Friday, 27 June 2008

Being Blond

I have two friends, both young but serious Christians who just happen to be blond. Now I would never make racist or sexist comments but as I was blond before my hair departed I feel I can make blond comments especially when they are true.

Rhona saw Buffalo Wings in a Pizza place and asked "Do Buffalo really have wings"

Both Annie and Rhona did some church history and said on separate occasions. Oh, I know who John Knox is, "he is really old now isn't he?" (I know Rhona mean't John Stott but I have no idea what Annie was thinking).
They have both become legends at HTC!

The Dance of Love

Timothy Keller like Piper is influenced by Edwards this really shows in his chapter The Dance of Love. Keller begins by pointing out that if there is no God, love is nothing more than a biochemical accident, it lacks meaning. He then goes on to show that we can only understand 'God is love' through Christian Trinitarianism.
'But if there is a God? Does love fare any better? It depends on who you think God is. If God is unipersonal, then until God created other beings there was no love, since love is something that one person has for another. This means that a unipersonal God was power,sovereignty, and greatness from all eternity, but not love. Love then is not the essence of God, nor is it at the heart of the universe. Power is primary.
However, if God is triune, then loving relationships in community are "the great the centre of reality." When people say, "God is love," I think they mean that love is extremely important, or that God really wants us to love. But in the Christian conception, God really has love at his essence. if he was only one person he couldn't have been loving for all eternity. If he was only the impersonal all-soul of Eastern thought, he couldn't have been loving, for love is something persons do.' Keller, p.216

Costly Grace

I finished Tim Keller's 'The Reason for God' earlier this week, I am really pleased I have American family because the book isn't released yet in the UK (so thanks to my brother-in-law Tim for getting me this).

There are several great quotes in this book:

on Grace:
'Some years ago I met with a woman who began coming to church at Redeemer. She said that she had gone to church growing up and never before heard a distinction drawn between the gospel and religion. she had always heard that God accepts us only if we are good enough. She said that the new message was scary. I asked her why and she replied:

if I was saved by my good works then there would be a limit to what God could ask of me or put me through. I would be like a taxpayer with "rights"- I would have done my duty and now I would deserve a certain quality of life. But if I am a sinner saved by sheer grace-then there's nothing he cannot ask of me.' Keller p.182-3
This reminds me of a story I heard on Christian radio in the States a few years ago. Abraham Lincoln as a young man was at a slave market. a Young black woman was for sale, Lincoln was already opposed to slavery but he started bidding. Lincoln out bid all the other bidders and so I bought the young woman. He told her that she was now free to go wherever she wanted and she replied "then I will go with you". I am not sure if that story is true but how like the gospel, we were slaves in debt to God and God paid out price for us. We have our freedom and we cannot replay our debt to God but our response to grace should be one of wonderful obedience to such amazing grace.
in His grip and in His grace

Friday, 20 June 2008

Got the t'shirt, now I've read the book

I recently noticed through a Christianity Today article that Collin Hansen has extended his article Young, Restless and Reformed into a book. The book isn't going to change any ones opinion about the growth of Calvinism amongst young American Christians it does make interesting reading. Its interesting that this is happening on both sides of the Atlantic. Driscoll describes the New Calvinists as different to the old ones in that we like people. Hansen talks to all the big players such as John Piper, Mark Driscoll, Tim Keller, C. J Mahaney but Hansen also talks to people who sit under their ministries. This book is well written and was a joy to read. I hope someone writes something similar on the growth of Calvinism in Britain.


Cultural Diversity and the Book of Acts

Following on from my previous post I just want to show a biblical case for cultural diversity from the book of Acts. Prior to the New Testament Age, God revealed Himself almost exclusively to the people of Israel. There are exceptions such as Melchizedek who worshipped El Elyon, God most High, and Jethro priest of Midian who worshipped YHWH, the name that was revealed to Moses at the burning bush. There are also examples of Gentiles being brought into Jewishness such as Ruth and Naaman, yet the exceptions prove the rule, to be in God's kingdom you needed to be Jewish. Even during Jesus earthly ministry the church is confined to Israel, yet as Jesus is set to return to heaven he commands the disciples to go into Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth. Acts chapter 2 On the day of Pentecost, the eschaton (the last days) arrives and the Gospel is preached to the gathered diaspora. All these Jews from different cultures hear God's word in their own language (they experience a hearing miracle), Babel is reversed. While Peter and the others spoke all these Jews from around the Roman world hear in their own language. The God of Israel accommodates Himself to speak in other languages, the exclusivity of Israel is gone and is replaced with the exclusive message of Jesus, the only name given under heaven by which we can be saved. This continues, Stephen and Philip are appointed as deacons to serve the Hellenistic Jews. Although they are Jews, they are from the nations and therefore have a different culture to the Judean Jews. As the Gospel spreads throughout the book of Acts, we find Samaritans are accepted without having to become Jews. Later Cornelius is converted and experiences something similar to what Peter and the others experienced at Pentecost. Peter realises that the church just went global in spite of his initial resistance. The Ethiopian eunuch experiences conversion when Philip witnesses to him through the book of Isaiah. The eunuch has only the Torah and the gospel message, and baptism to go on. Yet Philip leaves him because the Eunuch has the gospel, according to legend he went back to Ethiopia and planted the church, an essentially Ethiopian church not a Jewish church. Paul in every city he goes to goes to the synagogue but then turns his attention to the gentiles (nations), in each culture the message is the same yet Paul uses local language and poets to speak to them (Acts 17).
At the start of Acts we find a new Church in Israel with a very Jewish understand, by the time we come to the end of Acts we find Paul in Rome, the gospel having spread throughout the Roman World and ready to be taken further. Thankful the message stays the same but the context we do mission or church in varies from culture to culture and from age to age.
God Bless

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Every Tribe and Tongue

Something I think about often is the multicultural, multinational dimensions of the church. One of the sad things about British missionary efforts in the days of the empire was we exported a very British Christianity. Its quite interesting from a British perspective hearing American preachers do the same thing, mixing Biblical Christianity with C21st Americanism. I am sure we Brit's still do that too. I think its one of the strengths of Biblical Christianity that it can cross cultures and transform them without making become, British, or American or Jewish.

These same thoughts are picked up by Tim Keller in his book 'The Reason for God'.

'Why had Christianity, more than any other major religion of the world, been able to infiltrate so many radically different cultures? There is, of course, a core of teachings (the Apostle's Creed, the Lord's prayer, The Ten Commandments) to which all forms of Christianity are committed. Nevertheless, there is a great deal of freedom in how these absolutes are expressed and take form within a particular culture. For example the Bible directs Christians to unite in acts of musical praise, but it doesn't prescribe the meter, rhythm, level of emotional expressiveness, or instrumentation- all this is left to be culturally expressed in a variety of ways.' p.44

Keller goes on to quote historian Andrew Walls "There is no "Christian Culture" the way there is an "Islamic Culture" which you can recognise from Pakistan to Tunisia to Morocco."

I think its wonderful that we do not have that uniformity of the cults, like Mormons who look the same the world over, or J. W's who you can spot from miles away. Our God has made us to worship Him with such freedom of expression, the truth is the same but it is filtered through our individuality and our cultures , all ethnic groups and every culture, can all worship in their own way to the glory of God. God delights in our diversity and so should we.



Wednesday, 11 June 2008

The Reconciling God

I have been looking at 2nd Corinthians 5: 16-21 over the last few days ready for a sermon on Sunday. There are some fantastic portions to this little passage:
1) That it is Christ love that compels (or constrains us), this is the cross, experienced in our own conversion, making us aware of who we were and what it cost to make us new creations.
2) Salvation is all of God. It was God who through the death of His Son reconciles us to the world. I think this passage puts Steve Chalke out of business. The cross isn't cosmic child abuse, or Jesus dying to appease his reluctant Father. The cross is God actively loving the world and reconciling it to himself through the death of his beloved Son in whom He delights in. I always think of Stuart Townend's hymn 'How Deep the Father's love for us' it captures the other aspect of the cross, that the Father turned his face away from the Son, such agony as the perfect eternal fellowship between the Godhead was broken.
3) An Entrusted Message. The message of reconciliation is how Paul terms the gospel in this passage and what a wonderful description of the gospel. It is clear that it is not our gospel but God's. Yet God uses us as ambassadors of Christ, making His appeal through us. What is that appeal "be reconciled to God."
In this passage it is clear that Paul remembers what he was before his conversion, that he was once the chief of sinners, relying on his own righteous deeds and looking with contempt at others especially the crucified Christ. This drove Paul and it should drive us, we were once lost, dead and blind but if we are in Christ we are a new creation. The Old has gone we are now found, alive and seeing. May we remember God's mercy to us and be gracious to those who are lost and in need of Him. So that we can share in this vital ministry of reconciliation.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Important Lessons

I am on the verge of completing my time at HTC, in fact I have sat my last exam and have no more papers due. I have learnt a lot from the classes, the lecturers, and the other students. I was reflecting on these things and realise they have shaped me and will shape my future ministry. Something else that the LORD has used in making me the type of Christian I am are two important things. The first church I ever attended was orthodoxy theologically, yet failed to communicate the love of Jesus to me a young convert with no Christian friends. The next church I attended was very friendly and I settled down there, I soon learnt from reading my Bible that there were some serious theological flaws at this church. I stayed there for three years before moving on again. I hope to have learnt lessons from both, my deep desire is to shape a church with sound biblical teaching and to ensure that the people are loving and welcoming as Jesus is. So that the whosoever of JOHN 3:16 can come to believe and have eternal life.
God Bless