that is where I need and want to be.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

David Mitchell on Football

It's the start of the football season! Not being a fan of the game, I love the way David Mitchell mocks it here. The human heart has an unbelievably great capacity to make the inconsequential appear invaluable and vice versa (Jer.2:25).

And before you think I'm up myself, I have to be reminded that cycling round the countryside in circles wearing lycra is just as ridiculous when taken so seriously.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Mr. T on Parenting

In a week, when we've been thinking about parenting at RFC - who better to give us some encouragement the right direction than Mr. T.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

The Important Difference Between Union and Communion

In introducing readers to John Owen's classic work "On Communion with God", Kapic, summarising what Owen will say in more detail, talks about the difference between union with God and communion with God.
Believers are united to Christ in God by the Spirit. This action is a unilateral action by God, in which those who were dead are made alive... When one speaks of union, it must be clear that the human person is merely receptive, being the object of God's gracious action. This is the state and condition of all true saints.

Communion with God is distinct from union. Those who are united to Christ are called to respond to God's loving embrace. While union with Christ is not something that does ebb and flow, one's experience of communion with Christ can fluctuate. This is an important theological and experiential distinction, for it protects the biblical truth that we are saved by radical and free divine grace. Furthermore, this distinction also protects the truth that the children of God have a relationship with their Lord, and that there are things they can do that either help or hinder it.

Monday, 6 August 2012

How Far Would You Go to Save Your Life?

The following harrowing video is an incredible exemplification of Matt.5:29.

Jesus wasn't actually advocating people mutilate themselves, but he wanted to ram home the point that sin has to be radically dealt with.

You don't play around with that which is trying to kill you.

Better than that, you'll do anything for the one you love best.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Sermon Notes on Pride from Proverbs

Have you ever:
  1. Been frustrated because you wanted to be or thought you were the exception to the rule?
  2. Claimed better things about yourself, your family or your achievements than you, your family or your achievements deserved?
  3. Told God that you aren't listening to him and are going to do your own thing on an issue?
The common factor in all of them is pride. Pride isn't limited to individuals, and is displayed at all levels of society, e.g. organisations and nations.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Things about Proverbs, I researched / prepared, but won't use in Sunday's Sermon

The book of Proverbs isn't a self-help book for the masses, it isn't a "Live Well for Dummies" manual. It was a "passing the baton" text. We see a father instructing his son on how to be man. We get to listen in on the advice given.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Is Following Law Hard?

Most people who know anything about the Old
Testament law, have somehow got it into their heads that it was really hard and complicated to follow. That wasn't God's assessment. He thought it was very straight forward (Deut.30:11-14)

There were just 613 laws in the Torah that you needed to remember. How does that compare to today?

I don't have any figures, Google wasn't helpful, but when you consider how many terms and conditions you sign up to (most of which you never read) whether it be software licenses, insurances, holiday purchases, or the rules you follow regarding use of the roads, general law and order, when you put your bins out, playing football, care of your property, conduct in the work place etc etc, it is most definitely more complex than anything Israel had to cope with, but most of us just don't think twice about it.

Moreover, there are laws that stop you from robbing banks, however, I must confess I have never wanted to break that law, so it's never been an issue for me. In the Old Testament Law, the Israelites were forbade having relations with animals, and I'm guessing for the VAST majority of them, this wasn't a rule they had any problem following!!!!

The problem was that rather than using the law to look forward to and anticipate the coming Messiah, (what it was meant for) in their pride, they tried to use it to establish and justify their own standing before God and claim that they were good enough. It was this that became so crushing and why we assume it must have been so hard.

And it is why Christ is so liberating.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Why We're 'Ere

Two great Trinity quotes from the great Jonathan Edwards. Note that Edwards uses "end" here primarily in the sense of "goal":
"God created the world for his Son, that he might prepare a spouse or bride for him to bestow his love upon; so that the mutual joys between this bride and bridegroom are the end of creation" (Works, 13, p. 372; Misc. no. 271).
"This spouse of the Son of God, the bride, the Lamb's wife, the completeness of him who filleth all in all, that for which all the universe was made. Heaven and earth were created that the Son of God might be complete in a spouse." (Misc. no. 103).

That last quote will sound heretical in some ears - that the Son of God was incomplete without a Bride, but I think (and others may have better answers) the point is not that the Son of God is deficient in some way until he receives the church - I was single for the best part of 33 years, but never considered myself sub-human as a result - rather that love finds its ultimate expression in giving and sharing. And so in drawing the church up into the life of God, Christ gives new and fuller expression to the perfect love that has eternally flowed from him.

Sometimes you just have to say there is a beautiful mystery to all this...

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Poking at Our Prejudices

Are you one of those people who assumes that churches which have a high liturgical content have more nominal Christians in them than the "Free" non-liturgical churches?

If so, let Peter Leithart make you think again...
There’s a widespread instinct that the higher a church’s liturgy, the more apt a church is to be full of lukewarm nominal believers. Mainline liturgical churches like the ELCA, ECUSA, PCUSA are, it is argued, full of people who know nothing of the Bible and little of Jesus, and they have high liturgical traditions.

Of course, correlation does not prove causation. And there is plenty of evidence to the contrary. Anyone who thinks only high church traditions are afflicted with nominal believers should spend some time in the Bible Belt, where there’s a low-church nominal Baptist everywhere you look, a Baptist who stepped into a revival meeting 25 years ago and got himself saved.
The rest of the article is here.

Jane Austen - A Heavenly Sister

Elli is a fan of Jane Austen, and yesterday I took her to Jane Austen's house.

In one of the bedrooms, my eye fell upon an abridged version of the prayer below. One to be read in the evening, written by the late Miss Austen and framed on the wall. It read thus:
Give us grace, Almighty Father, so to pray, as to deserve to be heard, to address thee with our Hearts, as with our lips. Thou art every where present, from Thee no secret can be hid. May the knowledge of this, teach us to fix our Thoughts on Thee, with Reverence and Devotion that we pray not in vain. 

Friday, 29 June 2012

Peppa Cochon

This is about the extent of what I can intellectually manage on a Friday night, but if you fancy swatting up on your old French classes - then take a look:

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Getting Engaged... Take Two

Take two is not a reference to the fact I had to ask Elli twice to marry me, but that I hit publish on this post before I meant to. For most, ney all of you, that fact won't make a blind bit of difference to your life, but it did briefly appear as a ghost post on a number of people's blogrolls and on Facebook.

I had planned to propose to Elli in the half term holiday. She twigged that I must be up to something, I had proposed (informally) regularly up to that point so it was only a matter of time.

After some detective work and help from trusted female colleagues, I bought the ring and formulated a fairly fluid plan of action.  The Friday of half term week, we went to my parents' house for lunch. On the way, we stopped at the little village church where my parents met during a wedding, after 5 years of moving in different worlds and where love sprung into life for them. Elli knew this and was visibly excited - but no proposal was forth-coming. I admit, it was a deliberate tease.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Sermon Notes: Come Everything is Ready

If you’re an outsider looking in on a church, communion is an odd ritual isn’t it? Symbolizing cannibalism - eating Jesus’ body and drinking his blood? Moreover, if it is only a memorial (a remembrance), aren’t there better ways to remember? E.g. bible reading, DVD watching, worship CD listening?

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Do You Worship God Like the Devil?

The Devil worships Jesus. Did you know that?  Jonathan Edwards explains...
The Devil once seemed to be religious from fear of torment. Luke 8:28, 'When he saw Jesus, he cried out, and fell down before him, and with a loud voice said, What have I to do with thee, Son of the most High? I beseech thee, torment me not!' Here is external worship. The devil is religious; he prays: he prays in humble posture; he falls down before Christ, he lies prostrate, he prays earnestly, he cries with a loud voice; he uses humble expressions - 'I beseech thee, torment me not' - he uses respectful, honourable, adoring expressions - 'Jesus thou Son of God Most High. Nothing was wanting [lacking] but love.
We imitate the devil when we sing loud, pray loud, lift our hands, yet have no love for Christ, his Father and his Church.

Talk Notes

Some (slightly amended) notes from recent talk I gave...

The World as we see it...
Songwriters and poets tell us that love makes the world go round. What do you think makes the world go round?
  • Money? (Ec.10:19)
  • Knowledge? (Ec.12:12)
  • Power? (Ec.4:1)
  • Luck? (Ec.9:11)

Monday, 4 June 2012

C. S. Lewis on the Overflowing Goodness of God

Quote from The Screwtape Letters, Uncle Screwtape, a senior demon, describes to his ghoulish nephew how the true God - Father, Son and Spirit is utterly different from his master - the Devil:
One must face the fact that all talk of his [God's] love for men, and his service being perfect freedom is not (as one would gladly believe) mere propaganda, but an appalling truth. He really does want to fill the universe with a lot of loathsome little replicas of Himself - creatures, whose life, on it's miniature scale, will be qualitatively like his own, not because he has absorbed them, but because their wills freely conform to his. We want cattle who finally become food, He wants servants who can finally become sons. We want to suck in, He wants to give out. We are empty and would be filled. He is full and flows over.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Whitley Diamond Jubilee Street Party

Yesterday I had the privilege of being part of Berkshire's biggest diamond jubilee street party as churches in Whitley (including the one of which I am part) put on a great celebration to serve God, honour the queen and be a blessing to the local community.

BBC Berkshire turned up to document the party as did the local paper and we appeared on ITV Meridian News.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

His Bit on the Side

It would appear that sexual fidelity isn't the only challenge men face when doing honesty in a relationship. There's now the whole new world of dietary fidelity (or lack of it) with which to contend.

As an aside - many (men) seem to think that meat eating is a sign of prowess, but love it or hate it - vegetarianism is the future.

At the centre of the New Jerusalem is a tree not an abattoir.

The the Temple of the Old Covenant was a glorified slaughter house, death was the major theme and it was temporary. But at the centre of the New Covenant, at the centre of the New Jerusalem is a tree - a symbol of Christ's abundant life and this temple is eternal.

The good news is: cheese, alcohol and chocolate are still on the menu!

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Pizza and Porn!

Greetings anonymous reader,

If you have arrived at this page thinking from the title you would be served some X-rated food fest. You are about to be wholly disappointed, but now I have your attention feel free to read and watch on...

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Communion: How Did we Turn a Feast into a Funeral?

Been doing a little research into the practice of communion. Up until about 400 years ago, it would have been inconceivable to meet as God's people and not include the "breaking of bread" aka communion in that gathering. The early church put it on a par with teaching, fellowship and prayer (Acts 2:42). These days evangelical churches in the UK that do it more than once a month are an exception rather than the rule.

But then, given the way we celebrate it, who can blame us for not wanting to do it that often. Communion often feels more like a masonic funeral than a feast, more like a tomb than a table set for a banquet, more like self-flagellation than celebration. And who, in their right mind, would ever invite you to a meal and then think themselves a hero when all they had given you was a crumb and a sip?

Monday, 30 April 2012

Discipline vs Love?

in agreement with Sean's sermon yesterday, Peter Mead offers the following additional and helpful pointer to people like me who can fall into thinking that pursuing the disciplines are ends in themselves. He says...
Jesus did, of course, have extended prayer times and experienced physically harsh settings, yet he didn’t promote such things.

His own devotion was, of course, robust: he once spent more than a month in the wilderness being tempted by Satan; he also spent full nights in prayer; and he often hiked long distances and slept in rough settings. Yet asceticism wasn’t a take-home lesson for his disciples. Even the followers of John the Baptist asked why Jesus didn’t insist on some fasting.
Read the whole thing here.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Approaches to the Book of the Revelation

Have recently started meandering through a sermon series on Revelation that is 204 sermons long.  At current rate, I will finish the last sermon about three tears (tears? I mean years!) from now.  One of the introductory sermons was on different (European) approaches to the book. Here follows a brief summary:

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

On Prejudice and Scapegoats

One of the reasons I love working in a comprehensive secondary school setting is because you see wider society played out on a microcosmic scale.

The following social experiment is VERY clever and a real eye opener. Many of us liberally educated types assume we have risen above prejudice, but that's because we earn enough to enjoy enough creature comforts in life with our loved ones.

If the economy continues to stumble along as it has today, it will only be a matter of time before the cry for a scapegoat becomes unbearably loud and even the so-called "enlightened" will be drawn into baying:

Friday, 13 April 2012

Are You Past or Future Oriented?

Too past-oriented and you become nostalgic.
Too present-oriented and you become selfish.
Too future-oriented and you become naive.

I'm one of the people in the video below who thinks waiting is a waste of time. I need to learn that it isn't. As the old saying goes: Patience is a virtue and it reaps a great reward (Heb.6:12).

The Real Jesus

If you lived at the South Pole without any contact with the world beyond, it would be hard to conceive of any kind of life beyond the snow - yet we know there is so much more to the world than whitened landscapes.

Similarly, it's easy for all of us to get stuck in a rut in our understanding of who Jesus is.

This month's Biblical Thinking Forum will see Mark Amos leading us in thinking again about who the real Jesus is and why it matters.

Come join us on Monday 16 April @7:30pm in the RFC Offices and get released from your rut.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Computers Like Humans? Probably not... IMHO

A recent Horizon documentary posed the question of whether it is possible for machines to be intelligent like humans.

The presenter took us round the world visiting people who were trying to work out what artificial intelligence is and then reproducing it in a machine. We saw machines teaching each other things, beating humans on quiz shows and creating art amongst other things.

But then we were asked the question, do computers really think, or are they just simulating thinking? If that's a confusing question, here's a short video to explain the difference:

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Resurrection = New Home

Moving home and some!
Understanding how to live in this new period of history - after the resurrection of Jesus - is sometimes difficult to get your head round, because some things continue, but others stay the same.

For example, there are no longer any restrictions on what you can eat, no animal sacrifices to perform, no requirement to worship God in only one place (e.g.Col.2:16). And yet, other stipulations remain0. It's still no to sexual immorality, eating blood etc. (Ac.15:28-29). So what's the rule of thumb for distinguishing what to keep and what to chuck?

I don't have a definitive answer, but perhaps a metaphor would help.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Resurrection = Transition

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ was THE transition moment in history. Through the resurrection of the Son of God, God moves the story of history and humanity from:
  • Old Covenant to New Covenant - Heb.8:13
  • Wrath to Grace - Rom.5:8-9
  • Night to Day - 1 Thess.5:5
  • Shadow (image) to Reality - Col.2:17
  • Law to Spirit - Rom.7:6
  • Childhood to Adulthood - Gal.4:1-2
This is not to say that these elements were not present in the opposite times. For example, God is very gracious in the Old Testament (Deut.12:7), and there is no shortage of wrath in the New (Rev.6:16), but the fundamental accent changes for the better. God is laying hold of his creation again, like in Genesis 1, but this time he is recreating, laying hold of spiritual chaos and bringing light, order, life and beauty to it in the work of salvation.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Easter Meditation: Resurrection Not Resuscitation

Many of us have had near death experiences and have felt the heart pound as we realise that it was nearly all over.

If the internet is to be believed (and in principle I have no reason not to although some of them are whackos no doubt), some people have experienced death (or something like it) and then a miraculous resuscitation. They were dying or even dead, but after medical intervention or an encounter with a spiritual being they have been resuscitated, brought back to the land of the living. Depending on their religious views, they will either count themselves very lucky or very blessed and live out the rest of their days differently as a result.

But the resurrection of Jesus is nothing like any of these. The Spirit of God did not resuscitate Jesus, He did not bring him back from the dead as in some kind of over blown seance or Frankensteinian resuscitation. Jesus carried our humanity in himself through death all the way to the other side, to a totally new kind of existence. A glorious, incorruptible, indestructible, eternal existence where humanity is the the same as before and yet different.

Jesus calls all people to trust him and follow him through death into this new kind of life (aka eternal life) - Matt.16:24-25.

Will you follow him on this journey of journeys? Will you trust him? Not many do. Matt.10:37-38

Friday, 6 April 2012

Good Friday Meditation 4/4: Jesus Reigns from the Grave

Jesus is the perfect Jew. He finishes his work before Sabbath rest begins and with enough time that people can bury him without compromising the law.

Where exactly the Spirit of Jesus went during his time away from the body isn't easy to tie down. Did he return to Heaven? (Lk.23:43) Did he go and preach to the spirits in prison? (1Pe.3:19). Did he pop an African visit down at Abraham's bosom? (Lk.16:22 newer translations boringly say "side")

Good Friday Meditation 3/4: Jesus Reigns at Golgotha

Jesus, the Lion from the tribe of Judah (Rev.5:5) crushes
the serpent, the accuser of God's people (Rev.12:10).
Under the Spirit's direction, Jesus is crucified (John 19:16-37).

Many think that Golgotha got its name because David buried the head of Goliath of Gath there (1Sam.17:54). Goliath was a picture of Satan, the great accuser of God's people (1Sam.17:10).

Back in Genesis 3:15 God promised that Messiah would crush the head of the serpent, Satan, the accuser. Here at Golgotha we see the fulfillment of that prophecy - Jesus is lifted up - King over Golgotha, over the skull, his foot crushing the head of Satan - the greater Goliath - winning victory over sin, death and the devil.

Good Friday Meditation 2/4: Jesus Reigns at Gabbatha

What do you think it would be like to stare into the face of the one who created everything - including you?

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Good Friday Meditation 1/4: Jesus Reigns at Gethsemane

In Matthew's, Mark's and Luke's gospels, we see the vulnerability of Jesus up close and personal in the Passion narratives. They all record more clearly his anguish and pain - e.g. Mt.26:38-39, Mk.14:33, Lk.22:44 - a beautiful demonstration of Heb.5:7.

But John is different, Jesus never stops reigning and there is no hint of weakness or anguish. Jesus never leaves the driving seat, exercising total control over everything.

(N.B. This doesn't mean that the gospels are contradictory, they just highlight different faces of the beautiful diamond that is Christ. :-)

In John's account of Gethsemane (18:1-11), Jesus shows he is in total control by:

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

40+ Reasons for Lent

Peter Leithart lists 40+ reasons why Lent is good. The list is so good, it makes me feel like I have missed out on something! Some of my favourites include:

  • To observe Lent rightly, we have to be persuaded that we already stand in God’s favor.
  • Lent is the season of blood and guts and flesh. It is the supremely anti-Gnostic season.
  • Lent is a pursuit of glory, because the Lord exalts those who humble themselves.
  • To observe Lent rightly, we need to be confident that the power to obey God is a gift from God.
  • For Christians, death is not end but beginning. Lent is an extended meditation on that good news.
  • Lent is boot camp for spiritual warriors.
  • We’re hungry for all the wrong things. We need Lent to develop a taste for the fruit of the tree of life – that is, the fruit of the cross.
  • Lent gives the only answer there is to the problem of evil: A cross that triumphs over evil, a death that tramples death.
  • Some demons come out only by prayer and fasting. Seems a good reason to fast and pray.
  • The Christian year has a rhythm, each season its own tonality and coloration. Without Lent, the year is bland.
  • Lent tells us what time it is – the time between resurrection and resurrection.
  • Lent reminds us that Jesus didn’t go to the cross so we can escape the cross; He went to the cross to enable us to bear it after Him.
  • Lent inoculates against sentimentalism.
  • Lent tunes us to the broken beauty of the world.
  • Lent is not for doing things we never do otherwise. Like Sunday, Lent is for intensifying things we do all the time.
Read in full here.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Good Friday Meditation: 12pm-2pm @ RFC Offices

From 12pm-2pm, we have created a space at the church offices to mark Good Friday and marvel together on the greatest sacrifice in history.

We will sing songs, pray, share thoughts and ponder silently. There will be four half hour slots finishing with communion. Come and join us for one, two, three or all four of them.

Each half hour slot will stand on its own as a distinct meditation, but for those who stay for more than one, there is clearly a progression through the events of the story.

We'll be following Jesus' sacrifice through the eyes of John, moving from:

  • Gethsemane (12pm) 
  • to Gabbatha (12:30pm)
  • to Golgotha (1pm)
  • to the Grave (1:30pm)

...and seeing how Jesus, far from being the victim of circumstance, is the LORD who remains in total authority over everything even his killers - giving himself up for the sake of those who hate him.

There is not a god like him!

Sunday, 1 April 2012


A video discussing typology, which should not be viewed as an interesting literary quirk, but the fundamental heartbeat of the whole Bible, and indeed the whole creation:

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Laying on of Hands

If somebody says "Just wait 'til I get my hands on you," You know at that point, assuming they're bigger, it's time to head for the hills as fast as you can because they want to do you some harm (e.g. Es.3:6).

But it's not all bad. Since the dawn of time, people have been laying hands on each other to confer a blessing. In so doing, they share something they have with the person who is on the end of their arms. For example, outside the bubble of the secular West, fathers often confer inheritances (family wealth and authority) on their sons (e.g.Gen.27:26-27). The church is not unique in this practice. Many religions do the same kind of things for the ordination of their spiritual "elites." It is a very human behaviour.

But before you think I've gone all anthropotheic and liberal, let me say that humanity was made in the image of God not vice versa and that changes everything. We are not rational creatures, we are liturgical ones. We aren't here to define reality, but to reflect it - to reflect the reality of Heaven where Jesus lives with his Father in the fellowship of the Spirit (Matt.6:10).

A quick glance at the phrase lay hands in the Bible, reveals an interesting difference between the Old and New Testaments (covenants).

In the Old Testament, the laying on of hands was bad news. If someone lay their hands on you, you were about to get it in the neck - literally. You were about to die. Animals would be brought to God's appointed place of worship for sacrifice, the people would lay their hands on them and then slaughter them by slitting the throat so that the blood of the animal could be poured out.

However in the New Testament, the laying on of hands is no longer an "uh-oh!" moment and as a practice is actively pursued in the early church (2Tim.1:6). So it begs the question... What's changed?

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Loving the Poor

Last night, a number of us gathered in the Church office to think through how to help poor people in other countries (What we learnt will probably apply here too in the not too distant future).

We were ably led by David Woolnough. We thought through a biblical response to the poor, God's heart for them and why our lives often don't live up to the radical nature of Jesus' commands.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Biblical Thinking Forum: Monday 19 March @7:30pm

As Reading Family Church grows, (God willing) we will have more opportunities to serve people overseas. The question is: what's the best way to do that kind of thing?

On Monday night, we'll be thinking through that very question. David Woolnough who has been working in this field for years now, in a number of contexts, will be providing us with examples of the good, the bad and the ugly from the world of "Aid" to get our thinking juices flowing and helping us to navigate through some the complexities that this issue throws up.

Do join us if you can.

Monday, 12 March 2012

When the Church Becomes a Hell Hole - Literally

An off shoot thought from the previous post:

I haven't seen the film associated with this picture, nor do I particularly care to, but it caught my attention as I walked through the arteries of the London underground, because it conveys a truth. Namely that there is an evil worse than "evil" and that is evil masquerading as good (2Cor.11:14).

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Turning Tables

I read the Parable of the 10 Minas this morning (Luke 19:11). The context of it in the flow of Luke's gospel shed new light on it that I had never noticed before. You're probably wondering what took me so long. Here are some thoughts in no particular order...


Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Bible Instinct: The Seventy or the Seventy-Two?

A few days ago, my housemate said he was reading the commentary in his study bible on Luke 10:1. Apparently some of the original Greek manuscripts say that Jesus sent out 70 disciples to preach and heal in Israel and others say 72.

The study bible in question laid out some theories as to why this discrepancy came to be, but in classic "pleasing everyone and no-one" fashion gave no definitive answer. So, my housemate asked me if I knew anything on more it. 

I paused. 

No, I didn't know anything about that particular instance and why it might be thus. And then it struck me... Now I'm no formally qualified theologian, I haven't written any books and I don't have a cool theological name for this bog standard blog, but I do have a hunch as to why this might be so and (Heaven forbid) it wasn't mentioned in the commentary!

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Allegiance and Obedience

Sam Cooper led a most interesting and informative Biblical Thinking Forum this Monday. We looked at how the early church interacted successfully (or not so) with the civilizations in which it was embedded, and how, as the Caesars came to view themselves as gods, they became increasingly hostile to the church.

One thing that struck me was a letter where Pliny, a Roman official, writes to the emperor asking what he should do with Christians. Taken from one angle, you wonder what he was making a fuss about; the Christians seem innocuous at worst:

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

What's NEW About the Good NEWs?

What would you say is new about the Gospel? What's new about the good news? Why is it new and why is it good?

Is it being justified through faith in Christ? 
Well, no. Abraham was justified by faith in Christ, when he believed and then obeyed the LORD who appeared to him back in Gen.15:6. The LORD who appeared to him was the Christ - the Son of God: Jn.1:18,8:56. Everyone who was saved in the "BC" age was saved like Abraham. The Law gave the Faithful a more detailed framework for expressing and enjoying that hope.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Half Term Hiking Competition

Half term has kicked off with a bit of hiking. I'm doing two days of walking and putting the world to rights with my good friend Chris, an outdoor expedition leader who led the school expedition I went on to Borneo back in summer 2011.

Here I am atop some Fell in the Lake District. £20 to the person who can name which one it is!!

Saturday, 11 February 2012

So Close and Yet, So Far

If you had never seen the sun, you could be fooled into thinking that this guy is actually holding it. Of course, all of us have seen the sun and can laugh at his pretend attempt to grab hold of a 7000 degree fireball that is 2.85x10 to the little 28 times (that's a big number) bigger than him and 93,000,000 miles away!

But turn your attention to spiritual matters, and things suddenly become quite sobering. 

In Jesus' day as in any day, people were trying to make sense of their lives, understand the nature of reality, find their place in the world. There were therefore many raised up to teach the people how to do just that - how to approach the living God. The most zealous of these were known as Pharisees.

(Aside: If Jesus wasn't formally one of them (and I reckon he probably was) he certainly grew up in society that was dominated by them.)

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Biblical Thinking Forum 2012: "Beyond Church!"

The visible church is the beginning of Jesus Christ's mission in the world, but it isn't the end. He doesn't say "That's all, folks!" when the meeting is over (even if you and I often do). Worship leads to a mission of transformation.

From the invisible throne room of Christ the visible church flows out into the visible world, a Spirit filled people, with a mandate to bring everything, yes everything, not just individuals, but the whole created order under the loving, wise, life-giving and beautifying reign of the God-Man Jesus Christ. (Perhaps like this.)

Monday, 6 February 2012

Happiness is Existential not Circumstantial

Who you think you are is more indicative of how (un)happy you will be than any of your external circumstances. I wonder if this guy below has ever read Paul in Phil.4:12:


Saturday, 4 February 2012

Bashing the Sacred Cow of Marriage...

If you ask most thinking people why the early church had segregated worship (men on one side, women on the other), most will tell you that it was because of the culture and/or because they wanted to stop people falling into the temptation of lust. James Jordan says that is bunk! The reason for segregation is eschatological reality not cultural relevance. He says:

(Hyperlinks and emphases are my insertions.)
The simple fact is that for 2000 years, the Holy Spirit moved the church to have men and women sitting separately during divine worship. This is because in heaven there is neither marrying nor giving in marriage. There is neither male nor female, bond nor free, child nor parent. Hence, ascended worship, taking place seated in the heavenlies, involves an affirmation of God’s Family and a setting aside of the earthly family. As a matter of fact, if you want God to give you a healthy family, let Him take it apart and put it back together each week, for that is how God always glorifies and empowers His people (Hebrews 6:12-13, Genesis 2:23-24).
He goes on:

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Missions Not Martial Arts, Please!

In a somewhat densely written post, Mike Bull suggests that the remedy for feminised men in churches is not more testosterone and martial arts etc, but a knowledge of the call of God on their lives - in other words to be on mission. Talking about the men and women of our great evangelical past, the Wilberforces and Newtons etc, he cites:
"This evangelical generation changed the world, or major parts of it at least: they broke the international economic system of the day because it was unjust; they reformed prisons, factories, poor laws, and anything else they could think of; they saw major revivals, and huge numbers of conversions; when it came to gender politics, they taught men to be gentle, and women to be active in ministry."

Saturday, 21 January 2012

God Is On The Move

Have just got hold of Michael Bull's new book Bible Matrix II: The Covenant Key. In the preface, he writes:
God likes to move stuff. Motion is life and beauty and productivity. Stillness is stagnation, decay and death.

As we saw in Bible Matrix, the work of God in Man is not merely
there and back again. Nature abounds with cyclical motions, from atomic spin to the "circle of life" to the rotation of galaxies or the identical cycles of the movements of a clock.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Philosophical (but terribly polite) Pirates

Legend of the Americano-Evangeli-Christian Sphere Mark Driscoll has been accused of claiming all British preachers are cowards. He counters that accusation here.

Responding to his plea, may I be the mouse that roared and say that the following video, lovely as it sounds and as personable as the speaker is (and I think he is extremely personable) it is philosophical piracy. (Mobile users click here.)

Friday, 13 January 2012

Some Videos Beautifully Explaining Baptism - Not What you Might Expect

Ever wondered why (if you're a Christian) you should be baptised? It symbolises the passing through death (down into the water) to new life (back up again) - Passing from the family of Adam to the Family of God in Christ; from the old humanity to the new humanity.

Here are some videos that help explain. WARNING if you're anything like me, you'll need tissues to hand and make sure no family china /liquid is anywhere in your immediate vicinity:

The video makes mention of the Hebrews coming out of Egypt and being given a new identity - the Israelites. If you don't know that story, watch the next video:

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Trinitarian Heresies

At this week's BTF, we looked at Trinity and some of the classic heresies people have fallen into over the years. All of these heresies in some way fall short of the statement:
God is three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Each person is fully God; there is one God
The Heresies:

That God is a single being who wears the masks of Father, Son and Holy Spirit as he appears in history. What this lot make of Gen.19:24 and Matt. 3:17, I'm not sure.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Jesus Reigns, Follow Him: Notes from Sunday's Sermon

At this time of year, many experts are wheeled out on to TV, radio etc. and asked for their professional opinions on what will happen in 2012. Something in human nature loves to speculate about / prophesy the future. What about you? How is your 2012 shaping up? Good? Bad? Boring? A mixture of all three?

What’s the conversation that turns over in your head when you get space to have your own thoughts? Proverbs 23:7 (in many translations, not ESV) says that the way a man thinks defines who he is. How is your thinking shaping your destiny? Are you sleepwalking through life? If so, Matt. 7:13-14 needs to be a big wake up call.

What role will Jesus play in your 2012? Is he the genie who gets you what you can’t get for yourself? The superhero who you draft in to save you in times of trouble, but ignore until the next disaster? Or the King of the universe to whom you say “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” The question is not what role will Jesus play in our lives in 2012, but what role does he want us to play in his story this year?

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

The Best Way to Avoid Neuroses...

Below is a video by A. J. Jacobs on how healthy living nearly killed him! If you are having trouble viewing it on your smart phone, click here.

On a day when I got home from work to find a large part of one of my trees where my car should have been, I'm so grateful for Jesus' words in Matthew 6:31-33.

Monday, 2 January 2012

How do You Worship?

The vast majority logging on to this post would be amused by the tree hugger on the right here. But humour aside, that our bodies express the attitude of our hearts is something we cannot get away from. So what does the position we take (literally) when worshipping say about us?

Ancient peoples would (amongst other things) bow before their gods of sun, moon, rain, fertility etc when they worshipped them (Dan.3:5). The people of God would bow in corporate worship before YHWH. (Ex.4:31)

As "modern" people we don't like that kind of thing, it smacks of bondage, servility and ignorance. Secular man doesn't express the worship of his idols through bowing and sacrifices, but through study. He studies the natural world and contemplates it, using the fruits of this contemplation to bestow upon himself ever greater glory in the form of freedom and prosperity.