Wednesday, April 27, 2005


Airbus A380 taking off on its maiden flight from Toulouse, southern France
I have just watched the BBC report on the Airbus A380 maiden flight. I am particularly pleased since I had a part to play in the design of one of the turbines (there are three) in the Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines, taking it from initial concept to first static test.

Then I left to study theology...

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Christus Victor

If you have ever wondered how Jesus defeated Satan on the cross then you could do worse than listen to Sinclair Ferguson's lecture on "Christus Victor" at the Highland Theological college. You can find it on this page. In it he gives a superb defence of the penal substitutionary view of the atonement.

You need to be prepared, though. This is an academic lecture, and you may need to listen two or three times to get all of it, but I think it is well worth the investment of time.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Performance Driven Worship

John Piper has a chapter in his book (Brothers, We are Not Professionals) on worship. In typical Piperian fashion he speaks of worship as 'treasuring Christ in our hearts'. While discussing this at length he notes a subtle change that can occur in our public worship:
If the focus shifts onto our giving to God, one result I have seen again and again is that, subtly, it is not God that remains at the center but the quality of our giving. Are we singing worthily of the Lord? Are our instrumentalists playing with quality fitting a gift to the Lord? Is the preaching a suitable offering to the Lord? And little by little the focus shifts off the utter indispensability of the Lord himself onto the quality of our performances. And we even start to define excellence and power in worship in terms of the technical distinction of our artistic acts.
John Piper, Brothers p. 239

This speaks to me. I've had it up to here (hand well above head) with people discussing worship in functional terms. I'm guilty myself. Has the right effect been achieved? Instead of our focus being on God himself, the gravitational pull of self is so attractive, subtly distorting our public worship.

It is interesting, then, that yesterday Tim Challies should also write about worship. He likens the problem to someone admiring a sunset, but then that person ends up admiring himself admiring the sunset! Daft, eh?

Al Roberts also has a challenging post on how the worship experience becomes all important. The analogy he uses is much less palatable than Tim's.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Grace Church, Belper

The astute regulars to this site may notice an addition to my Links section to the right. There is now a link to Grace Church, Belper.

Over the last six or seven months Dr. Gareth Crossley and David Anderson have been working towards planting a new church in Belper, Derbyshire. (I have been working in a support role, while my main work is at Derwent Free Church in Derby.)

Like many small towns in Derbyshire, the situation in Belper is bleak. There is no shortage of groups and churches meeting, and we have visited them all. But there is a distinct lack of evangelical preaching founded upon the Bible. This new work seeks to break up the ground and sow the seed of the wonderful gospel of Jesus Christ, the Lord.

Go and take a look around!

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


A few days ago I suddenly realised that I have rapidly approaching essay deadlines.

Blogging shall be light.
Reading shall be heavy.

Thursday, April 14, 2005


A friend of mine showed me this daft site. Clearly he has too much time.

This, on the other hand, is wierd. (NB 1600k download. Thanks John.)

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Cry to the LORD!

O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you. Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Then you will defile your idols overlaid with silver and your images covered with gold; you will throw them away like a menstrual cloth and say to them, “Away with you!”
Isaiah 30:19-22 (NIV)

Some Pics from York

We visited York Thursday and Friday last week. I finally got round to sorting some pictures out. We did some touristy things, and took a few snaps. It was nice to get away, but I had to be back to preach on Sunday.

The Thinker

Well, this is me putting on my best thinking pose in Starbucks. Susan kept saying, "Stop it! Stop it!". Girl just laughed. Can't think why.


See! I told you! Susan was laughing as well! "Why?" I ask you!

Shopping in Shambles

"Oooh look at that", says Girl. Shopping in the Shambles - cute little shops in an old part of the city. The best part for me was finding a sweet shop that sells Soor Plooms.

York Minster

York Minster is a stupendous building. It really is quit stunning. Every ounce of my Non-Conformist body was screaming "this is not church!". But you have to admire the scale and craftsmanship. Girl asked, "What does the 'M' stand for?" Can you see it? (It doesn't mean anything, by the way - it was just an accident.)

Brotherton, Yorkshire

On the way home from York, on the A1(M), just before Pontefract, there is a little village called Brotherton. My Grandfather was a Church of England vicar or curate way back in the 1920s, long before he found his way to Ayrshire. I am pretty sure this was his church building, since it is the only one in the village. Unfortunately, it was closed, there was no sign on the outside and the clock on the tower had stopped. Looked suspiciously like it was no longer in use. The village itself is not very pretty. As you can see from the photo, in the background there is a whopping great power station, and power pylons everywhere.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Atheism in Crisis?

The White Horse Inn has an interesting programme this week on the trouble within atheism. Last year the well known atheist philosopher Anthony Flew underwent a conversion of sorts to a form of deism. It has made waves in academic and religious circles last year.

Flew has written what are now standard works for atheism. But, as I understand it, it was his consideration of the arguments for intelligent design which have caused this seismic shift in his thinking. To his credit he came out and said so.

His shift is to a form of deism, but not theism and certainly not Christian theism. As the WHI programme notes, he stills sees the God of Christian faith to be reprehensible.

I don't know much about Intelligent Design theory. I only came across it a couple of moths ago and added it to my (ever-lengthening) list of topics to mug up on. I know that it is not creationism. It is a scientific approach to the data - an alternative to evolutionary theory. However, it clearly supports creationism.

Here's an Intelligent Design blog I came across at the weekend. Two of the contributors, Behe and Dembski, I recognise as book authors in the ID field. Worth a quick scan, don't you think?

Hijacking Words

John Piper (in Brothers, We Are Not Professionals) quotes G. K. Chesterton, who wrote in 1908,
What we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled on the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert -- himself. The part he doubts is the part he ought not to doubt -- the Divine Reason. . . . We are on the road to producing a race of man too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table.

G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

For these reasons he foresaw the culture hijacking the word arrogance and using it to refer to conviction and the word humility to refer to uncertainty (Brothers p. 161).

Just look at the comments on any blog discussing the emerging/ent church. Is this true, or is this true?

Thursday, April 07, 2005

I'm Off... York for a couple of days. Bye bye!

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Suggestion for John Piper

John Piper, in his book Brothers, We Are Not Professionals is full of chapters that have titles beginning with "Brothers, [substitute appropriate exhortation here]".

For example,
"Brothers, Let Us Pray",
"Brothers, Show Your People Why God Inspired Hard Texts"
"Brothers, Tell Them Not To Serve God" (seriously!)

Encouraging though this is, I can't help feeling that there is a crucial one missing.

How about, "Brothers, Eat More Chocolate."

You see, then I could show it to my wife, and I might get away with it...

Two Challenging Sentences

I am reading John Piper's Brothers, We Are Not Professionals in my spare time (!) and finding it quite a motivating read. One of the chapters is on the value for pastors of reading Christian biographies. Surprisingly, Piper recalls the effect of two sentences he read from a biography of Karl Barth, the neo-orthodox theologian (i.e. not evangelical!). Piper writes:
One was: "That evening Barth began [writing] a pamphlet which he finished the next day, a Sunday (13,000 words in a day!)." I responded, "If neo-orthodoxy merits such phenomenal labor, how much more evangelical theology!"

The other sentence was, "Barth retired from his chair in Basel in March 1962 and so lost the stimulus provided by the need to give lectures." I wrote in the flap of the book, "Has greatness emerged from anything but pressure? If greatness is to be the servant of all, must we not be under authority, under demand, pushed, pressed?"
(p. 92)

One would think that as evangelicals, as those who have received the greatest motive for service to the Lord, we would be the greatest examples of hard work and commitment to the cause of the gospel. Piper's comments show that those with whom we disagree, at times profoundly, often show us up in our willingness to graft. Piper's second point shows the kind of life the prospective pastor must expect.

Just as well Piper's writing style inspires and encourages, or we might get a bit depressed!

Monday, April 04, 2005

Turn to God

Haggai brought a word of conviction, command, promise and hope to the remnant people of God. God wanted to be in the midst of his people, his presence represented by the temple. The people responded to the command and began to rebuild it, spurred on by their hope in the promises of God.

But by 2:10 something funny is going on with the people. In his third word to them God talks to them about the law. He presents two scenarios: firstly, in 2:12, can the holiness of food be passed on to other food? The answer is "no". Secondly, in 2:13, can the uncleanness of a dead body be passed on? The answer is "yes". In other words, holiness is not transmissible, but uncleanness is.

The LORD applies the picture to the people in 2:14. He is quite clear. Whatever they do in their ritual sacrifices, such things are not holy. Why? Because they themselves are not holy. They defile the offerings they bring.

Now, this is quite an upsetting thought. One could read the law, as I have done, believing that it was given in order to bring cleansing to the people under the Mosaic covenant. But God clearly denies this possibility. They defile every effort at cleansing. But if the sacrificial law could not bring cleansing, what was it for?

A closer examination of Hag 2:12 shows that it is lifted from the teaching on the sin offering covered in Lev 4 and 6. The interesting thing about this offering was that when the animal was slaughtered the blood was used to sprinkle on the tabernacle furniture. So the furniture was purified, not the person bringing the sacrifice. It's like your kid has come into the house with mucky shoes and hands and you have to clean up the carpet and the walls. Now the kid has gone back out again, still mucky.

The big issue for the LORD, it seems is given in 2:17. "You did not turn to me", says the LORD. For all their commitment to ritual in past generations, the people of God did not apply to God himself for cleansing.

Two threads now come together. God desires to be amongst his people to have fellowship with them - hence the need for the temple. The sacrificial law was intended to illustrate the great separation that exists between God and his people, and not to be a self-help method of cleansing. Indeed it was illustrative of how cleansing would be achieved (Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world). Meantime, God always required a turning to him directly. After all, if one is unclean, and no method of cleansing works, but is only illustrative, where else is one going to go?

Such reasoning does not make it to the human heart, however. It is deceitful. We like focusing on what we are doing, and are tempted to believe that it is sufficient for cleansing and continuing relationship with God. But in all that activity, of prime importance is to lift our hearts up to God.

Now, tell me - am I off track here?