Saturday, March 31, 2012

Saturday blog-sweep

Average is apparently over.

Yesterday, my sister graduated from the OU top of her class thirty-five years after leaving school. Lord Puttnam made a short and very thought-provoking speech to us.  He quoted Tom Freidman's article in last months NYT suggesting average is no longer enough. It is well worth reading and pondering if you want to think about the future of work, education, economics and the world of work our children may have to face.

"In the past, workers with average skills, doing an average job, could earn an average lifestyle. But, today, average is officially over. Being average just won’t earn you what it used to. It can’t when so many more employers have so much more access to so much more above average cheap foreign labor, cheap robotics, cheap software, cheap automation and cheap genius. Therefore, everyone needs to find their extra — their unique value contribution that makes them stand out in whatever is their field of employment. Average is over."

Friday, March 30, 2012

Walking over glass

Among the thoughts that shaped me most was the story Ravenhill told of the notorious British criminal, Charlie Peace, who was going to his death on a capital offence. As the minister was reading from the Bible and another book, Charlie Peace asked him, 'Do you really believe in such a place called hell?' The minister replied,'Yes'.Charlie responded- and this is the thought that impacted me- 'Sir, if I believed what you and the church of God say that you believe, even if England were covered with broken glass from coast to coast, I would walk over it, if need be, on hands and knees, and think it worth while living, just to save one soul from an eternal hell like that!' That struck me. If what we lay claim to on these matters is true, then the dramatic influence in our lives is going to be inestimable.

'Even if England were covered with the broken glass from coast to coast, I would walk over it.' That is the kind of reality, and these are the words that shape one's call. This was the truth I was going to proclaim.......And for me, 'Why revival tarries' sealed my call to preach and proclaim, and it convinced me that this was a real message. I was not going to shirk from whatever sacrifice was required to take this message to the world. Little did I know God was going to enable me to do that'

Ravi Zacarias in Indelible Ink: Books that shape faith.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Giants

"All God's giants are weak people" Hudson Taylor

In The Purpose-graced life, Page 275


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The last enemy

I awoke early this morning.

Wednesday is the day I pray the Psalms with a few folk.

One thought for the day.

You're going to die.

So am I.

Sorry. I don't mean to start your day on a downer but it's true.

I am someone who does funerals for a living- not all the time- but I do bury people quite often.

A couple of days ago I asked someone what the purpose of life was.

The person replied by saying they couldn't care less and had no idea.

Few are prepared for dying.

Few begin with the end in mind.

Few lead lives that are fruitful for the kingdom.

Perhaps that's because most of us have failed to reflect on the reality of dying.

If you want to read a book about death this might be the one.

'Life is too short to read bland books or watch movie sequels. There isn't enough time for gossip, grudges, or plotting revenge. You don't have years to waste on what someone else thinks you should be or do. When you take death to heart, you'll tuck your children in every night, make some meals from scratch to share with friends, and go barefoot every chance you can. You'll take hungry bites from the peach of life, and when the juice runs down your chin and all the way to your elbows, you'll wipe it with your shirt.'

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A critic

"A critic is a man who knows the way but can't drive the car"

Kenneth Tynan quoted in The Times

Monday, March 26, 2012

The one vital thing


I find you grow more and more famous in the learned world. As you have made a pretty considerable progress in the mysteries of electricity, I would now humbly recommend to your diligent, unprejudiced pursuit and study, the mystery of the new birth. It is a most important, interesting study; and, when mastered, will richly answer and repay you for all your pains. One, at whose bar we are shortly to appear, hath solemnly declared, without it we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. You will excuse this freedom. I must have something of Christ in all my letters.

George Whitefield
Letter to Benjamin Franklin, August 17, 1752 


There are so many questions I get asked. At any particular time, I can be faced with having to give people answers to things that they expect me to be literate in. Here are some recent ones. Who do you think will be the new Archbishop of Canterbury? What are we meant to think about gay marriage? Are evangelical Christians homophobic? Why do the lives of Christians, in the most part, look indistinguishable from those who do not believe? Why does God not always heal people? What is a Calvinist?

These are all interesting things on which, given some air time, I will happily hold court but they are not vital. There is only one vital thing for anybody to comprehend and experience and that is for me, as it was for Whitfield- the new birth. I have been following Jesus for over twenty years and it seems to have all boiled down to one question which I am asking people more and more these days and this is it.

"Are you born of the Spirit?" (the necessity Jesus gave us in John 3:5-7)

Or a better variant might be:

"Tell me about your experience of the new birth? or in non-church speak "What's your story?"

I once visited an Anglican Church in Antigua and two be-hatted elderly West Indian ladies who had given me a lift to where I was staying stopped the car half way back on the side of the road and asked me if I had experienced the new birth. I have never forgotten them and as it happens happily I was able to tell them I had. They rejoiced (I have always wondered what I was in for if I had said no...).

Now, almost always with most people who are not born again there are a host a qualifications and an awful lot of ... 'it depends what that means' to get over. Not so I have found with the person who is actually born again. Now I know what you may be thinking. 'Born again' has far too much of the bouffant hair, smiles, white suits, cable telly channel and make-up about it.

So here is an alternative word.

Grace.

Instead of "Have you been born again?" how about "Have you experienced the power of grace of God?".

I think the whole of the Bible and its purpose is to press people into an encounter with, need of and desperation for grace. Just look at Israel and what a bunch of ungrateful, self-centred, disobedient, ignorant so and so's they all are as a people. Sound like anyone you know?

In the NT there are three places I would go apart from Romans 3:21:26 which Leon Morris describes as ...'probably the most important paragraph ever written'. The three are John 3, John 4 and 1 Peter 1:3-5. We meet three people. The first two, a wise religious wealthy man and a prostitute both get the same diagnostic from Jesus and then this diagnostic and vital truth is written down for us by an uneducated born-again fisherman. Do you see the ultimate need for our comprehension of grace? Nicodemus who has it all together is in danger of missing it because he thinks he doesn't need it and the woman at the well is in danger of missing it because she thinks she doesn't deserve it. Peter, a numbty pride-filled rather dim disciple then gets to write the new birth up for us in the Bible. Incredible. And we are utterly blind to it unless mercy and grace open us up. Try asking a pew-filling or even baptised nominal member of the Church of England as I often do to tell you what a Christian is and if ..'.being a good person'  doesn't get a mention then I will be surprised.

I think often about those who say they 'aren't following Jesus' any more. Usually it means not coming to church, some anger (often justified), hurt, 'an evangelical phase', 'I did Alpha once', disappointment, didn't count the cost, let downs, pride, wanting to  blend in, married someone not born-again or intellectual enlightenment (superiority) and many other reasons. Here's the thing and I don't know if this is true of you if you are born again but I simply can't not follow Jesus. I've tried. Again the question for this huge and varied bunch is "Are you/Were you born again?" You can go to the depths of the sea if you are and Jesus will still pursue you and if you've tasted grace, despite your boldest protestations, nothing else will satisfy like it.

Watch this stunning testimony of one man's encounter with grace. I think if you were to ask him "Have you been born again?" he might just, perhaps, possibly, maybe, say yes.

Amazing grace.

Grace is for all- drug addict, sex addict, rich, poor, gay, straight, married, single, kids, no kids, Catholic, penty, liberal, conservative, happy, high, low, sad, sick, healthy, complementarian, egalitarian, young or old and it is marked by one thing and one thing only on our hearts. The new birth.

As Whitfield observes who is and who is not born of the Spirit is '..the mystery of the new birth....' . 

The real question is I suppose "Am I?" 

To help you work that out you can listen here.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Cultivating humility

“Humility stands alone among the virtues in that as soon as you think you have it, you probably don’t.”  writes John Dixon and he goes on to define it as:


“Humility is the noble choice to forgo your status, deploy your resources or use your influence for the good of others before yourself.”  

I re-listened to Think Hard Stay Humble a sermon preached by Francis Chan.

He does these seven things before he preaches.

And here is a sentence that landed on my heart yet again and humbled me:

'Some of you have been studying Christ for years but does your life look anything like his?'

Now that's a question for me to mull on and pray about.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Saturday blog-sweep

1. Facebook and Narcissism 

Tim Chester from the Guardian:

Researchers have established a direct link between the number of friends you have on Facebook and the degree to which you are a “socially disruptive” narcissist, confirming the conclusions of many social media sceptics.
People who score highly on the Narcissistic Personality Inventory questionnaire had more friends on Facebook, tagged themselves more often and updated their newsfeeds more regularly.
The research comes amid increasing evidence that young people are becoming increasingly narcissistic, and obsessed with self-image and shallow friendships.

Peter Berger:
Let me, with all due respect for Campbell and Putnam, suggest a hypothesis of my own:  Most “nones” have not opted out of religion as such, but have opted out of affiliation with organized religion. Among Christians (the great majority of all survey respondents) there are different reasons for this disaffection. The two authors are very probably correct that, broadly speaking, those who are turned off by Evangelicals and conservative Catholics do so because they don’t like the repressive sexual morality of those churches (the sexual abuse crisis in the Roman Catholic Church has not helped).
But the “nones” have also exited from mainline Protestantism, which has been much more accommodating to the liberationist ethic. Here, I think, there has been frustration with what my friend and colleague Thomas Luckmann long ago called “secularization from within”—the stripping away of the transcendent dimensions of the Gospel, and its reduction to conventional good deeds, popular psychotherapy and (mostly left-of-center) political agendas. Put differently: My hypothesis implies that some “nones” are put off by churches that preach a repressive morality, some others by churches whose message is mainly secular.


3. God's recover function 

4.  Melvin Bragg on the ignorance of De Botton and Dawkins


“I do believe there are things I can’t know. I do believe that there are things beyond the human mind, and oddly enough, I respect those things and to cadge a lift on faith, for atheists, seems to me a bit of a last resort.”

  5. A Dangerous book



Kierkegaard....

The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly.

Take any word in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. ‘My God,’ you will say, ‘if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How would I ever get on in the world?’ Here in lies the real place of Christian scholarship.

Christian scholarship is the Church’s prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close. Oh, priceless scholarship, what would we do without you? Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes, it is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

For the pod: How to care for your Pastor


It is our duty and our privilege to exhaust our lives for Jesus. We are not to be living specimens of men in fine preservation, but living sacrifices, whose lot is to be consumed; we are to spend and to be spent, not to lay ourselves up in lavender, and nurse our flesh. Such soul-travail as that of a faithful minister will bring on occasional seasons of exhaustion, when heart and flesh will fail.

C.H. Spurgeon
The Minister’s Fainting Fits, Lectures to My Students, Lecture XI, 1856


Recently a Vicar pal and friend Peter came to preach at my invitation. He started his sermon by saying:

"David didn't tell me to preach this but I am going to preach the sermon that is the one sermon a pastor/Vicar can't preach to his own church"

His sermon (11.3.12) was courageous, a blessing and you would do well to make time to listen to it.

Peter said:

It is often said 'Good pastors make good churches' but may I suggest that in fact 'Good churches make good pastors'

Being a Vicar /Pastor is a great and wonderful thing at times and it requires much of one as I am discovering as I cover a sabbatical. Vicars are so often expected to be all rounders (even though in my tradition we say we believe in the priesthood of all believers): we are called to be pray-ers, preachers, administrators, treasurers, counsellors, carers, fund-raisers, rebukers, IT experts, facilitators, shepherds, leaders, models of family life, givers of wisdom, correctors, vision-casters, conflict-resolvers, heralds of the kingdom, social media gurus, evangelists, architects, team-builders, missionaries, lovers of the poor and lonely, punch bags, school governors, attention givers, social workers, listeners, buriers of the dead, project-managers, theologians, meeting-chairers, trustees of charities, form fillers, mentors, encouragers, planners, caterers, havers of difficult conversations, welcomers, mercy-givers, deliverers, ethicists, caretakers, problem solvers and child entertainers. Quite an exciting list and by no means an exhaustive one.

Let me tell you something. Your Vicar is a sinner like you and as in need of grace and lots of it- as you are. They are very imperfect indeed- if I am anything to go by :) My pastorate is only any cop at all because my church is such a blessing to pastor and is full of amazing folk.

This talk may bless you in three ways.

1. If you are a Vicar or are involved in some capacity leading a church it is a testimony to what that involves and a record of some of the pressures you may be under and it acknowledges them and brings them into the light. It will be a window into your own life. If you feel able you to might even send it to your Church Wardens, PCC, Leaders, Elders or whatever structure you hold in order to give them an insight into your world and in order to show them how to care for you. This talk might bless you I pray, particularly if you are in a time of struggle and might be the vehicle of encouragement you badly need.

2. If you are a member of a church then your pastor/ Vicar may be in need of care or blessing and this will give you a few clues on how to bring that about. It will bless them to know that you and perhaps others have listened to this talk and then think of a ways you might bring them/their family some encouragement and blessing. You might suggest your wardens, small-group leaders or the PCC listen to it and then assess how you are doing on the 'caring for our pastor' test. If you know a Vicar do send them this talk.

3. Maybe you might be being called to be a pastor. I hope some of you are- the church needs you. If so, this will give you a bit of forewarning on what you might be in for. Peter encouraged me into ministry and I love it but it is hard at times as Peter testifies from his life and as the Scriptures tell us it will be. But here's the thing though. The blessing far outweighs the cost.

One final thing. The Chuck Swindoll story that Peter tells at the end of the sermon brought me to tears. If you, my dear readers, can do anything for me you can commit to pray for me as the dear lady did especially over the next year as I undertake to plant a church. I am going to be in need of a great measure of God's grace. Pray for me and then pray some more.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The two most important questions you will answer

Bill Hybels life was changed forever by two questions.

My hope is this blog post might '....mess up your life...' to use his words and do so totally and utterly for the glory of God.

Recently, he was given three minutes and thirty seconds at HTB  and he summed-up the whole content of 'The purpose-graced life'. By the way, many in our church are finding reading it deeply challenging and encouraging in equal measure.

Your life depends (in a John 15 fruit sense) in some ways on how you answer these two questions that were given to Hybels by his mentor so do listen to this.


Now I have passed them on to you.

Listen again, write them down, get alone with God, pray and surrender your life to his good and perfect will. It's good and perfect.

"It's not about you." says Rick Warren's first line.

That's for sure.

Understanding that changes everything.

For me, the penny dropped on exactly these two things reading the book of Romans by a river in Patagonia nine years ago and my life has never been quite the same since.

I hope yours won't either.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Faith to Proclaim

I arrived at the retreat house on my ordination retreat and found a now treasured letter from a dear friend sitting on the table in the hall. It is now safely in my journal and I read it from time to time and it is probably in truth due a re-read. I had also brought the book my friend had given to me to read over the three days of silence that were to follow. It was a book published in 1953 and these are its opening words and they seem as relevant today, if not more so, than when they were first written. I am sure Franklin Small might agree, having witnessed some of our spiritual poverty and hopelessness first hand in the Cotswolds.

'To an open house in the evening
Home shall men come
To an older place than Eden
And a taller place than Rome
To the end of the way to the wandering star
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all men are at home'

G K Chesterton, The House of Christmas

'Today as never before there is being laid upon the heart and conscience of the Church the burden of evangelism. Other generations have had there own specific tasks: confessional restatement, theological reorientation, ecclesiastical reconstruction. Today the demand is more radical and basic. It is spiritual resurrection: it is -under God- the creating of life. To confront a bewildered and dishevelled age with the fact of Christ and smite its disenchantment with the glory of the Resurrection- this is the urgent, overruling task. "Son of man, can these bones live?"

There is therefore, no place to-day for a Church that is not aflame with the Spirit who is the Lord the Giver of life, nor any value in a theology which is not passionately missionary. If there throbs through the Church the vitality of a living union with Christ- and apart from this the Church has no claim to exist, no right to preach, it is merely cumbering ground- if the Church can indeed say "It is not I who live, it is Christ who lives in me, " then the dark demonic forces of the age have met their match, and the thrust of life is stronger than the drift of death. A church that knows its Lord and is possessed by its Gospel cannot but propagate creatively the life that it has found. A Christian who is taking his faith seriously cannot but evangelize'

A Faith to Proclaim, James S Stewart, Pages 11-12

Monday, March 19, 2012

Three-voice Nicene Creed

Years ago, I went on holiday and the only album I listened to all week was by Lyle Lovett. It turns out he is a Christian and here he declares the Creed with two others. It starts with a 97 year old man, then Lyle takes over followed by a teenage girl. Powerful stuff.


(H/T Cranach)


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Commitments

I am starting my sermon on Nehemiah 7 this morning with this:

When the first disciples chose to follow Jesus, they didn’t understand all the implications of their decision. They simply responded to Jesus’ invitation. That’s all you need to get started: Decide to become a disciple.

He goes on…

Nothing shapes your life more than the commitments you choose to make. Your commitments can develop you or they can destroy you, but either way they will define you. Tell me what you are committed to, and I’ll tell you what you will be in twenty years. We become whatever we are committed to…. 


Day 22, The Purpose-graced life.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Reverse Missionaries

Reverse Missionaries inspired my heart and moved me to tears and it will I'm sure ignite the evangelistic fires within you. Franklin Small had some wonderful lessons for me about reaching outwards with the gospel and is a simply splendid and encouraging brother. I'm humbled.

Perhaps he'd like to be Archbishop of Canterbury?

My mistake- he's a Baptist :)

Saturday blogsweep


1. Know the story: This moved me and it's an Irish child telling the story of St Patrick


2. Some advice for entrepreneurs: Leading anything is too hard if you don't have passion


3. Read the Bible, Know the Bible and Use the Bible

4. The Question

Mike said something to me a few years ago that I thought was really quite profound, but I forgot it. (Clearly an indication of how profound it was for me at the time!) Then, last month, I was talking to a friend very similar to me and he had gotten the same advice from him and I wanted to make sure to capture it.

This was it:
Your job isn’t to be a mastermind. You’re job is to lead people.


5. The Churchmouse says Farewell Rowan

Some on the warring wings of the church have been quick to express their gladness at his resignation, or at least express the sentiment that his time as Archbishop has been a failure. Shame on them. Liberals felt let down that he didn't stand up for the views he expressed prior to his appointment. Conservatives felt that he allowed the church to drift in a liberal direction, further from their view of sound Biblical teaching. Both should now simply thank him for his undoubted humble service and total commitment during an utterly bruising ten years, and offering their prayers for the future. Mouse would also suggest a few of them could search their own consciences for their culpability in making Rowan's tenure so hard.

Friday, March 16, 2012

For the pod: Surrender

In all the debates of the moment there is a lot of talk about 'rights'. Everybody seemingly has 'rights' because life, most people who don't know God think, is all about me and what I want and what I deserve and how the other people don't understand what I should have and need and why I must have it. I have a 'right' to a relationship and a right to have children and right to this and a right to that. Having rights can end up in a right mess sometimes as this headline shows- Gay man who fathered child wins right to more access. These are real people with real and deep pain of course and consequences from both their decisions and actions- most importantly for their child. That is why 'consultation' really does need to mean exactly that as we make decisions that will have profound consequence for marriage, children and for family life in this land. Marriage is very imperfect, as the divorce statistics show, but changing its definition is something we must not enter into lightly or without some very deep discussion and reflection.

C S Lewis has something to contribute on all this in Mere Christianity:

"Before leaving the question of divorce, I should like to distinguish two things which are very often confused. The Christian conception of marriage is one : the other is the quite different question -- how far Christians, if they are voters or Members of Parliament, ought to try to force their views of marriage on the rest of the community by embodying them in the divorce laws. A great many people seem to think that if you are a Christian yourself you should try to make divorce difficult for every one. I do not think that. At least I know I should be very angry if the Mohammedans tried to prevent the rest of us from drinking wine. My own view is that the Churches should frankly recognise that the majority of the British people are not Christians and, therefore, cannot be expected to live Christian lives. There ought to be two distinct kinds of marriage : one governed by the State with rules enforced on all citizens, the other governed by the Church with rules enforced by her on her own members. The distinction ought to be quite sharp, so that a man knows which couples are married in a Christian sense and which are not.


(via John Richardson)

All of us would do well also to meditate on Mark 12:24.

Reading Knowing God a few years ago taught me so many things and one of them was that before a holy and just God we don't use the language of rights. As a follower of Jesus my ways are not the world's ways as they once were. The word that we need to use is a different one and it is one that puts his will, Lordship, law and glory before my long list of all the things I think he should do for me or for other people. You see what I or the government think something is or should be is not that important- ultimately what will really matter is what God thinks. The word each of us at some point will all have to face is the word 'surrender' and the sooner we do it the better.

So far, it's Chapter Ten in 'The purpose-graced life' that has had most impact on my heart and mind and it is one that speaks to this. Warren writes,

"Surrender is not the best way to live, it is the only way to live. Nothing else works. All other approaches lead to frustration, disappointment, and self-destruction. The King James version calls surrender 'your reasonable service'. .......Sometimes it takes years, but eventually you discover that the greatest hindrance to God's blessing in your life is not others, it is yourself- your self-will, stubborn pride, and personal ambition. You cannot fulfil God's purposes for your life while focussing on your own plans"  [Page 82]

Mark Melluish Vicar of St Paul's Ealing and who heads up New Wine came to speak at our church and I urge you to listen to his talk (26.2.12) particularly if you have children as you will discover. It is a testimony and is incredibly moving and one of the most powerful I have ever heard on the issue of surrender and faith. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Equality

According to Lynne Featherstone, the Equalities Minister, "civil gay marriages would be law by the next general election despite the strength of opposition from church leaders".

She added,  "There is no rolling back whatsoever ... The essential question is not whether we are going to introduce same-sex civil marriage but how." (via John Richardson)



You may be interested to read to Governments Consultative Document here and the Coalition for Marriage website here.  Peter Ould is a thoughtful commentator on this issue and he blogs here and is following and writing incisively about the many on-going culture vs gospel debates.

TED: a very productive twenty minutes

A pal has given up TV and DVD's for Lent but is allowing themselves to watch worthy things on You tube should they present themselves. There are a number I have noticed observing what is commonly known as 'the feast day exception' allowing a little bit of ________ (fill in the blank) every now and then- coffee for example (you know who you are)... Similar, against the rules snacking, I hear seems to have happened during the Rice and Beans Challenge so I am reliably informed by my teeny-weeny bit smug friend who did it all properly :)

This year I have given up absolutely nothing- I am revisiting that grace thing I keep banging on about and don't think I will ever quite get over......

Anyway, if you have a ________ moment, I can certainly recommend TED for a visual fix and in less time than it takes to watch an episode of Eastenders you can take on some mightily encouraging, inspiring and helpful thoughts and ideas. Every now and then I watch a TED not so much for information but just to remind myself how incredibly amazing and creative people are. Here are the 20 Essential TED talks for Future Leaders (via What's best next) that the folks doing our Growing Leaders Course and others too might well enjoy and find inspiring.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Tests

It's a funny thing when a whole bunch of people are reading and thinking about the same thing at the same time. It's what I suppose is good about the lectionary when it works well. One friend is fighting himself as he's starting to really quite enjoy reading what he calls his 'Rick Warren Lenten penance'. He's still reeling that he's actually reading a book written by an American who wears Hawaiian shirts.

Day 5 has caused the most feedback and comment so far among people. One of our home groups grappled with the concept of 'testing' all evening and seemingly on an individual level the idea that God 'tests us' is not something our comfort-oriented culture sits very well with. 

Here's the passage that has caused people the most trouble:

'We don't know all the tests God will give you, but we can predict some of them, based on the Bible. You will be tested by major changes, delayed promises, impossible problems, unanswered prayers, undeserved criticism, and even senseless tragedies. In my own life I have noticed that God tests my faith through problems, tests my hope by how I handle possessions, and tests my love through people.

A very important test is how you act when you can't feel God's presence in your life. Sometimes God draws back and we can't sense his closeness. A king named Hezekiah experienced this test. The Bible says, 'God withdrew from Hezekiah in order to test him and to see what was really in his heart'. Hezekiah had enjoyed a close fellowship with God, but at a crucial point in his life God left him alone to test his character, to reveal his weakness, and to prepare him for more responsibility.'

[Page 43]

Why is it we seemingly find it so troubling that God deliberately withdraws his hand and do you agree I wonder that at times he does?

One friend is finding it very helpful to watch this interview gradually as he processes the book theologically.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Parents first


This fascinating post is well worth a pondering on young people and faith if you happen to be interested in such things. I am. You may also want to explore the National Parenting Initiative or like to read Getting you kids through church without then ending up hating you.

The where and when of books

"When I completed the book, it seemed as if the Cross of Christ had been erected right in my apartment and now I knew- for the first time- I knew why Christ was suffering there. I slipped out of my chair onto my knees and asked Christ to come into my heart and forgive me and cleanse me of my sins. From that day unto this, my life has never been the same. I shall be forever grateful for the radio broadcast of Donald Barnhouse and for this book by Fulton Oursler, both of which God used to bring me to a saving knowledge of His Son. It is, therefore, with great joy that I present to you this special edition of Fulton Ourslers classic The Greatest Story Ever Told. May it bring to your life the joy unspeakable which it brought to mine."

Dr D James Kennedy quoted in Indelible ink, Page 93

This quote got me thinking about some of the life changing books that I have read and the places that I read them. Places matter. I love the idea that sharing a book might bring someone else joy unspeakable through saving faith in Jesus and I hope one of these may do that for you. I give books away all the time physically and through the blog. So, why not try giving away a book that has meant much to you to someone who does not yet know Jesus, tell them your story of why it meant a lot, pray and see what happens:

Chasing the dragon read in a flat in Chiswick

Basic Christianity read on a bridge in Moscow

Mere Christianity read together with six others in a pub in Kensington

Martin Lloyd Jones: The First Forty Years read in the South of France

The Road less Travelled read on a yacht in the Caribbean


Paul's letter to the Romans read in Patagonia


The Long Walk to Freedom read in Vermont


Spurgeon: Lectures to my students read in Kefalonia

Bonhoeffer by Metaxas read on retreat in Champoussin, Switzerland


Joy unspeakable by Martin Lloyd-Jones read in St Lucia (granted joy was a bit easier to comprehend here than perhaps a few other places I have been :)


The Discipline of Grace read travelling on the tube to and fro to Christchurch, Fulham

Jonathan Edwards read in the National Gallery


A Prayer for Owen Meany read in a park in Moscow

2 Corinthians read in Spetzi, Greece

Courageous Leadership read in a farmhouse in Hampshire

Rebuilding your broken world read in the car park of St Barnabas Kensington

A Faith to Proclaim read at Wychcroft House, Surrey on my Ordination retreat

Anna Karenina read on my sofa in Moscow

Einstein read in Tacoma, Seattle

The life you've always wanted read in Ambleside, The Lake District

Power Evangelism read in Toronto near the airport in 1994

The Reason for God read in a coffee shop in Richmond

Let your life speak read in a Starbucks in Shepherds Bush

Peter the Great read on my sofa in Moscow

Celebration of discipline read on a plane flying from Moscow to Riga, Latvia

Monday, March 12, 2012

Live at the Banks House

A couple of months ago I sat in a coffee shop with a nurse who had just returned from Mozambique. She told us of the most amazing signs and wonders she had witnessed. She had seen the sick healed, the gospel preached, the poor loved, children cared for and adopted and churches planted.

In the midst of all this she recommended 'Live at the Banks House' and some friends have been listening to it. They were driving in a car listening to 'Praise is befitting' and simply couldn't stop themselves worshipping. I am discovering why and you might too. Enjoy.

'Praise is befitting to the one who died'.....

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Deep Church

I have been dipping into a couple of series on the BBC you may find interesting- Catholics and Empire

"But it takes both sustained effort and a determined imagination to understand and embrace church in its entirety. Casual and superficial experience with church often leaves us with the impression of bloody fights, acrimonious arguments and warring factions. These are more than regrettable; they are scandalous. But they don't define church. There are deep continuities that sustain church at all times and everywhere (ubique at ab omnibus, as the Latin tag has it) as primarily and fundamentally God's work, however Christians and others may desecrate and abuse it. C S Lewis introduced the term 'deep church' to convey the ocean fathoms of tradition that are continuously re-experienced 'at all times everywhere'. I like that: deep church."

Eugene Peterson, Practice resurrection, Page 12

Saturday, March 10, 2012

For the pod: The blood of the innocents



“I'll come to why her argument is so important in a moment. First, the facts steel yourself – this is grim. Francesca Minerva, from Melbourne University and sometime of our very own Oxford, and her colleague Alberto Giubilini, argue in the British Medical Journal that after-birth abortion should be permissable in all cases that abortion is. As potential persons, newborn babies share the same moral status as foetuses, which are not actual persons, in that they have no sense of their own existence.It follows that infanticide should be legalised for babies with abnormalities not detected during pregnancy, which would otherwise have qualified for abortion, and by the same token for those which would have been aborted because their parents could not materially or psychologically cope with a child.I suggest that most people reading the previous paragraphs will resile from that proposition in disgust and disbelief. But why? If newborn babies havent developed any material consciousness beyond what they had in the womb, why not dispose of them in the same way? In this context, the term-limits for abortion of foetuses seem entirely arbitrary, based on the squeamishness of we who are born rather than the actual or potential humanity of the unborn.”

Once a year Piper preaches a sermon on Sanctity of life Sunday and Martin Luther King Day about Abortion and this years is called 'They poured out innocent blood'

Saturday Blog-sweep

Some important questions being asked of the Same-sex marriage proposal

Under GNM what is the definition of consummation? It either needs to be defined in a manner that works for all three combinations of spouses (male-male, female-female and male-female) since if we define it in three separate ways we no longer have a gender-neutral institution. Can this redefinition be done?


Kony 2012


Social media campaigns tend to be dependent on one thing more than any other: speed. Do not think about it, just do it! Don’t get the facts, don’t wait a few days to consider it, don’t ask someone who knows more—just click Tweet or Share or Post or whatever else it is that will spread the word. We’re all in this together, we need your vote, we need it now! Go! Go! Go!



Entertainment addiction


John Piper is correct that our entertainment-dominated culture ought to be a source of concern for Christians; we should not blindly accept the Market’s teaching on the Goodness of endless consumption of goods and entertainment. Yet, if we are going to lovingly and God-honoringly begin this process of culling our media choices, we must start with the more basic questions: what is “entertainment”, when is it edifying, when is the time for play, and when is the time for seriousness? If we do not begin by answering these questions and those like them, we run a very real risk of uncritically rejecting or embracing our culture, the one overseen by God and crafted by our neighbor.



Seth Godin's 2012 reading list (H/T Ben Arment)


This is part of my regular series of books worth a read. There's a bumper crop coming along (as the book business struggles), and I picked a few I thought would resonate with you.


What does God think of our sung worship?



If we bring God our songs, music and meetings, these may be great things. But unless they are accompanied by a lifestyle of justice and mercy, they don’t bless his heart much. My friend’s card, singing, dancing and general kindess didn’t really touch me much as I desperately needed those antibiotics. She thought she’d made me happy and provided what I needed.


(H/T Tim Challies)

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Famous Christians

If you asked me who is the most influential church in my city is I might say Hillsong. I meet people quite often impacted by this church and it may not be your style or cup of java and is all a bit 'trendy hair-do' for someone as square as me but it is becoming increasingly hard to ignore (by the way do people still use the expression 'square'?)

If you wonder why this is you might find out watching their 2012 Vision film (via History in the making). God, it seems, uses exceptional people to do extraordinary things and Brian Houston is perhaps one of those. The world has sung Shout for the Lord and is now crying out for the 27 million through A21 because one man was called to plant a little church in 1982. Incidentally, 27 million entered the Itunes chart at No 12.


In Indelible ink Dallas Willard describes a book about 'Famous Christians' that changed his life and I have been dipping into it over the last few years.

"I never cease to be thankful for James Gilchrist Lawson and his little book. It came at the right time and helped me see the actual presence of Jesus Christ and His kingdom and the Spirit in the real lives of real people. Thus it helped me know something of 'what is the hope of his calling, what are the riches of his glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power toward us who believe, in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenlies (Eph 1:18-20, authors paraphrase)


Readers should take from the reading of Lawson's book the simple but profound truth that they, too, can know by experience the truths of Christ and His kingdom that are set forth in the Bible: that if with all their heart they truly seek God, they will be found and claimed by Him. This is what human life is for."

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

The Decoy Bride

My dear friend has written a film and longs for someone to go and see it. Apparently on the Sunday of its release only eight people in London went to see Uma Thurman's new film and Sal says if she beats that she will be absolutely jazzed. Pass it forward....


Monday, March 05, 2012

A burning bush

'The more we let God take us over, the more truly ourselves we become- because he made us. He invented all the different people you and I were intended to be.....It is when I turn to Christ, when I give up myself to His personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own'

C S Lewis quoted in 'The purpose-graced life'  on Day 10 
[Page 80]

Most of us are ambitious in some form or other. We are ambitious for ourselves, our careers, our children, our reputation, our churches or our legacy. However, fewer are ambitious for the glory of God. I recall reading in 'A million miles in a thousand years' when Donald Miller describes the person who saves up to buy a Volvo and the culmination of the story is he parks it on the drive. That, he says, is a rubbish story that no one is ever going to find very interesting and it hit me so hard because it was my story for so long. No matter what variables you add to it - the amount of time it took to save, the details of the spec'ing of the car or how many people you invite around to look at the car once you've bought it- it will always be dull. So many people settle for a Volvo life and remarkably so many Christians are prepared to settle for it when there is so much more offered. Most of us are yearning for it I think. Planting a church with a small band of saints is forcing us into risk and faith but I don't think we'd have it any other way. 

Why don't we/I  risk more?

Well, I think it is fear. As Ortberg so memorably told me in the brilliant 'If you want to walk on water' God says 'Do not be afraid' over 300 times in the Bible. To allay the fear there is only one option- surrender. You see, it is perfectly possible to be saved but not surrendered and to be so will eventually make you miserable. It is I think why there is less joy than their should be around in the lives of Christians. 

Luis Pilau's account in Indelible ink describes this process of surrender and what happened when he did. If you are fighting surrender let me give you a bit of advice. Don't. That is unless you'd rather settle for a Volvo. There's more for you. Much more.

"Thomas talked about Moses and how it took this great man forty years in the wilderness to learn that he was nothing. Then one day Moses was confronted by a burning bush- probably a dry bunch of ugly sticks that had hardly developed- yet Moses had to take off his shoes. Why? Because it was holy ground. Why was it holy ground? Because God was in the bush!

In essense, God was telling Moses: I don't need a pretty bush or an educated bush or an eloquent bush. Any old bush will do as long as I am in the bush. If I am going to use you, I am going to use you. It will not be you doing something for Me, but it will be me doing something through you.

I realised immediately that I was that kind of bush: a worthless, useless bunch of dried up sticks. I could do nothing for God. All my reading and studying, asking questions and trying to model myself on others was worthless. My studies and questions were important steps in growing faith, but I was focussing too much on the knowledge I could gain and the person that I felt I should become. In the midst of my studies I forgot to let God mould me. Instead I was trying to pave my own path.

After hearing Thomas speak, I read his book. It was profoundly significant for my spiritual life. God knew I needed to hear those words at that point in my life. It was as if Thomas were speaking directly to me when he wrote: 'You have felt the surge of holy ambition. your heart has burned within you. You have dreamed dreams and seen visions, but only to awaken again the dull sense of futility, as one who beats the air and builds castles in the sky'

Everything in my ministry was worthless, I realised unless God was in the bush. Only he could make something happen.

Thomas told of many Christian workers who failed at first because they thought they had something to offer God. He himself had once imagined that because he was an aggressive, winsome evangelistic sort, God would use him. but God didn't use him until he came to the end of himself. That's exactly my situation. I thought I am at the end of myself.

Thomas closed the message by reading- you guessed it- Galatians 2:20. And then it all came together for me. 'I have been crucified with Christ and no longer live, but Christ lives in me' My biggest spiritual struggle was finally over! I would let God be God and let Luis Pilau be dependant on Him. 

I ran back to my room and in tears fell to my knees next to my bunk. 'Lord now I understand!' I prayed in my native Spanish. 'The whole thing is "not I but Christ in me". It's not what I'm going to do for you, but rather what you are going to do through me"

You may also be encouraged listening to 'I will build my church' which I for one find to be a huge relief:)

N.B

Desiring God has a new app giving away ALL their content including all the books for FREE.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

One at a time

I have been on a break.

Just been musing on a sermon for tomorrow I wrote ten days ago.

On holiday I re-read the essays in Indelible ink slowly and joyfully. If you read books, are following Jesus , are a recommender (as I am) and want a few pointers on what to read in the future this is a good book to have on the shelf. It is amazing that something that you have read before can speak so powerfully for a second time and in a very different way. One of the essays I read was by Edith Schaeffer and it tells the remarkable story of L'Abri which started its journey in a little place called Champery. I had dinner there on Wednesday.

Played Monopoly deal a lot. How good is this game? Lost many times and won once.

Listened to Lana del Rey all week which was gloomy but rather good.

I'm excited that Martin Smith has written some more music. He really wants us to dance.

A few people have really encouraged me about the blog recently.

A Dutch friend who I saw yesterday spent her holiday listening with her and her sisters family to some talks I had apparently recommended this time last year. They were all very greatly encouraged as they listened to one a night and the encouragement blessed and surprised me.

A friend told me recently I was 'creative' which also surprised me somewhat. I've been wondering about creativity since with the help of Ira Glass.

Finally, Ed Dobson author of a Year of Living like Jesus has come to the conclusion that disciples are made one at a time.

Discipleship one at a time. Now there's an idea....