Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The problem may be bigger than we realize

I share a couple of things people said to me yesterday. 

Two secondary school boys witnessed a big church event (to the C of E not as you will see to the assembled throng) in their school and thought it was: 

"The most boring thing we have ever had to do at school"

Later in the day, a man who has started coming to our church was telling his friend of his church-going

Here is his friend's reply:

"Gosh, do people really still go to church?"

Oh dear me.

The task may be even larger than I imagined


One man calls the things he finds on the net 'Awesomeness'. Have a click around.

What Michael Jackson really wanted.

Jim Collins has some observations and suggests a 'stop-doing list'.

Supported from utter despair.

Tips from Lincoln on sermons (H/T M.Stanley)

Some wisdom from Tozer.

Monday, June 29, 2009

I am second

A wonderful reader (you know who you are!) really enjoyed watching the stories told at I am second and thinks you will too.

I have been passing How to ruin your life by 40  around to a few of the new Christians in our church and they have enjoyed it.

They stayed

I recently read 'The Monkey and the Fish' by Dave Gibbons and it was worth reading just for this section on Page 100:

Historian Rodney Stark, in his great book, The Rise of Christianity, wonders why the Christian movement grew so rapidly in the first few centuries after Jesus' crucifixion. Its adherents were a small band of social outcasts. What transformed this ragtag groups of zealots into a global movement at such a spectacular pace?

Stark's inquiry concluded that surge in growth of Christianity was rooted in the response of early Christians to a wave of great pandemics. At least two plagues wracked the developing world in the first three centuries after the death of Christ, and Christians did something no one else would do. They stayed. They helped. And many gave their lives in doing so.

In Stark's book, Dionysius, the bishop of Alexandria, described in a letter how believers responded to a deadly plague that killed an estimated five thousand people a day in the Roman Empire sometime around 260AD: "Most of our brother Christians showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves and thinking only of one another. Heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ., and with them departed this life serenely happy; for they were infected  by others with the disease, drawing on themselves the sickness of the neighbours and cheerfully accepting their pains. Many, in nursing and curing others, transferred their death to themselves and died in their stead....The best brothers lost their lives in this way"

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A couple for the ipod

I have listened to a couple of good talks for leaders and preachers that we would all do well to listen to. One on how to communicate the gospel and the other about humble pastors.


Some thoughts on Michael Jackson

The art of gleaning

A good beach read

The greatest worship leader possibly of all time.

I have been studying Psalm 19 all week. 'Willful sins' are always sad but confession like this is very powerful.

The internet monk has some views on Mark Driscoll

Some learning from Singer

Thursday, June 25, 2009

I spent yesterday afternoon.....

Sometimes you encounter and experience grace. Grace is the unmerited favour and blessing of another. Grace took me to the centre court, to watching Federer and, so I hear, to being spotted by some on the BBC. 

What a day it was. 



A lost history

A creative choir takes us back to the 80's

This is True tube not You tube

Terry Virgo on Elijah and the rain

Driscoll is Pastor Dad

Recommended reading on Church Leadership

Keller's blog exchange makes interesting reading and here he is on what makes Redeemer work

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

How to work out your sacred pathway

I emailed the Bell Compassion film to some friends, one of whom I saw last night. He clicked on it and saw that it lasted 11 minutes. "Is it going to be worth 11 minutes of my time?" was his question to me. Only you can decide.

I am preparing to speak on the Lord's prayer so have been re-reading a few books on the shelf. Yancey's book on Prayer is very thought-provoking and Barth's little book is also very helpful. I have also read Lloyd Jones on the Lord's prayer in the Sermon on the Mount.

One book I have been particularly reminded of is a section in Courageous Leadership where Hybels refers Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas. The premise is that we are all shaped differently so we all pray differently. I have been reflecting on this idea during this week

If you don't have time to read Gary Thomas here is a link for you to work out your sacred pathway

Please do try and do this in less than 11 minutes:)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A better past?

I was challenged by watching this Rob Bell film.

Church: Why bother?

Philip Yancey is a man who really understands grace. This little book is his personal story of growing up in a religious and fundamentalist church and how he managed to survive  and come through it. Eugene Peterson writes the introduction and tells the wonderful story of John Muir climbing a tree in a storm as the best way to understand true spirituality. ( I keep Muir's stories in my fishing bag and read them on the river bank)

'We humans, somewhere along the way, seem to have picked up the bad habit of trying to get life on our terms, without all the bother of God, the Spirit of life. We keep trying to be our own gods; and we keep making a sorry mess of it' observes Peterson.

The one thing that underpins Yancey's account is his radical experience and encounter with grace. (If you haven't read What's so amazing about grace? then stop right now, buy it and read it this weekend!) The thing a liked about this book was that it offers an antidote to the church is all about me attitude that seems so prevalent- sadly sometimes particularly in those consumed with trying to grow churches by there own efforts and energy. The danger is that we become so preoccupied with activity, relevance and form that God somehow gets slowly lost in our grand personal justification project. 

Again a Peterson quote helped me see this:

'Eugene Peterson draws a contrast between Augustine and Pelagius, two forth-century theological opponents. Pelagius was urbane, courteous, convincing, and liked by everyone. Augustine squandered away his youth in immorality, has a strange relationship with his mother, and made enemies. Yet Augustine started from God's grace and got it right, whereas Pelagius started from human effort and got it wrong. Augustine passionately pursued God; Pelagius methodically worked to please God. Augustine desperately needed God, and he knew it. Peterson goes on to say that Christians tend to be Augustinian in theory and Pelagian in practice. They rely on there own frenzied efforts; committee meetings, guilt-driven overtime, obsessive attempts to "fix" other people's problems.' (Page 86)

So Church: Why bother? is a short and very enjoyable read that I think you might enjoy.  

Monday, June 22, 2009

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Fatherhood Bibliography

The Fatherhood Bibliography was a submission by Care to the government on the importance of Fathers in the upbringing of children. My friend says it is a 'must-read' despite being 45 pages long and its diagnosis of the issues our society faces are profound.

I intend to make time to read it.

The things we shared

One of the joys of spending time with my friends is hearing the things they have learnt, discovered and experienced in the year. 

Here are a few things:

The Heart of Evangelism is apparently superb and 'so freeing about how to share Jesus with others'.

The Radical Evangelical was described by one of our number as '..the best Christian book I have ever read"

Nevertheless tells the story of Christians against poverty and is '...not that well written but completely life-changing'

Two books that are not from the usual stable of Men on Mountain reading are 'Why go to Church' by Timothy Radcliffe and 'Hit the ground kneeling' by Cotterill. 

Novel wise 'The boy in striped pyjamas' is breath-taking and was....' a book that had to be finished in bed in the morning rather than taking the kids to school.'

One of us is grappling with leading change and is enjoying Our iceberg is melting.

A website discovery that seems worth clicking around is Art and Faith

A wonderful book for ministry by Peterson called the Gift. $79 is a bit pricey but search for it it is ...'really good'.

A loved book for funerals is 'When grief is raw'. This is particularly helpful for times of real tragedy. 

Two books that are.....'so helpful for understanding our times' are 'The Age of Anxiety' (Can't find which one so perhaps a comment may be left so I can do a link?) and 'Affluenza'

One of us translated Micah 6 vs 8 "Be fair, Let it go, Get real with God'. I like it.

A blog one of us reads is of the work of Theodore Dalrymple and if you want some background on him here it is. Read and see because '...about 10% of the stuff he writes is stunningly perceptive and true-you just have to work out which is the 10%'.

Finally Compassion Art is a worship album you may love.

Oh and my books of the year are the two volumes of MLJ's life

Take them on holiday with you

Men on Mountains

I have returned from the Alps. 

We stayed at an amazing house high in the hills called the Goat House (La Chambre de la Chevre)-a place with no electricity, one room in which we all sleep on the floor and a river for a fridge. We walk and talk for four days.

Men on mountains started with the desire of three men to be both accountable and faithful with the lives they had each been given. One of them has this quote by Albert Schweitzer on the wall opposite his desk. 

"I resolved to make my life the argument"

They concluded that if they had agreed to meet in a monastic retreat house in Kidderminster they would never bother. My college accountability group has never met and my prayer triplet meets infrequently. 

They believe men need to do active things. The disciples seems to have done things on the move. So they decided on mountains. They decided too that they would each be able to ask two friends the others didn't know. 

So, with a few resignations we are now seven and our books are closed. Four Vicars, two Doctors and one friend runs a large Christian Charity.

Each of us know that once a year we will sit before our friends and tell the story of our lives in the year that has past.  This years haphazard categories were: Home and Family, Work, God, Sin and for some 'Hopes and dreams". There are no 'no-go' areas. We listen, cross examine intensely and then we pray.

One of our number concluded his time in the hot-seat saying "I want you all to carry my coffin if I die". We were all moved.

There was some debate but we think we are in year 8 and we intend to keep going as long as we can all walk. 

Feel warmly invited to steal this model of accountability because it is proving to be an extraordinary blessing.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Live life and other things

We are going away for our 'Life Life' weekend away to Ashburnham on Friday. I am preparing three talks on Daniel and have a head full of thoughts but am enjoying it. There seems to be lots of anticipation about going away which is a good thing. 

Do please pray for us.

I went for a long walk yesterday in prep for my annual retreat next week and listened to this. Yes, it is time again for 'Men on Mountains' where, with my band of eight friends, we walk, talk, confess and pray in our covenant to get each other to the end of the race. This year we are 'going international'!!!

Following a recent discussion on the theology of the role of a 'Worship Pastor' I commended this talk that explains wonderfully what we should mean when we say the word 'Worship'. One for a long journey but really worth the investment of your time.

Here is some wisdom on the limits of reading books.

If you are someone who enjoys movies this is a list of 'films that have most influenced you'  

A couple of books one man is reading. I think I should try to check out 'Less clutter less noise'.

Anne Jackson has written a book called Mad Church Disease to be read by over-worked leaders in danger of burnout. There a plenty of them. Here she tells her story.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009


This morning I hear Tony Blair is launching his 'Face to Faith' initiative which will no doubt cause some comment.

A street preacher threatened with arrest.

The publication of Bishop's expenses in the Lords make for very interesting reading as Ruth Gledhill reports. 

Time Magazine has an interesting article on The future of work

Snippets of Keller on everything under the sun.

A tale of two preachers.

A report of a pastoral failure includes some sobering stats at the end of the post for those who lead God's people.

A couple of good posts on our addiction of entertainment-Part 1 and Part 2

Finally Jonathan Edwards on having resolve-in his view Christians must have both zeal and resolve. 

May this be so.

Monday, June 08, 2009


Heaven will be a place of welcome for the bride of Jesus and maybe we get a tiny, tiny glimpse of the surprise in store from this?

I am going to give a second plug for this talk by Driscoll on the heart. It has really landed on my own and I hope it may land on yours.

A visual reminder of Proverbs 16:18

The Advance audio is now up and available and I am going to try and listen to Driscoll on the Church and Chandler on reaching the de-Churched.

Kingdom People has a recommendation about Charlie Brown and also tells us which blogs he reads and why

Finally, here is Al Mohler's summer reading list which you will especially like if you enjoy military history.


If you can't be bothered with thick grown-up history books then this called The Ghost by Robert Harris was recommended by a friend as a cracking read and might do you well on the beach.

The benefits of keeping a journal

The other day I read a friends Facebook update which read "Just off to be alone and write my journal in the garden". It reminded me of the time I recommended to him the joy of keeping a journal and it was a great encouragement that it has come to be such a helpful thing for him.

This article called "Do I have to keep a journal?" prompted me to think again on why I keep a journal and how you might get started on keeping one yourself. 

1. Why keep a journal?

Well, for me it is a record of me learning to follow Jesus. I have a poor memory and confess I quickly forget what God has done and his faithfulness to me. I then look on my bookshelf at my journals (25 at the last count not including my current one) and am soon encouraged. 

2. What do you write?

Quite simply, I would say write anything. I have a discipline of regularly writing lists of thanksgiving. I start at 1. and keep writing until I run out of things that I am thankful for. I write the things God speaks to me about-verses, thoughts, prayers, plan, concerns.  I keep a record of the things that I am reading and often record quotes. I keep a record of key events. It can be a place for private thoughts. In a season of pain it can be a place of healing. I write down encouragements whenever they come. If you are a creative type you might write poetry or draw. I write most when I take my quiet days in my quiet place (by the way-find yourself a quiet place. I have been going to the same place on and off for 17 years).

3. How do I get started?

I would highly recommend How to keep a spiritual journal by Ron Klug as the best book I know to get you started. I would also buy a moleskine journal. The great benefit of the moleskine is that it has a pocket in the back to keep letters, words, tickets, information etc. Some of my journals have packed pockets and some are less packed. 

I hope this is a help and might encourage you to give it a go.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

A Rocha

The friend I was fishing with introduced me to 'A Rocha' who I confess I had only heard of in passing. I am going to explore their site for the UK and you might like to too.

Saturday smile and the heart

Listened to this talk on the heart in the car driving home this morning. Superb teaching that could save you lots of money and wasted years on unnecessary counseling.

Being a real man

Just had a fantastic couple of days fishing on the Test. I caught 4 amazing trout.

Now I have returned to the city and am offering my trout to friends. My favourite people are those who are happy to take a trout from me un-gutted and do that themselves. They are few and far between I am finding. I don't mind girls blubbing a bit at the thought of gutting a fish but it's the sort of thing a grown man really should know how to do. Food didn't always come covered in clingfilm with the word Tescos on it.

So, do you know how to gut a fish? 

It is surely one of the marks of a real man.

Thursday, June 04, 2009


Are Green Day the new U2?

Rick Warren on Culture

Creation-just one of the things evangelicals fight over.

Why don't people invite others to church?

Finally, Giglio says life is worship. I tend to agree.

Traveling Pastor

I went to see Third Day last night at the HMV Forum when a friend rang to say someone in her office had spare tickets. Such a great night. What a fantastic band and bunch of guys. 

I'll be honest. I am not sure 'Christian' and 'Rock band' should be in the same sentence. In this instance I stand corrected. I have never been to a gig with so much grace, humour, faith,prayer, generosity and worship. It deeply moved me. Oh, and by the way, we built a church in India with our offering. 

If they tour again, go and see them and take friends.

One thing that interested me was they had a 'Traveling pastor' while on tour- a nice Welshman. Sounds like a great gig if you ask me. I am going to see U2 in August. I wonder if they need a TP and if so do give Bono my name.

Here's what you missed.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Chris Moyles and the Church

Apparently, Radio 1's Chris Moyles finds the church and worship thing a bit interesting.....blown away even.

Could you be a coach?

I was challenged about serving my community by this post and the description of the joy and blessing of being a volunteer coach. 

We have a wonderful charity who work out of our church and we work with called Kick London offering people the chance to do just that. They have a fantastic vision to reach young people across this great city. They always need more volunteers.

Free Eugene Peterson audiobook

One of my people Eugene Peterson has Christ plays in ten thousand places for free on audio book. You have to like that!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009


A bit of wisdom

Buzzard tells of his best read of the year so far.

Driscoll on Spiritual gifts-this time on Apostle

As it's a day of people I like, you have to say God's hand is upon Mars Hill as they announce the biggest week in their history. If you had a spare year and wanted to study I think some might do well to do this?

What being missional means.

Finally, surviving being single in the church made me smile.

Monday, June 01, 2009

The discipline of grace

I have had a very fruitful morning. 

I am rereading The Discipline of Grace in preparation for a talk which as it happens is on 'fruitfulness'. The book is basically Romans and is a wonderful articulation of the gospel.

Here are a few quotes:

'Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God's grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God's grace'

'As long as we compare ourselves with society around us and with other believers who are not as committed as we are, we also are apt to become confident in our own righteousness'

'A large part of our problem as evangelical believers is that we have defined sin in its more obvious forms-forms of which we are not guilty.....we see ourselves looking good by comparison'

Off now to do a school assembly about Pentecost-going to tell 100 kids about the prophet Joel. 

I'm very very excited.


People believe all sorts of things-Scientology for example. Ruth Gledhill posts Tom Cruise-who believes in. Well....er......what?......Best of luck with that.

Have you ever thought of literally preaching the Sermon in the Mount?

The Gospel Coalition was founded by Tim Keller and Don Carson. David Fitch has some interesting reflections. (H/T Dash house)

Scott McKnight on the King and his Kingdom (H/T Kingdom People)

A guy at college had a Keith Green quote stuck on his door that I used to walk by every day. Here is a classic.

John Newton on popularity and pride.

The main thing we should be rejoicing in.

A weird but amazing bit of guitar playing.

And if you are a person who doesn't know- this won BGT.