Friday, 29 June 2012

2nd Annual NE Cricket Match

After the roaring success of last years inaugural test match between Durham and Yorkshire, the final NE Team Days of 2012 saw the 2nd Annual test match take place.
With changes to both line-ups after Durham's rampant victory last year, Yorkshire, led by captain Simon Oatridge, were determined to avenge their defeat.

Once again the scheduled number of overs was 7 per innings with 2 innings for each side.

Durham opened the batting in ominous fashion as their star player and captain, Hamish Sneddon, slogged new boy, Paul Oatridge for 6 from the first ball. The match then settled into a steady rhythm with with the runs ticking over. In the 3rd over things took a turn for the worse for Durham, a lack of communication cost JJ Wyatt his wicket for no score and soon after, from the bowling of Zach Taylor, Sneddon surprisingly hit his stumps! Yorkshire sensed this was their big chance with an unexpected breakthrough and although there was some healthy resistance from Andy Barker, Durham were all out with 2 balls to spare for a modest total of 49. Mike Durant clearing up the tail.

Due to technological problems, the first innings from Yorkshire was not noted down and so apart from the excellent innings from captain Simon Oatridge, who reached his personal run limit of 25, it suffices to say that they survived their 7 overs and scored 67 in the process, giving Durham a mountain to climb in their second innings run chase. There was an incredibly controversial moment when the most stunning of catches was taken by JJ Wyatt behind the stumps, off the bowling of Sneddon, but the snick-o-meter didn't pick out an outside edge from Simon and he survived the review.

Durham began steadily once again, reaching 17 for 1 from 2 overs. In amongst that a boundary from Emma Best who, although her fielding left a lot to be desired, played her part admirably in the run chase. Sneddon once again was the main run scorer, but this time he was more the ably helped by JJ Wyatt who didn't make the same mistake as the first innings. By the end of the 5th over Durham were 42 for 2, Sneddon had gone due to a sliced 6 which went out of bounds. With nothing to lose Durham went all guns blazing attacking the bowling of Peter Dray and Mike Durant in the last 2 overs hitting 24 runs and losing 2 wickets. 66 for 4 from 7 overs left Yorkshire with a very manageable 49 to win.

Yorkshire opened in confident fashion reaching 15 with no lose of wicket. Lewis Green and Paul Oatridge doing most of the damage. Paul reached his maximum 25 and retired, but then Matt Oliver final made a meaningful contribution after dropping two catches and only scoring a couple of runs in the first innings by taking Green's middle stump. With two wickets down JP Wright the took out Dave Guy's middles stump as Durham sense the great escape may be possible. The biggest moment of the evening followed shortly after with Zach Taylor bowling brother Jonah in a moment which Simon Oatridge believes will be talked about for years to come at Outwood House. Simon then came in with Mike Durant, and with light fading fast, saw Yorkshire through to a dramatic and fully deserved win reaching their target with 9 balls to spare.

1-1 it now stands. I will be handing over the commentary mantle, but look out for next years test match, much rides on it!

Durham: Sneddon, Oliver, Wright, Wyatt, Barker, Best, J Taylor (with special guest E Taylor).
Yorkshire: S Oatridge, P Oatridge, Dray, Guy, Durant, Green, Z Taylor.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

The Song - Summary

Over the last 3 posts I have tried (not sure how successfully) to summarise some of the ideas we considered when looking at the Song a couple of month ago.
As I mentioned (in part 1, I believe), a lot of people today read the Song as purely about a human marriage relationship and use it as a manual for romance and sex. Yet this has not always been the reading of the book. Most of church history has regarded this as a book about Christ and His Church spoken about allegorically through a human relationship. The book shown about is a prime example of this teaching. Richard Sibbes' work was originally titled "Bowels Opened", which quite simply meant that this book was about the deepest desires. Although I haven't read this book (yet!) it is very clear that Sibbes believed the Song to be fundamentally about Christ and the Church.

I don't believe there needs to be a split between the two views, as though they are incompatible.
I wonder if the best way to read the Song is as primarily about Christ and the Church, because the whole of Scripture is about Jesus, The Word of God. But also saying that, because all marriages are supposed to reflect Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5), the Song too speaks of human marriage and shows what it should be like. As for the explicit sex references, I guess you can make your own mind up on that, but I would say that some of the descriptions I have heard are more stretching metaphors than saying it is about Jesus and His Bride!

I have much to think through when it comes to the Song and I am not sure when I will get to do that. But, it has been stimulating to think about it speaking of Christ and showing Him to be ultimately desirable, loving and beautiful. As well as challenging and comforting to see His delight in His Bride whom He loves and protects.

Happy reading of the Song. May it warm your heart to Christ and build your marriage to more clearly reflect the mystery of Christ and His Bride.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

The Song - Part 3

Once again my aim is to throw out some ideas and stimulate your thoughts on the Song, not to completely convince you of an particular reading of it. Here goes.

When she is asked why she loves him, she replies with wonderful descriptions of him and his love, not will a list of things that he does (see ch5v10-16). He is the object of her affections, he is the the desire of her heart, he overwhelms her. When we think of Jesus, do we merely think of what He has done, or can do, for us? Or do we delight in Him?

Chapters 6-8 seem to speaking eschatalogically speaking of the consummation of the relationship and feasting together. She is "beautiful as the moon, bright as the sun" in 6v10 and like an army. Is this then a clear picture of the church reflecting the Sun and becoming like Him, an vast army collectively displaying the glory Jesus?

There is a wonderful, beautiful and moving verse in chapter 8. Verse 6:
Set me as a seal upon your heart,
    as a seal upon your arm,
for love is strong as death,
     jealousy is fierce as the grave.
Its flashes are flashes of fire,
    the very flame of the Lord.
This love that is stronger than death is great description of divine love. Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8) not even death. The church is sealed by God, kept in His heart, names are written in the Lamb's book of life. This certainly seems to be describing something greater than human romance.

A couple of other things that are worth thinking about. Ch2v7 and ch8v4 speak of not trying to stir up love. We cannot manufacture love for Christ with our own efforts. Love comes through a fresh revelation of the grace, goodness and love of Christ. If we are friends of the Bride, we will encourage her to look to Christ, not deflecting her gaze elsewhere. We will see to help our brothers and sister in Christ to captured by a beautiful vision of Him and we will seek to draw others to Him as well, so that His love is known and they may enjoy Him.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

The Song - Part 2

In our second session we focussed on chapters 4 and 5. We thought about the fact that fundamentally our God is relational. We see that in the fact that the Living God is Triune; Father Son and Spirit. But we also see a lot of marriage language in the Bible to describe God's relationship with His people.

As mentioned in the previous post ch4v9-10 we see that Christ is captivated by His Bride. He doesn't just tolerate us, he sincerely and abundantly loves us. Think about v7 "You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you." How clearly does that show us that we have the righteousness of Christ imputed to us? The Bride is perfect, flawless!

From 4v11-5v1 we have a wonderful picture of the blessings Christ pours out on His church, wonderfully generous. The fruit that the Spirit brings about in us is pleasing to Christ our husband, He takes delight in it. Not only that, but it isn't even the gifts she delights in. In chapter 1 it is Him whom she seeks and loves, not what He gives to her.
So it is with believers. We want Christ and not His gifts when we know how sweet and wonderful He is.
As we move further into chapter 5 we see a picture of the church losing delight in Christ as she is pictured not wholly desiring him but rather favouring sleep as he knocks on the door. (Link to Revelation 3 where Christ stands at the door and knocks). Interstingly, as she gets to the door, just as he has left, she smells him and touches what he has just touched and her desire for him is aroused again. We see her desire for him recover as she sees how kind he is despite her failings.
Chapter 5 is he major instance of declining affection, but there is also a small one in ch2v15 (little foxes).
Is this not true of us? As we are reminded of the beauty of Christ, the smell of life of the gospel, are we not drawn to desire Him more?

Here's another quote from Sibbes:
"It is the nature of love upon all occasions to reflect upon the loved"
What do we think upon and dream about? That's what we love!

Here's a final Sibbes quote for this post:
"Our duty is to accept of Christ's inviting of us"
Jesus accepts us, he woos us, he loves us, we need to accept and embrace that love! In accepting Him, we show His wonderful salvation and show His glory.
We need to enjoy Christ and feast with Him if we are to suffer for Him. Actually enjoying Him will mean we will want to suffer for Him and with Him.
We honour Him by taking and receiving.

Much to chew upon again!

The Song - Part 1

Song of Songs = The erotic part of Scripture that many avoid and others spend too much time speaking about and investigating in detail right? Summed up in the picture below.

Back in April our North East Team Days were in Doncaster and we had the pleasure of looking at the Song with Mike Reeves, UCCF's Theological Advisor.
I thought it might be useful to collate some of the stuff we looked at over our 3 sessions, partly for my own benefit of really grappling with it, and for the benefit of you the reader because, as one of my friends would describe it, it's tasty!
(The edited audio of the session will appear in the 'Sermons and Talks' tab soon!)

Let's start with a quote from the Puritan Richard Sibbes"
This book is nothing else but a plain demonstration and setting forth of the love of Christ to His church, and of the love of the church to Christ

Not a familiar idea to our ear is it?
Now, whatever you think to Sibbes' statement don't stop reading just yet. I, with you I'd imagine, think there is more than that to it, but, Sibbes' view was the prevailing view all the way up to the 1800s.
This stems from the very true and helpful belief that the whole of the Bible is about Jesus and His church first and foremost. So The Song must be about Jesus and the church even if it has a secondary meaning of a human marriage, sex and love.

Let's think about who the man and woman in the song are:

Who is he?

He is described at King and Shepherd, which makes him sound Davidic. But it's not David, it's Solomon, we are told in chapter 3.
As we look at ch3v6 we see a pillar of smoke, very reminiscent of the exodus and on top of that he seems to be a priest. There are lots of allusions to the temple in ch3v6-11, reminders of the Ark of the covenant and the 60 posts plus silver and gold.
Following that, in ch8v5 we have a beautiful description of the exodus, with the people leaning on Jesus.

Surely only Christ is King, Shepherd and Priest, is he not?

Who is she?

She is like a vineyard which should make us think of Isaiah chapter 5 where the people of Israel are described in that way. She is clothed with jewels which you could also link to Ezekiel 16.
But the biggest echo seems to be to Psalm 45. The king seems to be marrying a Gentile, v10f is a wonderful gospel, marrying the Lord.
Christ leaves everything for us, we leave everything that is rotten and bad for Him.
In chapter 4v8-9 she is sister and bride, which is fine if that relationship is to Christ, but illegal under Jewish law if it is person to person. This is also wonderful if it the Bride that captures the heart of Christ. It means He is delighted with us and loves us, we are beautified by the Spirit for Him.
We get everything that is His, because we, as the church, are in a covenant of marriage with Him!
(This idea of the LORD being brother as well as Father is seen in 1 Kings 14 in the meanings of the names Abijah and Ahijah!)

Some food for thought I think! Chew it over! I certainly will be.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Preaching - what is it?

Here's a very challenging quote that I recently read on the Pure Church blog by Thabiti Anyabwile. His post is much fuller than mine and has some links to some lectures, check it out here.

For now, just read the quote and mull over the weightiness of it.

The Second Helvetic Confession states:

THE PREACHING OF THE WORD OF GOD IS THE WORD OF GOD. Wherefore when this Word of God is now preached in the church by preachers lawfully called, we believe that the very Word of God is proclaimed, and received by the faithful; and that neither any other Word of God is to be invented nor is to be expected from heaven: and that now the Word itself which is preached is to be regarded, not the minister that preaches; for even if he be evil and a sinner, nevertheless the Word of God remains still true and good.

Preachers, do we really believe this as we prepare and stand up to speak?

Christians, do we really expect this when we go to church on a Sunday?

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Mumford and Sons - Gig Review

The Sage is renowned for its acoustics so I was looking forward to hearing Mumford and Sons playing there. I'd heard them before, at the Hop Farm Festival in 2009 and also live on TV at Glastonbury.
Having only one album, Sigh No More, and the second not out until late September, I was hoping the new songs would live up to the old ones and I wouldn't feel like I'd seen the gig before. I was not disappointed.

They opened their set with a new song, which is a brave decision, yet it worked, and then they roared into 'Little Lion Man' and the crowd responded in kind. Another of their well known and beautifully poetic hits, 'Winter Winds', followed.
On the left is a picture of the setlist which is borrowed (with permission pending) from another blog - Seas Would Rise

Of the new songs they performed, 6 in total, 'Lover of the Light' was the most polished and catchy, unsurprisingly as they've been playing it live for a long time. It's sure to be a huge hit on release. But, I was most intrigued by the lyrics to 'Broken Crown'. Very interesting spiritual analogies, from what I could pick up, much like the first album.
The mixture of old and new, fast and slow, reflective and bold, continued throughout the night drawing responses ranging from appreciative clapping to uninhibited jig-dancing.

They are a very talented set of musicians and the additions of fiddles and brass to their four-piece make it a veritable feast of sound. Marcus' vocals rise and fall beautifully expressing great emotion and the way their songs are arranged really do take you on a journey.

Overall, a brilliant night.

P.S. I will be uploading some videos from the gig to YouTube soon.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Jesus = I AM.

In early May I had the privilege of preaching the last section of John 8.

The passage is well known for Jesus' huge claim "Before Abraham was, I am." It is often said, correctly, and quite simply that Jesus is claiming to be God. But, it is much more profound, clear and bold than that.

The points I brought out of the passage and some very brief notes are below. Jesus makes 2 huge statements which begin "Truly, Truly..." and they formed the basis of the sermon.

Jesus is the only way of salvation
Looking at the declaration “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” Jesus says if we follow Him, keeping His word, we will enjoy eternal life. This is huge for the Pharisees, and those listening, who have already been at odds with Jesus, because they know that Abraham and all the prophets died. They firmly believe that those guys kept the word of God, so for Jesus to be claiming this is massive.
But Jesus' word is the word of the Father, and He Himself is the Word (John 1v1). Jesus' humility is clearly seen in the fact that He is not glorifying or testifying about Himself, but His Father does it.
The Father, who the Jews claim as their God, glorifies Jesus. The harsh truth for those listening is that if they reject Jesus, they reject the Father whom thy claim to as their God. Jesus has already said earlier in the chapter that it they knew the Father they would love Him.
The question for us is, do we love Jesus? Or do we love tradition, law-keeping, biblical knowledge or doctrinal rigour rather than loving Jesus?

Jesus is I AM
The second declaration really riles the leaders and their response of wanting to kill Him shows just how riled they were.
The key to this one lies back in the OT.
If you go back to Exodus chapter 3 where the LORD reveals Himself to Moses in the burning bush you will notice something incredible. The Angel of the LORD is in the bush, but then it is the LORD who speaks to Moses! Jesus is saying to the religious leaders that it was Him in the bush speaking to Moses. Jesus is I AM!
John is wanting us, in the whole of His gospel, aiming to show us Jesus so that we may know that He is the Son of God and that by believing in Him we may have life in His name (ch20v31).
So we need to ask ourselves here, what is our response to Jesus?
The religious leaders, shockingly, want to get rid of Him completely.
Where do you stand? Jesus is telling you that He is the second person of the One Triune God, and that through Him you may have life, which is know Him and love Him.
Will you accept it?

The transcript is here and the sermon audio can be found in the Sermons and Talks tab at the top of the page.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Creation Inspired

Recently we studied the doctrine of revelation as a staff team. A fuller post of thoughts from that will appear soon, hopefully.
But, for now, this thought came to me as I was at Yorkshire Wildlife Park with family earlier in the week. There was a 'meet the reptiles' session. After seeing the snake and thinking about how all of creation has a purpose and speaks to us of God in some way, not merely that it is amazing and must be designed, but that it sings of its Creator, I noted this down.

As real as the snake that slithers through the grass is Satan, that ancient serpent, the father of lies, he is merely a fallen creature. But, as surely as the sun rises and sets, the Son, Jesus Christ died and rose again, to redeem mankind and reign on high, over all, forever.

Obviously my interpretation of the creation revelation is controlled by the written revelation, but it's exciting to see things around and see spiritual truth in them.