Foundations Review by Huw Williams

Foundations CoverAs Jesus makes clear in Matthew 7, we are all building our lives on something, the crucial question is whether or not we are building on the firm foundation of his words. There are some questions about the gospel which we simply shouldn’t assume we know the answers to; we do well to ask ourselves those questions and even better to take time to find the right answers in the Bible.

The tag-line for this book is “Four big questions we should be asking but typically don’t” and they are questions that are crucial for us all to visit and keep revisiting as followers of Christ – “Which god is God?”, “What is a human?”, “What is sin?” and “What is salvation?”and this excellent little book is a joy to read and re-read. What becomes clear (not least from Tim Chester’s helpful foreword) is that whether we have given much thought to these answers or not, all of us live our lives according to what we believe about them.

Weighing in at 93 fairly large-print pages (divided into six short chapters) this is a book that most of us will be able to read through cover to cover fairly quickly. Peter Mead’s approach is jargon-free, concise and crystal clear as he walks us through sermons from Acts in answering those four big questions.

And that is a wonderful thing about this book, it’s easy-to-read style contains wonderful, deep theology without the sore head. And as I turned the pages I found myself nodding and underlining paragraphs as I was reminded of the importance of each question and the wonderful answers gleaned from God’s word. The short reflection questions at the end of each chapter are excellent for personal devotional reading, or discussion with reading partners.

I enjoyed this book enormously, and became so convinced of its value that I bought a pile of new copies to give away to people in church here – all of whom tell me they found it very helpful. We’ve also worked through it as a devotional book for our IFES team times here in Italy and again, it has had a deep impact on the team and our ministry. I just asked Alison what she thought I should say in this review, and I think she has just given me my closing sentence – “A clear and concise overview of the gospel that will do any Christian good.”

Enough said.

(For original post click here)

A Passion For Books – Jonathan Carswell

10ofthoseHere is one last guest post relating to the launch of Foundations. Jonathan Carswell is a good friend who works with a great team at (this includes 10Publishing). They specialise in publishing shorter books and I’m excited to let you know that they have now launched in the USA. If you are in North America, be sure to check out their website and follow on Twitter @10ofthoseUSA – I wholeheartedly recommend them to you! I would suggest that Jonathan’s passion for books is one that every preacher should share . . .


Being a dyslexic I think it’s funny that God has put me in a job where every day I am recommending people to be reading Christian books! Despite finding reading hard work at best and an uphill slog at worst, books that have pointed me to Jesus have been life-changing in my Christian walk. It’s for that reason that I’m so passionate that other people are reading Christ-centred books too. But with many books being long, expensive and, if we’re honest, sometimes a bit boring, how is it that we can ‘catch the bug’ for reading Christian literature?

While we mustn’t be lazy or try to cut corners I do believe that reading short, accessible books is a great way to start. They may not be the end-word on a topic but they can be a starting point, a starting point that many of us are not even getting to. I fear that sometimes the reason people are not reading is because they feel they don’t have the time or they don’t have the brain capacity to take on some of these tomes that well-meaning Christian publishers are now producing. The majority of people are not in that place. So read short books, many of which are Christian classics. You can finish them in one sitting, in around an hour. Over the course of several weeks or months, you can read across a breadth of topics, which will stand you in great stead as firm foundations for your Christian life. Peter’s books Foundations and Pleased to Dwell are excellent resources that are accessible, short but full of deep Christian truth. Or try Tim Keller’s The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness – it changed my Christian life

The other thing to consider with shorter books is their ease to give away to people who aren’t yet Christians but are willing to investigate. I’d encourage us all to have a stock of short accessible evangelistic books and tracts that we can give away. There are cost-effective ways of doing this and as the resources point people to Jesus they can totally transform a life. Wouldn’t it be amazing if each of us began passing out short, Jesus-pointing resources to those who are Christians to help them grow in their faith, and to those who aren’t Christians to begin their trust in the Lord Jesus. And as we do it, their life just might be changed!

Michael Ots: What Does It Mean to be Human?

michael2Michael Ots is an evangelist who regularly speaks at events in universities across Europe. His first book, What Kind of God? is translated into Russian, Serbian, Romanian and Spanish.  To find out more, please visit


‘Man is a crumpled piece of paper in the rain whose only liberation is death’ – this was the conclusion of the existentialist philosopher Jean Paul Sartre. Most of us would not share his bleak conclusion about humanity. However, his was the logical conclusion to come to if at the end of the day we live in a materialistic universe where there is nothing more than matter. The scientist Francis Crick said ‘You, your joys and sorrows, memories, ambitions, sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the massive assembly of nerve cells… Who you are is noting but a load of neurons.’

The problem with such views is that they are hard to live out in practice. I wonder if Crick ever told his wife that she was just a bunch of neurons?! We have an instinctive sense that we are worth more than that. If then we find that our worldview doesn’t satisfactorily explain what’s most important to us, we have to question whether that worldview is true. Later in Sartre’s life he confessed ‘I do not see myself so much as dust that has appeared in the world, but as a being that was expected. A being that could, it seems, come only from a creator. And this recognition of a created hand drives me back to God.’

Ultimately, it is only within the Biblical worldview that we find reason for the dignity and value of humanity that we so instinctively feel. We are not just advanced animals or collections of chemical reactions. We are of infinite value because we are created in the image of the infinite God.

Viv Thomas: Paths & Connections

ERT4EdXbViv Thomas is the Associate International Director of OM International, and Hon. Teaching Pastor at St Paul’s Hammersmith. He has authored Future Leader, Second Choice, Paper Boys, The Spectacular Ordinary Life and The Spectacular Ordinary Organisation. His next book, Wisdom Road, will be published in December 2015.  For more information on Viv’s ministry click here, or for OM, click here. I have known and worked with Viv for many years and have appreciated his heart and his input.  In this post Viv offer three foundational questions we should be pondering.


Phileena Heuertz suggests some questions that help us get to the core of what is going on in our lives. I suggest that we let them rumble through our minds and conversations listening to the voice of the Spirit as we go.

Who are you?

This is the identity question. It is not always easy to answer this but important in your spiritual growth. It may take a while to answer and the answer may change over time. God has given us bodies, placed us in communities and distributed gifts. So who are you – or we – in the middle of this? What words or images constantly repeat themselves in your mind signalling your own sense of who you are? What do you say to yourself about yourself? Is your heart focused on giving God as much glory as possible or could it be you are overwhelmed by negative experiences that have developed cynical speech or a hard heart as your identity? If your identity is not being rooted in the love of Father, Son and Spirit there is a confusing road ahead. So who are you?

What path(s) are you on?

We are all on different and multiple paths towards the future. I could be on a path towards a new job, out of sickness, towards middle age, out of a particular location, into a relationship, out of a cold heart, into porn addiction or feeling like I am on a path to nowhere. Some paths we choose others we walk because we have to. It is worth asking what will be the outcome of walking the paths I have chosen and do I want to walk these paths?

How do you connect with God?

Where and when do you and God meet? What is the nature of your relationship with Him? What does he feel about you and how do you know? There is a well-marked path for the life of prayer. Our spiritual fathers and mothers have marked it out through the practice of spiritual disciplines or rhythms. There is a rich and huge variety in this prayer walk. Corporate worship, solitude, scripture meditation, having a spiritual director/mentor, silence, service and great conversation all work for me.

Are we free and courageous enough to be attentive to the foundational questions?

Dave Bish: Where Are the Depths Found?

BishDave currently serves on the staff team for Grace Church Exeter, but is pursuing a next step into pastoral ministry elsewhere in 2016. He’s married with three young sons. He previously spent 11 years on the staff team of the UCCF, as a Christian Union Staff Worker and then as Team Leader for the South West. He’s edited three volumes of sermons by puritans Richard Sibbes and Jeremiah Burroughs in addition to many years of blogging at  As Foundations is being released, I am thankful to Dave for this guest post on what it means to be human.


“The depths which were previously located in the cosmos, the enchanted world, are now more readily placed within.” Taylor, p540.

In his enormous book A Secular Age Charles Taylor is examining the shift that has occured over the past 500 years from a world in which it was plausible to believe to one in which it isn’t so much.

At the heart of his case is the observation that we have moved from considering the universe to be a meaningful cosmos to being an empty space. We find ourselves alone in the silence.

Taylor notes that where today’s youth may despair of whether there is any meaning in life, 500 years ago it was the overwhelming weight of meaning that might crush the young. The Alpha Course’s old investigative slogan “an opportunity to explore the meaning of life” raises hope today but would’ve seemed strange centuries back – the question would’ve been how to navigate through the immense significance of everything.

We used to view the world as enchanted. Michael Ward notes the goal of CS Lewis’ Narnia books: to re-enchant us with a magical world, to reawaken our imagination, so we might better know Christ in our world. Allegory in places, but much more a participation in a “meaning-drenched universe”.   For which see also Evan Koons work For the life of the world.

We struggle to hear the heavens singing their song, to see meaning in the seasons, but knowing there must be more we relocate meaning to be within ourselves. We examine ourselves deeply. We assign ourselves four letter Myers-Briggs code, we identify our Strengths and Weaknesses and so on. My humanity classified and understood. And there’s real value in self-awareness! But, I’m struck that it’s a function of the age in which we live… a sad consequence of putting the world on mute, that we’re left to look within to find out who we are.

We adopt a “buffered self” instead of a “porous” view of ourselves. We define ourselves within ourselves, rather than by our interaction and service of those around us. See Peter Leithart’s recent Traces of the Trinity for a wonderful portrait porous life, things go in and out of us all the time. Extrovert or Introvert or whatever, I am a human being and “…living in the enchanted, porous world of our ancestors was inherently living socially.”

I can’t help but think the search within can also be a manifestation of Luther’s 500 year old definition of sin “man curved in on himself”. As a man in a meaning-drenched world Luther – a youth who had been overwhelmed by the weight of significance in the world – knew real life, restoration of his humanity, not in identifying the hero within himself but looking outside himself to a Saviour and a community.

The Universe is singing if we can learn again to hear it. And it invites us to a social life –  with people and in the persons of the self-giving God. What it means to be human, most deeply, is not reasoned out by surveys or soul-searching but revealed to us, as bearers of his image, in his world. For “no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

Dan Hames: What is Grace?

Daniel HamesDan Hames is a curate at St Aldates, Oxford, as well as a PhD student at VU Amsterdam.  He also helps look after articles, talks, and a podcast at  If you haven’t spent some time on the Union Theology site, you are missing a treat.  I am thankful to Dan for this guest post on the subject of God’s grace.


Grace. It’s what your grandma says before dinner. It’s the way a ballet dancer floats across the stage. It’s a polite person reacting coolly to criticism. It’s also one of those theology words that we don’t often explain.

When I was naughty as a boy, I used to think that God could show me mercy, which simply meant he wouldn’t strike me with a bolt of lightning. Or he could show me grace, which was that, on top of sparing me, he would actually be nice to me. As I grew as a Christian, I began to see that grace was something more fundamental in God. God loves to give his grace. His undeserved kindness to us is the whole shape and flavour of the gospel. I was encouraged to ‘trust grace’, ‘love grace’, and ‘preach grace’. God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense. Unmerited favour. A gift we don’t deserve.

So is that grace? I’ve come to believe it’s even better than that. In John 14:23, Jesus says something quite remarkable, ‘My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.’ In the gospel, God isn’t kind to us by just giving us forgiveness, a sense of purpose in life, a family in the Church, and the hope of heaven. He gives us himself through Jesus.

Grace isn’t a thing God ladles out like a dinner lady with custard; it’s not even the generous frame of mind he’s in when he hands out blessings to us like a supermarket Santa. God’s grace is that he loves you and has made his home with you by the presence of the Holy Spirit. It’s not God’s riches, but God. From the moment of your salvation, the living God moved in with you and will stay with you through your whole life, and beyond your death into eternal glory.

Let’s encourage our hearts by thinking less about the word ‘grace’ in the abstract and more about the gracious God who shows mercy, blesses, and loves the undeserving – but who most of all gives them himself.

John Hindley: What Does It Mean to Be Human?

John HindleyJohn is pastor of BroadGrace Church in rural Norfolk (England).  John authored Serving Without Sinking and You Can Really Grow  (Good Book Company), as well as Suffering and Singing (10ofThose).  John is married to Flick and has three little ones. In his own words, “John Hindley is a wicked and filthy wretch made beautiful by Christ alone.”  I am thankful to John for offering this guest post as we head into the release month for Foundations.


To be human is to dig. At least, that is what it is after the fall. To be human outside the garden, East of Eden, is to heft your shovel and dig again. It is to hope (if there can be a hope beyond hope) that this time the guy who sold you the map was honest, despite the way his parrot kept laughing at you.

To be human, for some, is to sail against the storm, hack your way through the undergrowth and then force your spade into the earth. For other the dig comes after a lie-in and pleasure cruise. But we are all digging, where X marks the spot, because there must be treasure somewhere. One of the maps has to be right, and there has to be a chest filled with pieces of eight. Or with peace, with hope, with love, with joy, with meaning, with forgiveness, with a future, with life.

Maybe we know what we are searching for, or maybe we dig with the desperation of not even remembering what we are digging for. We dig the sands of career, health, family, hobbies, holidays, wealth, stories. We dig and dig until one day we hear the sound of a spade against a chest. Carefully the chest is unearthed, and then gently prised open.

When we look back on that day, it still makes us smile to realise how wrong we had got it. We thought we had to dig. It never occurred to us that we were the treasure.

To be human, truly human, is to be the treasure that Christ paid the highest price to win. It is to be the delight of his eyes despite our running, our striving to find treasure far from him. It is to be the blood-bought forgiven who will always be treasured by their Captain until he comes back for us. We are safe, hidden in Christ.

And now, when we dig, we find treasure everywhere.

Hershael York: The Book of Acts and Us

HYorkDr Hershael York is the Senior Pastor at Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort, Kentucky.  He is also the Victor and Louise Lester Professor of Christian Preaching at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville.  I really appreciated his books Speaking with Bold Assurance (2001), that Hershael co-wrote with Bert Decker, and Preaching with Bold Assurance (2003).  I am really thankful for this post on the enduring relevance of Acts for us as preachers in today’s world – a reality I hope is demonstrated in Foundations (forthcoming from Christian Focus).  Over to Hershael:


The New Testament epistles would leave us puzzled and perplexed if we only had the gospels without the book of Acts. We would not know how the gospel advanced to the Gentiles, who Paul is, when Christianity spread from Jerusalem to the world, or even why the church took shape and functioned as it did. Perhaps most significantly, we would not know the components and contours of apostolic preaching.

About half of the Book of Acts consists of speeches, discourses, and letters. In fact, like the Greek historian Thucydides, Luke actually moves the narrative forward through careful reconstruction of speeches by followers of Christ and their opponents. He records eight addresses delivered by Peter, Stephen’s lengthy sermon that enraged the Sanhedrin, Cornelius’s brief explanation, a short authoritative address by James at the Jerusalem Council, the advice of James and the elders in Jerusalem to Paul, and nine sermons and speeches by Paul. Clearly Luke believes that what the church said impacted what they did.

But Luke is more than a historian. He is also a theologian. He is not merely recording the words spoken, but the heart of the Christian message, the kerygma, that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of God’s promise of salvation, Lord of Heaven and Earth, and that his crucifixion and resurrection provides redemption from sin for all who will repent and believe.

While manners and modes of communication change through time and across cultures, that core message of the gospel is the unshakeable and irreducible axis of Christian proclamation on which faith rests. The message of what God has done through the person and work of Christ is not merely a historical chapter that we have advanced beyond. Now as much as in Acts, the preaching of Christ is what God uses to move the narrative forward until Christ returns.

Marcus Honeysett: What Does It Mean To Be Human?

mhoneysettMarcus is the director of Living Leadership and an elder at Crofton Baptist Church in South East London.  He has authored four books, including Fruitful Leaders and Gospel-Centred Preaching (with Tim Chester).  Many people have benefited greatly from Marcus’ teaching and writing.  I am thankful to Marcus for offering this guest post on such an important question.  Remember, this guest post series is offered to mark release of Foundations – please do check out and encourage others to follow @4BigQs on Twitter and Facebook.


So God created Mankind in his own image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Gen 1:27)

The two most foundational things about being human beings are:

  1. That we are creatures
  2. That we are special creatures – made in the image of God

Therefore when God blesses the man and woman, telling them to be fruitful, increase and fill and subdue the Earth it is as dependent beings, not independent ones.

In this dependency is the very foundation of life. Everything broken about the world can be traced back to rebellious, sinful desire to live independently from God rather than dependently upon his fatherly goodness as his dearly loved children.

This means that we are never more fully human than when we are consciously living in repentance and faith. A constant walk with God, is the thing that maintains our life and our joy because we were made for it – and forsook it back at Eden. A daily appreciation and thankfulness for the spilt blood of Jesus Christ is the thing that keeps us conscious of God’s everlasting mercy.

Confessing our sins, turning with hatred from evil, glorying in the cross brings healing and gospel transformation by the Holy Spirit. Why? Because when we do we are acknowledging and celebrating true creatureliness. We embrace our dependency. We delight not in God’s absence from our lives but in the closeness of his presence.



Glen Scrivener: What is the Essence of Sin?

Glen-321AGlen is an evangelist and director of Speak Life. He is the author of 321 – The Story of God, the World and You and blogs at Christ the Truth. He lives in Eastbourne with his wife, Emma, and daughter, Ruby.  At our church we give away copies of 321 to  visitors, it really is a fantastic resource.  I am thankful to Glen as he launches this guest post series for Foundations.


What is the essence of sin?

Is it “climbing onto the throne of your life”?
Is it “stealing the crown for yourself”?
Is it “shaking your puny fist in the face of God”?
Is it saying “Shove off God, I‘m in charge, No to your rule”

Well, yes. But is it deeper than that? You bet!

You see, if we define sin as “self-rule” what do we say to the Iranian refugee working his fingers to the bone, sending back every penny to the family?

What do we say to the woman serially abused by the terrible men she invites into her life?

What do we say to the drug addict whose only remaining desire is the hell-bent drive to throw his life away?

What do we say to the down-trodden mother who’s completely lost herself in her family?

What do we say to the self-harmer consumed by self-loathing?

All these people are sinners. But is their sin best captured by a definition of “self-rule”? Surely not. And the Bible knows this, which is why its teaching on sin goes far deeper than “self-rule.”

In the Bible we are dominated subjects in Satan’s kingdom (Ephesians 2:1-3). We are captives in the strong man’s house (Mark 3:27). We are helpless slaves to sin (John 8:34). We are whores besotted with terrible lovers (Ezekiel 16). We are sheep following after bad shepherds (Ezekiel 34). We are lost and must be found (Luke 15). We are snake-bitten and need healing (John 3:14f). We are dead and need raising (John 5:24f). We are famished and need Bread (John 6). And so Jesus diagnoses the world’s deepest problem: “they do not believe in Me.” (John 16:9) This is the heart of sin.

And once we have properly defined our problem, we can preach the solution: We have refused Christ, we must receive Him. We have resisted Him, we must trust Him. And when we do, His message to us is not “Get off the throne.” Incredibly He tells us “Hop on!”

“Even when we were dead in our trespasses, God made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:5-6; cf Revelation 3:21)


This is an excerpt from a longer post at Glen’s blog –