Monday, 27 July 2009

Scary Scripture

I used to read the Bible in the mornings. However, I have found my head was normally filled with whatever I did the previous evening. I seem to have a half hour window last thing at night which sticks in my thinking. So now I read my Bible in this slot...

I have enjoyed reading the Bible chronologically. It's the first time I've managed to keep going through the whole of scripture and stay mostly 'with it'. I've particularly enjoyed hitting the New Testament over the last few weeks and seeing Jesus' ministry unfold.

As I lay in bed with my wife (who is normally feeding Rufus at this time) I have found Jesus to be utterly unpredictable. At times he comforts with such compassion and affection it warms your heart while other times he attacks with real verbal aggression. At times I had found this shocking.

Turning tables over, making whips...

Stinging parables...

"You hypocrites!"

"You serpents. You brood of vipers, How are you to escape being sentenced to Hell ?"

"Blind guides!"

If I walked in on one of our church members speaking to anyone like this I would automatically assume that they are sinning against those who they are insulting. I wonder what I would have felt if I had been standing with the Religious leaders of the day when Jesus unleashes.

Jesus loves some attitudes and hearts. He definitely hates others.

I found Mark Driscoll's talk very convicting on this whole area. I would say that its worth checking out:


I tremble.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Thought provoking comments on parenting

My wife and I are currently reading "Shepherding a Child's heart" by Tedd Tripp.

We are half way through and have found some of it really helpful and it has really got us thinking. The book has relatively small chapters with questions to consider at the end of each one.

I have found it both challenging and thought provoking. I'm in good faith, confident in his grace and wanting to be obedient in this area, not because I have to, but because I get to. He is amazing and loving and trustworthy in every area of life. I'm free to worship through parenting without feeling condemned or feeling that my justification hangs on it.

  • Tripp on secular material...

"Books and magazines pander to these parents. They promote the latest pop psychology - all tailored to insecure moms and dads. The gurus promise to teach you how to build self esteem in your children. Have you noticed that no books promise to help produce children who esteem others?"

  • Going for conversion?

"A child's profession of faith in Christ does not change the basic issues of child rearing. The parents goals are the same. He will have times of tenderness and times of spiritual coldness. The parent's task does not change when the child makes a decision.

There are many passages that teach the need to shepherd, to train, to instruct, and to discipline your children. None of these passages has getting a child to pray the "sinner's prayer" as its focus."

  • Going for good behaviour?

"Having well behaved children is not a worthy goal. It is a secondary benefit of biblical child rearing, but an unworthy goal in itself."

  • The challenge...

"You must equip your children to function in a culture that has abandoned the knowledge of God."

"We lose them because we fail to think clearly about man's chief end. The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever; therefore, your objective in every context must be to set a biblical worldview before your children.

... they must be taught that they are creatures made in the image of God - made for God. They must learn that they will only "find themselves" as they find him. Your child must grow to see that real living is experienced when he stands before God and says, "Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you." Psalm 73v25 If this is what you want for your children, then you must ensure that the content of everyday life fits this objective."

Questions we are considering:

  • What is wrong with a change in behaviour without a change in the heart?

  • What would your children identify as the values in your family?

  • What do you think is the nature of your authority as a parent?

  • How do you define success? How would your child complete this sentence? "What Mom and Dad want for me is...."

Monday, 20 July 2009

6 Reasons I love student work in Exeter

1. It is my University.

I went to Exeter Uni where I lived in halls, studied Economics and Politics and played a lot of rugby. I even randomly played a match for the football team last year. I sang, "Oh Exeter is wonderful..." and I enjoy hating Loughborough Uni. Exeter Uni probably is the best uni in the world.

2. My time at uni shaped my life forever.

It was at university where I met my best friend who became my best man. It was at uni he told me about Jesus. It was at university where I met my wife. It was at university I fell into Frontiers Church Exeter.

3. The students are brilliant.

My brother in-law is currently at Exeter Uni. It's great to hang out with him and some of his boys, encouraging them in the Lord. We have a handful of student girls in our homegroup who have been a true blessing to Chloe and I. Many students serve in our Church in many areas: set up, kids work, worship, student work and teaching and preaching. Many hours have been given by students over the last few years. A good number have stayed in Exeter and continue to play key roles in the Church. :-)

4. University life is a unique opportunity for the Gospel.

At uni you have more social interaction with more people at a greater depth than at any other time in your life. Within the first couple of weeks everyone has 'Freshers Flu'. STD's get passed around like mince pies at Christmas (no-one wants them but everyone has them.) Gossip flies around at a rapid rate as you hear of crazy antics amongst your peers. This cultural dynamic can be used for good! To love people, stay pure, and for the gospel to be passed around - fast!

5. There is a need for sound teaching.

As a church we have been able to serve students well in the most simple ways of following the Lord. We have seen people meet Jesus, baptized many, seen people introduced to empowering or baptism in the Holy Spirit. Many have caught a high view of local church. We have also been able to teach the cross in its fullness and helped young men and women see something of the roles that God has for them.

6. Exeter students are culture shapers.

We hope that those who leave Exeter will be on fire for Jesus and use positions of influence to change our culture for good. Teachers, doctors, policemen, journalists, researchers, civil servants and lawyers will leave Exeter University every year. Exeter is ranked 9th in the UK as a uni. This puts us in a place of strategic importance. Revival in Exeter would literally send ripples across the nation.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Like nothing I have seen

Red faced, sweating, bleeding, screaming at times...
Deeply painful, sheer hard work for hours...

My wife giving birth to my son was like nothing I have seen before.

There was a moment in the middle of the labour when Chloe looked absolutely exhausted. She looked like she was spent but nowhere near finished. I remember one look in which I think we both wondered if she we be able to do it. Then another contraction came and we were off again.

Chloe nearly fainted twice in the pool. I have never seen anyone give so much and then have to give more.

Friends of ours have had far more complex and difficult experiences. Our birth was relatively 'straightforward' but touched me at a level that has not been touched before. I really love my wife and to see her go through all that was not easy. By the end I was exhausted!

She made it. Pain turned to joy beyond words. What a prize to hold the little man and be with my wife as a new family. A genuinely amazing gift.

Why is childbirth so hard?

Genesis 3 records God's response to our rebellion against him by cursing childbearing. The pain of the childbirth surely then speaks something of the reality and seriousness of our rebellion against God. It is real. It is serious and He takes it seriously.

How does this give me faith?

Paul writes in Romans 8 how creation is, "groaning together in the pains of childbirth." One day to be set free in the revelation of what God has done for his children. This world promises to bring a bag of suffering. I guess on the road ahead I will look at my wife and wonder if we will ever make it. But one day in all creation, pain will turn to joy beyond words.

Paul writes, "not only the creation, but we ourselves... groan inwardly as we wait..." I find that God continues to call me to repentance and face my own sin. I find this painful. I groan. But I know where I am going. I know what this is producing. I will keep going.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

7 things I didn't know about John Calvin

1. John Calvin was a skinny Frenchman. This keeps me from Idolising him.

2. John Calvin lost a son after he was two weeks old.

"The Lord has certainly inflicted a severe and bitter wound in the death of our baby son. But He Himself a Father and knows best what is good for his children."

3. After 9 years of marriage his wife died.

"I have been bereaved of the best companion of my life, of one who, had it been so ordained, would have willingly shared not only my poverty but even my death. During her life she was the faithful helper of my ministry. From her I never experienced the slightest hindrance. She was never troublesome to me throughout the whole course of her illness, but was more anxious about her children than about herself. As I feared these private worries might upset her to no purpose, I took occasion three days before she died, to mention that I would not fail in discharging my duty towards her children"

4. Calvin had an amazing work ethic.

When the doctor forbade him to go out in the winter air to the lecture room, he crowded the audience into his bedroom and gave the remaining lectures on Malachi there. To those who would urge him to rest, he had the wondering question, “What! Would you have the Lord find me idle when he comes?”

5. Calvin endured a particularly horrific experience.

At one point he urinated something of such size he writes, “Lacerated the urinary canal and a copious discharge of blood followed. This hemorrhage could only be arrested by an injection of milk through a syringe.”

6. He didn't want to be a Pastor.

Farel, who burned with an extraordinary zeal to advance the gospel, immediately learned that my heart was set upon devoting myself to private studies, for which I wished to keep myself free from other pursuits, and finding that he gained nothing by entreaties, he proceeded to utter an imprecation that God would curse my retirement, and the tranquility of the studies which I sought, if I should withdraw and refuse to give assistance, when the necessity was so urgent. By this imprecation I was so stricken with terror that I desisted from the journey which I had undertaken.”

7. He loved the glory of God above all else.

Calvin writes to Sadolet, “As to your preface, which, in proclaiming the excellence of eternal blessedness, occupies about a third part of your Letter, it cannot be necessary for me to dwell long in reply. …it is not very sound theology to confine a man's thoughts so much to himself, and not to set before him, as the prime motive of his existence, zeal to illustrate the glory of God.”

Monday, 13 July 2009

keep it RAW

It was the final session of the New Frontiers Leadership conference. PJ Smyth was preaching and throwing out much that was hitting me.

It was our first trip with baby Rufus. He is just 4weeks old but he wanted to see how Terry would respond to Driscoll so I felt I couldn't leave him at home. By the end of the week I was pretty hazy to be honest. TV's response was as solid as it gets for me. Steady and enduring.

During the worship of the final session I looked at PJ Smyth on the platform. He looked like a boxer on his way to the ring. I think we were all ready for PJ to throw some big punches.

1. Risk. Big words for Christians 'maybe' and 'if'. The call to take risks for God like Jonathan and his armour bearer. Elephants ploughing through the jungle creating a path for others to follow have no place in a zoo. PJ quoted Rocky 3 where Mick says to Rocky, "The worst thing happened that can happen to a fighter... you got civilised." We don't want to be, "milksop". Whatever that means... We need to be comfortable with risk and uncertainty if we are to be effective on our mission. Amen PJ. "Let's gamble our lives for Christ." Jim Elliot.

2. Authority. I was in and out of this point. Know who Christ has made you to be. Let your light shine in your city.

3. Wild. Elephants are wild. Mission motivates. Mission creates structure - then changes. Mission creates leaders and gifting emerges on the way. PJ challenged us to honour gift and honour relationship and get on with it! Don't build a zoo! He finished by calling us to be undignified worshippers like David before the Lord. 2 Sam 6v14.

I was sitting rather comfortably noting down PJ's final point scribbling, "undignified." Then I heard PJ saying something along the lines of, "I'm going to become more undignified than this..." I looked up to see him shirt off, swinging it over his head! He then issued the call, "come on you young men..."

Now PJ obviously had planned this and spent months working on his guns. I am overweight and out of shape. I looked to my right and saw groups of men with shirts off dancing and celebrating. I looked to my left and saw a couple. I realised that us Exeter boys were sat down dignified and comfortable.

This is not how I want to live so the shirt came off and the dancing began.

I want to be comfortable being uncomfortable...
I want to take risks for Jesus and not care what others think...
I want to be undignified before the Lord in worship and praise...

This talk is well worth a listen. Compulsory for all young men in the Church.