Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Wednesday waffle

Early this morning as I walked out of 'Pastors prayers' a friend came up to me and said 'I love your blog- keep doing it'. Just when I thought it might just be time to knock it on the head. According to Ben Arment, apparently only middle aged men write blogs. Guilty as charged. As a point of note, this particular reader was a woman :)

Blogs are dead.
(Except for middle-aged-man blogs read by other middle-aged men.)
(Twitter killed the blogging star.)
(And Instagram killed the Twitter star.)

Having said that, without the blog I would be more annoying than I probably already am with all my recommendations. There is also something very liberating about not concerning oneself with whether or not anyone visits here. If you do - wonderful- and I continue to pray my posting and waffle is a blessing and encouragement in some way.

In the car, I was listening to Unbroken Praise and one line from it hit me. As we were praying together, a pal prayed exactly that line. Go figure. Here's the line:

'So let my deeds outrun my words and let my life outweigh my songs'

....we then discussed that as a bunch of pastors words come easily. Deeds, we agreed, less so.

Adam, who helps me steer the good ship HT Barnes, recommended 'My rock, my refuge' by Tim Keller on Sunday which I have now taken delivery of and am reading together with BiOY as a devotional. It contains much treasure.

Someone recommended a talk by a prophetic American chappy (Doug- the tattoo prophet, dream interpreter and life coach) who has a website which I checked out. The talk was about 'Purging'. His January podcast sounded to me a bit like the Holy Spirit giving a month by month annual shipping forecast. Trouble is coming from the West just past German Bight in mid -June etc. His word had been a great and timely encouragement to this person and I found his stuff on pruning from John 15 interesting. I think we need to be sending far more tattoo prophets to BAP's. :)

I've been pondering the Christian professional's who have websites but no church. Driscoll is now one of them. He's got his library back.

A couple of other American chappy's I am planning to hear speak over the next few months are Mark Batterson and Kevin de Young. Both men have, in their own ways, be helpful and resourcing for me.

I am loving preaching on Philippians and Matt Chandler's book 'Die to gain' was a good find.

Our Community Groups are using Nicky Gumbel's material 'A life worth living'  as they study Philippians which I read twenty-five years ago and have revisited. Terrific nuts and bolts discipleship stuff.

I am trying to memorize (again) Proverbs 3:1-11 which I read the other morning, prompted by this post. If you can commit it to memory in five minutes you are doing better than me. I've written it on a card which reminded me of learning French vocab for O-level which, as it happens, I failed twice. D at the first attempt and an E at the second. Proverbs 3:1-11, I have learnt unlocks the whole of the rest of the book. While I'm on Proverbs, I recommended the talk 'Your Plans God's Plans' to someone recently.

Yesterday, as my day turned out, following one unexpected phone call it rather mirrored the quote from The Imperfect Pastor and 'wasted' the whole afternoon. Far from it obviously....

'Spear' is an incredible ministry.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Job Descriptions

One of the things I hoped to do more of in 2016 is write more and since deciding this I have done precious little of it. Nonetheless, here we are and I am going to give it a go and write a tiny bit.

Yesterday, I had my annual review with my Archdeacon (Church of England for 'Head of HR') and it was a really good experience. To prepare for it, I wrote a long document that attempted to capture everything that has happened in my life (personal and spiritual), family, church and leadership. Once I had put it down on paper it turned out to be quite a lot. Not least, was the wonder and joy of becoming a father.

As part of this process, here are some questions I am asking myself at the moment:

1. How are you doing?

2. What are my priorities?

3. What is God saying to me?

4. What is God saying to our church?

5. What am I blind to/lying to myself about?

6. Who in my life will tell me/ is telling me what I need to hear?

7. Am I listening to them?

Over the last year, I have spent quite a bit of time reflecting on what it means to be a pastor. I have looked around at those who carry that name, including myself, and observed what a deeply flawed bunch we all are. However, the recent tonic and balm for my introspection has been Zack Eswine's book 'The Imperfect Pastor and this section about 'greatness' hit me recently and I have been mulling on its challenge since. You may find yourself doing the same:

Jesus's idea of doing great things for God meant a daily routine that accentuated a greatness of a different kind. His schedule among the least looked something like what follows. In particular:

Early morning and late evening: disappear often and pray

After breakfast till just before dinner: seek out unknown and scarily broken people and give them the bulk of your time. Set aside times to teach publicly and to debrief privately with those you are mentoring.

Early evening after dinner: spend time together and enjoy each other.

In general:

Eat and sleep

Help those other leaders who are for you to understand from God's word that this way of ministry is from God and is no waste. 

Bear with people whom you help but who distance themselves from you because your way of life and ministry scares them

Don't worry that your true glory is veiled to almost everyone around you.

Don't schedule too much time with those who believe themselves to be pillars in government or the church. Remember that they too are just people. They have their own sins to repent of and their own callings to fulfill. They are not more important than the broken and the lost for whom you are called'

The Imperfect Pastor, P.63

Sunday, January 24, 2016

A letter to the UK Church

My pal Simon has written 'A letter to the UK church'.

Sadly, it's behind the pay wall (although I think you can get a free trial) but it deserves a wide readership. Check it out if you can.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Chosen and Free

Musing on this from my BiOY notes today:

Jesus goes on to teach in such a way that it is clear that he believed in both predestination (that God has already determined everything that will happen) and free will. He teaches both alongside one another. It is a paradox. The two seemingly contradictory things are both true at the same time.
It is not 50% ‘predestination’ and 50% ‘free will’. Jesus says we are 100% predestined and we have 100% free will. This may seem impossible, but God is able to transcend and yet not distort human freedom. We ultimately see this in the incarnation: Jesus is 100% God and 100% human; he is fully God and fully human.
  • Predestination
    ‘All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him’ (v.27).

    Why God chooses to reveal himself to some and not to others is a mystery. It is certainly not based on wisdom and learning. Sometimes the great intellectuals simply cannot see it: ‘you have hidden these things from the wise and learned’ (v.25). And yet sometimes people of little or no education, or those who are very young (‘little children’, v.25), seem to have a very profound understanding of Jesus. ‘You’ve concealed your way from sophisticates and know-it-alls, but spelled them out clearly to ordinary people’ (v.25, MSG).
  • Free will
    Jesus says, ‘Come to meall you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest’ (v.28). The invitation to come to Jesus is for everyone. No one is excluded. We are all invited. We all have a choice whether to accept the invitation of Jesus or to refuse it.
I find it difficult to get my mind around this paradox. However, I have found the following illustration helpful. Imagine a room with an arched doorway. The outside of the arch is inscribed with the words, ‘Come to me, all you…’ (v.28). In other words everyone is invited into the room. When you get into the room, on the inside of the same arch is written, ‘No one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him’ (v.27b).
In other words, free will is a doctrine for everyone. No one can say, ‘I am not going to become a Christian because I have not been chosen.’ The invitation is to all. On the other hand, predestination is a doctrine of assurance for those who are Christians. Once you have accepted the invitation and entered, you can know that God has chosen you and therefore he will not let you go.
I love the words of Jesus in verse 28. In a stressful world where so many are ‘weary and burdened’, Jesus promises you rest. He offers to take your burdens and replace them with his own.
The yoke (something that Jesus would have made in the carpenter's shop) was a wooden frame joining two animals (usually oxen) at the neck, enabling them to pull a plough or wagon together. The function of the yoke is to make burdens easier to carry. I love this image of walking in step with Jesus, sharing our burdens, making the trials to be endured and the battles to be faced ‘easy’ and ‘light’ by comparison.
Jesus is not a slave driver. When you pursue his agenda for your life you carry a burden but it is ‘not harsh, hard, sharp, or pressing, but comfortable, gracious, and pleasant’ (v.30, AMP). When you do what Jesus asks you to do, he gives you the strength and wisdom to do it and you carry his burden with him. There will, of course, be many challenges and difficulties, but there will also be a lightness and ease.
Jesus says to you: ‘Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly’ (vv.28–29, MSG). Just relax and let God be God.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Revival



I have had tears in my eyes three times today. The first was listening to this song as I read the Bible in the early hours, the second was watching a wonderful film of all the God has done in the lives of people in our church that I am showing on Sunday and the third time was reading the amazing words of Justin Welby to the gathering of the Primates.

There is so much to be hopeful and confident about amidst the gloom and the Bride is alive and well. As Justin says (and do read the whole post):

..In all Provinces there are forms of corruption, none of us is without sin. There is litigation, the use of civil courts for church matters in some places. Sexual morality divides us over same sex issues, where we are seen as either compromising or homophobic..
..Jesus did not come to a group of well-established disciples and send them, but to failures, who had fled, denied, abandoned. Paul in the letters to Corinth does not write to a well-functioning church of good disciples, but to those who were divided, immoral, filled with rivalry and hatred. We are a Jesus centred people, and we serve the God who raised Jesus from the dead and raises us. At the heart of the life of the church is not power, or structure, or authority, but the person of Jesus Christ, present by His Spirit, whose plans for good, whose love for the lost is our calling and our urging.
We see good news as well as knowing good news. Around the world the church is growing, evangelising, leading people to life in Christ, without whom there is no true life. The Anglican churches are everywhere caring for the sick, educating children, influencing society, and most normally of all, in bringing people to reconciliation with God in Christ, the only decisive reconciliation, they are also bringing reconciliation in society. In so many places, especially at the local level, by the grace of God alone, Anglicanism is a church of the Beatitudes.

....All of us here need a body that is mutually supportive, that loves one another, that stoops to lift the fallen and kneels to bind the wounds of the injured. Without each other we are deeply weakened, because we have a mission that is only sustainable when we conform to the image of Christ, which is first to love one another. The idea is often put forward that truth and unity are in conflict, or in tension. That is not true. Disunity presents to the world an untrue image of Jesus Christ. Lack of truth corrodes and destroys unity. They are bound together, but the binding is love. In a world of war, of rapid communications, of instant hearing and misunderstanding where the response is only hatred and separation, the Holy Spirit whose creative and sustaining gifting of the church is done in diversity, demands that diversity of history, culture, gift, vision be expressed in a unity of love. That is what a Spirit filled church looks like.
So with all our grave difficulties we face a world in darkness, lostness and suffering, knowing that we serve Jesus who sends us and that those whom he sends he equips. Our responsibility this week is therefore to be making the church more ready for action, as a body around the world.
..we are sent, by being outward looking. Every time we act or conclude an action we must ask ourselves, will this lead a world of lostness nearer to Christ Jesus and His salvation. Even when we disagree, even if we decide we must walk separately, we must not in the way we do that imperil the salvation of one person outside this room.
We are sent. Many here set us wonderful examples of what that means in their own actions. As I said, I am the beneficiary to all eternity of the Revival. But we are sent as the Father sent Jesus, so when we get to the end of our time together this week, may we be inspired afresh as those who are indeed sent, filled with the peace of Christ.

....


Monday, January 11, 2016

Primates

This week, in C of E land, it's all about the men (and women?) in pointy hats as the 38 Anglican Primates meet in Canterbury. This post called 'What does grace demand?' is an interesting read.

Do pray for Justin Welby.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Staying put

'It's one thing to do what you need to in order to get somewhere. It's quite another to know how to stay put for a while once you've gotten there'

Imperfect Pastor: Discovering joy in our limitations through a daily apprenticeship with Jesus by Zack Eswine, p.73

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Do more better


'Productivity is effectively stewarding your gifts, talents, time, energy, and enthusiasm for the good of others and the glory of God'

Tim Challies, Do more better, p.19

'Do more better: A practical guide to productivity' by Tim Challies is a great January book and is all about getting sorted, productive and organised 'for the glory of God'. 

To some, this sort of thing comes naturally and I confess I am not one of those folk. Hence, the beginning of the year tends to be a time when I try to remind myself of my life vision ( I wrote one down over a decade ago), my responsibilities and goals and get them into some semblance of order. You do need to have a bit of a system for getting things done and getting 'on purpose'. All of us are able, Tim Challies believes, with some help, to 'do more better'.

My mother recently introduced Pete, our Ops manager, to someone by saying 'This is Pete- he runs the church for David' and that is in so many ways true. He is a natural administrator and sorts, orders and works through lists, finances, complex documents and spreadsheets like a man who was born for it. He was indeed born for it and has what the Bible calls 'the gift of administration'. Now, not everyone is an administrator as gifted as Pete but those of us who are not can certainly learn from those who are like him. 

Tim Challies is one person we can all learn from and has written all the best tips down on this ever developing subject of productivity. The book is a thin book -one that anyone looking for a primer on all this would do well to check out. The first half is essential reading about the point of doing anything at all and don't be tempted to skip this bit. I have read lots of books like this (GTD etc) and 'Do more better' is among the most accessible because it's simple, practical and rooted in God's grace. It will give you some very helpful tips and tools that will enable you to achieve tasks more effectively, store your information more logically and plan your time more prudently. 

All in all, this is one to read as you tee up all you are hoping, planning and praying for in 2016 and these things may actually then come to pass. That's, of course, only if you do as Tim recommends.

Monday, January 04, 2016

The point of it all

'God created you so he could receive glory from you and receive glory through you. That is an astonishing truth to consider and a deeply humbling one. When you grasp it and apply it, it transforms everything about your life. The  simple fact is, you are not the point of your life. You are not the star of your show. If you live for yourself, your own comfort, your own glory, your own fame, you will miss out on your very purpose. God created you to bring glory to him'

Do More Better, Tim Challies, P.11