Grace Church, Boroughbridge

A couple of weeks ago my wife and I moved. We had been in Sheffield for 16 years, having moved there from London to help plant The Crowded House. Now we’ve moved to Grace Church, Boroughbridge, in North Yorkshire. Grace Church was planted with the help of The Crowded House a few years ago. It’s a small church in a rural context. I’ll continue to work two days a week for the Acts 29 Oak Hill Academy. But I’m no longer salaried as a pastor so I’ll need to do a bit more writing.

Why have we moved? There are a number of reasons.

  1. My family are from North Yorkshire and County Durham so we have long had a concern for the region which is one of the UK’s most unchurched. It is also England’s largest county and one of its most rural. So in many areas people have to travel half an hour to their nearest evangelical church.
  2. There has been a lot of talk in recent years of reaching cities to reach regions. But the gospel does not flow from the city to the countryside by magic. It requires us to be intentional about it. At the same time rural unbelievers will not readily travel into the city to hear the gospel.
  3. The church was being led by Del de la Hoyde who has had a long-standing concern for France. Our move to Boroughbridge has enabled him and his family to move to be involved in church planting in France.
  4. We knew and loved the people in Grace Church. And so we are excited about being part of their community and mission.
  5. KJ Pugh, an Acts 29 church planter from the United States, has recently joined Grace Church. But we wanted to ensure a good context for his transition to the UK and to Grace Church.

If you’re looking for a church in the Boroughbridge area or thinking of serving in a rural context then please check us out. Our website address is

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The One True Light commendations

Here are some commendations for The One True Light, my new book of advent readings based on  John 1.

If you’re looking for a fresh, creative, insightful, and thoroughly biblical and Christ-exalting guide for Advent, look no further. Tim Chester’s book, The One True Light, applies biblical theology to the first 18 verses of John’s gospel to show us how the Incarnation affects every aspect of our lives. Brief and simple enough for children, yet deep and rich enough for mature Christians, this is a book that inspires awe, wonder, and praise for Emmanuel, God with us.

Bob Kauflin, Director of Sovereign Grace Music

Most of us struggle to keep the main thing the main thing – and at Christmas, even more so! In this advent devotional Tim strips away all the unnecessary distractions and helps us focus on Christ. Journeying daily through John 1 we catch a fresh glimpse of Jesus and are invited into a deeper relationship with him – essential if we are to recapture the true meaning of Christmas.

Elizabeth McQuoid, Commissioning Editor and Trustee of Keswick Ministries

Advent is a great time to remember and retell the Great Story. In short meditations Tim Chester takes us day by day on an advent journey to meet the lovely Jesus of the Bible – “not just a preacher or healer but the Creator walking into his creation.” Come and meet the Word of God remaking the World of God
A super series of short meditations introducing the Jesus who brings us into the loving arms of his Father. All warmly illustrated with stories from life about problematic plumbing, Chelsea Football Club, enjoying the sky at night, the city of Sheffield and fist-fighting bishops!

Marcus Honeysett, Director of Living Leadership

In this short, accessible book, Chester invites us to “join John in fixing our eyes on Jesus, the one true light”. As I read it, that’s exactly what I found myself doing. Buy it and read it. Buy another and give it as a gift. It’s an investment not an expense.

Steve Timmis, Executive Director, Acts 29

This is a book that churches should be handing out in bulk for Advent. With lucid biblical content, helpful application and superb prayers for each day, it surges with the comfort and joy of Christmas.

Michael Reeves, Director of Union and Senior Lecturer at Wales Evangelical School of Theology

The One True Light is available here from thinkivp. It’s not yet available in the US.


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New book: The One True Light

I have a new book out, a book of 24 advent readings based on John 1:1-18 entitled The One True Light.

It’s available here from thinkivp. It’s not yet available in the US. I think it’s being released in the US next year. Here’s the blurb …

We may be familiar with the baby in the manger, but have you met the Word who was in the beginning with God? Have you met the One True Light who is full of grace and truth? Or the Cosmic Lord who won the right for people to become Children of God? They are one and the same person.

Join Tim Chester as he guides us through the opening verses of the Gospel of John, and enjoy a Christmas infused with new meaning and light.

With ideas for reflection, prayer and application, these short, meditative readings will excite you about Jesus in the busyness of the run up to Christmas Day.

From the introduction… “The build-up to Christmas is a busy time. There are presents to buy, parties to attend, food to prepare, cards to send and relatives to visit. So it’s easy to forget about Jesus, even at Christmas—especially at Christmas. But the truth is that we’ll never enjoy Christmas properly unless we understand who it is who was born in Bethlehem that night. Indeed, we won’t enjoy life to the full until we see God in a manger.”


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Review: A Wilderness of Mirrors

I recently received of a copy of my friend Mark Meynell’s new book, A Wilderness of Mirrors. It explores the reasons behind, and the gospel response to, the cynicism and conspiracy theories that mark our culture – the breakdown of trust from which the church is not immune. But before I could read it my wife grabbed it. Here are her thoughts.

This is a great book because it is satisfyingly intelligent without being unreadable. Mark brings reflections on history and philosophy to bear on the fears and anxieties of our lives today and shows how the Christian message relates to these. 

It is encouraging to see how Mark does not shy away from hard truths in our society and his personal experience. Instead he describes how experiences of being let-down, deceived and betrayed by authorities and individuals have led to a climate of mistrust and pessimism. 

Mark then does an excellent job of showing how Jesus and his church can provide an antidote to this; when Jesus is allowed to speak for himself and when his people are truly following their ‘foot-washing Saviour’. He finishes with a helpful overview of premodern, modern, postmodern and Christian world views. 

A Wilderness of Mirrors is available here from and thinkivp.

Here’s one of Mark short films introducing the issues covered in The Wilderness of Mirrors:

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Jesus verses Paul?

One of the common lines of liberal theology is that the church created Christianity and in so doing distorted or institutionalised the radical message of Jesus.

In fact this is not a new phenomenon. This is the issue which is address by John in his first letter. His message is simple: We have no Christ other than the Christ presented to us by the apostles.

1 John is written reassure the members of a church after some leading figures have left them. They have left a particular local church, claiming to follow a superior version of Christianity. But John says they went out from ‘us’ (in contrast to ‘you’, his readers). ‘They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.’ (1 John 2:19-20)

The ‘us’ here is the apostles (as 1:1-4 makes clear). The reason these people left the church is actually that they have left apostolic Christianity. And to leave apostolic Christianity, says John, is to leave the truth (2:20-27). Why? Because the apostles were the ones who heard and saw and touched Jesus – as John repeatedly emphasises in 1:1-4.

Not only were they eye witnesses of Jesus, but Jesus gave them the Holy Spirit to testify to the truth about Jesus so that the apostolic testimony would be accurate (John 15:26-27; 16:12-15). Paul’s inclusion among the apostles was always going to be controversial, but that issue was resolved during his lifetime, nearly 2,000 years ago.

God revealed himself in Jesus, the Word-made-flesh. How do we have access to that revelation? Through the testimony of the apostles who heard and saw and touched Jesus. How do we have access to the apostolic testimony? In the Spirit-inspired writings of the New Testament. To pit Jesus against Paul is to claim to have a better grasp of the person of Christ than the Spirit-inspired eye-witnesses.

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Sex is less significant that you think

In a previous post I argued that sex is more significant than our culture thinks it is. Our culture see it simply as an act of physical pleasure. But in fact sex binds us to another in a profound – in a way mirrors the union between Christ and his church

But in other ways sex has become too significant in our culture. It has become a way of salvation.

  • Young girls want acceptance and look for it in teenage sex.
  • Young men want respect or power and look for it in sexual conquests.
  • Single people want fulfilment and look for it in a life partner.
  • The middle-aged want life as death approaches and look for it in a younger lover.
  • Men want to be adored or to be in control and look for it the fantasy world of porn where every women gives herself to you.

We look for our personal version of salvation in sex or in romance. To be someone, to be whole, to be worthwhile we’re told we need to have sex or we need to have romance. It’s salvation by sex. Sex gives me meaning, respect, belonging, identity. We need someone to cry, ‘Yes, yes, yes, I want you, I desire you, I need you.’

And then the Bible comes along and says: ‘The person who marries his fiancée does well, and the person who doesn’t marry does even better.’ (1 Corinthians 7:38 NLT) It says it’s good not to get married because then you can focus on serving Christ (7:29-34). You can have a complete life, a whole life, a fulfilled life without sex.

I know that sounds unbelievable in our culture. But it was just as revolutionary in Paul’s day. In Paul’s day having a family was everything. Your focus wasn’t personal success, but family honour. So to be unmarried was to be a no-one. You weren’t a man until you get married. A woman without children was considered cursed.

But not for those in Christ. In Christ there is a new creation. A whole new world opens up. In Christ it’s good to get married and it’s good not to get married.

Why? Because sex is not the definition of a good life or a fulfilled life. Think about Jesus. Jesus didn’t get married and didn’t have sex. Was his life a lesser life? Was his life unfulfilled? Was he sub-human? Of course not. Some of you are desperate for a husband or wife or just sex. Maybe you think your life won’t be complete without them. Was the life of Jesus incomplete? Was it empty?

We don’t find salvation in sex because we are made for more. Verses 13-14 say our bodies are made for God and he will raise them up. We’re made for God and we are made for eternity. Our culture has removed God and eternity out of the picture. So what we’re left with is just temporary consciousness. But we still want our lives to matter. So we’re desperate to find someone to whom we matter.

  • Christians have hope. Paul can say that life without sex is a good option because Paul has hope. We don’t have to have it all in this life. We have a life to come.
  • Christians have God. We’re made for God. Sex can’t deliver. A partner can’t deliver. Not on this scale. Because they can’t substitute for God.

So if you look for sex or romance or even marriage to fulfil you, to complete you, to satisfy you then you will be disappointed. Mr Right always turns out to be Mr Wrong. Men are not God. We’re just rather sad, pompous, lazy, sinful people with bad breath. And sex is never the way it’s portrayed in the movies or in porn. Sex is not God. It can’t deliver what God delivers. It can’t substitute for God.

Don’t get me wrong. Sex does its job beautifully. It binds couples together in life-long union. And it does that job wonderfully. But don’t make sex do a job it’s not designed to do. Sex is very significant, but it’s not that significant – it’s not a substitute for God.

If you think sex or porn will make you accepted or offer a way of escape or make you feel powerful then you’re setting yourself up for slavery. Because they won’t deliver and so you’ll look for more and more and more until you are sucked in and enslaved. Some of you know what I’m talking about.

Or you may think that what you need most is a partner, that getting married is what will satisfy you and make your life complete. The problem is if you don’t get married your life will be self-fulfilling prophecy: you will live an empty and bitter life – when all the time the fulness of God is offered to you.

But thinking marriage or sex matter most not only harms your life if you don’t get married, it also harms your life if you do get married. If you think marriage will make you complete then you’re loading up a set of expectations on your poor spouse that they can never hope to fulfil. They can only disappoint you – no matter how great they are – because you’ve set them up as a God-substitute. It’s not fair. Some of you have problems in your relationships because you expect too much of your partner. If you’re not satisfied single then you won’t be satisfied married because marriage cannot be a substitute for God. Here’s a recent review of a book called Couples: The Truth:

This romantic ideology … is pernicious, cultivating fabulous expectations that can only result in massive disappointment. As other social ties have weakened, marriage has sucked all our wishes into its orbit to the point where it is viewed as a kind of magic, with the quasi-spiritual notion of a ‘soul-mate’. ‘We have been seduced by the fairy tale that we should be able to find everything we need from just one person … You should try to lower your expectations where your loved ones are concerned. Not only are they other than you think they are, but no one could ever be all good …’

True, expect for that last phrase – ‘no-one could ever be all good’. There is someone who is all good, a soul-mate who saves our souls, a loved one who gave everything.

Only by finding completeness in Jesus can you be free to be the husband or wife you should be – truly loving your partner rather than using them for your own fulfilment.

Only by finding completeness in Christ can you be truly satisfied – whether you’re married or single.

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A sin against yourself

In a previous post we addressed the question of why Christians seem so hung up about sex. We saw that our bodies matter and what we do with our bodies matter.

This is Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians 6. In verse 18 he says: ‘Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.’

Sexual immorality in all its forms is against yourself. This seems a bit odd. Is this proof of a Christian hang up about sex – that sex is specially bad. What about drug abuse or suicide? Surely they too are sins against your body.

The point is the Bible is talking about more than just the physical stuff we’re made from. It’s not just talking about bone and muscle. By ‘body’ it means our total selves. Who we are. Our identity.

The key idea is this: Sex is never just sex. It’s more significant that we normally think. It’s not just a physical act.

Verse 16: ‘Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will be become one flesh.”’ When it talks about becoming ‘one in body’ or ‘one flesh’ it doesn’t mean our flesh is fused. It means your whole self is involved. You’re whole self is given away. You’re whole self, you personality, your identity is bonded to another person. Sex is not just a physical act than leaves the ‘real you’ unaffected. It profoundly changes you.

We see this in life all the time. If sex is just like eating cake then why does adultery feel so painful? Because sex involves your whole self and so people feel personally betrayed. Because sex is not just a physical act. Your whole self is involved.

God designed sex as a way to give yourself to another. The clothes come off so you’re exposed. You give you body to the embrace of another. You enter or are entered. Your very self is fused with another person. The word ‘unite’ in verse 16 means ‘to bind, to glue, to cement’. You’re glued together. The two become one.

That’s why sexual sin is a sin against your body, your self, your identity. If giving yourself in sex is not done in the context of life-long commitment, the result is deep pain. It messes with you in a profound way.

PVA glue is stronger than wood. If you glue two bits of wood together and then pull them apart it’s not the glue that breaks, but the wood. It splinters. And that’s what happens whenever you have sex outside of marriage: you splinter your soul.

But when that physical oneness goes together with a whole-person and whole-life oneness, the result is deep wholeness and fulfilment. It’s a beautiful and wonderful thing. It’s an amazing gift from God.

It’s a sign of God’s own giving of himself to us that we might be one with him. The Bible says marriage and sex are a picture of Christ’s relationship with his people. At the cross Christ gave himself in love to save people, to take the judgment we deserve, to cleanse us and make us beautiful. And he commits himself to us totally. He’s made a covenant (like a marriage covenant) to love us and care for us.

God invented sex to show us his passion. All the pain you feel around sex is like the pain he feels at our unfaithfulness. All the joy you feel around sex is like his joy at loving his people. All the sacrifices you make are the like the sacrifice of Jesus for us.

So God says that sex belongs only in marriage not to stop us having fun, but to stop us getting hurt. It’s not because sex is bad. It’s because sex is too precious and too powerful and too life-changing to be unleashed without life-long commitment.

This is a high view of sex. It’s not sex as ‘appetite’ to be indulged whenever. Nor is it sex as ‘dirty’ to be avoided whatever. It’s sex as a profound, beautiful, pleasurable, relationship-binding gift. Sex is more significant than you think.

But does all this mean you’ve had it if you remain single? We turn to that issue in a future post.

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New book: The Glory of the Story

The Glory of the Story - coverMy father, Richard Chester, was the pastor of a Reformed Baptist church throughout my childhood. I grew up on his preaching.

The Glory of the Story is his retirement project. It’s a popular, devotional introduction to biblical theology. It works through the Old Testament story, all the time showing how it points to Jesus. There are 366 daily readings which are undated so you can start at any time and read at your own pace. It’s available as a Kindle book for just $2.99 or £1.99. I’ll post a few extracts over the coming weeks, but you can use Amazon’s Look Inside facility to see for yourself.

The Glory of the Story is available here from and

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