Thursday, July 24, 2008

Tents


Off to New Wine so the blog will be silent for a while

Beer


Often, after our evening service, we migrate to a local pub. Usually there are about 10 of us and we observe our ritual of buying a drink, debating what flavour of crisps we should have and hoping that our 'usual' long table is free (we are C of E so we like a bit of ritual). Not long ago, I was in this same pub with two friends who are both Vicars and we struck up a conversation with the manager while ordering our food. The look of horror when she discovered what we did will stay with me for some time and it was quickly followed by the adamant statement that she's not 'religious'. "Nor am I" I replied. We learnt that she is getting married in a few weeks and by the end of the night she had, I hope, warmed to the Christian aliens in her midst.

This week I saw her again. She said enthusiastically that she had been telling everyone about the three vicars in her pub. I had brought with me a copy of the Marriage Book to give her because she had had no marriage preparation. She received this with enthusiasm. I have no idea if she will ever engage with Jesus but I hope in some way she has already started to (if Col 2:8-9 be true) and that if we spent a little more time in pubs speaking of Jesus, rather than in a church buildings being religious, we might see more of the work of grace in these days.

Reggie McNeal really impacted me with his thoughts along this line (worth 44 minutes of your time and the last 15 is profound) and I am trying to live out some of the things that landed on my heart.

Jesus seemed to like this as a plan to get among things more and this post agrees with me too.



Dan Kimball has some similarly interesting perspectives in his new DVD 'They like Jesus but they don't like the Church'

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

John 4:.... to be known

Knowing God's Word

Excellent exhortation here from Bishop J.C. Ryle, over a century ago:

You live in a world where your soul is in constant danger. Enemies are round you on every side. Your own heart is deceitful. Bad examples are numerous. Satan is always laboring to lead you astray. Above all false doctrine and false teachers of every kind abound. This is your great danger.

To be safe you must be well armed. You must provide yourself with the weapons which God has given you for your help. You must store your mind with Holy Scripture. This is to be well armed.

Arm yourself with a thorough knowledge of the written word of God. Read your Bible regularly. Become familiar with your Bible. . . . Neglect your Bible and nothing that I know of can prevent you from error if a plausible advocate of false teaching shall happen to meet you. Make it a rule to believe nothing except it can be proved from Scripture. The Bible alone is infallible. . . . Do you really use your Bible as much as you ought?

There are many today, who believe the Bible, yet read it very little. Does your conscience tell you that you are one of these persons?

If so, you are the man that is likely to get little help from the Bible in time of need. Trial is a sifting experience. . . . Your store of Bible consolations may one day run very low.

If so, you are the man that is unlikely to become established in the truth. I shall not be surprised to hear that you are troubled with doubts and questions about assurance, grace, faith, perseverance, etc. The devil is an old and cunning enemy. He can quote Scripture readily enough when he pleases. Now you are not sufficiently ready with your weapons to fight a good fight with him. . . . Your sword is held loosely in your hand.

If so, you are the man that is likely to make mistakes in life. I shall not wonder if I am told that you have problems in your marriage, problems with your children, problems about the conduct of your family and about the company you keep. The world you steer through is full of rocks, shoals and sandbanks. You are not sufficiently familiar either with lighthouses or charts.

If so, you are the man who is likely to be carried away by some false teacher for a time. It will not surprise me if I hear that one of these clever eloquent men who can make a convincing presentation is leading you into error. You are in need of ballast (truth); no wonder if you are tossed to and fro like a cork on the waves.

All these are uncomfortable situations. I want you to escape them all. Take the advice I offer you today. Do not merely read your Bible a little—but read it a great deal. . . . Remember your many enemies. Be armed!
Cited in J. I. Packer, 18 Words: The Most Important Words You Will Ever Know, pp. 40-41

(H/T J Taylor)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Signs

I am having a summer sort out in my study and around the house. On one of the many pieces of paper I have written down something Ravi Zacharias said in regard to guidance. He observed:

"You have all the signs you need"

Isn't this so often true?

Keller on Church Growth

Interesting article -HERE

Lambeth thoughts : facades


"If we once have the courage to give up our defense of the old facades which have nothing or very little behind them; if we cease to maintain, in public, the pretense of a universal Christendom; if we stop straining every nerve to get everybody baptized, to get everybody married in church and onto our registers (even when success means only, at bottom, a victory for tradition, custom and ancestry, not for true faith and interior conviction); if, by letting go, we visibly relieve Christianity of the burdensome impression that it accepts responsibility for everything that goes on under this Christian top-dressing, the impression that Christianity is a sort of Everyman's Religious Varnish, a folk-relgion (at the same level as that of folk-costumes)- then we can be free for real missionary adventure and apostolic self-confidence.....

Douglas John Hall quoted in The shaping of things to come, Page 13

Monday, July 21, 2008

How do you read the bible?


I have just finished Richard Foster's latest book Life with God on how to read the bible. This is a continuation of his other works, in that it covers his familiar terrain of spiritual disciplines. I enjoyed this and found the story of John Woolman particularly moving. Foster sees reading the bible not as a task, duty or source of guilt (as it is for so many-sadly particularly for evangelical Christians) but as a means of living the life of God. He sees the bible as a living work of grace and right reading as essential to the working of effective and productive grace in the Christian life. If you have questions about the bible, want to find more joy in reading it and want to enliven your disciplines and prayer life this is the book for you.

Talking of enjoying Life with God, Pete sent me an addition to the Izzard collection. Great stuff and the sort of thing they should be watching at Lambeth to keep them sane.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Where does altruism come from?


This is a picture of a Christian distribution and aid centre erected by a church after Katrina. Roy Hattersley is a confirmed atheist yet has a fascination with the Christian faith that has led him to produce two excellent books on Wesley and Booth. In this article in the Guardian, he asks what drives altruism and why it is that when disaster strikes atheists are often not driven to help? Is their something unique to faith that compels self-sacrifice for others at times like Katrina? How else can this be explained? Read his thoughts- HERE

Friday, July 18, 2008

Remembering



(H/T P and P)

A sweep of the blog-o-sphere

Here are some picks from things that are around

J I Packer's top 5 books- HERE

Top five romantic movies- HERE

Woody Allen and Billy Graham- HERE

Packer and Driscol and the Anglican Church- HERE

The excellent and growing Big 5 list -HERE

One weird Wimbledon photo -HERE

Good books on Finance -HERE

What is a healthy church member -HERE

Truly reformed -HERE

Mike Breem's top tip for Bill ( and those of us like him) -HERE

Walking the race


My retreat in the Lakes was refreshing and encouraging. Once a year seven of us go away for four days and walk and pray. Each person reports on their year and is then open to ANY questions about any area of their lives. I suppose, in the simplest terms we have a covenant of grace with each other to get us all to the end of the race still in marriages, in ministry, still active in church, in work and in kingdom life and using our gifts.

As ever this year we laughed a lot. Alan and his smart new metallic blue 'Safira' VXR was our transport and we were treated to the music of Steve Winwood and Lou Fellingham. The food highlight was in the Britannia. The steak and ale pie was a winner. There was some debate, as ever, about sandwiches and Mark our one conscientious objector refused pickle. There's always one. As always, Will's trail mix prompted some of us to pick out the wine gums and leave the nuts in the bag. Some minor aches and pains with Simon having to get up at 3am to get down the stairs in time for breakfast but otherwise fitness levels were impressive this year.

Personally, I feel renewed. The time in the 'hot-seat' is always good and challenging at the same time. The two most testing questions for me were "Where have you felt most pain?" and "Where have you failed?". I am still working through and thinking about these two questions. A recommendation from Simon for good questions to ask others was the Arrow mentoring email which you can sign up for HERE.. Andy works for Release International and told us of this story of a Nigerian Christian-HERE

I was also pointed to this little gem which is called Cake or Death and Darth Vader. I am sure I am the last to hear of this. How could I have ever missed this? Enjoy!



Driscol in the UK

The talks from Driscol's trip are now available HERE, with more to come. The interviews are great and he speaks about his views on the Charismatic movement and his own experience of prophecy. The Dwell London conference was helpful in some areas and his talks particularly are worth listening to.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Walk and pray



Off on my annual retreat to the Lakes with some saints. Hopefully no blisters as we walk, talk and pray.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Kim Walker

This has been my worship album of the last couple of months. She is called Kim Walker and her album is called 'Here is my song'. She's a worshipper as you will see and boy can sing ....However, I suspect she may not be an Anglican

Friday, July 11, 2008

Learning and retreating

I met with my prayer quad last night. We have been gathering once every six weeks for nearly six or seven years and it is always a source of strength and encouragement to me. My new job of pastoring is too challenging to linger in discouragement and dishonesty for too long, so I value these friends who manage to be both honest and to spur me on and encourage me in the gospel. Next week, I am off for three days on retreat praying and walking with some other folk which will be an additional refreshing for my soul.

I really enjoyed this post from the Cawley blog and it got me thinking. What have I have learnt? It is a good thought that whatever job or new venture we take on we start at it lacking the skills and competence we need. Only through practice, teaching, the mentoring of others and perseverance (sometimes years of it) can we turn something we do poorly into something we become a bit better at. Most people can't be bothered with learning, certainly when it come to the tough task of 'growing up' into maturity in Christ, which is why, as I remember, Peter makes a point of it in his first letter (1 Peter 2:2).

The question is have I learnt anything and am I still learning?

1. A Job: I remember sitting in church years ago wondering how on earth you preached a sermon. A week ago I was ordained into gospel ministry and it seems that the central learning for me in my work is to be able to preach good news that has demonstrably changed and is changing my own life and will over time hopefully change the lives of others. Keller says that you have to accept that until you have preached at least 200 sermons you are going to be rubbish at preaching- so don't sweat about it. I find that rather heartening and freeing

2. A Hobby: I had a welcome few days at the Arundel Arms fishing in June and realize I am still such a learner at this. I did catch a fish or two but am still a real novice. Do you have a hobby? If you don't you should get one. Find something that you think you might enjoy and learn how to do it and be prepared to be rubbish at it for quite a while.

3. A Relationship: I think learning how to pray is the central task of life."Teach us how to pray" was the disciples request and it must surely be ours too in our relationship with God. To be a pray-er is to be a learner. The Scripture says 'devote yourselves to prayer' which suggests this is not a 'one lesson and we are done' thing. Devotion denotes learning. When I was young, my parents hosted some pro-golfers for the 1977 Open at Turnbury (which Nicklaus won as I remember or was it Tom Watson?) and I recall watching these golfers hit ball after ball after ball perfecting their art. It was a display of true sporting devotion which perhaps in the realm of prayer translates into a need for 'kneeling devotion'.

4. A Song: I have learnt to play the guitar very badly. But my four chords and erratic timing represent a heart that is not so much learning an instrument as learning how to worship God. The guitar playing has been over the years a time to come out of my almost constant self-interest and preoccupation and to turn my head and heart to Jesus. I am still learning.

5. A Book: I don't think I really read a book until I became a Christian. A few, of course, but I had no real love of reading. Learning how to read, especially the bible, but books in general, has been a tricky task. Have you learnt how to read and learnt to cultivate a love of reading and the time for it? If you don't love reading the bible you probably won't bother doing it-that's obvious. Therefore, we have to learn and find ways to learn to love to read. To commit to a life of opening books and being prepared to discover new things in them is a task well worth taking on.

5. A Love: Most hard has been learning to love. This is the central purpose of all of life. To love God and others. That means learning to love your family, your kids, those who don't love you, those who think differently from you, those you work with and those you have not even met yet. Faith, hope and love but the greatest of these is love.

This chap is called Ira Glass and I like his thoughts and also think I might check out The War of Art as a future read.

Happy learning to all

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

True worship


Even the most cynical observer should find this man's story strengthening and it is good to see people in such passionate praise- HERE

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Don't 'toy and trifle'

“I may not have many more opportunities of preaching, and I make up my mind to this one thing, that I will waste no time upon secondary themes, but when I do preach it shall be the gospel, or something very closely bearing upon it. I will endeavour each time to strike under the fifth rib, and never beat the air. Those who have a taste for the superfluities may take their fill of them, it is for me to keep to the great necessary truths by which men’s souls are saved. My work is to preach Christ crucified and the gospel, which gives men salvation through faith. I hear every now and then of very taking sermons about some bright new nothing or another. Some preachers remind me of the emperor who had a wonderful skill in carving men’s heads upon cherry stones. What a multitude of preachers we have who can make wonderfully fine discourses out of a mere passing thought, of no consequence to anyone. But we want the gospel. We have to live and to die, and we must have the gospel. Certain of us may be cold in our graves before many weeks are over, and we cannot afford to toy and trifle: we want to see the bearings of all teachings upon our eternal destinies, and upon the gospel which sheds its light over our future.”

- Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Vol. 28 (1882) (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1971), 200.

(H/T Provocations and pantings)

Leadership talks

The talks from our leaders conference are now available which are well worth listening to-HERE

Sunscreen

Monday, July 07, 2008

A thoughtful response to Gafcon

Andrew Goddard, my old Ethics tutor at Wycliffe, gives a measured and helpful response to Gafcon. As a point of note, reading the Spectator, I learnt that a new body is to be called the 'Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans' or FOCA for short, which struck me perhaps as not the most helpful choice of letters...

Read Andrew- HERE

Embracing Grace



One of the books I return to often is Yancey's on grace. He starts it with an amazing tale of a prostitute shocked that anyone might consider the church a place of help, hope and healing. He then goes on the say that grace remains a word that is unsullied. Ever since reading Yancey, I have always clung to grace as homebase and the constant source of strength and sustenance in my walk with Christ.

Here is the cycle of Grace

God embraces you and me and
God embraces others and
God embraces the whole created order

Then:

You and I embrace God back and
We embrace others and
We embrace the entire created order

Scott McKight has written a wonderful book on the nature of the gospel. He is a theologian (@ Jesus Creed) and a compelling voice within the emergent movement. He uses the Greek word 'Eikon' which means 'image' to base his story of grace on. We are made in the image of God and to understand grace is to understand the restoration of the mess and the mercy offered to us through Jesus. It is packed with good quotes and helpful insights and it is a book that as you read it steeps you in faith and encouragement. It reminds you of the gospel and compels you afresh to live it out.

Here are some quotes I liked:

'Because the story of humans is about being who can be both brilliant and and bad'

'The genius of sin is that it is first and foremost about one's relationship to God and others'

'Endings explain beginnings'

'Worship, then, is a life lived as it is meant to be lived: for the good of others and the world'

'The Church does not have an eschatology, it is an eschatological people' Robert Webber

'The thickest barricade to the gospel is individualism'

At the end of the book he quotes a 'Litany of Penitence' from the Book of Common Prayer. It is a long prayer of confession and puts an architecture to our sin. I used it last night in our evening service and two people came up afterwards and said they had powerfully met with the Lord. I read it slowly line by line and let people bring their lives into the context of its words. The book has been worth the read just for that but there are many other reasons too. May it be a blessing to you as it has been to me.

You can get it HERE

Saturday, July 05, 2008

A sound commentary on Lakeland

Justin Taylor of Wheaton College runs a blog I greatly respect and visit often. This post and, more particularly, the comments from various people gives one a very helpful cameo of what people are thinking. This blog is very popular in non-Charistmatic reformed circles so the perspective is helpful because these events have thus far been largely ignored by this group.

I did like the Spurgeon quote one person offered from his book 'An All-round Ministry':

"I am frequently told that I ought to examine at length the various new views which are so continually presented. I decline the invitation; I can smell them, and that satisfies me."

Check out this fascinating dialogue HERE

Saturday in the blog-o-sphere

Thirty ways Pastor's can love their wives and families- HERE

Steve Addison tells of the fascinating story of African Pastor Oscar Muriu and how he grows leaders. There are lots of posts of this story -HERE

How to build a commentary collection (with a good list of recommended commentaries on each book)- HERE

Driscol's (who is coming to London this week to speak) simple theology series reviewed- HERE

How to memorize scripture (with the help of John Piper)- HERE

9 do's and don'ts for ministry growth- HERE

A classic Thomas Chalmers sermon -HERE

One Pastor's best books read of recent months- HERE

One man's linkage selection -HERE

Some Faith and Theology linkage- HERE

5 Commentaries on Numbers -HERE

God is not dead- HERE

Friday, July 04, 2008

The end of the Anglican Church?

The Spectator dedicates its cover to my Churches woes-HERE. Gledhill calls it a 'meltdown' in the Times- HERE

Worship in Lakeland

In the next few weeks, a number of friends are going to Lakeland and I am looking forward to hearing their views and experiences. I saw two Pastor's yesterday who, to use their own words said "They will never be the same again" having visited. The thing that people whom I have spoken to most often speak about is the presence of the Lord during the times of worship. Now, in some sense this should not surprise us. Where the saints gather with a hunger for Jesus, He loves to minister his love and the presence of his Spirit when we call on him (Luke 11).

If you haven't yet listened to Stephen Hanse's (Vicar of Ascension Balham) testimony then it's worth checking out -HERE.

This is perhaps an example of what Stephen and others have described or maybe you just had to be there?

Spur one another on

We had a great day yesterday at our leaders conference. It was great not least because among the 80 attendees were 12 friends from Wycliiffe. When the saints gather and worship, pray, talk and eat togehter it is a wonderful thing. I always hope that the people I invite to these days but don't come could have been with us. Hebrews 10 has been important to me this year- we must keep meeting and we must ...'spur one another on'.

Are you meeting regularly with people who spur you on (and that is not Sunday services)?

I surely hope that is what happened yesterday.

Mike Riches and J John blessed us mightily. Do listen to the talks on our podcast(should be available in a day or two). They are packed with wisdom and insight. Mike observed that when he asks Pastors the question "What is the purpose of the church?" he usually gets a thousand answers: to pray, to sing, to win the lost. to teach, to love, to break bread and on and on. His challenge was that if we as leaders can't agree on a purpose then how on earth are those we lead meant to know. If you want the answer then listen to the talk. He also gave us his thoughts on Lakeland which were very helpful.

J John gave a wonderful talk and very amusing talk on the church and evangelism. Having been in Ministry for 28 years and visited '000's of churches all around the world, you perhaps should not be surprised to learn that the leading evangelist in the nation has some things to share that are helpful.

Can I commend something? If you want to be taught, blessed and encouraged then sign up for a pastor's conference this November. Three days of teaching and prayer.

November 16th to 18th at the Winchester Vineyard book- HERE

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Neighbours

"Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses"

C.S Lewis quoted by Scott McKnight in Embracing Grace

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Post-Gafcon

Want to keep up with things that have been going on? Packer, N T Wright, Gledhill and others have views so check them out- HERE

Majesty



Prevenient

"There are two occasions when the sacred beauty of Creation becomes dazzlingly apparent, and they occur together. One is when we feel our mortal insufficiency to the world, and the other is when we feel the world's mortal insufficiency to us.

Theologians talk about prevenient grace that precedes grace itself and allows us to be brave-that is to acknowledge that there is more beauty than our eyes can bear, the previous things have been put into our hands and to do nothing to honor them is to do great harm"

Marilynne Robinson in Gilead quoted by Scot McKnight in 'Embracing Grace'

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Flee

I am preaching on Sunday at another church and my text is 1 Cor 6:12-20, so I have spent the day thinking about sex. Rather unhelpfully, this appeared in my church email inbox just now:

"Scarlett Johnannsen spotted in see-through bikini-click HERE"

I had literally just been composing my thoughts on the word 'Flee' that Paul uses in vs 18 and thought that this might be an opportune moment to do just that. I must confess I was mightily intrigued by the offer of a peak at Miss Johasson's nakedness but am happy report that thus far I have resisted. I also now thankfully have a rather amusing illustration. The lamb wins.....

My friend Si, who I saw yesterday, preached a superb sermon on Sex which you should listen to. It's called 'For Joel's Generation' -HERE

Tuesday blogosphere-trawl

Keller on the importance of Hell- HERE

Developing a rhythm of life- HERE

Is google making us stupid?- HERE

Running to win the race -HERE

5 Big Books on Prayer-HERE

Alan Hirsch coming to England- HERE

Sun sets on C of E -HERE

I am going to Dwell UK on the 12th July? Are you? -Book HERE