Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Occasional Communion: 2 test cases

After much debate on occasional communion over at the 9 Marks blog, and having thought through it all a little more clearly that I had a few years ago, I was faced with the decision twice over the last week: would I take the Lord's Supper (1) At Oak Hill College chapel. (2) At Spicer street church.

My decision. 1) Not at Oak Hill, because as a college I didn't feel it appropriate to share in what is a church ordinance.
2) Though Spicer Street practices what could best be called "occasional paedobaptism" I by no means felt that this should exclude me from the Lord's supper. Though I find the practise confusing it by no means stops Spicer Street from being a true, and in almost every way a very healthy church.

The worldview of Spiderman 3

I watched Spiderman 3 upon all the glory of a 6 inch screen on a flight last week.

Very interesting worldview presented:

Aunt May is certainly the character who comes across as the voice we are supposed to trust.

Some quotes from her:
"I don't think it's for us to say whether a person deserves to live or die."
"You start by doing the hardest thing, you forgive yourself. I believe in you, Peter. You're a good person, and I know you'll find a way to put it right."

And then it ended (don't read if you don't want to have the movie ruined) with an extraordinary scene where the bad guy who had killed Parker's uncle is seen not as the villain, but as a pitiful victim.
Flint Marko: [looks down at the crowd below] I didn't want this. But I had no choice...
Peter Parker: We always have a choice. You had a choice when you killed my uncle.
Flint Marko: My daughter was dying, I needed money. [flashback: Flint knocks on the car window with a gun]
Flint Marko: I was scared. I told your uncle all I wanted was the car. He said to me "Why don't you just put down the gun and go home?" I realise now he was just trying to help me. [Uncle Ben tells Flint to put down the gun and go home, just when Flint's partner exits a nearby building with the money]
Flint Marko: Then I saw my partner running over with the cash... and the gun was in my hand... [he shakes Flint's arm - causing him to shoot Uncle Ben. Flint realizes this]
Flint Marko: I did a terrible thing to you, I spent a lot of nights wishing I could take it back. [Flint's partner drives off with the car, but Flint stays by Uncle Ben's side]
Flint Marko: [to Peter] I'm not asking you to forgive me. I just want you to understand.
Peter Parker: I've done terrible things too.
Flint Marko: I didn't choose to be this. The only thing left of me now... is my daughter.
Peter Parker: [after a pause] I forgive you.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Tell me more

A return to my ongoing but sadly occasional project of evaluating evangelistic and apologetic websites...
Next up is Roger Carswell's "Tell me More"

"Tell me More" is a series of short articles (about the right length for publication on a website) interacting with (particularly British) culture.

The thing I love about the site most is that the gospel is clearly shared in every article. Carswell knows that someone might just read one of his articles, or get sent it by a friend after a "religious" conversation.

So, if you have a conversation with a friend who seems to be getting all their ideas about religion from the BBC (or PBS in the USA) there is a great short article you could send them entitled "Don't get your religion from the BBC"
Here's a quote from that article, showing his transition between his exposition of the BBC's portrayal of religion to take the reader to the gospel...
The BBC portray religion as humankind’s long search for God. As humans, we were created to know God, but our wrongdoing, our sins, have cut us off from Him.
There is an incompleteness, an emptiness within us all. Spiritually we are dead, yet we know there is something wrong.
The truth is that whilst sometimes we would like to know God, we also run away from Him, and do our own thing. Instead of us searching for God, He has taken the initiative and come searching for us.
That is what the first Christmas was all about. God the Creator became like us whom He had created. He became a man and dwelt among us. It is as if He became our neighbour. Jesus said, “I have come to seek and to save those who are lost.”
He then goes on to present a fuller explanation of the gospel. This is typical of the site.

Other brief articles undermine the presumption that political correctness is always a good thing, make use of the fact that we are all sick of spin.

The articles are not particularly sophisticated or high-brow, but are a great resource to use off the back of even the most casual conversation that you've had about religion.
Also on the site there are some more fully developed explanations of the gospel.
Good on Carswell to have a site that is so simple and so gospel-focused. I look forward to seeing if he will post more articles that will be useful for other conversations that people have had about the gospel, as the site is as yet fairly small.

Great posts on prayer

My friend from Oak Hill, Richard Perkins, has done a good series of posts on prayer.

some great quotes from the series.
Don Carson writes...
"It matters little whether you are the mother of active children who drain away your energy, an important executive in a major multinational corporation, a graduate student cramming for impending comprehensives, a plumber working overtime to put your children through college, or a pastor of a large church putting in ninety hours a week: at the end of the day, if you are too busy to pray, you are too busy. Cut something out"
‘Although abstractly I may affirm the importance of prayer, in reality I may treat prayer as important only in the lives of other people, especially those whom I judge to be weaker in character, more needy, less competent, less productive. Thus, while affirming the importance of prayer, I may not feel deep need for prayer in my own life’.
Philip Jensen & Tony Payne write...
‘Every time we open our mouths in prayer, we are saying, ‘I know you are able, I know you are willing, I know you are my creator and Father through the Lord Jesus Christ, and I know that you have promised to hear me when I call to you in prayer’.
John Bunyan writes,
‘Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit, for such things as God has promised, or according to His word, for the good of the church, with submission in faith to the will of God’.
There's more great stuff in the posts. Go Read!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Barriers to College Evangelism 4: Busyness

If the devil can’t stop us from evangelizing through isolation, fear or compromise, he will be happy to convince us that there are all kinds of good things that we need to do with our time. There will always be good things to do, but if we are unable to spend a significant amount of our time with Non-Christians seeking to share the gospel we are being just as unfaithful to the Lord as we would be if we never read his word, prayed, met with his people. We are also removing from ourselves one of the greatest joys that the Lord would have us share with him in. As Jesus shared the truth of who he was with a sinful broken woman, he said to his disciples, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Do you not say, 'Four months more and then the harvest'? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together.” (John 4:34-36)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

9 Marks Weekender Blogged

The last weekend has been extremely busy with 50 pastors and future pastors coming in from around the country (and even from Scotland and Serbia)

Nobody has ever attempted to give a full blogging account of a weekender before this one.

This time Noah Brayman managed to find time on a very bust weekend to give a fairly full account of the weekend.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Barriers to College Evangelism 3: Compromise

It is one thing to find a picture of the street reflecting a church. It is another to have Christians who reflect the man on the Street.

It is easy to think that we will better be able to befriend Non-Christians and witness to them if we are more like them. Doesn’t Paul say, “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some”? (1 Cor. 9:22). He does – and we need to ensure that there is no offence but the offence of the gospel in our friendships with Non-Christians. Yet we may not remove the offence of the gospel.

There are two ways we tend to remove the offence of the gospel.

1. We sometimes deliberately don’t talk about those aspects of the gospel that we think will be most offensive (judgment, hell, the exclusivity of Christ). When we do this we remove the part of the gospel that shows people that they really need Jesus. This might make us more popular, but it will cripple our evangelism.
2.We sometimes live lives that suggest by our compromised lives that the gospel doesn’t have the offensive implications of the need to obey the Lord Jesus. So we join in with the coarse joking, we have a few beers too many, we stretch the boundaries of sexual purity and join in with the latest gossip. Living like Non-Christians removes the vital witness of the transforming effects of the gospel, and denies our statements that Jesus has redeemed us from slavery to sin and brought us under his Lordship.

Dever's New book on evangelism now out.

Mark Dever's book on evangelism is now out.
Looking forward to reading the book.
Disappointed with the cover.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Barrier to College evangelism 2: Fear

It can be pretty scary mixing with non-Christians who seem to have thought through their opinions fairly deeply and who hold them very firmly. When professors seem to give weight to anti-Christian thinking this can be particularly hard. We begin to fear that the gospel will sound ridiculous, and so never speak about Christian things.
There are several things that we need to meditate upon.

i) We should not be surprised that people will use their whole intellect to oppose the gospel. Even the apostle Paul says of himself before his conversion, “I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth”. (Acts 26:9)We need to recognize though that people’s opposition to the gospel is not primarily intellectual. It is moral stand against the Lordship of Christ dressed in an intellectual garb. The converting work of the Holy Spirit is well able to show people the folly of that stand, and it is as the gospel is shared even by fearful students that this will be happening on campus.

ii) It is as we fear the Lord more we can fear others less and love them more. If we are paralyzed by the fear of man it will stop us from loving them enough to share the gospel – their only hope for salvation. If we are gripped by the fear of the Lord, we will seek to honour him in declaring the Lordship of Christ, and the result will be a gentle, loving, compassionate sharing of the gospel with those who are lost. If we really fear the Lord, we will fear nothing else but will be content even in the face of great opposition. (Proverbs 19:23)

iii) Opposition to the gospel is well addressed in Scripture. Meditate of those passages in Scripture that hold out to us our eternal hope. They are intended for all who suffer – not just those suffering more than we do! (1 Peter 3:13-18) For more on suffering, see John Piper's reflections (HT: Justin Taylor)

iv) There is in the end no need to fear someone who is unable to remove our faith. Sharing the gospel will only ever strengthen faith. Our confidence that we will be kept in the faith is not in our ability to convince someone of the truth of the gospel (we have no such ability!) It is in the God’s committed sustaining love for us. He has already shown us just how committed he is by sending his Son. (Romans 8:31-38)

A great book to read to meditate more on overcoming the fear of man is Ed Welch's When People are Big and God is Small.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Barrier to College Evangelism 1: Isolation

One of the reasons that we don’t have a massive program of events for students at CHBC is that we love the Non-Christian friends of our students! It would be possible to fill up your lives with Christian meetings and socialize only with Christians when you had time to. We think it is hugely important that you spend time with other Christians in edifying conversation. But Christians are light. We must make sure that our light is shining before people, or the whole purpose of our light is wasted.

Why not pray for 3 non-Christians each day who you are trying to witness to, 2 groups of Non-Christians where you spend regular time getting to know them and building significant relationships and at least one opportunity to share the gospel each week? Once the Lord answers that last prayer, start praying for an opportunity to share the gospel each day.

There is another form of isolation that students can suffer from. This is when none of their Non-Christian friends know any of their Christian friends. They suddenly feel very alone trying to stand for Christ in those relationships. Whatever good relationships the Lord gives you with Non-Christians, try to introduce them to your Christian friends. This will multiply your witness exponentially. Not only does that Non-Christian now have more Christians who can witness to them, they also get the opportunity to observe the most compelling evidence of the truth of the gospel: the love that Christians have for one another.

I guess you've noticed this already....

I guess if you read enough blogs to get far enough down the list to read mine, then you already know that Sovereign Grace now has ALL their MP3 downloads for free.

These include talks by Dever, Mark Duncan, Ligon Grudem, Wayne Harris, Joshua Harvey, Dave Kauflin, Bob MacArthur, John Mahaney, Carolyn Mahaney, C.J. McCulley, Carolyn Mohler, Albert Piper, John Powlison, David Purswell, Jeff Ramsden, Michael Sande, Ken Sproul, R.C. Taylor, Justin Ware, Bruce

I've particularly enjoyed Mike Bullmore's message Things I learned about preaching from 15 years of having taught it

Comment on those you've found most helpful!

HT Colin Adams, Bob Kauflin

Friday, September 7, 2007

Unusual Opportunities 2: Loving those who are different from yourself.

As we noted in my last post, it is easy for students to spend almost all of their time with other students. This is a great opportunity for Christian students to demonstrate the transforming and unifying power of the gospel.

A Christian student who is a member of their local church, and is seeking to build significant relationships with the other members of their local church is going to seem unusual. People turn up to your dorm room, and you are hanging out with a recently married couple, or a single person of the same sex 15 years older than you. People ask you what you are doing that evening and you explain that you are babysitting for a family, or going to visit an elderly member of the congregation in their home, or going to visit someone who is recovering from an operation in hospital, or helping out with a bible study for young offenders.

Jesus said, "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:35). In an environment where people tend only to love people who are like themselves, the Christian love of those different to yourselves can give unusual opportunities for evangelism.: European, Asian, African, Native American (For some great reading on ethnicity see the latest 9marks journal and recent blog discussions 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 ); young old, married, single, educated, disadvantaged, rich, poor, pretty, plain, able-bodied, disabled, healthy, sick. This love cannot be adequately demonstrated through membership in a campus ministry, but through active membership in a local church it will: Jesus will be honoured and the gospel will be displayed.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Unusual opportunities 1: Shared lives

There will not be another time where you will likely be living, working, relaxing, exercising, eating, thinking and socializing with one group of people. This means that there will never be another group of Non-Christians who will be able to observe your life at such close quarters, and with whom you will have such incredible opportunities for multiple conversations about the gospel.

Just think about this for a moment: once you graduate you will have various different groups of people whom you might seek to evangelise: your colleagues, your neighbours, your sports teams / interest groups, the people who eat in the same restaurants you do. I could go on. But while you are at College these might all be the same people.

This means you will be more observed that anyone else. It is quite possible to choose to hide parts of your life from colleagues, neighbours, sports teams, etc. It becomes hard to do so if they are all the same interconnected group of people. People will observe whether you are living for different things in a different way to every other student.

All this leads to many opportunities for gospel conversations, and for ongoing dialogue about the gospel.