Saturday, December 23, 2006

Back home...

Enjoying getting a better understanding of who Jesus is, as I read Hebrews 1 & 2 and John 1. Christmas truly is a celebration of an amazing event... The Word became flesh! Being encouraged to get a much bigger view of the Lord Jesus Christ - creator, sustainer, redeemer. GOD! Eternal. Life-giver. Know Jesus! These are times when we need to be clear on who he is!

Great to spend a few hours in Don Vegas as The Gentlemen played at St. Mary's Wheatley, and Maz told of the bad news and the good news.

Mike showed his legendary status is well-deserved as he drove the choon-machine all the way to the 'ham, and we enjoyed a full english before driving down to Donny with a big red sun belting through the mist. There's something unique about night-driving. Post-gig we headed back to the north-west with Nancy, another former Durham-er, and it was great to be encouraged by hearing about gospel-work amongst the youth of Liverpool, as well as general post-uni life.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Word Up in the Peak District...

A great time was had this last weekend up at Ravenstor Youth Hostel, on the outskirts of Derbyshire, enjoying a weekend with forty or so students from across the country. The Peak District is beautiful - almost felt like I was in Pride & Prejudice. Bleak horizons with sparse trees standing dark against low-sun winter sunsets. No lakes to clamber out of dripping wet though.

Some more highlights:

- Seeing old faces from camp this last summer, and how grace has been poured out!
- Quality gameage, both old and new... a personal return for the sofa-game, for the first time since SA. Mafia with 25 people was intense, and the animal games never fails to bring everyone to hysterics... "I'm a dog!"
- Brilliant food, including roast chicken and Christmas pud for lunch today
- Being able to osmosize whilst listening to older wiser Christians converse.
- Getting to know some Durham faces a lot better.

On top of all that...
Bible Teaching on the 10 Commandments, and Faith, Hope, & Love were immense.
How the law brings us to our knees - standard and standard not reached, so to have a Law-Keeper! What an amazing thing! So we press on with faith and hope and love - all key as we live for Him.
Also challenged greatly on integrity and encouraged by assurance! Enthused by the gospel as I face tomorrow!

Friday, December 15, 2006

There is A River...

Listening to Jars of Clay's new record, Good Monsters. Here's a snippet:
There is a river that washes you clean
There is a tree that marks the places you've been
Blood that was spilt, although not your own
For all of these things, love will atone

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Necessity of the Atonement...

Reading John Murray's Redemption Accomplished and Applied, which is Christmas reading. Chapter 1 focuses on the necessity of the atonement.

"No treatment of the atonement can be properly orientated that does not trace its source to the free and sovereign love of God." Easy-to-overlook, but totally mega!

And this love is distinguishing: he predestinates (Rom 8.29) and chooses (Eph 1.4,5). It is the determinate purpose of this love that the atonement secures. God is love, truly. Yet the nature of electing love means that God is under no necessity to set his love upon undesirable and hell-deserving objects.

"The atonement does not win or constrain the love of God ... It must be regarded, therefore, as a settled datum that the love of God is the cause or source of the atonement."

But why the necessity of the atonement? Why was the means of accomplishing love's determinate purpose, the atonement? Murray points to two schools of thought: hypothetical necessity and consequent absolute necessity. The former claims there was a way of forgiving sin and saving the elect without atonement or satisfaction, it's just God chose in wisdom to use this 'way'. The latter claims, sure salvation was the good pleasure of God and of no necessity to God, but once God has selected some to everlasting life out of grace, he is under necessity to accomplish this through the atonement.

Is it impossible for him to save sinners without vicarious sacrifice? To help me digest Murray's argument I've made brief notes as below:

1. Hebrews 2.10, 17 :: Implies that salvation should be accomplished through a captain of salvation who would be made perfect through sufferings, and this entailed he be made in all things like his brethren.

2. John 3.14-16 :: This verses suggest the alternative to the giving of God's son are the eternal perdition of the lost.

3. Hebrews 1.1-3; 2.9-18; 9.9-14, 22-28 :: There is a necessity that can be met by nothing less than the blood of Jesus, as he is Son and partaker of flesh and blood. This is due to the gravity of sin, and the required sacrifice to deal with sin.

4. Salvation comprises of justification to those previously condemned, thus a righteousness is necessary. The only such righteousness available is that of Christ.

5. Can the cross be held aloft as the supreme demonstration of the love of God if there another way of achieving salvation, and thus such costliness were not necessary?

6. Sin is such that salvation from sin without expiation and propitiation is inconcievable. Christ was a propitiation to declare God's righteousness.

"The more we emphasize the inflexible demands of justice and holiness the more marvellous become the love of God and its provisions."

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Why did Augustine write about grace so much...

"First and foremost because no subject gives me greater pleasure. For what ought to be more attractive to us sick men, than grace, grace by which we are healed; for us lazy men, than grace, grace by which we are stirred up; for us men longing to act, than grace, by which we are helped?"

Letter to Paulinus

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Looking forward to marriage and the present reality of love...

Yesterday 10GS hosted a surprise Engagement Celebration for my housemate Jenny and her fiancee Simon (I can never remember which term has the accented 'e') - it was wonderful to see a number of our good friends in Durham joining with them as we celebrated their forthcoming marriage (1st Sep?).

There's great pressure in student Christian culture to idolise relationships, and I think this arises particularly out of the want to be loved. But human affection isn't bound to the sexually attracted, for the church is a place of costly, sacrificial love, as Jason Clarke explained from John 15.9-17 at BEC on Sunday.

There is a incredible diversity, yet there is a common acknowledgement of sin, and a common acknowledgement of extravagent forgiveness. The one redmedy for failed human love is to know you are loved, and that is Jesus' is claim: 'As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you' (15.9). We can know we are loved, as Paul says in Romans 5.8, not in the words of novel, but in the sacrifice of history. It was whilst we were still sinners - it was then - that Christ died for us!

And this, only this, is the true motivation to love others, 'this is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you' (15.12). It is our duty and our joy to love, in obedience to the one who first loved us. Real love is to real people, and is really hard! But it's not to be without heart, for it completes our joy (15.11) and it bears fruit, attracting others the love of God.

It is hard, but it is best. It is a command, but it is a response.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Biblical Evangelism...

Great weekend spent at The Dyke House in Herefordshire on UCCF's Biblical Evangelism Conference.
Really great to think about why the Bible is so important in evangelism and to challenge idle thinking: is what I 'believe' about evangelism based on the company I keep or the convictions I have? I think this weekend has done a lot in shaping my thinking about all of the above. Great too to meet guys and girls from across the UK all excited about seeing the Bible explained to those who are yet Christian, as well as hang out with folk from the 'ham and have some good encouraging chat.

Will post more BEC in the next few days, if I have a spare minute.