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Archive for July, 2013

Don’t-Be-a-Slave-to-Writer’s-BlockHello there. Sorry I haven’t been writing very much here recently. I’m trying to write “321” the evangelistic book right now. Please pray for that project if you remember. And perhaps you can help me with something….

At one point in the book I talk about the four fundamental realities you can choose between in the beginning – nothing, chaos, power or love (see here for the seed of the idea). Was wondering if you had any good quotes for each of the options.

If you believe in the beginning there was nothing – life is absurd, meaningless, hopeless.

If you believe in the beginning there was chaos – life is endless struggle and power plays.

If you believe in the beginning there was power – life is a slavery to almighty god or law or fate.

If you believe in the beginning there was love – life is about finding your place in God’s family of love.

Do you have any quotes from nihilists, ultra-Darwinians, determinists, theologians or others that would put flesh on those bones?

 

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Psalm 143 sermon

Psalm 143

TEXT

POWERPOINT

AUDIO

…The Book of Psalms is Jesus’ prayer journal. But don’t worry, He’s very happy for us to be reading His prayer journal. It’s not confidential. We’re meant to own these prayers ourselves and the Spirit helps us to pray Jesus’s prayers to the Father.

This is such a relief. Because, just speaking for myself, I’m very bad at praying. And when I feel desperate and faint and spiritually thirsty, I’m just no good at articulating that, whether before God or anyone else for that matter.

So, how wonderful to know that Jesus has felt those things Himself. He knows what it is to be flat on His face in desperation, sweating blood, overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. He knows about betrayal and loss and excruciating pain. He knows about the valley of the shadow of death. He knows how it feels to be utterly ashamed, utterly alone, utterly godforsaken.  God the Son knows ALL these feelings.

More than this, He knows how to pray through them. And here are those prayers. What a relief! Because we’re terrible at praying. Yet Jesus prays for us. And then He says, “Why don’t you join in? Why don’t you pray my prayers? I’ll give you my Spirit to help you, and now you pray to God like I pray to God. I call God “Abba, Father”, why don’t you call God what I call God? And why don’t you pray to God what I pray to God? I’ll even give you a whole prayer book of 150 prayers – they cover EVERY situation. So use my prayers, the Spirit will help you and my Father will hear you.”…

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sadface

I’ve heard it from a few people now… stories of depressed friends going to their GP and at some stage being asked, “Are you, by any chance, an evangelical Christian?” Have you heard similar tales?

I’m not sure whether we’ve ended up on any official lists of “predisposing factors” but it certainly makes you think.

So let’s ask a tough question: Is there anything about evangelicalism (as opposed to other kinds of Christianity) that makes depression even harder? Or even, perhaps, more likely?

Is it worse to be an evangelical Christian when you’re depressed?

I can think of two reasons it shouldn’t be and two reasons it might be…

READ THE WHOLE POST ON EMMA’S BLOG

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Happy Friday

Blurred Lines (more from baracksdubs)…

Rockin’ out

Apparently the last two photos are faked. But the first 8 are incredible enough…

I want David Michalek’s camera and Alan Rickman’s gravitas

And here’s a lovely story from Douglas Adams. (Am I imagining things or does a famous evangelist (J John??) claim this story as their own?)

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two-boys-workingThere is a slavery on the near side of sonship.  (Galatians 4:7)

And there is a slavery on the far side of sonship.  (Galatians 1:10)

On the near side it’s death.

On the far side it’s life.

On the near side it’s flesh.

On the far side it’s Spirit.

On the near side it’s your righteousness on show.

On the far side it’s Christ’s righteousness in you.

On the near side you don’t know who you are without it, so you step it up.

On the far side you do know who you are without it, and you keep in step.

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There is no way from slavery to sonship.

And there’s no way to true slavery except sonship.

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All of which means…

We must refuse to be slaves ascending to higher degrees of slavery.

We must look away from any schemes of progressive slavery.

We must proclaim sonship.

And not because we’re not into works.

If we want true works, we must strip away works.

We must be left bare in the presence of God with nothing but Christ for our justification.

We must know who we are without our works – sinners clothed in Christ.

We must know our sonship not in ourselves but in the Son.  This means by grace alone.

Having contributed nothing, we belong entirely.

And now, in Him, we can do no other than gladly take our place in the Father’s business.

But it is the Father’s business.

The only gateway to true work is sonship.

The only Gate is the Son.

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In this episode we discuss the crucial questions: Which Atheism? and Which God?

In future episodes, we’ll cover “What atheism gets right”, “What atheism gets wrong” and finally “Hot Topics”.

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[audio http://revivalmedia.org/medias/audio/TEP017.mp3]

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Talk on the Book of Job

job miserable comfortersEvery now and then I attempt a 40 minute summary of Job.

Here’s a recent effort:

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NOTES BELOW…

(more…)

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Last year I was in a kind of debate with Andrew Copson – Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association (BHA). His final line of the evening was a plea for us all to “be good for goodness sakes.”

The line sounds twee but there’s a genuine point that deserves our attention: Goodness for the sake of ‘spiritual reward’ is neither necessary, nor desirable. In fact it’s pretty ugly. If a religious person is motivated towards goodness simply by celestial carrots and sticks (which some are) then you can understand a humanist’s protest. I hear the criticism loud and clear, and I wrote these four posts called “Why be good?” as a response.  Only the gospel saves us from immorality and moralism.

But if you’re unaware of the gospel, then your view of religion will probably sound that of like BHA President Jim Al-Khalili:

I have often felt offended by the misguided notion that people require a religious faith to provide their moral compass in order to lead a good life. Reason, decency, tolerance, empathy and hope are human traits that we should aspire to, not because we seek reward of eternal life or because we fear the punishment of a supernatural being, but because they define our humanity.

We might want to be curious about why such traits define our humanity, and who gets to say, and why the ones mentioned by Al-Khalili are so darned anaemic, and why he didn’t also identify deep-seated characteristics like greed, hypocrisy and violence. We might want to point out that Christian faith brings far more to the table than ‘a moral compass’. Actually it’s a vision for the whole terrain and an accounting for why and where we fit into a moral order that is very old and runs very deep.

But we’re not going to mention those things. We’re just going to point out the terrible danger of moralism here.

Suppose that I’m a humanist who has unplugged the celestial CCTV and now I’m free to be good for goodness sakes. What will that look like? Well I’m still going to get outraged by ‘inhuman’ behaviour – good. But now God isn’t the ultimate court of appeal and dispenser of perfect justice. No, the ‘moral-outrage buck’ stops with me. Since God has been deposed, I’m going to have to mount the highest horse.

And, as far as godless high-horseing goes, get a load of this: [Read from the bottom upwards. RD was responding to this]

DawkinsOutraged

Dawkins has never let ignorance of a topic prevent him from weighing in with the full weight of his moral indignation. But feel the indignation.

When one tweeter asked him whence his moral compass (given Darwinism and all), he responded:

Idiot that I am, I’m mining the quote – but I think it unearths a deep problem for those who let go of “God” but want to be “Good.” The problem is not in acting morally- of course not. The problem comes in adjudicating the morals and in acting The Moral One.  Wonderfully for the Christian, the Father adjudicates and the Son is the Moral One, but what’s the situation for the humanist?

They are above the non-existent ‘God’, they are above the religious who (they claim) are only good for dubious reasons, and they are above nature (‘red in tooth and claw’) and their own selfish genes. They have risen above everything else in all reality… in order to be good.

How does a humanist not avoid hubris at this point? How do they not avoid moralism?

Dostoyevsky famously said “If there is no God, everything is permissible.”  But nihilism isn’t the only danger. Dawkoyevsky’s dilemma is this: “If there is no God, everything is puritanical.”

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Happy Friday

Epic Trickshots:


—  As a Vine

These are all real right?

Do you have any favourites in the genre?

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[Repost from 2011]

About 10 years ago I wound up in the office of a Christian counsellor.  I couldn’t believe I was about to confess to depression.  Me, a church worker!  Me, conservative evangelicalism’s next big thing!

The cause?  Several very stressful things were happening in my life, but the tipping point into depression was a frustration with the gospel that was being preached around me.  And I fell flat on my face in despondency.

My counsellor took me to Jeremiah 2:13

12 Be appalled at this, you heavens,
and shudder with great horror,’
declares the Lord.
13 ‘My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water.

He said (very graciously) I’d been digging some kind of broken well which had dried up.  Now I was slumped at this false life-source with a mouth full of mud.  He asked what the broken well might be.  In an instant I knew: “I need everyone to read the bible the same way I do”.  Not for the glory of Jesus, but to be right!

I asked “What should I do?”  He said, “Give up on it and turn back to Jesus.”  As soon as he said “Give up on it” my whole flesh rose up and said “Never!”  This snarling idol revealed itself.  And it shocked me.

My theological paradigm had become my god.  And it was so subtle.  Because here’s the thing: I prided myself on the fact that my paradigm was uniquely Christ-centred.

But when I identified the pride issue a weight fell off my shoulders.  The issue was not the idiots out there, the issue was the arrogance in here.  I’d been thinking of my depression as a complicated issue of theological debate with no way through. In fact it was a simple (but very ugly) issue of plain old sin. And the gospel has a solution for sin.

Someone has wisely said that if you diagnose your problems as requiring anything less than the blood of Jesus for their solution, you haven’t diagnosed your real problem.  My hour with the counsellor cut through to the real problem.  But thankfully the real problem has a real solution. And it’s already mine. Or rather, He’s already mine. I left that office with a massive weight off my shoulders.

Not that I didn’t think the issues mattered any more.  They did matter.  They still matter.  But I looked at them through a different lens.

For one thing, I embraced the liberating truth that I was wrong too. Wrong about plenty. Wrong in a grotesque and sinful way. When you’re right all the time it’s a crushing burden. It’s actually a relief to be wrong – to be in need of forgiveness and correction. Suddenly I was free from the need to prove myself, because all I’d proved was that I was a self-righteous fool.

From there it was impossible to feel superior to those who disagreed theologically. I stopped trying to ‘put one over on them’ and started to genuinely rejoice in a gospel that can save such wrong people – like them and like me.  I then began to genuinely pity the folk with a Christ-less or Christ-lite theology. Not in smugness but with a sincere desire for their good.  I gave up on being the one who would crush them in theological debate and started to think more in terms of sowing seeds and trusting the results to God!

I get this wrong all the time and there’s still much of the arrogant young man to me.  But I also think God’s been teaching me some things about how to live and minister among other Christians with whom I disagree.  I’ll share a few thoughts in no particular order:

  • I love the saying (which I think goes back to Wesley?) that the way to handle opponents is “to out-live and out-love them, out-preach and out-pray them.”  That’s got to be the way forward. And I think it begins with repentance.  I repent of trusting in my Christ-centred paradigm.  I turn to Christ!
  • If I’m tempted to pride it’s good to turn to Elijah’s example in 1 Kings 19.  And to laugh at myself.  “I, only I am left!!” he says, exhausted by his own righteousness! “Ummm” says the LORD “I think you’ll find there’s thousands like you. Get some rest!”
  • I find it very tempting to try and be John the Baptist – a voice crying in the wilderness.  But that was a unique calling. I believe we’re called to get around others with the aroma of Christ.  And the aroma of ‘young hot-prot’ is not quite the same.
  • When relating to church leaders, get a vision for what’s already good about their preaching, leading and ministry.  It’s so tempting to look for what they do badly and to miss the hundred things they do well.  Anything and everything we can rejoice in, we should.  Loudly.
  • People can change.  Not through grand-standing argumentation.  But through a drip, drip, drip of the gospel.
  • I’m only beginning to learn this one:  Usually change happens when people taste the gospel dishes you serve up.  If you consistently serve up Christ-exalting stuff that releases hearts into gratitude and love, then people will ask you about the recipe.  Don’t start with the recipe: “Right, here are the ingredients you need – you’ve been doing it all wrong.  This is the order…”  Start by dishing out gospel goodness – then they’ll want the recipe.

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Strong’s Goes Excel

strongsMatthias Müller has already given us the Koine Greek audio Bible. Now he’s produced another brilliant resource for those interested in biblical languages. It’s an Excel spread sheet of the entire Strong’s concordance.

What’s the point, you might ask, since so many free Bible programs include Strong’s?

The spreadsheet has the following possibilities. You can:

  • Sort the entire Greek and Hebrew vocab of the Bible by different criteria
  • See at a glance, which words come from which root
  • Find out what the Greek equivalent is for a Hebrew word and vice versa
  • Sort the vocab by frequency and so easily create your own vocabulary lists for language learning
  • See where a word is used the first time

In the future, Matthias hopes to add columns and fill them in – e.g. columns for every biblical book.  The whole project could take years but updates will come as Matthias works on it.  Keep the link and download it a few times a year to see what has been added. But if you would like to help, fill in the blanks or add functionality just email christisinn which is a gmail address.

Strong’s Concordance Download (Dropbox)

UPDATE 25/07/13 Frequency of Hebrew words up to Strong’s #H5000 completed alongside first occurrence.

Also completed “part of speech” columns for all words in both Greek and Hebrew.

Now you can also separate Aramaic words from Hebrew words with the first column.

UPDATE 05/08/13 Now the rest of the Strong’s concordance is updated on frequency and first occurance – both for Greek and Hebrew. Have fun creating vocab lists or doing some analysis of which NT author in the Bible introduces the most new vocabulary.

Make sure to use the filter options in the gloss column: click the little arrow in the cell of the header, then “text filters”, then “contains…” and enter any strong’s number you want to filter out. To get rid of the filter, click the arrow again and then “clear filter from “gloss””… enjoy

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ischafp001p1Jesus of Nazareth, without money and arms, conquered more millions than Alexander, Caesar, Mohammed and Napoleon; without science and learning He shed more light on things human and divine than all the philosophers and scholars combined; without the eloquence of the school, He spoke words of life such as were never spoken before nor since and produced eff ects that lie beyond the reach of orator or poet; without writing a single line, He has set more pens in motion and furnished themes for more sermons, orations, discussions, works of art, learned volumes, and sweet songs of praise than the whole army of great men of ancient and modern times.

— Philip Schaff (1819-1893)

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Tweets I Have Tweeted. Recently

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My Twitter Account

In Jesus, your past cannot destroy you & your future cannot derail you. #EnjoyYouDay

Faith is Word-based. The Word is different to ‘evidence’. We stand over evidence, the Word is over us.

God’s love isn’t a warm fuzzy, it’s a blood sacrifice made 4u in all yr wickedness. So BE a sinner loved by Christ & #enjoyyourday

“O the Great God! O the Perfect Child! The Son in the Father & the Father in the Son… God the Word who became man for our sakes” Clement

CHS: “Affliction is the black chariot of Christ, in which he rideth to his children.”

Your Father warned you there’d be days like this. He also promised a Future Glory that far outweighs every ounce of suffering #EnjoyYouDay

Street preacher arrested yesterday under section 5 of public order act: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=4ZjwYfGXzVo …. Video of whole incident to follow

An Israelite – a.k.a. a member of God’s people – is one who has fought with God and lost. Gen 32

Apparently the microbes shall inherit the earth http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-23135934 … I cannot fathom how I’d live if I believed in such a future

Anger is always righteous. It’s just that 9 times out of ten it’s self-righteous.

Anger erupts violently out of our deep commitments to self-justification. Just ask Cain, Saul, Jonah, the Elder Brother

Not long now. (Rev22:20) #EnjoyYourDay

“Who do you think you are?” is a Q we love 2 ask ourselves. But if some1 asks U the Q it’s usually cos ur completely out of place #revealing

As mentioned yday, street preacher @TonyMiano arrested in Wimbledon on Mon http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F2vu9CI5Ij4 … Police arrive 25:37, arrested 38:11

Every tear wiped away. Death, mourning, crying & pain abolished. All creation renewed. Jesus face to face. #ComingSoon #Rev21 #EnjoyYourDay

Someone just helped me figure out what #indirecting is. You know who you are

#selfie #indirect some Twitter fads don’t mix well [PICTURE]

Or… #ff awesome tweeters. You know who you are #indirect

Who should you #ff? Here’s who #selfie #mixingmyhashtags #theresacontext #movealong [PICTURE]

#hashtagpuns #shelfie [PICTURE]

#replacepunwithhashtag #

Christ is Pictured, Present and Promised in OT. Eg Gen 22: Pictured in Isaac, Present as the Angel, Promised as the Seed.

Today a woman told me “I must get your wife’s book for my granddaughter, she too struggles with dyslexia.” #runsinthefamily

In Christ you have peace, in the world you have trouble, but take heart: Christ has overcome the world. (Jn16:33) #EnjoyYourDay

Off to talk about the sufferings of Job at the Grand Hotel, Brighton. #incongruous

The LORD is compassionate&gracious, slow 2 anger, abounding in love… His love is from everlasting 2 everlasting. #Ps103 #EnjoyYourDay

In all yr suffering, know the LORD Jesus wooing u from the jaws of distress to a spacious place of freedom&feasting. Job36:16 #EnjoyYourDay

If Jesus’ cross was worth it ‘for the joy set before him’, how much more will our little crosses be worth it. #futuresbright #EnjoyYourDay

Behold He comes, riding on the clouds, shining like the sun, at the trumpet call. #MaybeToday #EnjoyYourDay

Evangelist, Tony (Taming the Tiger) Anthony’s fraudulent ministry: http://shipoffools.com/features/2013/shaming_the_tiger.html …

Seems there’s 2 sides to Dostoyevsky’s truth: Without God everything’s either permissible or wearyingly moralistic:

DawkinsCricketEthics

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TEP-PodcastCover-1024x1024Our podcasts are now on Stitcher.

EPISODE 15: Doesn’t the Bible Support Slavery?

What comes to mind when we mention Slavery? The African slave trade? ‘Upstairs Downstairs’? Imperialism/Colonialism. There are many ways in which we face slavery today. Some might say the Bible supports it. Is that right?

I’m somewhat rambly at times, but there are some raw materials here to help you answer the slavery question for yourself.

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Happy Friday

In the interests of balance… sometimes “fixing” aint miserable comfort:

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Here’s a stark example of a very common life philosophy today: “Life’s too short to waste your time on people who aren’t like you.” I see this kind of thing – even if not the name snobbery – on countless Facebook walls and it’s scary, scary, scary. (Favourite moment at 6:00).

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Gotta love Ashton Agar. Unfortunately he’ll never get another chance to break his own record. Cos he’ll never bat 11 again!

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And, if you ask me, it’s nice that the kids have seen an alternative way to play this summer…

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Church in the Wilderness2

Four years ago I preached 8 sermons on “The Church in the Wilderness”.

Among other things it was an attempt to orient our expectations for the Christian life. We are a redeemed people, saved from slavery, headed for glory but, now, enduring wilderness hardships.  In the meantime we are sustained, guided, lead and promised a wonderful future. Ultimately, though, our Christian lives are upheld not by our obedience and perseverance, but Christ’s.

Click on the title for text. The mp3 is underneath.

Church in the Wilderness 1 – INTRODUCTION – Deuteronomy 8
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Church in the Wilderness 2 – SAVED BY THE BLOOD – Exodus 12
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Church in the Wilderness 3 – BROUGHT OUT – Exodus 13-15
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Church in the Wilderness 4 – SUSTAINED – Exodus 16-17
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Church in the Wilderness 5 – GUIDED – Numbers 9
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Church in the Wilderness 6 – LEAD – Numbers 27 & Psalm 95
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Church in the Wilderness 7 – PROMISED – Numbers 13-14
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Church in the Wilderness 8 – FULFILLED IN JESUS – Matthew 3:13-4:11
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(NB: Original sermon not recorded. This mp3 is from a different sermon on same Scripture)

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I’ve been thinking about Job a lot recently (see yesterday’s post). When I consider the miserable comforters, I’m often reminded of this…

The interviewers and those phoning in were undoubtedly well-meaning. But so were Job’s comforters (Job 2:11). They do want to fix him. But again, that was the motivation of the comforters too.  Yet, after endless rounds of “Do this and be healed”, comfort becomes torment.

Interestingly, Chris Sands was eventually cured because a brain surgeon was watching one of these interviews. He wondered whether a tumour pressing on a nerve was the problem. It was. And so Chris went under the knife for drastic surgery. That was the answer and it went so much deeper than all our home spun remedies.

The true answer to suffering is so much deeper than our little platitudes ever acknowledge. In our pastoral care, let’s have true compassion on people, admitting our own helplessness and pointing sufferers away from their paltry efforts to the true Doctor of our souls.

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