Thursday, January 31, 2008

Horizons

I have spent a couple of days with my pal Simon at the Vineyard leaders conference. It was a thought-provoking time and good to hang out with an amazing bunch of people. I commend the talks to you and the pick of the bunch was Rich Nathan on being missional in the 21st century (Tuesday evening). Also Simon on both holiness and mercy. In my most hopeful hour these are the sort of talks I would love Rich and Simon to give to the House of Bishops to awaken them into a new wineskin.

The talk that made me cry was by Ele Mumford. She showed a film of the history of the Vineyard Movement that renewed in me a love of the church and fresh vision of what church can be but so often isn't. It is well worth a watch. It comes in three parts: 1 ,2 and 3.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Barak's Sermon

Here is Barak Obama's sermon at Dr King's church. Not something we find British politcians doing....

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Ponder




I have been mulling over Deuteronomy 6 for about 2 weeks and am still learning and praying about its implications. Today, at our morning prayer meeting, Gerry drew our attention to Psalm 111 v 2....'Great are the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who delight in them'. The word 'ponder' struck us all is perhaps a new thing I must learn to do more of. Pondering seems to me like a good thing. Yesterday, we were looking at Jesus calming the storm and someone quoted Amy Carmichael who said in response to the verse '...even the wind and the waves obeyed Him ' that we have a God of 'the EVENS'. I like that.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Preaching to your neighbour

"If you speak and discourse as if your whole neighborhood is present eventually more and more of your neighborhood will find their way in or be invited." Tim Keller

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Letters of John Newton



I reread some of these incredible letters of John Newton that I keep close to hand on my book shelf. Anyone attempting to follow Christ would do well to avail themselves of a copy and certainly all those attempting to be Pastors. The first three letters in this collection are gems and explain three stages of the Christian journey which Newton calls 'Grace in the blade, 'Grace in the ear' and The full Corn in the ear.' He says the journey starts with feelings and not much trouble, then feelings lessen and Satan's schemes multiply and strengthen thus seeing many give up through this assault and for the very few who persevere glorious riches of grace are available. Of this third stage he writes:

'His heart has deceived him so often, that he is now in a good measure weaned from trusting to it; and therefore he does not meet with so many disappointments. And having found again and again the vanity of all other helps, he is now taught to go to the Lord at once for "grace to help in a time of need". Thus he is strong, not in himself but in the grace that is in Christ Jesus' (Page 24)

An hour spent in reading these gems of wisdom can save you much angst along the way when trouble or trial comes. I hope they may be a blessing to you and they have done much to help me understand my own questions and difficulties that I have by grace survived and endured. Thanks be to God for John Newton who is you will discover very much more than just his amazing hymn.

Sixpence

Yesterday was our annual gift day when we preach on stewardship and money. Adam, my friend and fellow-worker, was tasked with teaching this to our evening service and did a sterling job. In preparation, he rang me at teatime and asked if I could recall a passage from 'Mere Christianity' on giving, relating to a father and a sixpence. I could not immediately do so, so proceeded to speed-read in search of this paragraph to no avail. As it happened Adam, who is something of an IT wizz, used the ' search-inside' function available at Amazon.com which allows you to put in a key word and find the place in the book. Well worth knowing so I share it for any for whom it might be useful.

Here is the wonderful passage that is C.S Lewis at his very best ( Adam found it most amusing that Lewis has the middle name 'Staples' and thought it no wonder he like to be known as 'C S!)

Every faculty you have, your power of thinking or of moving your limbs from moment to moment, is given to you by God. If you devoted every moment of your whole life exclusively to His service you could not give Him anything that was not in a sense His own already. So that when we talk of a man doing anything for God or giving anything to God, I will tell you what it is really like. It is like a small child going to his father and saying, 'Daddy, give me sixpence to buy you a birthday present.' Of course, the father does, and he is pleased with the child's present. It is all very nice and proper, but only an idiot would think that the father is sixpence to the good on the transaction. When a man has made these two discoveries, God can really get to work. It is after this that real life begins. The man is awake now...

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Catastrophe of Success

I watched the Cornel West interview and he quotes a Tennessee Williams essay called 'the Catastrophe of Success' which makes interesting reading. Tennessee Williams's essay, "The Catastrophe of Success," was written in response to the critical and commercial triumph of The Glass Menagerie:

One does not escape that easily from the seduction of an effete way of life. You cannot arbitrarily say to yourself, I will now continue my life as it was before this thing, Success, happened to me. But once you fully apprehend the vacuity of a life without struggle you are equipped with the basic means of salvation. Once you know this is true, that the heart of man, his body and his brain, are forged in a white-hot furnace for the purpose of conflict (the struggle of creation) and that with the conflict removed, the man is a sword cutting daisies, that not privation but luxury is the wolf at the door and that the fangs of this wolf are all the little vanities and conceits and laxities that Success is heir to -- why, then with this knowledge you are at least in a position of knowing where danger lies.

You know, then, that the public Somebody you are when you "have a name" is a fiction created with mirrors and that the only somebody worth being is the solitary and unseen you that existed from your first breath and which is the sum of your actions . . . -- and knowing these things, you can even survive the catastrophe of Success!

It is never altogether too late, unless you embrace the Bitch Goddess . . . with both arms and find in her smothering caresses exactly what the homesick little boy in you always wanted, absolute protection and utter effortlessness. Security is a kind of death, . . . and it can come to you in a storm of royalty checks beside a kidney-shaped pool in Beverly Hills . . . . Ask anyone who has experienced the kind of success I am talking about -- What good is it? . . . .

Then what is good? The obsessive interest in human affairs, plus a certain amount of compassion and moral conviction, that first made the experience of living something that must be translated into pigment or music or bodily movement or poetry or prose or anything that's dynamic and expressive -- that's what's good for you if you're at all serious in your aims. . . . [P]urity of heart is the one success worth having. "In the time of your life -- live!" That time is short and it doesn't return again. It is slipping away while I write this and while you read it, and the monosyllable of the clock is Loss, loss, loss, unless you devote your heart to its opposition.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

How to change

Forgive me for always banging on about TK but here is an extraordinary sermon on Galations. If you like this then Steve McCoy a mad keen blogger has collected everything Keller together in one place.

Cornel West


The other day we had a discussion over lunch about optimism and pessimism and my reaction was that it was difficult for me to see how and why a Christian could be pessimistic. Somehow though, the categories of pessimism and optimism seemed to me inadequate. Today, I stumbled on a quote in Rolling Stone by Cornel West (see this great interview on You Tube), who is a Professor at Princeton and author of 'Democracy Matters'. Here too are a couple of lectures he gave to Union Seminary in New york that I plan to listen to a some point and a Martin Luther King Lecture that is a phenomenal demonstration of oratory for all aspiring preachers out there. Anyway, he hit upon the words I would have mustered had I been a clever American Professor.

"RS: So you're optimistic about the future?

Cornel West: The categories of optimism and pessimism don't exist for me. I'm a blues man. A blues man is a prisoner of hope, and hope is a qualitatively different category than optimism. Optimism is a secular construct, a calculation of probability. Black folk in America have never been optimistic about the future - what have we had to be optimistic about? But we are people of hope. Hope wrestles with despair, but it doesn't generate optimism. It just generates this energy to be courageous, to bear witness, to see what the end is going to be. No guarantee, unfinished, open-ended. I'm a prisoner of hope. I'm going to die full of hope..."

A 'prisoner of hope', now that it what I should have said.....

If you want to see how Cornel and others including Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Bono, Eddy Vedder see the prospects for the future look up the 40th Anniversary Edition.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Movies coming in 2008

If you want to know what films are coming this year this is a good place to look.

Sozo

Here are some bible reading resources I talked about this morning at Sozo. The first is the McCheyne plan and Don Carson's excellent book 'For the Love of God' which comes in two volumes and gives you a page of commentary each day on your reading. Also I commend Peterson's 'A long obedience in the same direction' (this is a great bedside table book and you can do a chapter at a time) and 'Answering God' as a way into the Psalms. If you want to understand biblical meditation Pritchard's book called 'The lost art of mediation' is great and if you want to understand the 'Lectio Divina' Peterson has a wonderful explanation in 'Eat this Book'. For those who just want to zip up their spiritual life then 'Restoring you spiritual passion 'by MacDonald is great. For the best sermons I know check out Tim Keller at Redeemer. You have to buy them but they are gold and about 20 are free online. His teaching on Psalms is amazing and available on MP3.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Emotional Health



I read a book called 'The emotionally healthy church' that quite a few people have mentioned to me and it is worth the effort. My old church have it as their staff book that they are working through on their retreat this month. Lots of thought provoking stuff and a some good stories. I did the 'How emotionally healthy are you?' Q &A and discovered that I am above average which I suppose is encouraging. It is a book to come back to and ponder on. Still musing on some things if I am honest and found this review which makes interesting reading and saves me having to write a lots a blather noone will ever read..

Monday, January 14, 2008

Dancing and wiggling

I was sent this church phone message by my friend Pete at church and it made me laugh out loud. As he rightly advises you have to listen right to the end. Superb.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Conversation

Christmas seems a memory and the New Year is off and running. Spent yesterday doing what is fondly known as 'potty training', which stands for post-ordination training, and enjoyed it. We are all very different people and it is good to spend one day a month thinking and discussing things. One thing that jumped out at me was a phrase from our Richard Hooker lecture and also some words from Erasmus and the Ordinal. Richard Hooker ( he is an important dude to the Anglican Church and thought and wrote alot about 'Reason') . This is what he said:

...Man in perfection of nature being made according to the likeness of his Maker, resembleth him also in the manner of working: so that whatsover we work as men, the same we do wittingly work and freely; neither are we according to manner or natural agents any way so tied, but that 'it is in our power to leave the things we do undone'....(I,vii,2)

It is challenging trying to understand free will and God's sovereignty but worth the effort. I am preaching on 1 Corinthian 3 at the weekend and knowing that the things we think are important could go up in flames, it is better think now what will matter and be of value eternally. Also learnt about Erasmus who translated John 1 in Latin 'In the beginning was conversation...' Love it. Very Eugene P.

I also was helpfully reminded of the Ordinal and the declaration I made before God six months ago. In response to my pledges the Bishop says the following, 'You cannot bear the weight of this calling in your own strength, but only by the grace and power of God. Pray therefore that your heart may daily be enlarged and your understanding of the Scriptures enlightened' It was a timely reminder to hope and pray daily for an enlarged heart and greater understanding.

Found an interesting article by Matthew Parris called 'Do our leaders believe in God?' and I also found the Times music podcast and this weeks is Tom Baxter.

Murdered dreams awaken

Prothalamium
by Aaron Kramer

Come, all you who are not satisfied
as ruler in a lone, wallpapered room
full of mute birds, and flowers that falsely bloom,
and closets choked with dreams that long ago died!
Come, let us sweep the old streets--like a bride;
sweep out dead leaves with a relentless broom;
prepare for Spring, as though he were our groom
for whose light footstep eagerly we bide.

We'll sweep out shadows, where the rats long fed;
sweep out our shame--and in its place we'll make
a bower for love, a splendid marriage-bed
fragrant with flowers aquiver for the Spring.
And when he comes, our murdered dreams shall wake;
and when he comes, all the mute birds shall sing.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

McCheyne

Robert Murray McCheyne preached in Dundee in Scotland in the early 1800s. Each Saturday he visited the dying in order to prepare his heart, so that on Sunday he might plead with souls the more earnestly. Yet, he said,

I have not been like a shepherd after lost sheep, nor like a physician among dying men, nor like a servant bidding you to the marriage, nor like one plucking brands from the burning! How often have I gone to your houses to try and win souls, and you have put me off with a little worldly talk. I dared not tell you that you were perishing. How often have I sat at some of your tables and yearned for your souls, yet a false shame kept me silent! How often have I gone home crying bitterly, 'Free me from blood-guiltiness, O God!'


All of the above is a quote from And Some Evangelists by Roger Carswell, p 49.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

God and the gangs

Was doing my 'What's in the news trawl and found this on the Times website. I met Patrick at a conference a couple of months ago and he is refreshingly real. One of the quotes that struck me from this video which Ruth Gledhill has made is Patrick saying "...see where the need is and make yourself available...'

Monday, January 07, 2008

No-go zones

Here is the article in the Telegraph that has got the Bishop of Rochester into the News about Muslims and the related 'Leader'.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Reading the bible



Following my sermon today, I promised I would put some helpful books on the blog. If you are up for it, the best way to read the bible is to read it all the way through. Robert Murray McCheyne has the best 4 chapter reading method I know and Don Carson has done a great book to help you use it called 'For the love of God'. I can't commend this highly enough. If you are just in the place where you want to ask questions and have more of an overview then 'The Purpose Driven Life' is excellent and life-changing. If you just want a verse a day and some real wisdom then My utmost for his highest is the a classic. Blessing comes through the word and reading it prayerfully will release God's plan's and purposes for you like nothing else.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Fatherhood and the shark

Driving from Norfolk yesterday. I listened to 'Off the Page' which was on the subject of fatherhood. John Simpson became a father at the age of 61 and he and other discuss various issues. Interesting stuff. Also, I saw this photo of a shark today which is extraordinary..

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Hearing the Nightingale

Yesterday, I went on a long walk with my sister and her friend John. John is a birdwatcher and has lots to share on this pastime that, I admit, I have failed to date to truly comprehend. Half way through our journey, we got to a place in some woods that I have walked many times before. John stopped us both and told us that where we were standing was a world famous place that people come to hear Nightingales sing. On a summers evening, around dusk, the air is apparently thick with the most beautiful and transfixing song.

I have walked that wooded lane many times before and, I now know, I have done so in utter ignorance. It wasn't that the birds were not singing, nor that I was unable to hear them. Quite simply, I just wasn't listening or maybe, to put it better, I didn't know what I ought to be listening for . A phrase Jesus said often, that was his prayer for each of us, is that we would have 'ears to hear'. I think I now understand a little more of what he means thanks to John and his birdwatching.

Someone asked me recently, what does a Vicar do. Perhaps we just point people to the one singing that they have failed to notice is there. 'Flowers appear on the earth , the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land. The fig tree forms its early fruit; the blossoming vines spread their fragrance. Arise, come my darling; beautiful one, come with me' (Song of Songs 2:12-13)

Today is the New Year. I have started my Christmas present from my Vicar which was a years of daily reading by Henri Nouwen called Bread for the Journey. The reading for Jan 1st starts 'Each day holds a surprise' If yesterday's was a Nightingale, I wonder what todays will be?