Recent Talks and Videos

Posted on by Glen in My videos, sermons, videos | 2 Comments

Haven’t blogged in ages, so let me catch you up on some of what I’ve been doing…

Did you see our Christmas video?

 

And Easter?

 

Recently I was invited to the Yorkshire Gospel Partnership to talk about glorification.

I spoke of our past, present and future in God’s glorious life.

THE PAST – THE SOURCE OF GLORY – LIFE OVERFLOWING – A FOUNTAIN

THE PRESENT – THE FLOW OF GLORY – LIFE POURED OUT – A SACRIFICE

THE FUTURE – THE GOAL OF GLORY – LIFE RAISED UP – A HARVEST

I also did a Q&A session about evangelism, preaching and other mini-rants.

See their page for other brilliant talks from Mike Reeves, Sam Allberry, Richard Coekin, Christopher Ash, Don Carson and many more.

 

Here are two Easter talks at St Stephen’s Selly Park: Love Story (John 13:1-17) and Life Story (John 20:24-31).

 

Durham University Mission (STORY)

 

Real Lives with St Mary’s Maidenhead.

Go here to get individual mp3s of the interviews and talks.

 

Three Ground Rules For Understanding Revelation

Posted on by Glen in bible, revelation | 4 Comments

As I prepare a sermon on Revelation 1 for this weekend it strikes me that three lessons from this chapter should be followed by any would-be interpreter.

1. The Bible interprets the Bible

Not the newspapers. Not modern resonances. There’s a reason Revelation comes at the end of the Scriptures. It picks up and weaves together themes and allusions from every other biblical book. We don’t need to go outside the Scriptures to interpret them. Very often we don’t need to go outside the chapter. Stick to the Bible. The Bible will interpret the Bible.

2. The context is suffering

In particular it’s the suffering of John, the seven churches of Asia and the other witnesses to Christ known to John. The context is not comfortable 21st century theorists, but suffering believers. And in the first instance, they are believers of the 1st century who need comfort there and then. If they somehow thought that the kings of Revelation 17 were the EU, how exactly would that be a comfort? And how would that be a comfort to the millions of non-western believers today suffering for their faith?

3. The point is Christ

It’s the Revelation of Jesus Christ, not the Revelation of eschatological timetables. Jesus is the centre. Focus on Him and His comfort in suffering and you won’t go too far wrong.

 

 

Video For Remembrance Day

Posted on by Glen in creative, culture, My videos, poetry, videos | Leave a comment

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If I should die think only this
… A bullet flew by that did not miss…

What story of the war is told?
Romance bright or horror cold?
Triumph’s tale or tragic loss,
the iron or the wooden cross?
Lost lament or victor’s boast?
Full brass band or lone last post?
Heroes, villains, cowards, kings?
It’s war… it’s all these things.

It’s us unleashed for good and ill,
the gallant heart, the savage will.
A Kaiser’s pride, a nation’s fear,
a global greed, it’s all in here.

What causes war, the old book asks?
Beyond the history, beneath the masks,
There grows a want, becomes a will,
demands our way, prepares to kill.

The war we mark as long ago,
is close to home, it’s all we know.
What ceases war? The pressing question.
What can halt inborn aggression?
To end all wars and retribution –
war itself is no solution.

Can terror end all terror now?
Brute force subdue itself and bow?
Can darkness drive out darkened dread?
Or death extinguish death instead?

We need to interrupt the spiral.
A healing antiretroviral.
The story’s told of an Anti-Zeus –
A God of Peace turned Human Truce.
Into our world, into our midst –
a walking, talking armistice.

A King made meek, a power made weak,
to stand and turn the other cheek,
to take the blow, absorb disgrace,
and rise to give again His face.
In grace undimmed and arms unfurled,
to bless and pacify the world…

…and you – to sweet surrender brought,
forgiveness for your battles fought,
a peace to pass to every soul,
then warfare ceased from pole to pole.

Sermons from Revelation 1 and Proverbs

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Revelation 1:9-20: Overwhelmed By The Son of Man

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Work in Proverbs

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Six Disturbing Assumptions Uncovered in A World Without Downs

Posted on by Glen in apologetics, culture | 12 Comments

DS docoIf you haven’t seen it already, run, don’t walk, to see Sally Phillips’ documentary: A World Without Down’s Syndrome. In it Phillips discusses a new, non-invasive, test offered by the NHS to diagnose Down’s Syndrome in utero. In Iceland, the test has led to 100% of expectant mothers terminating their pregnancies when discovering Down’s. In Denmark it’s 98%. Already in the UK, 90% of mothers terminate and Sally wonders aloud whether, with this new test, we will go the way of Iceland and effectively see a world without Down’s Syndrome.

Sally is the mother of Olly, an 11 year old full of life and fun (and who has Down’s) and she rightly sees this future as unthinkable. She interviews mothers, doctors, geneticists, and those with Down’s from around the world. What we discover through the documentary is truly disturbing. Let me highlight six chilling assumptions informing a culture that would enable the elimination of a subgroup.

 

1. Because feelings run high, facts should be silenced

This article was written before the documentary’s airing in which Jane Fisher, Director of Antenatal Results and Choices, complains:

“Sally is a very compelling presenter, and – absolutely – it’s great to have the positive images of people [with Down’s] who are already here. But it’s very personal, and it’s an extra layer of difficulty for couples and families who might be making the decision now about whether to end their pregnancy. It risks offering the suggestion to those who have [decided to end a pregnancy] that they have made the wrong decision.”

Translation: When things are so personal, it’s unhelpful to have the other side put compellingly. People might change their minds.

 

2. “Costs” are calculated in pounds and pence

At one point Sally interviews Lynn  Chitty, professor of genetics and fetal medicine, and asks her about the cost of the test. Sally is talking about the high cost to society of, potentially, eliminating an entire population. Jane says “It’s not a high cost at all, our studies have shown that you can implement this at…” Sally interrupts “Sorry, I wasn’t talking about the financial cost… I was talking about an experiment… that may result in a catastrophic result [for] the Down’s Syndrome population.”

When one side is speaking about the cost of rolling out a programme of blood tests and another side is speaking about the survival of a group of people, we are talking at some pretty chilling cross-purposes.

 

3. Society should not be encumbered by the weak and vulnerable.

Lynn comes back at Sally with a question of her own. She asks: “How do you feel about later on in life? Because [Olly] is likely to outlive you. How do you feel about that prospect?” Sally responds: “the answer to that is not termination. The answer is that if we have a society that is unable to care for people, the problem is not the person.”

A mother whose vulnerable son will outlive her needs a society that will value the vulnerable too. Instead she is faced with someone who thinks the better course of action would have been termination. If Lynn’s views are at all representative of society at large, this is frightening indeed and it signals a 180 degree shift in our moral compass. In times past we would have thought the moral thing would be to care for the weak and vulnerable. We are shifting to a view where it’s not just permitted but positively virtuous to end the life of the weak and vulnerable because we no longer want to be a society that cares for the weak. We eliminate them

 

4. The good life is one that is free from pain and struggle

Sally meets Kate who decided to terminate her pregnancy at 25 weeks when they discovered Down’s. Kate tells Sally she’d done a lot of research – not just of the facts and figures but also listening to stories of those living with Down’s: “You see some of the difficulties that people were going through,” she says, “One woman whose 5 year old son still wasn’t walking… he was very heavy, having fits everywhere. If my child was affected as much as he was I’d feel really guilty about that, having been given the choice.”

After they watch inspirational footage of a gymnast with Down’s, Kate reflects that the gymnast clearly had to struggle far more to attain these achievements and it wasn’t something she wanted for her child.

Never mind that those with Down’s report being some of the happiest people on the planet, never mind that the greatest lives lived have been in the teeth of suffering, never mind that every human being must struggle in this world, somehow we have come to the view that a life of pain and struggle is simply not worth living.

 

5. The right to life is earned

Sally interviews geneticist George Church who is at the forefront of genetic testing in utero. As Sally raises the danger of people having ever more information about their offspring, Church says that our real battle is to educate the masses. If having children with DS is an enriching experience for all then Sally and others should keep doing what they’re doing (while George does what he’s doing). He urges Sally to “Spread the word that [those with Down’s Syndrome] are valuable members of society.”

Job done. We just need more information – both about the unborn and about their prospects in the real world. And if those with DS can be deemed to be valuable, no problem, right? Except, who says who’s valuable? And how? On what basis? The entire logic of Church’s position is that the right to life is earned. (Of course the position of the church is quite different: life is a sheer gift).

 

6. Personalising the issue is wrong.

Here’s something deeply ironic in the way the Guardian have reported this documentary. Before the documentary we were warned that Phillips was wading into emotional waters and could upset mothers with her compelling case (see point 1). After the documentary, came this review by Julia Raeside: It’s Straight From The Heart – And That’s The Problem. First the facts would upset people’s feelings. Then we’re told Sally’s case is all feelings, no facts.

Raeside says it’s “impassioned but not impartial” because Sally shows us her happy family life, her beaming, boisterous son, Olly, and the inspirational achievements of those with Down’s Syndrome. How unfair to personalise the issue. How unfair to bring these people, whose elimination we are discussing, off of the sonogram, out of the NHS leaflets and onto our screens, laughing, joking and dancing. Wouldn’t it be fairer if we dealt with them as…. what? Statistics? Lists of symptoms?

No, if we are dealing with people then it would not be impartial, it would be sociopathic to cast them in anything less than personal terms. That is the beauty and also the integrity of Sally’s documentary.

 

It seems to me that these six disturbing views are throbbing away under all our discussions in this area. Phillips’ documentary has done us a huge favour. She has confronted a culture of death with a beaming 11 year old and asked us: Who will we listen to? Let’s pray we choose well.

Olly

10 New(ish) Sermons

Posted on by Glen in evangelism, My videos, sermons, videos | 1 Comment

Galatians 6

Galatians 6 audio download

 

The Gospel and Mental Health

 

Four Evangelistic Talks from John’s Gospel

God so loved the world (John 3:16)

Doubting Thomas (John 20)

Water into Wine (John 2)

Raising Lazarus (John 11)

 

Four Other Talks

Liberated: Can Christianity really offer freedom?

Repent and Believe the Good News (Mark 1:14-20)

Jesus Walks On Water (John 6:16-24)

Jesus Sat Down (Hebrews 10:1-18)

 

Racism, Shaming, Scapegoating and Hope

Posted on by Glen in apologetics, Cross, culture, My videos, videos | 5 Comments

Here’s a response to some of the events of the last fortnight, focusing on racism and some other of the blame games that threaten to tear us apart.

Sorry for the hands-off-the-steering-wheel-gesticulations! Won’t do it again, I promise! If I do an in-car vlog again I’ll probably do it parked.

Anyway, hopefully my Jehu impression won’t distract too much from the issues discussed…

 

Champions!

Posted on by Glen in 321, apologetics, evangelism | Leave a comment

LeicesterWe experience it all the time. Leicester City lifts the trophy and millions rejoice.

England beats Australia in the rugby and strangers introduce themselves to me with the words “Three Nil!” (To which I respond, “Eddie Jones, what a genius!”)

The Euros come on TV and the whole nation is on tenterhooks.

What’s going on? It’s all about champions, as this extract from my book, 321, explains. (Get the book here, and as an e-book for just 99p).

 

Champions

“Who do you support?” they ask. “In the football, who’s your team?”

“Umm,” I hesitate. I’ve been here before. “Well I’m Australian but I lived for a while in Highbury, north London. So I suppose I follow Arsenal. At a distance. Sort of.”

“Arsenal?! We STUFFED you on Saturday!” they beam.

“You did?” I look at their shirt. Yep, it’s a dead ringer for the shirts worn by eleven men who, last weekend, bettered another eleven men neither of us have met. But that’s not the way it’s ever phrased. It’s always “We beat you.” When our champions win, we win.

At that point I want to protest: “Who’s we? I know where you were last Saturday. You were glued to the telly, part-man part-sofa, bellowing advice at the greatest athletes in the world. I’m not sure shrieking “Referee!!” every 90 seconds helped the cause. But if you want to claim victory in the name of your champions, who am I to sneeze on your custard?” That’s just how champions work: they win, you celebrate.

During the London Olympics, the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, wrote a poem to capture the nations’ feelings about Team GB. She wrote: “We are Mo Farah lifting the 10 000m gold… We are Sir Chris Hoy… We are Nicola Adams.” Of course none of us have made the sacrifices these athletes have made. And if you asked us to compete we wouldn’t have a hope. (Speaking for myself, the most aerobic workout of my day is brushing my teeth). But when Mo Farah wins, the nation celebrates. He is Britain’ champion and his victory is their victory.

Perhaps the epitome of “faith in our champions” is seen in the football transfer market. Here managers, coaches and scouts sift the world’s greatest leagues for that one miracle maker. Pundits speculate, fortunes are spent, millions of fans hold their breath and it’s all founded on the myth of the one man.

The myth of the one man goes something like this: Somewhere, out there, is a player of such extraordinary talent that no price is too absurd, for – so the legend goes – if we have him, then everything will change. He will galvanize the team. He will win every game. He will turn our fortunes around. This man is out there and we must have him.

Of course it’s a myth, but imagine it was true. Imagine your team actually found “the one man.” And in spite of the naysayers, you’d always believed in him – he’d always been your guy. As the season unfolds, he scores the winner in every game propelling your team up the league, through the cup, all the way to Wembley. And there you are at the FA Cup final. His last minute double strike snatches victory from the jaws of defeat. The noise is deafening as he runs over to your end of the ground, arms outstretched. He’s mouthing the words “For you… It’s for you.” There you are amidst the deafening roar. How do you feel?

Remember that you have not assisted in this triumph. In spite of your high quality coaching from the stands, none of it has affected the outcome. Nonetheless, how do you feel? “Over the moon” is the usual expression. But that doesn’t capture it. We’re ecstatic – beside ourselves with joy. We jump, we shout, we sing, we hug complete strangers just because they too share a connection with the one man. Victory, camaraderie, euphoria – this is how Christians feel about Jesus.

 

Jesus our Champion

Jesus is God’s eternal Son but he became “the one man” to turn our fortunes around. From the very beginning of the Bible, stories about “the one man” were circulating. He was going to join Team Earth and defeat our enemy in a fight to the death (see Genesis 3:15). Throughout the Old Testament, hype surrounding “the one man” built to epic proportions. Then one day, as a wild and woolly man – John the Baptist – was giving people a ritual “washing”, we got to see our man.

In a scene that opens all the biographies of Jesus (the Gospels), we see him taking a bath – a.k.a. getting baptised. This was the ceremony where Jesus identified with Team Earth publicly and irreversibly. It was like the footballer’s official signing for the club – this was Jesus publicly wearing our colours. The rest of the Gospels reveal his “wonder-season”. He took on the forces that constantly defeat us: temptation, sin, evil, disease, death. These powers always get the better of us, but not Jesus. He “played a blinder”, living up to all the hype.

Then, at the end of his life, we see how deeply our Champion identifies with us. On the cross he took responsibility for everything that belongs to us – even our sins and the godforsaken death they deserve. As he died, the crowd fell silent, wondering if the hype was misplaced. Yet, just when they thought it was all over, Jesus scored a decisive winner against the ultimate “baddy”.

“Death is the final enemy” wrote the Apostle Paul (1Corinthians 15:26). In billions of matches, death has never lost a battle. Without exception it sucks us down into the grave. But Jesus ran headlong into that pit and smashed a hole right through it. On Easter Sunday he burst through to the far side as the ultimate victor. Then, like the triumphant footballer, running to his supporters, Jesus has his arms outstretched to the world and he cries: “For you! This is for you!”

A Christian is someone who has found themselves swept up in this story. We have recognised our place in Team Earth. We have owned our failures and faced the certainty of defeat. But, more than this, we have seen Jesus. We have heard his claims to be the long-promised Champion. We have witnessed his life, his death and his resurrection. We are persuaded that he is who he says he is. And now the penny has dropped: If he is our Champion then his victory is our victory. We know we look like “a bunch of losers” and we know we haven’t expended a calorie of effort in the victory. Nonetheless we sing like we’ve won because, though Jesus our Champion, we have:

Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57)

.

Get 321 here, and as an e-book.

 

Catch Up On Reading Between The Lines – 124-130

Posted on by Glen in My videos, RBTL, videos | 2 Comments

This week’s Reading Between The Lines.

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Catch Up on Reading Between the Lines – 116-123

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This week’s Reading Between The Lines.

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