Sunday, October 31, 2010


I have heard good things about Hannah's child

The Deep things of God looks interesting.

I have also heard good things about Generous Justice. It arrived yesterday.

Why share the gospel?

A prayer and a thought on praying with a more outward focus

The Coke Happiness Machine

A thought on why you should not read 'Christian' books.

As I am on about Romans here are another 11 sermons

4 leadership truths from Philemon

Focus booster is perhaps an App to add to the collection.

A great bit of Gladwell (if you know anything about basketball?)

John Stackhouse has some thoughts for Driscoll on gender roles. 

Saturday, October 30, 2010

For the pod

Many years ago I went on holiday to La Rochelle. I remember two things about it. Firstly, I had just taken up the guitar and I drove my friends mad learning how to play 'D' and singing out of tune renditions of 'Blowing in the wind'. The second thing I remember is that I read Surprised by joy by C S Lewis and since that time have read many of his books and a few essays. Why am I telling you this? On my long journey to and from Cornwall I listened to this excellent talk on Lewis called Lessons from an inconsolable soul. It will propel you to your bookshelf to rediscover Lewis or may encourage you to read him for the first time.

I am loving the Romans series and much enjoyed Christian on Romans Part 4 which has a wonderful story of sharing the gospel in Mongolia and Simon in Part 3 has an insight into John Stott's prayer life that inspired me.

I also enjoyed this brilliant Keller talk on Christianity and sexuality and Drissol on The Lord's prayer.

You get quite a bit of listening done in 11 hours in the car!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Holy Trinity Church

We've got a new website for Holy Trinity that now includes a welcome film which tells people who are thinking of visiting us what we are all about. Do have a click around and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Review: The power of a whisper

It's hard to ignore Bill Hybels. He does everything on a huge scale and he clearly strives to 'do all things well'. A pal of mine always says if anyone manages to make a Willow Creek-style church work in Gateshead then he will start to sit up and notice. This model is a very American one, with a very American leader, leading in a very American way. Having said all this, there is much to learn in the Power of the Whisper, to be inspired by and to admire. The story it tells is of God's work in a remarkable man's life. It's hard to work out though if Hybels built the church by hearing God or working really really hard and applying the methodology of the Harvard Business School. I have concluded having read this that it is a bit of both.

Hybels seems not to be a charismatic. To write a book on hearing God's voice and make little mention of 1 Corinthians 12-14 is quite an achievement. He does however talk of nudges, the voice of God from others, hearing the call for justice and he writes a moving chapter on dark nights of the soul. Willow Creek was birthed out of one question that Hybels was asked as a teenager by a mentor in his church. It a question we would all do well to ponder. Yesterday, I buried a man of 98 and the only thing his family was able to tell me was that "he worked and liked football and bowls." One life one sentence.

So here is the question and listen up:

"What are you going to do with your life that will last forever?"

It is this sentence that stuck with him and it will stick with me.

He also offers a simple observation about the dark nights of the soul. He says there are only three places you can be in.

1. Before pain [BP]
2. In pain [IP]
3. After pain [AP]

"Wherever you find yourself on this continuum- BP, IP or AP-I encourage you to commit Romans 8:28 to memory. God promises goodness for your tomorrows, regardless what realities your living through today" [P 126] He was deeply impacted at one stage in his life by reading a book by Mother Teresa called Come be my light. If you are in pain right now or feeling distant from God this might be good for you to read.

This book blessed me. It is worth an explore if you want to encounter one of the most impressive church leaders of this generation and tap into the things he has learnt about hearing God. The appendix of Hybels key life Scriptures that he has committed to memory are well-worth looking at and I should probably commit them to memory too. Maybe if I do, I might be able to plant a mega-church in Gateshead?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bits and bobs

I enjoyed the thought that what you complain about is what you're gifted in.

I drove to Salisbury listening to this and loved working out whether I was more Mary or Martha. Super preaching.

Keith Green said some challenging things and here is an interesting essay about him and the Trinity.

A good challenge to leaders about areas of deafness.

As I am in the midst of the usual Alpha questions the Little Black Books look interesting.

And I love this about a bit of technology you must not miss out on called The Bio Optical Organised Knowledge Device

Monday, October 18, 2010

The song on my heart

We having been singing this a lot recently and I feel I am being slowly changed by it.

1. Come Thou Fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I'm fixed upon it,
Mount of God's unchanging love.

2. Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Hither by Thy help I'm come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood.

3. O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I'm constrained to be!
Let that grace now like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here's my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

Would anybody in your community notice if your church disappeared?

A man I talked to in a pub gave me what Hybels would call a 'defining moment' recently.

He had been watching Mr Cameron speak about 'the Big Society' and called me over as 'his priest' and this was our conversation:

Man in pub: "You're my local priest"

Me: "I am indeed"

Man in pub: "I am sure your church does loads of good stuff for the benefit of the local community that Mr Cameron is talking about"

Me: "Well [pausing for thought] a few things"

Man in pub: "I don't want to come to church but next time you do something for this community I want to help"

Me: "Well that's great and I will get onto it"

Man in pub's girlfriend : "Can I come and help too?"

Me: "Sure"

This encounter gave me much food for thought. In my sermon about 'Loving our city' I waved the business card before my saints and said I would like someone to take it off me and call him with something they are doing to bless our community. You see, the man in the pub expects the gospel of grace to produce works of blessing, justice, mercy and service in those saved by this amazing grace.

He is right to expect such things isn't he?

"Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it. For if it prospers , you too will prosper" Jeremiah 29:7

I also showed them this film.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

One to watch

As I leave for our evening service in a mo, many of you churchy folk who attend church in the evening will not have watched Downton Abbey. I hadn't even heard of it. Three sets of friends have been glued to this 'period drama'  and it's really quite good. Observation of the first episode is the capacity of the strong to go after the weak (there are parts though that Jane Austen novels may not have included!). Enjoy.

How to transform your life

Read Romans.

Now that was a brief and easy answer and cheaper than having to buy a shelf full of self-help books.

By now, as I have been banging on about it so much, I hope you have listened to Romans: An Introduction.

If not, do that before reading any further.

According to Simon (and I agree) there is no more effective way to transform your life in a way that will propel you into a greater love of God and others than to consume this great letter. Honestly, I know of no sermon that I have listened to in quite some time that has given me such a hunger to immerse myself afresh in a book of the Bible. Everyone who I have managed to convince to listen to this introduction has had the same reaction.

If this happens to you here are some tips on what to do next:

1. Get a notebook: Dedicating a moleskine to studying this letter and putting on paper your thoughts, prayers and observations would be helpful. Particularly if you plan to spend a year in it.

2. Get a way to listen to itFaith comes through hearing, so says Romans. I have discovered a function on the ESV+ Study App that allows me to listen to Romans being read. I have been enjoying waking early, driving, going to sleep and walking listening to Romans. If you are not a reader (as many are not) then you can travel through this book by hearing it. If you do this expect to encounter amazing things.

3. Get a Commentary: If you get inspired by 'SAS Mark' described in the introductory talk you might want to get hold of the Lloyd-jones sermons but most will probably do well with John Stott on Romans as a goto reference point.

4. Get a teacher: As St Aldates will preach this through all year you can do no worse than download the talk each week. There are lots of theological words in Romans- sin, justification, election, grace, faith, sanctification and others. I would commend J I Packer and The most important 18 words you will ever know as your teacher, translator and provider of definitions.

5. Get some friends: I know you have friends (I hope you do anyway) but what I mean is get some people to study this book with. There is great benefit on going through this book with a few others.

Bless you and if you take this on it really will transform you.

I will be praying for you.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

"I just made the tea"

Last night I watched Delirious Live in Bogata with friends. They were playing to a congregation of 200K. It's true, really the whole crowd is one congregation. And I think I had a busy week!

Here they are speaking about the writing of Majesty.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Changing Educational Paradigms

Thanks to Kester for posting this. Fascinating.

Blog Action Day: Water

Here are some things you might like to do to help. Go crazy and give some money away, write a letter or encourage another.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

What do you mean you're not religious?

"Imagine early Christians talking to their neighbours in the Roman Empire. 'Ah', the neighbour says, 'I hear you are religious! Great! Religion is a good thing. Where is your temple or holy place?' 'We don't have a temple,' replies the Christian. 'Jesus is our temple,' replies the Christian, 'No temple?' But where do your priests work and do their rituals?' 'We don't have priests to mediate the presence of God,' replies the Christian. 'Jesus is our priest.' 'No priests?' But where do you offer your sacrifices to acquire the favour of your God?' 'We don't need a sacrifice', replies the Christian. 'Jesus is our sacrifice.' 'What kind of religion IS this?' sputters the pagan neighbour. And the answer is, the Christian faith is so utterly different than how every other religion works that it doesn't really deserve to be called a 'religion'"

Keller quoting Dick Lucas.

[The Gospel in life , Grace changes everything, Page 14]


A few bits and bobs:

A fascinating short film called Fallen 

Chile: The President's chaplain gives God the glory and Justin Buzzard also has a good post.

The Russell Brand v Paxman joust was an enjoyable and revealing experience on the nature of celebrity and other matters.

Last night I tried to explain the difference between religion and the gospel to my Alpha group. This is a help

We are on Week 2 of The Gospel in Life and various friends, home groups and churches are running this and really being blessed- tonight we are on The Heart (three ways to life). If you have not listened to Keller on the Prodigal Sons you need to.

Details on the Reason for God DVD which looks great and also a good Keller article on the Poor.

And a debate about the word 'Missional' which is all the buzz in the C of E at the moment just as seemingly it is going out of fashion the other side of the water?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The power of a whisper

There are quite a few books on hearing God and of course some of them are barmy. This one isn't. There are tons of people wanting guidance, wisdom and insight into what they should be doing and where they are going. Hybels has written The Power of the Whisper to share his learnings on this whole subject. It is an easy, sensible, well-written and enjoyable read (especially if you plan on starting a mega-church).

Here are the questions to ask when discerning guidance and God's promptings:

1. FILTER 1: Is the prompting truly from God?

2. FILTER 2: Is it Scriptural?

3. FILTER 3: Is it wise?

4. FILTER 4: Is it in tune with your own character?

5. FILTER 5: What do the people you most trust think?

[Page 267-269]

Not only does this book share some helpful insights it also tells the story of Willow Creek. Whatever you think of Bill Hybels and mega-churches, a reminder that this church started from a youth group in the late seventies to what it is now- a globally influential ministry- is an extraordinary feat. Also, I still think Hybel's book on prayer is one of the most simple and inspiring reads around.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

UPDATE: The bible in one year

A short note of encouragement if you are joining us reading the Soul Survivor Bible in one Year .

I am happy to report that quite a few are on this journey through the Scriptures, although my survey of our young people suggested that a few are running a little behind:)  I play the grace card if I miss a day and relax about it. Mrs B on the other hand was horrified at this idea (one of the gang on this journey) and is determined to not miss a thing. She's amazing and a real inspiration if you are flagging a bit.

Job was a tad gloomy for some but at least it ended well! One reader said to me that the questions of complaint are just the same in people now as then. Interesting that....

You may not know, but daily there is a website to help you share the experience with others and have a bit of an explanation of the bigger picture.

You are not too late to join- just get a copy and start from where we are.

Magic Numbers

Last night I went to see the Magic Numbers at Shepherds Bush (I didn't know who they were either) My friends got me a ticket. Anyway it made for a rather jolly night. We left speedily at the end so that my friend could get back to work on his presentation about 'Leveraging capital structures for Hedge Fund Buy-outs'. Seriously, I really am not making that up.

I am in danger of boring you about Romans but in the car last night I listened to Part 2 and the Robin Gamble line about the toothpaste nearly made me crash my car I was laughing so much. You'll have to listen to find out. A tremendous sermon on the meaning of 'the Gospel.' I will eat my hat if Simon gets through this letter in only a year.

I have started reading Hybels new book called God Whispers.

In this amazing talk that I have been banging on about to anyone who will listen Francis Chan mentions the questions he asks before he preaches and teaches. Rather annoyingly he only mentioned two of seven. Here is the full list. 

I am doing a funeral today. I heard recently of a humanist funeral where the man leading it at the committal said this, "And now [long pause]....we come to the tricky bit"

Tricky indeed.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Driscoll's ten thousand hours

Gladwell talks in Outliers about the idea of 10K hours and here Driscoll describes his. These two look like the theological equivalent of the front row of Harlequins in their matching check shirts. The man is a brainy reading machine :)

Vitamin Z

Keep going and keep creating

My old Vicar always used to say "There is no such thing as retirement in the Kingdom of God." As he is now nearing 'official'  retirement I wonder if he still thinks that? I must ask him.

At the Leadership summit I was impacted by many things but the Jim Collins story of meeting Peter Drucker really landed with me. Drucker was the foremost business consultant of his generation and Collins described a day they spent together at Princeton. He had one question he wanted to ask the great man and it was this:

"Which of all the books do you think is your best?"

He thought for a moment and then said,

"The next one".

At the time he was 86. Some time later, Collins found himself in the Drucker archives talking with the archivist. Along one wall were all his books. What was amazing to Collins was the discovery that Drucker wrote one third of them before he was 65,  all the rest (the two thirds) he wrote in later life and this is considered his greatest work.

Here's a taster:

"Only a clear definition of the mission (purpose) makes possible clear and realistic business objectives.  It is the foundation for priorities, strategies, plans and work assignments…Structure follows strategy.  Strategy determines what the key activities are in a given business.  And strategy requires knowing what our business is and what it should be (p. 162, Inside Drucker's Brain)."

(H/T Strategy Central)

And some more Drucker thoughts on leadership.

  1. Great leaders had followers
  2. Great leaders got results–they did the right things and didn’t worry about popularity
  3. Great leaders knew that leadership was responsibility, not rank, privileges or titles
  4. Great leaders set good examples
(H/T C Stone)

So dear friends, plan for the long haul, never never never give up and believe that your best work is yet to come.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Luther on Romans

This is the start of Luther's preface to Romans:

"This letter is truly the most important piece in the New Testament. It is purest Gospel. It is well worth a Christian's while not only to memorize it word for word but also to occupy himself with it daily, as though it were the daily bread of the soul. It is impossible to read or to meditate on this letter too much or too well. The more one deals with it, the more precious it becomes and the better it tastes. Therefore I want to carry out my service and, with this preface, provide an introduction to the letter, insofar as God gives me the ability, so that every one can gain the fullest possible understanding of it. Up to now it has been darkened by glosses [explanatory notes and comments which accompany a text] and by many a useless comment, but it is in itself a bright light, almost bright enough to illumine the entire Scripture."

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Saturday, October 09, 2010


Reading the book of Romans constantly for six weeks changed the course of my life. I have not been the same since.

I drove to a wedding today listening to Simon's 'Introduction to Romans'  kicking off a years preaching through this book at St Aldates. If this doesn't get you reaching for your bible and turning up this letter nothing will. The story of 'SAS Mark' is absolutely extraordinary and inspiring.

Come on church- let's start reading Romans. There's power in it.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Summit meeting

Well, today I have been for my annual reminder that I will never run a megachurch.

I attended the Willow Leadership Summit. Whilst I know I will never be Bill Hybels this annual pilgrimage always renews my passion for Jesus and the gospel and really resources my soul. I think it's because it's business meets church and as I have spent more of my life in business than church it resonates with me.

The content was excellent as ever

I bought a ton of books and managed to read Just courage on the train home. Great stuff.

Highlights for me were Hybels on vision being getting people from 'Here to there', Jim Collins' story about Peter Drucker and Christine Caine's flaming passion for Jesus. She brought me to tears (and the whole row of people sitting next to me). Phenomenal.

I will post more when I get time.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

The front of your bible

I have been reading John Wimber 'The Way in is the Way on ' slowly over the last couple of months. I learnt from it that Wimber had these words of John Wesley written in the front of his bible:

"Do all the good you can, in all the ways you can, by all the means you can, in all the places you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can"

It moved me.

Simon quoted this Evan Roberts' prayer at our Live Life weekend which is in More :

"Send the Spirit now for Jesus Christ's sake
Send the Spirit now powerfully for Jesus Christ's sake
Send the Spirit now more powerfully for Jesus Christ's sake
Send the Spirit now even more powerfully for Jesus Christ's sake"

The result was the Welsh Revival. One of our number decided to write it in the front of his bible. By the way, Simon has just started a 35 sermon series on Romans that should be a real feast.

If you want something to dip into every now and again, the Leadership network have an online conference called the Nines full of ditties from leaders. This year was on 'Game changers' which makes me smile even before I listen to any of them. I loved watching Jared Wilson and although I have never met him I greatly connected with his story which resonated closely with my own (although whatever he describes at the start must be something American's know about but needs a translation into English?)

We are starting The Gospel in Life tonight at Live Life which I am really excited about and I am also excited about The Reason for God DVD . Why not get a copy and gather some friends in your home and talk together about Jesus?

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Francis Chan: Think hard, Stay humble

I went to sleep last night listening to this. I finished up listening to it this afternoon as I prepared for Alpha. Wow. I'm confess I'm rather lost for words.

A new leader

Leaders are important. Crucial in fact.

Good ones are rare.

Today, I learn I have a new Bishop.

He is a good and godly man.

Bishop Christopher taught me on leadership some months ago and I recommended J Oswald Sanders wonderful book on Spiritual Leadership to him which he seemed enthused about. I have no idea if he read it.

Here is a thought from it that I was reminded of this morning as I learn he is to be Bishop of Southwark:

'At the outset of any study of spiritual leadership, this master principle must be squarely faced: True greatness, true leadership, is found in giving yourself in the service of others, not in coaxing or inducing others to serve you. True service is never without cost. Often it comes with a painful baptism of suffering. But the true spiritual leader is focussed on the service he can render to God and other people, not on the residuals and perks of high office and holy title. We must put more into life than we take out.

"One of the outstanding ironies of history is the utter disregard of ranks and titles in the final judgements men pass each other," said Samuel Brengle, the great Salvation Army revival preacher. "The final estimate of men show that history cares not an iota for the rank or the title a man is borne, or the office he has held, but only the quality of his deeds and the character of his mind and heart"

[Page 15]

Do pray for Christopher. He takes on quite a job.....

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Culture watch

I glanced at the Telegraph today.

"Religion is largely irrelevant to most young people, who rely instead on a 'secular trinity' of themselves, their family and friends to give meaning to their lives.....The findings are contained in a new book, 'The faith of Generation Y. (those born after 1982)

"It is undoubtedly the case that the Christian memory is very faint and in many respects Generation Y are a largely unstoried and memoryless generation"

From the front page today's Daily Telegraph

There is also a fascinating article on infidelity websites by Celia Walden that made her feel 'distinctly grubby'.

Also 'Sex, teenagers and porn' on Radio 4 yesterday was 'remarkable' according to the review. Did you know 8 year olds wear things called 'shag bands'? Whatever next. I guess it is on iplayer and sounds like it might be an education for all of us.

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One theologian

I was greatly impacted by Rick Warren's challenge to renew my mind-trust me it needs it. Not least by his incredible witness to the importance of reading. Reading has marked Warren's life and for many years he read a book a day (as well as writing books including the world's bestseller, planting a church and raising up and mentoring hundreds of leaders). He has a library upwards of twenty thousand books. Quite how he has the time and the energy for all this is mind-boggling.

I suppose you could summarise one the lessons Warren offers with Covey's seventh habit- 'Sharpen the saw'. A fact that truly blew away Piper in this fascinating film was that that he reads through the complete works of one theologian every year. Last year he read 'The complete works of Jonathan Edwards' and this year he is reading 'The Dogmatics' (just so you know how much reading we are talking about see the picture below!)

My ears always perk up when I hear Edwards mentioned as he is my theologian, about whom I know only very little but I plan on spending my life trying to get to grips with him. I have posted some resources on him in the past but challenge you afresh to have a go at exploring the works of this amazing man. I am currently working my way through The Essential Jonathan Edwards Collection as I think about maybe doing my MA dissertation on him. This collection is a really excellent way-in if you want to adopt Edwards as your theologian. I am loving this read. It tells the story of his life interspersed with his writings and sermons and then each chapter ends with a section 'Applying Edwards Life and Ideas'.

Dive in- it really is not as scary as it might seem and this is as good a way to start as any.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Is this man the world's most influential Christian?

Rick Warren just spoke at the Desiring God conference about which there was a huge hoo hah.

His talk is phenomenally wise, good, thoughtful, inspiring, generous, challenging and brilliant and is as good a one as I have heard in ages.

It is called: The Battle for your mind

Don't just listen to it. Note it, think about it, listen to it again, pray, think and then do something about it.

Life changing and marking stuff.

Here is all the Desiring God audio and I particularly commend Francis Chan on  'Think hard stay humble' and Piper too.

Blog sweep

I spent the weekend away with Live life and we had a smashing time. Simon came to teach and we were challenged and blessed- some of the material he taught is in More which is a great read.

Simon spoke about Smith Wigglesworth and if you want to know more about him I read this last year.

His first session was on the bible. You might want to get hold of Rick Warren's Bible Study Methods or How to read the bible for all it's worth and here is a good post of resources. Passion for the word was birthed afresh in many of us.

A friend emailed me about The Tangible Kingdom: Creating incarnational community which Mclaren and Driscoll both recommend (interesting in itself) and he says he has scribbled all over his copy.  Seems like one to read.

Hyatt on how to retain what you read.

I had a laugh with a friend about powerpoint and here is a post about Really bad powerpoint.

Some thought provoking Malcolm Gladwell.

Packer on what inerrancy is not.

Driscoll on youth and asking the question 'Are you destroying your church?'.

An interesting thought on fruitfulness

A case for the institutional church.

Finally the pope on being generous

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