reload The Race by Maurice McCracken

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

When knowing "the word of God" is not enough

posted by Little Mo | Permalink | 0 comments
Last week up in Scotland with the Relays (good times, and happy days) I related a story of a church I once visited. This church was publically committed to the Bible being viewed as the word of God.

It came that time in the service for the collection and the service leader asked the people there who were particularly struggling with some issue in their lives to raise their hands. You know, a relationship, money struggle, or looking for a new job. He then read this passage from Malachi :

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit," says the LORD Almighty. "Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land," says the LORD Almighty.

And then he said “so what the Lord is saying to those people with problems is, you should give the most generously to the collection, and if you do, God will open the floodgates of heaven and pour blessings out on you.”

Now, as I related this story there were (rightly) gasps of shock at the crassness of theology on display here. One could say many things about the man’s handling of Scripture, not least that he had failed to harmonise the passage with nearly everything else the Bible says about the Christian life.

But I think the real problem was this. The guy was committed to God speaking relevantly to people through his word, but was not at all committed to the doctrine that God’s word comes to us not by dictation but by incarnation. That is to say that God gives us his word that speaks to us powerfully today, but he gives it to us through particular people at particular times in particular contexts. Our theology is not Islamic, God dictated it, but rather that God perfectly revealed himself in human form. “The Lord is my shepherd” is no less God’s word for being David’s expression of his relationship with God. Malachi was spoken to people living under a promise made to them at a significant time in their history, not to me on a Sunday in August 2003.

You see, often the problem with Scripture is that people lower the God-ness of it. But sometimes the problem is (as with Jesus) that people reduce the human-ness of it too. The wonder of it is, as much as that the living God would speak to us at all, that he speaks to us through an epic story through human people in real situations. There is something inherently incarnational about how God likes to reveal himself – to understand the media properly we need to get that clear.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Gifts and stuff

posted by Little Mo | Permalink | 11 comments

A very challenging sermon about what grace means in practice at church today. You can listen to it here
Great stuff - the Gospel frees me to love by absolutely making sure that I don't think of myself more highly than I ought! No more building my identity on trying to be better than others!

Almost as an aside Steve raised the issue of gifts and how the Bible doesn't really seem to expect us to spend time sitting round considering, going on courses or filling in questionnaires about our spiritual gifts. Rather, it seems to create an expectation that you just do it.

Someone asked a question about that, and Andrew helpfully added that we need to be careful not to impose our society's obsession with self fulfilment onto the word. You see there is a problem of definition here:
Our definition: a gift is something that God gives me, that I am good at and which I enjoy which can, if I so choose, be used for the benefit of the church.
Paul's definition: a gift is something God gives the church that you can do for the church. (As Andrew said, you might hate it, but it could still be your gift)
This isn't simply hermeneutics 101. It actually makes a difference.
You see, of course, if you think a gift is the former, you'l have to spend lots of time self analysing to find out whether it is, indeed your gift. AND, you'll be a total nightmare to any church that can't find a place for you to do what you're good at. Meanwhile Rome burns.
If its the latter, you won't think of yourself more highly than you ought, using the church as your tool on the journey to self fulfilment, rather you will see a need that you can fulfil, have a heart filled with sincere love with those who have the need, and serve them. That's Spirit empowered worship!
The Gospel is clever you see, it actually changes us so that we form the community God wants, by forcing us not to think of ourselves and our gifts more highly than we ought. Clever, innit!

ETA: I'm actually finding the way that this disgusting present picture clashes wth my blog quite pleasing.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

And so it goes on...

posted by Little Mo | Permalink | 1 comments

A week since Forum, and the mud is but a distant memory!

Since then I have had some time off, but despite that haven't quite got over the fluey feeling that has dogged me since then. My wife has been very patient with my sleepy grumpiness but now she has abandoned me to go and do some UCCF stuff in London. We didn't fall out, it was an arranged visit.

I've been trying to shake off my sleepy head and prepare a talk for my good friend Andy's wedding on Saturday. So we are off to Devon, and then from there, rather counter-intuitively, heading to Northern Ireland for a week.

It seems a little soon for a week of holiday, but the fact is that I really feel like I need it. We're going to spend some time up on the North Coast, and look forward to going back to Mussenden Temple where we got engaged 9 months ago!

So, if you pray, please pray for:
The Grace of God to teach me to say no to ungodliness. I have been so challenged by being immersed in grace these last few weeks, that real grace transforms.
Good rest and recovery time - do please pray that I would shake off this feeling of constantly being on the verge of a cold!
Christ Church as we (gluttons for punishment) put ourselves through yet more change by starting a new congregation in another suburb of Liverpool. It all has the potential to be quite stressful and turn church from a place of comfort to one of stress. Please do pray that we would love our church well in all the stresses and strains!

Big love.


Saturday, September 06, 2008

What I loved about Forum

posted by Little Mo | Permalink | 3 comments
There were lots of things. Other people seemed to enjoy the mud. That wasn't my favourite bit quite honestly. I loved the world mission emphasis, the enthusiasm for the Gospel, the uncomplaining love for each other, the Relay advert, seeing the Clarks/Wilson/Scullion/Petherbridge IFES clan.

But the thing I loved most was this. In a day when I have heard famous Christians (evangelicals apparently) scoff at the idea that people will meet Jesus in his word as students give it out and study it, when the mood of evangelicalism in Britain has (as we have seen this summer) been so obsessed with the so-called miraculous at the expense of simply testifying about Jesus, when the world and his mother seems to either think there must be some magic technique for winning people to Christ, or that we are due a wave of blessing to make it happen, I loved seeing a world renowned evangelical stand up and say well done to all the students who will be risking much to open the Scriptures with non Christians this year. "It will be better and harder than you ever thought!"

Thank you JP for travelling round the world to affirm that to all the small struggling CUs of 3 and 4, all the CUs who are scoffed at by uber-trendy servant evangelists and sophisticated chaplains, all the CUs where a couple of people and a Gospel of Mark is all that they have. Sometimes, its just good to know that someone you have heard of is with you.