Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Heights for 2009

Happy New Year to all. Check this out for a welcome to 2009. Amazing. Grace and peace to all.

10 best reads of 2008

Some like to list books published in 2008 i.e new books but I prefer to reflect on the books from any year that have crossed my path in these last 12 months. Thinking back, there have been quite a few so selecting a top ten has been fun. Lots that I enjoyed didn't make the list-there were some novels and poetry that I loved. The Shack of which I had reservations didn't make it but in terms of impact on the Christian world and dialogue perhaps should have. Driscoll nearly had two or three in my list and John Fowles journals were unputdownable but very particular to me and possibly without broad appeal (worth taking on holiday if you want to spend it with a self-obsessed wayward atheist genius). I enjoyed Yours Jack but haven't quite finished it yet and also a couple of good books on evangelism Dever's and Questioning Evangelism.

As I was preparing this list, I happened upon a fascinating article by Karl Rove called Bush is a book lover (H/T J Taylor). Over 100 in the year and the bible from cover to cover which is not bad going when trying also to run the world! Finally, obviously the two Tim Keller books are givens as my books of the year so below I list the best of the rest:)

1. Martyn Lloyd Jones Volume One and Volume Two by Iain Murray

2. And the lamb wins by Simon Ponsonby

3. Good to Great by Jim Collins

4. The Disciplines of Grace by Jerry Bridges

5. Why we are not emergent by DeYoung and Kluck

6. Sex, Sushi and Salvation by Christian George

7. Death by Love by Mark Discoll

8. Explosive preaching by Ron Boyd-McMillan

9. The Irresistible Revolution Shane Claibourne

10.Embracing Grace Scott McKnight

Monday, December 29, 2008

Oh to be young

Watched this and it reminded me of being a student and is a rather wonderful and moving BBC film. The Cure provide the soundtrack and it brought back memories of my youth. If you remember the 80's you will love this. Those were the days.....

Music of 2008

Steve McCoy offers up his recommendations of the best albums of 2008..

It got me thinking on the music that I have enjoyed in 2008. Music for me is so often associated with people and places. My album of the year is Glory Revealed which I have listened to more times than I can count so thanks to Si for his recommendation. Also Where the light is which is the most stunning live music I've seen in ages. Duncan and Sonja introduced me to Amy McDonald and her annoyingly catchy tunes have been running around my head in recent months. Soul Survivor was a great memory from 2008 and the sound of all all our teenagers singing Whoa from This is our God as I pulled into the car park in our minibus at church makes me smile. My sister gave me an album by Rosie Thomas which is hauntingly beautiful. My pal Will used a song by Casting Crowns in a talk called the Altar and the Door which has stuck with me- the album of which I was given for my birthday and it's great. Kim Walker's wonderful album Here is my song is another one I have played and played together with We cry out. Trevor and Kate gave me the new Kathryn Scott album I belong and the song based on Romans 8 got into my DNA. Finally, Jo introduced me to Third Day and Chronology 1 has been played in my car often.

Anyway, I am sure there is more but I hope some of this may be happy listening for you.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Martyn Lloyd-Jones

I have long had an admiration for Dr Lloyd-Jones who many consider to be the greatest preacher of the 20th Century. Tim Keller quotes him often in his sermons and R T Kendall considers his 'Sermon on the Mount the book that changed his life. A couple of years ago I met a splendid fellow Ray Gaydon who is MLJ mad and blessed me with his ancient reel to reel collection of his sermons and a set of tapes on Ephesians 6. Imagine my joy upon finding in the biography that it was Ray's pulpit from which MLJ preached his final sermon (page 737). Finally this post prompted me to my 2008 challenge which I have just completed.

Reading the two volume story of his life in one year.

So that's the background to the recommendation of a challenge you may like to take on in 2009. My advice would be take a volume on holiday with you-once you have read one you will be looking forward to your next holiday opportunity to tuck into volume 2.

I took Volume one 'The First 40 Years' on holiday with me to France and read it in five days. I could not put it down. It tells the story of his childhood, his work with Lord Horder as a doctor and his call to Aberavon and the subsequent revival that ensued. What is most mesmerizing is the story of his preaching. This is an account of a man who preached and did so with such power, conviction and passion that his words are still having an impact to this day. He understood the nature of the gospel and the need for the new birth in a way few ever have.

The second volume 'The Fight for Faith' was just as compulsive and tells the story of MLJ at Westminster Chapel and his incredible influence over evangelicalism in Britain and the world in the latter part of the 20th Century. Here is a confession. I arrived at theological college terribly ignorant of church history and culture. I had been in the same church for over a decade and wasn't even sure I knew that I was in fact evangelical (by this I mean I would not have been able to give it a label). Oxford then opened up to me a whole world of doctrinal debate, division, controversy and confusion from which I had been blissfully ignorant. Perhaps with hindsight that was a good thing. Sadly, I am shielded from such things no more. The section on the birth to the Charismatic movement in the '60's was compelling as is LJ's reaction to it. This second volume gives you a potted history of things and why they are the way they are and it is masterful. It informs on so many of our current debates in a lucid and fascinating way and it is clear that very few involved todays schismatic issues have bothered to learn from the lessons of the past.

There are so many things I have taken away that they are too numerous to mention but here are six.

1. The need of preaching
2. The need for regeneration
3. The need to pursue sound doctrine and teach it to others
4. The need to preach the gospel from all of scripture
5. The need to read the Puritans
6. The need for extraordinary courage,energy and fortitude if you are to do the first 5.

These two volumes have left me a changed man. MLJ (listen to him here) complained that preachers do not read enough and most shy away from what he called 'big books'. These are 'big books' in every sense of the word and mine are now covered in annotations and markings-1600 pages of them. If you are a preacher you need to read this story (most, as MLJ predicted, won't I fear) but I am in no doubt that if you listen to the good Doctor and let him be your teacher he will renew your soul and you will be transformed.

This at least is my prayer for you.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


Bill shares what's going on in his parish with an inspiring film. Driscoll on his discovery that silence is golden.. A bit of music and thought from Flyleaf. Keller on the Gospel and the poor and his recent talks to the urban plant life conference I attended. A warning about having a 50/50 gospel. Finally Pope Benedict on Martin Luther and the 'wondrous exchange' (H\T Kingdom People)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Three stages

I have been enjoying the letters of C. S. Lewis 'Yours Jack'.

'Our regeneration is a slow process. As Charles Williams says there are three stages:

(1) The Old Self on the Old Way
(2) The Old Self on the New Way
(3) The New Self on the New Way'

(Page 171)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Big questions

Rick Warren answers tons of the big questions which are also on video. Tim Keller offers pastors some questions for a bit of self-evaluation and his 10 questions for expositors. Not a question but never mind- Tim Challies offers his eight top albums of the year. I am really enjoying this as my Advent read with essays by Lloyd-Jones, Calvin, Keller, Packer, Whitfield and Earickson Tada.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


A friend sent me this and it made me chuckle:

There was a man who worked for the Post Office whose job was to process all the mail that had illegible addresses. One day, a letter came addressed in a shaky handwriting to God with no actual address. He thought he should open it to see what it was about.
The letter read:

Dear God,
I am an 83 year old widow, living on a very small pension.
Yesterday someone stole my purse. It had £100 in it, which was all the money I had until my next pension payment. Next Sunday is Christmas, and I had invited two of my friends over for dinner. Without that money, I have nothing to buy food with, have no family to turn to, and you are my only hope. Can you please help me?

The postal worker was touched. He showed the letter to all the other workers. Each one dug into his or her wallet and came up with a few pounds. By the time he made the rounds, he had collected £96, which they put into an envelope and sent to the woman. The rest of the day, all the workers felt a warm glow thinking of Edna and the dinner she would be able to share with her friends.

Christmas came and went. A few days later, another letter came from the same old lady to God. All the workers gathered around while the letter was opened. It read:

Dear God,

How can I ever thank you enough for what you did for me? Because of your gift of love, I was able to fix a glorious dinner for my friends. We had a very nice day and I told my friends of your wonderful gift.

By the way, there was £4 missing. I think it was those buggers at the Post Office.


Monday, December 15, 2008

A smile, a read and a photo.

One reader has complained that my blog has been a little serious of late. This video of Viral Videos of 2008 can never be accused of that and offers you a reminder of how diverse humanity can be! Obama's words set to the tune of Rick Astleys 'Never gonna give you up'-inspired stuff . Should generate a Christmas smirk ( but odd in parts and some lively language in the last clip).

Before watching it here are some weighty 2008 book recommendations from the Westminster bookstore to quickly return the gravitas. Advice from the Internet Monk on the strains and stresses of a young family and church that includes 115 views on how to cope. If this is you, I don't think you are alone! For those in commerce here are Business Weeks best books of 2008

Finally, check out these picture from the Hubble space telescope 'Advent Calender'-they will take your breath away.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The leader you need

Tim Keller on the sort of leader a Church needs.

"My dear friends, most churches make the mistake of selecting as leaders the confident, the competent, and the successful. But what you most need in a leader is someone who has been broken by the knowledge of his or her sin, and even greater knowledge of Jesus’ costly grace. The number one leaders in every church ought to be the people who repent the most fully without excuses, because you don’t need any now; the most easily without bitterness; the most publicly and the most joyfully. They know their standing isn’t based on their performance."

(H/T Dash House)

Culture Watch: 10 funniest ads

In my old life I had a fun job working in marketing on Hamlet and so I always have a watchful eye on matters media. A recent article in Campaign offered the ten funniest ads of all time and it is good to see that Hamlet featured. I am biased but I would have it at Number 1. Enjoy. The Peter Kay ad is genius.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The stable door is open: any one can come in

This was published in the Times last year and is by our very own Archbishop of Canterbury- Rowan. It is a wonderful piece (H/T Onliving)

Year after year, church attendance at Christmas continues to defy the trends. Disconcerted clergy find themselves putting on an extra carol service or Christingle. Cathedral deans start worrying about health and safety regulations as the number of people standing at the back is still growing five minutes before the service starts. And in spite of all the high-profile antiGod books published this last year, I suspect it’s not going to make much difference to these swelling numbers in church over Christmas.
So what’s going on? I don’t think it’s that people’s doubts and uncertainties are all magically taken away for a couple of weeks in December. But once in a while people need a chance to face up to the bits of themselves that they cheerfully ignore most of the time – a chance to notice what might be missing in their lives.

And Christmas gives us just this. It gives us a story to listen to. It gives us a sense that what matters most deeply to us matters to God too. And it gives us a moment of stillness in a more and more feverish environment.

It gives us a story. If you go to a carol service, you’ll notice that it isn’t just about the story of Jesus’s birth. It starts right back at the beginning of human history and tells us that everything started well and then everything went wrong, and we got so tangled in habits and attitudes that trapped us and damaged us that we couldn’t get out again.

So the question stares us in the face: “Is this your story?” Did you start well and then find yourself snarled up in things that drain your life and energy? There won’t be many people for whom that doesn’t ring a bell or two.

And then the story goes on to say something quite strange and surprising. God steps in to sort it all out. But He doesn’t step in like Superman, He doesn’t even send a master plan down from heaven. He introduces into the situation something completely new – a new life; a human baby, helpless and needy like all babies.

And it’s by that introducing of something new that change begins to happen. Like dropping a tiny bit of colouring into a glass of clear water, it starts to affect the whole glassful.

The Christmas story doesn’t try to explain how it works. It just says: “Now that this story, Jesus’s story, has started, nothing will be the same again.” So we’re not being asked to sign up to a grand theory – just to imagine that the world might have changed. And most of us can manage that for a moment or two. Christmas lets us hold on to that for just a bit longer.

And it tells us that what matters to us matters to God. Most of us have deep-rooted instincts about all kinds of things – about our families and children, about the need for fairness and forgiveness, about honesty and faithfulness in private and public. A great deal of the world we normally live in seems to ride roughshod over many of these instincts.

We get panicky about what our society seems to be doing to marriage and families, about the forward march of a technology that doesn’t ask the moral questions, about the cynicism and brittleness of a lot of political talk and the celebrity culture.

Christmas reminds us of a God who is completely committed to the weakest, who uses power only so that human life can be fuller, more peaceful and generous, who gives us the help we need to make our relationships stable and faithful – and who requires of us a complete honesty about ourselves, and gently, steadily, chips away our self-deceptions. Christmas tells us that our best instincts about human nature and what’s needed for a healthy world and society aren’t just things we’ve made up. They are rooted in the way the whole universe is shaped by God.

Often people demand “moral leadership” from religious figures. Confession time: like others, I suspect, my heart sometimes sinks when I hear this, and I think, cynically, that it’s just about people wanting religious leaders to tell them that they’re right.

But there’s more to it than that: it’s not that folk simply want bishops or vicars to lay down the law all the time. But they do want sometimes to be assured that their hopes aren’t empty and their fears aren’t stupid, in a world where things change so fast and so disturbingly.

They want to know that there is a “home” for their feelings and ideals, that the universe has a shape and a purpose. And yes, religious leaders will be failing in their job if they can’t meet this need.

But as I’ve hinted, it’s not just a need for words. It’s a need for space where you don’t have to struggle, to fight for your place at the table.

You’re just welcome for who you are. It’s a bit of a paradox.

We usually spend the weeks before Christmas in a feverish nightmare of anxiety and driven busyness, as if we were going to celebrate the festival by making our normal situation even worse! But then there comes a moment when we really have to take time out if we’re going to stay sane. That’s the moment when people start thinking about church.

We still have this half-buried conviction that church is a place where, at least at this time of year, we ought to be able to feel at home. We turn up, tired and overwrought, perhaps, still thinking vaguely about what we haven’t done and need to do before tomorrow. And then the story unfolds. Yes, this is our story, and yes, we can for a moment believe that this birth makes a difference. Yes, God cares about the kind of world we want to see and his faithful love is the basis of what makes a really liveable life. And no, we don’t have to do anything for this time except take it in. There are no entrance qualifications. The door of Jesus’s stable is open and anyone can come in and sit down.

None of this – I can hear the atheist protesting – means it’s true, surely? Not in itself, no. But it suggests that, if God is a “delusion”, as some would like us to believe, then quite a lot more of our human life is a delusion as well, including many of our deepest values and our hopes for forgiveness and peace. All sorts of things will make up your mind about whether it is true or not – and naturally I want people to believe it is and I’m happy to have the arguments. But you will never understand why it might matter for it to be true unless you can take in what the Christmas story is saying to us about who we are and the world we live in.

So, arrive early! There are millions who still want to ask these questions and hear the story. And there are millions for whom it’s not just a piece of our “heritage” – a stately home to visit – but a place to live. God is for life, not just for Christmas.

Every blessing to you all for a very happy Christmas.

Rowan Williams is Archbishop of Canterbury


I went to see Driscoll and Scott Thomas speak on the 20 Characteristics of a Church Planter the notes of which have just been posted. Tim Challies on his Top Books of 2008 and the same from Trevin Wax. They are both prolific readers. Also a lecture on the historical background to Islam on MP3. Finally, a friend emailed me with his frustrations at organizing his Carol Service so here are some productivity tips for him!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


I am currently reading the Old Testament Evangelistic sermons of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Advent is traditionally the time in the Anglican Church when we call our hearers to consider not only the incarnation (the first coming) but judgement (the second coming). One of the first signs of a softening doctrine is one that neglects this reality of the gospel. This is not something you could ever accuse Lloyd-Jones of.

"You know the final tragedy is due to the fact that man turns away from God, instead of turning to him in his trouble and misery. In his folly man has put his own ideas in place of God's and thought nothing of this idea of judgement; but when he begins to awake to the knowledge that somethings is wrong-when he hears the voice of God-then his instinct is to get away from him. This is the greatest tragedy of all."

Sermon on Genesis 3.

Other books on the go are the wonderful Letters of C S Lewis and a grace-filled book by Brennan Manning called A Glimpse of Jesus. Manning offers the superb idea of a year of jubilee for all those who have been rejected by the church. Would it be so.

"If you don't have to be afraid of God, you don't have to be afraid of anything." Brennan Manning

Brennan Manning and Lloyd-Jones in the same post? Grace and Judgement surely working together.

Monday, December 08, 2008


Here are a few things that caught my eye. Not many-been rather busy doing lots of stuff.

10 notable Top 10 lists (H/T T. Challies)-HERE

20 books you should read in your twenties (granted, I am not in my twenties but some are also, maybe, just maybe, you can read them if you are a bit older.-HERE

The internet monk's seven observation's for parents-HERE

20 unusual churches-HERE

Books make good presents (although these may only appeal to theology nerds)-HERE

A couple of Tim Keller interviews-HERE

There are a few good short posts on keeping Spiritual passion alive-HERE

Finally, this morning I went on an adventure to get the church Christmas tree with Adam and Tricia and got into a conversation about election, choice and total depravity. It all came from the fact that I spoke at something recently and on Sunday one person responded on the basis of what I said (of the 200 who where there). Adam was at the angel end of the tree defending Arminianism and I was at the root putting the case for election. Oh the things we find to while away a festive morning in Richmond. In response, a cheery Christmas post on Total Depravity!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

One word for the gospel

My friend was sitting watching his kids swim the other day and he noticed a woman next to him reading a new age book (you know the sort of thing they have by the bookshelf full in Waterstones). He had done nothing much more than ponder its title when out of the blue she turned to him and volunteered her thoughts and questions about the purpose of life and the universe.

She then asked him squarely-

"What do you think it's about?"

Now, as an evangelist (by the way if you are a Christian you are one too), this is what I would consider to be an open goal. My friend ( a Pastor) knew this also to be true but by his own admission he stumbled. Sometimes when sharing the gospel with an open football goal all we need to do is kick the ball vaguely in the right direction and it should go in. But we often don't do that do we? We so regularly tell people the mechanics of playing the game of football (how you choose a team, how many players, what the kit is, how the rules work) rather than just sharing the joy of kicking a ball around with others.

After all that's what the woman wanted to know. Yes she needed truth but the sort of truth that would lead her into the way and the life. In contrast, following his best effort all my friend felt he had left the lady with was a bit more knowledge. So, rather annoyed, he decided to send three friends, me being one of them, a text which simply read:

"Sum up the gospel in one word".

Now there is a challenge. D. L Moody was asked the same thing and the reply he gave was 'Others'. I've always like that.

Mine, for what it's worth, was 'Grace'. Paul wrote 13 letters and if you read them he starts each one with grace and he ends each one with grace. The gospel begins and ends with grace.

What were the other responses? Well, one was 'Hope' and the other was 'Significance'. The next day he bumped into someone else and they said 'Purpose'.

So what would your one word be?

By the way whether or not we are a follower of Jesus we all have a word. We all have a salvation project. We all have our life and identity hanging on something.

We all have to put a word to the something.

The question is "What is it?"

Friday, December 05, 2008

Post-alpha reading

We have just finished our Alpha Course which has been great. Here are some resources I recommend as good follow up.

30 Days by Nicky Gumbel- This is a set of bible readings with an introductory comment on each one. A really good way to get in the swing of how to do it.

A purpose driven life by Rick Warren- I went through this a few years ago and found it wonderfully helpful. Perhaps one to put on your Christmas list and start the 40 day journey in the New Year?

For the love of God by Don Carson- This is the method of reading the bible I have used for the last few years.

One man's way of reading the bible- This is an interesting article on how one seasoned Christian has decided to read the bible and a reflection on the things he's learnt.

The Prodigal God by Tim Keller- A fantastic book and perfect reading for those braving a first season of immersion in 'Church'

What's so amazing about grace? by Philip Yancey- Grace (as one of our number commented last night) is a word I use an awful lot. Here is a great book on what it means.

Chasing the Dragon by Jackie Pullinger: This is the book I remember reading straight after Alpha and it still impacts me to this day.

Anyway-hope some of this stuff might be useful and there are plenty more recommendations all over this blog!!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Answers to hard questions

The other day I was with friends in Westminster and while waiting to meet them at the tube I bumped into one of my bible teachers from Oxford called John Lennox. He gave one of the lectures I will remember for the rest of my life on biblical interpretation using 1 Peter. He is in my view one of the keenest minds and most able apologists around.

Here he is grappling with the some of the big questions of our age:

Is God Good?

What about Dawkins and Hitchens?

What about science and the bible?

What do we do with suffering?

Well worth watching this if you want to see him at work on a variety of tricky questions.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

I am second

Sometimes you stumble on something that moves you and speaks to you in an truly unexpected way. Perhaps it's the timing of such a thing or just the raw honesty and truth that you witness displayed. I am second tells stories of lives. Real stories-where the word real means real.

I have been moved and I hope you will be too.

The one I have embedded is Brian Welch from the band Korn-if you know anything about heavy rock you will know Korn is perhaps its personification. The only other story I have watched is by a man called Nate Larkin. He tried being a Pastor and failed and now by grace upon grace he truly is.

Extraordinary stuff.

The truth will set you and me free.

If only we will let it.

(H/T J.Wilson)

Back from the Alps

I had a splendid time in Morges, just outside Lausanne with my friends Pip and Rolf and Lily (my God-daughter) and Pia. I went winetasting, swam in a thermal spa, ate fondue, visited their church and went to the Montreux Christmas festival. I confess I thought the festival would be full of stands selling dodgy aftershave and three for the price of two deals on Santa wrapping paper but happily the Swiss have considerably more taste than we do.

Here are one or two things from a very quick scan of the world. 100 most notable books from 2008 and 10 tips to better reading. Top 10's of 2008 and top movies of 2008.

Also How to encourage a blogger this Christmas

A couple of other things- Keller's two talks on Preaching to the Heart and a a good Driscoll talk given to the latest bootcamp.

(H/T Steve McCoy)

More will follow if I have any time.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Christmas Lists

I have just spend 20 mins doing my Christmas list for my family who have been badgering me. I can never think of anything I want. Here is an idea if you are like me. Why not get a Flip camera. You can takes films and then just plug it into your computer and bob's your uncle. How cool will that be to open on Christmas day! The books on my list are Leading with a limp, Judgement and Back of a Napkin. I have also put the new Dido album on my list which will no doubt depress me but to a good tune.

A wedding disaster

Can this really have happened? Who knows- but it certainly made me smile..

(H/T J R Woodward)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Online archive and Missiology resources

Here are a couple of resources that will keep you busy for a lifetime. The first is an online religious library of everything you every wanted to know on theological subjects. The second is a great collection of thought on the work of mission prepared by J R Woodward.

(H/T Transforming sermons)

Something ain't right

(H/T B McLaren)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

No such thing as retirement

My old Vicar John often said that "There is no retirement in the Kingdom of God". It is one of those things that he said that really stuck with me. It seems that John Piper agrees with him.

(HT Pure Church)

Saturday, November 22, 2008


I spent some of yesterday enjoying some poetry. Eugene Peterson always says that if he were training seminary students he would make them read poetry for two years-I would be very glad if it was Billy Collins. I read his fantastic Taking off Emily Dickenson's clothes and I learn happily from Donald Miller that he has a new book out.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Where's the outcast?

Recently, someone has become a follower of Jesus who would usually have seen himself as the outcast of the conventional church. I have been enjoying hearing his story and learning from his thoughts and perceptions of life, family, culture and faith. He tells me he is hearing a gospel that seems to him different from the one he rejected long ago and he is starting to understand and be transformed by the reality of the grace of Jesus. Tim Keller suggested on Tuesday that we must preach the gospel to those who are not yet coming and in a way that would encourage them to bring their friends to hear its message. Maybe through my new friend and brother I am slowly learning what he means.

Last Sunday, I preached on Luke 18 and 19 and where usually I would have chosen either the blind man or Zacchaeus, I decided to speak on both. They seemed to have the same things going on in their hearts but externally were completely different social beings. In fact, I think they are the Jericho opposites -but maybe that is Luke's point. In the sermon, I used a quote from the Prodigal God and two people, including this new follower, have quoted it back to me expressing their amazement and how it spoke to them.

I share it here for your perusal.

Jesus' teaching consistently attracted the irreligious while offending the Bible-believing, religious people of his day. However, in the main, our churches today do not have this effect. The kind of outsiders Jesus attracted are not attracted to contemporary churches, even our most avant-garde ones. We tend to draw conservative, buttoned-down, moralistic people. The licentious and liberated or the broken and marginal avoid church. That can only mean one thing. If the preaching of our ministers and the practice of our parishoners do not have the same effect on people that Jesus had, then we must not be declaring the same message that Jesus did (Page 15)

So there's the challenge.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Here are a few things I have been reading and thinking about:

Moths and rust-HERE

5-fold ministry appreciation-HERE

Gladwell's new book-HERE

How to teach doctrine-HERE

Working through the pain-HERE

Prodigal God review-HERE

Running effective meetings-HERE

Counting the numbers at Church-HERE

What just can't be but is-HERE

How to create a movement-HERE

Leader:It's your fault-HERE

Quotable presidents-HERE

Solving problems-HERE


Why living like Jesus is not enough-HERE

Graham Cray on Fresh expressions-HERE

Haggard back in the pulpit-HERE

Overlooking an offense-HERE

Facebook updates and twittering-HERE

Whose 'Al'-HERE

ESV Study Bible

Finally, my ESV Study bible has arrived. A friend who is a pastor and theologian mailed me this week saying:

"My ESV has arrived – WHAT A WINNER – my aim now as pastor of theology is to get as many people owning & using this on a daily basis in the church as I can. Its fantastic. One or two emphasises in the notes that aren’t mine, but overall, incredible!"

Buy yours HERE

Culture Watch: Cheat death

Culture Watch: Heaven for the Weather

If you want to understand your culture listen to it's song lyrics

The Streets "Heaven for the Weather"

I want to go to heaven for the weather
But hell for the company
I want to go to heaven for the weather
But hell seems like fun to me

There’s something in the sun this day, I feel it
Or maybe it’s just my hay fever
The weeds are green, the sky is shining
But it’ll soon be night which is nicer
But then cracks peel back and hell bends the room
And the devil gestures to you
You’ve never seen such a Beelzebu
And he’s telling you to make up your bean about what’s left of your evening
About whether to flake out or f*cking stay out
What do you make of this doubt?
The devil wants to know if you’re going down or up
Easy - I know what my speech should be

I want to go to heaven for the weather
But hell for the company
I want to go to heaven for the weather
But hell seems like fun to me

The devil beams a big beaming grin
The sort which leads you up the streets of sin
He holds up paperwork - sign the line
Let’s clash with madmen, grime is fine
It sounds all hectic, you’re having cold feet
Things are getting out of hand, you make an embarrassing retreat
Let’s ride the Valkyrie, commit a bit of sin
Turn rock to rubble, punch me in the chin
I simply, Lucifer, refuse to wind up on fire with low-life liars
Then you’re destined for the world without chores and sweating -
The eternal hell of boredom in heaven

I want to go to heaven for the weather
But hell for the company
I want to go to heaven for the weather
But hell seems like fun to me

You tell the devil in no uncertain terms
You’ll never be evil, you’ll never be turned
What is this evil? And who decides this?
When left to devices some humans try shit
This is the reason we should all be tied up?
We’re just normal people exploring our minds
We don’t go around here putting poison in wine
But we enjoy what we like which is not always right
People are intricate, people aren’t swines
Let’s screw the rules up and rely on our minds
Sign on the line
You sign on the line
He clutches the wine and tips it in cyanide

I want to go to heaven for the weather
But hell for the company
I want to go to heaven for the weather
But hell seems like fun to me

I want to go to heaven for the weather
But hell for the company
I want to go to heaven for the weather
But hell seems like fun to me

I want to go to heaven for the weather
But hell for the company
I want to go to heaven for the weather
But hell seems like fun to me

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tim Keller in London

Spent the day with Keller who gave the first of three day conferences that will happen over the next six months and was on truly fine form. It was great to see a few familiar faces-my pal Mark was over from Amsterdam, Will up from Sussex, Simon D, Steve and Chris from Lewes, Tom from St Judes and- Atco/Heather, Lizzy, Wayne, Rob and Les from college.

Now spending the evening preparing a sermon for the girls of Wycombe Abbey on Sunday but also very quickly putting down the thoughts of the day before they depart.

The big chunk things that struck me

1. It is about being able to discern the things that truly matter and integrating any new information into what you already know or have observed. Keller is a master at it.
2. We need to disciple people better for their workplaces
3. We should preach the gospel to those who are not yet coming
4. We must be people who 'listen to the questions'. Your theology is the answers to the questions you have asked the text (Edmund Clowney)

The morning was spent with Keller telling us many things but the point that stuck is that God always tends to do a new thing-and it is not like the old. I was reminded of reading Iain Murray's book on Edwards and the impact Whitfield had on the great awakening with his radical innovation of outdoor preaching. Someone else who I have listened to recently who might be just such a radical innovator is Craig Groeschl and his book "It" and despite not wanting to like him he really impressed me. One of the many things that struck me about him was his giving up all reading for a year except the scriptures which he read until his passion for Jesus was renewed.

Perhaps he might be doing the new sort of thing that Keller was talking about this morning?

Is this the never seen before gospel initiative unlike the past but for our times and in the city? Or is it mad? (There again they thought Whitfield was a cross-eyed lunatic!).


Loving the poor.......

Extraordinary prayer.

Creative worship.....

Just a food for thought detour (Get hold of Groeshl's talk to the Willow conference if you can).

The day encouraged me 1) Due to the amazing content 2) Due to the unifying tone across the various evangelical tribes.

Looking in my notebook these are some of the things I wrote down.

-The delta effect was a Richard Lovelace term for what happens when revival comes
-"Noone ever learned they were a sinner by being told they have to be shown" John Newton
-Moralism doesn't change the heart it only restrains it
-"Get married to the area"
-Carson's four part biblical model: Creation-Fall-Redemption- Restoration
-The four planks 1. Light 2. Salt 3. Institutional Church vs Organic Church (Abraham Kuyper) 4. Disciple people for their public life as well as their private life. Do it all in a city
-Gather people by vocational field
-'Christ-haunted' Flannery O'Connor
-Non-believers should 'overhear' the gospel in our churches
-There is a surplus of meaning in the bible

He talked a lot about culture and you might like to check out Six ways to engage with culture and to read Culture Making by Andy Crouch to fuel your thinking (his Blog is on my side-bar).

He recommended a few things- the writings of James Hunter (not yet published). Also 'Soft difference' an article by Miroslav Volf which you can find the full article here-below is a great summary quote.

It might be appropriate to call the missionary distance that 1 Peter stresses soft difference. I do not mean a weak difference, for in 1 Peter the difference is anything but weak. It is strong, but it is not hard. Fear for oneself and one's identity creates hardness. The difference that joins itself with hardness always presents the other with a choice: either submit or be rejected, either "become like me or get away from me." In the mission to the world, hard difference operates with open or hidden pressures, manipulation, and threats. A decision for a soft difference, on the other hand, presupposes a fearlessness which 1 Peter repeatedly encourages his readers to assume (3:14; 3:6). People who are secure in themselves—more accurately, who are secure in their God—are able to live the soft difference without fear. They have no need either to subordinate or damn others, but can allow others space to be themselves. For people who live the soft difference, mission fundamentally takes the form of witness and invitation. They seek to win others without pressure or manipulation, sometimes even "without a word" (3:1).

(H/T Blogging Parson)

He also spoke a lot of Don Carson whose resources are all collected here and Abraham Kuyper and Alan Hirsch

Try and make the next one in Feb if you can..

Monday, November 17, 2008

Albums that went round and round

I was listening to Chris Evans on Radio 2 and he was bemoaning the fact that he was starting to like the new Dido album. It got me remembering albums of the past that really got into my inner being my having been played over and over again. There is no rhyme or reason to it- these are just off the top of my head.

Feel free to add a few suggestions....

1. Dido

2. David Bowie Ziggy Stardust

3. Bob Marley Confrontation

4. Aswad Live and Direct

5. Skids Scared to dance

6. Billy Idol Rebel Yell

7. Ted Hawkins Songs from Venice Beach

8. Bryan Adams Reckless

9. Martin Stephenson and the Daintees Boat to Bolivia

10. The Smiths The Queen is dead

11. Oasis Definitely Maybe

12. Oasis What's the story

13. Dire Staits Love over gold

14. Howard Jones Humans lib

15. Gypsy Kings

16. Counting Crows August and everything after

17. Hootie and and Blowish Cracked rear view

18. David Gray White Ladder

19. Mary Chapin Carpenter Cmon Cmon

20. 10000 Maniacs In my tribe

21. Damien Rice O

22. Avril Lavigne Let go

23. Ray Lamontagne Trouble

24. Beautiful South Welcome to the beautiful south

25 The Housemartins The people who grinned themselves to death

Sunday, November 16, 2008


One of my very few readers complained that I had failed in my blogging of late so here are a few things:

Thinking biblically about Facebook-HERE

7 kinds of pastors I'd run from-HERE

Give up-HERE

This is the motion of our next deanery synod: “This Deanery Synod (Richmond and Barnes) recognises the value and integrity of faithful, committed same-sex relationships, does not accept that they are “incompatible with scripture” and asks the Diocesan Synod to debate the eligibility for preferment and candidature for ordination of individuals in such relationships”. Those attending may do well to watch-HERE -for another view. I confess, on this one, I am somewhat at a loss for words but it is interesting to note reading HERE that Elton John seems uncertain about the nature of same-sex 'marriage'

Rowan's rule-HERE

God is useless-HERE

Learning how to pray-HERE

Learn to take criticism like a man-HERE

Lewis on the role of theology in faith-HERE

What do evangelical's do well?-HERE

Lloyd-Jones and Spurgeon resources discussed-HERE

Write better emails and receive less-HERE

One purpose

"My one purpose in life is to help people find a personal relationship with God, which, I believe, comes through knowing Christ."
Billy Graham

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


I have been thinking about being in the wilderness. A pal forwarded me Simon's sermon on this that had blessed him and through listening to it I brought all those I have on my heart who are in that place of the desert. There seem to be rather a lot- maybe you are one of them.

Last week's conference was good and it was refreshing to see so many good and old friends. I went away with a couple of things to ponder and pray through that may take a little time to process. During the week, I read the Discipline of Grace which explores the relationship between grace and holiness through a study on Romans-great stuff and my copy is now very dog-eared and scribbled over.

I have also managed to listen to one of these sermons by Sinclair Ferguson who is what I would call a classic preacher and teacher and handles the Bible in a way that gently warms the heart and reminds one of Christ and the Gospel. I think I like him because he reminds me of my early years sitting in the Kirk in the Ayrshire village I grew up in in Scotland.

If you have ever grappled with the question 'How people change?' you may find this is interesting. Driscoll, as ever, has lots of views-this time on the emerging church. Finally, what happens when the pastor meets the professor, an article on Malcolm Gladwell and advice on thank you notes?

Friday, November 07, 2008

Great questions for a new leader

Cornel West's great questions of Obama.

1. How deep is your love for the people?

2. What kind of courage do you have?

3. What are you willing to sacrifice for?

These are not bad questions of anyone seeking to lead others and are worth something of a ponder.

Here are Cornel's five most important books in this weeks Newsweek. The book he thinks parents should most hope to read to their children is 'The fire next time' by James Baldwin. I confess I have never even heard of it.

Oratory and feedback

Just finshed Alpha and often can't go straight to sleep so doing emails and catching up.

I watched this and was struck by many things- not least just the craft of Obama's speaking.

I speak a lot and so do many of us but here is the question.

Am I getting any better at it? (Obama raises the bar rather high!).

I recognized this challenge and realized I needed to ask for feedback.

So, in response I have decided to seek feedback out and a friend has agreed to listen to my sermons and tell me what he really thinks. I have done the same for him.

Paul says 'go into strict training'.

I need to do that if am am to preach better.

Go on then, why not ask for some honest feedback from a friend.

Here is David's sermon on Psalm 119. It blessed me so much and I hope I was able to bless him with my few thoughts.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

President Obama

Here are Driscoll's thoughts on election day and here's what we should do now he's won.


I spotted this where all the Nooma films have been collected together for you to watch. Rob Bell makes fascinating short films on a range of subjects and is also a great author. Velvet Elvis is one of the most thought-provoking books I have read in recent years. He has the capacity to offend people with his theology and the way he sees the gospel which I always think is rather good. Jesus did this all the time. Bell drives some 'religious' people mad who like their bible tidy and life ordered.

I have watched most of the Nooma' films:

Parents should watch lump, kickball and rain

Disciples should watch Dust

Actually you should watch them all.

I also have taken to giving them to people instead of books particularly if you think they are not a reader.

May these be a blessing to you.

Monday, November 03, 2008

US Election, an expanding heart and Keller in town

This is interesting on the US election and prompted lots of comments with the most perceptive from Justin Taylor who posted the video. Not sure about the biblical basis for Piper's views on Palin, but as ever a man of strong opinions and thought-provoking stuff. For a different view, check out Brian McLaren on why he is voting for Obama.

I also was blessed reading this on an expanding heart and was reminded again what an impact John Stott's life has had on so many of us.

Blue Parakeet is now out and is the new book by Scott McKnight. I loved Embracng Grace which I read some months ago and here is a review of his latest.

I am going to listen to Tim Keller teach at this. Are you? Hope so.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Lives the Hebrews 12 way

(H/T A. Dunlop)


This week I took delivery of a new Tim Keller book and a the new Peterson book on the same day! Have read the Prodigal God and it's great. Buy two copies at least because you are going to want to give this one away.

Here are a few things that I have spotted:

Dawkin's steps down from Oxford but to do what?-HERE

Is Spurgeon the Driscoll of his time? See how he managed to offend-HERE

First of all know the Gospel-HERE

Tim Challies on the Prodigal God-HERE

When Christian's replace Churchgoers-HERE

22 Ways to improve your blog-HERE

The Questions have changed-HERE

Parenting talks-HERE

All of life is repentance-HERE

Discipleship the new evangelism-HERE

Praying the Psalms-HERE

(Last two items H/T T.Wax)

Friday, October 31, 2008

Sacred Harp

Some months ago I watched a documentary on American music and the section that captivated me most was on Sacred Harp singing. I used to collect gospel albums long before I became a Christian and I have always loved the rawness of accapella singing. Here is a short film that will introduce you to this rich musical form. Watch, listen and be inspired-HERE

Thursday, October 30, 2008

10 things about how to read the bible

Tonight at Alpha we are exploring the bible so I thought I would post some thoughts and resources:

1. Get yourself a bible. There are masses of different versions but I recommend the New International Version or the New Living Translation as the best. If you want a wider resource then it's hard to beat the excellent new ESV Study bible. If you want a paraphrase then the best is the Message.

2. Start reading the bible. If you have never read the bible 30 Days by Nicky Gumbell is a great starter or if you want a bible and notes combination 'The purpose-driven life' is a good one. If you are an iphone person or more techy then Scripture Union's Word Live might be an option or the Encounter with God daily notes. The book I used to read the bible all the way through was called 'Your daily walk' so it may be helpful for you too.

3. Find a time and place to read the bible. Steven Covey says it takes 30 days to form a habit so try and allocate a time, perhaps 15 minutes, to do this each day.

4. Read with a pen- I keep a journal which acts as a record of the things that I am reading and praying. Underlining, copying out verses, asking questions and noting thoughts. The best book on journalling I have come across is How to keep a spiritual journal by Ron Klug

5. Find a good guide. Mine is Don Carson in his excellent 'For the Love of God' but there are plenty of bible commentators like John Stott 'The Bible through the year' , Selwyn Hughes Cover to cover or Conversations by Eugene Peterson. I would also commend the classic Gordon Fee book How to read the bible for all its worth and How to read the bible book by book.. If you want some real meat on biblical study and interpretation then this list of books is good.

6. Pray what you read. This simply means that we pray back to God the things he says through his word. Reading will prompt all sorts of prayers-thanks, confession, reminders of God's promises, guidance, future hopes etc.

7. Start simple. Many give up bible reading because they take on too much and dive into Leviticus from the off. Start by reading a Gospel (Mark) or a letter (Philippians) and read a little bit each day.

8. Persevere . The word of God is the richest of food and Jesus said that we need God's truth for our sustenance. Some days you will encounter 'wondrous things' as Psalm 119 says, but on others you may not. Keep on reading and praying.

9. Read the bible with others. Joining a small group to read and discuss Scripture is a great way to grow to enjoy the bible. If you do, try and join a good one with lively debate, prayer, worship and one that is lead well. It makes all the difference.

10. Read expecting to encounter Jesus. The bible is God's salvation story and its pages reveal Jesus to us. All the Scripture speaks of Christ so always read with the Gospel in mind. There is good news to see and understand even when the story seems to be going off track or appears difficult to understand.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Luke 16: The Parable of the Shrewd Manager

I preached on this passage recently and one commentator said this is possibly the most difficult passage in the Gospels. I am not usually in the habit of posting my own sermons but I am happy to offer this up as my best effort on a tricky subject after hours of struggle as a resource for anyone who wants it. (N.B Thanks also to Mark for his excellent reading!) I am not at all sure I got it right so feel free to disagree with my interpretation-HERE .

Spiritual Warfare

I have been thinking about this subject recently in my private studies. A week ago, I spent the day in Galatians and the word 'freedom' and 'free' struck me as one that Paul uses frequently in relation to the gospel and the Christian life. It is noticeable too that in contrast to Galatians many Christians are not free and suffer much inner turmoil, secret sins, defeat, depression, addiction, failure and are pursued by lies of all kinds. Joy, one of the fruits of the Spirit and markers of new life, is also in dreadfully short supply in those who claim to follow Jesus.

Why is this?

Well, a few things have been helpful to me in answering this both in my own walk and in pastoring others. The journey we have been on with a number of other churches on how we are able to live free has been invaluable. We have rediscovered repentance, confession and the power of biblical truth. Next week, I continue this by attending the Jesus Ministry 2 conference and I will try and report on the things I learn.

I was also encouraged listening to Driscoll's series on Spiritual Warfare and fascinated by the talk Christos Victor which recounts his prayer encounters with the demonic and how similar in many ways his principles were to the prayer model we have been learning. This material is worth some attention if you are interested in a biblical view on this subject. I would commend listening to this whilst at the same time reading Death by Love and Clinton Arnold's Three Crucial Questions in Spiritual Warfare which lay out the role of the cross in pastoral work and a biblical framework.

This area is much neglected in the church and has often either been hijacked by Charismatic wackos or denied completely by powerless liberalism or cessationist conservatism. This needs our urgent attention in a world where the enemies activities have been given rule and reign for far too long because of our ignorance and complacency.

I hope these resources may help us redress the balance.

Monday, October 27, 2008


Here are a few bits on bobs that have caught my eye of the past few weeks:

Questions to ask before confronting-HERE

Driscoll on 'Pray like Jesus' which I have just finished listening to. Superb.-HERE

The Prodigal God and the sermon that changed Keller's life-HERE

Choosing a job-HERE


Rick Warren chairs the Presidential debate and watching it might give you a flavour of the battle about the reach completion-HERE

Five reasons for the decline in the emerging church (fresh expressions in C of E speak)-HERE

Keller on post-Christian contextualiaton-HERE

Bedtime prayers with Children-HERE

Why the substance of faith matters-HERE

Tips on reading-HERE

Can you read 100 books a year-HERE

As links lists go this is a good one-HERE