Saturday, 29 May 2010

Lesslie Newbigin on line

Lesslie Newbigin is a significant theologian of mission and missional church. I mentioned him in my missional church posts.
I just discovered a searchable website with a lot of his material. http://www.newbigin.net/. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Douglas Moo's website

As part of my prep for sermons on Romans, I'm reading Douglas Moo's NICNT commentary. Highly recommended.

I happened upon Moo's website, with links to his articles. Also highly recommended.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Guilt

More insight on human foibles from Colin Dexter - this time on an adulterer's self-condemnation. Quite poignant and sad, actually.
It would have been a huge relief to have ended it all long ago, above all, to have broken free from the web of lies and deceit he had spun around himself. Yet how beguiling had been those prospects of extra-marital delights. Conscience. Damned conscience. Nurtured in a sensitive school. Fatal.

Though not a believer himself, Bernard conceded the empirical truth of the Pauline assertion that the wages of sin is death. He wanted desperately to be rid of the guilt and the remorse, and remembered vaguely from his school days in the bible-class how lustily they had all given voice to many a chorus on sin:

"Though your sins be as scarlet, scarlet, scarlet,
They shall be whiter, yea, whiter than snow."

But he couldn't pray these days - his spirit was parched and desolate. His primitive, eager religiosity was dulled now and overlaid with a deep and hard veneer of learning, culture and cynicism. He was well rehearsed in all the theological paradoxes, and the fizz of academic controversy was no longer a delight. Whiter than snow, indeed! More like the driven slush.
Colin Dexter, Last Bus to Woodstock, chapter eight. Another Inspector Morse novel.
You might like to have look at this back post from last year...

Sunday, 23 May 2010

The atheist, the bear – and God

An atheist was walking through the woods. He admired the trees. He inspected the intricate designs of the leaves, and the way they carried the life-giving sap to the rest of the tree. He basked in the warm sunlight that powered the photosynthesis that gave the tree its life. And he breathed deeply, enjoying the oxygen that the tree had put in the atmosphere for him.

All put there by the impersonal, uncaring forces of evolution, of course. All that evidence of design and purpose and life and joy – he knew better than to trust what his eyes told him. Coz he was an atheist!

All of a sudden he heard a growl behind him. It was a bear! The atheist ran for his life, crashing through the forest. But the bear was catching up with him. If the atheist had really believed in survival of the fittest, he really should have gone to the gym more often. Maybe then he would have been fit enough to outrun this bear.

The atheist tripped and fell. The bear towered above him, paw raised to strike. The atheist was about to become a meaningless victim of the meaningless evolutionary differences between himself and the bear - just like the atheist had meaninglessly squashed a cockroach in his house the previous night.

The atheist called out: “Oh God, help me!”

Everything froze. Time stopped. A voice boomed from the heavens. “You’ve ignored me all your life. You’ve even spoken against me. And now you want to become a Christian?”

The atheist looked at the bear, frozen above him. He looked up into heaven. “No, don’t make me a Christian – make the bear a Christian.”

There was a pause. Then the voice from heaven said. “Okay. I’ll do that.”

Time started again. The bear paused and looked down on the atheist. Instead of striking the man, he brought his paws together. “For what we are about to receive…”

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Chris Wright on the missional God

This is my final post on missional church. Chris Wright, of Langham Partnership, can have the final word. He bases his understanding of missional church on the biblical presentation of the missional God:

In [...] trying to come to a biblical definition of what we mean by mission, we are in effect asking the question, whose mission is it anyway? [...] Since the whole Bible is the story of how this God, 'our God', has brought about his salvation for the whole cosmos [...] we can affirm [...] 'Mission belongs to our God'. Mission is not ours; mission is God's. Certainly, the mission of God is the prior reality out of which flows any mission in which we ourselves get involved. Or, as it has been nicely put, it is not so much the case that God has a mission for his church in the world, as that God has a church for his mission in the world. Mission is not made for church; the church was made for mission - God's mission. A missional hermeneutic of the Bible, then, begins there - with the mission of God, and traces the flow of all other dimensions of mission as they affect human history from that centre and starting point.


Christopher J. H. Wright, 'Mission as a Matrix for Hermeneutics and Biblical Theology', chapter 5 in Craig Bartholomew et al (eds.), Out Of Egypt: Biblical Theology and Biblical Interpretation: pages 132-3.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Missional church and post-Christendom

This continues my series on missional church.

Over the last few decades, Lesslie Newbigin’s work, and the concept of missio Dei, has been allied with a recognition that the West has moved into ‘post-Christendom’.
It was [Lesslie] Newbigin who, after returning from a lifetime of work in India as a missionary, saw how pagan Western civilization really was. He began to articulate the view that we need to see the Western world as a mission field, and that we as God’s people in this context needed to adopt a missionary stance in relation to our culture – just as we could in India, for instance.
Alan Hirsch, The Forgotten Ways (Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2006): 81

As noted previously, traditional missiology and ecclesiology have assumed the existence, in the West, of a shared culture and worldview which has been heavily influenced by the gospel, whether or not people recognise or accept it. Over the last few decades, that shared, Christianised culture has been steadily breaking down. Complex and contradictory social forces – such as immigration, new communication technology, an acceptance of radical materialism with its corollary of nihilistic hedonism, a rejection of modernistic materialism and search for new spirituality – mean that the values, morals and aspirations of people in the West are far more complex and contradictory than traditional missiology and ecclesiology can cope with.

Missional ecclesiology therefore approaches Western culture assuming that the gospel will be alien and probably unwelcome. It does not assume that people will identify with traditional forms of church, but is willing to experiment with different expressions of Christian community that try to be a contemporary, socio-culturally relevant expression of the unchanging gospel. Missional ecclesiology is fluid, relational, and temporary. Its practitioners tend to favour informality over formality, story over doctrine, experiment over habit, ‘sharing’ over ‘preaching’, and trial and error over ‘proven method’. They seek to build Christian communities through unorthodox activities – like water skiing – and in unusual places – like beaches. This experimental fluidity is an outworking of the missional church’s openness to the Spirit’s guidance.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Sex as a commodity

Another quick break from the missional church posts - just to let you know...


Over at Complementarity and Culture, Sarie King has an excellent post on how sex is being treated like a commercial commodity, to be bought & sold, rather than a deeply personal relational act to be treasured and enjoyed. Why I’m Not Having Sex And (or in) The City...

Back to missional church tomorrow.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Missional church, the 'missio dei' and the 'Copernican revolution' in missiology

This continues my series on missional church.

Missional ecclesiology began in part with a ‘Copernican revolution’ in missiology itself. Traditionally, missiology was itself founded on Christology: the churches saw themselves as participating in Christ’s mission by sending missionaries to ‘all nations’, in fulfilment of the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20). At the meeting of the International Mission Council (“IMC”) at Willingen in 1952, missiology was reoriented, in a Trinitarian form, around the ‘missio Dei’.

The 'missio Dei' looks first at what God is doing in the world, and only secondly at how we respond to, and co-operate in, God's action in the world. The Triune God was on a mission in the world, building his kingdom. The church, as both the first-fruits and agent of that kingdom, is to participate with God in his mission. This theme was developed and advanced by Lesslie Newbigin and the Commission on World Mission and Evangelism of the World Council of Churches, which absorbed the IMC in 1961.

This focus on the Trinity provides the theological basis for the missional impulse of missional ecclesiology. The Triune God is dynamic – he is actively building his kingdom in the world. Therefore, his community must be a dynamic community. They, too, must be active in the world, building God’s kingdom, by advancing the Lordship of his Son, under the direction of his Spirit.

[T]he church is understood to be the creation of the Spirit. It exists in the world as a “sign” that the redemptive reign of God’s kingdom is present. It serves as a “foretaste” of the eschatological future of the redemptive reign that has already begun. It also serves as an “instrument” under the leadership of the Spirit to bring that redemptive reign to bear on every dimension of life.
Craig Van Gelder, The Missional Church In Context (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007): 3

So, according to this view, any community that does not share this Triune dynamism has lost touch with the Triune God, and is therefore not a true church.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

The danger of making "mission" too broad

This continues my series on missional church.

An early wrong turn in missional church thinking was the radical secularisation of God's mission. The kingdom of God was tightly connected with secular well-being. Bodily health, freedom from oppressive political structures, and the like, were identified as the kingdom advancing.

The church has always been positive towards social action – witness the establishment of missionary schools and hospitals, and the political activity of people like William Wilberforce. But, these matters have been seen as an outworking of love of neighbour, not ‘mission’. Traditionally, ‘mission’ has been identified more closely with activity akin to the New Testament apostles: the verbal proclamation of Christ’s person and work, an explanation of the claims of Christ upon the hearer, and a summons for the hearer to respond to Christ.

In contrast, this radical secularisation meant mission lost its redemptive edge and became indistinguishable from social, environmental and political renewal. Dissatisfaction with this secularisation of mission led conservative evangelicals to form the International Congress on World Evangelization in 1974 - now known as the Lausanne Movement - and to adopt the Lausanne Covenant, which affirms that:
Our Christian presence in the world is indispensable to Evangelism. But evangelism itself is the proclamation of the historical, biblical Christ as Saviour and Lord, with a view to persuading people to come to him personally and so be reconciled to God.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Missional church makes mission central to the church's identity

This continues my series on missional church.

As noted in my previous post, ‘mission’ has traditionally been focused on the ‘non-Christian’ world, and only ‘one of’ the functions of the local church.

In contrast, missional ecclesiology insists that any understanding of God’s assembled people – any ecclesiology – must be founded upon a deep conviction that that those assembled people are themselves, as an assembled people, sent by God to the world. Ed Stetzer asserts that in the Creed’s affirmation that the church is ‘apostolic’:

[…] apostolic is more than a “position”; it is a “posture”. […] [T]he root of the word apostle is “one sent… with a message. So we should be an apostolic church.

Ed Stetzer, Planting Missional Churches (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2006): 29, emphasis in original.

Harrison et al. capitalise on the connection between kaleo (‘call’) and ecclesia (lit. ‘called-out’; traditionally translated ‘church’), and also assume that the ‘called’ community – the church – should also be a calling community.

If […] the church is not winning souls […] the “called out” have become the “home-bound”, and the church has become little more than an inner circle or club where the original vision has been compromised. Members who leave this kind of church to start a new church plant should have little remorse for leaving.

Harrison, Cheyney & Overstreet, Spin-Off Churches (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2008): 103

Therefore, according to this view, a church which is not missional – which is not radically based on a sent-ness, a mission to the world – is not a true church.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

ESV online!

Crossway have created ESV online, a free online Bible study website. If you register, you can create your own notes, highlight passages, place bookmarks, and customise your own view. All of this for free.

Note: they've provided a 30-day trial access to the ESV study bible notes & resources. But after the trial, you have to pay for it. Cunning... :D

Incidentally - I have no personal or financial interest in Crossway - I'm just glad to see useful bible study resources made available.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Mission, evangelism and Christendom

I'm kicking off a series of posts on missional church.

Missional church involves the application of missiology to eccelsiology.

Missiology is the art of systematic reflection upon the propagation of the Christian faith. It has traditionally been applied to theological and practical reflection upon spreading the Christian faith beyond Western Christendom.

Christendom refers to countries where the prevailing culture has been deeply impacted by the gospel, viz: Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand. These countries have a shared Christian history of the Constantinian settlement of the church, medieval Catholicism, the Reformation, and the Enlightenment and Modernism. Two millennia of shared Christian heritage have given these nations churches, denominations and theological traditions which are relatively stable and mature.

The task of spreading the Christian faith in this context has traditionally been called “evangelism”. The theology and practice of evangelism has traditionally assumed a social context of Christendom – the existence of mature, reliable churches, and cultural assumptions, shared by Christians and non-Christians alike, that have been deeply impacted by the gospel – although most people so not realise their theological, evangelical underpinnings.

Missiology has traditionally been applied to the rest of the world, beyond the boundaries of Christendom, where Christianity does not have a long history; where churches, denominations and theological traditions are relatively young and immature; and where the gospel has not made a major impact upon the culture.

Missiology has traditionally involved theological and practical reflection upon spreading the Christian faith in such contexts, where Christianity is alien, marginalised, novel, and probably unwelcome. It assumes that the cultural assumptions of the people trying to be reached by the missionaries are very different from Christian cultural assumptions, and that missionaries must work hard to understand the target culture, and find points of contact between it and the gospel, so that the gospel can be communicated in a manner comprehensible to the indigenous community. This includes, but goes beyond, the issue of translation – expressing biblical and theological terms in the target culture’s language. It embraces the art of contextualisation – the art of expressing the gospel, and other biblical teaching, in a manner that engages with the recipient culture’s deep assumptions, convictions, dreams, fears and longings, so that the recipients engage, with their whole person, the claims that the gospel makes upon their lives.

Missiology does not assume that indigenous churches, denominations and theological traditions are mature and self-sufficient. It has tried to walk that fine line between assisting relatively young churches without patronising them, and giving them independent authority and responsibility without risking heresy or burnout.

Missiology also assumes that indigenous churches need to express their Christian faith in ways that are appropriate to their culture. So again, missiology warily treads the line between patronisation – where the expression of Christianity is so alien, so ‘foreign’, as to be inauthentic and incomprehensible to the target culture – and syncretism – where so much indigenous, non-Christian thought-forms are taken on board that the gospel is fundamentally compromised. This balancing act is an important aspect of contextualisation.

Friday, 14 May 2010

A Leader’s Mic is Always On

A great post over at The Gospel Coalition on how a leader is always in the public eye & can never relax.

I've noticed this myself. One of my church people mentioned in passing how he watched me as I interacted with a visitor. And just this week, I kicked myself when I made a comment as a joke, only to have it taken seriously - but thankfully the person asked, so I could backpeddle.

1 Peter 4:11a: If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Colin Dexter on a gambler's mind

Colin Dexter, in one of his Inspector Morse novels, gives us a really good insight into the mind of a gambler.
The urge to gamble is so universal, so deeply embedded in unregenerate human nature that from the earliest days the philosophers and moralists have assumed it to be evil. Cupiditas, the Romans called it - the longing for the things of this world, the naked, shameless greed for gain. It is the cause, perhaps, of all our troubles. Yet how easy it remains to understand the burning envy, felt by those posessing little, for those endowed with good aplenty. And gambling? Why, gambling offers to the poor the shining chance of something for for nothing.

Crude analysis! For to some it is gambling itself, the very process and the practice of gambling, that is so immensely pleasurable. So pleasurable indeed that gambling needs, for them, no spurious raison d'etre whatsoever, no necessary prospect of the jackpots and the windfalls and the weekends in Bermuda; just the heady, heavy opiate of the gambling game itself, with the promise of its thousand exhilarating griefs and dangerous joys. Win a million on the wicked spinning-wheel tonight, and where are you tomorrow night but back around the wicked spinning wheel?
Colin Dexter, Last Seen Wearing, Chapter twenty-one.

The website of the Inspector Morse TV series is here.


Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Out of the mouths of babes...

At the beginning of the service, the person leading the meeting stood on the podium, and in a solemn voice read from Psalm 46:10: "Be still, and know that I am God!"
A little voice whispered from the front pew: "Is he really God, mummy...?"

After a church service on Sunday morning, a young boy suddenly announced to his mother, “Mom, I've decided to become a minister when I grow up.”
“That’s great dear - but what made you decide that all of a sudden?”
“Well,” said the little boy, “I have to go to church on Sunday anyway, And I figure it will be more fun to stand up and yell, than to sit and listen.”

A 6-year-old was overheard reciting the Lord’s Prayer at a church service: “And forgive us our trash passes, as we forgive those who passed trash against us.”

A little girl became restless as the preacher’s sermon dragged on and on. Finally, she leaned over to her mother and whispered, “Mommy, if we give him the money now, will he let us go?”

Ms. Terri asked her Sunday School class to draw pictures of their favorite Bible stories. She was puzzled by little Nathan's picture, which showed four people on an airplane, so she asked him which story it was meant to represent.
“The Flight to Egypt ,” was his reply.
Pointing at each figure, Ms. Terri said, “That must be Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus. But who’s the fourth person?”
“Oh, that’s Pontius - the pilot!”

A boy was watching his father, a pastor, write a sermon.
“How do you know what to say?” he asked.
“Why, God tells me.”
“Oh. Then why do you keep crossing things out...?”

Monday, 10 May 2010

The race

This is a section of a military action thriller I've got in my head. In the style of John Grisham. Or Clive Cussler. Maybe Dale Brown. Or should it be Jack Higgins? I'd really like to follow the footsteps of Tom Clancy and Frederick Forsyth. Well, you get the idea.

***

A loud tone started pinging in Nate’s ear. “Not good, buddy,” he heard Shane growl. “We got a Tejas interceptor coming up behind us. They’re a helluvalot faster than this old bucket of bolts.”

“Now what?” Nate queried.

“Now it’s a race!”

Shane slammed the throttle forward, to maximum afterburner. Nate gasped as the acceleration pushed him back in his seat, forcing the air out of his lungs. Despite the padded seat, and the automatic inflation of air cells in his survival suit, he felt like all his internal bodily organs were about to rip through his back, and be left behind in the blazing wake of the Chinese Su-30 fighter plane.

Even Shane was finding it hard to speak through the incredible g-forces pummelling his body. “Got – to get – within – missile range - of Hercules,” he gasped, “before - Indian fighter – shoots us down!”

The pinging tone in Nate’s ears changed to a loud screech. “He’s – locked – missile – on us,” Shane wheezed. “We need – thirty - more - seconds!”

Thirty more seconds before they could fling their Feilong "flying dragon" long-range air-to-air missiles at the Hercules transport plane ahead of them - the plane which was carrying the disguised nuclear bomb that would start world war three. Thirty seconds of them flying at nearly mach two, while the Indian missile behind them was catching them up at almost three times that speed.

Nate forced his head around to look out the back of the aircraft canopy. The afterburner made it look like their fighter was perched atop a horizontal pillar of flame. He could see a distant smoke trail. Even as he watched, it grew from a speck, to a dot, to the clearly discernable round nose of the pursuing missile.

They weren’t going to make it.

Nate reached down and grasped the eject lever. As he did so, the screech in his head turned into a series of high-pitched beeps. “Got a lock!” he heard Shane yell. “Fox three!”

Nate felt the jerk as the Feilong missile dropped off its inside pylon, and heard the roar as its solid-fuel rocket engine lit up. “Fox four!” Shane had launched the second missile almost before the first one had cleared the wing.

The moment he felt the second Feilong fall free, Nate yanked the eject lever with all his might. The canopy above them disintegrated, exposing them to the full blast of the wind. A fraction of a second after the canopy blew away, the rocket motors under their ejector seats ignited, blasting them straight up into the air. Below them, the Chinese fighter dissolved into flame as the missile from the Indian interceptor found its mark.

As he soared into the clear blue air, Nate could see the smoke trails of their two missiles lancing off into the far horizon. Then he blacked out.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

For the Sake of the World: A Missional Ecclesiology

Prof. Mike Goheen will be delivering a public lecture on Missional Church at the Presbyterian Theological Centre, Tuesday 25th May, 2:00-3:15pm. Lecture and Q&A followed by afternoon tea. Cost: $10 visitors, free for PTC students.

Prof. Goheen is Professor of Worldview and Religious Studies, Trinity Western University, Langley, BC, Canada. He operates the Scripture & Worldview website along with Craig Bartholomew. You can access his resume at that website.

"Missional Church" involves the application of missiology - the study of missions - to ecclesiology - the study of church. Basically, it assumes that church should be, in its very nature, "missional" - outward focused, engaging the world. Church must not be just for insiders, but also for outsiders.

I would say that I'm in favour of missional church, in that I agree with the above statement. I hold that church - the people of God, in relationship with God and each other - exists not just for themselves and God, but also "for" the world. I basically hold this because I hold that:
  1. the God we worship as church is God, not only of the church, but of the whole world;
  2. Jesus died for the "whole world" in the sense that the offer of salvation through faith in Christ is offered to all people everywhere indiscriminately; and
  3. part of ordinary Christian discipleship is to love not just God and each other but the whole world.
Of course there's lots of nuances within missional church, and a lot of variation in how it's applied. Might blog some excerpts from an essay I wrote late last year. And I'll put up my thoughts on what Prof. Goheen says. Watch this space.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Still more atheist foot-shooting

This one's a bit old, but still relevant.

You might remember how Richard Dawkins and other militant atheists funded a series of bus ads in the UK that said "there's probably no God". There's at least three problems with that statement:
  1. I think it is, on the face of it, simply wrong. Even without Jesus and the Bible, I think there's evidence that there probably is a God. (a) The universe is full of evidence of purposeful, life-giving design (purposeful creation); (b) the life-giving inter-connectedness of the universe points to a good, life-giving creator who gives life through relationships (God the Holy Trinity); (c) the human tendency towards religious feelings and "worship" demonstrates there is an irreducible God-directed aspect of human nature (anthropology is necessarily theological and doxological); (d) and, purely on statistics, atheism represents a tiny minority of the world population - are we really going to say that almost everyone throughout history has been deluded?
  2. Let's say that statement is correct - "there's probably no God". Okay - but... oh dear... that still leaves a small chance that he exists! And if he does exist... maybe he doesn't like being ignored! Oh no! We really should find out..!
  3. Chris Deal of Punch has pointed out the yawning chasm between the strength of the atheist argument and the volume of their shouting. “Probably” isn’t enough, 26 March 2010. Note: Chris Deal is an agnostic.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Funeral sermon

I led my first funeral this week. The text of the sermon I delivered is below. I'd like your feedback on it.

My aims in this sermon were:
1. clearly and simply point people to life in Jesus (= “preach the gospel”);
2. point them to the genuine, deep long-term comfort that Christ provides;
3. give them a positive experience of “church” and “Christianity” in a time of need, so as to increase the chances of them listening to the gospel again sometime in the future.

I’d like your thoughts on (1) these three aims, and (2) whether you think this talk achieves them.

I’ve censored the names of the deceased, and his family, in this text. I don’t think they’d mind it being published – I only say nice things about them – but, I’ll err on the safe side.

Passage: John 11:25-27:
Main point: we need to give over our deceased, and our selves, to the risen, living Christ.

Intro
We have come here today to thank God for Deceased; to support each other, and share each other’s grief; and to give our dear Deceased over to God.

A strong, caring man
Deceased was a very strong man. He worked hard, at outdoor jobs, in the heat and the cold and the rain. And never complained. He worked harder to find a job than most of us work in a job. When he was a car park attendant at Location he checked the cars twice as often as the other attendants. At Location he drove the train in all weather, in stifling heat and freezing cold and soggy wetness.
He was a caring man. He was always thinking of others. He delayed getting the cancer report so that it wouldn’t overshadow the birthday party of one of his granddaughters. He cared for his daughters A and B. He’d give them lifts in the early hours of the morning. He was always there for them.
And not just for his family. He’d do the same for his daughters friends. A and B’s friends saw him as their second dad.

Jesus
In this, Deceased reminds me of someone else. Someone who was a very strong man. And a deeply caring man.
Deceased reminds me of Jesus.
Jesus was a strong man. He was a carpenter. He loved the outdoors. He talked about the birds and the flowers.
And Jesus was a caring man. He cared for his family. He cared for his friends. In fact, he cared for the whole world.
Entrust Deceased to Jesus
We must give our beloved Deceased to Jesus. Because Jesus is even stronger than Deceased. And Jesus loves Deceased even more than we love Deceased.
Deceased was a strong man. He fought the cancer for nearly two years. But he couldn’t beat it. The cancer was stronger than him.
He wanted to fight the cancer because he cared about his family. He wanted to be there for Wife. And for his daughters A and B. And for his grandchildren. His love for them made him want to fight the cancer.
But his love, strong as it was, couldn’t overcome the cancer.
We need to give Deceased to someone stronger than him. We need to give Deceased to Jesus.
The resurrection and the life
The Bible tells us how Jesus went to visit a grieving family. Two sisters – Mary and Martha – had lost their brother, Lazarus. This is what Jesus said to one of the sisters, Martha.
I'm reading from the Bible. John 11:25-27:
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 “Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”

Jesus died – and rose
The Bible says Jesus experienced death. He was crucified and died. That’s what we remember on Good Friday.
But he did not stay dead. He rose again, on Easter Sunday. The tomb is empty. Jesus is alive now.
This is why Jesus is stronger than Deceased.
Deceased is dead. He’s gone. He can’t love us any more. He can’t look after us any more.
And our love for Deceased won’t bring him back. All we can do is give him this final honour: a dignified burial.
But Jesus is alive. He has conquered death.
And so we can give our Deceased to Jesus. Knowing that Jesus will look after him. Even when we can’t.
Entrust ourselves to Jesus
And we must give ourselves to Jesus.
We all live in the shadow of death. When we look at Deceased, in this coffin before us, we know we will one day face our own death.
Some of us may have already had a close brush with death. We may have been badly sick. Or had an accident.
Even if not, we know we’re not going to live for ever.
One day, we’re going to be in a coffin like this as well. And our family and friends will grieve for us.
This is why we need Jesus.
The Bible says death happens to us because we have all rejected God. We don’t want to live God’s way. We want to live our own way.
God is the source of life. Because we cut ourselves off from the source of life – from God – we die.
It’s like plucking a flower from a bush. The flower doesn’t shrivel up immediately. It stays beautiful for some time. But because the life giving sap doesn’t flow through it any more, it eventually shrivels us and dies.

We are all like that flower. We have taken ourselves away from God, the source of life. We stay beautiful for a while. But eventually, we shrivel up and die.
Jesus can give us back God’s life. Jesus said:
John 11:25 … “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.
If we entrust ourselves to Jesus – if we give ourselves to him – then he promises we will live, even though we die. That is: just like Jesus died and then rose again, he promises that one day he will bring us back from the dead. Never to die again. And to live with him. And each other. Forever.
But for that, we must give ourselves to Jesus. We must entrust ourselves to him.
We must say what Martha said:
John 11:27 “Yes, Lord,” she [Martha] told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”
We must accept that Jesus is God’s king. Who rules the world. And who rules us.
And we must accept that Jesus is himself God. In the flesh. And worship him, as God.

Conclusion
Deceased was a strong man. And a loving man.
But even his strength and love couldn’t fight off death.
We must give our dear Deceased to someone who is stronger and more loving than him. We must give our Deceased to Jesus.
And we must give our selves to someone even stronger and more loving than Deceased. We must give our selves to Jesus.
Jesus: God in the flesh.
Jesus: God’s king. Who rules the world.
Jesus: who can give us life with God again.
Do you believe this?

Monday, 3 May 2010

One for committees

Committees are very important to Presbyterian functionality...

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Clive Cussler on redemptive substitution

Of all the crazy places to find a reference to Jesus & his death in our place - Clive Cussler!
While Giordino and his passengers were in the lock, Pitt quickly turned his attention to the boarding of the second submersible. He ordered the NUMA team women to enter first. Then he silently nodded for Stacy to follow.
She hesitated at the hatch opening, shot him a strained, questioning look. She was standing quite still as though stunned by what was happening around her.
'Are you going to die becuase I took your place?' she asked softly.
Pitt flashed a madcap smile. 'Keep a date open for rum collins at sunset on the lanai of the Halakalani Hotel in Honolulu.'
[...]
As the submersible rolled into the air lock and the door closed with a sickening finality, Plunkett slapped Pitt's back with a great bear paw of a hand.
'You're a brave one, Mr Pitt. No man could have played God better.'
Clive Cussler, Dragon, pages 80-81.