Monday, 5 October 2015

The Whole of Life for Christ (7): Whole-Life Worship

I contributed today’s ‘Word for the Week’, a weekly email service provided by the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. It’s the last in a series introducing themes explored more fully in the book, The Whole of Life for Christ: Enriching Everyday Discipleship, written with Mark Greene.

And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?
Deuteronomy 10:12-13

‘You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honour and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being...’
In a loud voice they were saying:
‘Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honour and glory and praise!’
Revelation 4:11 and 5:12

It should come as no surprise that the Lord of the whole of life requires worship in the whole of life. In the Old Testament, we see it in regulations that touch on every aspect of daily existence, in psalms which embrace the highs and lows and everything in between, in prophets who call for justice and mercy as well as sacrifice and singing. As Deuteronomy 10:12-13 captures it, all of life was to be an expression of service to the Lord.

That’s completely in line with what Paul says in Romans 12:1-2 – where bodies, minds and wills are offered back to God – reminding us that the Old and New Testament stand together on the necessity of whole-life worship. Across Scripture, acceptable worship is not simply a matter of praising God in music and singing, or of participating enthusiastically in rites and ceremonies; it involves honouring, serving, and revering God in every sphere of life.

And it all flows out of his grace towards us. The biblical story line from beginning to end allows us to trace the acts of God on behalf of the people of God and our response to the Lord in worship.

In the book of Revelation, John sees a door standing open in heaven. He’s given a vision of reality from God’s perspective. For the small and weak communities of believers scattered around what is now Turkey, John sees that the true account of the world is revealed not only in the Creator God who reigns over all things, but in Christ crucified who redeems all things.

The worship that John witnesses nourishes our identity and mission as the body of Christ – because it’s focused above all on Christ himself, who is uniquely qualified to bring to pass God’s redemptive purposes in the world. The scope of what God might be pleased to do through us in our everyday lives – our whole of life for Christ – is rooted in what God has done, is doing, and will do for us and for all creation.

So, John’s vision of worship becomes a call to worship, an expression of allegiance in a world of competing allegiances, a way of declaring who’s really in charge, as we allow our worship of God and the Lamb to permeate everything we think and say and do, and invite others to do the same.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Journal of Global Christianity

The Journal of Global Christianity, published twice a year by Training Leaders International, ‘seeks to promote international scholarship and discussion on topics related to global Christianity’, addressing ‘key issues related to the mission of the Church in hope of helping those who labor for the gospel wrestle with and apply the biblical teaching on various challenging mission topics’.

Two issues have been published so far (in five languages), containing a variety of essays along with several book reviews. The current issue is available here, from where individual essays or a pdf of the whole issue can be viewed or downloaded.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

David and Heather Jackman on Marriage

The latest Cambridge Paper from the Jubilee Centre is available online, this one by David Jackman and Heather Jackman:

Here is the summary:

‘The broad and pervasive “trend away from marriage” has far-reaching implications for society as a whole, as well as for Christians who come under pressure to conform to cultural standards. In contrast to the short-term and low-commitment relationships that have fast become the norm, the Bible holds out a positive vision for marriage, based on God’s covenant relationship with his people, and offers us the hope of communicating an attractive model of marriage to those who adhere to very different values.’

Monday, 28 September 2015

The Whole of Life for Christ (6): Whole-Life Hope

I contributed today’s ‘Word for the Week’, a weekly email service provided by the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. It’s the penultimate in a series introducing themes explored more fully in the book, The Whole of Life for Christ: Enriching Everyday Discipleship, written with Mark Greene.

‘See, I will create
new heavens and a new earth.
The former things will not be remembered,
nor will they come to mind.
But be glad and rejoice for ever
in what I will create,
for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight
and its people a joy.
I will rejoice over Jerusalem
and take delight in my people;
the sound of weeping and of crying
will be heard in it no more.’
Isaiah 65:17-19

The creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.
Romans 8:21-24

In words that John will later pick up in Revelation 21, God – through Isaiah – lays out the goal of his redemptive work – nothing less than a new creation. Not an immaterial heaven, but heaven and earth combined in breathtaking renewal. A restored world washed clean of dirt and pollution, where weeping and crying will no longer be heard, where ugliness and scarcity will be overcome by beauty and abundance. Just pause to imagine such a world.

It’s not like that now (in case you hadn’t noticed...). Romans 8 is one of many places where Paul expresses the tension between how things are now and how they will be one day. And that tension between the ‘already’ and the ‘not yet’ is part and parcel of everyday discipleship.

The new age has broken into the present age, so that we enjoy ‘the firstfruits of the Spirit’ while awaiting the full harvest. The current experience of birth pains will give way to eventual relief. Paul depicts salvation as being set free from bondage, applying the imagery not just to women and men, but to the entire created order – yet one more reminder of the sweeping scope of God’s work in Christ, where such liberation is not simply ‘internal’ or ‘spiritual’, but the ‘redemption of our bodies’, and of creation itself.

The Bible tells the story of God’s work of redemption, which is a gloriously comprehensive rescue – ‘far as the curse is found’, as the old carol puts it. To be sure, biblical passages use figures of speech in their descriptions of what the future looks like, but they all underline not the removal of creation but its renewal, not its ruination but its restoration.

In this time between the times, our discipleship – in keeping with what will be – is all-embracing, as we make known and live out God’s rule over the whole of life. Seeking to avoid both defeatism (claiming too little) and triumphalism (claiming too much), we can testify to the wide-ranging sweep of God’s renewing power in politics and parenting, in economics and education, in art and athletics – being realistic about current ‘bondage’, but all the while looking forward to the complete restoration of what was originally declared ‘good’.

Such is our confidence and expectation – our hope – a hope of the full disclosure of God’s gracious reign that shapes each of us in the here and now.

Friday, 25 September 2015

9Marks Journal 12, 3 (2015) on Multi-Ethnic Churches

The latest issue of the 9Marks Journal, available here as a pdf, is devoted to the topic of ‘Multi-Ethnic Churches’.

In the Editor’s Note, Jonathan Leeman writes:

‘[C]hurches today too often mimic their host culture’s ethnic rivalries, whether in South Africa, India, or America. Or at least, too often they forget they possess a resource for overcoming racial or ethnic strife that the world does not have: the gospel.

‘Most evangelicals recognize that possessing the righteousness of Christ means “putting on” that righteousness in every-day decisions. Yet the same is true of the reconciliation we share with one another in the gospel (see Eph. 2:11-22). We are to “put on” that reconciliation. If we do not put on that righteousness, and if we do not put on that reconciliation, we call into question whether we have been declared righteous or “one new man.”’

Thursday, 24 September 2015

International Bulletin of Missionary Research 39:4 (October 2015)

The latest issue of International Bulletin of Missionary Research is a collection of essays written in honour of Jonathan J. Bonk.

In view of the ongoing refugee crisis, it might be worth noting that the issue features articles around the broad theme of ‘Engaging Mission: Hospitality, Humility, Hope’, with a number of the contributions addressing issues related to migration, assimilation, and hospitality.

The whole issue is available as a pdf here.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Talking Jesus

‘What do English adults know and believe about Jesus Christ? What do they really think of his followers? How often – if ever – do Christians talk about their faith in Jesus? How do both Christians and non-Christians feel about those conversations?’

A joint initiative by the Church of England, the Evangelical Alliance, and HOPE commissioned Barna Group and ComRes to conduct some research on those and similar questions, in order to investigate perceptions about Jesus, Christians and evangelism in England.

More information is available here, including a downloadable report here, and a short animated video here.