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.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


A few thoughts from Malcolm Gladwell.

Is it just about being real?

Chuck Swindoll has 10 lessons from 50 years in leadership which are worth a gander.

I have been thinking about getting some Logos Bible software and here is a review.

I went to see Surrogates on the basis of this review.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Worshipping false idols

"What might be seen as the most irrelevant commandment might turn out to be the most important one after all" so says Mark Driscoll on ABC's Nightline.

Watch HERE.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Blog sweep

It isn't very often that you find Paxman on the back-foot. See Newsnight from 16 mins in and you'll see what I mean.

How to draw the good news in three minutes. It is called the Big Story and is worth a watch.

This book was one of the first I read as a Christian (it is a great story) and here is a post about Nicky Cruz and the Trinity

A friend is trying to sell his single and here we all are singing it in the rain in August. Seth Godin suggests it is tricky business selling records these days. Happy summer times though whatever the sales:)

Monday, October 05, 2009

Praying the Psalms

One reader commented that it is hard to know when a post is an important one and wondered if I could flag things that need special attention. So here I am on a rainy day repeating something I have posted before and this should be a clue.

One thought. Pray the Psalms

There you have it.

Did you miss that? Pray the Psalms.

Oh, by the way. Pray the Psalms

Here is how you might go about it.

Listen to this. No really, really LISTEN TO THIS.

As if you needed any more convincing here is a final word from John Calvin

"What various and resplendent riches are contained in this treasury, it were difficult to find words to describe.......I have been wont to call this book not inappropriately, an anatomy of all the parts of the soul; for there is not an emotion of which any one can be conscious that is not here represented as in a mirror"

(How to read the Psalms, Tremper Longman III, Page 13)

Sunday, October 04, 2009

An uncommon effect

An old Vicar of mine always used to say in his marriage talk that 'good marriages are made'. I have now finished reading Counterfeit Gods and heartily recommend it. I am sure there will be many reviews. One thing that many may not mention is a short comment in the acknowledgments that Keller offers about his wife.

It moved me.

"I must say to Kathy what John Newton wrote to his wife Polly, namely, it is wonder if so many years, so many endearments, so many obligations have produced such an uncommon effect, that by long habit, it is almost impossible for me to draw a breath, in which you are not involved"

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Glory Revealed 2

I know- I have been boringly enthusiastic about these albums. Yesterday, I was driving to see friends listening to this and one of the songs nearly brought me to tears. I know, it's true, I am a big softy. The idea behind these albums is that they are written with two principles: collaboration between at least two songwriters for each song and the lyrics must only be Scripture.

If you are interested this is the song that brought a tear simply because it is wonderfully beautiful.


Friday, October 02, 2009

The Nines and Counterfeit Gods

The Nines was an internet leadership event bringing together tons of church leaders to speak to the world.

This was the deal-nine minutes to tell a church leader something they might need to know or that they are currently learning.

I have listened to a few of these out of masses so here are some links to a few who you might find interesting. This is good background listening to the filing and the emails or just a nine-minute timeout for a coffee and a kit-kat.

If there is a central message it seems to be the danger of idolatry. I have just taken delivery of Counterfeit Gods which might help on that one:)

Thursday, October 01, 2009


I know this is constantly full of profound posts so I will not be intimidated that Tim Keller is now blogging.

I have spent the last few days at my diocesan (a very tricky word to spell let alone explain to others what on earth it means) conference. Notes from a Lilypad and Redhill Thoughts were there, among others, and managed to keep me sane, laughing and real. Gary clearly doesn't like mobiles.

Bill has read his best book so far this year.

A finally, the world in a 100.

Off to prepare for our Alpha supper now.


Renew is the new city vision of Redeemer. Tim Keller is passionate that the gospel and the city go together. Here is their new film introducing it. Beautiful.

(H/T Reformissionary)

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