Thursday, 27 April 2017

Thursday's Reflection

Emmanuel City Centre: Matthew 28:16-20


Thursday: Read Matthew 28:19. Thank God that those original disciples obeyed this command so that there are now disciples of Jesus in our nations. Pray that we’ll have a similar concern for all nations and not just our own. 

Saturday, 15 April 2017

What is the historical evidence that Jesus Christ lived and died?

Great article in The Guardian  by my friend Simon Gathercole answering this question. Have a read here.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Intimacy Day - Saturday 22nd April

There's been a lot of talk about our need for intimacy at the Emmanuel churches recently. But what exactly is intimacy?!

The quotation below defines it as a feeling of "oneness" which might help some of us grasp what we've been talking about. Another way of explaining it might be to say that it's all about feeling completely "at home with" someone or something.

Why do we need to work hard at getting our hearts and minds around the concept? Theologian Scott McKnight helps us work out why:

Nothing in the Bible makes sense if one does not begin with the garden of Eden as a life of oneness - human beings in union with God and in communion with the self, with one another, and with the world around them. Life is about "oneness" - oneness with God, with ourselves, with others and with the world. When the oneness is lived out, God is glorified and humans delight in that glory.' 
All this talk of intimacy with God, other people and place is all about glorifying God. It's about seeking to return to Eden as much as we can this side of the new heaven and the new earth. It really matters if we want to live life to the full in the here and now and attract unbelievers to the promise of enjoying perfect intimacy for all of eternity.

But what does this present intimacy look like, feel like in daily reality? How can I enjoy oneness with God, with friends, with this world? How can I feel at home with Jesus, with church family, with myself?

On Saturday 22nd April we'll be running what we're calling an Intimacy Day to help us all develop practical ways of not just talking about intimacy a lot but experiencing it too. It's part of this years Growing Disciples course but we'd like to open it up to everyone else in the Emmanuel Bristol family of churches.

It will be running at the Emmanuel Meeting House starting at 9.30am (prompt!) and ending at 4.30pm. You just need to bring a pen, a Bible, your own lunch and something fun to share with others (cake/ biscuits/ fruit/ drink).

And let us know that you are coming here. Hope to see you there!

Friday, 17 March 2017

Sex with God?!

I love this story that my friend Christopher West recounts in one of his many excellent books:
A modern mystic-nun, after giving a presentation in which she shared something of her experience of "nuptial union" with God, was rebuked by an agnostic psychologist: "You're sick!" he insisted. "What you really want is sex. But you're disguising your desire for sex with all this ridiculous talk about union with God." She responded firmly: "Oh no. I beg to differ. What the world really wants is union with God, but it's disguising that desire with all this ridiculous sex." Who do you think was right?' 
Well who do you think was right? I think the psychologist’s response to the nun’s talk of intimacy with God is not far off the response many of us have had to our current series on Song of Songs. The erotic language and imagery of the love poetry that we have been looking at together has been bad enough but comparing intimacy with God to the sexual intimacy of a husband and wife has disgusted some of us. To talk of the church’s eternal union with Christ being better than marital sex in the here and now has been seen as sick to many: are we really saying that we are going to enjoy sex with God? Surely such talk is sacrilegious?


Well God himself is guilty of introducing the comparison – have a read of his spokesman introducing and developing sexual language and imagery to describe his relationship with his people in passages like Ezekiel 16 and Hosea 1-3 (to take just two of many examples). This talk of deep intimacy with God in Christ isn’t just the embarrassing fantasy of your sex-starved single pastor (which I guess has been some people’s worry!) it is God’s chosen language to communicate how passionately he loves his chosen people. Including, of course, you and me.

Indeed as the scriptures continue it becomes clearer and clearer that the main point of marriage and sex on this earth is to trail where human history is heading: to a new heaven and earth where God’s Son Jesus will get married to God’s people the church. We first get a sneak preview of this destiny as early as Isaiah and then it is, of course, developed fully in the closing chapters of Revelation. No follower of the Lord Jesus will be unmarried then – we will all be united to him forever (making sense of why Jesus says there will be no human marriage in heaven in Mark 12:25).

So are we really going to personally experience some form of genital union with God in Christ come the new creation? No! Worrying like this is taking the imagery too far by forgetting the fact that God in Christ will be united to his bride the church – this is a corporate union with him not an individual one. We’re not talking about any of us individually having sex with God.

But what the scriptures do seem to be saying is that no experience of sexual intimacy in the here and now is going to anything in comparison with the eternal intimacy of our union with Jesus then. So we can talk about life with him then being better than sex now.

Which is nice thought isn’t it? A nice thought for those of us enjoying sex now – you are just enjoying a small taster of what is to come. But it’s also a nice thought for those of us who aren’t enjoying any sex now – we have the great wedding banquet and the bliss that will be ours then to look forward to.

Turns out that the modern mystic-nun was on the right tracks (something that won’t always be the case!). We have sex in creation to point us back to our Creator and the prospect of being united forever to him in his new creation. We’re not going to have sex with God but we are going to enjoy a far better intimate relationship with him in Christ forever. That’s not disgusting or sick but the reason to join in the prayer the Bible ends with: “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20 ).

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Life in a Foreign Country

The Gospel Coalition have published an edited version of an article I wrote last year entitled Life in a Foreign Country: Navigating Our Culture’s Change on Sexuality. It ties in with a lot of what Glynn was saying at the Better Story event the other week. Have a read here.

Friday, 24 February 2017

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.

These famous words were written by American missionary Jim Elliott in his journal. Discover the story behind them in a BBC news article here.


Monday, 13 February 2017

Digging into Isaiah

If our series in Isaiah over the last 6 weeks has got your wanting to dig further into the treasures of this precious Bible book - here are a couple of resources that you might find help as you do so:

Isaiah by the Day. An unsual and really helpful book - it's a 'devotional translation' of Isaiah by Alec Motyer - who has made the book of Isaiah his life's work.

The message of Isaiah. A surprisingly accessible commentary on the book of Isaiah by Barry Webb.