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

Sunday, October 26, 2008


Some time ago I encountered a Christian leader and it really impacted me. Sadly, I have to say it was not in a good way. I was left with a wake-up call not to end up like this person and began reflecting on the question of whether others may think of me as I thought of this person. You see, the main thing that I encountered in this individual was their pride. Seeing pride so clearly displayed in another made me have to acknowledge so much of it in myself.

One book that I have come across as an antidote to my own self-preoccupation is Humility by C J Mahaney. This, together with a talk by Tim Keller called 'How to change', are some necessary resources I am using to go to work on the monster of my pride. John Stott writes, "At every stage of Christian development and in every sphere of our Christian discipleship, pride is the greatest enemy and humility the greatest friend." This book is full of helpful observations, biblical insights and offers the voice of a character-filled leader who has trodden the humble path. Having read it, I am not sure I am off the start block on humility but at least I now have a few markers on which way to go.

Here is just a taste of some of the advice for starting each day:

1. Reflect on the Cross

2. Acknowledge your need of God

3. Practice gratitude

4. Memorize scripture

5. Caste your cares

If this book needs a warning, it is simply that it is quite short relative to its price so if you buy it don't expect a huge tome to arrive in the post. However, I think if you and I do the half of what it prescribes we may both spare others an unpleasant encounter with the enemy that is within all of us all-our pride.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Slum survivor

This year at Soul Survivor our young people caught the idea of Slum Survivor and committed to 'Spend a day the way a billion spend a lifetime'. They have built a slum in our church car park and are, at this very moment, planning to spend the night under cardboard. As I was thinking about Slum Survivor I came across this post about 'Generation We' and wondered if one generation can make a step change for humanity. If I am honest I am not sure mine has but I pray that the next may do a bit better. Whilst it would be bold to say 10 teenagers are making a step for humanity they are at least, in a city more obsessed by loft conversions than the oppressed, awakening hearts, minds and wallets to the fortunes of others.

Feel free to encourage your church to do something similar.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Culture and discipleship

This post has got me thinking about how people are integrated into the life of following Jesus. I have been reflecting on this while at the same time re-reading the classic 'Spirit of the disciplines' by Dallas Willard. Here is the core of the post's thought:

Adaptation - To adopt a cultural form for Christian purposes. In Augustine’s case, he adopted heathen temples and turned them into church buildings. Gregory wrote to him: “Detach them from the service of the devil and adapt them for the worship of the true God.” Many Christian leaders and Christians would frown on using a Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall for a church building because their conception of church is so narrowly conceived. Since my first day in Austin, I have been praying that God would give us a male strip joint called La Bare to meet in and do mission from, located the corner of Riverside and Congress. We are currently meeting in a downtown Theatre where we frequently pick up beer bottles off the floor before people arrive. The bathrooms are covered in graffiti and smell terrible, but the aroma of Christ fills the Hideout every week and is slowly changing that part of the city. This isn’t about being cool; its about adopting Austin’s cultural forms, creating common cultural space for non-Christians, and using these forms for Christ-honoring purposes.

Gradualism - Implement Christian ideals slowly recognizing that individuals are undergoing and entire worldview shift. Don’t expect radical holiness from your new converts. If they have embraced Christ but still smoke pot or occasionally drink too much, don’t beat them up for their behaviors. Instead, shepherd their hearts, lead them into the gospel, and allow their inner joy to transform their outer joys. Gregory wrote: “If we allow them these outward joys, then we are more likely to find their way to the true inner joy… It is doubtless to cut off all abuses at once from rough hearts, just as a man who sets out to climb a high mountain does not advance by leaps and bounds, but goes upward step by step and pace by pace.”

Exchange - The creation of an entirely new cultural form in exchange for an existing idolatrous one. It is one thing to use pagan temples for church buildings, it is quite another to participate in pagan sacrifices. For instance, if your people consistently go to happy hours to get wasted and have a social life, create a more God-honoring context for socializing. Gregory wrote: “People must learn to slay their cattle not in honour of the devil, but in honour of God and for their own food…” We need to work creating more social spaces for our people to exchange sinful social spaces with holy social spaces.

These three categories resonated with my on my own experience of adaptation and the danger that we make people religious and not holy. I am also viewing these three stages through the lives of real people in our Church facing exactly this question. How do we follow Jesus? Much food for thought here so thank you to Gregory the Great. 'Exchange' is Dallas Willard's passion and he says that the decision to follow Jesus is a choice to become like Jesus and in this regard Western models of discipleship are failing spectacularly.

His wonderful book explains why. Do read it if you haven't.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Great Questions for Pastors

1. How often do I get out of my office and serve somewhere in the community?

2. How often do I read my Bible other than for sermon preparation?

3. How integral is Jesus to my sermon? (How often does he appear in it? One mention? Two? Is he an illustration? A quote? Is he the point of the message? Could the same sermon be preached to Muslims if you substituted “Allah” for “God”?)

4. If someone from my church is in the hospital or dying, is it likely that I will visit them? (If it’s not likely, is it possible?)

5. What is the chief indicator of the spiritual health of my church?

(H/T Jared Wilson)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

US Election

As the US election approaches here is the Catholic churches excellent contribution that reminds us that some things are more important than others when people vote.

(HT T. Wax)

Shepherding a child's heart-Talks

The complete talks from the Mars Hill parenting conference-HERE

Monday, October 20, 2008


I was staying with friend's recently and over breakfast I asked their daughter what she was doing that day.

"Today, I am going on a play-day" came the beaming reply.

In a world of stressed workaholics (many of whom are in the Church) I think we may need to recover the heart of my friend's daughter.

Here's the question.

When was the last time you gave yourself a play-day?

When did you just hang out and enjoy a day with friend's, having interesting experiences and doing things that give you joy and delight. I know you have responsibilities and work to do and admin stacked up and things to plan and kids to look after and a world to save.

We all do.

But it wll keep for a day. It really will. I promise

Go on. Treat yourself

Have a play-day:)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

In Blogland

Keller in the Washington post- HERE

Obama may be the Saviour of America but possibly not of the unborn child-HERE

Packer on 1-point Calvinism-HERE

Stetzer on what unchurched young Christians think-HERE

C S Lewis on the importance of looking to the past-HERE

Peterson's newest book-HERE

Rolland Allen Free online-HERE

Catalyst 08-HERE

Rob Bell's new book-HERE

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Newton on Gospel Ministry

One of my 'must have on the shelf' would be the letters of John Newton. Here is a great quote:

“The message I would bear is Jesus Christ and him crucified and from the consideration of the great things he has done, to recommend and enforce Gospel holiness and Gospel love, and to take as little notice of our fierce contests, controversies and divisions as possible.

My desire is to lift up the banner of the Lord, and to draw the sword of the Spirit not against names, parties and opinions, but against the world, the flesh and the devil; and to invite poor perishing sinners not to espouse a system of my own or any man’s, but to fly to the Lord Jesus, the sure and only city of refuge and the ready, compassionate and all sufficient Saviour of those that trust in him.”

(h/t J Taylor)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Do you have a favourite quote?

My friend Gerry put me on to her brother's blog and on the sidebar he has written: 'Favourite quote outside of the Bible'.

Do you have a favourite quote?

Please share it and I will try and think of mine.

Here is Goff's:

“What matters supremely, therefore, is not, in the last analysis, the fact that I know God, but the larger fact which underlies it – the fact that He knows me. I am graven on the palms of His hands. I am never out of His mind. All my knowledge of Him depends on His sustained initiative in knowing me. I know Him, because He first knew me, and continues to know me. He knows me as a friend, one who loves me; and there is no moment when His eye is off me, or His attention distracted from me, and no moment, therefore, when His care falters.

This is momentous knowledge. There is unspeakable comfort – the sort of comfort that energises, be it said, not enervates – in knowing that God is constantly taking knowledge of me in love, and watching over me for my good. There is tremendous relief in knowing that His love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion him about me, in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench His determination to bless me.

JI Packer Knowing God (IVP)

Raising kids

This was recommended to me for the second time- Shepherding a Child's Heart -as the best book for raising kids outside the Scriptures- so I thought I would give it a plug. Haven't read it but this may be a resource worth getting hold of if you are a parent. If you are a listener rather than a reader here is Tedd Tripp speaking to Mars Hill Parenting Conference which you can download-HERE

Monday, October 13, 2008

Blog Action Day 2008 Poverty from Blog Action Day on Vimeo.

A Conversation

Keller, Piper and Carson in conversation just posted on Facebook. A collision of some mighty theological minds and a good use of an hour to receive some amazing nuggets of wisdom and revelation. You can watch it in bite-size chucks as time allows-HERE

Things to be thinking about and singing

I have taken delivery of a new pile of books and am excited by Death by love. It explores the Cross as pastoral care. Real people in real mess with the remedy of a different aspect of the Cross as the solution. I have discovered recently Third Day and my song of the last few weeks has been 'I've always loved you' on Chronology 1. A friend recommended The Irresistible Revolution which I am about to finish and if you want a challenging book on justice and the Jesus life this one is for you.

I had supper with some friends at the weekend and our discussion landed on home-schooling. A mutual friend has decided to educate her four kids at home so I think I need to work out what I think about this. It seems to be about how and in what way children are to engage with each other and culture. Talking of family life what do you think about Stay at home dads? Also, listened to this sermon while ill in bed last week called the Gethsemane prayer and it shook and blessed me deeply. Could not be more different from Bill Johnson if it tried.

A few other things:

Becoming a more theological pastor-HERE

Jim Collins (Good to Great) on Church-HERE

The Greed Game (watch this if you want to understand the Credit Crunch)-HERE

Michael McIntyre (very very funny-Jo Brand is a bit rude and unfunny so you might want to skip that)-HERE

Here's Third Day- I admit it-this song makes me cry

Friday, October 10, 2008

Prodigal God

Keller writes about his new book the Prodigal God on the Redeemer website.

A Rant

Sometimes you have days that make you scratch your head. Passion is a good thing and there is so little of it. These two little moments are certainly not short of it. Feel free to tell me what you think.

Monday, October 06, 2008


Driscol on media-HERE

Keller on Deaconesses-HERE

Why evangelism methods must change-HERE

Driscol's new book 'Porn again Christian' free on-line-HERE

Misuse of the tongue-HERE

McKnight on McLaren-HERE

Alltop-the blog of blogs for everything-HERE

Different leadership styles-HERE

Death by love-HERE

Leadership Summit

I spent a couple of days at St Mark's Battersea Rise at the Hybel's conference. Often I find this sort of thing rather exhausting and although the Church..' is the hope of the world' they never seem to have a Vicar of a small church of 250 in Chipping Sodbury as keynote speaker. Maybe next year.

There were though some highlights and I particularly enjoyed Craig Groeschl who spoke from his new book 'It' which is worth a read. Do try and get hold of the talk too. The premise is that some churches have it and some don't and the way he explains the theory is compelling. I also enjoyed Gary Hagen on injustice and Bill George, a Harvard Prof, on his book True North. A chappy called John Burke spoke on creating a culture of acceptance and his book is called No perfect people allowed. Hybels spoke on decision making and his new book Axioms (of which he has no less than 76)! He also recommended Judgment as the best book he had read on decision making.

The good thing about this event is it tells you what's going on and it was really good to hang out with my friend's Tim, Nick and Will. Hope some of the recommendations may be interesting.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Saying Hi

I was recently in a Christian bookshop and I spotted the new album by Chris Tomlin. For those who don't know, he's an American worship leader and the title of his new album made me laugh. Why so? Well, not because it is bad, which it might or might no be, but because of its title which in English (not American) means something rather different than he probably intended it to. You'll need to think Eastenders, 'greasy spoons', ordering a cuppa-two sugars and you'll get my drift. See HERE .

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Praying together

A friend who is gathering with other churches in his area of London to pray sent me this to watch-HERE.

Saturday blog-sweep

 Some interesting books for pastors The State we're in Attack at dawn Joseph Scriven Joy comes with the morning When small is beautiful