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Jesus is praying for us (part 2)

2010 January 11
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by Tim V-B

Is my prayer life rubbish?  Or is it divine?  Glen gives us the answer here.  Remember Isaiah 62: Jesus will not stop praying until his Church shines with salvation and righteousness.  That is good news for a sinner like me!

Jesus is praying for us

2010 January 11
by Tim V-B

I preached on Isaiah 62 last night. What an amazing chapter!  Alec Motyer (who probably quotes Isaiah in his sleep, in Hebrew) reckons that this is Jesus speaking, and I’m not going to argue with that!

If I put a link to it, you won’t go and read it.  So here it is, in all its goodness.  Listen to Jesus speak about his Church, and think about the new name we have in Christ.

Zion’s New Name

1 For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent,
for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet,
till her righteousness shines out like the dawn,
her salvation like a blazing torch.

2 The nations will see your righteousness,
and all kings your glory;
you will be called by a new name
that the mouth of the LORD will bestow.

3 You will be a crown of splendor in the LORD’s hand,
a royal diadem in the hand of your God.

4 No longer will they call you Deserted,
or name your land Desolate.
But you will be called Hephzibah, [‘My delight is in her’]
and your land Beulah [‘Married‘];
for the LORD will take delight in you,
and your land will be married.

5 As a young man marries a maiden,
so will your sons [or ‘Builder’] marry you;
as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride,
so will your God rejoice over you.

6 I have posted watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem;
they will never be silent day or night.
You who call on the LORD,
give yourselves no rest,

7 and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem
and makes her the praise of the earth.

8 The LORD has sworn by his right hand
and by his mighty arm:
“Never again will I give your grain
as food for your enemies,
and never again will foreigners drink the new wine
for which you have toiled;

9 but those who harvest it will eat it
and praise the LORD,
and those who gather the grapes will drink it
in the courts of my sanctuary.”

10 Pass through, pass through the gates!
Prepare the way for the people.
Build up, build up the highway!
Remove the stones.
Raise a banner for the nations.

11 The LORD has made proclamation
to the ends of the earth:
“Say to the Daughter of Zion,
‘See, your Savior comes!
See, his reward is with him,
and his recompense accompanies him.’ ”

12 They will be called the Holy People,
the Redeemed of the LORD;
and you will be called Sought After,
the City No Longer Deserted.

Seasick Steve

2010 January 5
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by Tim V-B

Did you watch Top Gear last Sunday (3rd January)? I thought Seasick Steve was great fun. Here is the video of his 2006 appearance on Jools Holland’s New Year’s Eve show, which turned Seasick Steve into a huge star. Enjoy!

Sinking and Swimming

2009 December 7
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by Tim V-B

I’ve just been wandering around the BBC news website and came across a report, published today, from the Young Foundation.  As the BBC summarises it:

A report, Sinking and Swimming, published by the Young Foundation, looks at society’s “unmet needs”.

It warns that many families cannot provide support to help teenagers move successfully into adulthood.

It warns of a “brittle society, with many fractures and many people left behind”.

The report, backed by a group of 13 charities, argues that the services of the welfare state are no longer responding to the most pressing modern needs – which are now about social isolation and an absence of any functioning community support.

You’ll find the report (there’s a shorter summary article available) here.  Some very interesting statistics, such as the number of prescriptions for anti-depressant drugs increased from 9 million (1991) to 34 million (2007).  That says a lot about the health of a society.  For me, one of the most significant quotes is this one, which follows a description of the way the welfare system has managed to solve a lot of material problems…

Yet during this same period society’s ability to meet people’s psychological and psycho-social needs appears to have declined. The buffers of religion and family that helped people cope with setbacks have weakened. There has been a rise of individualism. A more overtly meritocratic society has encouraged people to be more ambitious for themselves, but also made them more vulnerable to failures – and more likely to blame themselves (rather than fate or the class system) if things go wrong. Some of the shock absorbers – from faith to family – that helped us cope in the past have atrophied.

This is what happens when a society turns away from the Lord.  Individualism rather than knowing who I am in the context of community (i.e. ignoring the Trinity).  And meritocracy (justification-by-works) that crushes those who fail.  How we need to preach Jesus’ gospel with more clarity and boldness!

He has taken away my disgrace

2009 November 26
by Tim V-B

I’ve been studying Luke 1:1-25 in preparation for a sermon on Sunday evening. I think that Elizabeth’s words are a pattern for all followers of Jesus.
“The LORD has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favour and taken away my disgrace among the people.”

What does this mean?

Many many Christians experience disgrace. Around many countries, if someone converts to Christianity they bring shame on their family. It is a disgrace. Christians are often overlooked, ignored, sidelined. In one area of India it might be that they are not allowed to buy food from the village shop. In the workplace in this country it might mean a follower of Jesus is the butt of jokes, is overlooked for promotion. Around the world it is common to find Christianity spreading among those who are low, the disgraced. In the Untouchables caste in India. Or the slums of Brazil.

You might have experienced disgrace in your life, or you feel a deep shame for something in the past. Something you have rarely, or never spoken about, yet it haunts you and the thought of others knowing terrifies you.

To you, to me, to Christians around the world – Jesus says a day is coming, a day of his favour, when he will take away our disgrace. All our guilt, shame, isolation – will vanish.

Imagine a Christian from the untouchables caste in India. Her whole life others look down on her; she is given menial jobs that no one else wants. Her health is poor, her appearance not worth mentioning. No on in government is interested in her. No big name in society is interested in her, they barely notice as they drive past in their chauffeur driven car. But she knows Jesus. Her story has been grafted into the Great Story.

A day is coming when all her disgrace will be taken away. Her body will be resurrected. She will shine with the glorious Spirit filling her completely. If people could see NOW what she will be THEN, they would fall down and worship her. The important, the rich, the powerful – Jesus will say to them, “You are nothing. You have nothing. Depart from me you wicked people.” But to her, Jesus will say, “Welcome home. Great to see. Well done, good and faithful servant.”

A day is coming when God’s people will shine with the very radiance of God. When the humble believer will be exalted to the right hand of the Father, seated with Jesus on the Throne of Majesty. If your life has been grafted onto Jesus’ life, then his glorious victory and power will one day be your glorious victory and power. As Mary will say, later in chapter 1, “He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but sent the rich away empty.”

Good enough?

2009 November 25
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by Tim V-B

Check this out.  9 minutes on the most important question: why isn’t good good enough for God?

Deep Psychology of the Gospel, part 3

2009 November 22
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by Tim V-B

(This is part 3 of Paul Tripp’s talk.  Part 1 here; Part 2 here.  Paul Tripp’s aim has been to lay out a wide-ranging doctrine of sin.  This leaves not much time for the cure!)

This is the diagnostics.  What about the cure?  Not much time for this!  Cure is NOT a system of redemption.  It is not 12 steps to happiness, or any other methodology.  We can usefully utilise all that the world is learning, but on the issue of CURE we have a fundamental difference.  We do not offer a system.  We offer much more than this.  We offer much more than a code of conduct that defines normal.  Don’t try to argue for a better ideology.

We offer a REDEEMER.  Our hope is in the Person, Presence, Promises, Provision and Power of a Redeemer.

Hope is not a set of insights or a strategy.  Hope is a person: his name is Jesus.

Deep Psychology of the Gospel, part 2

2009 November 21
by Tim V-B

(More notes from Paul Tripp’s talk, The Deep Psychology of the Gospel.  Part 1 here)

1.Sin is vertical.
Sin is against God.  Sin is self-sovereignty, self-worship; “I want what I want.”  But this is insanity!  We want to be God.

2.Sin as dramatically relational.
We sin in community.  Sin causes relational dysfunction.  E.g. Adam and Eve blaming each other.  Galatians 5:15 we destroy others by our sin, e.g. a child growing up in a home of violence.  Sin wrecks the lives of others.

3.Sin is environmental.
Think of Romans 8:18ff.  We see the effects of sin in diseases, physical brokenness, etc.  “Environment” means everything outside my heart.  Physical and neurological problems all flow from the Fall when the entire world was shattered.  So don’t deny that these things exist, e.g. children whose brains cannot process emotional issues.  Don’t look down on medical care.  Christians should be campaigning for good and safe working places, clean water, etc because we know these things matter.  We should be at the leading edge of things like neurobiology.

4.Sin as psychological.
Distortion and delusion and dysfunction are rooted in the depths of our thoughts and motivations and identities.  This dimension covers very broad categories, e.g. foolishness, evil desires, self-identities, motivations.
Tripp thinks that we are just scratching the surface.  The modern Biblical Counselling movement is 40-50 years old, so has a long way to go.  Don’t be arrogant!  Engage with research, culture, etc.  Learn.

5.Sin as historical.
Sin has effects down through history.  The Fall is a good example!  So don’t be scared of thinking about the historical impact of past sin.  The cause of sin is our sinful nature.  But our personal history gives tracks for our sinful nature to run on.  (Have you noticed that we all sin in different ways?)  Investigating the past is not necessarily trying to escape responsibility.

These are 5 wide-ranging areas of sin.  Do not be reductionist.  When sitting with a person all 5 dimensions need to be at play.

Deep Psychology of the Gospel

2009 November 20
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by Tim V-B

I recently had a long train journey and listened to a talk by Paul Tripp on The Deep Psychology of the Gospel.  You’ll find it at Sojourn Church (but you’ll need iTunes).  It seems to be addressed at Christians doing training on counselling.  Essentially it is a call to think deeply about what the Bible means by ‘sin’.

He starts with a quote from Eugene Peterson, in Subersive Spirituality.  (Link is to; you can read inside.  Search for ‘caring’ then read pages 155 following.)

We know more about caring than any other generation that has ever lived on the face of the earth. We have more men and women professionally trained in the skills of caring and committed to professional lives of caring, and yet the reports coming back day after day from the field – people telling stories of what has happened to them in the hospital, church, with the social worker, at school – document an alarming deterioration of care on all fronts.   …

So, “Teach us to care.” We begin with a realization of our poverty: We do not know how to care. What we have been prayerlessly engaged in and glibly calling care, is not care. It is pity, it is sentimentality, it is do-goodism, it is ecclesiastical colonialism, it is religious imperialism. Caring, noble and commendable as it seems, is initiated by a condition that can, and often does, twist it into something ugly and destructive. That condition is need. (i.e. responding to need, which is good but not enough)

But there is another element in this scenario that is frequently missed and when missed, silently and invisibly squeezes all the cure out of care. That element is sin.

(The rest of this post is abbreviated notes from the talk.)

In the rush to care, don’t bandage wounds too quickly.  Wounds are the chance to open up to God and others.

To do caring we need to know our calling.  2 Corinthians 5:14ff.  This is not an evangelistic passage. It’s a counselling passage!  It is the Corinthian believers who need to be reconciled to God.  This reconciliation is progressive sanctification.  Sin is living for ourselves. To the degree we live this way, to this degree we need reconciliation.

Our calling is NOT (first) to fix people.  It is to be an ambassador of Christ and reconcile people to God, so they become people living for God.  We must not think of “normal” without thinking of God and people trusting in him.

What is our core diagnostic?  Every system of care has a philosophy of “what is wrong.”  Accuracy of diagnosis → effectiveness of cure.

The Bible is simple (but not reductionist) about this.  The Problem is Sin.  However, normally our understanding of sin is reductionist, i.e. about “bad behaviour.”

In the next post I’ll outline 5 Dimensions of Sin that Paul Tripp gives.

More Tim Keller

2009 October 15
by Tim V-B

If you’ve heard of Tim Keller you’ll know why I’m a fan.  My wife Caroline and I quite often have one of his sermons playing through our mobile phone as we walk to and from Stone.  Some new resources I’ve come across: This is the site of the new campaign and thinking about the future of Redeemer Church, NY.  It’s a sort of back-to-basics campaign to renew Redeemer’s commitment to church planting in New York and to get more of the congregation involved in the life of the church.  Well worth browsing the (very nicely presented) site to see how they hope to develop.  An added bonus is that the current sermon series, on Hope, is available for free download as each sermon is preached.

The Prodigal God. Tim Keller’s book, The Prodigal God, has been turned into a DVD series with attending sermons, i.e. you would aim to put the whole church through 5/6 weeks of focus on this famous parable.  There’s a nice trailer for the DVDs, which I’ve just discovered can be obtained from Amazon.  You can download 6 sermons (MP3 files) and sermon outlines for another 5 sermons (all free).  If you’re a preacher- get them, listen to them and stash them away for a future sermon series!

Although not free (7 sermons at $2.50 each), I’ve just been listening to his series on “The Gospel According to Abraham.”  Really enjoyed them.  He doesn’t quite come out and say all the appearances of the LORD are appearances of the pre-incarnate Son, but they remain thoroughly Jesus-focussed material.