Latest Entries »

[A talk I gave this morning at Bedford]

So I want to ask for your permission this morning, to not waste the next 10 minutes of your time.

Here’s what I mean.

I’ve spoken to you guys twice before, and I hope that’s been enough to convince you I’m not a Psycho.

[Click to read more]

View full article »

There are lots of reasons we care about productivity — we might want to have less stress, we might want to get more done in less time, or we might simply find the subject interesting in itself. And those are all good reasons.
But there are deeper, better reasons to care about productivity. There are, in fact, some amazing and incredible reasons to care about productivity that I am seeing almost no one ever talk about.

Chief among these reasons to care about productivity is this: Productivity is really about good works.

That’s worth saying again: Productivity is really about good works — which we were created in Christ to do (Ephesians 2:10) and which are to do eagerly and enthusiastically (Titus 2:14). That’s why productivity matters, and that’s why I write about productivity. My aim is to help Christians be effective in good works.

That’s a quote from Matt Perman. I would only change his thinking slightly: productivity is about glorifying God through good works.

But it has revolutionised the way I think about life.

It has really united 2 things I care heaps about: Don’t Waste Your Life and being productive. Originally, being productive came from not wanting to waste my life. But it has a tendency to take a life of its own and like everything in my sick, twisted mind, to become an idol.

This has united the 2 again.

When I look at my to-do list, it is not a bunch of things I need to get through so I can say, I was productive. It is a bunch of reminders of good works that I want to do, and I have the opportunity today to do them.

This has coincided with me finding a fantastic verse:

“we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Thess 1:11-12

Here is a theology of productivity:
1) Productivity is about good works.
2) Productivity is all “by his power”
3) Productivity is all “so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified.

Does it get better than that?

Check out Crossway’s new way of previewing books! I love it!

I’m doing a subject at Uni called “The Philosophy of Happiness”.

I’ve read page after page from a Hedonist perspective, arguing happiness is having lots of pleasure and not much pain. Those readings were tightly reasoned, and hard to poke a hole in, but I felt like there was something missing.

And now I’m reading one by a guy called Robert Nozick. As far as I can tell, he’s not religious. His paper is not as tightly reasoned, but oh, what a breath of fresh air! It rings true. He points out that happiness is not the only thing we care about in life (we also care about the ‘shape’ or ‘story’ of our life, we also care about what we are like as people, we care that we’re actually connected to reality, and we care that we are sharing actual reality with actual people)

But listen to this.

“Recall those particular moments when you thought and felt, blissfully, that there was nothing else you wanted, your life was good then.. What marks these times is their completeness. There is something you have that you want, and no other wants come crowding in; there is nothing else that you think of wanting right then. I do not mean that if someone came up to you right then with a magic lamp, you would be at a loss to come up with a wish. But in the moments I am describing, these other desires-for more money or another job or another chocolate bar-simply are not operating. They are not felt, they are not lurking at the margins to enter. There is no additional thing you want right then, nothing feels lacking, your satisfaction is complete. The feeling that accompanies this is intense joy.
These moments are wonderful, and they are rare. Usually, additional wants are all too ready to introduce themselves. Some have suggested we reach this desirable state of not wanting anything else by the drastic route of eliminating all wants. But we don’t find it helpful to be told to first get rid of our existing wants as a way of reaching the state of not wanting anything else. (And this is not simply because we doubt that this route leads to an accompanying joy.) Rather, what we want is to be told of something so good, whose nature is so complete and satisfying, that reaching it will exclude any further wants from crowding in, and we want to be told how to reach this.”

Nozick is right: we do long for something, or Someone, totally soul-satisfying.

“You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
(Psalm 16:11)

What pleasures are found in God? Of course, we say ‘joy’. Rejoice in the Lord!

But the verse above says pleasures, plural. So there must be more than one, or at least more than one form. What forms does it take? Here are my thoughts…

1. Gratitude – One pleasure is gratitude to God for what he has done, is doing, and will do. Anyone who has been grateful to someone knows that this is certainly a pleasure!

2. Awe – marvelling at how amazing God is in His glory, also at God’s glory as expressed in relationship to us (His grace to us, His strength in us, His love for us). The pleasure of seeing a breathtaking sunset is similar, but a tiny reflection of the real thing.

3. Gladness – I think this is usually what is meant when the Bible tells us to rejoice. Whenever we enjoy thinking about something, when we feel good about an experience, a fond memory, a piece of news, we are glad. Our hearts are filled with gladness, a sense of “this is good, this is right, I am happy”, as we reflect on what God has done, is doing, and will do for us; and on our relationship with him.

4. Love – Nat King Cole sang, “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn, is just to love, and be loved in return.” We are filled with love for God.

There may be other pleasures. For example, being comforted is surely a great pleasure for someone in distress. But I think these 4 are the most powerful, most significant pleasures of knowing God.

And these pleasures lead to:

1. Satisfaction – a deep contentment, because you have God you need nothing else. (Is this a pleasure in its own right, or a result of the other pleasures?)

2. Praise – the ultimate expression and consummation of pleasure:

“ I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise… The world rings with praise – lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game – praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians of scholars. …
I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.” (C.S. Lewis)

“Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.
For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
or let your holy one see corruption.”
(Psalm 16:9-10)

I love to read David’s rejoicing in the Lord!  But often I find it troubling.

Here, David rejoices because he knows God will protect him. But where does he get that confidence? Can I share that confidence? Surely not! Romans 8:36 says “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

So how come David is so sure of God’s protection? And how can I share in his rejoicing? I feel kind of fake…

I was thinking about this, and came up with this answer:

How can David be sure of God’s protection?
Because he is the King of God’s people, living in the land God promised that they would forever possess and prosper in.

One of the promises God made to Abraham was land, forever: “And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.” (Gen 17:8) As the Israelites drive out the inhabitants of that land, and settle in, there is a sense of arriving home, fulfilment. Here, they will be established as God’s people in peaceful prosperity forever.

David, then, understands that God has promised to be their protector – otherwise there cannot be lasting peace and prosperity. So David is rejoicing in the promised salvation of the Lord!

The people broke their covenant with God, and brought on themselves the curse instead of the blessing. But through Jesus’ death, God has made a new covenant with us, promising that we will live and prosper with Him forever in His land (the real promised land, the new heavens and new earth).

The promised salvation now is deliverance of a different kind. Not the physical protection needed for peace in a physical land, but spiritual deliverance from His anger, and protection from any spiritual threat that would prevent us entering that spiritual promised land.

David did see corruption, eventually, in the sense that he eventually died. Thus the Psalm points to another Holy One, one who will not be abandoned to the grave.

Jesus was not abandoned to Sheol nor did he see corruption. He was raised from the grave, and with Him will come David and all believers.

Let us rejoice in the promised salvation of the Lord!

“Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.
For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
or let your holy one see corruption.”
(Psalm 16:9-10)

Al Iswell is arguing with his girlfriend, Ima Right. At one point, Al says, “That might be true for you, but its not true for me.”
Ima frowns. “huh?”
“Well, you know. What’s true for you is true for you, and what’s true for me is true for me.”

Confused, Ima says, “But I think that if it’s true, its true for *everyone*.”

Al shakes his head, ready to enlighten her. “That’s true for you…”
“Then its true for everybody” Ima interrupts. “What do you mean?”

“Well, I think that “true statements are true for everybody”. You just said that was a true statement, for me. If its a true statement, then its TRUE that its true for everybody. And if you don’t think it’s true for everybody, then what you’re saying is that I’m wrong. Which means that it’s NOT true for me. You can’t have it both ways. Do you see what I mean?”

“Another way you could put it:
1. Say person A believes “true statements are true for you”
Person B believes “true statements are true for everyone.” (all TS are true for all People)

2. According to Person A, person B’s belief is a true statement. Since “all TS are true for all people”, and since it is a true statement and A is a person, it is true for A. So it is true for A that “TS are true for all people”.

3. But Person A doesn’t like this. They say, person B is wrong. But this means that Person B’s belief is NOT true for them, so Person A doesn’t really believe that ‘if its true for you its true for you’. It just doesn’t work.

God is incredible
the way he is working at college:

View full article »

It’s Islamic Awareness week this week, and apparently next week as well. I passed a stall at uni, and picked up some brochures, found a nice sunny spot and read through a few of them.

Loved it. Definitely going to lead to some interesting conversations next week.

But, one of the brochures used proved God with this sort of argument:

All we perceive depends for its existence on something else, which in turn depends on still another thing, ad infinitum, or else derives its existence from something that exists uncaused. The first alternative is false because it implies what is referred to as an infinite regression, which is impossible.

Which renewed my interest again in this question:
“Could the state of the world as we know it have arisen by an infinite chain of causes?”


I just finished watching Phillip Jensen on Reformed Charismatics. The video is below, and the next four posts will be a discussion of the ideas and arguments raised.

Phillip Jensen and Kel Richards – Reformed charismatics? from Audio Advice on Vimeo.

Reformed Charismatics: Is it possible?

This post is the third in a series on Reformed Charismatics: Is It Possible? Click here to go to the introduction.

Confused Redefinitions

Jensen’s basic thesis is that you can put any two words together, that’s easy, but the two words reformed charismatic can’t be combined without confusion – the two systems are incompatible – much like Catholic Evangelical.

The only way to combine them, says Jensen, is to redefine them. But is that correct? Well, what is meant by Charismatic? Let’s take Phillip’s own definition – it takes him more than 3 minutes to explain it (start at 10:50), during which time he covers 3 separate ‘waves’, so diverse as to cause the interviewer, Kel Richards, to search for ‘something common to put under that label of Charismatic':

“It’s to do with gifts of the Holy Spirit, signs and wonders… by and large the people who see that as the work that the Holy Spirit does”

Phillip agrees, its the emphasis on the gifts. And that’s their definition.

Already we learn two things. Firstly, we see that the definition of charismatic is broad and difficult to pin down. So, far from having two clearly defined and demarcated nouns, we actually have two, slightly blurry adjectives. Very little, if any, redefining is needed when definitions are so slippery in the first place.

But the second lesson is more important: even as given, the definition is not incompatible with reformed theology.

Emphasis on gifts

Well, it is if such an emphasis is exclusive, taking the Holy Spirit’s role to be exclusively signs and wonders, then of course it is impossible to be both reformed and charismatic. The Bible’s clear and indisputable teaching is that the Holy Spirit’s crucial work is inspiration, illumination, regeneration, and sanctification (to list a few).

Yet is the emphasis exclusive? Not at all! No charismatic denies any one of the above works. I think this is where Phillip goes wrong – he incorrectly assumes that Charismatics limit their understanding of the Spirit’s work to His extraordinary work. It may be that some charismatics err in practice and limit their focus to these, but that is a fault of fact rather than a fault of principle – one can be Charismatic without committing any such error.

Everything reformed theology teaches to be the work of the Spirit, a Charismatic can affirm without becoming one whit less Charismatic, for the emphasis is not exclusive of these teachings.

Moreover, the emphasis need not even steal the limelight from any important doctrine or practice. The emphasis does not challenge a single one of the five solas, nor any of the TULIP.

Christ is supreme, the cross is central, you must be born again by the Spirit, salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone as revealed in the Scriptures alone, to the glory of God alone. Humans are totally depraved and elected unconditionally, the atonement is limited, grace is irresistible, the saints perservere. And God gives gifts to His church.

No emphasis on gifts need detract from any of these doctrines. Charismatics restore the gifts from the position of neglect they were given by our functionally-atheist tradtions and rationalisations of the Bible’s harder teachings. They are returned to where they should be, and no higher. That is the emphasis.

Reformed Charismatics: Is it possible?