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How do I know I've preached a gospel talk?

  Which of the following is the gospel talk? Talk 1 + Here is what the text says + Here is how we must live in light of that text + Now go and live that way Talk 2 + Here is what the text says + Here is how we must live in light of that text + Now go and live that way + But we can’t do it on our own, we need Jesus in our life + Now with Jesus, by grace, enabled by the Spirit we can live rightly Talk 3 + Here is what the text says + Here is how we must live in the light of that text + But we simply cannot do it + Ah - but there is One who did! Well Talk #1 is pretty obviously moralistic. Talk #2 looks a lot more like the gospel... But not quite. Despite all the talk of human inability, despite all the talk of Jesus and grace and God’s enabling, Talk #2 doesn’t actually give us the gospel. This is grace as a spiritual boost to help you do the right thing, not grace in the sense of the sovereign salvation of God through Christ’s death in the place of sinners. It’s really easy to slip int
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Psalm 119 podcast: mouthfuls of Bible delight

Christopher Ash's Bible Delight is a wonderfully rich, pastorally sensitive exposition of Psalm 119. Taking a section at a time he slows us down to hear the music of grace in the background of what at first listen might sound strident; slows us down to dig up beautiful gems in apparently unpromising ground; slows us down to take in the nuances and carefulness of what might at first sight seem thrown together. If you haven't got a copy, check it out - it'll do your soul good.  I recently read through Bible Delight a second (or maybe third) time and did a series of 22 little audios for my church small group. In this strange lockdown time many of us have been finding it hard to concentrate, hard to read more than a sentence, hard to pray. So this was intended as bitesize encouragement a few times a week. The format is simple: I read the section of Psalm 119 (almost always using Christopher Ash's own translation of the Hebrew); spend two or three minutes going through the

The great contest of heaven and earth

6 ministry thoughts from 2 hugely important verses: I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:2-3) Who is Christ? He's the husband - the bridegroom to whom the church is betrothed. Such an important category. Such an important vision of Jesus. Yes, he is our prophet, priest, king, Lord, sacrifice - but he's also - wonderfully - the husband to whom we are given. He came into the world for that. His incarnation was so that he could say to us, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh." He died to pay a bloody dowry for us. He is in heaven now longing for us, desiring the day of the wedding banquet. All that stuff in the Song of Songs about the husband cherishing his wife, the bride delighting

Revisiting Paul's mentoring of Timothy

Philippians 2:22 has been one of my favourite verses for a long time but every time I go back there or hear others speak on this passage I see new things. Leadership development - the goal I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.  Paul has 'no one else like him'. Timothy is exceptional. It's ok to say that. Yes, all believers are on exactly the same level in respect to justification and status but there are differences in spiritual maturity and ability in gospel ministry. Paul says, 'I have no one else like him.' He is Paul's co-worker, yoked together with him. And Paul massively values him.  Why? What is so exceptional about Timothy? What does Paul value so highly about him? He loves the church. He has a 'genuine concern for your welfare.' He is a people person. He really wants to do you good. He exemplifies what Paul was speaking about earlier

Luke-Acts as a manual for mentoring an Apollos

  Acts 18:24-26 gives a window into leadership mentoring, a window into an important biblical theme, and perhaps a window into the intended audience and use of Luke-Acts. Mentoring Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, able in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in [the] spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. (Acts 18:24-25) There is a lot of potential here. He knows his Bible He’s been catechised in the way of Christ He is fervent – literally boiling – passionate, fearless, committed, all in  H e does a good job of teaching people Jesus That is a hugely promising profile. That’s the sort of profile of knowledge, heart and ministry instinct we need to be looking for to encourage into church leadership. He's not previously know to the disciples in Ephesus. He's just arrived from northern Africa. But he&

Perfect conditions for Pharisaism

It was reported today that the UK is experiencing a more severe split over Covid than over Brexit. There is more venom towards lockdown breakers than to EU leavers. More disdain of non-clappers than remainers. A significant proportion of the country is going above and beyond Covid regulations, is anxious about returning to work or shopping, and is angry that the government is recklessly opening things up too fast.  A different significant proportion of the country admits ( anonymously ) to breaking lockdown, feels the reaction to Covid is disproportionate and is angry that the regulations are too tight.  Different perceptions of risk are inevitable and there are issues of class, culture and North-South in this polarisation but it's the degree of animosity between the two groups highlighted by the Demos report  that is particularly disturbing. It came out particularly at the time of the Dominic Cummings 'trial' and, anecdotally, many of us can attest to having witnessed a r

The ancient roots of mentoring

The idea of an older person helping in the development of a younger person is an ancient pattern seen across many cultures. In warrior societies and castes such as among the Japanese samurai and the European feudal knights there would be an 'apprenticeship' stage. Among the Maasai there are the morans - living apart from their families in the bush, learning the wisdom of the elders and strengthening themselves physically and spiritually. The ancient pattern is that a son learns the trade of his father by being next to him, day after day, seeing everything he does, working alongside him. That was true in the harvest field (2 Kings 4:18), in trades like carpentry (Matt. 13:55), it was how the Law of Yahweh was to be passed on (Deut. 6:7), it is even seen in the relationship between the eternal Father and Son (John 5:19-20). Harrison Mungai, founder of iServe Africa , has often pointed to the success of Asian businesses where there is often  high intergenerational family