Suggested Reading ...

As requested by a number of you, herewith a few books that I strongly recommend.

The Case for the Psalms:Why they are Essential - N.T.Wright

Journey to the Common Good - Walter Brueggemann

Gagging Jesus: Things Jesus said we wish he hadn't - Phil Moore

Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God - Bob Kauflin

The Writings of the New Testament : An Interpretation - Luke Timothy Johnson

These titles I have been able to source through happy reading!

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Putting it Out There - NT Wright on Marriage. PDF Print E-mail
Written by Grant Nuss   
Monday, 09 February 2015 15:38

N. T. Wright—hailed by Time as “one of the most formidable figures in Christian thought”—first captured my imagination with the early volumes of his series  Christian Origins and the Question of God. In them, he frames the Christian story precisely as a story, a grand narrative, the greatest epic, and all the greater for being true. As Wesley Hill noted in our most recent issue, there can be peril in such readings of Scripture, but also great promise. In a recent interview with J. John of the Philo Trust, Wright explains why he views the complementary of the sexes as essential to that story, and to marriage itself. Below is an unedited transcript.

What do you think are the major challenges to the church and the Christian message in the light of the current legislation on the redefinition of marriage?

N. T. Wright: Obviously huge issues there, and there’s no way we can lay them all out tonight. I do want to say a word about a word. When anybody—pressure groups, governments, civilizations—suddenly change the meaning of key words, you really should watch out. If you go to a German dictionary and just open at random, you may well see several German words which have a little square bracket saying “N.S.,” meaning National Socialist or Nazi. The Nazis gave those words a certain meaning. In post-1917 Russia, there were whole categories of people who were called “former persons,” because by the Communist diktat they had ceased to be relevant for the state, and once you call them former persons it was extremely easy to ship them off somewhere and have them killed.

In the same way, there was a letter in the Times Literary Supplement just a few weeks ago saying that when we’re talking about assisted suicide, we shouldn't actually use words like “suicide,” “killing,” and those sort of words because those imply that you shouldn't do it. Whereas now our civilization is saying that maybe there are reasons for that. I find that sort of stuff chilling, the attempt to change an ideology within a culture by changing the language.

Now, the word “marriage,” for thousands of years and cross-culturally has meant man and woman. Sometimes it’s been one man and more than one woman. Occasionally it’s been one woman and more than one man. There is polyandry as well as polygamy in some societies in some parts of history, but it’s always been male plus female. Simply to say that you can have a woman-plus-woman marriage or a man-plus-man marriage is radically to change that because of the givenness of maleness and femaleness. I would say that without any particular Christian presuppositions at all, just cross-culturally, that’s so.

With Christian or Jewish presuppositions, or indeed Muslim, then if you believe in what it says in Genesis 1 about God making heaven and earth—and the binaries in Genesis are so important—that heaven and earth, and sea and dry land, and so on and so on, and you end up with male and female. It’s all about God making complementary pairs which are meant to work together. The last scene in the Bible is the new heaven and the new earth, and the symbol for that is the marriage of Christ and his church. It’s not just one or two verses here and there which say this or that. It’s an entire narrative which works with this complementarity so that a male-plus-female marriage is a signpost or a signal about the goodness of the original creation and God’s intention for the eventual new heavens and new earth.

If you say that marriage now means something which would allow other such configurations, what you’re saying is actually that when we marry a man and a woman we’re not actually doing any of that stuff. This is just a convenient social arrangement and sexual arrangement and there it is . . . get on with it. It isn’t that that is the downgrading of marriage, it’s something that clearly has gone on for some time which is now poking it’s head above the parapet. If that’s what you thought marriage meant, then clearly we haven’t done a very good job in society as a whole and in the church in particular in teaching about just what a wonderful mystery marriage is supposed to be. Simply at that level, I think it’s a nonsense. It’s like a government voting that black should be white. Sorry, you can vote that if you like, you can pass it by a total majority, but it isn't actually going to change the reality.

The other thing I find worrying is that I was struck this week—this is a memory, and you may not agree with the judgment that precedes it—but eleven years ago, no, actually ten years ago, almost right now, we were about to go to war against Iraq. I sat in my kitchen and I listened to Tony Blair making the great speech on how we should go and bomb Iraq (it was the day before they actually started). I thought at the time and I still think that that speech was absolutely full of holes. It was begging questions, it was missing points, it was slipping cogs in the logic. Yet all the papers were on board, almost everyone in Parliament was on board, with only a few grouchy people, and I remember thinking at the time: This is absolutely crazy. We should not be doing this and there’s all sorts of what-ifs which we haven’t thought through. I have to say, over the last ten years I have seen no reason to change that judgment at all.

I sense something of the same mood this week. All the press is on-side, most of Parliament’s on-side, and people are saying—get this—that unless you support this, you’re on the wrong side of history. Excuse me. Did you see University Challenge last night? There was a nice question: Somebody said, who was it who said in 1956, “History is on our side and we will bury you”? One of the contestants got the answer right: It was Nikita Khrushchev. When people claim, “We’re going with the flow of history,” that’s just a rhetorical smokescreen. So, that’s where I am."

Click on the Link to watch the Interview:

Spiritual Formation. PDF Print E-mail
Written by Grant Nuss   
Sunday, 08 February 2015 17:25

I have been asked to do the teaching at a Spiritual Retreat in June and, in researching into what I have been asked to address, herewith some interesting bits of info on Spiritual formation for you to peruse;

A God-Shaped Heart: Integrity moves us to intervene on behalf of the powerless. A heart of integrity cannot remain unmoved when we have the power to help. Integrity not only unleashes a heart of courage, but also delivers us from apathy and passivity. Integrity is not just about keeping our hands clean. At times it is about getting our hands dirty. Integrity does not simply move us away from the path of evil, but moves us aggressively toward the path of good. Perhaps the best summary of integrity is that the heart of God is joined with the heart of man. The heartbeat of God pounds within our chests; His blood flows through our veins. What brings God pleasure brings us pleasure. What angers God brings our blood to a boil. Integrity will not stand by and watch the wicked oppress the weak. Like David, we make ourselves strong, not for the purpose of judging those who are afraid, but for delivering them from their fear. (McManus: Uprising: A Revolution of the Soul (Page 76).

Christian Spiritual Formation is about becoming like Jesus: “Spiritual Formation is the process through which those who love and trust Jesus Christ effectively take on His character. When this process is what it should be, they increasingly live their lives as He would if He were in their place. Their outward conformity to His example and His instructions rises towards fullness as their inward sources of action take on the same character of His. They come more and more to share His vision, love, hope, feelings and habits” (Dallas Willard).

Spiritual Formation Agenda: “The most important, most real, most lasting work, is accomplished in the depths of our heart. This work is solitary and interior. It cannot be seen by anyone, not even ourselves. It is a work known only to God. It is the work of heart purity, of soul conversion, of inward transformation, of life formation....Much intense formation work is necessary before we can stand the fires of heaven. Much training is necessary before we are the kind of persons who can safely and easily reign with God” (Richard Foster).

The Gospel-Driven Life: "The God of the Bible is a strange God - not the kind of God we can manage, manipulate, accommodate, or domesticate to our familiar experience" (Michael Horton).

Racism, prejudice, and Discrimination? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Grant Nuss   
Friday, 09 January 2015 06:11

Genesis 1:26-27; “Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

Deryck Broom captured it perfectly in his post on the subject of racism in his Facebook post of the 7th January 2015. This was on a day when 12 people died after masked gunmen, apparently part of the extremist State group, stormed the Paris offices of a satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in France's deadliest terror attack in at least two decades. Charlie Hebdo has been repeatedly threatened for publishing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, among other controversial sketches, and its offices were firebombed in 2011. As followers of Christ what is perhaps the first question that comes to mind? Well, perhaps; "What does the Bible say about racism, prejudice, and discrimination?" A great place to start, right? As far as racism is concerned, there is only one race, and that is the human race, and, as these two verses illustrate, all human beings are equally created in the image and likeness of God. In fact,  God loved the world so much that he sent Jesus to lay down his life for us (John 3:16). Now the term “world” used in this verse obviously includes all ethnic groups. It is clear that God does not show partiality or favouritism and neither should we. James 2:4 describes those who discriminate as “judges with evil thoughts.” Instead, we are to love our neighbours as ourselves (James 2:8). In the Old Testament, God divided humanity into two “racial” groups: Jews and Gentiles. God’s intent was for the Jews to be a kingdom of priests, ministering to the Gentile nations. Instead, for the most part, the Jews became proud of their status and despised the Gentiles. Jesus Christ put an end to this, destroying the dividing wall of hostility (Ephesians 2:14). All forms of racism, prejudice, and discrimination are affronts to the work of Christ on the cross. Jesus commands us to love one another as he loves us (John 13:34). If God is impartial and loves us with impartiality, then we need to love others with that same high standard. Jesus teaches in Matthew 25 that whatever we do to the least of his brothers, we do to him. If we treat a person with contempt, we are mistreating a person created in God’s image; we are hurting somebody whom God loves and for whom Jesus died. Where does this leave you today as you read this? What are you going to do about it?

Spiritual Retreats and Worship Workshops. PDF Print E-mail
Written by Grant Nuss   
Thursday, 11 December 2014 07:49

Since returning to Cape Town it has been awesome being invited to teach and facilitate at various church retreats and Worship Workshops and Conferences. Whilst the retreats have only been predominantly for Men's Groups or Ministries within the ambit of Christian Spiritual Formation and male spirituality, I do also enjoy taking couples. Regarding the Worship Workshops, this can either be for the ministry itself, or a worship-leader specific in-depth practical and spiritual workshop. I look forward to hearing from you to discuss the possibilities of us getting this together for your church!

Spiritual Retreats: These range from single-day retreats to, what tends to happen mostly, those that are given over a weekend. I am able to travel should you wish me to do so.

Worship Workshops: Those that tend to work the best are given over the course of a day. Most churches tend toward that being a Saturday. What we deal with is basically discovering our highest calling and how we best serve God within that given our talents, gifting, and leadership abilities for those who have been called to lead. "The power to bless the world around you is a direct result of your ministry to the Lord" (Gerrit Gustafson). In these workshops we speak into what worship is, our calling within it, the anointing, worshipping in "Spirit and in Truth", and, among other areas, worship and the Presence of God. This normally takes until lunch-time. After lunch we get stuck into the practical side of church worship. This moves from instrumentation, vocal, harmonies, utilization of 'light and shade' in what we do, planning worship sets, best key options, and a host of other areas. I always summarise what we have learnt and mail that through in PDF format to each participant. Should you wish me to attend practices after that, I will gladly do so. I look forward to hearing from you in this regard!

Writing Project - One Year Daily Devotional Book. PDF Print E-mail
Written by Grant Nuss   
Tuesday, 09 December 2014 14:00

Whilst I have been prompted over the past nine years or so to put together a Daily Devotional Book, it has now been realised and formalised! I started writing a week ago and, whilst (at time of writing) I am only on the 8th January, it is going nicely! There is obviously a huge difference between writing one devotional per day and writing 365 brand-new and fresh devotionals! I would ask you to pray for me during this time as I am hoping to complete it by the end of August for publication at the end of 2016.

Love is like a River ... so let it flow. PDF Print E-mail
Written by Grant Nuss   
Sunday, 30 November 2014 17:25

Matthew 5:43-44; “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

What is true is that some people will tempt you out of the flow of the Spirit, they will judge you, and the result is that you will feel discouraged. They will dislike you, and you will feel rejected. They may too throw roadblocks in your path which might cause you to stumble and, perhaps, even give up. Here’s what I have learnt, and, perhaps you have too, if you want to grow, then find a few difficult people like that.  Sound weird? The truth is this; If God wants to grow some quality in you, he may very well send you a person who tempts you to behave in just the opposite way. For example: If you want to grow in your ability to confront, a hard to confront intimidator will give you serious practice. I guess you may be asking; why does God allow difficult people in my life? Here’s the reason, just as he has allowed them in the lives of many of the heroes in the Bible. What do I mean? Well, Moses had Pharaoh. Elijah had Jezebel. David had Saul. John the Baptist had Herod. Jesus had Judas. So here’s the deal and one that I have only come to terms with recently, if God loves you and wants to shape and grow you to be better equipped and used by him, he will send some difficult people your way. But always remember that you are the difficult person he is sending to shape someone else. But here’s the deal (at least from my perspective), Jesus loved people who loved him as well as those who didn’t love him. He doesn’t do it because he has to; he does it because it is the only way to life. The key is not to give Satan a foothold and allow him to create disunity which has been his strategy from cover to cover of the Bible and still today, but, as Jesus personified, strive for the reconciling power of tenacious love. Where in your life is there a relationship that needs reconciliation? It may cost you a sacrifice. You may be thinking, “what for, they don’t deserve it” but consider Jesus in this context. He too loved sacrificially so that love could prevail in the end. My prayer is that you determine today to strive for the power of tenacious love. Do it anyway. Jesus (Matthew 22:37-39) identified what the primary focus of every person should be, that love is the basis for all obedience. Perhaps what you do as you mediate on our text for today and journal, is ask yourself; “How can I practically demonstrate today my love for God and my love for other people?” Perhaps it’s time to speak about forgiving and forgiveness in our lives and our communities. Here’s an amazing song that plays into this context. May you too let the love from your heart flow like a river!

On whom is your faith Centered? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Grant Nuss   
Friday, 21 November 2014 14:42

Galatians 2:20; “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.”

As a follower of Christ, we need to be aware that, around us, the grand story of the Creator of the universe is unfolding. Perhaps, like me, as you look around you though, it seems apparent that much of the faith has hijacked the story of God and turned it into the story of us. Louie Giglio, in his book entitled “I am not but I know I am: Welcome to the Story of God”, states that; “Inverting reality, we’ll live every day as though life is all about you and me. We’ll live as though life is our one-act play and history our story- as though Creation is our habitation alone, existence our playground, and God our servant (that is, if we decide we need Him at all). We will throw every ounce of our energy into the fragmented and fleeting story of us. Calling the shots ourselves, me-centered thinking will dictate every move we make and how we feel”. This me-centeredness we see on the book-shelves of Christian bookstores written by evangelists and then turned into DVD series that many of us avidly use in our cell groups and buy-into. Is there a potential problem here? You see, true Christianity is focused on God in everything. Everything we do, speak and desire revolves around him, not us. In case you weren't aware, you and I live in a self-absorbed world. Selfishness rules the world – what do you think? As followers of Christ we are called to be selfless, in fact, radically, passionately, and conspicuously selfless. Do you see that happening around you in the faith today? Is that how people describe you perhaps? If not, why not? D.L. Moody once said that; “We may easily be too big for God to use, but never too small.” You and I need to use discernment. Think of Jeremiah 29:11 in this context as an example which says; “For I know the plans I have for you, “declares the Lord,” plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”  This verse, out of context within “Me-Centered Christianity”, means; “God wants me to have the things I want. He only gives me things that make me happy for my life. Comfort and success are his desire for me”. Is this a ‘little’ self-focused?  It calls for discernment. “Discernment is not knowing the difference between right and wrong. It is knowing the difference between right and almost right” (Charles Spurgeon). Whilst this is just one of the myriad of examples of Satan mixing the lie with just enough of the truth to make it look believable, the truth is that, you and I rarely fall for the out and out unmistakable lie, but the half-truths seem to deceptively catch us every time. Finally, Philippians 4:8-9 reads; “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me - put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” As an example, with apologies to Paul, Me-Centered Christianity paraphrases it like this; “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever things are generally acceptable, whatever is tactful, whatever things show sensitivity, whatever things make you feel good, whatever things are sensuous, whatever things are personally satisfying; if there is to be any ownership, and if there is any good self-esteem, think happy thoughts on these things.” You may be chuckling to yourself at this point. Its okay, I used to too! For me, the call is none different that Colossians 1:17-18, the supremacy of Christ in absolutely everything. He is Lord over all. In what areas of your life does Jesus have the supremacy, and, in which areas does he not? Why is that important? Well, the areas that he does not have supremacy are those easily exploited by Satan, in fact, they are platforms for the powers of darkness to rest on. Finally, let me leave you with a quote by John of the Cross; “The devil fears a soul united to God as he does God himself.”

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