Archive for September, 2011

“God’s wrath is as eternal as God’s love!”

That was emblazoned on the first page of a tract being offered by some Christians at a literature table in town.  Can you believe it?  That’s the opening gambit!

When I pressed them on it, they said, Of course God is love.  But He also hates.

“Which is more eternal?” I asked.  They couldn’t say.

Well I can.

He is Father – eternally begetting (giving life to) His Son.

He is Radiance – eternally shining out the Light of His beauty.

He is Speaker – eternally revealing and communicating Himself in His Word.

He is Blesser – eternally pouring His Spirit onto and into Christ.

You can wind back the clock as far as you like into the depths of eternity and you will see life-giving, radiant, communicative blessing flowing out to the Other.  That is His eternal nature.  He is love.  He is light.  Scripture never says He is hate.

His wrath is a response to the alien existence of death, darkness and sin.   It is the response of love to that which would harm or demean His Beloved.  God’s wrath is not as eternal as God’s love.

What do they sing at that church I wonder?

Fly sinners, fly into those a-a-arms
Of everlasting wr-a-a-ath
Of e-ev-er-la-a-sti-ing wrath! 

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Happy Friday #84


Just hilarious!

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How do you respond to PDAs?



Feel superior?

What about PDAs for Jesus?

What if someone expresses costly, counter-cultural public affection for Jesus in your workplace, in your family, on the streets or even in church. Do you cringe?

alabasterIn Mark 14:1-11 we see a woman break open a jar of perfume worth tens of thousands of pounds. And she expends it all in a public display of affection for Jesus.

Jesus likes it.  He thinks, v6, it’s a beautiful thing. Verse 8 He says ‘she has anointed my body for burial’.  No-one would get the chance to do this after His death.  Jesus was an early riser you see.  So here the woman takes her opportunity in fulfilment of Song of Songs 1:12:

“While the King was at his table, my perfume spread its fragrance.”

She plays the part of the beloved and the King thinks it’s beautiful.

Judas does not think it’s beautiful.  We know from the other gospels that he was the one leading the protest from v4: He thinks it’s a waste.  It could have been sold and given to the poor.

But of course Judas wasn’t going to sell the perfume and give money to the poor. He was going to sell Jesus and get money for himself.

But it’s a shocking contrast.  One follower of Jesus is moved to heart-felt, all-out devotion, centred on His death. Another follower of Jesus is repulsed by such devotion.  And this event is a significant tipping point for Judas to betray Jesus.

Prior to the moment of betrayal, Judas’s hard heart is never more exposed than here.  He kept up such a good pretence the rest of the time.  But here – in the presence of vulnerable abandonment and adoration – the true state of his heart is exposed.  Nothing threatens the impostor more than genuine love for Jesus.  He sees the woman’s devotion and he thinks the focus is all wrong.

‘Stop focussing on Jesus.  Go out and do stuff in Jesus’ name.  Go and be Jesus to the poor.’  That was Judas’s attitude.  Actual love for Jesus made him extremely uncomfortable.

So then, next time you’re tempted to disdain certain Christian music as ‘Jesus is my boyfriend’ worship…

Next time you criticize some street-preacher’s unenlightened methods…

Next time you feel superior to some simple saint’s devotional sweetness while crediting yourself with getting out and doing the work…

Maybe, just maybe, that’s the spirit of Judas.

You must know that a Christian is nothing if they are not a lover of Jesus.

If anyone does not love the Lord—a curse be on him.  (1 Corinthians 16:22)


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Sermon Audio

Nehemiah 3

What unites the Lord’s people?  What makes for real, lasting, binding unity among the Family of God?  Where do we find the kind of oneness that Jesus speaks of in John chapter 17.

 “May they [the church] be brought to complete unity.” (John 17:23)

How can the church ever be the answer to Christ’s prayer?

Some will suggest unity through institutions.  Be united under bishops, and archbishops.  Perhaps under the Pope – surely that’s one way of achieving unity.

Some suggest unity through dialogue and declarations.  Sit down with Christians and come to doctrinal agreements on as many things as we can.  Certainly there’s a time and a place for that.

Perhaps we should pursue unity through ecumenical services where we put “give and take” into action in our worship.  Maybe that can be an expression of unity.

In Nehemiah 3 we see the people united in an incredible way.  Men and women.  Adults and children.  Nobles and servants.  Different tribes. Different cultures.  Different occupations working as one towards a common goal.  There were hardships, there were set-backs, there was serious opposition, but through it all, the gracious hand of God was upon them and in 52 days they did what seemed impossible.  They rebuilt the walls around Jerusalem.

And that’s what unites the people of God.  And you say “What, a building project?”  “Brick-laying is the key to church unity?  Urban planning is the great ecumenical hope?”  No, but let’s think what building up Jerusalem means. (more…)

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Some talks

Mike Reeves on Just Jesus – three talks on the incomparability of Christ.  His self-giving sets Him apart!

Rich Owen on Colossians 1:3-14 – “We need Jesus more today than we did yesterday”.  Amen!

And I’ve just spotted Rich’s Colossians 1:15-23 sermon.  Haven’t listened to it yet. But very much looking forward to it.

UPDATE: See also Michael Luerhmann’s sermon on Colossians 1:1-2  (ht Dave K).

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Outgoing Session 3 – 22 September 2011

Full Text of Session 1

Full Text of Session 2


The Surprising God

The Question is always Which God?

It’s not about Theism versus Atheism

It’s a god eat god world out there and it’s every god for himself!

Everyone believes.  Everyone has a god.

We proclaim Jesus – the Surprising God.


Jesus is God-Sized.  And God is Jesus-Shaped.


Matthew 11:25-30

Only through Jesus are we let into the Family Secret


Without Jesus are there other ways of knowing God?

Let’s examine: Reason, Religion, Old Testament and Creation.


Alternative Paths to God?


Proverbs 3:5-7
Romans 8:7
1 Corinthians 1:18-25
2 Corinthians 4:4
Colossians 1:21
Colossians 2:8


The god of philosophy looks nothing like the God of the Cross!



Numbers 33:50-53; Deut 7:1-6; 12:1-3; 29:16-18; 32:15-21; Psalm 96:4-5; 106:35-40; Isaiah 41:21-24; 44:6-26; Jeremiah 16:19-21; Romans 1:23-25; 1 Corinthians 8:4-6; 10:20.


The gods of the religions look nothing like the God of the Cross!

Old Testament

John 1:1
John 1:18
John 8:56-58
John 12:38-41
John 5:37-46


Jesus has always been the Way to God

Abraham, Moses and Isaiah trusted Christ.

Jesus simply is the Lord God of Israel.



Psalm 19
Romans 1:16-20
Colossians 1:23
John 12:23-24


Jesus is Lord – Creation’s Voice Proclaims It!

The creation reveals a very great deal about God

It does so by revealing Christ!

But unless our eyes are opened through the Spirit and His Word we will miss it.


Jesus really is the One Image of God!

He should be the One Subject of our conversation.


Common Objection: Isn’t it a bit narrow to say that Jesus is the only way?


Recommended Reading:

John 13-17

How are the three Persons of the Trinity described?
How do they relate to each other?


Next Week: The Triune God

The Trinity is not a problem in evangelism.  It’s the solution!

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Christ must be proclaimed biblically.

John 5:37-47

My job is not to speak about the bible.
My job is to speak about what the bible speaks about.

We don’t minister the word in order to give a “take home point.”
We offer a take-home Christ!


Christ must be proclaimed biblically

The Bible does not need experts, it creates Heralds.


Christ must be proclaimed biblically.

The Bible is not given to individuals for their personal piety.
The Bible is given to the church to proclaim Christ to the world.


A minister of the word is not capable of speaking of Jesus.
They are incapable of doing otherwise!


Jeremiah 20:9; 1 Corinthians 9:16; 2 Corinthians 4:13; 5:14-21


If this is true how will it affect the content
of our word ministry?


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Happy Friday – Lame Analogies

I see these in various forms about every six months.  They’re good.  Not as good as Jack Handey, but they’re good.

They seem to have originated here.  And ballooned elsewhere (e.g.)

He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant and she was the East River. (Brian Broadus, Charlottesville)

Shots rang out, as shots are wont to do. (Jerry Pannullo, Kensington)

The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But unlike Phil, this plan just might work. (Malcolm Fleschner, Arlington)

He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame. Maybe from stepping on a land mine or something. (John Kammer, Herndon)

She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up. (Susan Reese, Arlington)

It came down the stairs looking very much like something no one had ever seen before. (Marian Carlsson, Lexington, Va.)

It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing kids around with power tools. (Brian Broadus, Charlottesville)

Her lips were red and full, like tubes of blood drawn by an inattentive phlebotomist. (Greg Dobbins, Arlington)

The lamp just sat there, like an inanimate object. (Nanci Phillips Sharp, Gaithersburg)

He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up. (Susan Reese, Arlington)

She was as easy as the TV Guide crossword. (Tom Witte, Gaithersburg)

Her eyes were like limpid pools, only they had forgotten to put in any PH cleanser. (Chuck Smith, Woodbridge)

She grew on him like she was a colony of E. coli and he was room-temperature Canadian beef. (Brian Broadus, Charlottesville)

She walked into my office like a centipede with 98 missing legs. (Jonathan Paul, Garrett Park)

A branch fell from the tree like a trunk falling off an elephant. (Jonathan Paul, Garrett Park)

Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two other sides gently compressed by a ThighMaster. (Sue Lin Chong, Washington)

The sardines were packed as tight as the coach section of a 747. (Tom Witte, Gaithersburg)

Her eyes were shining like two marbles that someone dropped in mucus and then held up to catch the light. (Barbara Collier, Garrett Park)

The sunset displayed rich, spectacular hues like a .jpeg file at 10 percent cyan, 10 percent magenta, 60 percent yellow and 10 percent black. (Jennifer Hart, Arlington)

She caught your eye like one of those pointy little hook latches that dangle from screen doors and fly up whenever you bang the door open. (Rich Murphy, Fairfax Station)

The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly like a bowling ball wouldn’t. (Russell Beland, Springfield)

McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty Bag filled with vegetable soup. (Paul Sabourin, Silver Spring)

The hailstones leaped from the pavement like maggots when you fry them in hot grease. (Gary F. Hevel, Silver Spring)

The thunder was ominous-sounding, much like the sound of a thin sheet of metal being shaken backstage during the storm scene in a play. (Barbara Fetherolf, Alexandria)

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When I say “The Word of God” what springs instantly to mind?


Genesis 15:1-6

1 Samuel 3:1,7,19-21

Psalm 18:30

Psalm 33:4-6

Jeremiah 1:4-10

John 1:1-3

Acts 6:7; 12:24; 13:49; 19:20

1 Thessalonians 2:8-13

Hebrews 4:12; 13:7


How do we make sense of the various ways “God’s Word” is spoken of?


The Three-Fold Word


  • Christ
  • Scripture
  • Proclamation


Martin Luther: “Tis a right excellent thing, that every honest pastor’s and preacher’s mouth is Christ’s mouth, and his word and forgiveness is Christ’s word and forgiveness… For the office is not the pastor’s or preacher’s but God’s; and the Word which he preacheth is likewise not the pastor’s and preacher’s but God’s.”


John Calvin: “When a man has climbed up into the pulpit… it is [so] that God may speak to us by the mouth of a man.”


The Second Helvetic Confession (Heinrich Bullinger): “The Preaching of the Word of God is the Word of God. Wherefore when this Word of God is now preached in the church by preachers lawfully called, we believe that the very Word of God is proclaimed and received by the faithful.”


Matthew 10:40; Luke 10:16 – From Father to Son to Church to world with divine authority!


When are my words God’s words?

When Christ is proclaimed biblically.


If this is true, how will it affect the manner
in which we conduct our word ministry?




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Theologically speaking, what’s the more dominant image for the Christian – soldier or son?

Are we soliders of Christ who also happen to be children of God?

Or are we children of God who also happen to be soldiers of Christ?

Here are some clues:  What is God’s fundamental identity if not ‘Father of our Lord Jesus Christ’?  What is Jesus’ fundamental identity if not Son of the Father?  How does Jesus teach us to pray – ‘Our Commanding Officer in Heaven’?

Remember: Soldiers don’t become sons on account of their soldiering.  But sons do become soldiers on account of their sonship.

So, what are you fundamentally – a soldier or a son?

Child soldier in the Congo

And do you know it?

Does this photo represent your spiritual life?

What exactly are you playing at?

What is the more dominant model of the Christian life pushed in your church / small groups / preaching / Christian circles?

Practically speaking, how do you front up to God in prayer?

Soldier or son?

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!  (1 John 3:1)


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Full Text Session 2B – The God of the Cross

Powerpoint Slides – Session 2


The God Revealed at the Cross

Philippians 2:5-11

1 Corinthians 1:17-25


Group Discussion:

How do you react to these religious statements?

What do they have in common?

–          Divine beings created humanity in order for us to mine gold and other precious materials for them.

–          God created us to test us, to see if good would triumph over evil.

–          God created us so that we would give him glory.


What is glory?

John 8:54

John 12:23-24

John 13:31

John 17:1-4,5,24


The cross redefines…







Jesus shows us that God is Giver!

Therefore repent and believe the good news!

Common Objection:  I don’t believe there is a god and I’m not sure I want one!

Recommended Reading:  Colossians

How does Jesus shape:

our view of God

our view of ourselves

our view of ministry

our view of the world around us

Next Time:  The Surprising God
Jesus is not the God of the pub discussion or the philosophy department.  Exploiting the shock value of Jesus in evangelism!


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Audio For Session 2A

Powerpoint for Session 2A

Full Text of Session 2A

OUTGOING – Handout Session 2 – 15 Sept 2011

Which God?

Group Discussion: With whom could you spend more fruitful time in evangelism – a theist or an atheist?

Colossians 1:15-23

When you picture God, what do you think of?

When you picture Jesus, what do you think of?

When God pictures you, what does He think of?


If God isn’t like Jesus Christ, He ought to be
Lord Byron

God is Christlike and in Him is no unChristlikeness at all
Archbishop Michael Ramsey


God is not obvious – He is the unknown quantity.

Jesus is the Image of the invisible God


We must all begin again with Jesus.  Therefore…

The question for theists: Which God do you believe in?


The question for atheists: Which God don’t you believe in?


God is Jesus-Shaped

Jesus is God-Sized


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I’ve got a crazy busy week – seven talks in the next six days.  And on Thursday I’m helping a friend in court against an unscrupulous landlord – please pray for that, we’re way out of our depth!

But here’s what’s been going through my head all day…

Sometimes I feel like throwing my hands up in the air
I know I can count on you
Sometimes I feel like saying “Lord I just don’t care”
But you’ve got the love I need To see me through

Sometimes it seems that the going is just too rough
And things go wrong no matter what I do
Now and then it seems that life is just too much
But you’ve got the love I need to see me through

When food is gone you are my daily meal
When friends are gone I know my Saviour’s love is real
Your love is real

You got the love
You got the love
You got the love
You got the love
You got the love
You got the love

Time after time I think “Oh Lord what’s the use?”
Time after time I think it’s just no good
Sooner or later in life, the things you love you loose
But you got the love I need to see me through

You got the love
You got the love
You got the love
You got the love
You got the love
You got the love

Sometimes I feel like throwing my hands up in the air
I know I can count on you
Sometimes I feel like saying “Lord I just don’t care”
But you’ve got the love I need to see me through

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Rich Owen has just drawn my attention to this hymn on our union with Christ:

The meter is 88.88, does anyone have a favourite tune for that meter.  There are over 400 to choose from!

‘Twixt Jesus and the Chosen Race
Subsists a bond of sov’reign grace,
That hell, with its infernal train,
Shall ne’er dissolve, or rend in twain.

This sacred bond shall never break,
Though earth should to her center shake;
Rest, doubting saint, assured of this,
For God has pledged His holiness.

He swore but once the deed was done;
‘Twas settled by the great Three One;
Christ was appointed to redeem
All that the Father loved in Him.

Hail, sacred union, firm and strong
How great thy grace, how sweet the song,
That rebel worms should ever be
One with incarnate Deity!

One in the tomb, one when He rose,
One when he triumphed o’er His foes
One when in heav’n He took His seat,
While seraphs sung at hell’s defeat.

Blessed by the wisdom and the grace,
Th’ eternal love and faithfulness,
That’s in the gospel scheme revealed,
And is by God the Spirit sealed.

By John Kent, 1887.


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Happy Friday

The last three from 22 words





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Dan Barker of the Freedom from Religion Foundation tells of his past in evangelical Christianity

I was a “doer of the word and not a hearer only.” I went to a Christian college, majored in Religion/Philosophy, became ordained and served in a pastoral capacity in three California churches. I personally led many people to Jesus Christ, and encouraged many young people to consider full-time Christian service.  (Here)

And here’s his conversion to atheism as told to a journalist here

[Barker] lay on a burlap cot in a church in a Mexican border town where he’d come to give a guest sermon. As he peered out at a splash of stars, Barker had a sudden profound sensation that had nothing to do with intellect, the kind of deeply felt moment more commonly associated with finding God than losing Him. He was, Barker understood, utterly alone here.

“For my whole life there had been this giant eyeball looking at me, this god, this holy spirit, this church history, and this Bible. And not only everything I did but everything I thought was being judged: Was God pleased? I realized that that wasn’t there anymore. It occurred to me, ‘I own these thoughts. Nobody knows what I’m thinking right now. There’s no fear of hell, no fear of judgment, I don’t have to be right or wrong, I can just be me.'” It felt as if charges had been dropped for a crime for which he had been falsely accused. It was exhilarating and frightening all at once. “When you’re ready to jump out of an airplane to skydive, you can be terrified but excited at the same time,” he says. “There’s a point where you go, all right, let’s do this.”

It strongly reminded me of John Bunyan’s conversion:

“As I was passing in the field, and that too with some dashes on my conscience . . . suddenly this sentence fell upon my soul, Thy righteousness is in heaven; and, methought withal, I saw with the eyes of my soul Jesus Christ at God’s right hand, there, I say, is my righteousness; so that wherever I was, or whatever I was a-doing, God could not say of me, He wants [lacks] my righteousness, for that was just before him. I also saw, moreover, that it was not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse; for my righteousness was Jesus Christ himself, the same yesterday and today for ever (Heb. 13:8).”

“Now did my chains fall from my legs indeed, I was loosed from my affliction and irons, my temptations also fled away, so that from that time, those dreadful scriptures of God left off to trouble me; now also went I home rejoicing for the grace and love of God.”

In both conversions naturally enough it was their view of God that changed and that changed them.  Both were weighed down under the scrutiny of Heaven.  Both found a joyful liberation in the death of God.  (Of course Barker’s empty heaven does not remove his spiritual masters but multiplies them).

Nonetheless, I think the similarities are very instructive.

Because what did/does Barker need?  More theistic proofs?  These would only have strengthened his notion of a ‘giant eyeball’ in the sky.  And who could blame him if he wants to be free of that?

Yet there are apologetic strategies that drive the Barkers of this world firmly into atheism, not away.

What should we do instead?

Let’s seek to give them what Bunyan got – true freedom through Christ crucified.  It’s the death of all the old gods and the life of the new man, free from the eye-ball in the sky.


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From Ben Myers’ sermon here:

When we talk about God, when we write books and attend lectures, and read discussions about this question, “Does God exist”—as Christians when we talk about God we’re not talking about some kind of intellectual hypothesis. We’re not talking about a speculative idea that may or may not have certain arguments for or against it. We’re not talking about a psychological technique for coping with the difficulties of our lives. And when we talk about God, we’re certainly not talking about a supreme being that is so infinitely remote and distant from our world that all we can do is kind of look through our little theological telescopes and try to make a few connections.

As Christians—as followers of the Lord Jesus—when we talk about God, we are talking about one who has entered into the very fabric of our world, who has come as close to us as we are to ourselves, a God who has become incarnate. When we talk about God, ultimately, we are always talking about Jesus. For the God of the gospel is the God who has come among us in Jesus of Nazareth.  We believe in God because of Jesus.

Jesus is the one who showed us the face of God—Jesus shows us the truth of God, Jesus shows us the love of God.  Jesus is God’s smile beaming at us out of the depths of eternity.  Jesus is God’s love wrapping around us, seizing us and not letting us go.  Jesus is God’s grace, reaching into the darkest and most shameful dimensions of our experience.  Jesus is God’s healing, binding up the wounded.  Jesus is God’s goodness, in a world full of chaos and disaster and catastrophe.  Jesus is God’s great strength for the weak.  Jesus is water for the thirsty, and when you drink that water you will never thirst again.  Jesus is bread for all those who are starved and hungry, famished for something good and something true.  Jesus shows us God.  He is not God’s explanation, he is not God’s argument, he is not God’s debate.  He is God’s simple, great, loving act, showing us, Here I am, here you are.  In Jesus, God shows us God.  That I believe, is the whole secret of the Christian faith.

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Previous session (1A) here.

Session 1B audio.

Session 1 Powerpoint.

Session 1B Full Text.

Outline below…

Peter – A Model Evengelist? 


It depends which Peter!

Matthew 26:31-34 – Brash and self-assured

John 21 – Humbled, assured of Christ’s love and forgiveness.


1 Peter Overview

Chapter 1

A feeble minority…

Gripped by God…

Showered with blessings…

Enduring suffering

Bringing People to God

He did – 1 Peter 3:18

We are – 1 Peter 2:9-11; 4:10-11

I can – 1 Peter 3:15

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