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Both the Scriptures and the Power of God

Jesus replied, "Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? (Mark 12:24)
I've been coming across a lot of Both-Ands recently. Here's another great pairing. 

The danger of knowing the power of God but not the Scriptures. There are branches of the Church which have a strong and living trust in the strong and living God. They truly believe that our God is the creator of the heavens and the earth, for whom nothing is impossible, who can raise the dead and heal every disease and still any storm and part any sea. They know this God not simply from systematic theology but in personal relational knowing - in their experience. They pray with fervency and they see answers and they praise God. Make no mistake, that is a very good, God-honouring posture. The problem is when it is not combined with a knowing of the Scriptures then it is untethered and potentially very dangerous. It is the Scriptures which tell us the passions of God (what pleases him…
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Notes from the Gospel and Class Conference 2018

These are my notes from the very significant Gospel and Class Conference organised by the Acts 29 Church in Hard Places collaborative:
Session 1 - Ian Williamson - Ephesians 3:1-12 - What does it really mean to be worthy of the prefix 'gospel'?

Willing to take risks and make painful sacrifices for the sake of others (v1)  Being One Body - equality and impartiality - overcoming post-Fall division of class (v6)    Humility - gospel exposes our sinfulness, our uselessness without God
     - Jesus beaten and mocked as he died for us - smashes our pride (v7-8)  Being the united-diverse church displaying the wisdom of God (v10-11)Willing to struggle, make mistakes, have hard conversations - worth it (v12-13)
-Mez McConnell - What's the problem with the church in the UK?

Class is about power not money: those who are used to taking orders versus those who are used to giving orders.Saved by the wrath of God. Became a traitor to own people - had committed the cardinal sin of betterin…

Ethnic privilege and ministry privilege

A lot has been written on Acts 6:1-7 but a couple of big things that are going on there jumped out at me freshly: Institutional ethnic privilege dealt with. The issue is ethnicity. It is not Jew-Gentile; they are almost all Jews. It is not about skin colour. It is about ethnicity in the old sense of land, language and culture; Hebraic Aramaic-speakers mostly from Palestine privileged over Hellenistic Greek-speakers mostly from the diaspora. This is a big issue, not only because it threatens the gospel ministry priority of the apostles (Acts 6:2) but because it breaks the second commandment, tramples the poor, denies the image of God, attacks true religion, and because it threatens the glorious unity of the church (Acts 4:32) which is such a prominent theme throughout Acts and the whole New Testament. So the apostles deal with it:They listen. They hear the complaint. Which suggests there is an environment within which different ethnicities voice their complaints to others… because they…

3 implications of Revelation 3:2

Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God.We need to have a rich biblical understanding of a ‘dying church’. Because it’s not obvious. The church in Sardis didn’t look like a dying church. But it was spiritually comatose and on the verge of flat-lining. Jesus’ diagnoses of the churches in Revelation 2-3 challenge our definition of a ‘strong church’. Jesus says you can have good doctrine and good attendance and a good bank balance and be a weak church but you can be a small, suffering fellowship and be strong.We need to have a rich biblical understanding of church death. As with so many things it is complex, there are lots of factors involved (planning, demographics, Satan…) but it may be that the Lord Jesus is actively removing the lampstand in judgment or passively allowing a spiritually atrophying church to wither away. At the very least we need to face up to the fact that churches do die. Very few churches k…

Rediscovering friendship [part 2]

Cultural difference is not really about different foods and clothing and surface cultural products (though it might manifest there). Cultural difference is about us not understanding each other.
Culture is what is normal to us. It is the air we breathe. It is the way we think and see the world. It is what is natural. We can’t imagine how anyone could think or see or do things differently; and when we do encounter that difference it is with shock, surprise and disbelief.
An example: A Ugandan is staying with a Norwegian family. The Norwegian mother is preparing the supper and asks the Ugandan guest, “How many potatoes will you have?” To one of them it is an innocent question. To the other it is deeply offensive. Why the difference? Our language and social reflexes are rooted in underlying systems of value that are usually unconscious and so deeply held they are close to being hard wired – one of us instinctively values efficiency and fears waste; another values lavish generosity and …

Rediscovering friendship [part 1]

It’s at the heart of marriage. It’s the joy of singleness. It’s vital to gospel ministry. It’s key to cross-cultural encounter. Friendship Peel away the superficial modern meanings of friendship and dig down into the ancient sources and you find something very rich and strong. Reading Augustine’s Confessions I am struck by how hugely important (for good or ill) his friends were in his life. He lived with them and ate with them. He loved them deeply. Their life choices – work, travel, marriage, ethics, philosophy – were each other’s business. In many ways their friendships were similar to the covenanted friendship of David and Jonathan (1 Sam. 18:1-4 cf. Ruth 1:16) – intensely loyal, devoted, knit together. In one of his most extreme passages, Augustine speaks of his anguish after the death of his friend: “I, who had been like another self to him. It was well said that a friend is half one’s own soul. I felt that my soul and his had been but one soul in two bodies, and I shrank from l…

Heretical discipleship and the light that chases away the lies

There are a number of reasons why we live in a tricky time to discern heresy in the church of Christ. The issues at stake are often not directly the truths of the ancient creeds – the doctrines of God and Christ – or directly the gospel truth of salvation through Christ alone dying on behalf of sinners – the issues that were so highly contested in the fourth and sixteenth centuries. The modern heresies are much more often issues of discipleship – Christian life – which is of course connected in extremely important ways to the doctrines of God, Christ and atonement but the crunch points and hot discussion points are often not directly treating those historic doctrinal issues so they can often appear to be 'secondary' or areas of legitimate disagreement.The issues are sometimes at the level church culture, mood, tone, emphasis and trajectory rather than outright and consistent false teaching. It is not necessarily the case that you can point to particular sentences and paragraph…