Friday, December 24, 2010

Blogoliday

Thanks to my few but faithful readers. It has been blessing to share some things with you and thanks to all those who have created, written, thought and shared with others in 2010.  I will be back.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Five worship albums that have blessed me in 2010

1. Kristen Mueller, Those who Dream: A friend recommended this to me and it has been a real tonic in the last couple of days. A never tire of renditions of 'Amazing Grace' and the song 'Praise the Lord' has been a real blessing to me.

2. Joe Day, Grace: I have listened to this many times and have not exhausted finding ways that this album encourages me and turns my heart to Jesus.

3. Kim Walker, We Cry Out: The chorus of 'He loves us oh how he loves us' has been sung often this year by our church and what a wonderful thing this is to sing. Jesus loves us.

4. Here is love: This is a mix of different songs that have been played in the car on many a long journey this year.

5. Glory revealed 2: Scripture set to country music which might seem odd but this has given me great strength at points during the year.  I have got used to being teased about my love of country music.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A bit more Eugene

Another great post about learnings from Eugene on the Christian life from Matt Redmond and his Christmas reflections. Here is a bit:


"Jesus came for those who look in the mirror and see ugliness. Jesus came for daughters whose fathers never told them they were beautiful. Christmas is for those who go to "wing night" alone. Christmas is for those whose lives have been wrecked by cancer and the thought of another Christmas seems like an impossible dream. Christmas is for those who would be nothing but lonely if not for social media. Christmas is for those whose marriages have careened against the retaining wall and are threatening to flip over the edge. Christmas is for the son, whose father keeps giving him hunting gear when the son wants art materials. Christmas is for smokers who cannot quit even in the face of a death sentence. Christmas is for whores, adulterers and porn stars who long for love in every wrong place. Christmas is for college students who are sitting in the midst of the family and already cannot wait to get out for another drink. Christmas is for those who traffic in failed dreams. Christmas is for those who have squandered the family name and fortune – they want ‘home’ but cannot imagine a gracious reception. Christmas is for parents watching their children’s marriage fall into disarray."


(H/T Bluefish)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The two enemies of the Kingdom

1. Joylessness

2. Busyness

I'll let this great post about the writing of Eugene Peterson take it from here.

(H/T Dash House)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Saturday Blog-sweep

1. Time magazines top 10 of everything in 2010.

2. A thought on sovereignty and freedom of the will

3. A challenge from J D Greer about mission.

4.  A good debate about the place of leadership in the church and some more thoughts.

5. A missional community health check for your church.

6. 3 Strategies for stepping higher

7. The only thing you can do with Rome in a day

8. The difficulty of silence

9. A fresh idea for your Carol service music (requires iPad)

10. God came near

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Book List

One reader particularly enjoyed my use of the expression 'filly faddle' yesterday. What a great language English is.

The blogosphere at it's best can be such a generous place where we share things we are thinking about, watching, reading or listening to. As you may know, I do enjoy a good book list at this time of year and Buzzard has a splendid one that epitomises all that is good about blogging and being able to share the things you love across continents. You can't argue with a man who has Eugene Peterson at number 1.

If you wanted to share your book of 2010 then be a brave bunny and add a comment :)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Hard texts

The Bible is quite a difficult 66 books to understand. Firstly, there is a lot of it and secondly parts of it on a first, second and even third reading are pretty difficult to comprehend. Also, the Bible says some hard things about life and death, about heaven and hell, about judgement and grace. These are big and weighty things.

I told the parents of a Primary School that one of the silliest things people say to me is Jesus was a good man who taught some good things. No he isn't. Whoever told you that is silly and if, heaven forbid,  they are leading the local church they shouldn't be. He is the holy Son of God who is coming again to judge the quick and the dead, who died horrifically on the cross and is risen and seated at the right hand of the father. Read Revelation 19:11-21 if you need a refresher (a good Advent thing to do).

John Stott reminded me from Basic Christianity that there are three ways people react to God and 'he's a nice man' is not one of them.

1. Fear:  The Shepherds were 'terrified'. If you haven't been scared then you probably haven't understood who God is. Spend some time in the first three Chapters of Romans if you want to see what I mean.

2. Murder: Herod was murderous. The battle is raging- it was raging from the off and it still is. You are either for Jesus or you are against him. Decide which.

3. Wonder: The wise men bowed down before him and worshipped. They got it right and saw something in Jesus that almost everyone else missed. The word had become flesh and dwelt among us. If that doesn't humble you, pierce your pride, convict you of your sin and your secrets and drive you to your knees crying for mercy and grace then nothing will.

Preach the gospel this Christmas. Don't filly faddle about- we haven't got time. Preach it. Preach it for all you are worth.

I have spent two months nearly in Romans 1-3 and thankfully have got to the two greatest words in the New Testament- "But now....". The implications though of these introductory Chapters 1-3 are truly far-reaching and life-changing if they be true. That might be why no one reads them.

This sermon called Hard Texts really helped me and is a wonderful explanation of why there are tricky things in the bible and why it is worth getting up early to read them, pray them, journal them and work out what God is saying through them.

I hope you find listening as helpful as I did.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Prayer check-up

Here is a confession. I arrived at our early morning prayer meeting an hour early and felt like a complete idiot. We meet weekly and this prayer meeting is spectacularly poorly attended but it is a little piece of treasure as a few of us pray through a Psalm together.

I revisited a truly helpful talk called 'Personal prayer'. This is rather like having a personal prayer MOT and there are truths imparted in this half hour that have sustained me for a decade. I hope it blesses and teaches you and reminds you as it has me.

Some links you may want having listened to it are to Answering God and to the Edward's sermon Christian Happiness.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"Stop taking the drug and wake up"



(H/T Chris)

A pals list

A dear pal in Canada read my book list and sent me this email of his nine. From the list, I am excited about reading about Arnie and Jack. I wonder if it will improve my golf?

"Nine from me:
Crazy Love was amazing
Generous Justice very challenging
The principle of the path - Andy Stanley - obviously true but sadly ignored advice
Jesus - Walter Wangerin Jr - a fascinating novel
The Faith - Charles Colson
Arnie & Jack - Ian O'Connor - fascinating study of two golfing greats, their egos, their strongholds, their rivalry
 
Plus one to avoid!
The sacredness of questioning everything - David Dark - pretentious drivel"

Monday, December 13, 2010

Best reads of 2010

1. Crazy love: There is a chapter in this book that is still challenging me with a question. Here is the question "Am I lukewarm?" If you are bothered at all by this question then this might be a book for you.  This is a book that stirs you not to take grace for granted. It reminds you of the call of Jesus to speak of the gospel and to act and to be the gospel. The former is seemingly in Western Christianity more prevalent than the latter. Chan offers the church a passionate wake-up call. He makes number 1 because a year ago I had never heard of him but this year he has managed to stir and trouble me probably more than anyone else.

2. The Radical Disciple: John Stott is a man who has influenced so many followers of Jesus. This book is his farewell and it is rich in content and truly moving in sentiment. He is a man who has been focussed on the preaching of the gospel to the world since his conversion at the age of 16 at school (As it happens, we actually attended the same school, although I suspect Stott spent rather less time than me looking out of the window) I read Basic Christianity when I was in a desperate state many years ago and since then I have been indebted from a distance to his wisdom, resilience and passion for Christ.

3. The Pursuit of the Holy:  Simon writes books about doctrines that have so often caused Christians to get themselves into a pickle and that still do. That is why he has written books on the Spirit, the End Times and now he tackles Holiness. The call on the church and on individual Christians is to be a holy beacon of light for the nations but sadly we are not that are we? If you want to better understand why not and how perhaps we might be then this will be a satisfying read.

4. Generous Justice: Keller makes a great case for justice and irons out the debate about grace and works. Which is paramount? Receive mercy and grace and do works is the message- they are meant to go together. He has some very theologically rich overviews of both the OT and NT passages on justice and some very helpful ways to apply them. A goto book on this complex subject.

5. Raised with Christ: I think I enjoyed this book because it contains references to so many people who have influenced me and at the same time deals with the much neglected subject of resurrection. Adrian has I think been shaped by Lloyd-Jones which is no bad thing. Jesus is risen from the dead and believing this is crucial to the Christian life and the sooner we all get a grip on this the better. Reading this might be a great place to start.

6. The Rage against God: Recently I watched Paxman interview with Christopher Hitchens and his stoic resilience that there is no God seems to be showing little change in the face of his cancer. Peter, his brother, has written this book as a polemic against the new atheists and also as his spiritual autobiography telling the story of his own conversion. I will remember this book mainly for its last chapter- a shared meal the brothers had in New York.

7. The Journals of John Fowles Volume 2: Fowles was a genius rogue and I have had such pleasure reading both sets of his diaries. He is ruthlessly honest which is what makes reading him so refreshing and he writes so so well. He lays bear all his sin, his self-preoccupation and his desire to be noticed. He tell of his affairs and his creative agony. He also seems to have enjoyed long lingering lunches which I have found to be a fine and deeply pleasurable thing down the years.

8. Rework: This is a business book or perhaps it is better termed a productivity book. These guys run a tech firm and they have woken up faster than most others to the fact that the world has changed and this means the way we all need to work must and will change. The trouble is most of us haven't noticed this so are still sitting in congested traffic jams, packed in crowded tube trains and slaving in unpleasant work environments trying to carve out a living. This is very readable and helpful take on the new dawn that has already dawned but seems to have passed so many of us by.

9. A Praying Life:  Miller has written a very helpful book on prayer. Most of us have read a few books on this subject or at least have them unread on our shelves because there is always more to know about prayer. It may be obvious, but reading a book by someone who has clearly prayed more than me and thought more than me about it I found truly helpful. It's not a definitive book on prayer, there is no such thing, but it is one man's journey in relationship with God and I recommend going on it with him if you desire to enjoy more, pray more and hope to pray more effectively.  

10. Linchpin: Seth Godin is the Gandalf of the blog-o-sphere. If you don't dabble in blog land you will never have heard of him. His daily musings are invariably profound and his understanding that what we have been given is meant to be given away makes him a true champion of the good of the internet (he is also sanguine about the bad). His book contains a string of observations centred around the topic of creativity and innovation and there is probably a bit of wisdom somewhere in its pages for everyone.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Working well

This excellent TED film explores the question 'How we work best'. The thesis that the main problem in the workplace are caused by M&M's (Managers and Meeting)

"If you have the power cancel the meeting"

Love the thought.



(H/T Lesley's Blog)

Friday, December 10, 2010

No impossibilities

A friend sent me this quote as we were planning a night of prayer:

‘If we want to leave an indelible mark on the world, there is no more powerful way to do it than by joining in God's purposes through prayer. Our Prayers can go where we cannot. While many things may seem impossible from a human standpoint, in the realm of prayer there are no impossibilities.’

- Brother Andrew

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Run

I listen to this once every few months and it had a recent revisit.

Pay it forward

Pay it forward is a super little film. It is the backdrop to this blog- the hope that some may find something here that has blessed or encouraged me and find it blesses them and pass it on to another.

A friend and encouraging reader of the blog is chair of a charity that supports evangelists. Recently, they had their annual conference and in preparation she bought all the evangelists a copy of Crazy love. They were sent it before they met and she told me it bore rich fruit as they tumbled it's ideas and implications. She was kind enough to tell me this good news and it has put fresh zip in my desire to share things here.

I recently read a review about 'The hidden life of prayer' and it prompted me to get hold of the book. Maybe it's just me, but I know how important prayer is and have seen God work so often through prayer. Why do I therefore so easily neglect time with the Father? To be honest, recently my prayer life has been rather hard work and dry. Praying yes but not joyfully. Many a Christian may in an undefended moment admit as much. This book is a little piece of encouraging dynamite and at only 121 pages is very readable. Perhaps it may be the next one for the evangelist's?

Our youth group recently watched the new Francis Chan film called Follow Jesus as part of their studies on Philippians. It sounds well worth getting hold of and something perhaps to give away to others or a stocking filler.

I first came across Rosa Parks reading a wonderful book that had a deep impact on my life called Let your life speak. Here is a wonderful reminder of what can be unleashed when you refuse to move on a bus.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Meeting the Archbishop

I enjoyed reading Victoria Coren's article in the Guardian called 'As I didn't say to the archbishop'. Here is a bit of it but do read the whole thing.

"I interviewed the comedian Miranda Hart recently. She told me she believes in God but was nervous of being quoted on it.
"It's scary to say you're pro-God," she said. "Those clever atheists are terrifying."
"Oh, nonsense," I said. "Let them tell you it's stupid to believe in something you can't explain. Then ask them how an iPad works."
Atheism itself is fine; good luck if that's what you sincerely (don't) believe. But the proselytising, fundamentalist new atheist movement sets itself up as more "logical" than faith, which is ridiculous. Given the incomprehensible scale of the creator we'd be talking about, the only "logical" position is agnosticism.
So why do the proselytisers fight so hard to be right? In place of the comfort which faith can provide in the face of death, grief or loneliness, they offer… nothing. They are suspiciously eager to snatch away the consolations of their fellow men."
Speaking of Miranda Hart, the women in our church all seem to be watching Miranda while the men on the other hand favour the Trip (v. v. funny, strangely dark and a very rude word in episode 4- you have been warned). Episode 1 reminded me of a wonderful stay I had fly-fishing at the Inn at Whitewell.

Monday, December 06, 2010

What books to choose?

I am starting to think about some of the books I have read this year.  Krish has got the ball rolling and some of these might be helpful for the giving and receiving of gifts.

Paxman and Hitchens

This interview is worth a watch.

In Athens

We are preaching through Acts and yesterday we were in Athens. This quote landed with me:

'It is not only the comprehensiveness of Paul's message in Athens which is impressive, however, but also the depth and power of his motivation. Why is it that, in spite of the great needs and opportunities of our day, the church slumbers peacefully on, and that so many Christians are deaf and dumb, deaf to Christ's commission and tongue-tied in testimony? I think the major reason is this: we do not speak as Paul spoke because we do not feel as Paul felt. We have never had the paroxymn of indignation which he had. Divine jealousy has not stirred within us. We constantly pray 'Hallowed be your Name', but we do not seem to mean it, or care that his Name is so widely profaned. 


Why is this? It takes us a stage further back. If we do not speak like Paul because we do not feel like Paul, this is because we do not see like Paul. That was the order: he saw, he felt, he spoke. It all began with his eyes.'

[John Stott, Acts, Page 290-1]

Another commentator who has been very helpful to me as we have been in Acts is Ajith Fernanado who I feel I have got to know a little as I have read his commentary. As we have preached through Acts, it is the single-mindness and the sacrifice of Paul that is becoming so striking. He is not saving for his pension and planning for a retirement in the Cotswolds. He is going to Rome to die. As I walk on day by day following Jesus, the task I see before me seems more and more awesome.

Ajith Fernando preached these called 'Why a pastor must die?'

Friday, December 03, 2010

For the pod

We completed the Gospel in Life and Keller's last talk on eternity brought two grown men to tears as they listened. It was stunning stuff that you can listen to here- it's called 'Culture'. This will be really helpful for you if you seek to understand your purpose in work and it will also greatly encourage those with a bent to the arts. Hope it makes you blub with grace, love and hope too.

A talk for those who struggle with fear and for those with anxiety. Who isn't in one of those two boxes?

A question that everyone asks is "What about those who haven't heard the gospel?" and it has come up on my journey in Romans. I think everything will come up on this journey- at least everything my simple brain can cope with.  Here Piper brilliantly tackles the answer and you may need a pen a paper to follow the thought. Listening to him preach makes me feel both hopeless at preaching and very dim (both of these in an encouraging 'sit at Gamaliel's feet way').

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Why work?

I am preaching on heaven this Sunday.

One thing I have read that has really blessed me is an essay by Dorothy Sayers called 'Why work?' You would do well to read it for it seems to me to contain some extremely profound insights. The insights come I think from when it was written, immediately post war, but still with the wartime mentality supremely fresh in Sayers mind. This is I think what gives the essay such power.

So if you are someone wondering what to do or struggling with what it is you are doing, this maybe helpful for you. At least, I found it be so. May be worth reading over your lunchtime sandwich wherever it is you work and I hope it is a blessing to you.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

For what it's worth

Sometimes a book comes along late in the year that assaults you with it's passion for Jesus. For what it's worth is just such a read. I loved Crazy love as you know and if that had been written by an Englishman who had lived in Burundi it would have ended up as this.

Simon Guillebaud is clearly nuts (in a good way) and his book is a mix of his own daring adventures in Africa and tons of  quotes and stories of other similarly abandoned disciples from the past and present. His passion is that each if us would be sold out followers of Jesus who not only run the race but finish it too. At one point, he quotes Stanley and Clinton who have researched 'finishers' and what characteristics are needed to be one.

1. They had perspective which enabled them to focus
2. They enjoyed intimacy with Christ and experienced repeated times of inner renewal
3. They were disciplined in important areas of life
4. They maintained a positive learning attitude all their lives
5. They had a network of meaningful relationships and several important mentors during their lifetime.

[Page 70]

This book is one about finishers and 100% full on folk. Who wants to be 64% enthused about following Jesus? If, like me, having read this you realize you are a bit sub-100%, coasty (not sure that is a word?) and cosy this will give you a good kick up the xxxx and get you running again. This morning I listened to my daily dose of early hours Romans and if you can't be bothered to read this book then this sermon might have a similar impact on sorting out your priorities (while you have time to....)

Well worth putting this on the Christmas list and reading it by the fire with a mince pie. A resolution or two for 2011 cannot fail to come from encountering it.

A truly blistering read.

Monday, November 29, 2010

One question

I was reminded yesterday of Brennan Manning . I prescribe the Furious Longing of God at least once a year.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Advent conspiracy

I have been immersed for the last couple of weeks in Luke 10 and the story of the Good Samaritan. We have been preaching through the themes of 'The gospel in life' and it fell to me to tackle 'Justice'. As it happens, John Ortberg at Menlo Park is preaching through the same material which I haven't listened to but will be good. No doubt he probably got the idea from me:)

I have read and listened to a lot in my preparation. I read Generous Justice which I commend as a goto book on this subject. It's really well-reviewed here. I found Peterson's chapter in Tell it slant helpful. Don Carson here and Heidi Baker here ('The simplicity of love') are two very different takes on the same passage. I also listened to Keller's sermon on justice which brilliantly expounds Isaiah 58.

Justice often becomes a focus at Christmas. Lizzie as she led us in prayer this morning pointed us to the Advent Conspiracy. The basic message- less shopping and more focus on others and on God. Here here to that. You might like to use this in your church in the coming weeks.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Shells



Listen to the whole thing here.

I forgot to mention

I can't sleep.

No one cares because who on earth is going to be reading this at three in the morning.

It seems to have been one of those weeks. Good, difficult, amazing, hopeful, frustrating, gloomy and plenty of other words.

Why am I awake?

Well, an extraordinary thing happened on Wednesday and by Thursday I was in a meeting and "I forgot to mention it"

As it happens, a day earlier my friend "forgot to mention" it too.

Really, we both forgot to mention it.

This is not the sort of thing you forget to mention. Trust me.

But I did. I honestly did.

So did my friend.

I just needed to write a note to myself. Even if it is the middle of the night.

A mention to myself.

By the way, I have discovered some songs that will help me remember this week.

'Grace'

They have become the soundtrack to this week.

The songs make me cry.

Grace indeed.

Grace indeed.

Now I suppose I better go back to sleep.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy

Sometimes you find a person who writes a blog really well. They are also able to share the realities of what is going on in their life and their heart with humour and candour. I tend not to share personal stuff on the blog (my life and my thoughts are all rather boring I'm afraid). Anyway, Lesley Fellowes does and she made me smile this morning with her post so I share it. She's happy which is refreshing to hear and seems a jolly good thing. I hope it's catching.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Empty hands

"God gives where he finds empty hands"

C S Lewis in 'For what it's worth' by Guillebaud, P.25


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, November 22, 2010

Chandler on prayer

The future

One of the things that was at the forefront of my thoughts and prayers over the weekend was the power of the gospel over sickness. I was ministering to a wonderful group and within this group there were not one but two men who have faced and are facing the challenge of brain tumours. One has been in remission by God's grace and is living years longer than his doctors expected. The other has had a more intense recent battle with lots of uncertainty, surgery, radio therapy and physical implications not least including hair loss. It was James who helped lead us in worship and his courage and enthusiasm for God were so moving and encouraging. He is a soldier not just in vocation but also in heart. As is his wife Felicity.

Matt Chandler is a preacher who has blessed me. Someone recommended a while back I watch this sermon and here you witness him at the peak of his physical and preaching self.



Not long after this, Matt collapsed on his kitchen floor and was discovered to have a brain tumour. I have since been following some of his story and he has chosen to share his story with his church and the world.



You can follow his step by step walk here as he has faced surgery and shared his challenges.

There is a talk that came to mind that particularly helped me as we lost our wonderful friend Jo in Holy Trinity to cancer earlier this year at the age of 32. It is called Death is not dying and I commend it to all who want to grapple with the reality that we will all one day face physical death.  Many of us have not yet had to sit in the oncologists chair and heard bad news as James and Mark have had to. But we will one day. And the truth of the gospel as laid out in Romans is that those who have not received Christ are in the bad news chair but they have just not realised yet their desperate need for the gospel of grace. Bad news is only temporary for the Christian for the Good News is Jesus and he is alive and risen. Jesus heals today, that I know and believe, and as I laid hands on my sick brother I was contending for that. But it seems sometimes he does not heal when we ask Him. Another talk that speaks to this is called the Future which a friend recommended to me and was a sermon preached in her church in response to a young mother who died very young and very unexpectedly. It lays out afresh for us the hope of the gospel and the certainty we can have in Christ. We have a glorious hope.

So please stand with James and his family and do pray for them. Recent news praise God is good but they need our on-going prayer and support.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

AFCU

A blessed and encouraging weekend speaking to the AFCU in Germany accompanied by my pal Adam who led our worship with James.

What a truly wonderful gathering of faithful saints. Thank you one and all.

I spoke from Daniel about idolatry.

I also spoke about religion which reminds me of this talk called Jesus and religion that some might be challenged by and enjoy.

I love hearing about books that changed people's lives. One dear man told me of the book that set him free and unlocked the gospel of grace for him. It's called Victorious Christian Living by Alan Redpath.

Do pray for Mark and the AFCU and all those Christians serving in the services. Do also pray for another great organisation Flame International that Mark is involved with.

I still find myself banging on about Romans:)

I know I'm dull......

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Keeping learning

When the Head of Education of my Diocese asked me three years ago if I would like to do an MA I thought she was joking. I had just completed 30 or so essays at Vicar Factory so my response was "What is it that you think I don't know?" I then realised that this was not a negotiation and that whether I wanted to or not my learning was to continue and so it turned out to be.

These six are what 30K words has been expended on and I hope they have sharpened my saw:

1. What are you doing when you preach?

2. “I take up the Bible and I read.  Here are a million or so printed words, in which divine gold and human clay are mixed, and I have to take the gold and leave the clay” Austen Farrer, The Inspiration of the Bible.  Do I? What theologies of the inspiration of Scripture lead you to your answer?


3. What is missional community and how is it created today?


4. Jonathan Edwards is arguably the greatest pastor-theologian of all time. In what sense is his essay ‘The Nature of True Virtue ’a demonstration of this and why does this work still matter?


5. Are the skills of the pastor or the CEO better suited to leading a growing church? Discuss this in light of the growth challenges of Holy Trinity Richmond.


6. “Teams are the future of parochial ministry?” Discuss


I only have one hurdle to leap and that is a thesis. So for my next trick, I will be asking and answering the question- "Why should the Church of England plant churches and how should they do it?" and here is a reading list

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Three things to do as a cultural jolly

One: A pal went to Evolving English and enthused muchly about it.

Two: I am going to see the new Mike Leigh film Another year this week.

Three: The Caneletto is now on at the National Gallery which my sister enjoyed.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Absent

I found myself sitting at a church event recently and I realised I was the only man at the table. They were wonderful women to eat with, don't get me wrong, but it got me thinking about the challenge the church has to attract men into its midst. Apparently 65% or so of attendees in the C of E are women. A friend from Vicar Factory was so perplexed and fascinated by this that she did her MA thesis on it. The best known book on the subject is Why men hate going to church. A pal who has been staying with me is always banging on about this issue and is very involved with CVM whose mission in all in their name.

In all the talk of women bishops, I have not heard much debate (if any) on the impact on non-attendees in churches and particularly men who do not yet know Christ. There is plenty of internal noise, debate, stupid comments and genuine passion about this issue but not much thought given to those not coming to church. This is not so much an issue about strong, gifted women and their leadership (there are many such women) but is it also about weak men, their lack of leadership and their apathy?

The truth is I think those not coming to church (particularly men) don't really care about women bishops and a whole host of other matters that church committees debate. A shocking thought I know. This is worth remembering as everyone gets more and more hot under the collar-as they will. One blogger is currently campaigning against the Anglican Covenant? Yes, me too. The truth is the C of E has never been terribly interested in or focussed on those not coming and would in these days do well to remember William Temple's observation that we are the only organisation that exists for it non-members.

Look outwards dear people. Look and see the harvest fields, the broken, the lost and those who have not yet heard the hope of the gospel. Talk about that, think about that, pray about that and then let's get on with it shall we. We need to wake up church and perhaps this starts with the churches many many sleeping and passive men.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

One for the pod

We have recently started a new ministry in order to meet the needs of vulnerable women (of whom there are many) in our community. I recommended my friend who heads this up to listen to this which speaks to the spiritual dynamics of this issue. She did so this morning and found it both helpful and challenging. Others may find this helpful to.

Decision time

This morning in my daily reading I found myself in the account of the Crucifixion. I spent some time once again reflecting on the Cross.

It struck me that aspiringly great men write books about themselves. Truly great men have books written about them. This is true recently of both Blair and Bush. Leaders who have led a life of power then self-justify there actions by writing about them.  How differently Jesus saw things-Matthew 10 v 39.

Michael Hyatt has a good post called 'How leaders make tough decisions' on the leadership lessons of George Bush including the interview he recently gave. It is worth watching and I wonder what you make of this man having done so?

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Happily 'old-school'

Anybody who knows anything about anything has to put the hours in as Outliers will tell you.

I met a pal today for breakfast and we had a good old catch-up and laugh. There's nothing better than good friends. As we chatted, he asked how I manage to find time to read and listen to talks. Then he said 'I bet you are an old school pastor who studies until 11 everyday'. My Vicar's father-in-law, who is contentedly 'old-school' and a wise buzzard, told me it was a standard habit for Curate's and Vicar's alike in the Church of England to give themselves over to study and prayer for a good part of each day-usually the mornings.

Here's a question. What else are we supposed to be doing? Emails, powerpoint presentations, chatting on the mobile, rushing to meetings, spreadsheets, committees, administration and building projects. Eugene Peterson who I have written about before has written three books the summary of which is broadly-Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.

Read the bible, pray and listen. And listen well.

Does that mean you don't do anything else? By no means. But if you fail to do these things the 'anything else' may end up being unfruitful, exhausting, works driven, worldly and over the long term pretty pointless. That's why I am increasingly wary of talk of the 'latest thing' (Then again, I may just be feeling grumpy today)

We had a fun time talking about John Stott over coffee and my pal had a few great stories of this wonderful man's habits. He did quite a bit of study you may not be surprised to learn. I was also reminded of Keller today and these talks with Edmond Clowny which revealed that for years every day he listened to a tape of a British preacher (Stott, Lloyd-Jones and Dick Lucas). One talk every day from eight to eight forty as he ran.  Every day.

Golfers hit buckets of balls

Footballers practice free kicks

Musicians listen to great music

Great preachers have read and listened to (you guessed it)- great preachers.

Today I listened to a wonderful talk on grace . Truly masterful. You need to hear it. You do. If you can find a better one then do let me know. It is one of 244 .

Just imagine what might be if you listened to one of these for the next 244 days. Not that you will. But just imagine how saturated in God's word you might be. Just imagine what might happen to your heart. Just imagine how you might change. Now you won't I know because you're busy and have important things to do and achieve. Really busy in fact. Really really busy.

But just imagine though, for a moment, if just one person did (As Mark we learnt in 'An introduction ' did with MLJ and it transformed him and those around him).

For a second. Just imagine.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Hallelujah

On a wet day just before I leave to do a school assembly this lifted my soul. Watch and listen in wonder.

A much-neglected means of grace

The Radical Disciple has been well reviewed elsewhere so I am not going to do what others have already done save to say this is worth reading. What struck me most was I think the last section of the book when Stott talked so movingly about three things- death, tears and reading.

Some years ago now this blog was birthed in the Bodlein Library when I should have been writing an essay. I had no idea what a blog was and much less about what to write about. It continues to have pitifully few readers. However, over time it has become clearer to me that one of its functions has been to share my reading with others. One or two encouraging souls have happily found books here and shared the blessing reading them has been with me.

Now, at about the time I started blogging I happened upon a remarkable book called Indelible ink. It is fair to say that the opening essay by John Stott had a deeply profound impact on me that continues to this day and it simply says that to mature in Christ and in life you must read. All would do well to read this important essay. His advice to us was that we should read widely, read plentifully and read thoughtfully. John Piper adds to this conviction in his new book Think.

Here is some of Stott's remarkable sign-off:

"Our favourite books become very precious to us and we even develop with them an almost living and affectionate relationship. Is it an altogether fanciful fact that we handle, stroke and even smell them as tokens of our esteem and affection? I am not referring only to an author's feeling for what he has written, but to all readers and their library. I have made it a rule not to quote from a book until I have first handled it. So let me urge you to keep reading, and encourage your relatives and friends to do the same. For this is a much-neglected means of grace".........."That is why I have assigned the royalties to all my own books to the work of Langham Literature, to enable more believers and their pastors in poorer parts of the world to obtain good Christian books both in English and in their own language to be so strengthened in their faith and their preaching. I wonder if I might encourage you to consider this and the other ministries of the Langham Partnership, which are dear to my own heart, as worthy of your interest and support"

[The Radical Disciple, Page 140]

If John Stott has been a blessing to you in any way perhaps an act of thanks might be a gift in line with his wishes which you can do here.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Saturday ramble

I really enjoyed watching Influencers and have been wondering who they are for me. Probably all the stuff I stick on the blog. It's interesting that Jay-Z came up as a key influencer. I am sure all those trend-setting types probably read it here.

Unlikely.

I am excited about Romans and the hunger is happily spreading to others due to Romans: An introduction. I am reading Douglas Moo and it is so helpful. Also listened to a couple of these in the car which pack quite a punch. The first one (of 224......) tells of the influence Romans has on Piper. Epic stuff.

I am enjoying the Radical Disciple and will share some thoughts on this incredibly important book. If you are a follower of Jesus you would do well to make time to read this from a true 'influencer'. He may however never be likely to star in a film such as one cited at the start :( This book is written by a single, celibate,  birdwatching, elderly authority on Romans (among other things) who now lives in a retirement home slightly south of London.  This commentary on Romans 5-8 changed the course of Piper's life as he vividly tells it in this talk:

"I went to college thinking that maybe I would be a doctor or a veterinarian. Then in the summer of 1966, between my sophomore and junior years, my whole life-direction changed, in the painful and precious providence of God. He called me to the ministry of the Word. That fall I had signed up to live with three friends in a dormitory suite. But midway through the year I knew I needed more solitude to study and pray the way I felt driven to study. For the next year and a half I lived alone in the single room of another dorm. And there I remember - I can see it and almost smell it - reading John Stott's little yellow book on Romans 5-8 called Men Made New. The effect on me was to seal the calling to be a faithful minister of God's Word. So Romans confirmed my conversion, and Romans confirmed my call to the ministry of the Word."

Did I mention Stott has sold nearly a million books, but then again if you are not a Christian his name would mean nothing to you. But, as Malcolm Muggeridge so aptly put it, 'only dead fish swim with the current.' [p.28]. Praise God for John Stott's life and his on-going influence on so many of us.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Natural enemies who love

"The church is ...... made up of natural enemies. What binds us together is not common education, common race, common income levels, common politics, common nationality,common accents, common jobs, or anything else of that sort. Christians come together....because they have all been saved by Jesus Christ and owe him a common allegiance.....They are a band of natural enemies who love one another for Jesus' sake"

Carson 'Love in hard places'

(Keller 'Gospel in life' P.75)


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

The Vision

Pete Grieg's 'The Vision and the vow'.

TODAY

The Lausanne Conference in Cape Town passed off with no Christian I know mentioning it. Krish was there and offers some helpful reflections and it is worth taking time to read them.

This was by all accounts one of the best films.



(H/T Tall Skinny Kiwi)

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

WORD: The bible on a coffee table

Someone at church has shown me a copy of Word and I love it. It is produced by Hillsong and is the NLT produced in a magazine style. What a great thing to give to those who have not yet discovered the joys of the bible. Everyone I have shown it to wants a copy. I am going to be showing my copy to my group on Alpha tonight as we discuss 'How and why should I read the bible? '

Culture Watch: Jay Z

I had the thought this morning listening to the Today programme that one day Jay Z might be President of the USA. He has interested me for a while since I watched a BBC documentary on him and I then saw him play Wembley (finger on the pulse me:) He is a role model for millions, fashion icon, billionaire (when you add in Mrs Jay Z who happens to be Beyonce) and is now a writer. He has launched a decoding scavenger hunt for those who want to read his book. When, as a rapper, you find yourself being interviewed on Radio 4 on the most serious news programme in the land your career is either over or it's time for us all to sit up and take notice. So Jay Z for President- you heard it here first....

As an aside, our new website has a blog and we should all it seems be off to see Africa United.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Children's books, Prayer and a Song

A pal of mine has sent me a fraction of a book he has birthed in recent months and I have to say it is really rather good. Years ago, I spotted a talk by Keller on some website that he had given about J R R Tolkein and never got around to listening to it. Then I couldn't find it again. How happy am I that I have found it once again thanks to Mark Meynell. I immediately recommended The Significance of J R R Tolkein to my friend.

I have been meeting with some dear friends to pray for over a decade. We say we meet once a month but to be honest it is every other (although remarkably we are meeting again in November which will be a first). I so value their encouragement. Find a few friends to pray and be real with- it's a lifeline. Anyway, as we were leaving, one of our number played us a song. He said that he discovered it on an album his wife had bought and in recent weeks it has become his prayer. It took some finding but I too plan to make it my prayer. It is called Bones. 70p well spent.

Sometimes there are sermons that require courage to preach. This was as good a preaching of grace and truth as you will hear for Part 5 and it rightly fell to the Rector himself to do this one. Lesley, whose blog I greatly enjoy and is wonderfully challenging and thoughtful (even though I disagree with just about everything she writes) won't I fear like this sermon and I wonder too what President Josiah Bartlett would make of it?

Monday, November 01, 2010

REVIEW: The pursuit of the holy

'The pursuit of the holy: a divine invitation ' is the new book by Simon Ponsonby which I happily read last week as I holidayed in Cornwall. Simon asked me to share some thoughts here as I have done before. My plan, to be honest, was to read each chapter slowly day by day, but as it turned out I found myself wanting to read on, which I duly did, and one chapter easily turned into three and more. Having said that, this is a book that deserves to be lingered with, to be picked up and put down and to be revisited periodically.

Why don't I let Simon tell you in his own words the passion that propelled him to put pen to paper once again as he lays out his challenge to each one of us:

"Our gospel won't be listened to if it isn't lived by us. Church cannot influence or infect society with something that has not infected her. A salt-less salt cannot savour and flavour. A church cannot light a fire if she is not on fire. And so, faced with a society in crisis, in wickedness, it is time for judgement, repentance, holiness to begin with the house of God (1 Peter 4 :17). We need a reformation, a revival- and holiness is at the heart of it. The Church must again find and follow Jesus-not as doctrine to be believed but as Lord to be served, a life to be lived-only then can she speak with integrity and be accepted"

You see I think most of us want the Church to be marked by lots of things-prayer, community, mission, passionate worship, church planting, cultural engagement, empowered preaching, justice- but how many of us would include in our lists holiness. That's all a bit up-close and personal. Perhaps many authors might shy away from a book on holiness fearing accusations of legalism or a 'works-based' gospel or quite simply that they don't feel holy enough themselves to write about such matters. Simon by his own admission (and as he frequently tells us!) is not very holy-he tells a lovely story in the book of the catalogue of sin he recognized in his heart during a short walk along a street in Oxford from St Aldates to Blackwells. But he does desire holiness. That is perhaps the whole point of this book- to birth a desire for such things in his readers.

The danger of books on holiness like those written by Foster, Ortberg and Willard is they end up being books about the disciplines or 'sanctification-manuals'. I still remember the day having read my way all the way through Ordering your private world  (and loved it by the way and I still do), I learnt that Gordon MacDonald had ended up falling off his bicycle. I was under the delusion that if you read this sort of thing and did the stuff they recommended it was supposed to prevent you running off with the church warden. The message is so often do lots of waking up early, writing in journals, reading old books by Saints, fasting from telly and a bit of time in caves up mountains alone and you ("one day my son") might be as holy, wise and learned as me [or not as it turns out!]. The trouble is, if you don't understand the gospel when reading this stuff, you simply embark on a rather dissatisfying joyless life of religion. Unless I missed it, Simon hardly mentions such things at all except to critique John Wesley on his misguided pursuit of perfectionism. This is not a 'how-to' manual on fasting, bible reading and solitude instead it is a work of practically applicable doctrine to be ministered to your soul in the hope and prayer that it will birth renewed Spirit-filled holy living in us.

I think his chapter entitled 'Without blame' is at the core of what Simon wants us to know. In Christ, we have been made holy and are justified once for all and set free. What a huge relief all round this news is- you might even go so far as to call it 'good news'. We are sanctified out of this justification and never the other way around. The response then is live life out of this reality, live life out of grace and live life better and holier because that is who we are. We are loved sons and daughters-adopted, forgiven, cleansed and equipped to go into a lost and broken world.

Why then is this not happening in the Church you may well ask? Well, perhaps because many who attest to know the gospel don't actually know it. Even some, dare I venture to say, who are in the midst of leading churches that, in name at least, call themselves 'evangelical' but are in fact killing themselves in justification by works and are subsumed in Jesus + 'me me me' idolatry. Perhaps this realization is what has caused Simon by no coincidence, having written this book, to now take on the formidable task of preaching through the entire book of Romans. He has a good chapter on Romans 6 and it will be interesting to see if Simon changes any of his thoughts once he has preached through chapters one to five. I confess I am with MLJ and am not sure I quite yet get Chapter 6. As it happens, I preached on Romans 1 only yesterday so give me a little more time.

Do make time to read this book and I would love you also to spread the word if it blesses you and you think it has value for others. Maybe even a reader the other side of the water might take on the task of reviewing it? The chapter on justification alone is worth the price of the book but it contains so much more- not least a wonderful bibliography which theology geeks will enjoy.

Thanks Si for this book. I know how costly it was to write it and I pray that it's message may bear much fruit for Jesus and the glory of his bride in this nation and beyond.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Blog-sweep

I have heard good things about Hannah's child

The Deep things of God looks interesting.

I have also heard good things about Generous Justice. It arrived yesterday.

Why share the gospel?

A prayer and a thought on praying with a more outward focus

The Coke Happiness Machine

A thought on why you should not read 'Christian' books.

As I am on about Romans here are another 11 sermons

4 leadership truths from Philemon

Focus booster is perhaps an App to add to the collection.

A great bit of Gladwell (if you know anything about basketball?)

John Stackhouse has some thoughts for Driscoll on gender roles. 

Saturday, October 30, 2010

For the pod

Many years ago I went on holiday to La Rochelle. I remember two things about it. Firstly, I had just taken up the guitar and I drove my friends mad learning how to play 'D' and singing out of tune renditions of 'Blowing in the wind'. The second thing I remember is that I read Surprised by joy by C S Lewis and since that time have read many of his books and a few essays. Why am I telling you this? On my long journey to and from Cornwall I listened to this excellent talk on Lewis called Lessons from an inconsolable soul. It will propel you to your bookshelf to rediscover Lewis or may encourage you to read him for the first time.

I am loving the Romans series and much enjoyed Christian on Romans Part 4 which has a wonderful story of sharing the gospel in Mongolia and Simon in Part 3 has an insight into John Stott's prayer life that inspired me.

I also enjoyed this brilliant Keller talk on Christianity and sexuality and Drissol on The Lord's prayer.

You get quite a bit of listening done in 11 hours in the car!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Holy Trinity Church

We've got a new website for Holy Trinity that now includes a welcome film which tells people who are thinking of visiting us what we are all about. Do have a click around and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Review: The power of a whisper

It's hard to ignore Bill Hybels. He does everything on a huge scale and he clearly strives to 'do all things well'. A pal of mine always says if anyone manages to make a Willow Creek-style church work in Gateshead then he will start to sit up and notice. This model is a very American one, with a very American leader, leading in a very American way. Having said all this, there is much to learn in the Power of the Whisper, to be inspired by and to admire. The story it tells is of God's work in a remarkable man's life. It's hard to work out though if Hybels built the church by hearing God or working really really hard and applying the methodology of the Harvard Business School. I have concluded having read this that it is a bit of both.

Hybels seems not to be a charismatic. To write a book on hearing God's voice and make little mention of 1 Corinthians 12-14 is quite an achievement. He does however talk of nudges, the voice of God from others, hearing the call for justice and he writes a moving chapter on dark nights of the soul. Willow Creek was birthed out of one question that Hybels was asked as a teenager by a mentor in his church. It a question we would all do well to ponder. Yesterday, I buried a man of 98 and the only thing his family was able to tell me was that "he worked and liked football and bowls." One life one sentence.

So here is the question and listen up:

"What are you going to do with your life that will last forever?"

It is this sentence that stuck with him and it will stick with me.

He also offers a simple observation about the dark nights of the soul. He says there are only three places you can be in.

1. Before pain [BP]
2. In pain [IP]
3. After pain [AP]

"Wherever you find yourself on this continuum- BP, IP or AP-I encourage you to commit Romans 8:28 to memory. God promises goodness for your tomorrows, regardless what realities your living through today" [P 126] He was deeply impacted at one stage in his life by reading a book by Mother Teresa called Come be my light. If you are in pain right now or feeling distant from God this might be good for you to read.

This book blessed me. It is worth an explore if you want to encounter one of the most impressive church leaders of this generation and tap into the things he has learnt about hearing God. The appendix of Hybels key life Scriptures that he has committed to memory are well-worth looking at and I should probably commit them to memory too. Maybe if I do, I might be able to plant a mega-church in Gateshead?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bits and bobs

I enjoyed the thought that what you complain about is what you're gifted in.

I drove to Salisbury listening to this and loved working out whether I was more Mary or Martha. Super preaching.

Keith Green said some challenging things and here is an interesting essay about him and the Trinity.

A good challenge to leaders about areas of deafness.

As I am in the midst of the usual Alpha questions the Little Black Books look interesting.

And I love this about a bit of technology you must not miss out on called The Bio Optical Organised Knowledge Device

Monday, October 18, 2010

The song on my heart

We having been singing this a lot recently and I feel I am being slowly changed by it.



1. Come Thou Fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I'm fixed upon it,
Mount of God's unchanging love.

2. Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Hither by Thy help I'm come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood.

3. O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I'm constrained to be!
Let that grace now like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here's my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

Would anybody in your community notice if your church disappeared?

A man I talked to in a pub gave me what Hybels would call a 'defining moment' recently.

He had been watching Mr Cameron speak about 'the Big Society' and called me over as 'his priest' and this was our conversation:

Man in pub: "You're my local priest"

Me: "I am indeed"

Man in pub: "I am sure your church does loads of good stuff for the benefit of the local community that Mr Cameron is talking about"

Me: "Well [pausing for thought] a few things"

Man in pub: "I don't want to come to church but next time you do something for this community I want to help"

Me: "Well that's great and I will get onto it"

Man in pub's girlfriend : "Can I come and help too?"

Me: "Sure"

This encounter gave me much food for thought. In my sermon about 'Loving our city' I waved the business card before my saints and said I would like someone to take it off me and call him with something they are doing to bless our community. You see, the man in the pub expects the gospel of grace to produce works of blessing, justice, mercy and service in those saved by this amazing grace.

He is right to expect such things isn't he?

"Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it. For if it prospers , you too will prosper" Jeremiah 29:7

I also showed them this film.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

One to watch

As I leave for our evening service in a mo, many of you churchy folk who attend church in the evening will not have watched Downton Abbey. I hadn't even heard of it. Three sets of friends have been glued to this 'period drama'  and it's really quite good. Observation of the first episode is the capacity of the strong to go after the weak (there are parts though that Jane Austen novels may not have included!). Enjoy.

How to transform your life

Read Romans.

Now that was a brief and easy answer and cheaper than having to buy a shelf full of self-help books.

By now, as I have been banging on about it so much, I hope you have listened to Romans: An Introduction.

If not, do that before reading any further.

According to Simon (and I agree) there is no more effective way to transform your life in a way that will propel you into a greater love of God and others than to consume this great letter. Honestly, I know of no sermon that I have listened to in quite some time that has given me such a hunger to immerse myself afresh in a book of the Bible. Everyone who I have managed to convince to listen to this introduction has had the same reaction.

If this happens to you here are some tips on what to do next:

1. Get a notebook: Dedicating a moleskine to studying this letter and putting on paper your thoughts, prayers and observations would be helpful. Particularly if you plan to spend a year in it.

2. Get a way to listen to itFaith comes through hearing, so says Romans. I have discovered a function on the ESV+ Study App that allows me to listen to Romans being read. I have been enjoying waking early, driving, going to sleep and walking listening to Romans. If you are not a reader (as many are not) then you can travel through this book by hearing it. If you do this expect to encounter amazing things.

3. Get a Commentary: If you get inspired by 'SAS Mark' described in the introductory talk you might want to get hold of the Lloyd-jones sermons but most will probably do well with John Stott on Romans as a goto reference point.

4. Get a teacher: As St Aldates will preach this through all year you can do no worse than download the talk each week. There are lots of theological words in Romans- sin, justification, election, grace, faith, sanctification and others. I would commend J I Packer and The most important 18 words you will ever know as your teacher, translator and provider of definitions.

5. Get some friends: I know you have friends (I hope you do anyway) but what I mean is get some people to study this book with. There is great benefit on going through this book with a few others.

Bless you and if you take this on it really will transform you.

I will be praying for you.