Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Left or right?


Spending some time with my sister who is cramming for her psychology OU degree exams. She showed me this little test on left vs right brains. It's fascinating-give it a go-HERE

Monday, April 28, 2008

Grace is sufficient

Trevor preached a great sermon on suffering at the weekend. You should listen to it if you can. However, if at the end you remain unconvinced or don't have time then please watch this story. There are proclamations of the good news and there are people who have lived out good news in remarkable ways. Please let this man convince you of the love and power and grace of Jesus Christ. His story is inspiring- HERE

King McGrath

News of changes for Alister McGrath- HERE

Seven ways to change the world


I can't go but if you get the chance do go and listen to Jim Wallis. He is speaking at the LICC on 29th May in the evening. I heard him speak at New Wine about 4 years ago and he was astounding. He is a prophetic voice for our times and has much to say that makes sense and warms and challenges the heart. Details- HERE

Where did evil come from?

This is a great clip that as Erik notes you are going to want to catch the end. Clever Stamford professor loses the argument methinks? Watch HERE

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Jesus Brand Spirituality

Here is Ken's book Jesus brand spirituality which I have read during Refresh. This is his thesis. A lot of people rejected liturgy and contemplative prayer because they associated it with dead religious church. This is something that post-modern culture can and should regain. He practices 'daily prayer' as a Vineyard pastor and for the first time ever it felt cool to be an Anglican! I enjoyed this book and it challenged me in all sorts of ways. Meeting and listening to Ken revealed him as a man who has run the race, understands grace, extends it to others, hears God's voice and prays. Do listen to the talks when they are uploaded if you get the chance. Also listen to John Peters talks-HERE

Link-age

Here are some links for the week:

Making vision stick-HERE

Bible geography-HERE

An N T Wright interview- HERE

One of the most watched videos on You Tube-HERE

What to do before you preach-HERE

The Missional Triad-HERE

Ed Stetzer interviews Keller-HERE

C of E ruins-HERE

C J Mahaney resources-HERE

Bryan Regan on Flying (v.funny)-HERE

What sort of leader are you?

What type of leader you are can fall into five categories according to Ken Wilson one of the speakers at Refresh and Pastor of the Ann Arbour Vineyard.

1. Expert

This was the Vicar model of 100 years ago. He was the only person with a library. Doesn't work any more. One click on Wikipedia and people are now where you are. The fact is there are smarter people in your churches with more access to information and who are better organized.

2. Executive

Wesley would be an example here. This is the business as church model

3. Entertainer

This is the person who can draw the crowd. The 'sticky' person

Post-modernity he contends=deconstruction

He counters these three models by saying there are really only 2 models in the NT

A. The Servant

Who shows up first and leaves last?

Who embraces downward mobility?

Who cares for others?

Leaders are willing to face weakness with transparency

B The Witness

Acts 4 shows the difference between institutional religion and power (sadduces, priests, temple guards and the disciples. How do you know the difference?

vs 13....'took note that these men had been with Jesus'

The conclusion is that he offered was the greatest need of the leader is the steady development of a life of prayer

Most leaders will admit to almost universal inadequacy here.

My next post tells how he learnt how to change this in his own life and in his church.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Why blog?

I have to confess that I enjoy blogging. Some may not and of course I understand that.

I have always loved discovering new things-books, music, interesting ideas and things that make me think and laugh. I have two places that I store such things. One is in my journal which I suppose is internal, the other is on my blog-the external. Sometimes, the simple process of writing something down seems to bring together an idea, a passion, a prayer or a fresh resource. More often though, for me, it is the means to share a discovery with others who may or may not be interested.

I also acknowledge that I have the gift of time. Most of my friends are so knee deep in child-care that this leaves little or no time for anything. A blog- am I mad?

But here is a request-START A BLOG IF YOU CAN- particularly if you are an English Pastor. To encourage you, I will read it even if no one else does. If anyone starts one I would be interested in what you are reading, what God is challenging you with, what Conference you have been to or church you have visited, what things you are discovering and learning and the ideas that are making you and shaping you to be more effective for the gospel.

I am an evangelist- so it's no surprise that I am an evangelist about this too!

Here is how to start one-HERE

If you do-please tell me

If you need some advice on how to get started there is an excellent post from a passionate blogger Abraham Piper on what he thinks it is all about and 12 ways you can improve things- HERE

Public intellectuals

In this months Prospect there is a list of the most influential 'Public intellectuals' in the world today. It struck me that there is no theologian (bar the Pope) in the list which either means they forgot them or more likely they are not of very much interest or influence globally. One might possibly have included Rowan Williams, N T Wright or Alister McGrath on the list or are they intellectual but not 'public' enough to be included? Maybe it's just no one voted for them. You still have the chance if you so desire.

Anyway,check out who the clever people are who influence the world HERE

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A bit of a softy

I caught this on Saturday night and it seemed to be a story of hope, redemption, new life with this women's loss and dreams all being combined. Call me an old softy, and you can always trust a celebrity panel to milk the moment, but it is quite moving. Happily, you can rely on Simon Cowell to bring a bit of a dose of reality.

Anyway enjoy!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Piper wisdom

This is some great stuff from Mars Hill. The Q&A for pastors with Matt Chandler and John Piper is excellent. Matt Chandler said one line that stuck with me. ....'It's not about relevance it's about obedience'...

Watch it HERE.

Also, the latest from Keller- HERE

Men's Breakfast


Here is our sophisticated advertising material that Pete produced for our breakfast next Saturday....8.30am @ Holy Trinity Richmond

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Why people might want to change church

A friend of mine told me that they had decided to change churches. I spent quite some time listening to the story they told and here are some thoughts on how one would think of church on the basis of this person's experience. Sometimes, one person's story triggers some realities that you have already known. The story just put a voice to them.

1. It's about pastoring not about programmes

The purpose of the church is for us be to transformed into the likeness of Jesus. How does that happen? The contemporary answer is to put on a good and professional show. Nice surroundings, good PA, efficient staff, lively worship, good coffee and a good message But that can leave people empty if they don't have an empathy and genuine connection with their believing community. Perhaps, often unknowingly, the church can use its people to fulfill its mission when really the truth is the people are the mission. As Willard perceptively says "We should spend less time trying to get people into heaven and more time trying to get heaven into people"

2. It's about the gospel not about "good"ness"

The church can quickly become Galatian. What do I mean? Well, Paul wrote one of his strongest sentences to the Galatian church saying how amazed he was that they had deserted the gospel. Christian's will so easily and quickly stop hearing grace and start hearing obligation, performance, effort and self-justification. Pastors inevitably want to move their people on, do the mission, fight the battles and unknowingly their people forget the grace of God. This leads to legalism, failure, unworthiness, comparison and death. I've lived in Galatia and it's rubbish. The solution? Well- preach the gospel- over and over and over again. My friend left their church because they found themselves living in Galatia.

3. It's about passion for people and not about their performance

I am increasingly convinced that numerical growth is an incredibly poor measure of spiritual depth. Willow Creek have realized this in their 'Reveal' survey. Yet, because leaders use numbers as a measure of effectiveness this can easily trump the priority of people. Pastors must LOVE their churches and it's hard to love people when you don't know their marriage is struggling, that they are depressed, that their husband is going through a troubled time at work. Love knows the story. The truth is that if to love people is to know them well then churches can't be that big. Maybe we should be aiming as Chuck Colson commented for churches of depth and not width.

I am reading my way through a small pile of books on this: Why we are not emergent, Transforming discipleship, The Wisdom of each other and a few others.

I will post some more thoughts over the coming weeks.

Saturday link-age

Here are the things that have caught my eye this week

Why being Anglican in the future will be black- HERE

Great post by Bill on Christian bookshops- HERE

A site called Dear God where people just post their prayers-HERE

Wristband evangelism with the 4POINTS (which according to the site are God loves me- I have sinned-Jesus loves me-You decide) -HERE

Driscol on the Cross to Scottish preachers and an intro to church planting- HERE

The Great Giveaway book review- HERE

Why teenagers should do hard things- HERE

A good American comedian who made me chuckle- HERE

Libby Purves on drugs- HERE

Does life begin at conception? The presidential candidates answers- HERE

Modern parables resource- HERE

Tim on liquorice- HERE

Protection rackets questions- HERE

We are together

Some time ago now I went to see this film. It's basically about orphans and Aids and is very moving. The meeting of two worlds that you will see is interesting and certainly I found it slightly disturbing. See what you think and well-worth taking the time to watch

You can watch it on-line HERE

Friday, April 18, 2008

Billy Collins

Steve McCoy has been focussed on poetry for the last few weeks. This is my favorite - the poetry of Billy Collins. Enjoy.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Music for when you need a song

Sometimes you just need a song. A song that is food for the soul and there is none better than the folk of Kate Rusby. Just love her. If you are having one of those times may this bless you. Close your eyes and , as someone once said, " Pray as you can not as you can't "



J Hunter-Dunn



I have always been fan of the poetry of Betjemen. In fact, I met the Archbishop of Canterbury at an event celebrating his 100th anniversary. But that is a whole other story. If you want to get into Betjemen then I commend this collection called the Faith and Doubt of John Betjemen to you particularly if you are an Anglican..

Joan Hunter Dunn died yesterday aged 92 and here is the poem Betjemen wrote for her. Masterful stuff.

A Subaltern's Love Song

Miss J. Hunter Dunn, Miss J. Hunter Dunn,
Furnish'd and burnish'd by Aldershot sun,
What strenuous singles we played after tea,
We in the tournament - you against me!

Love-thirty, love-forty, oh! weakness of joy,
The speed of a swallow, the grace of a boy,
With carefullest carelessness, gaily you won,
I am weak from your loveliness, Joan Hunter Dunn.

Miss Joan Hunter Dunn, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn,
How mad I am, sad I am, glad that you won,
The warm-handled racket is back in its press,
But my shock-headed victor, she loves me no less.

Her father's euonymus shines as we walk,
And swing past the summer-house, buried in talk,
And cool the verandah that welcomes us in
To the six-o'clock news and a lime-juice and gin.

The scent of the conifers, sound of the bath,
The view from my bedroom of moss-dappled path,
As I struggle with double-end evening tie,
For we dance at the Golf Club, my victor and I.

On the floor of her bedroom lie blazer and shorts,
And the cream-coloured walls are be-trophied with sports,
And westering, questioning settles the sun,
On your low-leaded window, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn.

The Hillman is waiting, the light's in the hall,
The pictures of Egypt are bright on the wall,
My sweet, I am standing beside the oak stair
And there on the landing's the light on your hair.

By roads "not adopted", by woodlanded ways,
She drove to the club in the late summer haze,
Into nine-o'clock Camberley, heavy with bells
And mushroomy, pine-woody, evergreen smells.

Miss Joan Hunter Dunn, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn,
I can hear from the car park the dance has begun,
Oh! Surrey twilight! importunate band!
Oh! strongly adorable tennis-girl's hand!

Around us are Rovers and Austins afar,
Above us the intimate roof of the car,
And here on my right is the girl of my choice,
With the tilt of her nose and the chime of her voice.

And the scent of her wrap, and the words never said,
And the ominous, ominous dancing ahead.
We sat in the car park till twenty to one
And now I'm engaged to Miss Joan Hunter Dunn.

-- John Betjeman

The Leadership Community

It seems to be a week for getting leaders emails. One of the best things I have ever done was a course called 'The Undefended Leader' run by Simon Walker who runs 'The Leadership Community'.

Here are his thoughts.

"Simon Says



People rarely remember what you say, they sometimes remember what you do, but they always remember how they felt’.



Why does that observation ring so true? After all, when you think it about, it seems a bit absurd. We speak to convey our meaning; it’s our words that communicate surely? What is it then, that makes our words so ineffective, so unmemorable? Why are our precious insights so easily discarded by those we share them with?



One of the reasons is that studies suggest, when we listen, we filter what we hear and eliminate what does not fit with our existing frame of reference. It’s one of the ways we cope with the sheer complexity of the world, the amount of data we are bombarded with. In short, people don’t hear what we say, they hear what they expect us to say. Our valuable observation may simply be overlooked because of this cognitive blind spot.



But, perhaps even more important, is the fact that it is our emotional and not cognitive memory that really makes the deepest and most lasting etches of our experiences. On the Undefended Leader course we look at the way the brain processes experiences; cognitive experience is retained in the hippocampus and emotional experience in the amygdala (or the hippopotamus and the anyglypta as someone on a course renamed them recently). The memory trace in the hippocampus, which retains the story, the narrative, the meaning of the event, is quite readily lost- it erodes quickly. On the other hand, the emotion, the feelings and sensations we experienced, are retained in the amygdale and stored away as a deep memory.



‘People rarely remember what you say, they sometimes remember what you do, but they always remember how they felt’.



We put a lot of energy into communicating to people what we mean; but ought we to be as dedicated to how we are making people feel?



The messaging signals here will be to do with the following: whether we smile or not, our tone of voice; our body language, how interested we are in them, our ability and willingness to empathise with their feelings, frustrations, fears, our compassion, patience, kindness. Of course, equally, people will long remember the hostile signals we may also give off; dismissiveness, impatience, aggression, frustration, insubordination and so on.



Apparently how we say things, is as important as what we say; style matters as much as substance.



As you reflect on the week that’s past ask yourself these three questions:



· How have I made the people I have dealt with this week feel?

· Is there anything I can do now to make them feel more positive (send a supportive email, make a quick phone call, get a colleague a coffee, remember a birthday).

· Are there meetings coming up next week that I need to think about now so that those I meet with will come away feeling supported?



Final thought: If my emotional behaviour is mere facade, performance, and does not come from a genuine place of generosity, it will quickly ring hollow like a clanging bell."

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Facing crisis

Today I was sent this on J.John's weekly email which I share as encouragement:

"Pastor Andrew Murray of South Africa once faced a particularly bad crisis. Taking himself off to his study, he sat quietly for a very long while; prayerfully and thoughtfully. Then he wrote this in his journal:



1. I am here by God's appointment; in that fact I will rest.



2. He will keep me here in His love and give me grace to behave as His child.



3. He will teach me the lessons He intends me to learn.



4. In His good time He can bring me out again.



God promised us two things about tough times:



1. No crisis is ever more than what we can deal with (1 Corinthians 10:13).



2. No situation is ever so bad that good can't come out of it (Romans 8:28).



Emerson once wrote: "We learn geology the morning after the earthquake".



When you personally next face a time of crisis, remember that God is JEHOVAH SHAMMAH - the Ever-Present One (Ezekiel 48:35)."

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Wise saying....

"People who say they sleep like a baby usually don't have one" Leo J Burke

Weighing and pondering


Last night I was gathered with some of my fellow Curates to discuss what it means to become a Priest in the Church of England. It was an interesting night. I decided that on this one it was prudent to listen long and speak short so that's what I thankfully managed to do (for about 40 minutes...). Helpfully, our gifted and gracious leader had prepared some of the key points from the Ordinal to facilitate our discussion.

What struck me was there was much talk of the 'role' and plenty of people used imagery of shepherds and the like. There was during all the early chat little mention of the Scriptures and the focus was much more on what it meant 'to us'. Some mentioned the issue of proclaiming absolution, some mentioned the 'us' to 'you' of the blessing and for those who were more Catholic the primary implication and change enacted by Priesting will be to minister the Eucharist. This is of course true for me too but we possibly have differing theological perspectives on what the Lord's Supper means.

After 40 minutes I felt rather like dear Brock, who I used to study with at Oxford, who would often pipe up in lectures with his stock phrase "I'm having a really hard time" and then he would tell us all why. Now, I had understood very little of what people had been talking about for it was not at all the experience of my own calling and mission and the purpose of leadership and discipleship as I read it in Scriptures. I wondered then how they would explain 'Priesting' to my friends who are not yet Christians. You see my friends have already come to my Ordination, seen me dressed up in my ridiculous Robes and wearing a dog-collar and have been calling me 'Rev' for the last nine months. I'm already a priest or Vicar or whatever else they think I am.

So I asked my question.

"When I ask my friends to my second Ordination how would you explain it to them and how do I explain what is happening?"

Immediately our leader came out with a rather lengthy sentence heaped with religious vernacular (it was really quite a good answer by the way) and then, pausing, said "No, well... I suppose that is a bit technical and religious" (or words in that vain).

There was then silence.

No one seemed able to explain to my friends who do not yet know Christ the purpose of Ordination to the Priesthood in a way that they could easily understand and in language they might be able to access. Not a little bit. Actually, in this instance not at all.

If we can't explain who we are and what we do no wonder nobody is coming.

This then is the challenge.

Now, having read the BCP Ordinal, I realize Thomas Cranmer is more than up for it and so am I. One of my life verses and the one that I has helped me understand my own calling and helped explain it to others is, as it so happens, the one Cranmer chooses for the Ordering of Priests. Do you know we may be on to something here....

For any who are considering becoming Priests, one phrase in particular struck me (by phrase I actually mean a very very long sentence).

We have good hope that you have well weighed and pondered these things with yourselves long before this time, and that you may clearly have determined, by God's grace, to give yourself wholly to this office, where upon it hath pleased God to call you:...

More thoughts on 'Priesting' will follow.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Thinking about becoming a Roman Catholic?

I have enjoyed reading a blog written by a now ex-Wycliffe student Erik who I studied with. Now Wycliffe Hall Oxford has a reputation for many things but preparing students for the Catholic priesthood is not one of them. Well, until now, that is. In fact two of my former student colleagues are now on their way to Rome. Yes, this is really true.

Catholicism comes with lots of questions for me. What about transubstantiation? What about Mary? What about contraception? What about women in leadership? What about the theology of Priesthood? What about Confession? What about Pergatory? I could go on. These are questions that Erik has grappled with in enormous detail and he is quite some thinker, reader and writer. This is rigorous and thoughtful stuff.

So, if you want to go on one man's journey from Wycliffe to the Catholic Church then do explore his blog called Of Priests and Paramedics.

He is currently addressing the vexed question of Catholicism and sex!

Charlton Heston on God

It is interesting to note that once Moses climbs Mt. Sinai and talks to God there is never contentment for him again. That is the way it is with us. Once we talk to God, once we get his commission to us for our lives we cannot be again content. We are happier. We are busier. But we are not content because then we have a mission -- a commission, rather." --Charlton Heston, on how his life was influenced by playing Moses in "The Ten Commandments."

...from an interview given to the L.A times in 1956. See full article HERE

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Did Jesus ever laugh?

I like to laugh. Very often the question is asked about whether or not God ever laughs. Here is an interesting answer written by R C Sproul- click HERE

TDK



The other day I spotted an old poster advertising 'TDK'. Now, you need to be a certain age to know what that means. When I was a lad, Sunday evenings would be spent recording the charts onto a TDK cassette from the radio. The quality of your stereo was indicated by the smoothness of the way your cassette ejected (I am unsure if this bore any relation to the quality of the sound!)

Why am I telling you this? Well, today the cassette is almost all but completely redundant ( ironically the only remaining remnant is the use of tapes for church sermons) and to still be using one is to be completely out of step with the way contemporary culture operates. Music is good, recording is still good but the means by which we are listening has changed.

I have been exploring the emerging church and what I think about it (Anglican's call this 'Fresh expressions'). I have been doing this for a couple of years. To what extent is the church giving people its gospel message on a TDK cassette when the rest of culture is transmitting on MP3? Of course, I know it is more complex than this, hence all my explorations, but it is just a thought. It is all about contextualization and here is a though-provoking piece I read recently that puts more flesh in my TDK bones- click HERE to read more.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Saturday Link-age

Here are some posts and links that caught my eye:

A great book called 'After the baby-boomers' by Robert Wuthnow has just come out and if you don't have time to read it but want to know what it's message is this is well-worth spending some time on- click HERE

John Piper on C S Lewis and Pastor's and writing- click HERE

Some questions Church leaders should be asking- click HERE

Some more questions for leaders called 'Satan vs Leaders'- Click HERE

'Shout for the Lord' on American Idol- Click HERE

The Vatican announces some more sins-click HERE

Why are there so many less Anglican churches. Here is the list- click HERE

12 Challenges Churches face-click HERE

Why I hate Religion

Mark Driscol on the difference between the gospel and religion....

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

In need of refreshing?


One of the events that helped me survive studying theology was my annual visit to Refresh at St Mary's. They have an annual leadership conference in London which is a time of teaching, fellowship and the opportunity to receive prayer. I have loved being able to go and just be blessed and strengthened by this wonderful church's passion and ministry.

So, if you need some refreshing then this is an oasis worth knowing about.

May see you there.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Keller @ Northwestern

Five minutes of Keller gems.....

Sobriety


The noise in my head was deafening, and drinking was in my thoughts all the time. It shocked me to realize that here I was in a treatment center, a supposedly safe environment, and I was in serious danger. I was absolutely terrified, in complete despair. At that moment, almost of their own accord, my legs gave way and I fell to my knees. In the privacy of my room, I begged for help. I had no notion who I thought I was talking to, I just knew that I had come to the end of my tether, I had nothing left to fight with. Then I remembered what I had heard about surrender, something I thought I could never do, my pride just wouldn’t allow it, but I knew that on my own I wasn’t going to make it, so I asked for help, and, getting down on my knees, I surrendered. Within a few days I realized that something had happened for me. An atheist would probably say it was just a change of attitude, and to a certain extent that’s true, but there was much more to it than that. I had found a place to turn to, a place I’d always known was there but never really wanted, or needed, to believe in. From that day until this, I have never failed to pray in the morning, on my knees, asking for help, and at night, to express gratitude for my life and, most of all, for my sobriety. I choose to kneel because I feel I need to humble myself when I pray, and with my ego, this is the most I can do. If you are asking why I do all this, I will tell you…because it works, as simple as that. In all this time that I’ve been sober, I have never once seriously thought of taking a drink or a drug. I have no problem with religion, and I grew up with a strong curiosity about spiritual matters, but my searching took me away from church and community worship to the internal journey. Before my recovery began, I found my God in music and the arts, with writers like Hermann Hesse, and musicians like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Little Walter. In some way, in some form, my God was always there, but now I have learned to talk to him. --Eric Clapton on his 20 year sobriety in Clapton: The Autobiography

Monday, April 07, 2008

Discernment

Paul warns elders not to teach 'what itching ears' desire to hear. It is an easy thing to do.

My essay for potty training (post-ordination training) is called 'What are you doing when you preach? I have been lead to 1 Thes 1 as a good biblical starting point. There seem to be three necessities.

1. To call people to a knowledge of God,
2. To call them to the acknowledgment of sin and to repentance
3. To call them to the the reality of Jesus.

It would be easy to have a gospel that went from 1 straight to 3 bypassing that nasty word sin and the need for repentance. It would be pretty attractive and if it caught on may very well fill a stadium (see Osteen's extraordinary stadium in the clip below).

Only this morning one of my readings was Acts 14 where we read in vs 14

'We must go through many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God'

Have a look at Mark Driscoll's ( of Mars Hill and Acts 29) critique of a chap called Joel Osteen. Osteen is currently the best-selling Christian author in the US and is a staple on Christian TV with his theology of happiness.

If you want to check out Driscoll (who is a pal of Keller and a great communicator/preacher) then check both out HERE

Now watch this....

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Transformation

'(Biblical) salvation lies not in an escape from this world but in the transformation of this world....You will not find hope for the world in any of the religious systems or philosophies of humankind.....The biblical vision is unique. That is why when some say there is salvation in other faiths too, I ask them-"What salvation are you talking about?" No faith holds out a promise of eternal salvation for the world-the ordinary world- that the cross and resurrection of Jesus do'

Vinoth Ramachandra in 'The Reason for God' Page 224

For a great Tim Keller interview about the Reason for God look HERE

Friday, April 04, 2008

Saturday link-age

Here are some posts and links that caught my eye.

How much Obama gives away HERE

Free G K Chesterton audio book HERE

Matt Redman on worship HERE

Jonathan Edwards on 'How do I know if I am a real Christian' HERE

Why worship matters HERE

D A Carson's sermon's collected from around the web HERE

Chasing Cool- a review HERE

Christianity Today review of a Reason for God by Keller HERE

And a cool Saturday song (but not if you are a tee-total Baptist)......

Maps of Wars

Does not reflect the expansion of Christianity in China and India but interesting stuff.

How to read the bible the bread roll way

The other day we were discussing reading the Hebrew scriptures and Kate proposed a test that I share with you.

She said that when she was at theological college 10 years ago she had a Professor who would randomly look at people's bibles. He would turn them spine down and from this he could tell what had been read and what had been missed. The norm was to find gospels were darkest, then the rest of the NT, a bit of blackening on the Psalms and then the rest well........like new.

Give it a go.

Now, I have been continuing my journey through Judges. My latest reflection is on the story of Gideon. This will be familiar to some as the man with the fleece and low levels of leadership confidence. Perhaps you have been encouraged in the past by God's ability to use the weak and seemingly unsuitable. Perhaps, too, you have sought Gideon in a time of needing courage or guidance. All good things to do. But have you ever had a dream about a destructive bread roll? (Jdgs 7:13).

Actually, that is not the main thing that struck me. On this reading, I have noticed something that I have not done before. The little passage in Judges 8:22-28 about the Ephod.

God has amazingly strengthened Gideon for his task (...go in the strength that you have...6;14) and victory comes against the Midianites. Then he takes on the Ishmaelites and as his prize gets some plunder- a pile of gold earrings (8:25).

What does he do with them?

Well, he melts them down, makes a statue and all Israel worship it.

Has he learnt nothing?

Gideon seems to have the same heart as me. The same in fact as all of us.

The capacity to serve God, win spiritual victories, show faith, dream about bread rolls and then let the whole thing go to a ball of chalk in a moment.

Will God be ticked?

Well, surprisingly grace and peace abounds for 40 years. (vs 28)

I am going to do some more thinking on this little incident. We all should.

If you have questions about how you interpret the bible then I found this stimulating. It's called-The most destructive question you can ask of the bible. "What doe this mean to you?"

Evangelism


Here are a couple of good books on evangelism. Yesterday , we did 'How and why should I tell others' with my great Alpha group and in preparation I read 'The gospel and personal evangelism' by Mark Dever which is only 117 pages and you can read in an hour. It was given to me by someone in our church as something she thought I should read and I agree it is well-worth making the effort. No time for a detailed review but here is Joe Thorn's summary of the first chapter.I have also read recently Questioning evangelism by Randy Newman which explores how Jesus discussed and dialogued things with people.

Studio 60

At college a tribe of us were West Wing fans. For the uninitiated, this was an amazing series written by Aaron Sorkin and is some of the best TV drama of recent years. Sorkin's writing is clever, political, thoughtful, funny and heart-warming.

Studio 60 is a fictional portrayal of what happens behind the scenes at 'Saturday night live', America's longest running topical sketch show. There is lots to enjoy here. The character of Harriet Hayes is particularly fascinating as she represents the face of reasonable and rational Christianity. She is constantly pitted against both her employers (the liberal left) and the the religious (the fundamental right). She is a breath of fresh air and makes up part of a wonderful set of characters.

For thoughtful and entertaining TV this is difficult to beat.

Come on the BBC- you need to try harder if this is what you are up against.

Sadly NBC have not renewed it as it was thought too sophisticated for the mass-market.

That's a shame.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Mega-church

If you watch this and think "What's so funny?" then you may need to spend some time with Eugene Peterson.



Here is what I prescribe:

Working the Angles

Once read and digested any desires for a mega-church should, with time and prayer, subside. If not, then read the Contemplative Pastor. Should it be a really serious case of mega-churchitis then, as a last resort, take some time Under an unpredicatable plant.

You should by then be almost fully recovered.

Peterson's advice is never to Pastor a church bigger than the names you can remember.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

"A bit Radio 2"

Last Sunday I suggested a new song to Trevor which he liked and included on Sunday evening. It was called Giving it all by Michael Gungor (recommended by Si who leads worship in my old church). Now Trevor and I are not as young as we used to be and our service is best described as 'Evensong for the younger person', so at the end of the service I consulted Gen and Adam for an opinion on the new tune which I thought had tripped along rather well.

"A bit Radio 2" came back the answer.

Well there you go.

In contrast, here's our current Sunday evening post-service clearing away the chairs and sound music that Toby our worship intern has us listening to very loudly. The Desperation Band. Granted it is a little more up tempo.

I wonder what Isaac Watts would make of it?

How to read the bible the Ehud way

How are we supposed to read the bible?

I start each day reading the Scriptures and am now in the habit of the McCheyne bible reading method of four chapters a day. Currently, one of my journeys is through the book of Judges which is always a lively adventure.

Sometimes I just read the story. That is, I think, a fine and necessary thing to do. However, the other morning I came across the account of Ehud (Judges 3:12-27) and ended the chapter thinking this.

"What on earth is all that about?"

Then I moved rapidly on. At the end of my 4 readings I then felt prompted and indeed compelled to go back to Ehud and revisit his story.

This is what I did.

I prayed.

Then I took my journal and read each verse slowly and pondered its meaning. And here I mean REALLY read (excepting that to really really do this it would be in Hebrew which is beyond me). I looked at each word and lingered on the detail- names, places, unusual phrases and the things that struck me.

I then numbered my points so that I had a skeleton of the plot. Here are my journal notes.

1. Repeated evil

2. Loss of power (18 years)

3. Crying out

4. A deliverer provided

5. The deliverer is left-handed

6. A hidden double-edged sword

7. 'secret message' for the King

8. King alone in summer palace

9. Sword ...plunged into the King's belly

10. Fat envelopes the sword

11 Servant thinks King 'relieving' himself

12. Ehud escapes

13 Trumpet

14 Strikes down Moabites

15 Israelites rule for 80 years

Now one could conclude the following:

God doesn't like fat people and on-balance prefers left-handers with swords. Given that I am left-handed and although not in prime shape I am probably not as hefty as the King of Eglon so I will probably be cut some slack.

So, all in all, I win.

That'll be it then.

As I began to think more and set this narrative in the plot line of the bible and in the context of what other things I know about God I noticed some things:

A. About history

B. About authority

C. About land and covenantal promises

D. About obedience

E. About prayer

F About the detail ('Left-handed)'

I then spent a little more time imagining preaching Christ from a starting point of Judges 3.

It struck me that we can all have a go at this.

I didn't pull huge commentaries of my bookshelves, I just cleared a bit of space and lingered a while with the story and its detail.

I then set it in the light of Jesus.

I think I will probably be doing more of this.

In fact, I am currently reflecting on a dream about a bread roll rolling down a hill......

The Atonement on ER

Having joined the Anglican Church as a potential member of the clergy I went to Oxford where a whole new theological language revealed itself to me. I was, when I arrived, 'a Christian' which I was soon to learn can mean a host of different things to different people (particularly the clever people). When I then arrived in Richmond I was advised that my deanery was ...'largely liberal Catholic.....' and I think it was assumed that I knew what that meant. Now, of course, after Oxford, I sort of know but then I asked "Really do I?" Since then, I have been quietly reading and exploring why it is that when you/ I say you/I believe in the atonement, the bible, the gifts of the spirit, conversion, mission and many other seemingly orthodox things people who should share this belief sometimes don't. I have found 'A generous orthodoxy' very helpful in giving me insight in to this together with Streams of Living Water by Richard Foster.

I think most people want to know what a Christian believes and what the bible says. They may not agree with it or it may grate with their post-modern sensibilities, but if those tasked with communicating the biblical reality of the gospel try to soft soap the message to make it cuddly and nice then this can, and sometimes will, end up not being very cuddly and nice and loving at all.

I love this quote from a recent episode of ER which illustrates this problem so well.

"I want a real chaplain who believes in a real God and a real hell! ....I need answers!!”

Want some answers? Read the chapter in Tim Keller's 'The Reason for God" called "How can a loving God send People to Hell"

Now watch this.....