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.