Thursday, December 24, 2009


"I miss the warmth of family"

This morning I listened to an interview with an elderly lonely man on the Today Program.

He seemed to sum up the trouble we are in in secular, materialistic Britain. It is an interview with a thoughtful, lucid and interesting man called John Arthur. He, like 500k other elderly in the UK, will spend his Christmas alone. Do listen to it if you can it is called 'I miss the warmth of family'

One of my many things today has been, with another, to take a dear lady communion this morning. We read scripture, we prayed and then we all sang 'Thine be the glory' together. It was a holy moment.

I love the church.

Bless you all this season.

Signing off now for a wee blogoliday

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


A few things.....

The Reformissionary offers up his Albums of 2009

A disturbing report called 'Sinking or Swimming'

Light, Life and Love in a bunker.

Tim Challies is conducting an interesting discussion with an athiest

And ten more books read in 2009

A friend posts his concern about mockery.

And the difference between orphans and children.

My friend has started a blog for her YWAM DTS adventure in Lesotho which will be fun to follow.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

What matters now

A Free Seth Godin ebook. He writes well and will provoke you to new thoughts.

The years ahead

This is the time of year we start to look at the future and a book I pull off my shelf at this time of year is 'How to keep a spiritual journal' by Ron Klug and in particular the chapter entitled 'Looking forward'. One of the first verses someone gave me after I became a Christian was Jer 29 v 11 'For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope'

The Purpose Driven Life (the world's best selling book) has a superb first line.

"It's not about you."

As you look towards the next decade here are some things you might like to journal about (put a moleskine on you Christmas list or buy a present of one for yourself). You might want to take half a day or a couple of hours over the holiday and stand back and also look forward. Here are some ideas.

There are lots more ideas here and watching this is helpful too.

1. Before I die

As I am so often reminded our time is finite but no matter how long we may or may not have it can be fruitful. Klug recommends writing a list of '100 things I would like to do before I die'. Let your imagination run riot, you may repeat things and don't worry about practicality. Then turn your list into a journal entry and offer it as prayer.

You might want to work this up into a PERSONAL MISSION STATEMENT (I have linked to the Fanklin Covey one which might be a help)

2. I have a dream

What are your dreams. Allow yourself to dream with hope. Dreams for your work, your children, your family and friends, your church. Again don't try to be too practical just dream.

3. Back from the future

Leap forward 25 years and imagine that the 25 years that have past have been happy, blessed and fruitful. Describe what has happened in the last quarter of a century. I love what Rick Warren says "What's in my hand?". What have you been given and how are you planning to steward it. You have gifts, resources, background, influence, education, relationships and circumstances. "What is in your hand?" This is perhaps your question my friend.

4. Dying and rising

Martin Luther (following Paul) saw the Christian life as daily death and rebirth-as the old nature dies and the new nature lives in God's resurrection power. Look at the pattern of your life. What is dying in your life (relationships, commitments, dreams, goal) What is rising? (new habits, hopes, challenges and experiences)

5. Spiritual legacy

'What will I leave behind?' Imagine you have reached the end of your pilgrimage on earth. Where have you sown? To whom do your bequeath your material and your spiritual resources.

6. The final journey

Take some time to write down what you think about life and death. Where did these ideas come from? What questions do you have? Ask yourself 'Has my life been wasted?' 'What do I still need to do?' 'If my time was finite and a lot less than I might be assuming- how would I be planning differently?' "How do you want to be remembered?'. 'What will your obituary be?' Challenging stuff I know but it is the one certainty we all face so we may as well wake up to this reality.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Freedom to Follow your Nose

In the Future of Management there is a fascinating account of Google.

Have you ever had a job that demanded loads of your time and energy but doing it seemed to sap your creative soul?

I thought so.

What usually happens is you leave and go somewhere else. This happens in businesses, the arts, in parenting, in marriage and in the church. People are always 'leaving' in life-sometimes physically or maybe just emotionally-but going somewhere they think will be better-but seemingly not at Google.

Google have invented what they call 'the 20% policy' which allows every developer the freedom to devote up to 20% of their time to non-core initiatives. This is the sentence that really caught my attention:

"The 20 percent policy ensures that no one has to leave Google to pursue a personal passion" [Page 113]

We might do well to think on the implications of this:.

What does it mean to give those you lead their 20%?

How would the 20% change the way you lead or parent or work?

What would it mean to give 20% to your spouse?

What would it mean for you in the work-place to be given the 20%?

How would it change the way you plan and make priorites?

As you prepare for the decade ahead here is a business leader who might inspire your hopes. Listening to this will be 15 minutes well spent and I think Steve Jobs used the 20% pretty well:).

The girl who silenced the UN in 1992

My pal from Canada thinks this might be the most influential Canadian. It might be a timely word for all those in Copenhagen.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Cookie's Best Reads of 2009

I have selected 10 of my best reads from 2009.

1. Counterfeit Gods by Tim Keller: This book is about the many things that we worship that are not Jesus. Tim Keller points out that most of us have not noticed that jobs, children, sex, education, fashion-in fact a never ending stream of things- are more important to us than Jesus. This book will expose the motivations of your heart and show you a way to heal them.

2. Deep Church by Jim Belcher: By December the list of good reads is usually closed but this came up the inside rail to win the No 2 slot. This is a book that brings together a thousand things that I have been musing about for almost a decade. How can we be a church that has both depth and engagement with those who are seeking after Jesus? What might that sort of church look like? What's important? If you want to read one work that explains all these debates in a reasoned, scholarly and accessible way then look no further.

3. Shantaram by David Gregory Roberts: When a friend who rarely reads a book recommends one as the best book he has ever read you are left intrigued. Well, I took a leap and took this on holiday with me and could not put it down. Roberts has written a spell-binding story about Bombay and what makes it all the more remarkable is that it is true. Put it in the bag when you go on your next two week break.

4. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Don Miller: Bill recommended this as his best read of the year so I took it to Switzerland with me. I simply loved it and some of the stories Miller tells have really stuck with me. Just the opening page is enough for the price but the rest seemed to get better and better. Heart-warming, honest, hopeful and full of humour and grace. Loved it.

5. Leading with a Limp by Dan Allender: The thing that appealed to me about this is the idea of weakness. I read this at the beginning of the year and the thing I remember is Allender's observation that if we were to (as Paul did) call ourselves 'the worst of sinners' on a CV no one would give us a job. Accepting weakness is a great leadership gift and one that I am reminded of the need to do daily. I loved his writing style and the way he tells a story.

6. The Heart of a Servant Leader by C. John Miller: I have bored about this a lot but only the other day I referred again to its pages. This is a set of letters written by Tim Keller's friend and mentor and there is pretty much a letter for every pastoral decision and eventuality. I also felt convicted to write more letters and despite this have done nothing about it. That can be a resolution for the next decade and displays one of my many leadership limps.

7. The Furious Longing of God by Brennan Manning: Dear old Brennan writes the same book every time and it is always about the same thing. Why on earth do I keep on reading them? The reason is always in one word- Grace. He profoundly understands grace because he seems to be someone who has really experienced it. It took me years to receive grace and those years resisting it were spent in misery- so a regular dose of Manning waters my soul and I hope it may water yours too.

8. Dreams from my Father by Barak Obama: He was voted the Times most influential man of the decade and they are probably right (although their No 2 was Simon Cowell?). I took this to Greece with me and the story of his life played out before me over a few warm sunny days. He writes well and this gives you an insight into the man who now leads the most powerful nation of earth. He is frank, descriptive, revealing of himself and his hopes. Anyone leading anything would do well to visit this man's story.

9. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell: I gave this to my sister last Christmas and last time I went to stay with her picked it off the shelf to read myself. This is an easy and a fascinating read and is best known for its account of 10k hours. Gladwell collects together amazing case-studies and observations all gathered around the question of success. If I didn't own this I would be putting in on my Christmas list.

10. The Future of Management by Gary Hamel: I spent years and years in business and will always enjoy keeping my eye on the commercial world. I discovered this book through attending the Hybel's Leadership Summit where I heard Hamel speak. Gary Hamel is the world's most respected business consultant, a Harvard professor and a man of faith. The Summit is my annual reminder that I will never run a mega-church and it always prompts me to immediately re-read the complete works of Eugene Peterson. This contains some great cultural insights and stories of the way the world may be heading (Google and Gortex are fascinating indicators of this). Great stuff.

My runner-up reads are:

I hope there may be a read for everybody somewhere on the list that will bring you joy, insight, hope or a new idea.

Keep turning the pages in 2010 dear friends and thanks to those faithful bloggers out there who have introduced me to so many good reads that didn't make the list:)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Two cities


Seth Godin has eight questions he wants you to ask.

Sometimes you tell the best things through pictures-a great blog called Indexed.

Some words from MLK

Some good advice from R C Sproul if you think you might one day be called to gospel ministry.

And I have been thinking about the idea of pre-church.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A real nativity

I am always moved by a nativity. I think the word I would use to best capture it is C S Lewis's word for the gospel- 'wonder'. It captures all the nice bits-presents, babies, kings, shepherds- and everybody sighs a happy collective ahhh.

But is this the true Christmas?

This article 'Yes, I cried at the nativity too?' embodies the cultural and secular problem we find ourselves in. Christmas has becomes all about our obsession with kids and nothing at all about our need of God, the Cross, and Salvation. Some parents in West London, so someone told me recently, are spending hundreds of pounds on costumes from Harvey Nic's so that little Jemima can be '...the best angel Gabriel she can be'. We have seemingly reached a place that Michael Horton has termed Christ-less Christianity. Trendy journalist's like Robert Crampton have long since written off the gospel and moved on.

"When is the penny going to drop with Christianity? Death, martyrdom, suffering, pain, loss, blood, these are not concepts with which any brand would want to be identified. If that’s the core of your message, no wonder you’ve got a problem."

Here is a man who has failed to be told the gospel nor understood it. Someone said to me on Sunday morning at church that their family had decided not to come on a Christian camp because " isn't cool". Following Jesus has never been cool and it never will be. Jesus dying on the cross with nails in his hands and feet for my sin is unlikely ever to be in fashion.

Are we now a nation of the Jesus-less, gospel-less Christmas?

If so, we should be both sad and scared.

If God has called you to preach anything this Christmas, my prayer is that it might be the gospel.

Check out 'Born of the Gospel' if you want to know what I mean.

Monday, December 14, 2009


I have revisited 'The heart of a servant leader' which is one of my best reads of the year.

"Maybe the best definition of a leader is a man who knows how to wait. During the waiting he learns to lead by prayer. He deepens his love for people and his hold on the throne of grace. He becomes a man in touch with God and the man who understands people. Matthew Arnold says that he sees things clear and whole. I like that....."

[Page 211]

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Tim Keller on Romans 8 v 28

I am spending the afternoon preparing to preach on suffering and the last 10 years seems to have had plenty of trauma- both national and personal. It has also included abounding grace and I suppose that this is the struggle for all our hearts. Enjoying the good and then facing the bad. The highs of love, life, hope and joy and the agony of loss, pain, disappointment and failure. These seem all mixed together in our own lives and in the lives of those we love.

I have spent some time reading my journals which go back most of the last 10 years. The belief of those who profess to follow Jesus is that God works for the good. This is true even when it seems like he isn't. I found this quote from Tim Keller which I clearly made a note of but had forgotten. He says is was a divinely inspired moment of translation of Romans 8 v 28 in a class when he was at seminary. Having re-read it I tend to agree.

The verse in the NIV goes like this:

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose"

This is how Keller translated it:

"God will give you everything you would have asked for if you knew everything he knows"

I hope sharing this will give you strength-particularly if this is a season of struggle and suffering.

I am ending my sermon with a long silence.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009


Some more book recommendations for Christmas

As you know Matt Chandler is a Pastor who has blessed me and has been diagnosed with a brain tumour. THIS (as I preach this Sunday on Luke 13 about suffering) moved me.

Teach seems to be the message

We are in a right pickle in the Anglican Church.

And remember, there is only One Story

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Books from 2009

Tim Challies a prolific reader and reviewer offers his selection of the best from 2009 and the same from Kingdom People.

(H/T JT)

Saturday, December 05, 2009

One to watch

When I was ill last week I did something I never do which is watch Sunday am TV on the BBC.

The 'spiritual slot' is doing a series called Fern meets and I enjoyed spending an hour with Dolly Parton of all people. This week it is Desmond Tutu then this will be followed by Tony Blair and Sheila Hancock

Also do catch MacCulloch on Protestantism: The Evangleical Explosion.


A thought on Tiger Woods

Some good stuff on Keith Green and other bits and bobs.

Jared Wilson is on form with his piece on 'Sweat equity'

Outhere is having an 80's week so here is a bit of vintage Wimber

Driscoll asks "What is the Church?"

Keller in the New Yorker and his advice to Young Pastors

Matt Chandler who I blogged about a while ago and whose preaching has blessed and encouraged me is very sick and needs our prayer.

A friend is reading Outliers and is obsessed by the idea of 10k hours- so here is some vintage Gladwell

Friday, December 04, 2009

Ministry mind shifts

This post sums up lots I have been thinking and talking about recently.

Ministry mind-shifts

1. From running programs to building people

2. From running events to training people

3. From using people to growing people

4. From filling gaps to training new workers

5. From solving problems to helping people make progress

6. From clinging to ordained ministry to developing team leadership

7. From focusing on church polity to forging ministry partnerships

8. From relying on training institutions to establishing local training

9. From focusing on immediate pressures to aiming for long-term expansion

10. From engaging in management to engaging in ministry

11. From seeking church growth to desiring gospel growth

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Vision to Action: Talks

Here are all the talks and there is also a book (thanks to my pal Mark for sending me the link!)

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Leadership thoughts from Nicky Gumbel

Nicky Gumbel quoted a few of things on leadership that stuck with me:

"Vision without action is a dream but vision with action can change the world"

"Leaders have a dissatisfaction with what is and a clear grasp of what can be" [John Stott]

"Leaders dream things that never were and say "Why not?"

Vision into Action

It is rather boring being ill but happily I am now back to almost full fettle.

I have not fed back from the excellent Vision into Action at HTB.

I have a fondness for HTB as my old church for 13 years was its first plant and many through HTB have blessed me and become friends. Since 1993, HTB has grown exponentially and the impact of Alpha has gone world wide.

Here is the excellent talk by Nicky Gumbel which tells the story which I commend to everyone if you want to listen to what a visionary leader sounds like. It will inspire you.

Here is a fact-13m people have done Alpha worldwide.

May I also be bold to say that HTB is possibly one of the most influential churches in the world given its cross-denominational reach. (I notice they also interview Prime Ministers). The recent story of why and how has two central characters- Tricia Neale and Rebecca Stewart- who are two of the most impressive leaders I have come across in a very long time. The wisdom from their two talks was superb but sadly I can't find them posted.

I also listened to Simon Downham of St Paul's Hammersmith, a great leader and preacher, on church growth.

He recommded Keller's Process managing church growth and also the following excellent resources he found through The Alban Institute (which was new to me).

This is well worth attending when they run it again. 1000 this time and I think next time it will be more.

As ever, one of the main joys was not just the content but seeing old friends.

Saturday, November 28, 2009


Sadly I write from my sick bed where I am coughing and spluttering.

To pass the hours, I have been watching the excellent The History of Christianity which I think I will get on DVD. ( A friend bought the book and it is just too thick)

I am sure I should have a plan for my sweeps but I just click about and share a few things- some that make me think or challenge me or I just that I find interesting.

Some present ideas for children and an amusing article on too many toys and on what's popular.

Carnage in Sheffield

Shane Claibourne in Esquire

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Off to spend the day at this

A few bits and bobs

Are you thirsty?

I am enjoying reading the latest MacDonald.

Is Rob Bell and evangelical? Part one and two

My friend is thinking of spending a month on an Ignation silent retreat. I think he will go nuts but there you go. I sent him some notes on Life Goals.

Ravi is on form

Next time you hear from me I hope to a walking vision in action:)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Quantities of quotes

Here is the biggest source of Christian quotes and enough to keep you in ditties for a lifetime. Grace quotes is now a resources link on my sidebar.

(H/T Take the vitaminz)

The Manhattan Declaration

A document I think I should read.

Christmas Books

That time is upon us again where we start to look back on the year. I confess I do rather enjoy a good list and a recommendation. The Spectator has asked all its writers for their recommendations of 2009 reads calling them Christmas Books 1 and 2. (Enjoy a coffee and click through the many recommendations)

Here are some of the selection that may perhaps provide some ideas for your Christmas List-a good mixture of novels, history and politics.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

An education

I have seen 'An education' which I really enjoyed. It is the story of Lynn Barber (the journalist) written by Nick Hornby of High Fidelity fame. It is a good piece of British film making and story telling. My favorite character was the Dad. It has been made all the more thought-provoking upon the discovery that it was the school a friend attended!

Well worth a trip to the flicks on a wet winter evening.

I always enjoy seeing the cinema ads. Apparently a BMW will make you joyful and the source of true values is Chivas Regal. Our hidden idoltary is revealed again.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The wind blows

I spent the weekend at Ashburnham with the 35 folk on our Alpha Course teaching about the Holy Spirit.

My theological cemetery Principle used to say if you are going to survive in ministry

"You have to know why you get out of bed in the morning"

Well, it is a weekend like the one I have just had that helps me see again why I do what I do.

As four of us drove home listening to the mesmeric Mumford and Sons, the lyric from 'Roll away the stone' seemed to sum it all up.

"It seems that all my bridges have been burned
But you say 'That's exactly how this grace thing works’
It's not the long walk home that will change this heart
But the welcome I receive with every start"

Amazing grace.

Startled by the wonder yet again.


A look at the music industry called Ripped Off

Someone was talking about being missional before it was all the buzz (1 for the pod)

Scot McKnight on Twitter Theology

Rob Bell on sermon length

A thought on life and taxes

A Keller nugget

And this made me smile

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

At least I have found one other person who likes Peterson

This blog like many others has a few hobby-horses and one of them is Eugene Peterson.

The first book I read by him was during my preparations for my ordination selection panel and is called The Contemplative Pastor. I have since read almost everything he has written. I think he is challenging to many because in a church so often characterized by a need to put people in boxes he won't let you put him in one. How frustrating for us.

Peterson loves poetry, novels, art, food, nature, John Calvin and seems to dislike powerpoint, conferences, leaders, personalities and contemporary worship songs. The clue to him might be the word he chose for his five books on theology-'Conversation'. So, to read and understand Peterson you probably need to like and enjoy a conversation. So many who profess an interest and passion for God seem to not like this word at all nor its practice. It is a word that requires us all to be vulnerable and to realize that we might have something more we need to learn.

Peterson is getting some interest because a young, go-getting US mega-church pastor of the Village (6000 and growing) called Matt Chandler quoted him in a talk. This talk was possibly given to an audience full of those sound non-conversational types who are exactly the crowd who tut at the mere mention of the Message. (Some of my dear friends tut so I say this with a smile)

The IMonk has explored this at length and I share the view that to do ministry without having read Working the Angles from which Chandler quotes will be the poorer for the neglect. I agree with him that Chandler is an inspiring man who seems to know his own mind. He also seems to get and preach the gospel as illustrated below.

Recently Chandler was interviewed and it is a very helpful six minutes and tells you a bit about what makes him tick and listen out for the Peter Drucker quote. If you want one for the ipod I recommend this.

Finally, if you have never come across Peterson here he is as you might have expected-in conversation.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Never silent

A pal today said he has just finished reading a book that has stirred him more than any other this decade. Yes, he did say this decade.

Now that is quite a statement.

I really trust my friend. He says everyone who is ordained in the C of E or leading a church with a passion for the gospel should read it.

It is called 'Never silent'- let's all order a copy shall we.

May it stir us too.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Random thoughts on Leadership

This post is a great one and here are some of the key thoughts but it is worth checking out the link.

What no one else is doing. “To reach people no one else is reaching we must do things no one else is doing.” Craig Groeschel, Senior Pastor,

Become a Student: “The next generation product almost never comes from the previous generation.” Al Ries, Focus: The Future of Your Company Depends on It

Breaking Paradigms “What do I believe is impossible to do in my field but if it could be done would fundamentally change my business?” Joel Barker, Paradigms: The Business of Discovering the Future

Assumptions “If we got kicked out and the board brought in a new CEO, what would he do? Why shouldn’t we walk out, come back in and do it ourselves?” Andy Grove, Former CEO, INTEL

When memories exceed your dreams: “When your memories exceed your dreams the end is near.” Chuck Bentley, President of Crown Ministries

One for the ipod

I drove from friend's yesterday and did some listening. "Do you love God?" is one of those talks I will return to again and again and I hope it may bless you too.

God's Soup Kitchen

My friend Tim who blogs has written this which I liked.

"This table is God’s soup kitchen. This table is where God feeds the hungry, the outcast, the disabled, the orphaned, the abused, the neglected, the lonely, and the lost. And this means at least two things: First, this table is not for people who are fine thank you very much. This food is not for the well-fed, those who get along pretty well on their own, the fit, or the popular. This table is not for people are basically good but screw up every once in a while. This table is for the messed up. It’s for people who are failures. It’s for parents who have failed their children. It’s for children who have failed their parents. It’s for spouses who have failed one another. This table is for the needy, the broken, and the weak. It is for those who are starving for God’s grace and mercy, and they will die if they do not have it. If you know your need, if you know that you are weak, that you are lonely, that you are failure on your own, and that you need your faithful Father’s love and care, then come. This meal is for you. This is grace and mercy for you. Secondly, Paul says that when we eat this sacrament we need to discern the Lord’s body, we need to see Jesus. And as we have emphasized before, this doesn’t mean squinting hard at the bread and wine trying to see flesh and blood somehow. Paul is talking about seeing Jesus in those around you, seeing Jesus next to you and behind you as you serve one another and partake together. But putting these two things together means that Jesus wants you to see Him in the neediness of those around you; He wants you to see Him in the hungry, the outcast, the disabled, the orphaned around you. He wants you to see Him there. He wants you to see Him in those people who are different from you; He wants you to see Him in those you have had disagreements with. He wants you to see Him even in those who may have wronged you. He wants you to give them bread for their hunger and give them wine for their thirst. So come to God’s soup kitchen. Come to the banquet spread for the needy of the world. Come and rejoice because there is plenty of grace for you. Jesus gives Himself to you, and He calls you to eat, drink, and rejoice in and with one another."


Rather a lack of posting I am afraid but here are some things that caught my eye.

Keller on Calvin and his friends and a talk on Counterfeit Gods.

The story of the bible in four minutes

An attack on legalism which is a good thing.

David Bosch defines evangelism

And Rowan seems lost for an idea of what to do next but fortunately God isn't!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


5 creativity equations

Six insightful minutes from Perry Noble.

Some advice not to play the comparison game.

Nine important minutes on the prosperity gospel.

And Pastors can never be justified by performance.

The hills are alive

I have had some time on holiday in Switzerland seeing friends.

Bill recommended A million miles in a thousand years as the best book he has read this year. He says it makes you "want to live a better life" and I tend to agree. A stunningly good and uplifting read.

I watched a couple of films. Defiance tells a moving true story of some Jews in WW2 and Benjamin Button reverses the story of life.-clever stuff well told.

I have in the past recommended a band called Mumford and Sons and I saw Marcus by chance playing golf the other day. I am happy to report they are No 1 in the download charts.

You heard it here first.

I also recommend this superb album by Charlie Winston called Hobo.

If you want to spend time with someone who writes on Jesus and prayer do read this.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Running on empty

I am re-reading Restoring your spiritual passion (amazingly available for 0.01p secondhand).

There is a chapter in it entitled 'Running on empty'. Here are some realities of the inner world of W.E Sangster who was seen by others as a giant of the faith.

"I am a minister of God, and yet my private life is a failure in these ways:

a. I am irritable and easily put out

b. I am impatient with my wife and children

c. I am deceitful in that I often express private annoyance when a caller is announced and stimulate pleasure when I actually greet them.

d. From an examination of my heart, I conclude that most of my study has been crudely ambitious: that I wanted degrees more than knowledge and praise rather than equipment for service.

e. Even in my preaching I fear that I am more often wondering what the people think of me, than what they think of my Lord and His word.

f. I have long felt in a vague way, that something was hindering the effectiveness of my ministry and I must conclude that the "something" is my failure in living the truly Christian life

g. I am driven in pain to conclude that the girl who has lived as maid in my house for more than three years has not felt drawn to the Christian life because of me

h. I find slight envies in my heart at the greater success of other young ministers. I seem to match myself with them in thought and am vaguely jealous when they attract more notice than I do."

[Page 50]

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Influential words for the pod

These might be the most famous and influential words spoken in the last 1000 years and now you can download them for free. I'm driving again to Oxford tomorrow and planning to give them a listen.

Blog sweep

Do you need the gospel? (H/T Story in the Making)

Tim Keller shares his issues with workaholism and the story behind Counterfeit Gods

Gary offers some reflections on Question Time and then a few more.

I saw this and it got me thinking. Are you a positive, negative or neutral?

I really enjoyed Sex, Sushi and Salvation and its author now has a blog.

Finally, thanks to James for this Piper quote from a Jonathan Edwards talk.

No perfect people

Monday, October 26, 2009

No perfect people allowed

I read a few quotes in No perfect people allowed and have been thinking about them since I finished reading it.

First Henry Cloud:

"In his book How people grow Henry Cloud says:

"People's most basic need in life is relationship. People connected to other people thrive and grow, and those not connected wither and die. It is a medical fact, for example, that from infancy to old age, health depends on the amount of social connection people have.......Virtually every emotional and psychological problem, from addictions to depression has alienation and emotional isolation at its core"

[No perfect people allowed Page 114]

Second, Larry Crabb:

"Larry Crabb , the psychologist and biblical counsellor has spent a quarter of a century puzzling over how people heal and grow and he came to this conclusion

“When two people connect……something is poured out of one and into the other that has the power to heal the soul of its deepest wounds and restore it to health…..In recent days, I have made a shift. I am now working toward the day when communities of God’s people, ordinary Christians whose lives regularly intersect, will accomplish most of the good that we now depend on mental health professionals to provide. And they will do it by connecting with each other in ways that only the gospel can make possible”

A few years ago, I had my first encounter with a University Mission after having been a Christian for 15 years. I was not a Christian at University and this encounter with students was my first and has stayed with me ever since. What struck me was the extreme relational disconnection. They were very fearful, religious, joyless and were all reading books about gender which seemed an odd choice to have at the top of the list of books young disciples needed to reading. They were not only fearful of anyone who was not a Christian but also of other Christians who did not share their theological outlook. What was the most difficult for mission is that few appeared to have any friends or healthy relationships with others (Burke calls this 'Connecting through affinity' Page 280). Our affinities it became clear were limited and they were, I concluded, one of the most unhappy communities I have ever come across.

This has stayed with me as one of the weirder expressions of Christian community and mission I have witnessed. Since then, I have had to admit that the Church as a whole is rather good on occasions at being similarly life-less, odd, disconnected and judgmental and perhaps that is why so often we are so ineffective at connecting with people and their needs (as No perfect people observes). I do have a caveat, that my experience of University mission was not I hope representative of CU's generally but I only have one to go on.

Dallas Willard has observed a similar thing of Christians generally as quoted in No perfect people:

"How many people are radically and permanently repelled from the Way by Christians who are unfeeling, stiff, unapproachable, boringly life-less, obsessive and dissatisfied? Yet such Christians are everywhere, and what they are missing is a wholesome liveliness......of God's loving rule..."Spirituality" wrongly understood or pursued is a major source of human misery and rebellion against God"

[Page 208]

I enjoyed this book and John Burke has shared his heart and his learning helpfully. There are rather too many personal story case studies (quite a few I skipped) and lots of apologetics (skipped a bit of this too) but there is much to be challenged by and to think on.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The History of Christianity

Since having spotted this in Blackwells, I have read the review in the Spectator. It is certainly worth reading even if the book may be long and dull in parts. Actually that is a bit unfair- it seems it is worth having for reference but not exactly a page-turner. Here is the best bit from the review.

The great strength of the book is that it covers, in sufficient but not oppressive detail, huge areas of Christian history which are dealt with cursorily in traditional accounts of the subject and are unfamiliar to most English-speaking readers. These include the evolution of the early Christian sects, the Eastern Church in its entirety, the rise of Orthodoxy in both the Greek world and Russia, and the special cases such as Bulgaria and what has become Serbia. Among other well-covered topics are the early history of Christianity in Poland, the conflicts in Transylvania (where the Professor writes eloquently of the parish churches he has visited), Armenia and the Caucasus, and the successes and failures of the faith in Asia. His analysis of why Christianity has taken root in Korea but made such a hash of things in India is perceptive. There is also an account of the 19th-century missions in Africa and the Pacific which is first-rate and full of insight.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A sermon reflection

Piper on Charismatics got me thinking.

Someone talked to me this week about Bill Johnson having read this book.

So, on a journey to Oxford I downloaded a couple of talks one from him (randomly clicked off his site) the other from Keller. They were both coincidentally about being Born Again (1 Peter and John 3) which made for an interesting theological reflection.

Keller's is called Hope for your life

Johnson's is called Experiencing the Great Things.

I enjoyed listening to both one after the other.

See what you think.

Saturday sweep

Frank Skinner has some views on church matters and so does Lord Carey.

Whither the traditional Anglican says another.

Radio 2 has a survey of the nations favorite bedtime stories-some omissions in my view and a story in itself about the things we are reading to our children. One missing is Fantastic Mr Fox which has just been made into a film.

I was in Blackwells in Oxford yesterday with a pal and we agreed that this should probably be in our book armory (but don't drop it on you toe!)

Off you watch a Rugby match the rain in Reading this afternoon.

Saturday smile

There is the odd expletive or two....

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Free Tim Keller sermons

Redeemer has released a ton of sermons on free download.



I have listened to a few of the Nines and can't remember where I heard it but one quote stuck in my mind and I used it on Sunday evening. It is an observation about the gospel that Bill Hybels came up with and I love it. This is my paraphrase because I was working from memory:

"The Gospel is four letters not two.

It is never two letters-DO- it is always four- DONE.

The Gospel is something that is never about doing- it is always about what has been DONE

It really is finished.

Only once we see that it's DONE can we DO"

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A few for the ipod

I have been to and from Oxford a lot visiting my Ma in hospital (she is fine and on the mend) so have done some listening.

This is a great talk on 'do not make it difficult for the Gentiles'

My pal preached a great sermon on Psalm 119 called 'Don't neglect God's word'. This is good preaching. If you like this then read this.

Matt Chandler explains repentance in 'A Continuing Ethic'

I have also listened to the first two in this series on Luke.

My friend was moved and stirred by this.

We are passing some John Lennox talks around our staff team from this years New Wine. As an Apologist, there are few better- Part 1 and Part 2

Happy listening :)

More on Rowan and the Pope

A leading article on matters Catholic in the Times and some comment.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Funerals and Catholics

Funerals are in the news and some views.

Also, the Pope has 'driven tanks onto Rowan's lawn'.

Yes be yes

My friend rang me to discuss this and its implications. The question on our minds was "Who tells you the truth?"

The Renew Campaign is well worth checking out and do watch the beautiful film and the sermons that accompany this are free to download.

Your life

I have been reading 'No perfect people allowed'.

One sentence jumped out at me:

"Generally, emerging generations do not ask "What is true?" They are primarily asking, "Do I want to be like you?" In other words, they see truth as relational. " [Page 42]

Mark Greene of the LICC and his new book seem to agree with the view.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Impossible is nothing

H/T Strategy Central

A Monday Ramble

On a Monday I try to start a bit slower (if I am not speaking in our school) It has been a busy 10 days-4 preaches, an Edwards essay, Alpha, IME, service leading and all the day job but God has been good.

One of the people who impressed me at the Summit was Gary Hamel. He is the world's leading business consultant. He did a wise thing and spoke on what he knows about. I am going to read his book -The Future of Management.

If you like your church 'Mega' or hope it may one day be so, you might be interested in Andy Stanley- here is a recommendation on his new book and a talk on a clear and compelling vision.

Collision is a film I am waiting for-here are some great out-takes.

Seth Godin advises us to make a decision.

Dave Ferguson lists some UK churches in his list of innovation and good to see my pals at HTB, Crooks and St Andrews getting a mention. Read these two-A Passionate Church and Breakout if you want some follow up.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


After a talk on blogging at my diocese last week, I have been thinking about why I blog. My hope is simply that this blog might be a blessing to a few.

A dear friend tells me that he and his church in Canada have started to enjoy praying the Psalms after one of my posts. I am encouraged.

Matthew Parris on the touring bones that have been in the news this week.

" “The Plenary Indulgence ... A plenary indulgence is the complete remission of the temporal punishment due to sin.” Apparently Pope Benedict has declared a special grant of indulgences to pilgrims to these relics at Westminster. “One plenary indulgence may be gained each day and may be applied either to a soul in Purgatory or the pilgrim himself or herself.” A Lutheran rage rose in my gorge. Jesus would have been incandescent. I think I’m a Protestant atheist.

(H/T Redhill thoughts)

The internet monk has a few thoughts on Dawkins.

I went to listen to Dick Lucas this week at the invitation of Duke Street Church who are next door to me here in Richmond. He is still going strong at over 80- Psalm 71 v 18 comes to mind.

A couple of good blog posts from Keller (one about Willow Creek, a conference I attended last week) and a review of Counterfeit Gods.

The danger of being too popular as a preacher and one man does not like to be too practical.

Some new commentaries to check out and if you like your resources on-line expository link has been updated.

Brian McClaren has written a letter to Obama.

I listened to this from the Nines and agree that it was compelling.

One man visits the Jonathan Edwards centre-by the way I have finished my essay on the Nature of True Virtue (3884 words)!

By the way, Adrian Warnock who has blog I enjoy has written a book that is getting great reviews.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Why pastors should blog

Yesterday, I sat in on a talk on blogging.

For anyone interested, the best post on this I have found is called 6 reasons Pastors should blog. As it happens, Michael Patton also has some good reflections on exactly this subject.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Two things about evolution have come into on the radar recently. One is a film about Darwin called Creation and the other is a new book I spotted on a recent visit to Blackwells in Oxford by Richard Dawkins and it reviewed here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Preaching the gospel to the post-modern world

This has a section of True Virtue and is a great essay on preaching.

A rapped gospel

For anyone who is interested 2400 words done on my Edwards essay-I am immersed in his world. He is a clever dude who takes a bit of grappling with but it is no doubt good for my rapidly dulling brain. If you want to be immersed too, why not start with George Marsden's A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards [I have linked the short life but there is a whopper which is worth the reading journey]. If you are a listener not a reader then download this for a car journey.

I went to see Jay-z a few weeks ago and so why not a bit of rap for a Tuesday. Watch the first two minutes of this for a gospel treat.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Who stole my church?

I am taking some time off the coal face to write my essay on the Nature of True Virtue. Nearly 900 words done!

Last week, I attended the Leadership Summit and at some point will blog some thoughts. As always, I bought a book or two and saw on the table the new work by Gordon MacDonald who is one of my people.

It is called 'Who stole my church?'

Much of what is cool and trendy in church is about planting new things but the real challenge it seems to me is the task of renewing what has been around a wee bit more that 20 years. If you are faced with a church that has been around longer than that (mine since 1870) then this fascinating book might be a real help to you.

MacDonald convenes what he calls a Discovery Group with the key stakeholders in his church and leads them in a journey of what they might consider to be the 21st century church and how they might face the changes and challenges together.

I can think of many friends who would benefit from reading this thoughtful story. This one is highly recommended.

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