Thursday, December 23, 2010

Bible Ready 2011


Now's the time to be getting ready (printing off) your Bible reading plans for next year so....

...here are some links to Bible Reading Plans - including ones for those with a track record of falling behind or biting-off more than they can chew reading-wise.

Read through the Bible for Shirkers & Slackers (different part of Bible each day of week - not dated so no big sense of falling behind if a day is missed)
http://www.ransomfellowship.org/publications/notes_biblereadingprogram.pdf

The Discipleship Journal Reading Plan - Bible in One Year (readings for 25 days per month so inbuilt catch-up time - also not dated)
http://www.navpress.com/uploadedFiles/15074%20BRP.dj.pdf

NIV Whole Bible in a Year

The McCheyne Plan (whole Bible once & NT & Psalms twice) & others can be found at:
http://www.bibleplan.org/mcheyne.htm

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Best Christmas Joke EVER

Q. What did Adam say to his wife the night before Christmas?

A. It's Christmas Eve!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tips for talks over turkey

Some Christmas faith sharing tips from Andy Lloyd-Williams.

‘always be ready to give a reason to everyone who asks you for the hope that you have...’
(1 Peter 3:15)

Christmas is a time that can present almost unique faith sharing opportunities with non–Christian friends and family. People we care for but might not see that often. In light of this special dynamic, the question we need to ask ourselves is: are we ‘ready’ for Christmas? That is, are we ready to provide reasons for the hope that we have if a family member or close friend asks us what Christmas is really all about?

So here are four bite sized tips, not on how to cook the perfect Christmas day turkey, but more importantly on how to share your Christian faith this Christmas.

Tip 1. Be ready with the Gospel.
A few years ago now, over the Christmas meal table a non-Christian relative asked me the question: ‘Andrew, what does it mean, Jesus died for our sins?’ So I proceeded to draw the answer to this heart stopping, million dollar question on my Christmas napkin - using the classic picture of a stick man on one side of a canyon, God on the other, and Jesus on the Cross bridging the two sides as the only way people can get back to God. Now, whatever picture or explanation you use as you share the Gospel (e.g. ‘2 Ways to Live’ is really good for this), the point is: Be ready to share the gospel in a very simple way. Because if you’re not, who else will? Uncle Bob who has had too many Sherries and is fast asleep on the sofa most certainly won’t be.

Tip 2. Be ready to ‘defend’ the Gospel
Many of the questions we might be asked are likely to be in the realm of apologetics. Can I suggest that we prepare for Christmas with a few answers up our-sleeves. For example, answers to questions about suffering, the exclusiveness of Christianity and science.

Helpful books that deal with these type of questions are: Tim Keller’s ‘The Reason for God’ and Lee Strobel’s ‘A Case for Faith’. Both provide some basic answers to issues that may come up at the Christmas table.

Tip 3. Be ready and not ashamed of the Gospel
Being fearful, ashamed or embarrassed of one’s faith in Christ is not a new phenomenon among Christian people. If it were the NT wouldn’t have needed to encourage the early church with the words, ‘do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord’ (2 Tim 1:8).
Don’t worry what people think! The news of Jesus is ‘good news’, amazing news in-fact, and not something to be embarrassed about.

Many people are looking for answers and are often willing to listen to someone who has a real faith. Additionally, very few people have considered matters of faith to the depth that you will have done in the week to week teaching you get at Church. Not to mention your own personal study.

Remember aggressive ridicule may come from people who are just very insecure about what they don’t know - such as their very own eternal destination. So approach Christmas not with pride, but in a humble confidence in what you do know – not living in fear of what you don’t.

Tip 4. Be ready with but with gentleness and respect
Finally, remember, it is not about trying to win an argument or prove you’ve got all the answers. By doing this we will often lose a person’s respect and ‘turn them off’ Christ. Therefore, having a gentle and respectful manner and attitude is very important.

You need also need to know when it is time to quit. Sensitivity is required to know if someone is enquiring out of a heart of interest, as opposed to scoring some points or arguing just for the sake of it. Make sure the latter is not you!

The Power of Guilt

Times journalist Robert Crampton writes about his decision to cut back on his heavy drinking and points to an unfashionable truth....

Maybe we need to rediscover the motivating power of guilt. The received wisdom these days is that guilt is a pointless emotion. You hear it said all the time and it is totally wrong. Guilt is a valuable resource if used as motivation to stop doing a bad thing. Guilt is the biggest motivation I have used to get myself in order. Summon up your guilt, your shame, and you can use it to overpower desire.
The Times Magazine, 11/12/10.

Of course guilt without the Gospel - is just misery without medicine. But as a starting point for seeing our need to change and pointing us to Jesus then RC has more insight than most modern lifestyle gurus (including some Christian ones) who write today.

See also an old post: The Gospel's Guilty Secret.

Friday, December 10, 2010

SNAG 11th December: CANCELLED

Apologies but due to the weather & continued travel disruption December's SNAG has been cancelled.

Hopefully we can rearrange David Robertson's planned visit another time.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Let the earth be filled with His Praises

This is great...



HT: James Torrens

Friday, November 26, 2010

ebbs out life's little day

The fiercely atheistic writer Christopher Hitches has been given a 1 in 20 chance of still being alive in 5 years time. Suffering from cancer and at the age of 61 he reflects on facing the end in an interview with Jeremy Paxman. His comments while not changing his atheism do seem to me to be a little softer in tone and little less confident. At any rate they make sober reading - bringing home again the awfulness of death if there is really no hope and no God.

The author said his disease did not make him angry, but sober and objective. 'To borrow slightly from Dr Johnston it does concentrate the mind to realise that your time is even more rationed than you thought it was. Everyone has to go sometime. I've always thought that will be a bad day, at least for me. I now have a more pressing idea of what that might be like.'...

He said he feared not death but dying. 'I feel a sense of waste about it because I'm not ready. I feel a sense of betrayal to my family and even to some of my friends who would miss me. Undone things, unattained objectives...'

The realisation of his impending death does not make him regret things he has said or written. 'I mean, I've sometimes had cause to regert saying things or wish I'd said them in a different way but that's part of the ongoing revision of being a writer. I hope. This hasn't prompted me to that, no. Perhaps it should.'

'I'm not afraid of being dead - that's to say there's nothing to be afraid of. I won't know I'm dead, would be my strong conviction. And if I find that I'm alive in any way, well that'll be a pleasant surprise. I quite like surprises.'
From the The Times, 26/11/10, p29

Hebrews 9:27 John 11:25-26 John 3:16-21 1 Corinthians 15:51-57

Pray for Christopher Hitchens.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Preaching to the Heart 2

More from the Kellernator...
Preaching to the Heart – Tim Keller, Oak Hill College, 19/11/08

2. HOW CAN YOU BE BETTER AT PREACHING LIFE RELATED SERMONS


Theology is the answers to the questions we have asked of the text
 So the meaning you attribute to a text – is the answers to the questions you have asked of it
 Not Realtivism – rather Biblical texts contain a surplus of meaning

1. Who do you converse with?
 We are always shaped by our contexts – and thus are our sermons
 The questions we ask of the text are moulded in large part by our situations
 So if you live in a world of theological controversy your sermons will heavily reference those issues – i.e. those were the questions in your mind as you studied the text
 Conversely if you spend time with non-Christians or are involved in pastoral situations – you sermons will reflect that (e.g. they will become more relevant & meaningful to non-Christians)

So beware becoming unbalanced in your focus – read & spend time with a diversity of people.

2. Who do you picture?
 Imagine yourself counselling a particular person with the text you’re studying (imagine the conversation)
 Anticipate the questions a range of people might have about what you’re saying – answer them!

Types of listeners: sensitive non-Christians, immoral pagans, intellectual pagans, non-church nominal Christians, church-going nominal Christians, new Christians, mature Christians, the sick & suffering, the persecuted, the dying, the spiritually dry, the tempted, the backslider….etc etc

3. Do you have 3 perspectives on situational?

Three ways to apply a text
 Doctrinalist: focused on objective truth
 Pietist: focused on inner life
 Cultural Transformationalist: focused on community impact

e.g. Exorcism stories in NT
 Doctrinalist: focuses on: Jesus as God, divine power, no dualism
 Pietist: focuses on: Jesus can free you from the things that enslave you today
 Transformationalist focuses on: Jesus overcomes the evil in the world – how do we challenge evil in society today.

Preachers will tend to be disposed to focus on one aspect –
 need to see all three and apply in all aspects over time (may privilege one at any given time).

Apologetics in your sermon = application for non-Christians

Preaching to the Heart 1

Some notes I took at a Preaching Seminar a while back...
Preaching to the Heart – Tim Keller, Oak Hill College, 19/11/08

Tolkien noted that a good sermon involves:
ART / VIRTUE / KNOWLEDGE

Col 1:28-29
 Admonishing – preaching into lives & situations (SITUATIONAL)
 Labouring – aspect of personal experience and involvement (VIRTUE)
 Teaching – need knowledge / information / objective truth (NORMATIVE)

When you preach – people are assessing you personally
 Evangelicals don’t like that – tend to belittle the Situational & Virtue aspects
 i.e. it should just be about the truth I speak – but the reality is you can’t separate the message from yourself or your listeners

U.S. preaching – often excessively situational
 Big emphasis on performance / moving people emotionally / being anecdotal
 Big weakness is that it lacks knowledge
 Our weakness, on the other hand, is often we lack situational invlovement

NEW PREACHERS
 Main complaint – good exegesis but lacking in application
 The sermons are boney & lack flesh – their word hasn’t become flesh
 Can be due to lack of personal / pastoral experience

Jonathan Edwards: purpose of sermon not just to make truth clear but to make it real
 Purpose in preaching is to change people even as they listen

APPLICATION
 Shouldn’t be tacked on the end of our preparation
 But should be in our minds at the beginning of our preparation

Dt 29:29 - Revealed things are there to be obeyed / put into practise / followed
Therefore – there is no part of God’s revelation that is not practical
 Everything in the Bible is application
 Thus: if you don’t know how a text is to be applied then you haven’t understood it!
 Application & Meaning are not different.

Word / Act theory
 i.e. Knowing the definition of a word is not the same as understanding the intention behind its use
 e.g. Can study a Psalm and breakdown language / understand context – but then need to ask what is the Psalm designed to do?

First part of sermon – says what you need to do
 Second part – says this is how to do it (i.e. go to Jesus)

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Holiness Elephant in the Room

Over on Cave Adullam John Thomson has a link to a clip of John Piper. In it Piper expresses his fears about the disconnect between the seemingly great appreciation of God’s majesty many younger evangelicals have and their lifestyles. That is, while in many places there has been a great awakening to the greatness of God (something expressed in great worship songs and a revival of Biblical orthodoxy) – it has not been matched by the same zeal and rigour for practical holiness (e.g. what we watch or how we dress). A discrepancy that Piper fears might be the undoing of this new movement.

It may be that Piper’s comments will open a fresh debate on what holiness actually looks like on a day to day level. If so, we should welcome it because there is a real danger of a conspiracy of silence among us about 'this elephant in the room'.

In the flight (rightly so) from legalism many evangelicals have felt it necessary to adopt a very privatized concept of holiness. That is, we have created a disconnect between our habits and our hearts. So just like the Corinthians of old – we can protest that our Monday to Saturday practices have little bearing on our Sunday spiritual health. The result is that while few today could seriously accuse mainline evangelical churches of excessive legalism – neither could they accuse us of great distinctiveness in lifestyles. Our habits and aspirations too often neatly camouflage the inner beliefs we profess.

Already I sense unease, in myself and in those likely to read this, we are all vulnerable here – even to raise questions is tantamount to throwing the first stone, better to say nothing and at least you won’t be accused of hypocrisy or worse ‘being judgmental. ‘For in the same way as you judge others you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will measured against you’ (Mt 7:2). So it's with acute sensitivity to my own shortcomings that I write this – but the alternative is a paralyzing collusion in which no-one speaks. All the while we keep on following the fashions, watching the programmes and films, consuming the same luxuries, and speaking in the same categories as our non-Christian neighbours and colleagues.

I watch the X-Factor and enjoy much of it – but some of it troubles me. It is so of the world with its glamour, power worship, pursuit of fame, money and success. I wince at the some of the fashions of the female participants – so clearly wearing ‘a man’s idea’ of what looks good on a woman. We sit pretending to be highbrow philosophers, as if the fact that we are observing deliberately sexualized (often teenage) women, is no more than a cultural curiosity to us.

This assumed-naivety extends into our own wardrobes. A generation ago many of today's mainline High Street fashions would only have been seen in the sex industry. Fashions, clothes specifically designed to reveal rather than conceal, used in that industry precisely because they were intended to lure & titillate. Fast forward twenty years and they are not unknown in churches. Of course, we are far too enlightened and liberated to suggest they might jar with verses such as 1 Tim 2:9.

Is this a call to return to a cultural ghetto, to become Amish-like, cut-off from the world around us, a curious and obsolete bunch wishing back the days of Queen Victoria? No, we should be modern people, we should be informed people, we should be people who enjoy all the good things of creation (1 Tim 4:5). But we should be different. A people whose mental energies and time are invested in true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy things (Php 4:8). Those who give no quarter to sinful cravings, the lust of the eyes, or self-promotion (1 Jn 2:15-17). Such things necessitate making lifestyle choices – and it is those choices that Piper rightly senses need to be spoken about rather than ignored.

Friday, October 29, 2010

What are you waiting for?

Judges 4&5
Israel is oppressed – under the lash & chariots of Sisera. After 20 years of defeat the people cry to the Lord for help. The Lord’s response comes as it always does by His word to His servants. Deborah commands Barak to raise an army and take on Sisera at the Kishon River. But Barak is hesitant - God’s promise is not reassuring enough it seems. He’ll go but only if Deborah ‘holds his hand’ (4:8). Barak wants the security of Deborah - maybe he thinks of her as a lucky charm, maybe he's insecure & wants someone of Deborah's status to back him up, perhaps he just wants someone to blame if it all goes wrong. So Deborah will go but as they say, ‘no guts no glory’. The Lord will do His work, but if Barak needs a woman to back him up (remember it’s c1100BC), then it will be a women who gets the honour (4:9).

We know the story - Sisera’s army is routed and the great scourge of Israel is unceremoniously killed by Jabel and her camping equipment. It’s a great victory but in it (as increasingly happens in Judges) there are worrying signs starting to appear among Israel’s leaders. Despite clear guidance from God – Barak wobbles. Taking on Sisera was clearly a risk – so unless he can cover his back and dilute the responsibility he is not willing to take it.

This prevarication ran throughout many parts of Israel it seems. Where was Reuben? Keeping warm and searching his heart (5:15). Where was Gilead? Staying beyond the Jordan (5:17). Where was Dan? Lingering by the ships (5:17). Where was Asher? Staying put at the seaside (5:17). Thankfully there were those like Zebulun and Naptali ready to risk their lives (5:18).

Barak & Israel got there in the end – Praise the Lord. But for Barak and the tribes fretting at the back it was a victory tinged with an element of 'could have been so much better'.

What has God laid on your heart? What is God's word saying to you? Where are you being called to go? What is the Spirit prompting you to do?

So who / what are you waiting for?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Training Day For Bible Teachers

Don't miss this great opportunity to hone and develop your skills in handling the Bible - open to all who teach the Bible in any capacity or who just have an appetite to understand and apply the Bible properly.

Saturday 6th November - 9.30pm to 4.00pm, in Greenview.

Reserve your space or get more info: andy.hunter@greenviewevangelicalchurch.co.uk
Cost £10.00 (bring pack lunch)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Evangelical Eggheads

Forget the X-Factor - the Big One is finally coming to a TV near you - Wed 3rd November, 6pm BBC2

-------------------------------------
From Jan 2010

In an increasingly desperate attempt to gain sermon anecdotes I took part in BBC2's smash hit series 'Eggheads' (what do you mean you've never heard of it?). Our team was mainly Greenview men along with Phil from Netherauldhouse and Graeme from Peter MacDonald's work.

Below with the Eggheads (various Mastermind winners etc) and host Jeremy Vine.


Jeremy Vine commented on the fact that we were from an evangelical church by mentioning that his parents would have 'taken him down that route' - interesting. I'm afraid though, I can't tell you how we did - you'll just have to watch it! When it's aired hasn't been decided yet - but I'll be sure to post details here as soon as I know.

Below: getting ready for preaching on Sunday morni... eh, for the studio, obviously!


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Christianese

Picked up a copy of Private Eye recently and was reminded how overused jargon infuses every aspect of life - including some of our favourite Christian buzz-words. One of which PE has dedicated a column to!

COMMUNITIES
'We know you'll enjoy using the scheme and feeling part of the Barclays Cyle Hire community' (Welcome letter to users of Boris Johnson's London bike hire Scheme)

'We encourage the tented community to stay vigilant, look out for each other and befriend neighbours' (Festival organiser, Guardian)

'As one member of the hedge community puts: 'if you've got one yew tree next door, you've had it' (Anti-leylandii campaigner, The Times)

'The seizure is sending shockwaves through the super yacht community' (Offshore Red magazine).

Private Eye, October 2010

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Community Litter Pick-up

Thanks to all those who helped with last Saturday's Community Clean-up in Pollokshaws. A great time of fellowship and a really practical way to show God's care for the city.

Next Clean-up is planned for Spring 2011.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Quotes for Preachers

Biblical preaching is taking people to the Bible
and talking them through what it means

‘They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read’
Nehemiah 8:8

‘I take it for granted that we will have a text. For we are not speculators but expositors’
J Stott

Great Bible teachers have all been people of study

For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching
its decrees and laws in Israel’
Ezra 7:10

‘He who has ceased to learn has ceased to teach. He who no longer sows in the study will no more reap in the pulpit.’
CH Spurgeon

If I had only three years to serve the Lord, I would spend two of them studying and preparing’
DG Barnhouse, quoted by Billy Graham

Seeing that you cannot by any other means compass the doing of so weighty a work, pertaining to the salvation of man, but with doctrine and exhortation taken out of the holy Scriptures, and with a life agreeable to the same, consider how studious ye ought to be in reading and learning the Scriptures..’
CofE Ordinal, 1662 – Exhortation from Bishop to Candidates for Ministry


If a sermon looks easy and straightforward it’s because of all the work
that has gone into it.

‘cases are won in chambers’
JH Jowett, Judge

‘too lazy, to proud, too pious – all causes of poor preparation’
J Stott

Expect criticism

People will begin to take sides, objections to you and to what you preach, and how you preach it, will become increasingly plausible (but quite irrational when you consider them). Your manner, length and style of preaching etc, will all be torn to shreds’ …
…your quiet persistence will be a sign that you believe God has a purpose of grace for this people, and that this purpose will be promoted, not by gimmicks, or stunts, or new ideas, but by the Word of God released in preaching by prayer’
(W Still)

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Dissecting Discontentment

Discontented about your church? Increasingly negative and critical about it? Has your church become a sore point in your life rather than a source of joy? Is the mention of your church a trigger for complaint rather than compliment?

Now I’m assuming here that it still preaches the Gospel and holds to Biblical truth, that it encourages and provides opportunities for prayer, worship, evangelism, service, that its leaders are men of godly example who have shepherd hearts for the flock. I assuming that things are generally done with ‘decency & order', that the means of grace are still administered, and that basic utilities in the place you meet are provided.

Yet despite all that, thoughts of your church still weary rather than energise you. If so, here are few points for reflection:

1. A lack of realism. You didn’t expect the church to be perfect did you? After all it’s full of recovering sinners just like yourself. It brings together the whole spectrum – new Christians, carnal Christians, struggling Christians, distracted Christians, over-burdened Christians, shy Christians, in-your-face Christians – all of whom you have to deal with, work with & live with – so things won’t always be done brilliantly or to your liking – and why should they be?

As frustrating as that may feel it’s actually a core part of your sanctification. De Young & Kluck observe the trend for customised spirituality – e.g. I left the church and have never been nearer to God. But this notion of only being part of something or associating with those people that I’m totally comfortable with is just a recipe for selfishness. That kind of ‘discipleship’ never sanctified anyone. It is the very process of having to compromise, accommodate, accept and forgo our rights & preferences that God uses to change us from self-centred people to Christ-like people. It's a sobering thought that the church you dream of is actually the one least likely to do you any good.

2. A misunderstanding of ‘church’. You think of church firstly as an organisation rather than an organism. This means you get stressed when things are ‘messy’. But churches tend to defy management (ask any pastor) – or else become so tightly managed that as one writer says, ‘the Holy Spirit could get up and leave and no-one would notice much’. But the church (that is, Spirit-filled people in community) is a living and dynamic thing. The fruit of the Spirit is a work of the Spirit – who blows wherever He pleases. In God’s providence the doors we want to open remain closed (e.g. Bithynia) and the ones we hadn’t planned for open (e.g. Macedonia).

3. Pride. We are not in control.

4. Envy. Others seem to be.

5. Believing the hype. You read the blueprint books on ministry (‘How I Built My Totally Awesome Church’) – and you think it all actually happens like that. At college a friend of mine did research on a mega-church’s Small Group Structure. He read the notes that talked about people in the SGs visiting each other in hospital, going bowling together at weekends - in short being amazing close-knit communities of day to day pastoral support. Impressed, my friend emailed a contact at said church to ask more – the reply, ‘in reality that virtually never happens’. A great aspiration on paper, one or two fleeting examples even. But people aren’t more spiritual because they go to a church with glossy leaflets.

6. Too much at the centre. Ultimately we will only be content when God is at the centre of our lives. Just as a pay rise, a new pair of shoes or even a new partner won’t ultimately make us content – neither will running the church a bit better. Ministry itself can be an idol – it can start to define our identity rather than our relationship with Christ. Discontentment can also arise when other things crowd the centre of our hearts – materialism, worldly ambition, bitterness etc. Are we really discontent because of the church or just with our lives? The ‘Oprah-isation’ of culture encourages us to believe that any problems or shortcomings we have must be someone else’s fault. So spiritual dissatisfaction can easily lead to the thought – ‘this must be my church’s fault’.

Usually when I’ve written blogs on such matters – the reaction has been ‘cat among the pigeons’ stuff – whereas my blog denying the Trinity went unnoticed! (that last bit is a joke by the way). I read an article recently about the temptation to divert attention away from your own faults by hitting back against some perceived weakness in others. Well God knows my heart and I hope that is not the case here. Because this is not a blog about the value of good practise or organisation in churches – all of which I endorse. Rather it’s a blog about the danger of loading too much spiritual significance on such things – and the danger of unbiblical expectations than can needlessly rob us of the joy we should have in being part of Christ’s body on earth – the church of the living God – the community of saints. How bad could that ever be?!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Be a Classy Christian

‘Form is temporary. Class is Permanent’
Paul McGinley (Ryder Cup Vice-Captain)*

Thus was McGinley’s reply when asked if he was concerned about the current form (so close to a final decision on the Ryder Cup Team) of players such as Harrington and Rose. The implication of his reply being that when considering the Ryder Cup you look at the big picture, at history itself – rather than who happened to have a good game last week.

The great players, the ones we remember, the ones who really left a legacy - had ‘class’. That is, they had an ongoing consistency over the longer term that meant even when they were down they were never out. I remember reading a definition of champions – ‘they are the players who most consistently minimise the gap between ability and performance’. Many are the players who have a great tournament only to fade into obscurity afterwards. They clearly had great ability but were unable to consistently produce it when it mattered.

So much for the sporting psychology – but perhaps there is something here for Christians to ponder. Christians are called to service, faithfulness, holiness, to be ‘doers of the word, not hearers only’. Now these are attributes that are, to say the least, often challenging for us. None of us will have a 100% record in any of these areas – we all have bad days, weeks, months – and we all have better days, weeks, month (as we seek to live out the implications of God’s free forgiveness & grace). Our ‘form’ can be great on Sunday evening – only for it to nose-dive on Monday morning. Which, of course, is one of the great frustrations in life.

Now ‘form’ matters – it matters how we speak to someone at any given point, it matters how we react in specific situations, it matters whether we pray or read our Bible today. But what matters most is whether there is a consistency in our form over the longer term – whether the overall pattern of our ‘form’ equals ‘class’. Because in a time of ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ faith, over-night ministry sensations, and boom & bust church – we desperately need Christians with Class.

Even John Piper can be off-form in the pulpit from time to time – but nobody doubts he has ‘class’. You and I will let people down on occasions, we will get it wrong, we will disappoint in various situations as we go through life – but what is the overall pattern – consistently inconsistent or consistently consistent?

Great sportsmen are the ones who tie together ability & performance. In Christ and through the Spirit – Christians have been given the ability needed to live in a God-honouring way. We can do it – our moments of good form prove it! The challenge, the invitation - is to so draw on God’s own resources and power that such moments become increasingly the norm.

Most of us are spiritually smart enough to recognize that moments of good Christian form in church are no substitute for consistent Christian class in life. It’s upon the latter that real spiritual legacies will be built and truly Christ-honouring reputations founded. So don't despair when you blow it and don't get puffed up when you do well - what counts is whether over the long term you'll be a Christian who has class.

*The Times, Sports Section, p24 (28th Aug 2010).

Sunday, August 15, 2010

An Elder's CV

A succinct and illuminating talk by Sinclair B. Ferguson on the qualities we should seek in our elders...

See: THE CHURCH AND ITS LEADERSHIP

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Zambia 2010

Back in Zambia for the annual Pro-Christo Conference. Over the next few days I'll be hearing reports from Pro-Christo missionaries from all over Southern Africa & beyond, along with contributing with Bible teaching and workshops.

A busy week so far has involved preaching at a local church, painting a school building, helping at a field dental clinic (42 extractions in 2 hours), visting the GLO college in the Copperbelt and leading some student devotional times. It's been great to catch-up with Melvin Chiombe and he was hugely appreciative of the gift raised by Greenview members and others through the Ben Nevis climb.

Once again the folks at Pro-Christo are an inspiration with their heart for Mission and their willingness to make great sacrifices for the kingdom.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Joshua Project

Past the gap year stage - settled in a church - but would like to keep progressing and developing your ministry skills and ability to handle the Bible? Then The Joshua Project could be an ideal way forward.


It's a two year programme of evening classes spread through the year from Sept to June.
It has a significant Biblical and Theological core (75%).
It allows specialisation in one of three streams - Preaching, Pastoral or Mission (25%).


The course will be lead by a range of experienced church & college leaders.


Further info and an application form can be obtained from:
The “Joshua Project”
Tilsley College
GLO Centre
78 Muir Street
MOTHERWELL
ML1 1BN

college@glo-europe.org

Candidates are asked to sign up by 6th Sept if possible.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Unhappy with your church?

Do you feel disgruntled about your church (or has it just been a while since you felt gruntled)? Are you tending to the uninvolved and dissatisfied end of church life? Does the idea of shaking off church structures, tiresome meetings and lackluster ways of operating, increasingly appeal?

Then let me recommend 'Why we love the Church' by Kevin DeYoung & Ted Kluck (Moody Publishers 2009). Two men on a mission to get you to love the church again (that includes the people in it by the way, all of them!) After all they say, 'Who wants a friend who rolls his eyes and sighs every time your wife enters the room? Apparently, some people imagine Jesus want friends like that. They roll their eyes and sigh over the church. (p12)

WWLTC is no whitewash of the church's faults but as they say, 'We sympathise with some of the frustration. But we also hope to show that the frustration is sometimes out of proportion to the offense and at other times misguided' (p15).

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Summit Fever

Saturday 26th June 2010 - sponsored climb of Ben Nevis in support of Pro-Christo Bible College in Zambia. Thanks to all who supported the team with sponsorship and other donations.

L-R: Hazel & Andy Lloyd-Williams, Norman Wilson, Ken McPhail, Andy Hunter & David McMinn.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Take off your sandals (Exodus 3:5)

Here’s a blog arising from a bit of ‘Knight’s move’ thinking.

I had grabbed my shoes in preparation to leave the house, but then had one of those pangs that said, 'before you rush out to XX, you should pray'. So I sat down, but started to pull on my shoes - thinking ahead! – and the above verse pops into my head. I’d always wondered what the significance was in ‘taking off your shoes’ in God’s presence. The commentaries observe it is an ancient middle-eastern custom signifying respect – but why / how is never really explained.

Then it occurred to me that when you take off your shoes – you’re not going anywhere quickly. Taking off your shoes generally signifies ‘staying put’, at least for a while. So I sheepishly slipped my shoes off to push back the temptation to rattle off a quick prayer before springing up and out the door. Now of course, prayers said in socks are no more spiritual than those said in brogues. But perhaps there is a principle here (even if not from Ex 3) – i.e. God’s presence is a place to take time in. God is not someone to give a hurried nod to as we bustle between activities. Those times when we ‘connect’ with God are not to be regarded as interludes between the real business of life – but should slow us down to place of unhurriedness.

The issue isn’t so much about the amount of minutes spent (although that’s not completely irrelevant) but about the sense of stopping, giving our full attention, sensing the reality and the greatness of the One in whose presence we have paused. So maybe, now and again, slipping our shoes off when we stop to pray would be a little way of saying, ‘Like Moses, I’m in the presence of a Holy & Fearful God, and if that doesn’t stop me in my tracks nothing will’.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Summer Sunday Evenings in Greenview

6 Studies on Minor Prophets with great speakers.

Monday, June 14, 2010

1A or not 1A, that is the question...

Why it’s vital that every member votes in the Building Options Ballot

The ballot papers are out – with a deadline of 27th June. The elders proposal is ‘Option 1A’, but there is also the choice to vote for ‘No Building at this time’ or ‘Option 2’.

Option 1A would provide…
i. Additional capacity for services (no more standing at the back, splitting up groups of visitors at 11.28am, sitting with a 10 year old on your knee, waving to your spouse three rows back etc), room for growth and special events. The potential for more people to sit under God’s Word.
ii. Classrooms – no more Sunday Schools classes sitting on the upstairs landing, potential for more age-specific groups, better facilities for teaching generally. Ground level rooms for community groups. Potential for dedicated crèche.
iii. Café area – customized & clutter free, freeing up current main hall for possible expanded Tots ministry, indoor games use and clubs area - all potentially complimented by café. Extra space for training and seminars (e.g. on Sunday mornings).
iv. Enclosed open area (safe outside play-zone for kids, overflow for café, attractive focal point giving space and light)
v. Extra & disabled toilet facilities.
vi. Extended kitchen area.
vii. Built-in extra storage.


But whether you feel greatly enthused, lukewarm or cynical about the plans – it’s really important that you return your voting paper, because…

1. We all need to take responsibility. Being a member of Greenview is to have a formal stake in the church which meets at 1439 Pollokshaws Rd. This means that all members have ‘ownership’ in the church and its future. A decision to build new facilities isn’t someone else’s responsibility or concern – it’s yours.

2. We need clarity – this would be a big step and the clearer we can be about making it (or not) the better. In one sense a resounding ‘no’ would be better than a half-hearted ‘yes’ based on a weak turnout. The elders have presented their thinking on this and the plans have been circulated – what is needed now is for the members ‘to speak’ and give a clear statement of their own position.

3. We need boldness – it’s a big project and that can daunt us. But don’t hold back from voting because you’re not sure if it’s feasible. If the proposal to build seems a good & sensible option to you – then prayerfully dig deep and pledge what you can. After that it’s out your hands if the big numbers don’t add up – but unless we’re individually bold it won’t have a chance.

4. We need faith – if it is God’s will for us to move forward in this way then we can be confident that He will provide. The Lord multiplied the few loaves & fishes and cherished the widow’s mite.

5. We need a legacy – what will be our mark on Pollokshaws and gift to our children? Now of course, a building extension is not the only way to achieve a legacy, but we have an opportunity to do what the Christians who bought Greenview Hall did, to do what the members in the 1990’s did – and bequeath a facility in which and from which gospel work can increasingly grow, develop and reach out. We are all the beneficiaries of the many gospel ministries we enjoy in Greenview today and which are possible because of the facilities left by others.

But whether you see the current proposal as the right way forward or not – you need to speak (vote!) so that this decision is made by all of us.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Toppling the little gods

Last night at Greenview we were looking at 1 Samuel 7. We noted, among other things, that in seeking the Lord the Israelites were called on to put away their idols. Israel had been struggling for 20 years – the Ark of God, symbolic of their relationship with God Himself, parked up in Kiriath Jearim. Life had been infiltrated in the meantime by a bunch of little gods. It was upon these Baals & Ashtoreths that Israel had pinned its hopes for ‘success’ in life. For a 10th century BC Israelite it was these little gods who offered the promise of good crops, freedom from disease & personal safety. Now, of course, in 2010 we have Asda, the NHS and Theresa May to look after such concerns – but let’s be in no doubt our own little gods are still ‘alive & kicking’.

The little gods of ‘recognition’, ‘possessions’, ‘beauty’, ‘status’, ‘pleasure’, to name some of the more obvious ones, still clamour for our affections, energies and time. These are the little gods that promise to deliver us happiness, a sense of value, significance and meaning in life – if we simply attend to their shrines.

A while back the peace & quite of an afternoon stroll in the park was interrupted – moving along the road came a blinged-up hatchback, inside two young guys with shades and designer gear, one hand on steering wheel, the other arm casually resting on the open window, all accompanied by the thump thump of music pounding out from the car stereo. Two guys, whose gods (at that moment) were so clearly ‘self image’ & ‘possessions’. The whole scenario was one of people whose sense of self-worth, having value & being significant was totally bound up in looking cool, being admired, and having the desired kit. In other words, ‘I will be worth something if other people think I’m worth something – my life will have significance if others are impressed by me’.

We might not be quite so blatant in showing our neediness – but the little gods are never far away from most of us. The little gods that say, ‘recognition is what you need, if you get recognition you’ll be happy’. So pursue ‘recogntion’, make sure you get it – serve the god of recognition. The reality is of course that the little gods only ever deliver – insecurity, competition, vulnerability & stress.

Israel had to put away its little gods and turn to the only one who can give settled peace, security, value & significance – the Lord. For them it involved a physical clear-out – statues & shrines consigned to the skip. But it would entail more than that – patterns of behavior, daily schedules and their very mindset would need to be changed. Putting away idols in Israel would entail much more than a change of décor. It would require determined, conscious and tenacious decision making in their ongoing lives.

If we know anything about ourselves it is that the same will true. Toppling our little gods will require the same kind of thought-through planning and choices. It will mean, for example, that….

1. Having performed some act kindness or having been servant-hearted or sacrificial in some area of life or ministry, that no matter how much it ‘kills us’ and goes against the grain of our natural instincts – WE WON’T MENTION IT!
2. That having come into some money or realizing we had more than we thought, that rather than it being another opportunity to treat ourselves – WE GIVE IT AWAY!
3. That having received an invitation to some cool social event, but there being a Christian activity to which we had already planned to attend & we know needs support – WE TURN IT DOWN!

These things are hard for us, precisely because they defy all that the little gods want us to do and tell us will actually make us happy. But only by such determined, premeditated and flesh-denying decisions will the little gods be put away in our lives.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Personal Failure

'I’m convinced most serious Christians live their lives with an almost constant low-level sense of guilt.'

Words from Kevin DeYoung in another excellent blog on 'Feeling Guilty' . It's a helpful blog because it addresses a very real issue for so many of us - labouring under a weight of expectation (often our own & sometimes other's) about the kind of Christians we feel we ought to be. I feel guilty because...

1. I don't feel I pray enough - I'm sure that's objectively true a lot of the time - but what is 'enough';

2. I don't feel I'm organised enough - there are 100 & 1 mini-projects, visits, books to read, etc etc - that I never seem to get around to. I can generally 'be on top of' 3 or 4 things at any one time - beyond that I'll be in 'shambling buffon' mode - which is unfortunate when you're supposed to be competently involved in about 20 different issues at any given point;

3. I don't feel inspirational or dynamic enough - in the world of Driscoll, Piper, Dever & Warren it's hard not to feel like a bumbling dullard;

4. I don't feel I'm networked enough - where to start? Where do people get the energy (never mind the hours) to do the basic job, pastor a wife & kids, fit in the hobby that well-balanced people are supposed to have!, and keep up with the 'movers & shakers';

5. I don't feel I'm evangelistic enough - Bible teachers are generally intimated by evangelists. Notions of parts of the body having equal honour go out the window here - evangelists 'do it', they are the 'real thing', their ministry area is the one that gets results! Nobody would dream of expressing disappointment or disapproval because a person gifted as an evangelist doesn't cut it as a preacher - but turn the tables!

I could go on (this is really just therapy for me but you get to look in). There is a tension of course - in many areas my old sinful nature does need 'a kicking' at times. 'Self-deprecation can be used as a smokescreen for negligence (e.g. we are called to do the 'work' of an evangelist whether we're good at it or not!). But nevertheless there is the reality that actually we will - in ourselves- never be good enough. Our contributions are not sufficient, our efforts not adequate, our abilities not requisite.

So we must first preach to ourselves what we preach to others - in Christ my sins are forgiven, my failures are compensated, and my deficiencies made up. My usefulness & value to God is not my output, organisation, ministry connections, or array of spiritual gifts - but in being identified with & dependent on Christ. It is both immensely humbling and incredibly liberating. It is grace.

As Tim Keller puts it:
When my own personal grasp of the gospel [grace] was very weak, my self-view swung wildly between two poles. When I was performing up to my standards – in academic work, professional achievement, or relationships – I felt confident but not humble. I was likely to be proud and unsympathetic to people. When I was not living up to standards, I felt humble but not confident, a failure. (The Reason for God, p180)

Only a tenacious hold on grace in our lives will allow us to be both humble and confident. When we grasp grace then we can start to live with the underlying emotion in our lives being gratitude rather than guilt.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Political Failure

It was interesting to note how many times during the recent election campaign that politicians referred to the need to renew 'a failed / discredited political system'. It was the same approach as that taken during the Expenses Scandal itself - i.e. 'the current system of expenses has failed'. The implication being that well meaning politicians (from all parties) had been victims of a defective working structure. In other words, the politicians weren't to blame it was the environment in which they were forced to operate.

But of course not all politicians submitted dubious or dishonest claims - yet they worked within the same structures. The reality is that the 'system' did not fail - the people in it did. What hope for a society whose elected law-makers are no longer trusted to make fair and honest judgements about their own expenditure? Like primary school children, MPs will now be constantly supervised in order to stop them misbehaving - the notion of self-restraint can no longer be applied to highest offices of public service.

None of this, of course, is a surprise to those who know their Bibles. King David was just one of a long line of rulers who found that it was easier to govern a nation than their own hearts. If ever we wanted a picture of human fallenness our current politics gives us it. Well-off comfortable people who use power & privilege for self-enrichment - and then claim to be victims when caught.

The answer, of course, is ultimately not more rules but the Gospel. The Gospel that confronts human sinfulness without excuses. The Gospel that reorientates our view of ourselves, others and the world around us - so our value is no longer in what we possess & accumulate but in being precious to God; so others are no longer to be exploited & used but to be served and esteemed; and where this world is under God's rule and thus a world in which we will be held accountable to Him for all we do. The Gospel that offers forgiveness from all our greed and selfishness - and which offers the ability to live righteously not under compulsion but freely out of Spirit given desires.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Soul

Check out this trailer for the new Youth Christianity Explored Course 'Soul' - looks top notch.



See HERE for more details.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Powerpoint Pitfalls

The above is a genuine powerpoint slide produced by the US military. It is being widely seen as an extreme example of the pitfalls of such management tools. US Brig. Gen McMaster notes that such use of Powerpoint is 'dangerous because it can create the illusuion of understanding and the illusion of control'. Other commanders noted that PPt discourages decision making and keeps officers preoccuppied making up slides. Perhaps some food for thought for church leaders too!
Metro Newspaper, p3 (29/4/10)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Who to vote for...

Some sage advice from my four year old son as he observed me watching yet another TV programme on the election....

Peter: (Looking at TV) Is that the election?
Me: Yes, who do think I should vote for?
Peter: Jesus!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Allan McKinnon Blog

Allan McKinnon is a church leader, Missionary, Swahili speaker, writer, academic, Bible college builder & teacher - in short, an all round ministry dynamo!

So check out his blog: THE WORD IS NEAR YOU

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

You gotta love 'em...

Dara O'Briain meets Gordon Ramsay and reflects on Alpha males...

Ramsay was charming and friendly and buzzed around in that way 'alpha males' characteristically do: dictating the pace, talking non-stop and telling you stuff you already knew about your own job... I call it the 'Let me tell you about that' opening.

You meet an alpha male and they'll say hello and ask what you do. You'll say 'Nurse' or 'Air Traffic Controller' or 'Pope'. And then the alpha male will immediately go, 'Let me tell you about nursing/aeroplanes/delivering Mass in the Vatican....'

Tickling the English, p187

Monday, April 19, 2010

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Bible in '60 minutes' (OT)

Recently at Greenview myself & Allan McKinnon attempted to cover the entire Bible over two evenings (it was, to be honest, a bit over 60mins but 'The Bible in 115mins' didn't sound quite as catchy). Anyway below are the links to the first 4 parts covering the Old Testament...

PERFECT DAY (CREATION)

PARADISE LOST (THE FALL)

PICKING UP THE PIECES (ISRAEL)

GLIMMERS OF HOPE (THE PROPHETS)

You can also just click on them on the audio player above.
Note if you click the above links you may need to refresh the Podcast page if it says 'error').

The New Testament sections will follow soon.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Death to Performance

A great talk by Scott Thomas (Director of Acts 29) - on the danger of 'success' driving our ministries. At the end he notes this contrast between a 'Performance Driven Church' (PDC) and a 'Gospel Driven Church' (GDC)...

PDC = leaders appear to have it all together
GDC = leaders are vulnerable, honest about failures

PDC = reputation and respectability paramount
GDC = unashamedly messy

PDC = services are polished performances
GDC = services are just one aspect of church life

PDC = failure is devastating / identity is ministry
GDC = failure disappointing but not devastating / identity is in Jesus

PDC = action is driven by duty
GDC = action is driven by joy

PDC = conflict surpressed or ignored
GDC = conflict addressed openly

PDC = focus is on appearing / looking good
GDC = focus is on goodness & grace of God

The talk starts a bit slow (our American brothers do love their extended anecdotes!) but is well worth the time to listen through. DEATH TO PERFORMANCE - SCOTT THOMAS

Friday, April 02, 2010

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The word on the street...

On Friday 19th March an email started falling into the in-boxes of Christians. I received the message from at least three different sources (and forwarded it on to a few friends myself). The news being circulated was of an American street preacher arrested in Glasgow. The charge was of stirring up homophobic hatred. The exact context isn’t clear (at least to me), one source said the preacher was preaching on Romans 1, another that he quoted it in response to a question. Whatever the exact scenario - he was given a night in the cells before being brought before the Sherriff Court. Despite advice from one Christian legal organization to plead ‘innocent’, it seems that he was advised by the court lawyer to plead guilty. He also felt the additional pressure of a possible eight week delay were he to contest the charge when he had travel arrangements in place for his return home (this is all just what I’ve pieced together from website comments on the incident: http://luketentwo.com/2010/03/19/out-of-jail/#comments).

So he plead guilty to stirring up homophobic hatred, took a £1000 fine (paid for by supporters) and headed back to the USA. As the exact details of the incident are still unclear, and bearing in mind the real sense of intimidation that arrest & imprisonment must have presented, plus the legal advice given to him by the 'court', we ought not to be quick to judge him. Few of us comfortable UK Christians have had to face such circumstances and hindsight is a wonderful thing! Unfortunately many of the above website comments swing from lionizing him to depicting him as some latter day Judas – neither of which seems appropriate.

However, it’s hard to get away from the sense that this is a sorry situation – one that leaves us with the worst of all worlds. A Christian preacher is lifted in a Glasgow street and subsequently admits to homophobic hate crime – leaving a worrying precedent (pragmatically if not legally) for the police and opponents of the Gospel to be emboldened by. At the very least Christian evangelists and open air workers will have to be very wary of ‘being set up’ for similar treatment.

All of which brings me to my main though on this – the need for us to be very wise in how we speak about and respond to such ‘hot button’ issues. As I said I’m not clear exactly on how the exchange of views came about in the above incident – e.g. was the preacher provoked or just provocative? So what I say is not to prejudge that incident.

But there can be a tendency to think that when it comes to Biblical teaching the blunter we can be the better – so we should just give it straight with no regard to context. After-all, the thinking goes, truth is truth and woe betide me if I in anyway ‘soften it’ or avoid presenting it with full force. So if someone asks me about adultery, my response should be to denounce it with the full force of an Old Testament prophet – I will have discharged the truth and the rest is in God’s hands.

But is that the model of Jesus, for example? Jesus, of course, spoke some pretty blunt words at times (although mainly to religious opponents rather than irreligious ones) – but He was wary of falling into traps. On one occasion he was ‘set-up’ with a question about paying taxes to the Romans – a sneaky ruse to entice Him to fall foul of the authorities (Mk 12:13ff). But He was smarter than to take such bait, instead He answered with careful nuance & balance - thus avoiding a quick answer that would play into His opponents hands. On another occasion he was asked a question about His authority in an attempt to bring charges against Him. Jesus avoided answering with a question of His own, putting the focus on their inconsistency, rather than compromising His ability to continue His ministry at that point (Mk 11:27ff).

The point is that Jesus didn’t ‘dance to the tune’ of those trying to bring Him down – He knew when a quick or unqualified answer, however truthful, was not one to give. So when we are asked about our views on ‘hot button’ issues we need to think: Why am I being asked this, what is the agenda here, how helpful will a blunt answer be? Gospel communication is not just about disseminating a set of facts – it also involves persuasion, applying truth sensitively and recognizing the context (agenda) of your hearers. Because in facing the ‘wolves’ we are to be ‘shrewd as snakes' as well 'as innocent as doves’ (Mt 10:16).

Monday, March 22, 2010

snagtastic

Another great series of SNAG has ended - with a superb Biblical exposition of the Second Coming by Edward Lobb. Another night of first-class teaching and discussion. Thanks who all who have supported this ministry - which aims to strengthen our confidence in the Bible and our commitment to being guided by it in all matters of life & doctrine. The only concern is the lack of younger folks coming out. These are nights to lay down those evangelical foundations & Biblical depth - which will be needed more than ever in the years to come - and certainly can't be taken for granted. So if you're in your teens, 20's, 30s (even 40s!) join the seniors in getting into the nitty-gritty of God's Word and make sure SNAG is the diary next session.

Dates are: Sat 9th Oct / Sat 13th Nov / Sat 11th Dec / 2011 - Sat 8th Jan / Sat 12th Feb / Sat 19th March.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Telling it straight...

Picture the scene – the Christianity enquirers group [insert ‘brand name’ of choice]. In a circle of chairs sit a mixture of Christians and non-Christians. Someone suggests that it might be helpful for the Christians to say a little about why they became Christians. One by one the Christians speak – and a pattern soon emerges in their answers, along the lines of: 'Well being a Christian is a great comfort to me, it’s so good to know that whatever happens in life God is there with me, Jesus has really helped me in some difficult times and I can talk to Him at any time, it's such a joy to have a relationship with God and to know He loves me and cares for me no matter what…etc’. Well, amen to that – it’s all absolutely true and is testimony to some great blessings that accompany the Christian life.

BUT - if we inserted the words ‘aromatherapy’, 'my spouse' or ‘golf’ instead of ‘God’ or ‘Jesus’ into those sentiments wouldn’t they equally stand up? Golf is a great stress reliever, aromatherapy eases me through some difficult days, at the end of a hectic week it’s good to know we can get the old clubs out, my wife has stuck me with through thick & thin …etc. So the non-Christians listen to our endorsements and think it sounds good (if a bit airy-fairy) - but actually going to church, giving up my guilty pleasures, being labeled a ‘Christian!’ would probably be more like extra hassel than a way to chill out for me.

Maybe a more effective (certainly more thought-provoking) answer to the question: ‘Why are you a Christian?’ would be – ‘Because I don’t want to go the Hell’. Okay, you’ll probably send the other Christians into a coma of embarrassment – so negative, caricaturing, blunt, lacking a sensitive appreciation of the social & theological context of the listeners – but you may actually get a discussion going around the key issue of the Gospel.

You see we need to make it clear that the Gospel is not some spiritualized aromatherapy, golf, whale music or life coaching. The Gospel is a matter of life and death – eternal life and eternal death. The judgement of God is the starting point of the Gospel – ‘The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven…’ (Rom 1:18), God’s judgement on sin is the problem that the Gospel is the solution to, it is the question that makes being a Christian such a wonderful answer. We only fully appreciate and grasp the extend of God’s love towards us when we grasp that ‘while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5:8) – so that we might ‘be saved from God’s wrath through him!’ (Rom 5:9).

Paul & Tripp say of church kids that the reason they are often so unexcited about the Gospel is because they do not think they really need it. Do our contacts reject the gospel or are they just underwhelmed by it?

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Hitchens Hits Home

In a recent interview, Christopher Hitchens, the fervent atheist and author of God Is Not Great, showed he has a much clearer understanding of what it means to be a Christian than the Unitarian minister interviewing him.

Marilyn Sewell: The religion you cite in your book is generally the fundamentalist faith of various kinds. I'm a liberal Christian, and I don't take the stories from the scripture literally. I don't believe in the doctrine of atonement (that Jesus died for our sins, for example). Do you make a distinction between fundamentalist faith and liberal religion?

Christopher Hitchens: I would say that if you don't believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah, and that he rose again from the dead and by his sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you're really not in any meaningful sense a Christian.

Marilyn Sewell: Let me go someplace else...

Full interview: HERE

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Colin Buchanan Kid's Concert

Get you tickets asap for the Colin Buchanan Concert at Cathcart Trinity Church, Clarkston Rd Glasgow on Wed 10th March, 6.30pm. Tickets - 0794 0954 105



Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Broken Down House (2)

Some more words of wisdom from Tripp....

We all tend to be quite adept at ignoring our own sin while being highly sensitised to the sin of others. It is hard for us to receive the loving criticism, confrontation, and rebuke of others because we tend to think of ourselves as more sanctified than we really are. (p35)

There will war in your heart between what the Bible has to say about you and what you like to think is true about you. ... That is why we get defensive when someone points out our sin and weakness. I become defensive when what people say about me doesn't agree with my view of myself. It feels like I am being misjudged.
This is why I need to remember constantly that the Bible is the world's best diagnostic tool. (p36)

No matter what I face in this fallen world, my greatest problem in life exists inside of me and not outside of me. (p37)

So yes, you are a sinner... But you are more than a sinner. You are also a child of grace. (p41)

Grace will confront you with the fact that you are much less than you thought you were, even as it assures you that you can be far more than you had imagined. Grace will put you in your place without ever putting you down. (p42)

The power that God gives me is not a thing. God gives me a Person. To provide for me the strength I need to live in the way he has designed, God gives me the only thing that can truly help me. He gives me Himself. The Spirit of God unzips me and gets inside me, enabling me to desire, think, do, and say the things that fit within the boundaries of his plan and purpose for me (See Galatians 2:20 and Ephesians 3:20). (p46)

My identity as sinner daily confronts me with how deep and pervasive my need actually is. My identity as a child of child confronts me with how expansive my potential actually is. (p47)

Monday, March 01, 2010

Broken Down House

Broken Down House - Living Productively in a World Gone Bad (Paul David Tripp, Shepherd Press 2009)

Currently reading this book - excellent pastoral insight in a very readable format. A few quotes that may inspire you to order for yourself....

The world you live in is a lot like a broken down house. Every room has been dirtied and damaged by sin. Not one part of it shines with anything like the pure glory that was so evident when it was first made. Sin has left this world in a sorry condition. You see it evereywhere you look. (p17)

Sometimes you get tired of the effort it takes to live in a broken down house, and you just want to quit. At every point and every moment, your life is messier and more complicated than it really ought to be because everything is so much more difficult in such a terribly broken world. (p17)

You often find yourself dreaming of what it would be like to live in house that needed no restoration, and you wonder if the job will ever be completed. You want to hold onto the promise of everthing eventually being fixed, but it's hard. You want to rest, but there's work to do. You want to escape, but you can't - this is your house and you have to live in it. (p18)

God is not satisfied with the state of this house, and he calls us to share his holy dissatisfaction. In our hearts he wants dissatisfaction and hope to kiss... He wants us to face how bad things really are, not as survivalists, but as restorers. (p20)

Do you wish you didn't have so many problems on your plate? Does it bug you that even the easy things in life don't turn out to be nearly as easy as you thought they would be? Are there problems in your past that still haunt you? Do you regularly face difficulties you sought to solve, but which still lie open and festering? Have you ever envied someone else's life? Have you ever wished you could start over in some area of life, but you know you can't? Have you ever felt too weak and unqualified to deal with what is confronting you? Does your life seem to move too fast for you ever to be able to catch up? Has there ever been a day in your life that was fundamentally problem free? (p24)

...the Bible is a book about this world. It is a gritty, honest book. When we read Scripture, we face the world as it actually is, in big screen high-def detail. God doesn't pull any punches. He doesn't paint over any cracks. He doesn't flatter or avoid. There is no denial of what is real and true.
The sights and soundas of the Bible are familiar. They are the sights and sounds of the very same broken world you and I wake up to everyday. (p26)

Last week your boss gave you your walking papers, or your teenager rebelled in your face, or you were diagnosed with a disease, or a tree fell on your garage, or your best friend gossiped about something you said in confidence, or your aging body ached, or your church disappointed you again, or you pulled your back out, or your vacation proved to be more work than retreat... you learned that someone stole your identity, or you felt drawn to something you knew was wrong.
Last week you encountered the world as it really is: broken. How did you do? (p31)

More quotes to follow...

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Gospel According to Brian

Brian McLaren is a leading figure in the Emergent Church movement. Claiming evangelical credentials he has steathily being distancing himself from evangelical beliefs for many years now - with the encouragement that others should do the same. His latest book continues this trend away from Biblical foundations...

Kevin De Young has reviewed the book HERE.

Anyone wanting to know where questioning and ditching unpopular Biblical doctrines ends up taking you - or who has a pastoral concern for protecting the church from false teaching should take time to read it.

As De Young says....
Brian McLaren is on a quest—“a quest for new ways to believe and new ways to live and serve faithfully in the way of Jesus, a quest for a new kind of Christian faith”. On this quest, McLaren raises and responds to ten questions.

Some may be thinking, “What’s wrong with this new kind of Christianity?”
Well, as it turns out, pretty much everything.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Paying God Forward

At the heart of the Gospel is the truth that salvation is a gift – it cannot be earned and we certainly don’t deserve it. Grace is the heartbeat of the Christian’s relationship with God – Jesus has done it all, as an old hymn says…

Nothing either great or small -
Nothing, sinner, no;
Jesus did it, did it all,
Long, long ago.'

It is finished!' yes indeed,
Finished every jot:
Sinner this is all you need -
Tell me, is it not?

Till to Jesus' work you cling
By a simple faith,
'Doing' is a deadly thing -
'Doing' ends in death.

Cast your deadly 'doing' down -
Down at Jesus' feet;
Stand in Him, in Him alone,
Gloriously complete.

God’s love & acceptance of us is not conditional on any moral attainments or spiritual performance on our part – it just is, or rather, it just is in Jesus. Paul in Romans 6:1 anticipates the objection that inevitably follows such a statement – so if salvation isn’t about what I do – then let the sinning commence! But among the many reasons and motivations for giving ourselves to Christ-like living let me highlight the idea of ‘Paying God Forward’.

Why do (good) parents look-after, care for and love their children? Because they are hoping for some kind of payback or some reciprocal benefit from those children? Of course not, they love, care & attend because it instinctive to do so – their motivation is love rather than quid pro quo. Actually any notion of quid pro quo between parents and children is a pipe-dream. How could children ever really repay the hours of time, sacrifice & effort devoted to them by parents?

No, good parents devote themselves to their children unconditionally – with no agenda of self-gain. They do, however, extend their love and care in hope – the hope that rather than being 'paid back' they might be ‘paid forward’. That is, that their children will mature and grow-up to extend to others (e.g. their own children in turn) something of the love, care and kindness that has been shown to them.

So with God – the Christian life is not to pay God back (impossible!) but to pay Him forward. To show to others something of the love that Christ has shown to us – and like good human parents, God our Father is never so pleased and honoured when we do.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

MUSINGS FROM MULLIN

From A View From The Foothills - the diaries of Chris Mullin, MP for Sunderland and a junior minister during the Blair years. Have been struck that a number of his observations on politics could also be applied (good or bad) to the church... I post them as no more than food for thought.

WESTERN CHURCH LEADERSHIP?
What kind of politician am I? Had I been asked when I first went into Parliament, I might gibly have replied that I saw it as my mission 'to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable'. But over the years I learned that there is a more to politics than that. If you are to stand a chance of changing very much for the better, you have to be capable of forming a government and to do that you have to take with you a swathe of the comfortable. It follows, therefore, than in an age of majority affluence, any serious politician has to spend a fair amount of time attending to the needs of the comfortable. (p.xii)

EXACTLY HOW THE CHURCH FEELS
To Harrow to deliver my 'Why Politics Matters' speech to about 50 sixth-formers.... Most of the questions were depressingly predictable. (Sample: 'Why is New Labour so obsessed with gays and fox hunting? Answer: 'We're not, but you seem to be.') (p.154)

MANAGEMENT SUFFOCATION
A valedictory message from one FCO Ambassador - Perpetual re-examination, renaming and reprioritising take their toll. Too much of our effort has gone into managing and studying ourselves with the result that the tools of our trade have rusted and bilateral relations have been downgraded. Substance is giving way to process. (p.517)

THE COMMITMENT-PHOBIC GENERATION
My agent, Kevin Marquis is quoted: 'When I joined the Labour Party, aged 19, I was one of the youngest members. I am now 41 and still one of the youngest.' (p96)

WHERE DID THE THEOLOGIANS GO?
The Cabinet, say Bruce (who has been a fly on the wall at Cabinet meetings for eight years), is composed mainly of people who are average. I challenged this on the grounds (a) that he and I were average and (b) that the world is forever being screwed up by brilliant people. He immediately conceded. 'What I mean is that so many of them have no discernable politics.' Those Bruce rates include Margaret Beckett, David Blunkett, Alan Johnson, John Prescott, John Reid and Jack Straw. The rest he dismisess as managerial types - capable, efficient, but without an idealogical anchor. (p526)

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Theology FAQs

Ever felt a little embarrassed that you don't really know the difference between 'Post' & 'A' Millennialism? Or would just a like a short and easy to read explanation of terms like Pelagianism, semi-Pelagianism, sensus plenior, Calvinism, Dispensationalism, Biblical Theology (as opposed to Systematic Theology)....etc. Or wondered how do God's Sovereignty and human responsibility coexist....

Then the MONERGISM website has a great list of such FAQs - HERE.

It will even explain what 'monergism' means!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Art Attack

Just a follow-on to my previous blog on Bridget McConnel and the exhibition at the Glasgow Museum of Modern Art – with its invitation for people to write comments over an open Bible. The need for Christians to respond with grace does not obscure, however, just how inappropriate and provocative towards Christians this use of public space and money was. It was especially galling in that was backed by institutions and personnel who are quick to advocate the values of ‘community’ and ‘respect’.

For example, suppose as a private citizen I see the Koran as standing in opposition to my personal beliefs. So I decide to get a copy of the Koran and write disparaging comments over it about the Muslim faith. I then go round my neighbours, some of whom I know will be Muslims, and say, ‘hey, I’m having an open house and have an exibit of the Koran on display – why don’t you drop by’. I mean, I could only possibly do such a thing on the basis that: (1) I’m happy to see those Muslim neighbours offended and upset, and (2) that my relationship with them will almost inevitably suffer for the sake of a point-scoring gesture.

You see just because an idea seems to be ‘clever’ or ‘artistic’ and just because there is nothing to stop you doing it – doesn’t legitimise it. All the more so when the space you are using is public space funded by all the council-tax payers you represent. One would have hoped that those claiming to champion the values of ‘Community & Respect’ would understand such distinctions better than they appear to do.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Turning the other cheek


Bridget McConnell is the head of Culture & Sport in Glasgow - and thus head of the department that helped fund the controversial MOMA exhibition that included an invitation for people to write comments on an open Bible (surprise, surprise many of the comments were offensive to Christian beliefs). Since then it appears she has been the target of an unpleasant campaign by some Christians who see her as attacking Christianity with public money. In an interview with the Times (see it HERE) she reveals she has received almost 2000 letters and emails, some which include statements such as 'Filth' , 'Shame on you' and Bible verses such as 'The soul that sinnneth it shall die'.
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The fact that those behind the nastier elements of this campaign will just be a tiny minority of Christians is of little consolation when we see headlines like the one above. Such tactics play into the hands of those oppose Biblical faith - it reinforces the stereotype of dangerous religious fanatics. Look, says our secular and liberal media, Christianity is just another bullying and vindictive religion. Just as extremist Muslims intimidate authors and artists- so now come evangelical/fundamentalist/ Bible-believing (take your pick!) Christians.
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But what does the Bible say about how to respond in such situations - I mean if someone is going to extremes to defend it you would hope they would be familar with its contents. One might think on the basis of some the attacks on Dr McConnell that the Bible is full of teachings such as:
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If someone slaps you in the face (physically or metaphorically) - keep on slapping them back until they repent;
or
Curse those who persecute you
or
Hate your enemies
or
Do ill to those who harm you.
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Yes the exhibit was deeply offensive and an abuse of artistic freedom. Yes, Christians are rightly grieved by it and understandably feel their faith is being singled out for disrespect (let's face it, such use of the Koran would never be countenanced by a local authority in the UK today). But the Biblical response is to respond with gentleness, kindness, humility - to seek to do good to those who would do us harm. We are to follow in the footsteps of Jesus who, 'When they hurled their insults at him, did not retaliate; when he suffered he made no threats. Instead he entrusted himself to him who judges justly' (1 Pt 2:23). Yes those who dishonour God and His Word will answer to God one day (unless they seek His forgiveness first) - but their accountability is to God in the future not to Christians now. Like Jesus we need to leave such matters in God's hands.
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If that appears to be weakness to some - an invitation to walk all over Christians - then so be it - but the way of the Cross is nonetheless the power of God to those being saved. I'm not suggesting we never write a letter to explain our Christian viewpoint or even take legal redress where that option is legitimately open to us - but that personal attacks, vilification, hostility, intemperate language are all inconsistent with the Gospel - they contradict the very thing they claim to uphold.
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That Bridget McConnell feels threatened and abused by Christians, whatever her disregard of them has been, is a great shame on the church in Scotland.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Small Group Spin

Whether you're a longsuffering Small Group leader or just weary of slickly packaged ministry tools - you'll appreciate this...

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Donald's Diet

Another NEW BLOG - this time from arch-apologist Donald Ferguson. Donald is currently doing a MTh on early Christian Theology - his new blog, however, will cover a wide range of topics and is aimed at anyone with a general interest in matters theological...

Check it out here: A DIET OF WORMS

Friday, January 01, 2010

Breaking the ice

Some pics of the New Year's Day Swim that has been a tradition of a few Glasgow South Crusader Old Boys since the 1970's - a great way to prepare for another year of ministry (after this things can only get better!)...

Pics top to bottom: (1) The Enoch Burn near Eaglesham on 1/1/10; (2) Peter Dawson breaks a path through the ice; (2) Martin Boyd; (3) Tommy MacKay does the high jump in some questionable swimwear; (4) Myself and the joy that's it over for another 12 months!




I know - vanity vanity!!!