Monday, 30 April 2012
Sunday, 29 April 2012
Saturday, 28 April 2012
Sunday, 22 April 2012
Monday, 16 April 2012
The Lent 2012 issue of Englewood Review of Books has just become available.
Among other items, this one contains a review of Marilynne Robinson’s collection of essays, When I Was a Child I Read Books, an interview with Lauren Winner, a review of Walter Brueggemann’s The Practice of Prophetic Imagination, and looks back at David Bosch’s ‘classic’, Transforming Mission.
Those outside North America are able to sign up for a free electronic edition, kindly delivered to your inbox as an attached pdf.
Saturday, 7 April 2012
I know that my Redeemer lives;
What comfort this sweet sentence gives!
He lives, He lives, who once was dead;
He lives, my ever living Head.
He lives to bless me with His love,
He lives to plead for me above.
He lives my hungry soul to feed,
He lives to help in time of need.
He lives triumphant from the grave,
He lives eternally to save,
He lives all glorious in the sky,
He lives exalted there on high.
He lives to grant me rich supply,
He lives to guide me with His eye,
He lives to comfort me when faint,
He lives to hear my soul’s complaint.
He lives to silence all my fears,
He lives to wipe away my tears
He lives to calm my troubled heart,
He lives all blessings to impart.
He lives, my kind, wise, heavenly Friend,
He lives and loves me to the end;
He lives, and while He lives, I’ll sing;
He lives, my Prophet, Priest, and King.
He lives and grants me daily breath;
He lives, and I shall conquer death:
He lives my mansion to prepare;
He lives to bring me safely there.
He lives, all glory to His Name!
He lives, my Jesus, still the same.
Oh, the sweet joy this sentence gives,
I know that my Redeemer lives!
Samuel Medley (1775)
Friday, 6 April 2012
[I contributed this week’s ‘Connecting with Culture’ from the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. This one effectively served as the Institute’s Easter message, hence the greetings at the end.]
Last week’s London Evening Standard reported on a current trend by designers and fashion houses of using the symbol of the cross in clothes and accessories. Columnist Rosamund Urwin noted the irony that ‘the cross’s popularity with designers comes at a time when some Christians feel their right to wear their faith on their chests is under threat’.
Incidentally, it might be worth noting a similar irony surrounding the public outpouring of prayer for injured footballer, Fabrice Muamba, at a time when professional health workers and others have been censured for offering to pray for people in need.
As it happens, in his Easter message earlier this week, Prime Minister David Cameron said he welcomed something of a Christian ‘fightback’, referring specifically to defending the right to wear a crucifix and the overturned attempted banning of prayer before council meetings. In keeping with other recent speeches about Christianity, Cameron said he hopes that any fightback ‘will be based around values more than anything else’. ‘The values of the Bible, the values of Christianity are the values that we need – values of compassion, of respect, of responsibility, of tolerance’, said Cameron, even while conceding that such values are not confined to Christians or even the ‘religious’.
However, whilst noting that Easter is ‘the most important of the Christian festivals’, Cameron perhaps misses the significance of the Easter event which sustains the values he hopes the country will adopt.
Indeed, for all of us, Easter is a pertinent moment to remind ourselves of the danger of separating the teaching of Jesus from the larger framework of the gospels in which his teaching is set – accounts which move inexorably towards the events of Holy Week. This being the case, Jesus’ exhortations to ‘love your neighbour’ and ‘do to others what you would have them do to you’ are not disembodied commands, but are rooted in the story of the one who makes his way to Jerusalem to suffer and die for others and then rise again – historical events which entail a universal claim.
Christians follow Jesus not primarily because his teaching fits a convenient ‘values’ agenda, but because this side of his death and resurrection, ‘all authority in heaven and on earth’ has been given to him (Matthew 28:18).
This comes with Easter greetings from the LICC team, trusting that you may experience the love of our Father God, and the peace and joy that comes from knowing that Jesus has died and risen again.
‘Beyond Belief’ (BBC Radio 4, 2 April 2012) – on the symbol of the cross in contemporary society.
Wednesday, 4 April 2012
Christianity Today carries a brief excerpt from Leroy Barber’s forthcoming book, Everyday Missions: How Ordinary People Can Change the World (Downers Grove: IVP, 2012), making the point that ‘even if you don’t like your job, you have a calling to serve God and others’.
I’ve been reading quite a bit on work and vocation recently, so I suspect this book will be added to that pile, even if I might want to say some things a little bit differently.
He writes that a job ‘is simply the task we do to get paid’.
Calling, however, is different:
‘Calling inspires a deeper commitment to your work. Calling pushes a person to ask significant questions about what they do with their lives – questions such as Who am I? What are my gifts and talents? How is my life being shaped by this work? What life would remaining in this work make impossible for me? Calling pushes us deeper into ourselves when choosing a college, or taking an internship. It doesn’t allow us to jump at every opportunity simply because it pays more. We take personal responsibility about our life direction and choices.’
He illustrates this by telling a story about his friend Rob whose ‘simple job transformed into a calling to help people’ and ‘created an environment where others could experience grace and perhaps see their contribution as important’.
‘Life-giving work is available to all of us. But we must alter our primary question from “How much money can I make?” Instead, we must explore those areas where we can serve. How can I take what I am doing, what I believe I was made to do, or what I feel God may be calling me to do, and turn it over to God? In this offering, we can count on him to transform our offering into something extraordinary. We must let God use our lives to change the world, draw people to him, and offer hope in desperate situations. That calling brings excitement, engagement and much more motivation than money can provide.’
Simon Smart, of Australia’s Centre for Public Christianity, interviews John Dickson (here in his capacity as New Testament scholar and ancient historian) about Easter, covering the date of Easter, Lent, the historicity of the resurrection narratives in the gospels, reasons for believing or not believing in Jesus’ resurrection, compelling evidence for the resurrection (including the early date of the testimony, dependence on the witness of women, the key eyewitnesses died for their claims) being a ‘plausible scenario’, the need to set the crucifixion and resurrection in the bigger story of the Bible (the Passover and temple being pointers to what is going on), what it means that Jesus died and rose again (that there is ‘something more’, the availability of eternal life, that God’s new creation is underway), and what enables us to believe and live today in the face of possible doubts.
Two videos, totaling just under 14 minutes, are available here.
There’s a thoughtful, short reflection here, by Katie Boone, on ‘called to the mundane’.
‘Mundane, repetitive work teaches humility. You are not too good for it. In fact you will be quite good at it. I saw how my work made worship and discipleship possible, but it never felt like I was actually using any real gift. What I did not see was that the work was good for me. Humility sluices the ego and frees us to laugh. Repetition brings stillness and in that stillness we can hear God. Simplicity gives the gift of sight and we learn the practice of attention. There is no single lesson to the mundane only that God created it and called it good.’
Catalyst is a twice-yearly magazine, published by CARE, highlighting ministries ‘making a Christian difference’ as well as giving the latest CARE news.
According to the CARE website, the Spring 2012 edition carries ‘major articles on what it’s like to be involved as Christians in local government or business initiatives’.
‘Feature writer Clive Price has written a moving piece on the Beachy Head Chaplaincy Team, and on the urban charity XLP, telling the stories of project worker Ethan Bernard and CEO Patrick Regan. CARE’s Chief Executive Nola Leach is quizzed on the Coalition for Marriage, and we are thrilled that RT Kendall accepted an invitation to write for Catalyst.’
Tuesday, 3 April 2012
Editorial: Take Up Your Cross and Follow Me
Michael J. Ovey
Off the Record: The Goldilocks Zone
John Owen on Union with Christ and Justification
Douglas Sean O’Donnell
The Earth Is Crammed with Heaven: Four Guideposts to Reading and Teaching the Song of Songs
Jason S. DeRouchie
The Profit of Employing The Biblical Languages: Scriptural and Historical Reflections
Monday, 2 April 2012
[I contributed today’s ‘Word for the Week’, a weekly email service provided by the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. It’s the final entry in a series looking at passages in Scripture which summarise the biblical story. In part, the series has been designed to help publicise the book, Whole Life, Whole Bible: 50 Readings on Living in the Light of Scripture, written with LICC colleagues.]
Brothers and sisters from the children of Abraham and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent... We tell you the good news: What God promised our ancestors he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus... Therefore, my brothers and sisters, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin... Acts 13:26, 32-33, 38-39
Acts 13 records Paul’s first main speech – given in a synagogue to Jews and God-fearers, Gentiles attached to Judaism. The address is arguably programmatic for the next part of Acts, in the same way that Peter’s Pentecost speech in chapter 2 was programmatic for the first part of the book. We’re also probably meant to understand that Luke provides here a glimpse of Paul’s synagogue preaching, a regular feature of his ministry as he takes the gospel ‘to the Jew first’.
So, what does he say?
In line with Old Testament precedents, Paul recounts the story of Israel, beginning with Abraham, taking in the exodus and wilderness wanderings, the Judges era and Samuel, before moving to David – from whose descendants, he says, ‘God has brought to Israel the Saviour Jesus, as he promised’ (13:23). Paul’s claims about Jesus are grounded in God’s prior actions for Israel. The God who worked in the past is the same God who has brought salvation in the present, through the death and resurrection of Christ, in line with scriptural promises related to Abraham and David.
This good news is for Israel, but – in keeping with the whole tenor of the story – is extended to Gentiles too. Jesus is risen, and – as several Psalms promised – is the one to whom is given the blessings of David, including the forgiveness of sins for ‘everyone who believes’.
As we reflect on how God works in our own lives day by day, our personal ‘stories’ are an essential dimension of how we understand ourselves. Even so, our own ‘narrative’ makes best sense not when it becomes an end in itself, but when it is connected to the overarching story of God’s redemption in Christ. We understand our life ‘plot’ in the greater light of what the loving, covenant-keeping God has worked on our behalf – individually and together.
For us, as for Paul’s original hearers, far from us offering a God an occasional walk-on part in the story of our lives, we are called to see our lives in the infinitely larger narrative of what he has done and will yet do in the world – through Christ, our Saviour and Lord.
Sunday, 1 April 2012
The Gospel Project describes itself as ‘a Christ-centered curriculum that examines the grand narrative of Scripture and how the gospel transforms the lives of those it touches’.
Led by Ed Stetzer and Trevin Wax, the intention is that ‘over a three-year plan of study, each session immerses participants – adults, students, and kids – in the gospel through every story, theological concept, and call to missions from Genesis to Revelation’. There will be ‘separate study plans for adults, students, and kids ensure the proper focus and depth for each age group’.
I’ll be very interested to see how this develops.