4Gs in F – a New Song

Here’s a new song that I wrote ages ago, but I’ve just realised I’ve never posted it on the blog. It’s an attempt to express in song something of the pastoral significance of the 4Gs that I’ve talked on the blog before.

Weary of striving to make it alone,
fearful of failure or trying to atone,
I hear ‘It is finished’, Christ sits on the throne:
Jesus, I rest in you.

2. Weary of fearing what others may say,
needing approval to feel I’m okay,
when Jesus alone is the Lord I obey:
Jesus, I rest in you.

3. Weary of chasing the lies of this world,
finding its treasures an empty reward:
my beautiful Saviour, most glorious Lord,
Jesus, I rest in you.

4. Weary of needing to be in control,
brooding on worries, disturbing my soul:
the Stiller of storms who alone can console,
Jesus, I rest in you.

5. Weary of memories recalled with dismay,
burdened with guilt that I can’t sweep away,
when Jesus has cancelled what I could not pay:
Jesus, I rest in you.

Here’s the music: Weary of Striving (Jesus I Rest in You). You can also sing it to the tune of ‘Just As I Am’.

The astute among you will notice there are five verses. One of the Gs gets two verses. I’ll leave you to work out which. But here’s a clue. Both my daughters are named after this ‘G’. It’s the second name of one and the other’s first name is the Hebrew word for it.

Tim Chester © 2007 c/o http://www.thecrowdedhouse.org. May be copied and used freely for non-profit personal and congregational use.

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The 4Gs – truths to set you free

In my book You Can Change I identified four liberating truths about God. I suggested that underlying  all our sinful behaviour and negative emotions is a failure to believe one of these truths at a functional level. Embracing, believing, trusting, delighting in the appropriate liberating truth therefore has the power to set us free from sin – though we need to recognize that this typically involves a daily struggle – the fight of faith. These four liberating truths offer a great diagnostic tool for addressing sin in our lives and in the lives of others. The four truths are:

1. God is great – so we don’t have to be in control

2. God is glorious – so we don’t have to fear others

3. God is good – so we don’t have to look elsewhere

4. God is gracious – so we don’t have to prove ourselves

Last year I visited Soma Communities with whom The Crowded House have a strong partnership. Readers of this blog will know Soma have been a strong influence on us.

Soma Communities have been using the four liberating truths a lot. They have coined the term ‘the 4 Gs’ as a short description for them. Caesar Kalinowski emailed me today saying, ‘We continue to be absolutely rocked by the 4 Gs … We now do them each time at Soma School due to the overwhelming response to the material.’ They have four free audio messages on each of the 4 Gs based on talks they gave in Estonia.

You Can Change purchase from Amazon UK purchase from Amazon US is available in the UK from IVP and is being published by Crossway in the US in March 2010. I notice Crossway already have You Can Change on their website with a cover design (below). In the meantime you can buy the UK edition from Amazon.com.

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The rhythms of a missional church: #5 sabbath

We in the Edge Network have adopted five rhythms in an attempt to encapsulate what it means to live our values. Each month for the past few months someone has been designated a ‘rhythm champion’ to encourage people to think about and practice the rhythm of the month. Here are the notes I produced to support this.

5. sabbath

the challenge

Each week we aspire to spend time in rest, praise, play, partying and creativity.

links to our identities and values

Identities * Because God is our Father, we are the family of God. Our heavenly Father graciously accepts us and cares for us … * Because Jesus is our Saviour, we are the heirs of God. Jesus has set us free from the condemnation our rebellion deserves through his death in our place. We have received the promise of a glorious inheritance … * Because the Holy Spirit is God’s empowering presence, we are the temple of God … people set apart for God.

Values * 1. The priority of the gospel: We are committed to filling ordinary life with gospel intentionality … We will not let Christian activity be just one part of our lives. * 4. Sharing our lives as extended family: We are committed to sharing our lives in Christian community, caring for one another … * 5. Inclusive communities … We want to … be communities of grace …

biblical foundations

‘Sabbath’ is the Hebrew word for ‘rest’. God rested on the seventh day of creation. And God invites us to reflect his creativity – to be people who enjoy art, culture and play. He also invites us to share his eternal rest. Human beings are designed to live with a pattern of work and rest within each week. In the Old Testament Israel were promised rest from their enemies if they would trust God’s protection. We often overwork because we feel the need to prove ourselves or we fear other people or we do not trust God’s fatherly care. So Jesus invites us to come to him and find rest (Matthew 11:28-30). We find rest when we no longer feel the need to prove ourselves and when we trust God for our future. So resting, praising, playing and partying give glory to God because they express our confidence in his grace and care. They are also important for creating human community. We praise by God with our lips (praising him in prayer and song for his greatness and goodness to us) and we praise God with our lives (serving him, praising him to others and resting in his grace) (Hebrews 13:15-16; 1 Peter 2:9-12).

Bible stories

Genesis 1:1-2:3 – God creates and God rests. * 2 Chronicles 20 – the Israelites send a choir out to battle because they are confident God will save them. * Proverbs 8:30-31 – ‘Wisdom’ rejoices (literally ‘plays’) in God’s presence. * Matthew 11:28-12:14 – Jesus recreates on the Sabbath. * Hebrews 3:7-4:11 – a generation of Israelites did not enjoy rest because they did not trust God.

putting it into practice
*    Throw a party.
*    Arrange a street party or a community party.
*    Spend an evening learning new praise songs.
*    Encourage people to write a song, paint a picture, bake a cake, learn a story, make some cards …
*    Organise a treasure hunt (in which teams answer clues that take them to different locations) or a photo hunt (in which teams take photos of a team member doing specific things like shaking hands with a postman or standing in a stream or wearing a borrowed hat).
*    Organise an evening of creativity – a talent show, a poetry reading, an art installation, a craft evening, a karaoke night, a storytelling session, a play reading through, a sing-along musical DVD
*    Organise a trip to a theatre, museum, art gallery or concert.
*    Have an ‘icon of the week’ with a picture or poem or music that illustrates the teaching theme.
*    Organise a board games night.
*    Organise a walk or picnic in the countryside.
*    Decorate the meal table with seasonal flowers and leaves.
*    Ask someone to put together a movie to illustrate the Bible teaching or lead people in worship.

The corruption of Christendom

The Desire of the Nations - Amazon UK

Here’s the next instalment in my series summarising and assessing Oliver Donovan’s The Desire of the Nations: Rediscovering the Roots of Political Theology (CUP, 1996). Click here for other entries in the series.

Chapter Seven: The Redemption of Society (part two)

In the part of chapter seven, as we noted in a previous post, O’Donovan identifes four positive legacies of Christendom in Western culture:

1. Freedom (corresponding to advent and the gathering church)

2. Mercy in judgment (corresponding to the cross and the suffering church)

3. Natural rights (corresponding to restoration and the glad church)

4. Openness to speech (corresponding to the exaltation and the speaking church) 

These four legacies, however, have progressed in dangerous ways that bear the image not of Christ, but of Antichrist. O’Donovan entitles this section ‘Modernity and Menace’.

1. Absolute free choice

We break free not just from oppression, but from social constraint. Christians believe the individual is the measure of social good, but also that society is the measure of individual good. Modernity has replaced natural communities with communities of will. We are embarrassed by the sense of being owned by a family or a neighbour.

2. Suffering becomes unintelligible

There can be no duty to suffer death since in a contractual view of society the point is to ensure individual safety and well-being. Punishment furthers the agenda of someone else.

3. Natural rights become about self-preservation

Reconstructed from below, natural rights become about self-preservation. Since ‘nature’ has no teleology, natural rights become natural necessities (e.g. ‘we can’t buck the market’).

4. Language as the generator of reality

Modern society totalises speech. ‘Because the normal content of political communication, furthermore, has come to be the conflict of competing wills, speech has lost its orientation to deliberation on the common good, and has come to serve the assertion of competing interests.’ (282) We no longer deliberate, we spin.

This is the end of my chapter by chapter summary of The Desire of the Nations. In future posts I’ll offer some reflections by way of appraisal.

The legacy of Christendom

The Desire of the Nations - Amazon UK

Here’s the next instalment in my series summarising and assessing Oliver Donovan’s The Desire of the Nations: Rediscovering the Roots of Political Theology (CUP, 1996). Click here for other entries in the series.

Chapter Seven: The Redemption of Society (part one)

Post-Christendom society still bears the marks of the church’s influence and therefore of the four moments in the Christ-event. And the main problems we face are not regressions from this (into barbarism), but progressions beyond it (into the Antichrist parodies described in the book of Revelation). so O’Donovan identifies four positive legacies of the Christ-event mediated through the church created by that event together with four corresponding distortions that we face today.

1. Freedom (corresponding to advent and the gathering church)

The proclamation of Christ’s authority loosens hold of all other authority leading to freedom. ‘In heeding the church, society heeds a dangerous voice, a voice that is capable of challenging authority effectively, a voice which, when they oppressed have heard it (even in an echo or at a distance), they cannot remain still.’ (252)

Christ justifies existing authority (within proper limits), but the primarily truth is that they are all now penultimate because Christ has (past tense) assumed all authority. ‘Advent is past-perfect, not future.’ (253)

Freedom, then, is not conceived primarily as an assertion of individuality, whether positively, in terms of individual creativity and impulse, or negatively, in terms of ‘rights’, which is to say immunities from harm. It is a social reality, a new disposition of society around its supreme Lord which sets it loose form its traditional lords. Yet individual liberty is not far away. From the implication of this new social reality is that the individual can no longer simply be carried within the social setting to which she or he was born; for that setting is under challenge form the new social centre. This requires she give herself to the service of the Lord within the new society, in defiance, if need be, of the olds lords and societies that claim her. She emerges in differentiation from her family, tribe and nation, making decisions of discipleship which were not given her from within them. Between the old and new lordships, then. is a step she must take on her own, a responsibility for individual decision; and that, too, is a contribution to liberty, not because it creates a vacuum in which the individual is momentarily free from any society – that is not liberty! – but because it allows her to enrich society by the gift of her self-donation to it. Individual decision, the act of heart and mind, has now become fully and consciously engaged in and for society; so that society itself is free, being upheld by the free self-giving of each member. A society founded in conversion and baptism is a society unlike all other. (254-255)

This is evangelical liberty (the freedom to obey Christ). But it leads (via the weaker brother) to freedom of conscience (the freedom to err).

2. Mercy in judgment (corresponding to the cross and the suffering church)

A society that knows its own judgment must still judge (that is the role of the state), but will exercise judgment with mercy. From the perspective of the resurrection we see the cross as an act both of judgment and reconciliation. Reconciliation is not the only purpose of judgment (it must also distinguish right from wrong), but it shapes the form of judgment. The state cannot bring repentance or regeneration, but it can be restrained.

3. Natural rights (corresponding to restoration and the glad church)

The vindication of created being evokes:

1. natural equality

2. affinity (family, community, national homes)

3. reciprocity (between homes without a unitary ‘super-home’)

It also creates creaturely cohabitation which is important in the face of the environmental problems we face, but O’Donovan does not develop this.

4. Openness to speech (corresponding to the exaltation and the speaking church)

‘Any voice within the public realm which could address the community about the common good had to be heard, lest the voice of true prophecy should go unheard.’ (269) This includes the recognition that all people (irrespective of social status) can be heard. (This is one element on what we call ‘democracy though this is an ambiguous and problematic term.)