Church is Heavenly


"I like this tune," I said to my translator above the noise of the choir, "What are they singing?" He almost had to yell: "This is a very popular hymn in Malawi. It's called Just because you go to church doesn't mean you're going

Podcast: Remembering World War One


On this episode we talk about opportunities related to the WW1 centenary. Recently David Bourne and Andy Johnston put on a wonderful event in Hailsham to mark the centenary of the First World War (see here). It was held at the

In Conversation with Paul Blackham about 321


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dvwH4go_7HY An extra from Book by Book's "Job" studies. Here Paul Blackham interviews me about 321 - a gospel outline. We discuss the necessity of Trinity (THREE), Adam and Christ (TWO) and

Due To Popular Demand: Tweets!


Powerfully exposes the dangers of social media (while brilliantly exploiting the strengths of it) https://t.co/ob9brC7GUP LIKE — Glen Scrivener (@glenscrivener) June 27, 2014 Why am I married? Not because I’m inclined to

Some Tweets


Ah but it doesn't end well, does it? via @jamestutt @RealGeoffBarton @harrisimo @johnthelutheran pic.twitter.com/V07dJZsME3 — Glen Scrivener (@glenscrivener) June 19, 2014   God works triumph thru deicide. The

The People's Republic of #1PUN


Every now and then I have a go at #1PUN on Twitter. It was started by Juan Pun as a daily joke competition held at 1pm GMT. There were judges, a points system, spreadsheets and everything. Recently, without warning or

Happy Friday


Some Lutheran Satire for

Sermon - Acts 4:23-37


What does God's power look like? Acts 4:23-37 gives us four surprises: We think God's power means an absence of suffering; Actually it Embraces Easter. We think God's power obviates the need for prayer; Actually it Prompts

Church is Heavenly

Posted on by Glen in church, pastoral theology | 3 Comments

Daniel Rowland“I like this tune,” I said to my translator above the noise of the choir, “What are they singing?” He almost had to yell: “This is a very popular hymn in Malawi. It’s called Just because you go to church doesn’t mean you’re going to heaven.” “Oh” I said, watching the choir dance up and down the aisle, singing the chorus for the 50th time. Someone slid into church late, hoping to go unnoticed. He failed. Perhaps I’m imagining it, but some of the singers seemed to direct their words pointedly at the late-comer:

Just because you go to church doesn’t mean you’re going to heaven.

Well, it’s true. And certainly you can understand the urge to sing it where nominal church attendance abounds. But it doesn’t really capture the dominant note of the Bible. You see the Bible, more often than not, speaks of church as heaven.

“You have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly,to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven.” (Hebrews 12:22-23)

Because you’re going to church you are going to heaven. You see that’s also a biblical truth – a central one. I don’t mean that every church-goer is guaranteed paradise, I mean that – right now – church is paradise. Forget the final reckoning for a moment, church is heavenly – that’s the overwhelming witness of the Bible.

Daniel Rowlands, one of Wales’ mightiest preachers, would watch his congregation walking to church on a Sunday and remark: “Here they come, bringing heaven with them.”

That’s the emphasis in the Bible. And yes, some who came to Rowlands church may be in hell right now. But not because they didn’t taste heaven in church, they did (Heb 6:4-8). Everyone did – that’s what church is. 

There can be an unhealthy preoccupation among evangelicals with distinguishing the visible church from the invisible elect. We’re always looking past the tangible concreteness of our actual brothers and sisters, gathered around the word, the bread and the wine. We want to say “Yeah, whatever, those are just externals. The real issue is down deep in your soul.” And so we encourage the spiritually serious among us to be deep-soul-divers, trying desperately to plumb their own depths. All the while it’s church – in all its ordinariness – which actually does the deep work in us. The word exposes and heals us, the bread and wine nourish us “deep down”, our brothers and sisters en-courage us in ways that nothing else can.

Church is heavenly. Whatever heaven we seek which is not intimately tied to church might just turn out to be a false spirituality. I fear that – in that false sense – there are some people so heavenly minded they’re of no churchly use.

 

Podcast: Remembering World War One

Posted on by Glen in apologetics, culture, evangelism, podcast | Leave a comment

tep-podcastcover-1024x1024On this episode we talk about opportunities related to the WW1 centenary.

Recently David Bourne and Andy Johnston put on a wonderful event in Hailsham to mark the centenary of the First World War (see here). It was held at the Parish Church and it seemed like the whole town came out.

First Andy spoke of the causes of the war. Then David spoke of the course of the war. After a refreshments break and act of remembrance, I spoke about Jesus, the Prince of Peace. It was a very successful event generating wonderful gospel conversations afterwards.

Could you put on something similar where you are?

Here Andy Brinkley and I talk about the opportunities of this year and then listen to my 20 minute talk…


DOWNLOAD

SUBSCRIBE

For other resources concerning the WW1 celebrations:

https://www.10ofthose.com/products/12856/Remembrance-Day-Tract/

http://greaterlove.org.uk/

http://www.hopetogether.org.uk/greaterlove

Download My Talk by itself

 

 

In Conversation with Paul Blackham about 321

Posted on by Glen in 321, apologetics, evangelism, My videos, videos | 4 Comments

An extra from Book by Book’s “Job” studies.

Here Paul Blackham interviews me about 321 – a gospel outline. We discuss the necessity of Trinity (THREE), Adam and Christ (TWO) and Union with Christ (ONE) for our evangelism and why the local church is crucial for our mission to the world.

From 00:00 – 21:29 we talk about THREE
From 21:30 – 37:54 we talk about TWO
From 37:55 – 1:01:00 we talk about ONE and our evangelistic methods

And here’s a bit of fun from the “Job” studies:

 

Due To Popular Demand: Tweets!

Posted on by Glen in pastoral theology, tweets | Leave a comment

Why am I married? Not because I’m inclined to love the institution but because I met someone. Why am I a Christian? Same answer.

Disgusted to read the behaviour of men on @EverydaySexism feed. True sexual liberation requires sexual self control – esp the men.

Your success at ‘sin management’ does not define you. Christ does: “Holy”, “Without Blemish”, “Free From Accusation” Col1:22 #EnjoyYourDay.

Yesss! “Left Behind Movie” has just added me on Google+.
#eRaptured #CaughtUpInTheCloud

Sins cleansed, darkness conquered, creation liberated, bodies raised, tears wiped away and Jesus. Face to face, Forever. #EnjoyYourDay

If it’s anarthrous shouldn’t it lose the “an”? But if ‘arthrous’ shouldn’t it be thearthrous? Guess that’s why they call em Grammar Nasties

I’m a slave of the Liberator. There’s freedom nowhere else.

New word for ontological naturalism: Solidsism. Like solipsism it’s impossible to argue against once you grant the premises. #Solidsism

In the end, arguments against both solipsism and solidsism are immaterial. But to the solidsist, that should be a clue.

Oh good. If Brazil lose I hear the authorities will calm the crowds by reading to them all about their famous Rio Tact. #Riotact

#Irenaeus in a word? Handy

At the British Museum see Babylonians, Persians, Greeks&Romans. At yr local church join the Son of Man’s eternal kingdom #Dan7 #EnjoyYourDay

 

In marriage – focus on your sin and their potential, not the other way around.

Whatever needs forgiving is forgiven. Whatever needs fixing will be fixed. Whatever needs facing, Christ faces with us. #EnjoyYourDay

Good news, you don’t need to “find your identity in Jesus”! Christ IS your life. #Col3 #EnjoyYourDay

It’s not just your sins – *you* have been transferred to Christ. Now you inhabit the realm of the Beloved Son. Col1:13f #EnjoyYourDay

Words don’t merely map the world, they make it and move it.

When Jesus came to the Jordan He didn’t Judge the failures, He joined them: entering our filth to bring us 2 His Family #Matt3 #EnjoyYourDay

- What do we want?
- More unity!
- On whose terms do we want it?
- Ours!

 

Are you a Christian? Jesus is yours and you are His. Song of Songs 6:3 #EnjoyYourDay

I just typed “Why does Google homepage say it’s 2013?” into the Google homepage. I got an error message and now my computer’s frozen.

I’m expecting GoogleTroopers to knock at my door any minute and arrest me for gross insubordination.

I’d like to take this opportunity to restate my appreciation for, and allegiance to, our Google Overlords. Long to reign over us.

PROPHECY: Manpering will become a thing (ie Man-Pampering). This will be huge. You heard it here first.

Vindicated! “Manpering” exists already. Buoyed by my prophetic success I now predict the rise of microblogging and reflexive photography

So Germany looking to swiftly knock out France before turning their attention to world domination. #DontMentionTheWorldCup

Neymar no more :(

Weeping then joy, anger then favour, mourning then dancing, the pit then the heights Ps30 One morning soon will be The Morning #EnjoyYourDay

If a scientist explained their data with recourse to the miraculous: 50 others would, understandably, set about finding a better explanation >

< But all science rests on a miracle: the comprehensibility of the cosmos. It’s the *Christian* who steps forward to explain the miracle

Gal2:20 Your “I” (active subject) has been crucified & no longer lives. Your “me” (passive object) is loved and laid hold of. #EnjoyYourDay

According to the sermon on the mount, our Father in heaven: shines, sees x2, knows x2, forgives, feeds, clothes, gives.

Let’s hope the Commonwealth Games can lift us from this sporting yawn-fest. Am I right?

“The sin beneath all our sins is 2trust the serpent’s lie that we cannot trust the love&grace of Christ&must take matters in2 our own hands” (Luther)

#5LeviticalOfferings: Old life condemned, New offered to God, Guilt cleansed, Recompense made, Peace secured. #ChristHasDoneIt #EnjoyYourDay

“To die” is not a valid bucket list entry. Unless you’re Jesus. Then it’s item number one.

Peter took Jesus aside: “It’s just that, as bucket lists go, “Dying” feels a bit brief. And maybe lacking in ambition?” (Mark8:32 amplified)

Also sad to be missing #EMA2014 – but #EMO2014 would be interesting too. You could sing #EMOhymns like And can it bleed, Meekness and Misery

Other #EMOhymns: Here is blood vast as the ocean, Mourning has broken #EMO2014 #EMA2014

#EMOhymns Sell out my soul, Cries triumphant ever raining, #EMO2014 #EMA2014

#EMOhymns When tears like a river (It is hell), My hope is built on nothing. #EMO2014 #EMA2014

By @rockbadger: Praise Goth from whom all bleedings flow #EMO2014

By @SamAllberry: Frown Him With Many Frowns, Lord For The Tears, There Is A Fountain Filled With Blood

By @celticmoose: O for a thousand tongue piercings to sing

By @CamPotts1: I cry alone, no hope is found.

“Jesus the Name high over all, in hell or earth or sky. Angels and men before it fall, and devils fear and fly.” #EnjoyYourDay

God’s YES resounds from heaven at Christ. His AMEN booms back on our behalf&the Spirit seals us into the circle of trust 2Cor1 #EnjoyYourDay

The big news here in Ireland: Garth Brooks has cancelled his Dublin gigs. Fans can get their money back. Their self-respect remains forfeit

Just learnt that the two-day wedding celebration I’m at has used 66 bottles of wine. Just 10% of the John 2 quantity!

As Word of God Jesus doesn’t just keep God’s promises, He *is* God’s promise to you, earthed forever into your humanity. #EnjoyYourDay

When life feels beyond u remember it always is. “But this happened that we might not rely on self but God who raises the dead” #EnjoyYourDay

Since Adam, sinners have been desperate to look righteous. With Jesus you have the Righteous One happy to be numbered with transgressors

It always astonishes me how content Jesus is with people thinking He’s a sinner. I *am* one & I’m mortified to be outted

 

Some Tweets

Posted on by Glen in tweets | Leave a comment

 

God works triumph thru deicide. The disasters of today do not catch Him off guard or knock Him off course. Crisis is His MO #EnjoyYourDay

When reading certain theological debates I’m reminded of the phrase: “falling off either side of the wrong horse.”

Present suffering is to future glory as birth-pains are to the joy of new life. Horrifically painful. Totally worth it. #EnjoyYourDay

Jesus was never anti-anyone. So long as they weren’t pro-themselves.

The whole world is invited to Jesus. Everyone can come as they are. No-one can stay as they are.

You do Not have to be straight to come to Christ. You Do have to be a sinner.

Misapplication of union with Christ #47: “You know I see a lot of myself in Jesus…”

To be clear: we should see *all* of ourselves in Jesus by grace. (Not *some* of ourselves in Jesus by works)

 

Science alone can never give us “science alone.” If u want “science alone” u’ll have 2 argue philosophically. Then it’s not “science alone”

4those sitting final exams 2day someone will say ‘Pens down’ then the hols. 4 the Xian it’s ‘schools out 4ever’ Gal3:24 #EnjoyYourDay

People are tremendously disappointing – none more so than me

Through His life, death & resurrection, Christ has taken the wheel of this world, turned on the sat nav & pressed “Home” #EnjoyYourDay

- Do u see yourself in Psalm 1′s picture of manhood?
- Ha. Ish.
- Only “ish”?
- No. Not “ish”. “Ha*Ish”. Fully in Him.
“Blessed is The Man”

- Do you see yourself in the blessings of Psalm 1?
- Moralistic reading: Ha! Ish.
- Christian reading: Ha*Ish!

Yeah I’m basically cornering the “tortuous Hebrew puns about Christ in the OT” market. It’s wide open baby

Jesus sailed thru a hurricane to get to Legion (Mark5). He was hurled into the Abyss to rescue u. Same predicament, same love. #EnjoyYourDay

Sometimes in suffering we need to understand. Sometimes we need to know that Jesus understands. We’re part Martha, part Mary #John11

“We want to see Jesus lifted high” sing the Father and Spirit. We can join in too if we like.

God does not overpower our narcissism with an even greater self-centredness. He overwhelms our egotism in a torrent of self-giving.

In the face of suffering we need to be able to Hate and to Hope – to Stand Against suffering as an Enemy and to Look Forward to its End

Christ is yr clothing (baptism), yr food & yr drink (communion). And He’s given while ur naked, famished & guilty as hell #EnjoyYourDay

I thought I had the right angle on my triangle pun. Those opposed called it hypertenuous :(

Living in Eastbourne gives you regular reminders that growing old gracefully is not automatic.

We always think we need help. What we need even more is helplessness.

Adam and Eve made fig-leaf coverings. Their children have followed suit.

That salvation is too big for you, Jesus says ‘Let me take it’. #EnjoyYourDay

That worry is too big for you, the Father says ‘Let me take it’. #EnjoyYourDay

That job is too big for you, the Spirit says ‘Let me take it.’ #EnjoyYourDay

Is anyone else worried that Chewy Luis’ victims will themselves become biters? #WorldCupZ

Dear Struggling Christian, you are not in between lapses. You are in Christ. (Col 1:13-14)

Often my work is “slapdash” because always my work is “slack… dash”

B©P – all rites reserved

 

The People’s Republic of #1PUN

Posted on by Glen in apologetics, culture, evangelism | Leave a comment

punEvery now and then I have a go at #1PUN on Twitter. It was started by Juan Pun as a daily joke competition held at 1pm GMT. There were judges, a points system, spreadsheets and everything.

Recently, without warning or explanation, Juan Pun stopped overseeing 1PUN. Now no-one tweets out the reminders, no-one is judging our efforts and there are no official winners. But 1PUN continues. It seems like it’s as popular as ever. And, in a way, the scoring does happen, but in the way it’s always happened on Twitter: via favourites and retweets. It’s the People’s Republic of #1PUN and it’s working.

Let’s think about religion and morality. Could it be that the People’s Republic of #1PUN gives us a model for how morality works after the death of God? Perhaps God is like a heavenly Juan Pun – a made-up figure who has now retreated from the scene. To begin with, his absence was disconcerting, but after a bit, we’ve just gotten on with it. Now people act pretty much the same way they ever did except that, under the new regime, they don’t receive authoritarian pronouncements from on high, they are simply judged by their equals. Approval and disapproval has been democratized and we’ve all just gotten on with life without any noticeable outbreaks of apocalyptic evil.

What do we think? Is it the same thing?

Well here’s one response you could make:

“Yeah but… Watch out for the democratization of values. A nasty pocket of racist tweeters could get hold of the hashtag and flood it with bigoted “humour”. In just that way, whole people groups could decide on a new direction for a culture’s morality and there’d be nothing to say they were wrong.”

 You could make that kind of argument. And there’d be truth to it. But I think we need to go deeper.

You see the analogy just doesn’t hold. At all really. The triune God is not a heavenly Juan Pun trying to manage a little system within a much larger paradigm. The Father hasn’t looked around at all the morality that’s been going on and dreamt up a scoring system to administrate it. He is the Author of goodness, the Son is the Expression of goodness, the Spirit is the Perfecter of goodness. God is good - goodness itself.

The triune God does not relate to the world as Juan Pun to word-play but like Oscar Wilde to Algernon. In The Importance of Being Earnest, Algernon may be extremely funny while denying all knowledge of any authorship over his life. But on the deepest level, he cannot declare his independence from Wilde. He’s only funny because of him.

We can deny God all we like. We can call him an out-dated construct but actually we are the constructs. And every concept we use – whether of goodness, truth, beauty, justice, even humour – is either borrowed capital or ultimately bankrupt. The people’s republic of earth does not threaten the kingdom of heaven – actually it presupposes it. All the while there’s a Father beckoning the world to something greater than abstract values like “goodness” – He’s inviting us to Himself.

 

Happy Friday

Posted on by Glen in humourous, videos | 2 Comments

Some Lutheran Satire for you…

Any favourites of your own?

Sermon – Acts 4:23-37

Posted on by Glen in preaching, sermons | 1 Comment

Acts4

What does God’s power look like? Acts 4:23-37 gives us four surprises:

We think God’s power means an absence of suffering;
Actually it Embraces Easter.

We think God’s power obviates the need for prayer;
Actually it Prompts Prayer.

We think God’s power is all about miracles;
Actually it Makes Missionaries.

We think God’s power is enjoyed privately;
Actually it Creates Community.

SCRIPT

AUDIO


Counselling and the Church

Posted on by Glen in pastoral theology, psychology | 5 Comments

2104bf27cee12d1f1387d06961bf536cShould Christians see non-Christian counsellors?

This is a question that divides evangelicals, sometimes sharply. But perhaps it’s not the question to ask. At least not first. Perhaps the better question with which to frame the discussion is this:

Where (if anywhere) might counselling fit into Christian discipleship in the life of the church?

Here we’re dealing with first things first. Healthy, well-balanced living is a matter of  Christian discipleship – learning Christ and letting His reality shape all our thinking, feeling and behaving. The context for that discipleship is the body of Christ – the church. Think of Ephesians 4: there is incredible maturity and growth available in the renewal of our minds (v14-32). But the context for it all is the local church (v1-13). I say local because you cannot imagine Ephesians 4 happening in some “invisible church.” Our growth happens in community with others where our church leaders exercise their word gifts (v11-13). The local church is the place where lives are put back together.

So where does counselling fit in? Well it certainly can fit in. There are areas of expertise that a counsellor might have that may not be covered by your local church. There can be many reasons you might want to talk to someone with wisdom and experience from beyond your own context. But the heart of the issue is this: the counsellor must not become a de facto Pastor. Whatever counselling is sought, it would probably need to be self-consciously time-limited. It will certainly need to be talked and prayed through with people from church (whether friends or pastoral leaders). But if that’s happening then seeing a non-Christian counsellor for a limited time, regarding a limited issue and with local church prayer support is a viable option – certainly it is if your Pastor thinks so.

The real problem, it seems to me, is having a counsellee looking to a counsellor as a Pastor – a shepherd of their soul. Unfortunately though, this happens all the time. And the problem is not limited to counsellors. So many want their soul’s deepest needs to be met through celebrity online preachers, through parachurch ministries, through conferences, through GOD TV, through the latest Christian paperback. This is the problem, and you’ll notice it’s a problem even if the spiritual shepherd being sought is Christian. Even if their doctrine is completely orthodox, the problem remains.

On the other hand, consider this scenario. Let’s imagine the person you love is falling into a big black hole called anorexia – this is Emma’s and my story. In that case there will be professional help available  - not always very much, not always very helpful and not always very easy to access. But nonetheless there will be opportunities to access care from beyond the local church and, most often, beyond an explicitly Christian context. What should you do?

My advice: take everything that’s offered with both hands, but pray through it with folks from church. Christ and His people really do have the answer to eating disorders but there’s also wisdom out there about the nuts and bolts of battling it. Through it all, church should absolutely maintain spiritual oversight and care but church should also acknowledge where others have useful expertise. The problem comes when Christian leaders equate expertise with soul care. In that case leaders who feel “out of their depth” in terms of expertise will hand over their people wholesale to the experts.

This happened to Emma and I several times. We would go to Christian leaders with our problems only to be told they were “too much” for them to handle. This was understandable – they were “too much” for us too! But instead of maintaining soul care while delegating specific expertise, they washed their hands of both.

The greatest help we had, beyond the Lord’s own intervention, was a Christian couple who admitted frequently their own inadequacy. They had no idea about eating disorders but every Monday night they opened up their home and we talked. Emma could speak about the professional help she was receiving and we prayed together. Very simple. Very profound. And it was all possible because these Christian leaders did not consider their limited knowledge to limit their ability to care.

Can non-Christian counsellors be helpful? Of course. Can they be unhelpful. You bet. But the need to find “an answer” to the counselling question betrays a deeper problem – we feel like the counsellor, whether Christian or not, is the answer. We treat outside helpers like alternative shepherds when really they’re just vets.

For my money the real issue is dethroning the counsellor from the position of Pastor. Once this occurs, their doctrinal orthodoxy is still important, but less so. You see shepherds can bring in vets to help the flock. And those vets may be a brother, or they may be from a different tribe. That’s of secondary importance. Whoever the vet is, the real issue is that the sheep know the voice of their Shepherd and the continued care of their God-given undershepherds.

Corporate Prayer “Performs Poorly” Claims New Study

Posted on by Glen in preaching | 8 Comments

PrayerRequest

UPDATE: Just to be clear… this is a parody. The intended target is revealed at the end

Prayer in church has long been considered painfully dull, but new research suggests it’s also “largely ineffective.” The study of 300 intercessors from 14 denominations found that the majority of church pray-ers performed poorly across a range of indicators. More than 80% of congregants reported moderate to severe mind-wandering, with 47% of all church-goers unable to recall more than one prayer-point from the Sunday service.

“This trend of high-distraction / low-retention is obviously unacceptable in today’s information age”, so said Dag Branstrom a process analyst from KPMG and the report’s author. “In terms of participation rates and in terms of the clarity and brevity of communication, church prayers compare unfavourably to other forms of data transfer.”

The report advocates for a major overhaul of church services, even mooting the complete elimination of prayers from the worship service.

“Clearly there are more efficient ways of generating prayer” said Branstrom. “For too long churches have invested in methods which evidence disappointing consumer buy-in.”

Nigel Fairweather, the Archbishop’s Cultural Engagement and Faith Journeys Advisor, embraced the findings. “These are exciting times for missional communities. For too long we have been in thrall to oppressive and monological methods of prayer – no doubt a hangover from Constantinian power-plays. Finally the research proves what we’ve suspected all along: prayer isn’t working, we need to try something new. I can’t wait to see where the Spirit leads next.”

For similar analysis of church practices, see SERMONS – NOT HOW WE LEARN BEST?