Monday, 21 March 2016

New blog

I'm no longer blogging at this site (incase you hadn't noticed!), but I have a new blog now with Cathy, over at:

Check it out!

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Christ's Experience on the Cross

God dealt with him as if he had been exceedingly angry with him, and as though he had been the object of his dreadful wrath. This made all the sufferings of Christ the more terrible to him, because they were from the hand of his Father, whom he infinitely loved, and whose infinite love he had had eternal experience of. Besides, it was an effect of God's wrath that he forsook Christ. This caused Christ to cry out... "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" This was infinitely terrible to Christ. Christ's knowledge of the glory of the Father, and his love to the Father, and the sense and experience he had had of the worth of his Father' love to him, made the withholding the pleasant ideas and manifestations of his Father's love as terrible to him, as the sense and knowledge of his hatred to the damned, that have no knowledge oaf God's excellency, no love to him, nor any experience of the infinite sweetness of his love. 
Jonathan Edwards 

Monday, 5 May 2014

The Highest Privilege of the Gospel

This quote from JI Packer is an oldie but a goodie. You may well have read it before, but I think it deserves another outing. So... sit back, lick your lips in anticipation, and then have a chew on this tasty morsel:

"Adoption is the highest privilege that the gospel offers: higher even than justification. This may cause raising of eyebrows, for justification is the gift of God on which, since Luther, evangelicals have laid the greatest stress, and we are accustomed to say, almost without thinking, that free justification is God’s supreme blessing to us sinners. Nonetheless, careful thought will show the truth of the statement we have just made. 

That justification-by which we mean God’s forgiveness of the past together with His acceptance for the future-is the primary and fundamental blessing of the Gospel is not in question. Justification is the primary blessing, because it meets our primary spiritual need. We all stand by nature under God’s judgment. His law convicts us, guilt gnaws at us, making us restless, miserable, and in lucid moments afraid. We have no peace in ourselves because we have no peace with our Maker. So we need forgiveness of our sins, and assurance of a restored relationship with God, more than we need anything else in the world. And this Gospel offers us before it offers us anything else.

But this is not to say that justification is the highest blessing of the Gospel. Adoption is higher, because of the rich relationship with God that it involves. What is a Christian? The richest answer I know is that a Christian is one who has God as his Father. If you want to know how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all...

To those who are Christ’s, the holy God is a loving Father; they belong to his family; they may approach him without fear and always be sure of his fatherly concern and care. This is the heart of the New Testament message. . . 

Adoption is a family idea, conceived in terms of love, and viewing God as fatherIn adoption, God takes us into His family and fellowship, and establishes us as His children and heirs. Closeness, affection and generosity are at the heart of the relationship. To be right with God the judge is a great thing, but to be loved and cared for by God the father is greater..
” – J.I. Packer" 

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

No other conclusion

Of course, much more than his claims, moral perfection, and sanity are attractive and arresting about Jesus. Rather it is the wonder of his understanding of human nature; his single-minded purpose; the extraordinary way in which he fulfils the Old Testament prophecies and typological figures; his compassion; his ability to discuss any issue, identifying the heart of the matter; the drama of his sufferings, persecution, and death; the reality of his resurrection.

According to Christian teaching, Jesus is the God-man who came to earth in order to obey God where we had failed to do so, die for sins for which we could not atone, and rise victorious over evil, ushering in a new world where peace and justice will reign. An honest appraisal of him can come to no other conclusion.

- William Edgar, Reasons of the Heart

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Fearfully, Wonderfully, and Awkwardly Made

Today Cathy and I went to our first Antenatal class. This first session was all about breastfeeding.

A number of things struck me. One was how awkward it can be walking in to a room full of people you don't know. As we crossed the circle of shame and sat facing (probably 15) people shifting nervously in their seats, no one breaking the deafening silence, I didn't quite know what to do with myself. We got a slight peek into the cracks of a fractured humanity there in the antenatal day room.

Many walk in to church or a seeker Bible study for the first time and no doubt share some of my apprehension - but for them it's coupled with a greater fear of the unknown than we experience - what will these crazy religious people do, now that we're in a room that they're in charge of? We need to do all that we can to make that initial impression better than ours was today.

That was a negative observation. But what was more striking was how clever, as they suggested, Mother Nature is. Here are some facts we learned:

- When breastfeeding, some of the calcium stores in the mother's bones are taken to feed to the baby and strengthen his bones. Bad news? Well no, actually. After breastfeeding these Calcium stores are not only replenished but actually made greater, reducing the risk of osteoperosis in old age.
-  Breastfeeding has been proven to greatly reduce the mother's risk of pre-menopausal breast cancer.
- In breast milk, the antibodies that the mother has built up through her lifetime as she's fought off various infections are passed to the baby, thus building his immunity and protecting him.
- Here's a fascinating fact. Immediately after the baby is born, 'skin-to-skin' contact is encouraged, where the baby is placed straight onto the mother's tummy. I find that slightly gross, to be honest. What's astonishing though is that the mother's thermoregulatory system (internal thermostat) will adjust the temperature of her tummy by +/- 1 degree to warm or cool the baby, as needed. Isn't that cool? Even though the baby is now external to the mother, the altruistic body serves the baby regardless of what the mother needs. (A small picture of our Father?).
- Just after this aforementioned skin-to-skin contact, the baby will naturally seek food from the mother. To do this, it performs this crazy crawl (crazy given how young this 5 minute old person is!) to reach the milk.

Clever huh!

Here's a thought. Could it be that it's not Mother Nature coming in from the land of tooth fairies and santa claus that makes all these things possible. Perhaps it's the God who has revealed himself time and again in history over to be outrageously good and supremely wise who has fashioned us in this way?

For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand
    when I awake, I am still with you.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Evangelism Strategy

I'm a big believer that relationships are hugely important in evangelism. In the context of Christian community, we together seek to develop deep, inter-connected relationships with our circles of friends and acquaintances. As they witness Christian community and as we share our lives, we also speak the gospel.

Relationships are key. Yet it's also clear to me that regular, well thought through, well planned events and courses can really support our ongoing evangelism.

Each of these stages are things that we're aiming to support in Christian Unions. Pete, my team leader, has recently sent out a link to an article that helps to think through how to best use events, and particularly follow-up. I thought it worth sharing:

P.S. It's a great article so do read it, but I'm mainly posting this so I can find it again in future!

Sunday, 23 February 2014


After a very long break from blogging, I got back this evening from an excellent weekend away for new CU leaders in the Northeast and felt inspired to write!

For me, one of the highlights of the weekend was delving in to John's gospel with Peter Mead, from Cor Deo. My heart was warmed and my interest was piqued again to spend some time mining the many riches of that wonderful (true!) story. 

Here's a thought from Mr Mead - why not read through the gospel a few times over the next few weeks. First time, just read it and enjoy the narrative. Enjoy it! It's gripping. Then read it again, and track how John develops the theme of the relationship between God the Father and God the Son. Read it again, and this time follow how he explores what it means to believe. Keep going.

One of the themes developed in John is that of glory, and we spent a session looking at this.

What comes to mind when you think of the glory of God? His power? His might? Perhaps you have a picture in your head of shininess?

John suggests that the glory of God is shown ultimately in the humiliation, mercy and grace that we see at the cross. His glory isn't primarily his might or power, however wonderful and true those attributes of God are. His glory is his kindness, his patience, his love. His glory is most profoundly seen in the way he relates.

If you know the God of the Bible, then that doesn't come as a surprise. We follow a God who is fundamentally relational. A Father, loving a Son. A Son, loving a Father. A Spirit who communicates that love. "God is love."

God is relational, and the way he relates is glorious. That's his glory. And his glory is not only in the relationships within the trinity, but the way that he relates to his creation.

Of course, this isn't new. Remember the incident in Exodus when Moses climbs Mount Sinai and speaks with God. Don't turn there yet, and just think back.

Moses asks God if he can see his glory. And what does Moses see - can you remember? Perhaps you remember the shininess? He can't look. Why's that? Because of the sheer power on display?

Let me copy it below to remind you. It's Exodus 33 if you want to check it:

"Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”

And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”

Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”"

And let's just flick forward to 34:5 to see what happens when the Lord actually passes by:

Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”

What a God! Yes he's powerful. Yes he's mighty. But that's not what God's pointing at when he shows his glory. He points to the way he relates. His compassion. His abounding love. His grace. His justice.

And of course that's seen most clearly in the cross. How can he say to Moses in the same breath 'forgiving wickedness and sin' and 'yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished'? The answer is seen at the cross.

The Son wanted to show the glory of how his Father relates. The Father wanted to show the glory of the way his Son relates. So the Father graciously sent the Son, giving the world the opportunity just how glorious his Son is, as he mercifully dies for a broken world.

But the Son didn't go with his arm behind his back. He went willingly, to show the glory of the Father - the kindest Father imaginable who wanted to make forgiveness possible, and wanted to adopt people like us, giving us the same rich inheritance as his Son.

At the cross the guilt isn't left unpunished - Jesus takes the punishment. Forgiveness is made possible. Our God - Father, Son and Spirit - are shown to be glorious in their kindness, humility, grace, mercy, compassion and love.

Now that's truly glorious.

Let's finish with a bit of John 17 - Jesus' final prayer, before being handed over to be tried and crucified. Marvel at the beauty of the relationship of the Father and the Son. Jesus wants to be glorified - why? Not for some power trip. Not because he's a glory hoover. But because he wanted to give glory. He wanted to be glorified so that he can bring glory to his Father. And how does he do that? By dying for a lost and broken world.  By dying to make it possible for messed up people like us to know the Father, and to know his Son.

“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began."

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Recent Sermons

It's been a while since I posted here! I'm currently trying to write a sermon on Acts 16 for Sunday Evening (please do pray for that!). At this very moment I'm procrastinating. Hence the blog post. Here are a couple of my more recent sermons, should you like to listen to them. As ever, helpful feedback always welcome!

Acts 12 (a couple of sentences are chopped off the beginning - nothing important though!)
Acts 14 (this has poor sound quality at the beginning - persevere - it gets better after a couple of mins)

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Adoption and Fostering

A couple of months ago Cathy and I attended a session held by Krish Kandiah about adoption and fostering, and we were very excited about his new initiative. Check out the video below, and think about whether this is something you could go to, or if there's someone in your church who might want to go along.

The dates for the 6 sessions are:

  •  Tuesday, 19 June – Cardiff 
  • Wednesday, 20 June – Belfast 
  • Thursday, 21 June – Glasgow 
  • Tuesday, 26 June – Manchester 
  • Wednesday, 27 June – Birmingham 
  • Thursday, 28 June – London 
Click here to register.

Friday, 18 May 2012

The Hunger Games

Just a quick shout out to Mark Meynell's reflections on Suzanne Collins' trilogy, 'The Hunger Games', which I read recently. If you haven't read the books they're worth a read - and do that before you read reviews etc. If you have read them, then click through for Part 1 and Part 2 of his reflections.