reload The Race by Maurice McCracken

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Colossian Jesus

posted by Little Mo | Permalink | 4 comments
That hideous thing "The Gospel conversation." For years it was the holy grail I pursued with particular friends, when I waited for the opportunity and the spilt two ways to live or the four spiritual laws out onto them. Looking for ways to "Get the Gospel in". Eeek.

That's not the way Paul seems to view it happening with the Colossians, as me and my lovely Relay Worker noted last week. We have had a great time as he has led me through and we got to the random bit at the end of chapter 4. Rather he says "let your conversation always be full of grace, seasoned with salt." What that means is, I think, not that we are looking for ways to get the Gospel in (although we should do that) but rather that there is something different about the way we speak all the time that reflects the grace of the Gospel.

And that isn't about merely trying to be different. Its believing what Colossians says about Jesus - that everything, that means everything, is created by him and for him. That means there is no topic of conversation to which Jesus is unrelated and no situation where it is impossible to give a distinctive Christian perspective.

Recently in church one of the other elders told the story of how his wife was chatting to another Mum about life and its stresses and said, quite naturally "there is a great sense of peace knowing someone you trust is in control." Discussing it afterwards the reaction of people seemed to be "I'd never have thought of that" or "I'd never have the nerve to say that". It seems to me the solution to those problems is simply to believe in the Colossian Christ - that all we talk about is made by him and for him anyway.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Grace becomes a work

posted by Little Mo | Permalink | 1 comments
I am very into and have been much helped by the idea that our issues with sanctification stem from believing (or not believing) things about the Gospel. Much thanks go to Jerry Bridges who has been writing about this stuff for years, and also to Keller, Chester and others whose names end in er. So the issue is not "how to stop sinning" but "how to start believing and accepting the Gospel in a particular area of my life."

However, I see a problem developing in me, and in some of the people I work with. Not a problem with the theology, but a problem with its application. The issue is that this "apply the Gospel to your sin" can in itself become a work. Am I good at applying the Gospel to my pride? Have I been successful at applying the Gospel to my self esteem? Have I done well at applying grace to my temper?

For me, this theological stuff which truly is excellent can so easily make the Gospel of amazing grace into yet another technique to improve myself and either feed my self righteousness, or beat myself up for my unrighteousness. I was struck recently when I was with a friend discussing something I was struggling with. I nearly found myself saying "I don't want you to know how rubbish I am at trusting the Gospel!" (Yes Maurice, that would be the Gospel message that says that you are, y'know, rubbish.)

But the Gospel is not a self improvement technique. It is just good news that God loves me, and that the amazing generous and kind Jesus is my Lord, and that there is a new creation coming, and that God's Spirit dwells in me, and that Jesus intercedes for me in my weakness. Those things are TRUE, and to be rejoiced in, not simply USED to move on in holiness.

Heaven help us all when believing in grace becomes a measurable work.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

posted by Little Mo | Permalink | 5 comments
What would Jesus say to Michael Phelps, plus a talk at Liverpool CU on the rich young ruler plus Zephaniah has got me thinking about possessions.

It seems to me that the Bible doesn't say that being rich is wrong but that it is dangerous. The thing is about having stuff is that it makes you feel like everything is ok. So, I wake up in a warm bed, I go to my lecture and have a coffee, I hang out with my mates, have a few drinks. It doesn't feel like I am in desperate need of forgiveness from the great God of the universe. I feel like if there is a problem then I can deal with it.

Isn't that what makes mission to students so difficult? Most people don't feel any need because their material comfort has made them immune to the message that they need God to be kind to them. They don't feel that they need God's kindness!

Zephaniah is very similar. I guess a question for lots of us, is why so strong on judgement? At least part of it is the recurring theme of the people thinking they are safe because they have money, vineyards and wine! It all felt pretty comfortable. And it takes God's shocking description of where we truly are before him to wake us up from our money-induced stupor. (In fact, for those people, even that didn't seem to work!)

Once at a Christian conference, I heard someone ask the speaker on the issue of poverty "should you give money to homeless people?" The speaker looked them up and down and said "I think it would be good for you to give some of your money away." There is wisdom there. I'm not sure I'm listening or teaching enough on not only the great things we can do with our money, but how our possessions are a danger to us.

Incidentally, Bish, if you are reading this, where is your resource on money for students? We need it!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Big Questions

posted by Little Mo | Permalink | 0 comments
So - great week at Cumbria with lovely students who are doing a brilliant job of getting alongside the students on their campus. There was good attendance at events, but as it should be, it was the students doing the work not us, taking Gospels and giving them out in their lectures and getting stuck into campus life. It really felt like the events were part of the ongoing Christian life which these guys are living out amongst their friends on their small campus, which is great. Also, they gave us a nice plant, which we love.

Then it was off the Scottish borders for the Newcastle Houseparty. It was great to spend time with these guys, digging into Zephaniah in preparation for their events week which we'll be heading up to in February. It was great to get into the book, talk mission, pretend to be Louis Walsh and make a new group of first year friends, including hearing the other side of an hiilarious Word Alive story.

But it was also a weekend of disturbing questions: do we want to believe in the God that Zephaniah describes. Is it true that, as Zephaniah seems to say, human rights are less important than God being honoured for who he is? Can't we have the value of humanity, without the God of Zephaniah who judges and destroys? Why can't we simply agree that people have intrinsic value without the basis of the Trinitarian God?

I think we need the God who will judge, the God who is the centre of morality. It isn't just God who sets the standards, but God's purpose of glorifying himself that is the standard.

There is a real risk that we begin to read the Bible through cultural lenses. For any of us. My guess is that if you live in the world where the consequences of rejecting God are really obvious then Zephaniah doesn't seem so extreme - if you have seen a genocide or starvation or grinding poverty so others can be rich, then God's awesomeness in frightening people into the humility - which means that we don't enforce our rights on each other - that to me is the key to morality.

But hey - what do you think?

Friday, November 07, 2008

What I mean and do not mean

posted by Little Mo | Permalink | 4 comments
A phrase I hear bandied about a bit these days is the phrase "the priority of the local church." I am happy to sign up to this, and am very clear that the Bible teaches it but I want to be clear what I think it means:

What I mean: The local church family is the vehicle by which God is demonstrating his wisdom to the world, the primary place for most Christians to receive teaching and care and God's major strategy for reaching the world with the Gospel. As such, any ministry that operates as a conglomeration of people from different local churches should have, as its ultimate aim, the building up of the local church, and should not even risk taking away from people's commitment to their local church family. The attitude of any ministry, denominational organisation or training institution should be "what can we do to serve local churches?" rather than "what can local churches do to serve us?"

What I do not mean: That any sort of Christian teaching, training, or Christian service has to take place with the explicit permission and "under the authority of" a local church. I do not need to ask for a local church's permission to preach the Gospel, serve as a Christian, encourage others in a particular place. It may of course be polite to do so, and it often will involve talking to local churches so I can live out the priority of the local church as I do understand it. But the local church's priority does not make it into the regulator of what is acceptable ministry somewhere, as, after all, I am an evangelical who believes in the authority of Scripture, rather than believing in the authority of the church.

Now we have that cleared up - in other news:
- we are off to Lancaster for a week to help at the University of Cumbria CU mission. It's exciting, with lunch bars every day on "What would Jesus say to..." different people, and evening events with talks on Mark. Jesus has come to the sick not the healthy - pray for his cleansing work this week, opening blind eyes, calling people to follow him and be clean.
- then we are both off to the Scottish borders for Newcastle Uni houseparty. Zephaniah - loving some time with my favourite book. Do please pray that it would be a brilliant time of firing us all up for mission as we get a small glimpse of God's greatness.

Busy week - but exciting times.