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 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