Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Belief

Sally Phillips interviewed by Joan Bakewell about her faith.

Steve MCCoy offers his best albums of 2013 which is always a good read.

Also, a good article called 'It's the gospel -so take it or leave it' by A N Wilson in the Telegraph.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Earthrise



Maria Popova has a great post today about Earthrise. Do watch the short film- fascinating stuff.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Keller on Christmas


'The message of Christmas is the world, human life, is a dark place, and the more you look for the solutions and the more you think about it, the darker it gets. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Russell and a tremendous amount of respect for Huxley and all those guys who would press you and say, ‘The world is a dark place. Let’s not get out from under it. Don’t you feel it?’
The message of Christmas is … Unless God has sent his Son into the world, unless God has revealed himself through the Son who he sent into the world, there is no light for the world. Huxley would say the same thing. Russell would say the same thing. That’s the message of Christmas. Right here. Don’t you see? Don’t you understand why people do run off to the mystics, they do run off to the politicians, they do run off to the therapists, they do run off to all these people trying to get meaning in life? But there is no light any other place. That’s the message of Christmas. You know what that means?
It means, first of all, if you do not know God personally, if you have no confidence that Christmas really happened, if you just think it’s a nice idea, but you don’t really know that it really happened, you don’t know that God really sent his Son into the world to live and to die on earth for us, if you don’t know that, don’t you understand there’s really no way you should take Christmas and use it the way we do to make chirpy, groundless little statements about how if we just hold hands everything will be all right? If we just get together in a circle and love each other everything will be all right. You can’t do that.
Here’s why: Christmas won’t let you do that. Christianity is not sentimental at all. Every other kind of non-Christian philosophy tries to console you like this: They say, ‘Buck up. Things aren’t that bad. In every cloud there is a silver lining.’ Christianity is far more realistic than any non-Christian philosopher or any non-Christian is really prepared to be. Christianity would never say, ‘Oh, things aren’t so bad.’ Christianity says, ‘Things are just as bad as the worst and most pessimistic analyst says they are.Nevertheless …’
You see? Nevertheless … Christians will not be chirpy. There’s no sentimentality. There’s no nostalgia about the message of Christmas. Not at all. It says, ‘The world is dark.’ Human life is a dark place. That’s where the comfort is, if God has actually done what Christmas has always said he had done. Apart from that, every smart person knows there is no hope. There is no light. Don’t you see? Unless Christmas is true there is no light at all and there’s no comfort, so stop being chirpy. That’s what Christmas says.
When it says stop being chirpy, what you can do is you can put it something like this: If there’s a God, if he sent Jesus Christ into the world to die for us, if he was born as a baby and he died for us, and he rose triumphant over the grave, and he is Pastor of the heavens, and now he is seated at the right hand of God the Father, and he’s ruling all things until he puts everything under his feet, and someday we’re going to rule and reign with him … If that’s true, there’s light and there’s comfort. If that’s not true, there’s no comfort, there’s no light.
Tim Keller via Daily Keller

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Friday, December 20, 2013

Good Christmas Videos

Here are a few good Christmas films for use in services, as reflection or just for interest.

A great 'Best reads' list

I have been much encouraged by Justin Buzzard in recent years and he always produces a good reading list. Here is his '2013 Best Reads'. His book 'Why Cities Matter' made the CT Merit Awards and adds to the canon of books on why all of you who are thinking of 'moving to the country' shouldn't. Maybe 2014 is a year for all those who have already done so to think about moving back?

Monday, December 16, 2013

Ten things for a Monday

1. Such a relief Sam Bailey won X Factor (Don't know what came over me -I voted for the first time:). Anybody else suspect Nicole thought she was the star of the show? A lesson to myself on how easy it is to think I and not Jesus and the people I serve are the centre of things. This song reminded me of Bonnie Tyler but now I'm showing my age.

2. Lovely story here about grace

3. Ann Voscamp put me on to how to see how long you might live

4. Fascinating couple of articles in this months Prospect. One called 'Ye of little faith' has some interesting stats and another describes the idea of atheist clergy.

5. Christmas in a nutshell  and the very clever Boy in a Billion

6. If Jesus had been born in Sweden he might have been considered gender neutral.

7. The Archbishop on how he makes decisions (Do watch)

8. What we get wrong about gift giving

9. The greatest obstacle to personal happiness

10. Five ways to love your neighbour this Christmas

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Saturday blog-sweep

Archbishop Justin and others in the Speccy on what he would tell his 14 year old self

Interesting concept of the poverty of ambition.

$50m for couple whose prenatal scan turned out to be incorrect. This judgement will surely make Doctors more pessimistic and abortions more numerous.

If you have kids do check out these bible stories and listen to them together.

A reflection on Tom Daley

A brace of good posts from Cranmer: one about the 'selfie' and the other about the church of scientology. 

I enjoyed this ad. It will make you feel Christmassy.

This incredible film will make you feel grateful. For all sorts of reasons it made me cry.

You might be crazy to plant a church if......

Evernote is the way to get paperless for 2014.

A very cool drumming film

Tim Keller suggests not to start writing a book until your 50's which is good news if you, like me, have not got around to writing one yet.

Beautiful film of a a day in the life of a mum and a piece about ageing supermodels.

A thought-provoking ditty about generosity.

As readers know I just love a 'Best books' list: from Christianity today, Tim Challies, Amazonthe Gospel Coalition, Echoes and Stars and the NY Times

Friday, December 13, 2013

The reluctant convert

I am truly savouring 'In search of deep faith' and don't be surprised to find it on my list of books of the year. The best reads are those that you don't want to end. The subtitle of Belcher's book is 'A pilgrimage into the Beauty, Goodness and Heart of Christianity'. It is that indeed.

Here is the moment C.S Lewis bowed the knee. First he did so to the existence of God and, in time, he would also acknowledge the reality of the risen Jesus Christ. And the rest is of course history:




Thursday, December 12, 2013

Floating

During our study of 2 Timothy 3 this morning we watched this clip from Dynamo (he's a magician from Bradford and is all the rage- think Paul Daniels for the One Direction generation).

Should we be free to say anything we like?

Eric Metaxas on the top five books for non-believers.

Kevin do Young thinks this might be the best sermon he has ever heard. I haven't listened to it but such a bold claim made my ears prick. I wonder if you agree?

How to find your leadership style

One more thing- we've got our website up and running (having had just one page for over a year). I would say if you are a church planter worry about people first and websites second but you like us probably  need a website eventually in these social media days.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

For the pod: Two ways to live

I had a bit of a moment yesterday. All 'moments' as I see them are comprehensions of the truth and power of the gospel of grace. I had it reading this and I am still reeling from it all. You, like me, may have grappled to understand Romans 7 and the chapter about Robert Louis Stevenson in Belcher's book was such a help to me.

The highs and lows of outward circumstances so easily buffet us- as James warms. Our internal lives buffet us too. That's why we need to constantly remind ourselves it's not about us, that God is good, that hope is ours and that this is not all there is.

I want to recommend a sermon called 'Two ways to live' because it hit both Rachel and I so powerfully as we listened to it together yesterday. Why bother listening? I would say just for the illustration on parenting and why kids fall away from church which I know is a concern for many of my readers. It's preached by a dear pal call Peter who has walked with me and prayed for me down the years. My next listen of his is going to be 'Taking the enemy down'. As it happens, he ran my Alpha course in 1991.

Do pop a few of Peter's talks on the pod for the train and car and you well be well-taught and much blessed......

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Tuesday Tour

I've been finding it hard to put down Jim Belcher's new book. One to read (especially if you love or know Oxford).

Women (and quite a lot of them) speak in church- here's a 101

I've been enjoying Pilgrimage with Simon Reeve who is a lovely fellow. Ten years ago this sort of program would have been presented by Sister Wendy and now the presenter is an atheist.

If you are a goal-setter Michael Hyatt has some advice.

A pal really thought the Nicky Gumbel sermon I posted (and which he downloaded) was not at all good and that Nicky's exegesis was very poor indeed. I wonder who gives you constructive feedback when you run a mega church?

A friend put me on to a new blog called Refractology which I have been checking out.

Mums

Do please pray for Mark Meynell and his family who have announced here that they are moving on from All Souls and who has suffered from depression for some time. He is right up there on what it means to write a good blog.

One to show at a Carol service?

I constantly give thanks for J John who shared the gospel with me nearly 25 years ago. He's speaking here this weekend and I read it is fully booked. Keep running John - keep running.

If I know anything it's in part thanks to the Doctor.

The Foodback

Finally a festive quote about Jesus from another of my encouraging and wise cloud of witnesses.

Friday, December 06, 2013

The world is rather different

Over ten years ago I left the world of marketing.

This post got me thinking quite how much has changed in a decade. The way we communicate with people about the things we want them to be interested in and buy is completely different from 10 years ago. If I spent my marketing budget  (which was £millions) in the same way today as I did then it would be a colossal waste of money.

Now I live in church land.

Most churches I know are doing broadly exactly what they did ten years ago.

Most Dioceses spend their budgets in the same way they did a decade ago. (There is just less of it).

Just a thought to ponder.....

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Surrendering the lot

'Billy Graham, already established in his ministry, felt frustrated and as if he was living at second best. At a conference, he  woke up another guest speaker in the middle of the night to talk over his difficulties. This speaker was Edwin Orr, a famous historian of revival. As Graham expressed his hunger for 'deeper blessing', Orr told him it came 'by way of surrender'. Orr probed Graham: 'Have you surrended your will, emotions, intellect?'

Graham went out alone that night into the woods. There was one issue which he knew was holding him back- he had an issue that needed to be put to death. After deep wrestlings, he surrendered this  issue to The Lord. He returned saying that he had been filled afresh with the Spirit of God and had received a vision for his ministry. A revival shortly followed him to Los Angeles, and his new-found power and authority astounded all'

'More' by Simon Ponsonby, Page 81

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

More on not so strange fire

The Scriptures suggest we should ..'.not be ignorant of spiritual gifts'.

A couple of things on this chestnut:

Thomas Creedy has reviewed Frank Viola's critique of Strange Fire (which you can download and read for free for the next few days)

Also, John Piper has now offered some thoughts on Strange Fire.

('Strange fire' was the number one trending issue on twitter a couple of weeks ago so it seems many are interested in these things)

Monday, November 11, 2013

For the pod: The end of Christendom

This introductory talk to R13 is an interesting critique of Christian history and post-Christian culture and thinking and although American in context many of these realities are similarly true both in Europe and here in the UK. It addresses sexuality and culture, Christians no longer having a seat at the table and tribalism. As you might expect given the speaker, the talk contains some thought-provoking and some controversial nuggets.

Ten things for a Monday

1. Trust the guys in the field

2. Breakfast and Cycling

3. I laid my ten page sermon aside and showed this in church. Someone became a follower of Jesus.

4. Christians and the Sabbath introducing Andy Crouch's new book (which may be my next read)

5. A friend asked a Vicar with a large library"What's the best book outside the Bible you've ever read?" This was his answer.

6. Productivity for pastors

7. Why C S Lewis remains so read 50 years after he died.

8. 6 reasons for expository preaching and I've been reading a few chapters in this book to work on/ improve my preaching.

9. This essay has been around for ages but made me laugh out loud.

10. This is a WONDERFUL story and also this is now on our fridge.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Billy Graham's Message to America (and the UK)

I took my secretary Sacha (age 21) to listen Billy Graham in Moscow in 1995 so that she might hear the gospel. Little did I know that six months later she would be dead.

This is well worth taking half an hour out to watch and please do pass it forward to friends.

Billy Graham is 95.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Jesus at the centre

I met up with a crowd of Vicars who have planted, are planting or planning to plant churches for a morning to chat, pray and encourage each other.

Much blessed.

We sang this song together. (Rather than being in a big stadium with flashing lights and dry ice we were in a little 1960's prefab redbrick C of E church just off the Finchley Road :)

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

For the pod: Mary the leader

I heard Nicky preach on Sunday evening. His talk was entitled 'Mary: Called to lead' which if you've never really thought about Mary much is well worth a listen.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Guest post: Mrs C on 'What did you expect?'


Two weeks after getting back from our honeymoon road trip, I spent a few days on a clergy wives 'get-away' in Kent. This book was recommended to us so David and I are reading it together on our days off. We are only on Chapter 2 and we both feel it is already blessing us in a mighty way. Having a book you read (listen to) with your spouse is not a bad idea even if your marriage is in great shape.

Marriage is a mighty calling; to love, pray for, encourage and bless someone every day this side of eternity which is summed up so well in this piece that David posted yesterday called 'Marriage is not for you'. This is one to read, even and perhaps especially if you are single, as both David and I were for many years.

"So I’m going to make this really simple: marriage isn’t for you. You don’t marry to make yourself happy, you marry to make someone else happy. More than that, your marriage isn’t for yourself, you’re marrying for a family. Not just for the in-laws and all of that nonsense, but for your future children. Who do you want to help you raise them? Who do you want to influence them? Marriage isn’t for you. It’s not about you. Marriage is about the person you married.”

So many people told us that 'marriage isn't easy or a bed of roses' and that the first year is particularly tough so it seemed there is no time like the present to start investing in ours. Most people take their car in for an MOT, service the boiler, and go to the GP for a health check, so why do so many of us not do the same for our marriages? Perhaps it is the lack of time, exhaustion, preoccupation with kids, over work, to do lists, hobbies... and ultimately, not putting Jesus first.

The chapter we read today is called 'Reason to Continue' and was all about this last point:

"Worshiping God as Saviour also means you find joy in being part of the work of grace that God is unrelentingly committed to doing in your spouse's life. So, when your spouse blows it, you will not throw her sin in her face. You will not make her feel guilty for how hard her failure makes life for you. You will not use her sins against her. You will not keep a detailed history of her wrongs against you. Rather, you will look for ways of incarnating the transforming grace of the Saviour. You will be ready to encourage her when she fails and restore her when she falls, and you will not treat her as less righteousness than you.

.. When your heart rests in the amazing wisdom of the choices of a powerful Creator, you have given yourself a reason to continue. When your heart celebrates the myriad of careful choices that were made to bring your stories together, you have given yourself reason to continue. When your heart is filled with gratitude for the amazing grace that you both have been and are being given, you have given yourself reason to continue. You are not alone. Your creating, ruling, transforming Lord is still with you. He has brought your stories together and placed them smack-dab in the middle of his redemptive story. As long as he is Creator, as long as he is Sovereign and as long as he is Saviour you have reason to get up in the morning and love one another, even though you aren't yet what he created you to be."

Although I realise we have only been married a matter of weeks, and many of you will have bountiful wisdom to throw our way, if you do decide to pick up this book, I have no doubt that you will enjoy reading it together. We are finding it helpful to read it aloud, underline bits and make notes at the end of each chapter before praying through what God has revealed to us together.

This book is well worth a read!

Monday, November 04, 2013

Ten things for a Monday

1. Loving Educating Yorkshire.

2. Amazingly, I had to queue to get into a church last night. 'All in' (which you should read) has me simultaneously reflecting on who some of us are following and this was fresh in my mind.

3. We've just finished over a year in Mark and you might like to work through these as a recap.

4. Two people who spoke at a conference I attended have hit some choppy waters here and here. A note to myself and all of us that if you have a big platform you need both wisdom and character to maintain and sustain it. The problem with pedestals is they are terribly easy to fall off and many are willing you to do so- a particularly the media. People who lead need prayer- especially those who inspire us and are used by God to influence others.

5. A visit means more than a text

6. A thought-provoking piece entitled 'Marriage isn't for you'.

7. My father-in-law put me on to this article that he read in his Telegraph called 'The Bishops of Bling' and in reading it I learnt the Catholics have Bling too. It's always good to be reminded of the seduction of the prosperity gospel.

8. Seth Godin on Owning it.

9. In our day, we so desperately need the old and the wise.

10. A giant Jesus in the middle of a war.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Dangerous

'When did we start believing that God wants to send us to safe places to do easy things? That faithfulness is holding the fort? That playing it safe is safe? That there is any greater privilege than sacrifice? That radical is anything but normal?

Jesus didn't die to keep us safe. He died to make us dangerous.

Faithfulness is not holding the fort. It's storming the gates of hell.'

 from 'All in' by Mark Batterson

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Saturday blog-sweep

Mark Batterson's new book is called 'All in' (love the title) and an interview with him on '5 insights on following Jesus'. 

When is the best time to drink coffee?

How to pray for your children and grandchildren

Real sex for a £1 and if you love books you'll love this.

Good interview with Trevin Wax on about the new book 'The Sending Church'

An interesting article called '5 differences between Catholic theology and the gospel'

The first assignment of the great commission is 'Do nothing'

Three good questions

A good article in the Speccy by James Mumford about the fight for your life.

20 photos to make you cry

Our ridiculous standard of beauty in 37 seconds

What is our problem with Hell?

Gay couples choosing to say 'I don't' and a thought from Campolo on homosexuality.

US spied on the Pope

The ordinary to the extraordinary

I don't know who Doug Phillips is but this piece is worth reading as we call all fall.

New and notable books

It nice interview about a generous waitress.


And if you want some more truly wonderful links check out A Holy Experience. I don't know where Ann Voscamps finds such marvels with such regularity.

Friday, November 01, 2013

The Circle Maker

'Next to the wonder of seeing my Savior will be, I think, the wonder that I made so little use of the power of prayer.'


'Some people think God does not like to be troubled with our constant coming and asking. The way to trouble God is not to come at all.'

D.L. Moody


Recently there was an article in USA Today about the benefits of walking for health. I read it while three quarters of the way through a book that has deeply impacted my prayer life and it too talks about walking. I think the sign of a good book is one that you start to live out while you are still reading it. You tell others about it, you put into practice the things you learn, you quote stories from it and you see that through reading it you're being changed. This book has put a fresh spring in my prayer life and faith in my bones. I have, as readers may know, been a man who often likes to walk and pray as I pace around my secret place (which I try to go to often).

The book is called 'The Circle Maker' (the website has lots of films you can watch if you are the visual type). To summarise, it's basically about prayer and its incredible power. It's written by Mark Batterson who planted National Community Church in Washington DC and who has seen God do remarkable things in his city through prayer and, more specifically, through his own prayer walking. The idea that you can pray while walking may be news to some of you. You can indeed pray and walk and this may be a relief to activist readers who shudder at the thought of a lonely chair and a silent room.  By the way, Gary Thomas unpacks all this in his excellent book Sacred Pathways.

How has this book impacted me?

Well I'll be honest. Things are very dire in our land and in the C of E. No one likes to mention this too much and if you live in London you are a bit shielded from the realities of national church decline-particularly in the North. Someone this week told me that that in Durham Diocese for instance, where the A of C hails from, if you take out St Nics, the average church attendance on Sunday is 8. Surely it must be more than 8? My source assured me this is the figure- I truly pray they are wrong.

So what's to be done if we want to see churches planted and disciples made and the land revived?

Whenever I come across someone dressed in purple I ask them - 'What's the plan?' Average age 62 of our congregants, too few Curacies, no money, buildings in disrepair, clergy depressed and 40% of clergy retiring in the next 10 years. And the plan is........?  

Batterson makes lots of good points- one of them is that too often we pray but then have no plan to act out of the prayer. Alternatively, we act without any prayer and these become just plans with no power. We must both pray and act. The books starts with a story from the Talmud about 'Honi the circle maker' and this may get some of your sound-o-meters gittery from the off but do press on. The book does at times have the slight feel of 'name it and claim it' but again the author is at pains to qualify from Scripture the points he knows may raise an 'I'm not sure about this' in his readers. Also, many of his illustrations of answered prayers are around provision of money for capital and other projects. But do press on and pray through (to use the term from the book) and you will find plenty of nuggets and stories to encourage you. You see, whilst the other side of the water the danger is often towards a prosperity gospel- our side of the pond it's in the opposite direction towards an impoverished and gloom filled one. A Vicar pal only yesterday recommended I read 'Abundance: The future is better than you think' which makes this point from a secular perspective. 

The chapter called 'Life Goals' will make some readers groan but I have to say it has greatly inspired me and I am planning a half a day to reflect on just this chapter. The author, by his own admission, is a type A and is someone who naturally likes challenges and goals and can probably get more done before breakfast than most of us do in a week.  But the idea of committing things to paper that we want to do and see happen in and through our lives is a good and healthy one I think. You can read his '10 Steps to setting life goals' if you can't be naffed to read the whole book but it you can't be naffed you're probably not the 'Life Goals' type!

Maybe this book just catches me at a time when I need someone to tell me some good news stories and to hang around a pastor with buckets of faith and hope. Maybe it catches me at a time when the 'can't do' approach of so many who lead is dragging me down. This has been a wonderful antidote to the gloom and lack of vision I see all around me. 

To conclude, I really do think reading this book has changed me. Maybe I shouldn't be that surprised as the author prayed it would. You never know, reading it might change you too.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

For the pod: Kingdom PHD's

Simon Ponsonby preached an excellent sermon called 'Kingdom Phd's' that you might like to listen to if you've been following the debates on-line about John McArthur, Strange Fire and cessationism.

The sermon makes a compelling and Biblical case for the continuationist position.  Well worth checking out.

So illiterate we don't get the joke

This week on Alpha is 'Why and how should I read the Bible?' and interestingly Nicky Gumbel doesn't in the talk mention the fact that if you don't read the Bible you won't find 'Life of Brian' funny. Who would have imagined this when the media frenzy broke in the 1970's?

Do read 'So Biblically illiterate in the UK that we no longer get Life of Brian'.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Reborn

If it feels like you're in the thick of it right now then perhaps make this your song before the Lord

Friday, October 25, 2013

Prince George's Christening

Justin Welby wonderfully inviting the masses to church.

There really is life in the old girl C of E yet....


Look

'Every time you look at your sin, look five times at your Saviour'

Tim Keller via my pal Tim James

Monday, October 21, 2013

Not so strange fire

There is a fresh debate about the Holy Spirit raging on-line. To be honest it's rather got the 'been there done that' about it. It is the old 'Do we think God does what he did in Acts and are the gifts for today?' discussion and this remains very divisive in evangelicalism both in the UK and across the water. Well known conservative Bible teacher John MacArthur has organised a conference that has got many people hot under the collar. To be frank, it's not frightfully helpful and he seems the think that himself and about three other people in the world are Christians. None of these other three nor he obviously speak in tongues :)

So what's the debate about? Adrian Warnock (worth reading all four of the posts) can fill you in.

So how should we respond?

Terry Virgo, speaking here, has some very helpful things to say about the bringing together of both Word and Spirit.  He, like myself, has found MLJ to be the voice of reason on many theological matters including this one. For any who have read the Murray biographies, especially the second one, this was all thrashed though in the times of Charismatic renewal in the '60's and '70's.

Why comment on this and not ignore it all?

Well, firstly and factually I think MacArthur is wrong on some things and he is accusing many godly and grace exuding Jesus-loving folk of not being Christians (on reading his transcript this seems to also include me apparently). Tim Challies has some interesting reflections having actually attended this conference and thereby is in some position to report a few facts.

Secondly, I think this a 'work it for good' opportunity to point people to material that can help them think through these important theological issues. My dear pal Simon has spent much of his life thinking, preaching and writing about the Holy Spirit and if I could put a couple of books in people's hands in the midst of this debate they would be God inside out and More.

If any of my readers know Tim Challies do ask him to review 'More' and 'God inside out'. It might be timely.

I would also point you to a couple of talks on the work of the Spirit one by Ellie Mumford (Vineyard UK) and the other by Mark Driscoll (A29).

It's always good at times like these to do three things.

1. Pick up your Bible
2. Pray
3. Find wise people from the past and present who can help, inform and teach you.

If this prompts you to buy 'More', to grab a pen and to do some study on the person and work of the Holy Spirit then that would be great.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Latest batch

I know my readers are fascinated by the theological depth of the blog. However, one friend and sporadic reader flew past all my words and profound links, with the exception of the chutney recipe, and was inspired to actually make it!. Bless you Will. He think its a mark of his middle age. Agree?

Just put 'Beetroot/ spiced orange/bbc food into google. Here's the latest batch on the hob as we speak. Thanks to my pal Ian for the beetroots from his allotment!




Friday, October 18, 2013

It's not over til it's over


"The difference between where you are and where God wants you to be may be the painful decision you refuse to make" 


Craig Groeschl quoted in Wild Goose Chase by Mark Batterson (Page 156)



'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 (1953)

Bill Hybels in this amazing talk has a wonderfully simple adage that vision is about moving people ....'from here to there'. He asks the question 'What happens if we chose not to do something verses the challenge of actually doing it.'

You see I know we could not bother with all the hassle of many things that we are dreaming and praying about about as a church. For example, we could as the people of God not bother responding to Strategy for ministry and just let 30 or more churches/livings in London close/disappear over the next five years- just so long as we're alright Jack. Let's be clear- that's potentially 30 parishes and 30 communities that need reaching with the gospel. It's 30 potential Foodbanks and Riverbank hubs and 30 youth groups and 30 mother and toddler ministries and 30 churches that could be ministering to the elderly and the needs of the poor. It's 30 Alpha courses that could be running and 30 student ministries and 30 hubs of worship and prayer and foreign mission. It's 30 community centres where people could receive debt counselling and Citizen's advice. It's 30 job clubs and community cafes. Lack of resources requires contraction but we could and should be making plans to keep churches open through church planting and grafting and missional communities. That's all of our challenge and it's the challenge probably every Diocese across England faces. Also, I suppose we could simply ignore the fact that for every two vicars who retire in the C of E we are only training one replacement. We could ignore the fact that the average bum on a seat in the Church of England is 62 and 40% of the Clergy of the C of E are due to retire in the next ten years.

There are so many 'We could not's......'

We could not bother changing the way we train and prepare clergy.

We could not make demonstrable evangelistic and missional gifting and passion an over-riding criteria for the recruitment and ordination of new clergy.

We could not ask the question of our church "What plan do we have in place to reach the lost in our parish/town/city who don't yet know Jesus".

We could not believe that our church is able to plant another church. After all once upon a time someone planted us. Ask why it is that your church isn't planning a church plant, a new missionary endeavour or a new idea to reach those who don't yet know Jesus? What's stopping you dream? Are you asking God for whatever you think it is that might make this possible?

We could not ask the question as a church community "When was the last time we saw someone saved, who are they, how did it happen and have we as a church heard their story to encourage ourselves and rejoice (as happens in heaven)?"

We could not run Alpha or some another evangelistic course but it might be worth a revisit as a church to ask why exactly it is we don't believe in or aren't currently doing/training people in evangelism? The NT (read Acts) does seem rather keen on us making disciples and proclaiming the gospel to others.

We could not have a plan for how we can minister to the poor, the slaves, the addicted and the broken both here and abroad (today is Anti-slavery day).



We could not innovate our worship services to make them more accessible to those in their teens and twenties.

We could not do any apologetics for teenagers.

We could not get around to reading 'I never left care, care left me' and then not respond to it as a church

We could not train any leaders and send no one to be ordained or on mission.

We could not have any discipleship groups

We could not bother reading The Circle Maker which might have transformed the way we pray.

We could not ask ourselves the question 'When was the last time I invited someone to church'

We could not ask the question "If I did ask someone to church is the service I am inviting them to accessible, welcoming and a place the gospel is preached in a way they might comprehend."

We could not ask the question "Is our style of music consistent with and for the people we are trying to reach or for the people who are already attending?" (this is a point of particular reflection as we start to plan our new youth service)

We could not worry about what forms of service we like and instead be more concerned about what we need to change and innovate in order to reach the people and groups we are currently not reaching.

These are the questions we are asking as a church and you might be asking them too. We're asking them because we want to make disciples and plant churches and we want to work out how to do this.

Time dear friends is short. So......

Gather

Pray

Dream

Risk

Empower

Preach

Plan

Look around

Have faith

Pray again

Then pray more

and then pray even more.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

So many Christians

My friend Elllie who runs 'The Riverbank Trust' and spoke last night about praying for our Government will be encouraged by this piece in the Standard today (sorry can't make it rotate) 


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Those who say you can

This article in this months Marie Claire is both moving and disturbing- you should read it.

It's an interview with author Jenni Fagan who grew up in care and overcame extraordinary odds to become a novelist. This quote- the last line of the piece- struck me:

'Don't listen to the people who say you can't do something, listen to those who say you can'

The article has prompted me pray for the work of The Riverbank Trust of which we are involved as a church. For any who are interested, we are hosting a breakfast at HT Barnes on November 16th for any who want to get involved in supporting it.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Six short rules for young Christians

 Six Short Rules for Young Christians 
(By Brownlow North) 

Brownlow North was a man greatly used of God in the great 1859 Revival that swept the North of Ireland. His grandfather was the Bishop of Winchester, who was the son of Lord North, and once Prime Minister of England. Brownlow North, then, was an aristocrat; but, as we well know, position has no bearing on a man's spiritual quality, and Brownlow North spent his days in godless living. "For forty-four years of my life," he tells us, "my object was to pass time pleasantly; so long as the day was spent agreeably I was satisfied". In 1854, God laid him low with a sever illness and raised him to life eternal to work the works of God. Two books give us an insight into the life and work of Brownlow North. "Wilt thou go with this man?" The story of his life; and "The Rich Man and Lazarus", which is a collection of the sermons which he preached during that great awakening in 1859. 


1. Never neglect daily private prayer; and when you pray, remember that God is present, and that He hears your prayers. (Heb. 11:6).

2. Never neglect daily private Bible reading; and when you read remember that God is speaking to you, and that you are to believe and act upon what He says. I believe all backsliding begins with the neglect of these two rules. (John 5:39).

3. Never let a day pass without trying to do something for Jesus. Every night reflect on what Jesus has done for you, and then ask yourself, "What am I doing for Him"? (Matt. 5: 13-16)

4. If you are in doubt as to a thing being right or wrong, go to your room and kneel down and ask God's blessing on it. (Col. 3:17). If you cannot do this, it is wrong. (Roms. 16:23).

5. Never take your Christianity from Christians, or argue that because such and such people do so and so, therefore, you may. (2 Cor.10:12). You are to ask yourself, "How would Christ act in my place"? And strive to follow Him (John 10:27)

6. Never believe what you feel, if it contradicts God's Word. Ask yourself, "Can what I feel be true if God's Word is true"? And if BOTH cannot be true, believe God and make your own heart the liar. (Roms. 3:4. 1 John 5:10-11).

Heartfelt

'Prayer simply dies from efforts to pray about 'good things' that honestly do not matter to us. The way to get to meaningful prayer for those good things is to start by praying for what we are really interested in. The circles of our interest will inevitably grow in largeness of God's love......Many people have found prayer impossible because they thought they should pray for wonderful but remote needs they actually had little or no interest in or even knowledge of.'

Dallas Willard 

'.....lay before Him what is in us, not what ought to be in us'

C. S. Lewis

in 'What they say about prayer' by David Pytches, p.46

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Fatally fragile


'Therefore, no matter what precautions we take, no matter how well we have put together a good life, no matter how hard we have worked to be healthy, wealthy, comfortable with friends and family and successful with our career-something will inevitably ruin it. No amount of money, power and planning can prevent bereavement, dire illness, relationship betrayal, financial disaster, or a host of other troubles from entering your life. Human life is fatally fragile and subject to forces beyond our power to manage. Life is tragic.'

(Walking with God through pain and suffering, Page 3)

Re-sown

My life is in a new season and I am very much enjoying it.

As a weird aside, I've made a couple of batches of chutney from the produce of our garden and some beetroot a pal gave me from his allotment and I have to say it's really rather good. Green tomato and Apple and Spiced orange and Beetroot for those who feel so moved to join me. It's a very therapeutic endeavour is chutney-making.

I've been reading a book a pal gave me on prayer by Bishop David Pytches. It's called 'What they say about prayer'. It's absolutely fantastic and I've been dipping into it as I have my quiet times. Sadly, it only seems to have a limited print run but do try your best to somehow get hold of a copy. Perhaps write to him?

A dear friend and constant encourager attended this conference in Toronto and was much blessed. When we skyped recently he commended Eric Mason who spoke at it to me so I listened to a sermon by him entitled 'Breaking free from strongholds'. Great stuff. He's a church planter in Philadelphia.

This quote by C S Lewis stopped me in my tracks this morning:

'The almost impossibly hard thing is to hand over your whole self to Christ. But it is far easier than what we are all trying to do instead. For what we are trying to do is remain what we call ourselves- our personal happiness centred on money or pleasure or ambition- and hoping, despite this, to behave honestly and chastley and humbly. And that is exactly what Christ warned us you cannot do. If I am a grass field- all the cutting will keep the grass less but won't produce wheat....I must be plowed up and re-sown.'

(Keller Reason for God P. 171-2)

I've been tapping my toe to 'This beating heart' by Matt Redman. It has more than a smattering of Mumford and Sons about it....