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Archive for November, 2012

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“But we had hoped…” (Luke 24:13-35) What have you hoped in? It will be transformed and more than restored by the risen Jesus #EnjoyYourDay

A clever and sophisticated phrase to use in your evangelism: “I think you should become a Christian.” #TryIt

Christians are groaners but not grumblers. Romans 8:23-25

Not just net gainers. Even our grtst suffering redeemed 2 grter glory: More than conquerors thru Him who loved us! #EnjoyYourDay

Adam/Christ = Curse/Blessing = Old/New = Judgement/Salvation = Now/Not-Yet = Flesh/Spirit

Instructions for Evangelist: Open your Bible. Point to Jesus. Offer Him Freely. Repeat As Necessary.

He’s the Future & Fulness of the world. He’s the Future & Fulness of God. If you have Jesus you have Everything. #EnjoyYourDay

“To be a receiver, to believe that the gift is complete, is to be right with God.” Gerhard Forde >>

<< Therefore if we offer a “gift” that needs completing (by the sinner’s response) we turn gospel into law, evangel-ism into legal-ism

“Self-esteem – the current circumlocution for pride” Gerhard Forde

Moralists use the law as a defence against God.

“This far and no further” is both God’s command to the unruly and the Rule-y’s command to God.

God is pulling all things through the cross and out the empty tomb

Bt the Spirit of the Son you have a new spiritual heart-beat: Abba, Father… Abba, Father… Abba, Father… (Gal 4:6) #EnjoyYourDay

Being Trinitarian is about confessing Christ faithfully. He is the Spirit-filled Son. >>

<<If we’re failing to preach trinitarianly it’s not cos we need PhDs in systematics, it’s cos we’re simply not articulating Christ properly.

Christians are God’s possession. There Might be a hostile takeover. But only if they can outbid the blood of God- Acts 20:28

Sunday school, kids songs & evangelistic outlines lay the foundations. If they’re wrong, preachers have a LOT of work to do!

“I don’t know who God is anymore…” could be a very promising deconversion. It might just be the 1st step towards true faith

God is Joy – Ps 45:7; John 15:11; 1 Tim 1:11. #EnjoyYourDay

A love story without forgiveness is a tragedy not a comedy. Just seen #CrazyStupidLove

#CrazyStupidLove does catastrophe far better than eucatastrophe. All because no-one can really bring themselves to forgive.

“Our culture is so far back from the gospel we can’t just preach Christ”? No! For this very reason we must simply preach Christ.

Planning Christmas sermons? Why not revisit the most sublime theology of Christmas ever penned. Begin here.

 

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Happy Friday

…Very occasional swear words in the last one…

 

 

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For Thawed Out Thursdays, I thought I’d show you a couple of older videos that gave rise to an exciting new video, released only today

First there was this extract from a sermon…

Then, the following year, we hastily filmed a poetic version. The sound didn’t work at the time, which is why we had to dub the voice later…

And today 10ofThose have just released a kinetic-typographied version…

Please share it on Facebook and/or use it in your Christmas services this year.

And sorry to jump the Christmas gun!!

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321 – A Kids Song

Thanks to Fanny Crosby

Our God is three Persons together as one,
The Father, the Spirit and also the Son.
Before and beyond and beneath and above,
Our God is a Family united in love.

Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord,
Let the earth hear His voice!
Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord,
Let the peoples rejoice!
O come to the Father, through Jesus the Son,
Be filled by the Spirit with all Christ has done.

The world is a story that’s written by two:
King Adam fell badly, King Jesus renewed.
First Adam brought darkness and death and a curse,
But Jesus came second – the fall to reverse.

Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord,
Let the earth hear His voice!
Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord,
Let the peoples rejoice!
O come to the Father, through Jesus the Son,
Be filled by the Spirit with all Christ has done.

We’re born one with Adam but now we can be
United to Jesus, adopted, set free.
As one with the Son we are given new birth,
His Father, His Spirit and heaven on earth!

Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord,
Let the earth hear His voice!
Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord,
Let the peoples rejoice!
O Come to the Father, through Jesus the Son,
Be filled by the Spirit with all Christ has done.

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“Equality” is one of the most loved and least understood values of our day.  It is considered to be an absolute and unquestionable good.  And yet… what does it really mean?

In a race between me and Usain Bolt… what would be equal?  A 70 metre head-start for me?  A 50kg weight for him?  Of course if we start equally, we’ll finish very unequally.  Equality of treatment will not lead to equality of outcome.  And that’s true in every realm.

Think of tennis. The men and women aren’t thrown into the same draw.  There’s a men’s trophy and a women’s trophy.  But not a “left-handers’ trophy” or a “Sagittarian trophy”. And there’s not a “trophy for whites” and a “trophy for blacks” either.  No, that would be “discriminatory” we feel.  But hang on – all these decisions “discriminate.”  They all seek to treat people differently according to real differences which those in question have no choice over.  Yet we consider differences in gender to be relevant, and differences in race and star sign to be irrelevant.  In other words we discriminate between our discriminations.  And such discrimination is absolutely vital for upholding  “equality.”

Different people do get different treatment all the time.  Sometimes this is negative discrimination (think of racism).  But actually we must discriminate in order to have true equality.  For instance, we ought to spend money on our buildings to provide equal access for wheel-chair users.  Yet as soon as we make this pledge, both the costs and the benefits of these expensive projects fall unevenly.  There is a certain kind of benign discrimination that happens which prevents another malign discrimination.  But discrimination – i.e. making decisions based on real differences, and discerning between relevant differences and irrelevant differences – is inevitable.  It’s part and parcel of true equality.

Now what kind of equality exists between male and female?  Feminism has gone through at least three “waves”, plus “post-feminism” and it’s taken in a wide range of differing political and social expressions.  The massive differences between those working for “equality” is yet more evidence that the meaning of “equality” is not at all obvious.  Yet the upholding of concrete differences as we work for equality is absolutely vital.  We should not want women to be equal to men on men’s terms.  We should not want them to “become more bloke-ish” in order to receive the same rights.  If there’s to be true equality, we should want women to be distinctly women and men distinctly men, and that they, in these differences, be one – completely equal in value and worth.  Is there a way of having both?

In Genesis 1 we have a consultation within the triune God: “Let us make humanity in our image… male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:26ff)  The ultimate Union of Distinctions – the Trinity – is imaged in a humanity that is also a union of distinctions: men and women made to be one – and in their one-ness to be fruitful, making another.  A whole race of blokes would not image the divine life.  But men and women, in all their differentness, united in love – this pictures for us a true equality, one that respects and upholds concrete particularities.

If we follow the creation narrative we will see God place Eve – the bride – at the very pinnacle of the cosmos.  God’s creative work moves from the waters to land to plants to animals to man to woman.  It’s all heading towards woman.  As Matthew Henry remarked, if Adam was head over creation, Eve was the crown.  If he was dust, she was dust “twice refined”.  She was taken from Adam’s side to be his equal, from under his arm that he might protect her and from close to his heart that he might love her.  She is “opposite” to him – created to be very different – yet one with him (Genesis 2:18).

Just as the Father is eternally distinct from the Son yet utterly equal, just as Christ is different from His bride (the church) yet shares all things with her, so men and women are different but equal. (1 Corinthians 11:3)

What are those differences?  Well that can be for another time.  Perhaps click the “gender” tag to read more on the blog.  But we all agree that there are differences between the sexes.  Virtually every argument for why women should be better represented in the boardrooms of business cannot help but raise the different kind of contribution women bring to the table.  That’s fascinating – we think there should be more women “at the top” not simply because women are equal to men but, just as much, because they are different to men!  And no Christian wants to argue against that.  Many Christians think the gender differences have relevance within marriage.  Many Christians think they are also relevant in the exercise of certain church leadership roles.  That might sound  “discriminatory” – and of course it is.  But so is every argument for equality.  Even within the various feminisms there are huge disagreements over matters of positive and negative discrimination, for one thing.  Being alarmed by a different vision of equality and diversity should not put you off.  You’ll have to sit down and listen to the Christian arguments a lot longer before you conclude that this is malignant discrimination.

But then, where else will you go?  Christianity has an account of differentness and unity that accords with what we want from a vision of gender equality.  If all you have is unity, you’re left with a steam-roller, flattening differences.  If all you have is distinction, you’ve got a ladder – every difference an opportunity to rank people.  With the world’s philosophies of gender you will only find steam-rollers or ladders – or arbitrary balancing acts between the two.  Yet with the triune God you have a unity and diversity that mutually inform each other.  This unity-in-diversity and diversity-in-unity goes all the way down and all the way back.  In this God you can find that your gendered identity is acknowledged, celebrated and upheld.  It images the united love of God Himself!

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In 1776 Thomas Jefferson introduced the Declaration of Independence with these words:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

This bold and attractive vision of human flourishing is articulated in the context of some very specific views of God, of humanity and the good life.  Yet without this framework it’s difficult to imagine anything less self-evident than the truth that “all men are created equal.”  If you divorce this conviction from its theological foundations, it’s one of the  most instantly falsifiable “self-evident” truths going!  When you look at the mass of humanity born in such differing circumstances, with such differing opportunities and capacities, who on earth are the “we” who are able to see “equality” when all that’s really “self-evident” is endemic inequality?

The answer is that the “we” who hold this vision of equality have soaked for long centuries in a view of God, the world and humanity which has been completely alien to the rest of thinking people.

Take Aristotle in Politics:

For that some should rule and others be ruled is a thing not only necessary, but expedient; from the hour of their birth, some are marked out for subjection, others for rule…

Aristotle took inequality to be the thing “self-evident.”  He repeatedly called slaves “living tools” and was quite comfortable with that arrangement.  Same with Plato:

…nature herself intimates that it is just for the better to have more than the worse, the more powerful than the weaker; and in many ways she shows, among men as well as among animals, and indeed among whole cities and races, that justice consists in the superior ruling over and having more than the inferior. (Gorgias)

According to these brilliant pagan minds, equality is not taught by nature.  The very opposite.  Whatever “human nature” was, clearly some humans conformed closer to the ideal than others.  So who could object if some were given more human “rights” than others?

The point is this: if observations of “nature” were all we had to go by, who on earth could disagree with the inequitable status quo?  Of course nature produces more powerful and less powerful creatures, superiors and inferiors.  If nature is our teacher why not endorse a class of rulers and a class of the ruled?  Why not support the inequalities which nature clearly intends?  Why fight it?  On what grounds?  With what justification?  From where could you get an alternative vision of humanity?  The only humanity we’ve ever observed has been one of profound inequalities!

Thus it seemed absolutely right to have a perilously steep hierarchy of being – the emporer at the top, the slaves at the bottom, with every subject knowing their place.  Who could possibly object?

Except that the ancient Scriptures kept speaking of another way.  The God who gets dirt under His fingernails forming humanity (Genesis 2), who wants to walk with His creatures in the cool of the day (Genesis 3).  The Saviour who would fight for us and take the blow (Genesis 3:15).  The Son who would give Himself in atoning death (Genesis 22).  The LORD who is Servant and Sacrifice (see Isaiah 42; 49; 50; 53).

And then He comes to a humble “servant” (Luke 1:48) as a humble servant (Philippians 2:5-11).  The whole pyramid is subverted as God becomes a Slave!  And He becomes a Slave so that we, the slaves of sin and Satan, might become sons and daughters in His royal family.  He descends to the depths and raises us to the heights so that now we might all feast at the same table – royals and commoners, masters and bond-servants.

And through this divine stooping, Christ shows us a radically different way of assessing “human nature.”  The Son “became flesh” – just common or garden humanity.  He became a Jewish pauper with nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him (Isaiah 53:2).  Whatever might be deemed “ideal humanity” had nothing to do with the properties inherent in it.  The Man Jesus was valuable not because of the attributes of His humanity but only because the Son had chosen this flesh to be.  Thus a Christian account of “human nature” does not look to the properties and capacities of particular persons but declares that humans as humans are inherently valuable.  From there it’s a hop, skip and a jump to declaring their “unalienable rights”.

But wait – doesn’t the bible (particularly the OT) endorse slavery?  Well distinguish Hebrew slavery from Greco-Roman practice and distinguish both from the Trans-Atlantic slave trade of the 16th-19th centuries.  Hebrew slavery was nothing like that which Wilberforce fought.

Certainly the Western mind has difficulty with the idea of selling oneself into slavery for a limited period (we prefer other forms of economic slavery), but those OT provisions were always temporary arrangements.  In everyone’s lifetime Jubilee was always just around the corner (Leviticus 25) – and the great hope was the Messiah who would bring ultimate and eternal liberation (Isaiah 61; Luke 4:16-21).

In the NT, Paul counselled slaves (in this new Greco-Roman context) to seek their freedom if they could (1 Cor 7:21-24) and declared slave-trading to be sinful (1 Tim 1:10) thereby cutting the jugular of the whole practice.  But really, it was the intellectual revolution of the gospel that was so much more subversive than any ‘revolt of the slaves’ could be.

And it’s a revolution that we need to continue today.  It’s estimated that there are 27 million slaves in the world right now and so often it is Christians who continue to be at the forefront of the fight against human-trafficking.  Why?  Because Christians actually have an anthropology that treats each human with “unalienable rights” rather than as “living tools”.  Anyone who seeks to take some high-ground on the issue of slavery must produce an account of human nature that will actually protect the weak and the vulnerable from being used.  But on what grounds will they justify such a stand?

I live in a country that kills 200 000 of the weakest members of our species every year because of the will of the strong.  Our culture can claim no high ground in protecting the “unalienable rights” of all people.  We have our own hierarchies based on the properties and capacities of individuals and we discriminate with extreme prejudice.  If we want real equality we must return to the only true foundation: the Master who became Slave.

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Romans 8 sermons

I preached on Romans 8:31-39 last night.  Audio here.

As a reflection on that same passage (and sermon), Emma wrote this post.  It’s what I should have said!

Some previous sermons of mine:

Romans 1-7 – Confidence in Life

Romans 8 – Confidence in Suffering

 

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