Monday, December 31, 2007
Over the last few weeks I have done a chapter a day of this book in the early mornings. In it, Peterson explores the life of Jeremiah. Be honest, would you ever take the time out to study Jeremiah in any depth or with sufficient clarity of understanding? Doing so with this book and in the extraordinary hands of Eugene, 'Run with horses' has been a joy. I am biased because I love all Peterson's work but the quotes at the beginning of each chapter are alone worth the price of the book. I share EP's dislike of cosmetic religion and take his warning that size of church and a glamourous exterior is not the markers of spiritual health. Jeremiah tells us in fact that sometimes the opposite is true. I will try as best can to heed this great prophets lessons.
Sunday, December 30, 2007
I have recently subscribed to Prospect Magazine which is a good and sometimes challenging read and keeps the grey matter on its toes. They had a good article this month about the most overrated and underrated things of 2007 and here are a selection:
A TV series called The Wire was the 'most brilliantly achieved and sophisticated drama ever made for television. Orbitals 'Live from Glastonbury' was a 'masterpiece' and apparently 'they are to electronic music what Dylan is to folk'. The biography we missed was Sylvia Queen of the Headhunters and the foreign film was a Palestinian film called Out of Place. The Wigmore Hall was the venue we unwisely neglected and is 'the greatest source of spiritual pleasure in Britain'. Charles Taylor's The Secular Age is 'a major intellectual event ' but sound rather thick and complicated. The documentary called 'The Bridge explored suicide and is a 'profound and beautiful story of love, loss and despair.' The most underrated polemic was 'Who controls the internet: Illusions of a borderless world' and the piece of history was Daniel Mendelsons; The Lost:A Search for Six of the Six Million.. Other things we missed were the London Jazz Festival and the films Superbad and Death at a Funeral which was 'the most underrated film of the year'.
So what's the secret. Well to call it a secret would be misleading but it is in simple terms the practice of what are called the disciplines, the tried and tested spiritual practices of centuries of Christian tradition. But why bother? Again, that depends on what one wants to build and how long to are prepared to wait. Of course the short cut can look impressive on the outside but will it last? John Fowles wrote; ' I can stick artificial flowers on this tree that will not flower; or I can create the conditions in which the tree is likely to flower naturally. I may have to wait longer for my real flowers; but they are the only true ones'.
Saturday, December 29, 2007
For any one who loves music this is a treat that I listened to as I drove from London to Norfolk. Radio 2 took the original producers of this album and assembled a list of contemporary artists to try and record the songs on two-track recording equipment. They discovered the genius of the Fab Four to a more extreme level. Bryan Adams shows his talent over the younger bands who really struggled without their computers.
It's called Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band
Here as a taster is the Kaiser Chief great rendition of 'Getting Better'.
"I must register a certain impatience with the faddish equation, never suggested by me, of the term identity with the question, "Who am I?" This question nobody would ask himself except in a more or less transient morbid state, in a creative self-confrontation, or in an adolescent state sometimes combining both; wherefore on occasion I find myself asking a student who claims he is in an "identity crisis" whether he is complaining or boasting. The pertinent question, if it can be put into the first person at all, would be, "What do I want to make myself, and what do I have to work with?" Erik H Erickson 'Identity, Youth and Crisis' Page 314
Watch them on Five Live Ricky and Rowan. Enjoy.
Friday, December 28, 2007
I have kept a journal for quite a few years and find it to be a very helpful thing. It is mainly as an aid to my scripture reading but also serves as an encouragement. However hard the journey gets looking at my journals reminds me of the distance I have already travelled. I have read lots of books on journaling and this is not a bad one. The best one to get you started is Ron Klug's 'How to keep a spiritual journal'
Here are 50 suggestions I found in the appendix and I share them to, at very least, stimulate your looking ahead to 2008. Starting a journal might a good thing to do so why not try. I can recommend Moleskine's which you can buy on line or in Waterstones. The large plain in my journal of choice.
1. On a scale of 1-10 (10 being intimate), how close do you feel to God today. Write for a while to figure out why you are, say, 6 rather than 10
2. Try paraphrasing a familiar passage of scripture
3. Turn a paraphrase of scripture into a poem
4. Copy the Lord's Prayer into your journal expand on it.
5. The Gospel writers record Jesus asking over one hundred questions. Find some of those questions and pretend that he is asking them of you. How do you respond?
6. List all the roles that you play; your talents, your education, your experience, your expertise, your friends, your ministry. Try to write several pages answering the question who am I?
7. Create a page of goals and dreams. Don't be worried about practicality, just dream. If you could be anyone, who woould you want to be? If you could have any job during your lifetime what would it be?
8. What do you want to be remembered for?
9. Go back to the pages where you listed who you are. Now imagine that you are unable to d any of those things. Spend some time pondering the truth that Jesus' love for you would not change. If you were in accident and had to spend the rest of your life unable to move, Jesus would love you no less than he does today. His love is not contingent on what you do. He loves you fully. Write for a while to let this truth sink deep into your soul.
10. Write about a time you felt ashamed?
11. What is "the Gospel"?
12. Select a parable of scripture and draw it
13. What ministry has God uniquely entrusted to you? What goals can you set for this ministry?
14. Consult a concordance and write out several NT verses that use the word ashamed. What does Paul say about being ashamed in 1 and 2 Timothy? Is Jesus ever ashamed? Reread what you wrote about a time you felt ashamed.
15. Write a letter to Jesus. Begin with "Dear Jesus" and tell him anything you want. The only requirement is to be honest. Use his thoughts from the scriptures and have him respond in a letter back to you.
16. Are you feeling squeezed into someone else's mould? Write
17. Write out a passage of Scripture. Note your fleeting thoughts and reactions as you copy it.
18. Give yourself permission to be confused. Ask Jesus a hard question. How do you think he would answer it.
19. Write a conversational dialogue between yourself and an unsaved friend or family member. How might you open a conversation into spiritual things? How would you anticipate they would respond?
20. Draw a picture of your spiritual journey. Write about it for 20 minutes
21. Write a prayer for someone in your family
22. Write down some ideas from a scripture passage you have been studying. Write down the things that have been happening to you at work and home and church. Write down what you have been thinking about. Reflect on what the Lord might be saying to you through his word, your circumstances and his still small voice. Can you boil this down to one sentence?
23. Read Isaiah and find fifty questions God asks
24. Brainstorm a list of characteristics of a soldier. What does it mean to be a soldier in your Christian life?
25. What are you afraid of?
26. What one thing is frustrating you the most? Why might you want it to be that way? What's in this problem for you?
27. Dialogue journal through a passage. (John 1:29-34, John 1:35-42; Luke 7:36-50, Luke 19:1 are great passages to begin with)
28. Write five to ten pages of notes as you read a book. Be sure to include what you think as well as what the author thinks
29. Write your own parable
30. What personal risks or fears or people stand in you way of truly being able to follow hard after God
31. What are some motivations you may need to confess?
32. Select a topic that you'd like to learn more about, a question you would like to answer or a problem that you'd like to resolve. Write about it. As new questions come to mind, keep pursuing the answers.
33. Find something in nature that can remind you of a quality or a character quality you would like to grow in. Take a photograph of it. Hang it on the wall. Write about it. What are the characteristics you'd like to develop? Why is this image especially meaningful to you?
34. Create a place for your devotional items; it may be a basket, or a bag, or a place at your desk. Stock it with 3x5 cards, pens, pencils, calligraphy pens, markers, paper etc
35. Choose a favorite passage of Scripture. Make a picture using just the words of scripture
36. Write a letter to someone you love and send it
37. Create a poster, not for the finished product but to enjoy the process of creating
38. What is God speaking to you about these days. Write to discern his voice
39. Write your testimony in a thousand words or less
40. Whom do you admire? Choose someone you know personally. What can you learn from them?
42. Find a secular non-fiction book n a topic of interest to you. Read it with the perspective that the author is you mentor. What can you learn from him or her?
43. Keep a travel log of your next trip
44. Write a prayer of confession that you could use for the rest of your life.
45. What can you learn about hearing from the parable of the sower in Luke 8:1-15? How does the rest of chapter 8 relate to the parable?
46. Create a book of worship of your own
47. Create your own extended metaphor of the Christian life.
48. Add an illustration to a journal entry
49. Write a villanelle ( I confess I don't know what this is !)
50. Reread Song of Songs. Choose a favorite chapter to mediate on. Write yourself and the Lord into the story.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Tim Keller has a book coming which is the source of great expectation. He has written the book he wishes he could give people seeking God that would be a Mere Christianity for the 21st Century. Read what he says about it himself and one of the first reviews from Publishers Weekly:
The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism
Timothy Keller. Dutton, $24.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-525-95049-3
In this apologia for Christian faith, Keller mines material from literary classics, philosophy, anthropology and a multitude of other disciplines to make an intellectually compelling case for God. Written for skeptics and the believers who love them, the book draws on the author’s encounters as founding pastor of New York’s booming Redeemer Presbyterian Church. One of Keller’s most provocative arguments is that “all doubts, however skeptical and cynical they may seem, are really a set of alternate beliefs.” Drawing on sources as diverse as 19th-century author Robert Louis Stevenson and contemporary New Testament theologian N.T. Wright, Keller attempts to deconstruct everyone he finds in his way, from the evolutionary psychologist Richard Dawkins to popular author Dan Brown. The first, shorter part of the book looks at popular arguments against God’s existence, while the second builds on general arguments for God to culminate in a sharp focus on the redemptive work of God in Christ. Keller’s condensed summaries of arguments for and against theism make the scope of the book overwhelming at times. Nonetheless, it should serve both as testimony to the author’s encyclopedic learning and as a compelling overview of the current debate on faith for those who doubt and for those who want to re-evaluate what they believe, and why. (Feb. 14)
I awaken every morning like most do to the radio. My station of choice is Five Live and their breakfast show is the Today program with a sense of humour. This morning, the new leader of the lib-dems Nick Clegg very bravely agreed to answer ANY question that was thrown at him in quick-fire succession. The third question you could tell completely took him by surprise. "Do you believe in God?"...... there was a long pause and then he said "No".
As with all things he now has to live out what he said sincerely and honestly in a sensitive and analytical political climate. He has since qualified his assertion with the news that 'His wife is a Catholic', though how the two are linked is not entirely clear. This was an excellent and revealing radio format and all credit to Clegg for his honesty and frankness in the face of some really tough questions. We should put more of our sound-bite, media managing leaders under this penetrating spotlight.
More of this please Five Live
Monday, December 17, 2007
Got my old bones out to see some 'rock' on Friday and really enjoyed it. I must say I thought Earls Court would be filled wth hoody wearing youths rather than nearly middle-aged ex-marketing executives and in fact I was far from the oldest there. A generation that has said no to worshipping God is still worshipping something. My friend turned to me half way through and shouted over the din "I bet you are the only member of the clergy here". I think she may have been right, though am happy to be proved wrong.
The US landscape is much more religiously focused than here and it is easy to recall Alistair Cambell's words to Tony Blair saying "We don't do God". They very much do in the States. In this campaign alone you have Mitt Romney, a devout Mormon and Huckabee, a former Baptist pastor. Discerning who is God's man or women is a somewhat tricky business amidst so much faith mixed with politics. Anyway, form your own view on Barak Obama in the knowledge that this man may well soon be the most powerful leader in the world.
“The best speech Obama has ever given was in Connecticut in June 1997. In it, he describes his religious conversion. “ One Sunday, I put on one of the few clean jackets I had, and went over to Trinity United Church of Christ on 95th Street on the South side of Chicago. And I heard Reverend Jeremiah A Wright deliver a sermon called The Audacity of Hope. And during the course of the sermon, he introduced me to someone named Jesus Christ. I learnt that my sins could be redeemed. I learnt that those things I was to weak to accomplish myself, he could accomplish with me if I placed my trust in him. And in time I came to see faith as more than just a comfort for the weary or a hedge against death, but rather as an active, palpable agent in the wrld and in my own life.
It was because of these newfound understandings that I was finally able to walk down the aisle of Trinity one day and affirm my Christian faith. It came about as a choice not an epiphany. The questions I had didn’t magically disappear. The sceptical bent in of my mind didn’t suddenly vanish . |but kneeling beneath the cross on the South Side, I felt I heard God’s spirit beckoning me. I submitted myself to His will, and dedicated myself to discovering His truth and carrying out His works.’
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
There is a good new biography of Balfour just out for those like me who need to read more on this subject.
Thursday, December 06, 2007
because I speak in praise
of gentleness, or elegant
because I honor the grace
that keeps this world. I am
a man crude as any,
gross of speech, intolerant,
stubborn, angry, full
of fits and furies. That I
may have spoken well
at times, is not natural.
A wonder is what it is.
I have over the last couple of years read most of the writings of Brian McClaren and enjoyed them and this is my latest read. He is one of the voices of what is called the 'emerging church' and I have found his views refreshing and helpful. He seems to be a man full of grace and truth but the truth part he sees as a pilgrimage rather than an already obtained absolute. In much the same way as Peterson he calls us to recognize that we are on 'the way' rather than already having arrived.
"The achievement of "right thinking" therefore recedes, happily, farther beyond our grasp the more we pursue it. As it eludes us, we are strangely rewarded: we feel gratitude and love, humility and wonder, reverence and awe, adventure and homecoming. We shout hallelujah, and we weep tears of joy. So we pursue it all the more until the end when we find it has been pursuing us and we are caught up into the Pursuer we have so long pursued" Page 336
Check out the emergent village to hear more...
Monday, November 12, 2007
Tim's talk called 'Resisting Mediocrity' is as good an overview of how to live out a real life for Jesus and what it means if we are to undertake doing that. Tim's talk was the best I have heard in a long time and was honest, funny and full of deep and profound insight. Do make some time to listen to it if you can. www.stbk.org.uk under recent sermons.
Saturday, November 03, 2007
James Watson has been excoriated for saying that science proves that black people are less intelligent than white. I have no idea whether he is right, but it is a natural consequence of the worship of the theory of evolution that such ideas gain currency. In the early 20th century, Darwinian views were endlessly used to back up race theory. A more religious idea of the worth of each human being — the sort of thing which makes Richard Dawkins furious — affords protection against the political imposition of these theories. I should like a scientific study to be made of why it is that clever atheist evolutionists, almost invariably male, love shocking us with ideas of this sort
"Are you the 2.20?"
As it happens we were and we weren't. A deceased lady of 87 whom I had never met was the 2.20, but the truth is we all will be one day. 25 minutes (by the way that's the maximum a crem funeral can take) to sum up your life and my life.
Your slot and my slot and then we're gone.
I saw that all I do is so fleeting.
What's going to matter? Really matter. What do you want them to say?
We'd better all work that out before we all join the queue. Maybe not the 2.20 ....you may get the 11.05 or 3.15.
Put your pride aside and seek out the only person who can make the 2.20 have any meaning at all.
My 'SOME GOOD NEWS' on the side bar is my best attempt at explaining it
Jesus died for you and wants your response.
He's desperate for it.
Be sure to RSVP before 2.20......
Thursday, November 01, 2007
I am a member of a book club that has been running for 5 years and in truth it is as much about food and friendship as it is about books. Some of our number rarely read the book and some always do and I suppose I am somewhere in between.( I have been a distinctly more off than on member! ). I enjoyed this months offering quite alot and it is an interesting commentary on how a person becomes radicalised and set against western culture and values. This book commended itself also because it is short and an easy read. We meet next week to share our thoughts.
I also like my dear friends because they keep me connected to the real world. They have real jobs, real lives and we read real books, mostly novels, and most of them aren't Christians. Church life can so easily and quickly leave you out of touch, irrelevant and detuned to our culture and its thinking. I do try and introduce reading with a more theological tone but so far all attempts have been rejected. It's my turn to choose this time, so who knows what will be selected. I am allowed to nominate three so had better decide on my selection. Favorite so far in my search is the new book by Barbara Kingsover and my more spiritual choice may be something by McClaren or Donald Miller.
If you haven't read Blue like Jazz do and give it to anyone who seeking after God.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
I have been going to the same lonely place for 15 years ( it in fact isn't that lonely as it is a park and on occasions is rather full of children and dogs!). The important thing is to be alone and I was cetainly that. I took my bible, journal and finished off a book I started yesterday called 'Strengthen yourself in the Lord' by Bill Johnson. It was a fruitful time and good reminder that I am not ordained to charge about all the time but to take time to pray and seek God and to remember the word OFTEN.
Perhaps that's where Jesus got his power.....now there's a thought for my sermon.
The amazing thing is that this is a word of mouth witness to the goodness of God. It is not 'the latest thing' and is by no means the solution to the Chrsitian life in 4 days. However, it is life-changing in simply reclaiming some of the basic doctrines of the faith such as repentance. If you get the chance I would commend this as a fruitful way to spend four days, but be warned it is an unglamourous journey of discovering your sin and thankfully and wonderfully being gradually set free from it.
Thanks to all for all their efforts in putting it on and thanks especially to the crowd in Fulham who gave themselves selflessly all week.
Last week I listened to a great American preacher who is one person who I think really understands the gospel and preaches it faithfully. He was speaking at All Souls and offered the assembled company much food for thought. I have listened to hundreds of Keller's sermons over the years and they have truly fed my soul. I first discovered him when a lady at St Barnabas gave me a tape of his. I was so impressed I searched the net until I found his church which is called Redeemer New York. I bought a series of talks on James and have nver looked back. Things have come on in recent years and you can now download them on MP3 and they have about 20 talks free on-line of you want a sampler. The series I have enjoyed most are 'Daring to draw near, Galations and 'The Real Jesus'.
Check Keller out....
Friday, October 05, 2007
Here are the questions. I think they are helpful:
How are your devotions?
What is God teaching you?
In your own words, what is the gospel?
Is there a specific sin you’re aware of that you need my help defeating?
Are you more aware of my encouragement or my criticism?
What’s daddy most passionate about?
Do I act the same at church as I do when I’m at home?
Are you aware of my love for you?
Is there any way I’ve sinned against you that I’ve not repented of?
Do you have any observations for me?
How am I doing as a dad?
How have Sunday’s sermons impacted you?
Does my relationship with mom make you excited to be married?
(On top of these things, with my older kids, I’m always inquiring about their relationship with their friends and making sure God and his gospel are the center of those relationship. And I look for every opportunity to praise their mother and increase their appreciation and love for her.)
Hope these are helpful to some.
This is the book that Bill Hybels (Pastor of Willow Creek a mega-church in Chicago) bought for all 25 of his key leaders and insisted they read. I am half way through it and have to say I agree with Bill. Perhaps, because I worked for so long in business and understand well the environment of big companies (by no means to such I high level in my case) this is perhaps more interesting to me than to others. She tracks each stage of her education, her advance through the high-tech indistry and the pressures on leaderships of becoming the most successful business woman in America. She says lots of interesting things and comes across as capable, sincere, driven and extremly intelligent.
Here's a few of her thoughts:
'That night, after I'd cried long enough. I made a decision. I would not cry again over others predjudice. Sure, what people thought or said about me might hurt What people did might hurt as well, but I ould not carry their narrow-mindedness or bias as my burden. Life isn't always fair, and it is different for women than for men. I decided to accept that reality and refuse to be diminished by it. I would accomplish all I was capable of. I would concentrate on-doing what I believed where the right things for the right reasons to the best of my ability. Some, perhaps even many, might believe I couldn't or shouldn't, do what I choose. That would be their problem, not mine. They would not wound me again. I had decided once that my life was my own. Now I decided my heart would be my own as well' [page 70]
'Goals are important, but that night I realized that life is about the journey, not the destination. The steps along the way are what makes us who we are' [page 85]
'I have believed all my life that leadership has nothing to do with title or position. Leadership is about the integrity of one's charachter, the calibre of one's cababilities, and the effectiveness of one's collaboration with others. Anyone can lead from anywhere at any time. I have seen people lead from lowly as well as lofty positions...'
I am part of a book club and recommended this to them as our next read. It was soundly rejected so, not one to give up, I recommend it to all as one to put on the suitcase for the half-term holiday and see how you like it. I think it's truly inspiring stuff but feel free to disagree.
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
I use the Amazon DVD rental thing that allow you to rent over the net. I came across a programme called 'State of play which was a six part drama done by the BBC a few years ago. It was a great surprise to find a British drama that really was very very good so I recommend you hunt it out and give it a watch. It is about an investigative journalist who sniffs out political corruption and we follow all sorts of avenues of intrigue to a tremendous conclusion. Bill Nighy as the Editor of the newspapers is superb.
Spent yesterday in bed but got bored so got up and did some stuff. As a consequence still have a sore back which is not exactly surprising.
Monday, October 01, 2007
Monday, September 24, 2007
Saw a friend of mine last week who introduced me to these guys who write and sing wonderful worship songs to God. Check them out on You tube and I particularly commend the songs - when I think about the lord, the answer and yearn. I hope it is blessing to you. Eric, who I was college with, used to sing their songs with amazing passion in Chapel and I never knew who they were so this is an especially happy discovery and memory jogger. Ahhh college chapel.....those happy days!
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Sometimes you watch a programme on TV that seems to speak into a time of your life. Greys Anatomy is the story of young medical students learning how to become surgeons and it is the best thing I have watched in ages. It is a mix of romance, friendship, ethics and the challenge of acquiring vital and life saving new skills. Learning how to be a surgeon and learning how to be a pastor have uncannily similar trajectories. Excellent stuff and the best thing around since the dearly departed West Wing. Enjoy.
Monday, September 10, 2007
August 27, 2007
I’d love to live a more rounded life, but I’m too flat out
Someone said something amazing to me last week. I was trying to arrange a business lunch with an acquaintance of mine – a big-shot record producer, web entrepreneur and social maven – and he said: “I can do any day that week, really. I haven’t got much on at the moment.”
I was so astonished by what he’d said that my mouth went all strange. I gabbled “I, er, er, er, er, better look at the calendar and call you back! Bye!” and then hung up, in some state of discombobulation. Hadn’t got much on at the moment? Any day that week? What did he mean? No one says things like that any more. He was talking like some crazy throwback. He might just as well be saying: “I’m off to catch a zeppelin to Constantinople.”
No one has “not much on at the moment” these days. That’s just a 21st-century fact. Talk to a stay-at-home mum at the school gates – dropping her kids off for the next six hours – and she’ll tell you that her life is currently “a bit hectic”.
People with perfectly normal office jobs are “flat out”. People with slightly more demanding jobs are “not even putting my head above the parapet before Christmas”. Even my dole-scum relatives – whose lives revolve around the sofa, the microwave and the dodgy baccy man – still talk of “fitting things in” and “things being a bit mental at the mo”. Although, of course, for the one on Incapacity Benefit for psychotic and schizo-phrenic tendencies, that’s obviously just a factual statement.
And if you ring up someone “in demand” – a celebrity, businessman or politician – and ask their “people” for some “face time”, they just laugh hysterically and put the phone down.
I think that, currently, you’re allowed to say a single, well-chosen word to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie before being whisked out of the hotel suite. Then their “people” fax you their answer, later.
Everyone is time-poor. Everyone is rushing around. I dare say there are tramps in Central London who are booked up until mid-September. No one will admit that they had quite a quiet week last week. That something got cancelled at the last minute on Friday, and they spent all day on Facebook, popped to the gym, and then went home to play Grand Theft Auto in their pants.
As part of the work ethic bashed into us during the Thatcher years, it has become morally suspect to be anything other than rushed off our feet. Most people would rather develop some disease that makes them smell of fish than admit to sizeable tracts of free time. Being unengaged is worse than being poor, fat, friendless, or having a borderline Asperger’s-like recall of the life, career and great thoughts of Balearic DJ Danny Rampling and his Manumission posse. In that order.
But of course, it’s not the implicit moral superiority that has made busyness so universal. After all, you could claim instant moral superiority simply by reusing a plastic bag, and we’re still being apathetic about that.
No. Busyness is so popular because it’s the magic ticket to doing whatever the hell you want. You have carte blanche to live a wholly selfish life, if you have a full enough diary. And just like some life decision that allows you infinite recourse to shout “And no returns!”, there’s nothing anyone can do about it.
Take society. You know, you simply don’t need to bother with society if you’re “busy”. Lonely old lady next door? Toddler group that could do with more helpers? Pool tournament need arranging for troubled youths? Obviously somebody needs to go and do these things – and probably quite urgently, judging by that odd, stair-falling sound that came from the old lady’s house last night – but it’s not going to be someone who’s chockablock until mid-Oct, earliest, is it?
Likewise, your family and friends. Obviously in an ideal world you would go and visit your mother every weekend – but do you know what’s standing between me and you, Mum. Munich. Crewe. And this three-day “thing” that’s just too tedious to tell you about. If you plaintively ask me again to come and see you, it will be borderline abuse. I might burn out on your doorstep, and have to go to the Priory.
You can weasel out of rotas with a rueful “I’m snowed under”. The absence of a birthday present can be unarguably explained with an almost cheerful “I’m so busy! I forgot!” Inform people of your busyness early on in a conversation – effectively win the battle of who is the most in demand – and it gives you an almost Godlike ability to dictate the terms of your relationship for the next ten years.
There are people of my acquaintance who established their debilitating busyness so early on that they have never yet had to pick up their own children from school, cook a meal, answer a text message within 48 hours, turn up on time, or talk about anyone apart from themselves.
Additionally, when someone “super-busy” deigns to actually talk to you, you’re apt to feel so pathetically grateful and “chosen” that you eagerly agree with everything they say, try to stop them fiddling with their BlackBerries by repeatedly telling them how amazing it is to see them, and leap up to get their coffee to maximise your time-slot.
In short, being busy gives you nearly every life advantage that celebrity does, but without the hassle of the paparazzi. No wonder everyone is so keen to appear frantically occupied.
Even if they are just on the phones to their mums, lying about how busy they are, and attending to a “poking” backlog on Facebook.
I have never really got poetry but, as with most things, I have Eugene Peterson to thank for the introduction to the work of Czeslaw Milosz ( New and collected Poems 1931-2001). I started reading them last week and am just going on the journey of through his work. It is not so much it seems about comprehension, more just letting him tell his story and descibe his world, people, thoughts, faith and questions. Perhaps I am entering my poetry phase. I have always thought poetry was a bit lame but I am beginning to realise that to have dismissed a whole literary genre out if hand may have been a tad hasty. Perhaps I am growing up...?
Other things going in the bag for the hols are the Churchill biography by Jenkins and an unchallenging novel. Yet to decide what.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
So, the well of near death and despair actually worked out for Joseph's good (Gen 37) in terms is his character, family, his nation and the fortunes of Pharoah and Egypt. Isn't it funny though, how often we are thrown and panicked by the wells in our own lives. The mistakes and seemingly terrible circumstances were all part of the plan so beware it is at that moment that faith is in danger of taking a run. It is all gone wrong we tell ourselves -I am abandoned. The story rightly reminds us that even, and perhaps especially, God works his purposes though the wells of our lives.
So encouragement if you find yourself in a well and hear the words of the Saviour telling you 'Take courage! it is I. Don't be afraid' (Matt 14:27) .
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
I have meant to share my holiday reads for some time so finally I get around to sharing them. I am what one might call a science dunce so I am quite proud of myself having read all 500+ pages of the new biography of Albert Einstein by Walter Issacson. I have decided to challenge my brain in understanding things that were left in a deep fog following my schooling. This is a tremendous work and opens up the life of one of the most extraordinary men of the last century. I think I could now have a stab a explaining the theory of relativity-very roughly! Also read 'Into thin air' the story of a fatal climbing expedition to Everest. Compelling stuff.
My quote of the moment is 'Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but not to there own facts' Douglas Moynihan
Now back to my sermon on Luke 12- Jesus bringing division. As our dear Principal used to say "Let us not shy away from the tricky passages". Thoughts on division- seems somewhat apt given my recent journey through college.....
Monday, July 30, 2007
They question that plagued about 12 years of my Christian life is: "Why can't I make this following Jesus business work?". This week gave me a framework for the conclusion I came to during 4 weeks in Chile reading Romans- a story I have told many times. I have finished the week with a very helpful feeling of a similar discovery in accessible form and have been profoundly equipped.
The truth is sin stops us being who Jesus would have us be. The free, loving, powerful, joyous, nation changing people spoken about in the gospels. People with power and authority to fulfil the call of Christ and GO into the world to make him known. The more we embark on the process of repentance the more we are able to walk in the freedom Jesus died for us to receive. The reason that most of us see so little of God's power is that our lives are so crammed with sin, guilt, shame, wrong-thinking, hurt, regret, lies and untruths that have been spoken over us, generational patterns of behaviour and unforgiveness. As we tackle this stuff in a place of grace and love and through prohetic revelation of others helping us to see things we have failed to see ourselves we unleash our capacity to hear God's voice and be obedient to it That is surely what it means to be a 'follower' of the way.
The oft quoted scriptures during the week were: 2 Cor 10:3-6 (strongholds), my sheep hear my voice, Luke 4:18-19, greater things than me will you do, 1 Cor 13 and the Lord's prayer.
The four days cover such topics as the role of the church, the centrality of love, hearing God's voice and biblical authority. These sessions were wonderfully taught and an address from the the New Song pastor Brian Brendt summarised all my questions in one wallop in one sermon ( I have a copy for those who want to borrow it). What is all the more remarkable are the lived lives of the members of the congregation. The welcome, love, generosity, hospitality, prayer, grace and passion. I have never witnessed this across ages, classes, backgounds to such a unifying extent. The have a faith in the possibilities of living out Christ in us and through us that is inspring and offers extreme hope. What is also refreshing is they make no claims to having got everything sorted out. They are sinners on a transformation journey collectively real but also desperate for more of God. The final session of the week was the 'slam-dunk' for me as people shared their stories. One woman's story caused us all to weep and celebrate at the same time. These were not the usual and sometimes trite testimonies of getting a pay rise or a new job but tales of recovery from rape, addiction, physical and emotional healing and amazing relational reconcilation.
Personally, I received wonderful blessing. My times of prayer were very powerful and I got down and dirty with the reality of my strongholds, sin and mess. There is plenty of it. It seemed silly to fly 3000 miles and then muck about and not do the bisso on all my many issues. My heart position was I guess to all God to bring it on and get it sorted. My final prayer time was with two amazing girls from New song and think we did some divine transaction in the heavenly realms.
Of course there are questions. I have listed them in the journal and intend to work them through over the coming months. I have already embarked on some reading they recommended and these include 'The Calvary Road' by Roy Hession which I read on the plane, Submission and authority by Watchman Nee and Clinton Arnold's 'Crucial Questions about Spiritual Warfare'. I also commend Mike Riches books on Hearing God, Strongholds and Two realms. I also am reflecting in the context of Simon Walker's Leadeship process that so impacted me while I was at Wycliffe. What I would observe is that this is accessible to all and is less academically and psycologically rooted than the leadership process but seems to be bearing powerful fruit in the local church and therefore is deserving of all our attentions.
What next? Well, Mike and Cindy Riches, the former Pastors of Destiny City are moving to England for 6 months and will be working with various church including HT Richmond. Why not take a leap and book on the Conference to be held in Fulham in October? Or if you want a mighty blessing and resources permit hop on a plane to Seattle and attend next years conference (29th July-2nd Aug) and you will know first hand what I am talking about, I am confident you will not be disappointed.
Monday, July 23, 2007
I am staying with a wonderful couple Thom and Valerie and they have been amazing hosts. I arrived at midnight and hired my car from Alamo. There was an extraordinarily long queue and it seemed to take an unreasonably long time to get people their cars. I admot to been a little less than my usual merry self having been dleayed for 5 hours anot not slept for 24! Anyway, eventually I got to my car to discover it was a convertible chevvy! I had requested the cheapest they had going but the good Lord had me upgraded. Prosperity is alive and well....
Anyone wanting to attend a 'Living Free' conference can do so without having to travel 2000 miles by coming to Christchurch Fulham in October. I will be there so hopefully will see you if the urge prompts you to come.
Sunday, July 15, 2007
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
I actually had my ordination retreat yesterday. I have been going to the same park for 18 years and it is, I suppose, my place. I have prayed and cried and written and thought and walked and read and made most of my big decisions- it is where God seems to come close. We should all have special places. Jesus spoke to me which was encouraging, so I start with a spring in my step and wind in my sails. Interestingly, my last post was a peom by Robert Frost that I had on my heart and on Sunday night my church prayed for me. At one point, my friend Kate quoted the last verse of the poem as she felt it was a word for me. That's an interesting thing. I have written it out in full and am reading it with more curiosity and interest.
As ever, I had a few reads on the go, the most stunning of which was 'Blue like jazz' by Don Miller. (I do have to confess that I promised to read a friends book before I read anything else and I was really enjoying it but my mum packed it in a packing box on her momentous house move and now I can't find it. Sorry, but I will finish it...).
The last two chapters of Blue like Jazz actually brought tears to my eyes on a 94 bus up to Regents Street which tells you something about it. Please go and buy this and if you are not a Christian I think Miller has written some really helpful things about Jesus and what he is all about and why he matters so much to some of us. He writes with freshness, compelling honesty and humour. I hope he writes more books and I hope you are encouraged and strengthened by this hopeful work.
" I know our culture will sometimes unerstand a love for Jesus as weakness. There is this lie floating around that says I am supposed to be able to do life alone, without any help, without stopping to worship something bigger than myself. But I actually believe there is something bigger than me, and I need for there to be something bigger than me. I need someone to put awe inside me; I need to come second to someone who has everthing figured out" (Page 237)
My ordination read is a book that used to belong to a friend and he gave it to me. It's quite something to give something you treasure away. He also gave me his dunhill cricket ball. Now that is friendship. Anyway, the book is called 'A faith to proclaim' by James S. Stuart so it will, I hope, speak to me in the silence. My pal Peter said that when he went on his retreat his love of tennis was so compelling that he had to escape and find a pub to watch it. He got reported to his Bishop for breaking the rules. But I thought there weren't any rules and that is what Jesus is about and that is why he is so loving and amazing and full of grace and his message is called good news? Grace is hard to get hold of and sometimes most hard for those in the church. Maybe now is a time for more grace and tennis and bit less retreating. Only a thought.
This whole thing is going to be some journey I am sure and I just am thankful for those dear friends who will journey it with me and show me grace. I think I am going to need them. So finally, if you pray, pray for me now and whenever you think of me. I will need it.
Sunday, June 17, 2007
TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Sunday, June 03, 2007
Sunday, May 27, 2007
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
If someone doesn't defend the great traditions of the British kitchen table where will we all end up.
Give yourself a treat and go buy an egg-coddler!
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
I think churches grow because of people. It sounds obvious but surely the answer lies not in systems but people and potential. Lots of the people who spoke to us cited the Parable of the Sower as a justification for preaching the bible with seemingly no effect and calling this a strategy for church growth. I must say I just found some of this very depressing and I wouldn't wonder if others did too. If you don't seem to be enjoying the Christian life, it beats me why you expect preaching the bible at people is likely to encourage others to join in. Some wings of the church might benefit from cheering up a bit, a reassurance that it is OK to laugh on occassion and may beneift from spending a wee bit more time listening to the culture and a little less time in their own increasingly disconnected world.
Some seem to have been reading the book yet missed the man.
Are not the markers of a growing church more likely to be passion, compassion, mission, prayer and joy. For some schools of the church, joy is a dirty word but, to quote my new Californian friend Bill (see post below), 'Christians should be marked by joy'. Joy and happiness are not the same thing, with one being conditional on circumstances and the other not so. All these things start with the leader and without a leader full of joy and passion,I conclude it will be unlikely for their followers to spark these independently. How do some people with all good intentions think people want to come to a place they call church to be depressed, repressed and sapped of life when the Jesus I know seems to be, and experientially is, the antidote to those things.
So, I conclude, churches grow when leaders grow into a place of passion and fire such that those around them catch it too. The few I follow have this fire and I guess my task is to get it too. (Tim Keller, Rob Bell, David Carr, John Peters, Jon and Debbie Wright,). This morning, I read that the crowds were so desperate to be around Jesus that they trampled one another (Luke 12:1). When people start trampling one another to get to church we know somethings cooking.
I also discovered last week the song 'Because of you' by Kelly Clarkson. Great voice and she just goes to show what extraordinary talent lies undisovered in the highways and byways. She was spotted on American Idol and is now a superstar.
Sunday, May 13, 2007
Have just returned from a weekend climbing penyfan in the Brecon Beacons as part of a church weekend a pal Justin invited us to. This is a photo of my mate Tim and I at the top. Not bad going 16.8km through wind and rain and not too much complaining.
As I was trudging up a particularly steep hill I realised that the trick to progress is taking very small but regular steps. In the driving rain I felt God's hand say that's the way to do it. Slow and steady and not too spectacular but that's how you get to the summit. An insight to tuck away I think.
My other thought is that discipleship is about having the right kit for the journey. As one of the lads got out a 2 by 2 piece of matting to park his backside on at lunchtime rather than have to sit in a soggy mire as I was doing I thought it all about the right kit. One chap was a Royal Engineer Brigadeer and he lead the way on walking paraphanailia and it made me resolved never to go out again unprepared.
Anyway, God blessed us and moved in great power in many lives. Praise Him and thanks to all for a splendid time.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
The bible, I have noticed, is a collection of writings in which a host of extraordinary things happen: the creation of the world, the parting of the sea, the real presence of the glory of the Lord dwelling in a cloud and then in the Temple and then God himself comes and walk among us as Jesus and does all sorts of things and says we will do greater things than these. The kingdom has come, in him, he proclaims and we too are to do the things of the kingdom. What on earth does that mean in practice and what will it look like?
As we read Luke 5 together in our class, verse 17 jumped out at me as being very very interesting. It reads, 'And the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick.' Three times I asked for anyone to explain this-it seemed amazing and worthy of some exploration. What is this power? How did he have it? Can we have it too? Move on I was implicitly told, this is a story about salvation not healing-any 'sound' commentary will tell you that. But what about vs 17, I again asked. There seemed to be immense reluctance to explore this exciting prospect of the power of the Lord being available to us to heal the sick. It seems, on occasions, that some have decided which bits of the bible we do do and which we don't. I was and am left somewhat puzzled.
Why am I telling you this? Well, I have witnessed a few things recently that have challenged me to the core. One was a man called Bill from California who has a ministry of miracles. Yes, he calls it a ministry of miracles and the supernatural. Despite having what might be called a less than orthodox understanding of biblical doctrine he proclaimed and displayed the works of the Kingdom before my eyes. The deaf heard, one woman's leg grew back an inch and a half, and another woman was seemingly completely healed of MS and was no longer in a wheel chair. Of course, this made me enthusiastic to understand and share and I have been telling of God's wonders ever since, but it has left me with a few questions( Apologies to those who think I have been even more mad in recent days than I am normally).
Here are a few things Bill said:
Desperation is what moves heaven
It is up to us
You know you are renewed when the impossible seems logical
We have the power to duplicate the miracle mansion
My job is to persuade him to come and fix things
You don't keep a job very long if you ask your boss to do a job he has asked you to do
The kingdom is released through declaration
Christianity must be recognised for its passion
Live from presence
I am as obliged to live in power as I am in character
Truth is multi-dimensional in nature
When a Christian walks into a situation the odds and potential change.
Inferior covenants (the old) are not meant to bring superior blessings than born again believers
We have reduces doctrines to doctrines and not experiences
I owe people an encounter with God, it should not be me they meet but Jesus
The authentic gospel desreves to be manifested. We pray for people because we want to get what he paid for.
Your destiny is in the area of your greatest loss
In law you are commanded to perform but in grace you are empowered to perform.
We have been trained not to believe God
Joy is the hallmark of the believer
Well, there are a few statements for the theologians to chew on. Over coffee, someone commented that he had an 'over-realised eschatology' in believing that heaven could be done on earth as we so often pray. Someone else interjected that when we have witnessed over 5000 miracles in our church perhaps then we can have a pop. This completely new paradigm of spiritual expectation and reality sent me running to my faithful friend Eugene with the stuff that confused me. He'll be able to help me on miracles. I run to Eugene because when you depart from the Word, as it seemed at times occured, and leap headlong into Wonder you need a guide to discern and process things. This is what Peterson says:
"Don't be impressed by signs; don't go looking for signs. The miraculous is no proof of truth or reality.....It would be odd if we did not at least occasionally catch a glimpse of this "beyond" our backyards and remark on it-a sign, a sign of God's presence or work where we had not expected to see or hear it and in circumstances in which we cannot account for it. But such signs are not for advertising or entertainment'
Of course, I long to see Luke 4 outworked in the church as I hope we all do, but it is the 'how this happens' that is my dilemma. Clearly, some have a super-anointing (at times I was left feeling that the power comes through some form of gnostic encounter but this was not unpacked through teaching) but us ordinary folk are in danger of being left faithless and helpless in the face of all the miracles that happen in Redding California but are not experienced in Milton Keynes. Don't get me wrong, I'm up for it and as I prayed for a boy in a wheelchair on the train from Newcastle over the weekend, with his dear mother looking on, and I mustered as much faith as I could generate and was hopeful that he may bound along the platform at Carlisle. But it was not to be. At least not this time. What I learnt was people who are not Christians don't mind a bit of prayer if you offer it and arguably have more faith that a God who rose from the dead may indeed cure their son. So I must not be deterred. But when God answers my prayer, as I am hopeful he will one day, I must remember Eugene's warning that it is never an entertainment and is simply a signal and pointer to the blood of the Saviour. The healer himself. When a miracle happens it is character that I will need before I would let myself anywhere near a conference. Sure Bill had character, but I am not sure I am yet refined enough by the fire for the Lord to entrust to me a global miracle ministry. In the meantime, I'll leave the conferences to the professionals.....
Two other thoughts. If you ever wondered what a revived Church looks like then get yourself up to 'Renewal' in Solihull. They have 700 to their Tuesday meeting and are the most genuinely joy-filled, faith-filled bunch I have encountered in a long time. A sight to behold and worth the trip.
My reflections will continue and apologies to any who have encountered my over-bearing questioning and story-telling of late. Forgive me.
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
There has been a bit of a hoohah about it and Bill Hybles is apparently rather hot under the collar. What does anyone think? It's all about Church planting. Haven't had time to check out the blogs on what the fuss is about but on youtube the issue seems to be filming it in a graveyard.
Answers on a postcard.
Monday, April 23, 2007
Re-discovering Jesus' ministry
Reflections from the Jesus-Ministry Conference Tacoma June 2005
The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good
news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for prisoners and
recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the
year of the Lord's favour. Luke 4:18&19 (NIV)
This paper summarizes my thoughts and impressions from a week spent at the
Jesus-ministry Conference in the Tacoma Convention Centre Washington State
led by Destiny City Church in June 2005.
Over the past six years, Destiny City Church (formerly called Clover Creek Bible Fellowship) has experienced a remarkable fresh move of God described as follows by their Pastor Mike Riches in a magazine article last year.
Sometimes God invades his Church and its leaders, to shake things up, seize our attention, and bring about radical change. That happened to us on January 30th 2000. God commenced an invasion that has radically changed me
personally and our church corporately. 1
In the article, Mike (who has been pastor of the church for nearly twenty
years) describes his church prior to January 2000 as a 'typical
non-denominational evangelical church.' They had vibrant children's and
youth work, contemporary worship and expositional preaching were the norm.
The church had seen significant growth over seven years from 170 to
1500-1700 people. On the face of it, they were successful and experiencing
God's blessing, but Mike felt a growing discontent, an awareness that they
knew the word of God but little of his power. God had new things in store
for the Church.
Within a period of 120 days, several extraordinary things happened which over
the past five and a half years have become the norm for the church. In this
period, hundreds have received physical healing and freedom from emotional or
spiritual captivity, and hundreds have come to faith in Jesus Christ.
The church now has around 1600 members spread between three congregations. There is a morning family congregation, an evening service in a Baptist church in downtown Tacoma consisting of around 800 eighteen to thirty five year olds, and a congregation which has emerged from a church ministry to vulnerable people.
As a result of God's new work in Destiny City Church, other churches have been
asking them to share their experiences and teach on what they believe God
has been doing. This has now become an international conference which this
year had seven hundred delegates from across the world. My wife Kate and I
were privileged to attend this in June.
What has been at the heart of this new awakening at Destiny City Church? In his article, Mike describes it under three headings
God is still reforming his Church. Much has been restored in the Church
since the Scriptures began to be recovered in the late 1300's to the mid
1500's. Luther was used to recover the essence of salvation by grace,
through faith in Jesus Christ in the 16th century. Reformation continued in
different dimensions of the Church over centuries since then, one of the
most notable in the UK being the Wesleyan Revival of the 18th century.
Reformation and renewal is still necessary in the Church today and Mike
Riches believes that what has been happening at Destiny City Church is just another
step in that process that God desires for his Church.
In the early days of this new move of God's Spirit when Mike was struggling
to come to terms with the upheaval, he sensed God speaking to him..
"What is my design for the Church? Are you faithful to the commission I gave
my Church, or had you succumbed to conventional expectations of man?" I then
heard the Lord say, "What is different about what I am doing in your church
than what happened while I ministered on earth? Were there not physical
healings? Did I not hear directly from my Father as to what he was going to
do and what he wanted me to do and say? Were there not demonic
manifestations wherever I ministered, whether in the Synagogue or out in the
streets and fields. Did I not demonstrate authority overall powers of
darkness and powerfully release those who had been captives? Was not all of
this part of people coming into my Kingdom? Was not all of this part of me
training and teaching my disciples how to do my ministry? Were not my
disciples commissioned to carry out the very ministry my Father sent me into
the world to perform? Did I not say that my disciples would do the very
works I have done and greater? Did I not pray for my disciples regarding
this work and not only for them but for all who would ever believe in me
because of their testimony?" 2
God was doing a work of reformation in Destiny City Church (then known as Clover Creek Bible Fellowship) alerting them afresh to truth they knew intellectually but not in practice. Together they were..
WAKING UP TO JESUS' MINISTRY
Mike and the church began to read the scriptures in a fresh way whilst, in
Mike's words, 'having our paradigm and practice of "church" change
dramatically.' During this time God emphasized the heart of Jesus' ministry
that he was calling the church to be engaged in from Christ's words in
Luke 4:18-19.. The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for
prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to
proclaim the year of the Lord's favour.
Luke 19v10 became an important verse in developing what the church now
understands as 'Jesus-ministry.' Jesus stated that as 'the Son of Man' he
had come to 'seek and to save what was lost.' Mike noticed two things as he
read this passage through fresh eyes.
Firstly, Jesus came to save more than 'who' was lost (although personal
salvation is fundamental to Jesus' mission and ministry), but that he came
to save what was lost. There was much lost when Adam first sinned -
humanity's relationship with God, healthy relationships, God's plan for
marriage and the family, physical, mental and emotional heath, and so the
list goes on. In announcing the coming of God's Kingdom, Jesus came to begin
the restoration of what was lost; it was to go beyond salvation of the soul
to a comprehensive restoration of the person.
Secondly, in Luke 19v10 the Greek word for 'save' is sozo. This word has a
range of meanings. Sozo means to save, restore, deliver, heal and make
whole. In the New Testament it is used to describe a person being brought
into a right relationship with God through forgiveness of sins (Romans
10v9), a demon possessed man being delivered from his oppression (Luke 8v36)
and a blind man receiving his sight (Mark 10:52). The Church was discovering
that the ministry of Jesus was much more than simply speaking words of
salvation to others.
NOT JUST WORDS, BUT POWER
Another significant passage of Scripture for the church at this time was 1
Corinthians 4:19-20. Paul made a statement in reference to measuring the
work of church leaders. He was not coming to hear their words but to see
their power, for the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.
V20 (NIV) The church at Clover Creek had sound theology but little evidence of the
power of God at work. Mike Riches says.
He [God] asked us if we were willing to devote ourselves to himself in his
power, as well as his Word. It didn't take us long to realize that true
'Jesus-ministry' could only be done in and through His power, not through
understanding the strategies and limitation of this natural world and our
human understanding. 3
This fresh understanding of the need of God's power came as the Church were
reminded (very specifically in the early days through individuals under
demon oppression who visited the church) of the reality of the spiritual
battle. Paul's words in Ephesians 6v12 were brought to mind. For our
struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the
powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the forces of
wickedness in the heavenly places
In order to carry out Jesus' ministry, we require Jesus' authority and power as we struggle against the 'rulers, powers, the world forces of this darkness, against the forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.'
A distinction is drawn between authority and power. Simply put, authority is
about the right to do a certain thing; power is the ability to carry it out.
To illustrate this point, the Prime Minister has authority because of his
electoral mandate to lead the country in a certain way but his power to do
so will be hindered if his party MPs rebel and vote against his proposals.
Throughout the New Testament, Jesus gave his disciples authority and power to do his
work. He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over
all the demons, and to heal diseases. As Jesus ascended to heaven he
commissioned his disciples to teach those who would follow him to do the
same...All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me, therefore
go and make disciples of all nations teaching them to do all that I have
commanded you and surely I will be with you until the end of the age. Matt
28v18-end Jesus gives his followers the same authority and power today - his authority
is the source of their authority. Paul says in Ephesians 1v3...Blessed be
the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every
spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.
Re-discovering Jesus' ministry involves realizing afresh the authority and
power that is available to the people of God. Although every Christian has
this authority, its outworking can be obstructed in a believer's life. This
can happen because of habitual sin and unbelief, sin suffered by an
individual, sinful behaviour committed by families or communities over
generations or curses said over someone. Our authority as Christians is compromised when there is rebellion in the ranks.
Satan establishes a stronghold in the life of a Christian in every area
where the authority of Jesus is not being realized as it ought to be.
Even though a person belongs to God, Satan has gained a place to operate
because it has been granted to him. Paul warns against this in Ephesians
four. Ephesians 4v26 In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while
you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold.
The Greek word translated 'foothold' in verse 27 is from the Greek word
topos. Topos literally means ‘place.' Further translations show
that it means 'the place someone takes' so in this context it could be
translated to mean 'a place in which one has gained rights.' Paul is warning
the church at Ephesus not to give Satan a place in their lives where he can
gain the right to hinder the work of God's Spirit. Satan is described by the
apostle Peter as 'a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.' Christians
are encouraged to 'resist him, standing firm in the faith.'
Satan has established strongholds in the lives of many people; the good
news is that Jesus' ministry involves 'proclaiming freedom for prisoners.'
Christians have the authority to dismantle Satan's strongholds in their
lives as we see in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5.. 3 For though we live in the
world, we do not wage war as the world does.
4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the
contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.
5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the
knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to
Victory over the enemy
We see the reality of spiritual battle in the devastation and brokenness in many lives and communities in our world. Satan’s handiwork is all around us. Christ came to set the captives free, to heal the sick and to mend the broken-hearted. By the Holy Spirit, he continues to do so today.
Language of warfare
In the desire to be politically correct, the institutional church has largely turned its back on the language of war which fills Scripture. Much of the Old Testament only makes sense if it is read as a story of battle, battle for the land. We need this language of warfare. While we are to turn our cheeks to attacks from physical enemies, the church must take up its mighty weapons against the great spiritual enemies of sin, the flesh and the devil.
To many in secular Britain, the church appears passive, bound and insipid. While we need to take care with our words in the present climate of terrorism, we must be active and not passive, unafraid to use the language of war as we face spiritual battle. This is not a call to ‘muscular’ Christianity but a call to step out in our weakness and humility, trusting in God’s almighty strength. At the beginning of Luke’s Gospel, John the Baptist’s father Zechariah speaks confidently about God’s plan of salvation through his coming son. The Lord has come and has redeemed his people …….. To rescue us from the fear of our enemies and to enable us to serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. (Luke 1:74)
The victory is won but we have to appropriate it in every part of our lives, confident that sin cannot rule. Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57) is Paul’s faith-filled assertion.
What are the key strategies for living in this victory, for dismantling Satan' s strongholds and enabling Christians to live as God intends them to?
Destiny City Church identify two areas:
1) The importance of repentance, and
2) An active prophetic ministry in the church
A precious gift to the church
Repentance has always been central to Christian faith and yet the word
somehow sounds outdated, bringing pictures of crackpots with billboards
prophesying doom. In their teaching, Destiny City Church emphasise that Scripture
says that repentance is a precious gift from God to the Church. Speaking
about Jesus to the Sanhedrin, Peter in Acts 5:29 says…
God exalted him [Jesus] to his own right hand as Prince and saviour that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel.
Why is it that reactions to the word repentance often conjure up negative and harsh pictures? It is many times neglected, ignored, causes fear and is misunderstood. We need to rediscover this precious gift of repentance.
An unwanted gift
A gift of a lifejacket is greatly appreciated if you know you are drowning
but not so wonderful if you are safe on dry land. To many, repentance
appears as an unwanted solution to an unrecognised problem. Even those who attend church sometimes view their initial act of conversion as sufficient, a form of insurance, a life-jacket kept in hand in case of a flood.
Repentance and confession has always been a central part of Anglican heritage yet can sometimes appear to have little power to change lives. There seem to be two
We don't recognise the greatness of God‘s saving power
We don't recognise our sin.
So great a salvation
The work in Clover Creek Church began with a recognition that there was more
to the Christian life and salvation than they were experiencing. Many
church leaders would have been more than content with Clover Creek church as
it was 6 years ago: a vibrant evangelical church with an attendance of more
than 1600 people. However, the pastor, Mike Riches, felt a growing
discontentment and began to seek God.
A new expectation
What began to emerge at Clover Creek was an understanding of salvation as the
restoration of God's original design. In the Garden of Eden there was no
death, fear, shame or condemnation. God's purpose in Jesus was to recover
what was lost in Eden. What did God have in mind when I was conceived in my
mother's womb? We were all designed for freedom. Jesus came to restore
what was lost through sin, to make us what he intended us to be. This work
will be finished in heaven but begins when a person repents and turns to
Repentance must be ongoing
There is a first step of repentance, that initial step of faith that ushers
us into God's Kingdom and through Christ secures our place as a child of God forever.
Repentance is the threshold by which one enters into the power and joy of a
transformed life; it is the key which unlocks the door to God's treasured
destiny for us. One of the first answers in the Anglican baptismal service
as an adult or child is welcomed into God's family, is 'I repent of my
sins.' As Leanne Payne in her book The Healing Presence says.
In the Judeo-Christian understanding…the soul finds in God the grace to
make a radical decision concerning sin, and so he puts it away. He dies to
sin and then is himself resurrected. 4
In the Christian life, we make a great first step of repentance, but
conversion is only the beginning of a life of repentance. We read in
Hebrews 10:14 that we are perfected forever; through Christ our initial repentance secures our unchanging status as children of God.
Let me illustrate this point. Prince Charles will always be a prince. He may decide one morning when he wakes up never again to fulfil any royal duties. He would remain a prince but would rightly be known as a lazy Prince. As Duke of Cornwall he might decide to raise the rent on the land he owns by three times its present rate. He
would still be a prince but he would be a greedy prince. If he became this
irresponsible it wouldn't affect his position as a prince but he would not
be living his life to its full potential and would be bringing great
disrepute to the Royal Family. His actions do not affect his status but the integrity of the family into which he was born. 5
We have been perfected forever in terms of our status but as the writer to the Hebrews continues, God is still making us holy. Our initial act of repentance, turning to God brings us all the benefits of heaven and the status of being God’s children but we need ongoing repentance to see God’s saving work in our lives today. Too often church members seem little different to those outside it. Too often we lose expectation that God is in the business of transformation.
When we turn to follow Jesus Christ this is the first great step to a new
life in Christ. But it is only the first step because God wants us to enjoy
the full privileges of being his child on earth, and so that we might
continue Jesus' ministry as his physical body on earth. Like any physical
body, a body that does not respond to the instructions of the head is
disabled and does not fully represent the wishes of the head. An ongoing
process of repentance is necessary for us as individuals and as Christ’s church. 6
A biblical definition of repentance
1) Returning to God
How do we understand repentance? In the Old Testament, repentance is
understood as 'returning'- returning to the Father and his plans for our
lives. Israel often strayed from God's ways into disobedience. God's call for Israel to return to him is typically illustrated in his words to Israel through Isaiah.
In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength. (Isaiah 30v15). This could also be translated 'In returning and rest is your salvation,' as
Israel had strayed again from God's will.
2) A change of mind
The story of the Prodigal Son in the Luke's Gospel echoes this understanding
of repentance as the son, full of remorse, returns to his Father whom he had
disgraced. This same parable also draws on a further understanding of
repentance in the New Testament. The Greek word translated repentance in the
New Testament is the word metanoia. It literally means "a change of mind."
True repentance has radical implications, for it turns us from something,
toward something different. It is like turning 180 degrees. But repentance
affects more than one's mind, it has life ramifications. It changes one's
life, one's values, one's attitudes, and one's actions. The prodigal left
behind his reckless life in the far country and turned around to come home
not expecting anything, but he received generous mercy.
Destiny City Church underlines that repentance is an ongoing process. It is
not a single act or thought, it is not done once and forever accomplished. It
is not enough to once feel sorrow over sin. True repentance affects the
whole person and alters the entire lifestyle. The repentant person turns
from all that displeases God towards that which pleases God. True repentance will lead to different behaviour. In the New Testament it was natural to Zacchaeus, after he had been touched by the mercy of Jesus and had repented, to repay those whom he had cheated.
Repentance requires humility
The Bible often underlines that humility is essential for those who seek God . ‘He opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble’. Humility embraces personal responsibility in a radical challenge to our culture. Brennan Manning writes:
“If we say we have no sin in us, we are deceiving ourselves and refusing to admit the truth” (1 John 1:8). We live in a society that luxuriates in the therapeutic and exculpatory, condemns judgement as authoritarian, dismisses acknowledgment of sin as an assault on self-worth, and resists discernment of spirits as the imposition of arbitrary standards. The devastating consequence of these societal shortcomings is the perennial gnostic retreat from personal responsibility. 7
Repentance brings freedom
In his allegory The Great Divorce, CS Lewis paints a number of remarkable
pictures of the sinful nature we need to repent of - the 'old man' we need
to die to. The thesis of the book is that Heaven and all that it contains
is of such solid reality that those who refuse repentance (and have by
default chosen self and hell) can never be at home in it - they cannot stand
the utter reality of heaven
In one picture, the 'old man' appears as a seedy old actor. Into the
picture appears a lovely bright spirit, Sarah Smith 'and she lived at Golders
Green.' On earth Sarah had been the wife of this pompous character, Frank. As she
runs over the green fields on the outskirts of Paradise, 'the invitation to
all joy' sings 'out of her whole being like a bird's song on an April
evening.' She is in stark contrast to the shadowy ghost she has been sent
to help. He appears to lead a tiny dwarf ghost, but we realise that the
tall theatrical figure is simply his impression of himself. The tiny dwarf
is all that is left of the man who was her husband and he holds a chain attached to the collar of the tall one.
Sarah addresses the dwarf that was her husband and for a moment the light and love of
Christ shining from her increases his size….
For one moment, while she looked at him in her love and mirth, he saw the absurdity of the Tragedian. For one moment he did not at all misunderstand her laughter….But the light that reached him, reached him against his will. This was not the meeting he had pictured; he would not accept it. 8
Frank chose to refuse the invitation of Christ and with this choice he is gradually consumed into his inflated illusion of himself forever.
In our modern culture where addiction is such an issue more than ever before
we can see that sin binds us and that we need freedom, freedom from habits
of fear, guilt, rejection, inferiority, worldliness, greed, bitterness, the
list goes on. Repentance is about changing our minds to see freedom break
Actions and Attitudes
It is helpful to recognise that we can sin not only in action but also in attitude. Often Christians recognise that they commit sins and omit to do things they should be doing; the focus tends to be on actions rather than attitudes. We may see that an attitude of un-forgiveness is sin but fail to acknowledge that other attitudes can be sinful. It can appear healthy to accept every feeling we have, however negative. The Bible challenges this approach. We need to recognise that where feelings may be an appropriate initial response to a situation, it is wrong to allow such attitudes as anger, fear, rejection, condemnation and wilful unbelief to rule us. In so doing, we deny God’s provision of grace and forgiveness. The result of persistent sinful attitudes is eventually sinful action. We need to address sinful attitudes and ‘change our minds.’
More than the power of positive thinking
When we talk about having a change of mind, it can sound remarkably like the
power of positive thinking. Repentance is far more powerful. The power of positive
thinking says "I will not think that way anymore". The power of Christian
thinking says, "Because Christ is my Lord, the old way of thought cannot
rule me anymore". In this understanding, repentance is not a self-pitying
wallowing in sadness over sin but a triumphant and joyful renunciation of sin
in the power of the risen Christ.
Repentance is the key to entering into salvation. The Catholic theologian Father Raniero Cantalamessa writes of the mystery that God needs our repentance in order to come to us with forgiveness and change:
When the three thousand asked Peter’ “What should we do?”
He answered, “Repent” (Acts 2:38).
It is in repentance that the encounter takes place between grace and freedom. 9
How can we enter into this repentance?
At Destiny City Church they believe prayer is the answer. When we pray with each
other, people are released to be as God always intended, continuing Jesus' ministry on
earth. James writes, Confess your sins one to another and pray for each other so that you may be healed. (James 5v16)
A new model
The church has devised a simple model involving two or three people praying
with one person. The time begins with the pray-ers listening to God in
response to questions like 'How does God see 'Chris' and how does he wish
to use him?' Then, 'what is hindering 'Chris' from embracing this view and
fulfilling his call?' Those who are praying for Peter then submit what they
believe God might be saying to him.
My own experience was that there was much encouragement from what was offered. It was immensely important to begin with a reassurance of God‘s good purposes for my life. This is the prize that makes repentance worthwhile; it is the love of God and the promise of change that enables us to face our sin. Brennan Manning again….
To knife through our pretence, cowardice and evasions, to see the truth about ourselves and the true state of our souls before God - this requires enormous courage and ruthless trust in the merciful love of the redeeming God. Put simply, sin must be acknowledged and confessed before there can be forgiveness and real transformation. 10
In dealing with what might hinder Chris from realizing his full potential as
a Christian the pray-ers lead him through a simple model based on James
4:7-8. The verses read...Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil
and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.
Wash your hands you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double minded.
Firstly, he is encouraged to repent and receive. Out loud with those praying
for him he is encouraged to repent of sins he has committed or wrong
attitudes he has held; of the reactions to sins committed against him and
for sinful patterns passed down over generations or through curses. He is
then encouraged to thank God for the forgiveness that is offered to him
Secondly, he is encouraged to rebuke and renounce. So, for example Chris might proclaim that fear cannot rule him because Christ is Lord. This is possible because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ where Christ emerged sinless and triumphant over all the powers of evil. In the authority given to him by God, Chris is encouraged to
renounce any lies believed about himself, God or others (I found there was
great power in speaking out the truth of Scripture for myself in this
Thirdly, he is encouraged to replace and renew. Next Chris is encouraged to
come near to God through washing his hands of sinful behaviour and duplicity
in his devotion to God. He replaces it with devotion to God and obedience.
Then he is encouraged to ask God to renew his whole being through the power
of the Holy Spirit.
Fourthly, he is encouraged to receive and rejoice. Finally Chris receives in
faith the empowering presence of God as he is filled again with the Holy
Spirit. Often the pray-ers will join in this during this stage, thanking
God with Chris for what he has done.
Four things appeal to me about this model:
1) The person being prayed for is actively involved in the ministry process.
They have to take responsibility for their sin and exercise the authority
that is theirs as a Christian. This model is not simply dependent on others doing the praying for them.
2) It has a healthy focus on what Jesus achieved for believers through his
death and resurrection.
3) It follows closely the promises made by candidates in the Anglican baptism service and has echoes of promises made by Christians down the ages.
4) The pray-ers are encouraged to listen to God.
2) THE PROPHETIC
In their teaching a fundamental premise of Destiny City Church has been that a
chief tactic of Satan has been to rob the Church of its capacity to hear
God's voice today. There are so many examples of God speaking to his people
throughout Scripture and the promise of Pentecost was that God would live
within his followers and speak to all who listened to him. On the Day of
Pentecost Peter quotes the prophet Joel. 'In the last days, God says, I will
pour out my Spirit on all people..I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.' (Acts 2:17)
The theologian Wayne Gruden defines prophecy as, 'telling something God has
brought to mind.'11 God speaks today and any Christian can hear his voice.
This is qualified by the fact that the Bible and the church community
is always the reference point for anything we believe God is saying. If what
we understand to be from God contradicts the Bible and is not received from
the church as God's word then it is to be disregarded.
What is the purpose of prophetic ministry in the Church?
Mike Riches lists the following:
1) To strengthen, encourage and comfort.
This is God' s greatest intention for this gift.
Often we find ourselves unable to hear God’s good purposes for our own lives. How we need those who will listen to God on our behalf. God is for us; we can be for each other, believing in God’s good purposes for each others lives. Paul says in Romans that God called those things that were not as if they were and so they came into being. Just as Jesus looked at doubting Simon and saw Peter the Rock and spoke this into being, so we can speak God’s good purposes over each other. This is the role of the prophetic as outlined in 1Corinthians 14v3,
But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.
2) To demonstrate God's love for people. God loves to speak specifically of
his love for people.
3) To give direction and courage. God wants to speak to us about the detail
of our lives.
4) To prepare for difficult times. When God speaks to us about difficult
times ahead we will take comfort that he knows and will give us grace to
5) To reveal Satan's strongholds and enable repentance to happen. God wants
his people to live in freedom as he always intended - he is keen to show us
how Satan hinders that freedom and how by repentance there can be new
6) As a means of evangelism. God longs to reach those who do not know him,
and when he speaks to someone directly about the circumstances of their
lives through a third party the effect is powerful.
How does God speak to the church today? From Clover Creek's experience he
speaks through Scripture, impressions, dreams, visions, angelic revelations
and on occasions by an audible voice.
What are the components of prophetic ministry?
Revelation - knowledge we receive from the Lord in the form of an
impression, vision, inner sense, dream; what we see, hear or receive.
Interpretation - meaning or understanding of revelation we have received.
Application - How and when we implement what we have received.
A number of things impressed me about how prophetic ministry operated in the
church at Destiny City Church.
1) The gift was a key part of prayer ministry as those praying listened
carefully to what they believed God was saying for the individual. They
then offered this sensitively as a way forward for the prayer session. In
my experience the prophetic was not used as a means of controlling other
people in a 'thus says the Lord' fashion but was offered for individuals to
consider and accept, or dismiss. It is clearly essential that prophecy is submitted in this way or there is dangerous potential for manipulation.
I was impressed at how accurate people were on different occasions as they prayed for me, particularly in pinpointing what might be hindering God realising his
purposes for my life.
2) Every member of the church was encouraged that they could hear from God,
prophecy was not for a few celebrity super-saints. Different people prayed
for me ranging in age from their twenties to their sixties and although some
were more experienced than others, on every occasion God spoke to me through
the individuals who were praying.
3) The love and humility with which this gift was used was impressive.
During the week of the conference one hundred teams of three people were
available to pray for the conference delegates. Many of these folk were
working during the day and others gave up a week's holiday to pray for three
to four hours each evening for delegates. Prayer ministry was not just for five
or ten minutes but usually lasted for at least thirty - forty minutes as the
teams listened to God and encouraged the delegates to respond to him. At
all times they prayed with love and humility.
4) Being a member of the church. It was regularly stressed that no-one
could function in isolation and that those who prayed for others and used
the gift of prophecy should be accountable to others. The potential for
abuse of this gift is clear if those who use it are not willing to open
their own lives for regular scrutiny to others.
In summary then, in the teaching of Destiny City Church an active prophetic
ministry is key to enabling Christians to live as God intended because it
underlines the truth about what God says about them and helps them to identify the obstacles to God’s purposes.
Two questions might be asked at the conclusion of this paper.
1) How can churches that encourage the prophetic and take account of demonic
influences on believers avoid the abuses to which they are vulnerable?
Churches embarking on this ministry need to be candidly aware of the
potential pitfalls - mistakes through a process not adequately thought out
can be costly to a church's reputation.
Destiny City Church have a comprehensive teaching programme which all those who
wish to engage in this ministry are required to complete. Accountability
structures are clear and no-one can operate independently of others. Those
who pray for others must be willing to regularly be prayed for by others.
This includes the leadership team of the church who are fully accountable to
each other and the church which they lead.
2) Is there a danger that this ministry could lead to introversion and shift
the focus of the Church away from mission?
It is conceivable that if this ministry drifted off on a tangent that the
church could become introverted, but the fact that Destiny City Church believes God
has been helping them re-discover Jesus' ministry as outlined in Luke 4
re-assures me. It is also re-assuring to see the priorities they have as a
church and to hear about countless lives changed though the
ministry during this period of reformation. Mission at home and overseas
are high on the agenda of the church - they support people working overseas
and have a growing church and staff at home. Many people are becoming
Christians through the Living Free Course as well as Christians having their
faith renewed. There is a flourishing work among children, youth and young
adults. The church owns a property which houses and supports vulnerable
people including single parents and those with addictions. This ministry is
growing so fast that a congregation ministering to them in particular has
One of the texts that God brought to Mike's attention at the time when
change was happening was 1 Peter 3:15, Always be prepared to give an answer
to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.
Before 2000 Mike felt that few people asked him about the hope he had
because there was little evidence of it in his life or the life of the
church. Now people outside the church are asking about their 'hope' because of the manifest presence of Jesus in their corporate life
In concluding I offer some compelling reasons why I believe this is a
genuine work of God:
- The many stories of transformed lives we encountered whilst we were there
(not least the transformation Kate and I experienced).
- The centrality of repentance to Destiny City Church which echoes a similar emphasis in previous revivals.
- The extraordinary hospitality we received.
- The humility and integrity of those in leadership.
- The commitment of the whole church to be engaged in Jesus' ministry.
It was a privilege to attend this conference in Tacoma and to witness a re-discovery of Jesus’ ministry which I believe will have an impact on the wider Church.
The Church website is www.destinycitychurch.org
Trevor Patterson Richmond Summer 2005
1 Article from Radiate magazine July/August 2004
4 The Healing Presence p202 Leanne Payne
5 Thanks to David Grant for this illustration
6 The subject of corporate repentance deserves to be the subject of a further paper!
7 Ruthless Trust p170 Brennan Manning
8 The Great Divorce p106 CS Lewis
9 Ruthless Trust p171 Brennan Manning
10 Come, Creator Spirit p125 Raniero Cantamelessa
11 Systematic Theology: an Introduction to Biblical Doctrine Wayne Gruden