Sunday, July 31, 2011

Fight

I have been greatly enjoying reading Movements that change the world by Steve Addison

"While women weep as they do now, I'll fight
While little children go hungry as they do now, I'll fight
While men go to prison in and out, in and out, I'll fight
While there yet remains one dark soul without the light of God, I'll fight.
I'll fight to the very end"

WILLIAM BOOTH, FOUNDER OF THE SALVATION ARMY

[Page 55]

Saturday, July 30, 2011

For the pod: Stott on life and death

For those of you who may never heard John Stott speak, here he is on Humaness: questions of life and death. It wonderfully illustrates his great intelligence, his clarity of thought and speaking, his submission to biblical authority and his courageous Gospel challenge to the culture and thinking of our days.

Saturday blog-sweep dedicated to John Stott


There is really no other subject for a review of this week than the life and death of John Stott. Of all the tributes A meal with John Stott touched my heart the most. However, do take some time to reflect on this remarkable man's life of following Jesus Christ by reading some of these.

The Daily Telegraph

The Guardian

Christianity Today

Mark Meynell

Tim Chester

The Resurgence

John Piper

LICC

Charles Marnham

Tim Challies

John Stackhouse

Darryl Dash

Marcus Honeysett

Tall Skinny Kiwi

Cranmer

Friday, July 29, 2011

Stott on Authenticity

The last time that John Stott spoke at Kessick he shared some deeply challenging words about evangelism. He said, if I understood him right, that it matters much more who we are than what we say. Or, to put that the other way around, our doing and speaking and its impact flow from the person that we are. Essentially, this is a call to character and it drives me and perhaps you also to my knees on how short I fall. If few are becoming Christians around us it might be good for us to ask ourselves the question 'Why?' When boiled down to its core, might it perhaps simply be a lack of love (1 John 3:16-18)

Tozer wrote of a type of leader:

"A true and safe leader is likely to be one who has no desire to lead, but is forced into a position by the inward pressure of the Holy Spirit and the press of [circumstances] .....There was hardly a great leader from Paul to the present day but was drafted by the Holy Spirit for the task, and commissioned by the Lord to fill a position he had little heart for......The man who is ambitious to lead is disqualified as a leader. The true leader will have no desire to Lord it over God's heritage, but will be humble, gentle, self-sacrificing and altogether ready to follow when the Spirit chooses another to lead"

Spiritual leadership, Sanders, [p. 30]

John Stott's humilty, gentleness and self-sacrifical life were an example to us all.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

John Stott 1921-2011

I am indebted to John Stott in more ways than words can say. I first understood the basics of the Gospel reading Basic Christianity, heard him preach, understood what a Christian worldview is through Issues Facing Christians Today, fell in love with Romans through his commentary and was inspired to live wholeheartedly and fully for Christ afresh though his last book The Radical Disciple. I am so grateful to God for his life and, as it so happens, we both attended the same school.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The definition of a leader

This morning my reading contained a fascinating verse:

'Some Gadites defected to David at his stronghold in the desert. They were brave warriors, ready for battle and able to handle the shield and spear. Their faces were the faces of lions, and they were as swift as gazelles in the mountains'

1 Chronicles 12 v 8

The definition of a leader is this: When asked the question, "What's the plan?" they are able to give you an answer.

Read v 16-18......


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Religion vs the Gospel

A friend recently visited Mars Hill and he picked up a copy of This is Mars Hill which is their church annual report and he gave it to me yesterday. It is one of the most impressive pieces of church communication I have come across in a while. Now you may not necessarily agree with all the content theologically but they are at least a people who clearly know what they are all about, what they want to do and how they plan on doing it. How does your own churches annual report compare to this? Mine is here

I have never read the C of E's Annual Report until now- I didn't know such a thing existed. It is, I now learn, called 'The Pensions Report' and this may be telling us something pretty blindingly obvious or am I missing something? I will say that again- the annual report is called 'The Pensions Report'. One other thing- it doesn't seem to mention Jesus anywhere. Oops. When your reason and mission for being is a pension you are surely but steps away from the end- failing drastic intervention and prophetic leadership. A crisis even but seemingly approached in a lovely English way that all will somehow turn out for the best.

I have been reading the excellent Rethinking the church by James Emery White (you would do well to put a copy in the hands of your bishop and to read this yourself if you lead a church) and he has a simple thesis. Now I don't want to get all complicated on you but, so he says, the purpose of the church is to preach the gospel in such a way that the people who don't come to church actually do and it actually grows. No,  honestly he really believes that. I know it's an extraordinary idea. Here's the funny thing. If that happens, the people who start coming may also start serving, giving, loving, praying and blessing their communities and soon you'll have an annual report that can be about people who are people planning on living rather than dying. You could call it something like 'The Hope Report' or 'The New Life Report' or the 'What we hope Jesus is going to do in might and power in the years ahead Report'. I know they are not quite as uplifting as 'Pension' but I am just having a first stab. And remember I'm not a Bishop yet, so I'm not really qualified for this sort of thing. Then what we could have is something called 'The plan'. You know the sort of thing that other organisations, businesses and families have. 'The plan' that perhaps says 'This is where we are and this is where we want to get to and this is how we plan to do it'. We could then gather people together and actually tell them 'The plan', set them some goals, train and resource them and put the right people in place who might actually make 'The plan' happen.

My understanding of what is expected of me as a leader of the local church in the Church of England as it comes from the top down is this as I have asked and travelled around chatting to pals across the country: "Do the liturgy well". That is I think the Vision and I must say a heart-gripping one at that. The consequence of this seems to be just on the raw numbers- losing six stipends this year and six stipends next year and an £800k hole in the budget YTD in our patch of the land. I hope your patch is doing a tad better on both finances and planned-posts decline. Now, as I understand Vision, now remember again I'm new to all this (apart from nearly 15 years working for a FTSE 100 company that is), is meant to drive outcome.

So let's just for fun have a go at coming up with another statement. Instead of 'Do the liturgy well' we could replace it with something like: "We exist to reach those who are far from God and see them come to belief in and passion for Jesus". We could then share this and create something, let's call it a 'Vision Action Plan' . The 'VAP' would need to be measured against the Vision and we could assess if the things we are planning to do get us any closer to the desired outcome. This might include four things that we plan to do in the next year. Literally off the top of my head they might be:

1. Gather every church for a week of fasting, repentance, prayer and seeking God (2 Chronicles 7:14).
2. Remind the church of what it is meant to be like. (Acts 2:42-48)
2. Plan four events in the next 12 month to bring the church into contact with its community through acts of loving kindness, mercy, radical blessing, service and generosity. Challenge the people of the the Church to give abundantly and sacrificially of time, money and prayer towards this end. (Acts 9:36)
3. Conclude these events with a gathering that enables the gospel to be proclaimed to those who are far off. You would do well to get someone called 'An evangelist' to do this job (2 Tim 4:5)
4. Follow up these with some means of enabling people to engage in questions of life, faith and community and continue the acts of kindness and blessing irrespective of whether people choose to believe (Isaiah 58).

You know the more I think about this, I think what we could then do with is a prophetic leader like they seem to have in the Bible and God tends to raise up when it all looks like it is going to a ball of chalk. As my ex-alchohlic friend said to me on Saturday sitting in the entrance to our church, "It's chaos out there". You just need to choose one perhaps like Nehemiah, Josiah, David or John the Baptist. You probably need someone with some guts and fire and courage in their belly. People will most likely hate them as they hated Jesus (John 15:18), particularly the religious establishment. Someone who doesn't give a rip about anything but the glory of God in this land and the land's healing and transformation and is prepared even to the point of death to see his nation called to repentance and new life (Acts 18:9). He will certainly need to have the Spirit of God upon him with power (Acts 6:8).

I'm rolling now. If you found this leader (where would you find someone like that?) he could maybe call the Bishops to write to every Vicar in the land demanding of them (I know very un-C of E but that's what prophetic leaders do I'm afraid) one of these odd things called a 'VAP' about how they are going put the Vision of reaching people far from God into action. He would probably completely reorder things (2 Kings 23), close things down, get rid of people who aren't doing the job they were supposed to, reallocate finances and call the leaders to repentance and holy living (1 Thes 4:7). These Bishop's (Acts 20:24-31) who I imagine know about the Gospel, the Bible, evangelism, mission, prayer and all that stuff (most of them have Phd's and everything) could evaluate the individual plans, add them all together and then you would have, you guessed it, 'The Vision Action Plan' for the whole of England. The prophetic leader would then tell everyone to stop doing everything that didn't get us closer to the Vision and start the whole process with prayer, mourning and tears over how bad we have let things get (Ezra 10:1)  . Once we have 'The plan' the church might then start to grow and we could even evaluate how we are doing against 'The plan' as we are going along. You never know, it might even over time solve the pension problem to boot. I'm not charging for this by the way. It's free- like grace. I'll stop now with such crazy thinking. 'The Vision Action Plan' - whatever will he think of next.

You would do particularly well to linger on the section in 'This is Mars Hill' entitled 'Religion vs the Gospel' and why not give yourself an hour. Read these statements slowly-really really absorb and think about them- then look up the references methodically and finally spend some time in prayer, journalling and reflection. You might also want to listen to Tim Keller's Preaching the gospel from which this material comes. You may even want to burn this talk onto a CD and give it to your church leader, any preachers you know, anyone you know or come into contact with tasked with leading or organising your church and have faith that if we applied what it says about preaching the Gospel by God's grace the tide may start to turn. In a world where you never know if a mass-murderer is going to gun you down in a park on a Summer's day, now might be a good time to crack on with the mission of the Church in our land.

If you don't want to do any of this we could just have a debate about lead on Church roofs, the Anglican Covenant or Women Bishops.

Friday, July 22, 2011

What is Google +?

Now I like to keep you all up with things including this new thing people are talking about called Google +. Shall we let the migration begin? You heard it here first (or second perhaps...)



(H/T Donald Miller)


Thursday, July 21, 2011

10,000 Reasons

As so many go off on camps for the summer, I think everyone should buy 10,000 reasons and sing We are free very loudly in their cars as they sit in long traffic jams on hot summer days (or in the rain....) with their family and friends. This particular song is making me very excited and prayerful about Soul Survivor, New Wine, Lymington Rushmore, Kessick, Focus and Stewards Trust and I am sure lots of other camps and holidays that you are embarking upon. I will be praying for you and for mighty blessing. We are free indeed.

How to be a better doctor

I found A pastor who reads his journals really helpful. It compares what it means to be a good doctor with that of being a good pastor. It is a very helpful corrective to so much management speak that dominates our times and the church. The principle would also seem to apply to whatever field you are in and it calls each of us to be people who sharpen the saw and commit to lifelong learning.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Giglio: Pursuing a passion for God

Louie Giglio is a man I have come across quite a bit down the years most notably through his 268 Generation. His film Indescribable is amazing and is a testimony to his understanding that our lives are all about bringing ultimate glory to God. What I didn't know is that Piper had had such an influence on Giglio and the establishment of Passion and that his book Let the nations be glad changed his view of missions forever. This Piper talk Getting to the bottom of your joy given at Passion 2011 is well worth your listening to and I also commend these fascinating and encouraging interviews.



Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A dose of daily wisdom

A friend at Church was much enthused on Sunday evening upon the discovery of a daily devotional he had just bought and asked me if I had heard of it. I am not sure if treasure is less valuable when you discover that others have got to it before you or more? Anyway, I told my friend that I had indeed heard of My utmost for his highest and that it has been one of my great sources of wisdom and encouragement down the years.

A few years ago, I read the wonderful Indelible ink in which 22 Christian leaders were asked to list the books that have changed their lives. In the exhaustive appendix at the back, I was struck by the amount of times Oswald Chambers appeared which is a testimony to his deep wisdom and the holy influence he has had on so many. If you don't own a copy you should have one by your beside and I promise it will become a life-long companion. Here is an entry from June 19th.

"......To-day we have substituted credal belief for personal belief, and that is why so many are devoted to causes and so few devoted to Jesus Christ. People do not want to be devoted to Jesus, but only to the cause He started. Jesus Christ is a source of deep offence to the educated mind of to-day that does not want Him in any other way than as a Comrade. Our Lord's first obedience was to the will of His Father, not to the needs of men; the saving of men was the natural outcome of His obedience to the Father. If I am devoted to the cause of humanity only, I will soon be exhausted and come to the place where my love will falter; but if I love Jesus Christ personally and passionately, I can serve humanity though men treat me as a door-mat. The secret of a disciple's life is devotion to Jesus Christ, and the characteristic of the life is its unobtrusiveness. It is like a corn of wheat, which falls into the ground and dies, but presently it will spring up and alter the whole landscape (John 12:24)."

Monday, July 18, 2011

The East Africa Crisis

The horn of Africa is in many of our minds, prayers and hopefully pockets. Recently, reading Can our generation end poverty? I was struck that despite current catastrophe there is some cause for hope when seeing the strides that have been made in a generation. You can find out more here (do watch the very compelling film) and you can give to specifically alleviate the East Africa crisis here.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Interesting debate on Sovereignty

Why does stuff happen? Who's in charge? Why the bad stuff? Where's God in all this?

Here's a view or two.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Ten summer encouragement resources


As the Summer comes and some of you head off on holiday I thought I would offer a few things you might want to pop in the bag. Please forward it far and wide to all and sundry (your pastor, your spouse and kids, your bible/community group, your church staff team, your Christian friends and colleagues at work- anyone you think it might be a blessing and encouragement for. Quite a few by this stage in the year are a bit weary and in need of rest, encouragement and resourcing. Now, I know no one ever links to this blog which is why it has such select readers (happily so you are are a discerning and elite bunch:) All links to your blog, tweets and facebook shout-outs are however welcome on this particular post:)


Here goes:

1. A good novel:  Some of you I know read worthy and weighty books (I will recommend a few later) but summer may be a time to sit on on sun bed and read a light page turner. Might I recommend 'One Day' by David Nicholls. It is the story of two friends and there ups and down from 1988-2004 from university to mid-life which is a window of time that is familiar to me and perhaps you. Made me laugh out loud in parts and made me sad. Tells the story so many are living and I for one was by mercy rescued from.

2. A good talk:  I have been meditating on Acts 20:24 and it is an extraordinary verse. I listen to one particular talk every few months and listened to it again last week. It is called 'Running with the Witnesses' and always stirs me into a spiritual MOT and to take a day out with bible, journal and all my gubbins to repent and pray. Hope it might bless you to do the same. If you are married, as the talk suggests, bless your spouse with a morning without phone, kids, plans, errands etc to get away and seek the Lord. 

3. A good discipline: I think the summer is a much better time to make resolutions than January. Who on earth has time over Christmas to reflect on the rest of their life? One thing that is very healthy to do is ask yourself how are you getting on following Jesus. I know- obvious but it is rather urgent. Are the ways you and I are living and the practices we enact making us more holy?  Donald Witney's book on the Spiritual disciplines has been such rich food for me recently as we have started preaching and teaching on the disciplines and is a healthy kick up the backside for me to put first things first (as Covey suggests). It might be for you too.

You might also read these two articles and reflect on the challenge that Gordon Macdonald throws out to Christians that we are meant to be 'deep people'.  Gosh- that's quite a thought. The two minute Keller film- well enough said.

MacDonald on 'Going deep'



(H/T J R Briggs)

4. A good game: Twice this year, I have been away with friends and family and we have played Monopoly deal. A really fun game for those wet afternoons in the tent when you are wondering what on earth to do keep everyone entertained.

5. A good introduction to the bible:  If you like a bit of theology or are involved in leading a church in any capacity it is hard not to have come across Rick Warren of Purpose driven life fame (which also if you haven't done these 40 days you have missed out in my opinion). Summer might give you an hour to watch this fascinating interview between Warren and John Piper (or download it for a journey) and also you might want to pick up his excellent resource on studying the bible called 'Bible Study Methods'. I can't believe I have not come across this before. If you have ever wanted to study the bible (so many seem to me never to get further than a sporadic quiet time). Here's a thought- the lack of study aside from busy-ness and wrong priorities might simply be not knowing how to study? This might be the solution for you and others -such a great resource for getting you delving deeply into the bible for yourself.

6. A good book on fear and worry: As already said by Justin Buzzard, Ed Welch's book on fear and worry: "Three summers ago I read a chapter a day of Ed Welch’s, Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest. It changed my life. This is the best book you can get your hands on for breaking free from anxiety and fear. This past month I re-read the book and was reminded of how good it is. I’ve underlined sentences on nearly every page. This might be a great book for you to read this summer."

7. A good book on leadership: A book that has caught my eye recently is called 'Derailed' and is about failures in leadership. I have not yet read it but it is on my own list for the summer months. As part of a time-out MOT it might offer helpful lessons for anyone leading anything.

8. A good biography/history: The Times literary editor said this was her favourite book and strangely it's a book about a bridge-The great bridge. It is a fascinating read and as we are all by grace involved in building things (marriages and families, churches, businesses etc) this might be a good one to read.

9. A good business book: I went recently to buy my nephew a new pair of football boots at a store called 'Sports direct'. I cannot describe what a dreadful experience it was. If this were in the US it would have closed years ago. Shocking place, shocking service and I could go on about how awful it is. Don't go there. If you know the owner tell him to read 'Delivering happiness' and if you like a business book you might like to read it too.

10. A good film:  There is much talk about Tree of Life.  You can watch Mark Kermode's review and then maybe you will want to go and see it or maybe you won't. If you don't you should listen to Kermode's excellent film podcast you should.

Keep running dear friends. Keep running.

'Rude' worship

On Sunday Will, who had been leading our worship, went to the loo after the service. Mid-operation, a voice from behind him asked him a question. It was the voice of a little five year old boy visiting our church for the first time.

"You're the man who did the music"

"Yes I am" replied Will.

"I liked the music"

"Great" said Will.

Somewhat encouraged and bolstered that at least one person had been blessed he left the loo followed by the little boy and immediately bumped into the lads father. This is how the conversation then went:

"Your son told me he really enjoyed the music"

"Did he really say that?" responded the father"

"Actually, to be honest he said you were very rude to start with"

Immediately perplexed, Will asked him for an explanation.

"Well, he thought you were very rude because while you were singing he saw so many hands up in the air he thought it rude you didn't stop for questions"

How great is that- but also profound.

There may be quite a gap between what we think people see and experience in worship and what they actually do.....


Monday, July 11, 2011

Chan on Erasing Hell

Francis Chan has written Erasing Hell in response to all the talk of Hell in these days. Recently he spoke about it which you can download and listen to or watch.

Jim Wallis offers some advice to leaders

A few years ago at New Wine I listened to Jim Wallis teach a series of spell-binding morning Bibles studies and his searing passion for justice deeply impacted me. Here he has a bit of advice for Christian leaders.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Running scared

I was interested when reading this post recommending two books to find that one of them was authored by Edward T Welch. Why is that interesting you may wonder. Well, it's not terribly interesting granted but it just happens that I spent my holiday slowly reading a book by the same author called 'Running scared'. I came across it because it changed a man's life. My interest always peaks when I get wind of a life-transforming read. This is what Justin Buzzard wrote about it:

"Three summers ago I read a chapter a day of Ed Welch’s, Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest. It changed my life. This is the best book you can get your hands on for breaking free from anxiety and fear. This past month I re-read the book and was reminded of how good it is. I’ve underlined sentences on nearly every page. This might be a great book for you to read this summer."

This is such a helpful book and for those who struggle with worry it will be a real gift. All of us without exception have questions and they are usually 'tomorrow questions'. If you don't you are are probably not breathing. Here are some of them:

Will I have enough money to provide for myself and my dependents?

Will the venture I am planning be successful?

Will I get married or stay single?

Will my husband find a job?

How will I die and how will I cope with it?

How will I face trouble when it comes?

Will my kids turn out alright?

Of course there are many more questions that cause people worry- some serious and some very often laughably silly. However, as we all know, a worry is a worry. The overarching story of this book is God's provision of manna for the people of Israel. You will be immersed in it and come to see that daily manna is the backdrop to all that Jesus says about worry in the Sermon on the Mount.

This book really is well worth packing in the bag as one of your summer reads. It blessed me and is still blessing me and I hope it will do the same for you.