Monday, May 30, 2011

Two questions

The Piper and Warren interview is a fascinating one. In Piper's view Rick Warren is the most influential pastor in world. Only yesterday, a friend told me that his home group had a long discussion about those who seem to have fallen away. Were they saved? Were they not? This and many other issues are debated here.

These are two questions Rick Warren suggested each of us will be asked by God and they have really stuck with me:

1. What did you do with my Son Jesus?

2. What did you do with what I gave you?

Well worth us all praying and thinking about while we have the time.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Serious times: The finale

Sometimes I wake up early and occasionally I wake up very early. Today is one of those days. Every now and again you read a book and as you are reading it you think of people you would like to give it away to in the hope that they will read it too. I do that rather a lot with books and I am sure most of them remain unread on the bookshelves and bedside tables of those I give them to.

Why did Serious times make my pulse race? Well, it's because it is a book about how to have a significant life. A life that is called, a life that sacrifices and a life that makes an impact. Who doesn't want a life like that? I have a burden for such lives because my own life languished and, in so very many ways still languishes, in ineffectiveness in its response to the gospel. I long for my life and those lives I pray for and try to encourage to be gripped with a single-minded abandonment to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

How does this happen? Perhaps there is no better way to tell you than to share the final story Emery Wright puts at the end of his book. It seems to say it all.

"In July of 1854 the notorious Sheffield criminal Charlie Peace was taken from Armley Jail in Leeds, England, to be hung. As was custom, a ceremony on his behalf was performed by an Anglican priest just before his execution. A priest would walk behind the man condemned to death reading aloud from the Prayer Book. Such matters had become routine, performed ritually and often without feeling. These were the words that were read: "Those who die without Christ experience hell, which is the pain of forever dying without the release which death can bring"

Such words falling upon the ears of a condemned man on his way to death and offered with such a startling lack of emotion, caused Pearce to stop, turn around to the priest, and ask, "What are you reading?"

"The Consolation of Religion, " replied the priest.

"Do you believe that?"

The priest was taken aback, but after collecting himself, said, "Well......I..... suppose I do"

Then Peace is recorded to have said, "Sir, if I believed what you and the church.......say you believe about heaven and hell-even if England were covered with broken glass from coast to coast, I would walk over it, if need be on my hands and knees, and think it a worthwhile living just to save one soul from eternal hell like that.'

The urgency and needed passion was clear to a nonbeliever. Is it clear to us? God is alive and well and has spoken his truth into the world. He has stopped at nothing, including the sacrifice of his own Son, to draw the world back to himself. He calls his followers to this grand and glorious mission because it is a cause that is more than worth dying for.

It is a cause worth living for"

If you haven't listened to this yet now might be a good time.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

How the world will be changed

"This is how the world will be changed: individuals who have had their lives touched by Christ turning around and touching the lives of others. Thomas Kelly writes that we are first torn loose from earthly attachments and ambitions and then quickened to a divine concern for the world. "He plucks the world out of our hearts......And He hurls the world into our hearts, where we and He together carry it in tender love" It is not that pursuing cultural agendas through various political or social processes is unimportant. But a Christian nation is not forged primarily through legislation. And a Christian nation is not even the first goal, as if the mission is to steer culture toward some form of theocracy. The primary goal is a nation of Christians, which can then shape the heart of a nation toward Christian values"

Serious times, Emery White, Page 70

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Kairos Hour

"Before will hardens into fate and choice into 'might have been', the [kairos] hour is the moment when the present is at its greatest intensity and the future is uniquely open to our decision and action"

Os Guinness in 'Serious Times', Page 66

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Serious times

I am sometimes not very good at thinking up post titles but have called this 'Serious times' because it's the book I'm reading. I came across White a few years ago when I read the truly excellent Rethinking the church and see that now he is running Gordon Conwell. More recently, he joined Rick Warren for a podcast called How to stay mentally fit for ministry that I found truly fascinating. Both men agreed that before you do anything else anyone who wants to know anything should be made to read 'How to read a book'. I concur.

Anyone who is breathing and reads this blog will have heard the storm over Bell's book. I like it when a big gun holds fire, prays, reads Scripture, thinks, asks the Lord and only then decides he has something to say. Thanks to my pal Will for putting my on to Francis Chan on Hell on his blog called What's going on. The book called Erasing Hell is coming out in July. Great title.

Who decides to teach a thousand page doctrine book to two year olds? That would be nuts but of course someone has decided to do it. No prizes for guessing who. The man's aflame. His great sermon on Gift vs Works righteousness is one not to miss.

A thought on the forgiveness of sins

Finally, you have to expect the Church mouse to write a good post on the rapture and twitter. It's a gift for such an anointed anonymous rodent.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The open door

It is hard to describe how helpful 'The urban church plant manual' has been to me in this season. This is Keller describing the emotions of his call to plant a church but I think it well incapsulates the emotions of many who start any new ministry or venture for the glory of God:

"A great darkness descended on me, because I knew I had no good reason not to take this ministry, but I felt totally inadequate for the job. I know that everyone feels inadequate for any ministry, but this was different. I knew that I was as humanly well-equipped as anyone to try this ministry, but I also knew this was well beyond the human abilities of anyone at all. That meant only one thing: it would not be my talent, but my love for and dependence on, God that would be the critical factor in the project. I felt that my spirituality would be laid bare for all (worst of all,for me) to see. But the opportunity was too ripe and I also knew it was a door that might not be open for even a few more weeks. Kathy was a great help by refusing to help! "Don't say, 'I'll do whatever you want, dear! Don't put this on me. This is your decision. I'll stand with you, but you have to take responsibility.

I prayed and was reading Gurnall's 'A Christian in spiritual armour' one day and came upon a passage: " It requires more prowess and greatness of spirit to obey God faithfully than to command an army of men; more greatness to be a Christian than to be a captain. " I realised that it was an illusion to imagine that I would have to start being brave if I took this job; I should have been living bravely all along. Even if I turned the NYC church down, I could not go back to being a coward. So I might as well go to New York! On July 1, I gave Westminster Seminary a year's notice. Immediately my prayer life broke open like never before. I did not wonder why."

[Page 10]

Sunday, May 22, 2011

George Mueller's Secret

You may be unfamiliar with George Mueller and if so this biography will tell you his story. 
Sermon 150- Look at the kindness and the severity of God- in my Romans adventure had this amazing quote about his life and his Bible reading. 
"So the best answer to the question: Where do we look to see the kindness and severity of God? is: Look in the Bible. Read the Bible.
This is a good time to encourage you to press on with your New Year resolution to read it. Don't give up. Your life hangs on this. George Mueller's whole life was a witness to the essential power of reading and meditating on the Bible. He wrote,
For the first four years after my conversion [at age 20] I made no progress, because I neglected the Bible. But when I regularly read on through the whole [i.e., not skipping the severe parts!] with reference to my own heart and soul, I directly made progress. Then my peace and joy continued more and more. Now I have been doing this for 47 years. I have read through the whole Bible about 100 times and I always find it fresh when I begin again. Thus my peace and joy have increased more and more.” (George Mueller, Narrative, vol. 2, p. 834.)
He lived another 21 years after this and his biographer said that by the end he had read the Bible from end to end 200 times. [1] This was the key to his persevering and powerful faith. He looked over and over and over day after day at the kindness and severity of God in the Bible."

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Tim Keller on the one thing a leader needs

"But the main thing we need in order to be leaders is unusually mature character.

Robert Murray McCheyne was reputed to have said to ministers, "What your people need most from you is your personal holiness." That is right. The single most important thing a leader needs in order to lead is holy, loving, Christ-like character.

M'Cheyne was a young Scottish minister who died in 1848. He preached his last sermon on Isaiah 60:1-"Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon the. He went home to bed with a fever, and a week later died. After his death they found a letter in his bedroom, and it in part said this:

"I hope you will pardon a stranger for addressing you a few lines. I heard you preach last Sabbath evening, and your sermon brought me to Christ. It was not anything you said, but it was what you were as you preached. For I saw in you a beauty of holiness that I had never seen before. You were about the glory of our God resting on the Saviour and I saw the Saviour's glory rest on you. That brought me to Christ. (Quoted in D. MacMillan, 'The Lord is my shepherd')

Thesis: a Christian leader leads from character before skill. Character is far more important than skills in Christian leadership"

Redeemer Urban Church Planting Manual, Page 61

Monday, May 16, 2011

Chuck Colson on Post-modernism

I can't think of a more critical time for pastors, scholars, and lay people to be grounded in a biblical worldview and to defend it clearly to those hungering for truth.

But are we prepared for such a challenge? George Barna recently completed a tour of American churches and came back with a dismaying report that most church and lay leaders—90 percent, according to one survey— have no understanding worldview. How are we going to contend with competing philosophies if we're not even rooted in our own truth system?

Ironically just as there seem to be encouraging signs in the culture, there are also signs that the church is dumbing down, moving from a Word-driven message to an image- and emotion-driven message (note how many Christian radio stations have recently converted from talk and preaching to all music).

It would be the supreme irony—and a terrible tragedy—if we found ourselves slipping into postmodernity just when the broader culture has figured out it's a dead end. ("The Postmodern Crackup," in Christianity Today, December, 2003, Vol. 47, No. 12, p. 72).

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The elephant room

My dear pal in Canada went to listen to James MacDonald and won a copy of the Elephant Room. I am not sure how he won it (did they play bingo between talks?) but that is the question I will ask in my email!

The Elephant Room came on my radar a few months ago. One of the hopes of this blog is to encourage the disciples of Jesus and part of this is encouraging people to think doctrinally. That means not only knowing what you believe but being able over time to add a 'why' to this so you as a believer see the foundations you stand on. So, for example, if I said the word 'election' do you know what I mean? Grace therefore holy opened my eyes to this wonderful doctrine. Election is mentioned in Ephesians 1, Romans 8, 9 and 11 and is the doctrine that God chooses you rather than the other way around (if you are an Anglican you believe this- article 17).

Evangelism and the Elect from Harvest Bible Chapel on Vimeo.

If this is true, this has huge implications as this sermon called Pastoral thoughts on the doctrine of election outlines. There are lots and lots more questions that followers of Jesus slowly start to get a handle on as they follow him. Disciples are people who constantly challenge themselves with the deep questions that the story of the scriptures places upon the human heart.

The Elephant Room is what one might call a theological bar room brawl between loving friends.

The Elephant Room from Harvest Bible Chapel on Vimeo.

You can watch lots of clips at James MacDonald's blog. Here is a taster of a lively debate between Chandler and Furtick

Chandler and Furtick from Harvest Bible Chapel on Vimeo.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Dallas Willard on Grace

(H/T Out of Ur)

Impassioned for youth work

The average age of a bum on a seat in the Church of England is something like 59 in cities and 62 in rural areas. In summary, disgracefully old. One inspiring man swimming against this tide is Mike Pilavachi who leads Soul Survivor. He has an extraordinary passion to raise up and train young leaders in this generation.

When asked how you do that he says:

1. Choose them
2. Encourage them
3. Love them
4. Die for them

A few years ago I remember hearing an American Vineyard Pastor speak at a leadership conference and describe his astonishment that churches in the UK are still allowed to work in schools.  He said that if this were true of the U.S he would do nothing else.

Bill Cuhusac knows more about schools work than most and here are a couple of really helpful posts.

1. How to start a schools work

2. How to speak to teenagers

This week our wonderful youth worker suggested I listen to this called Imparting a passion: a challenge to youth workers. 

I wonder what you will make of it?

Thursday, May 12, 2011


In my my August 2004 journal I wrote this down:

Elizabeth Elliot used this prayer..

'Teach us Good Lord to labour and to ask for no reward save that of knowing that we do thy will' St Ignatius of Loyola

She goes on to write 'As I learn to pray, I find that there are many more rewards that come along as fringe benefits. As we make an offering of our work, we find the truth of a principle Jesus taught: 'fulfilment is not a goal to achieve, but always the by-product of sacrifice'

I love that definition of fulfilment and have found it to be true.

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Called onto a stage

My pal put me on to this which is in his opinion the best 'fan meets star' incident ever. See what you think.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Keeping a record of your story

I have recently revisited my journals which are a written record of my own story with God.

I have a shelf of moleskines that I have been collecting my story in since 2003 as a way of 'finding words'. As I have written before, listening to these sermons on Galatians driving to and from work up the A3 changed the course of my life. One of the many results was that because I became so captivated by the revelation of justification by faith I started to write out Keller sermons almost word for word by hand in a moleskine. This then birthed a hunger for reading the bible, reading books and prayer that I had never had before and I started to record my story. In time, I added to this records of events, words of encouragement, thoughts on the things that I was reading, prayers, names of people, pains, confusions, thanksgiving and joys. I have been writing and recording stuff ever since.

As I have been re-reading a number of benefits of keeping a journal have struck me anew which I thought I would share with you:

1. It's a record of what God has done: The Holy Spirit is active in you and through you in to the world. It will amaze you what simply writing down a few things each day will give you in years to come. It might only start with a scripture or two, a record of what you did the day before, a prayer for an individual and a note of a reason to be thankful. You will be amazed what you amass if you do this for a few years.

2. It's a record of your emotions: So many followers of Jesus are downcast. Now this is not necessarily bad and David spent a good chuck of the Psalms in a grump with God. But here is the thing- he wrote it down. It is good to have an account of how you feel and a journal is a place where you can record this in a safe place before God. Your frustrations, your impatience, your unanswered prayers, your enemies, your sin and anger and your pain. You should also record your praise, your thankfulness and your joys.

3. It's a record of encouragement:  The race is a long one and you will be tempted often to give up. In those moments you need to not forget all that the Lord has done. Every time someone encourages me or I get an answer to prayer it goes in my journal. Two people became followers of Jesus after I preached on Sunday and their names are now written down. Next to them I write the word 'Encouragement' and I draw a box around it. Record your encouragements and feel free to encourage me - you'll end up in the journal.

4. It's a record of what God has said to you: Jesus is your friend. You see this truth when you read your journal. God speaks in all sorts of ways- primarily through his word but also through circumstances, events, words from others, dreams, wisdom, reading and through signs and wonders. If you keep a record over time you will spot recurrent themes, texts, stories and memories that are particular to you.

5. It's a record of what you have read: I record the books I am reading. Since I started journalling I have also started blogging so I notice I now write less in my journal about books and quotes- I share most of them with you lot. However, I do make a note of the things I read because what you read does becomes part of your story. If you can make some observations on what you learnt from what you read all well and good.

6. It's a record of prayer: The Bible has some challenging things to say about being devoted to prayer and praying continuously. I easily tend to thinking my prayer life is hopeless and reading my journals anew has shown me I have done a bit of praying and spend a good chunk of time with God. It's astounded me and I am so glad I wrote down my praying. On the occasions I awoke in the night and prayed I have recorded it, when I pray in tongues I write 'Prayed in tongues in car from Brandon to Fakenham' (that's in Norfolk by the way). 'Prayed for Glenda or John' or whoever else. Sometimes I write out a prayer. In time you might be quite encouraged that you like David are able to say 'but I am a man of prayer' (Ps 109:4).

7. It's a record of gladness: Thank the Lord I have a sense of humour. Tons of things make me laugh and some are best kept in a journal and not shared! I have been struck what an absolute giggle following Jesus is. We are a funny bunch us Christians and we are a source of almost constant amusement. Record the funny stuff.

8. It's a record of dreams: On occasions God speaks to me through dreams. When he does I write the account in my journal and next to it I write 'Dream'. You never know when these things may become important. Sometimes I dream about other people or people from my past and this leads me to prayer. I am a real learner on this one but a do have an amazing dream story in my testimony and I am glad I wrote it down!

9. It's a record of letters, emails, notes and scraps: The great thing about a moleskine is it has a little pocket in the back in which you can put things. Tickets of things you went to, an encouraging email, a word or scripture on a piece of paper and any thing else you might want to keep. After some seasons this pocket has been rammed and in others it has been near empty. When you are in an empty time you can revisit 'the well' that was once full and have faith that it will be full again.

10. It's a record of days of prayer and retreats: Silence and solitude are a crucial discipline. A couple of times a month and sometimes more I go to my secret place and spend the day. I have been visiting the same place for twenty years (it was rather less frequent when I lived in Russia!). I now record these days in my journal. Sometimes I read a whole book or letter and then jot notes, sometimes I write a page or two of thanksgiving, sometimes I record how I am feeling.

If you don't journal start one today and every time I write about journalling I alway recommend Ron Klug's 'How to keep a spiritual journal'

Monday, May 09, 2011

Not our own

"May we always be possessed by the consciousness that we are not our own"

Watchman Nee, The Normal Christian Life, Page 72

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Romans: An Update

I am still going on 'The Greatest letter ever written'.......

"In this epistle we . . . find most abundantly the things that a Christian ought to know, namely, what is law, gospel, sin, punishment, grace, faith, righteousness, Christ, God, good works, love, hope, and the cross; and also how we are to conduct ourselves toward everyone, be he righteous or sinner, strong or weak, friend or foe-and even toward our own selves. Moreover, this all ably supported with Scripture and proved by St. Paul's own example and that of the prophets, so that one could not wish for anything more. Therefore it appears that he wanted in this one epistle to sum up briefly the whole Christian and evangelical doctrine, and to prepare an introduction to the entire Old Testament. For, without doubt whoever has this epistle well in his heart, has with him the light an power of the Old Testament. Therefore let every Christian be familiar with it and exercise himself in it continually. To this end may God give his grace. Amen. (Luther's Works, Vol. 35, 1960, p. 380)"

"The epistle is really the chief part of the New Testament, and is truly the purest gospel. It is worthy not only that every Christian should know it word for word, by heart, but also that he should occupy himself with it every day, as the daily bread of the soul. (Luther's Works, Vol. 35, 1960, p. 365)"

I gave the thirteen in my adult baptism and confirmation class some homework to do. I asked them to read some scripture and to think and pray through the gospel. I noticed once I had written this out for them on the back of a piece of paper that unsurprisingly all but one of the texts was from Romans. This is what I have asked them to do this week and you might like to do the same. 

Find and hour

Be alone and silent

Pray before your time begins and commit it to the Lord

Ask Jesus that you might know the gospel and its power and to fill you anew with the Holy Spirit.

Go on going on being filled with the Spirit.

If you don't know how read this.

I then asked the class to write down and look up the following verses and after they had written them down I gave them one word that summed up each one. Not a complete summary, as napkin exercises rarely are, but its enough to be going on with.

Genesis 15 and 17: Covenant

We then talked about justification (Romans 1) and the need for a new heart.

Romans 2: 28-29: New Heart

Romans 3: 21-16: Righteousness

Romans 5:1-2: Peace

Romans 8: 1-4: No condemnation

Romans 10: 13 Saved by Jesus

Roman 12: 1-2 Sacrifice and Cost

Then I asked them what they think might stop them following Jesus and how many of them they think will still be following him with passion in 20 years time. I suggested they should ask Jesus to help them run the race and finish strong and to commit now to being someone who will not give up. I said they should write next to Romans 12 the following words.

"I will not give up- whatever the cost"

I then told them a few stories of people who are no longer running the race and who have given up. People I used to be in awe of and intimidated by as I ambled along in my early very difficult years of Jesus-following. Like the people who ran my friends Alpha group, people who once worked on my old churches staff, people who used to preach, people who have led others to Jesus, people who did 'prayer-minstry', people who fell over and shook with the 'Toronto blessing', people who were once aflame for the Lord, people who led worship and people who led home groups. All of them are now no longer in community, no longer meeting with the body of Christ, no longer submitted to a pastor, no longer reading scripture and no longer on a mission pursuing his glory. Many of them are disappointed, angry, doubting, in pain, sad, beset by pride and far off and, if I spoke to them, would tell me they have good reason for this. The truth is they are as much loved, called and pursued by Jesus as the first day they believed.  I also told my class that it is not inconceivable that in twenty years time I may be one of these people too. I told them if they were to find me sitting on the street having given up I gave them permission to say this to me. You dear readers have permission too. 

"What are you doing sitting there? Have you forgotten what Jesus has done for you. You told me the gospel. You got me started. Now get yourself up this minute, dust yourself down and come follow Jesus. There is no time to waste. He didn't die on the cross to leave you defeated, depressed and in the gutter. There is still a call to answer and work to be done. The first thing you must do is read Romans to remind yourself of his grace. Then you must repent and believe and come follow Jesus. "

Reading this book helped me get this far and it might help you too.

I am now 142 sermons in and if you listen to or read one of these then Has God rejected his people Part 1 might be it. 

It's all about Israel. 

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Do not quit

I recommended The Cost of Discipleship some time ago and someone who reads the blog listened to it. It deeply impacted and encouraged them.

Today or this week, why not take some time to revisit the costliness of following Jesus for you by watching this. You may be in a hard season, you may be questioning things, you may be finding your church a struggle, you may be feeling that God has not answered your prayers, your relationships may be under pressure, your kids may have rejected Jesus, you may long for something that has not yet materialised or you may just feel like giving up on Jesus for reasons that are just plain cumulative. Why do I think you might be feeling like that? Well, because on many occasions I have  felt exactly that and fully anticipate that I may feel this again. Following Jesus is hard. It really is. But my prayer and hope is that you will not quit. That you will keep following, learning, worshipping, loving and serving Jesus.

Keep running the race dear friend. Keep running. It's worth it.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Jesus is alive

If you can't think of anything else, why not play this to your church on Sunday. The kids, teenagers and twenty-somethings may find it more engaging than the notices :)

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

AV and all that

If you like me are thinking about AV here is a post to help you understand the issue (if you don't already) before you vote on Thursday.

Just people

We are doing Just People as part of our post-Easter/Summer discipleship . This is some really good material produced by Tear Fund that you might want to check out for your church. We are called not to just talk about justice but to actually do it.

Monday, May 02, 2011

For the pod

I haven't done a 'For the pod' for a while. I have listened to a few things while driving a lot hither and thither.

I really enjoyed Dr Johnny Hunt who is a tub-thumping Baptist from Georgia who preaches with the sort of gusto and fire I love. Fantastic lilting voice. I will be very disappointed to find out he doesn't wear a grey suit and tie:) The talks called a biblical portrait of a true disciple are great and particularly the first one which has as good a description of what it means to be born again as I have heard in a while.

I am immersed in Romans 9-11 and it is complex but wonderful stuff. The talk on How to submit to the righteousness of God has a fascinating explanation of how to parent from the place of grace. Any of you trying to raise kids under grace not law would do very well to listen to this helpful teaching.

A pal recently went to speak at the Colombus Vineyard and this talk on having a effective prayer life is a good one. Love the preachers passionate ability to communicate the importance of prayer.

I love preachers who make much of grace and what I have heard about Renovatus I really like. This talk on Gideon is superb and do listen to it for an affirmation and understanding of your calling.

If you haven't watched this Easter Sermon you should. Phenomenal, simple and powerful presentation of the gospel to 17.5k. I am going to hear Driscoll teach on Wednesday which will be fun.

True courage

I have always enjoyed Steve Farrar's books and his latest proved to be no exception. It tracks the story of Daniel as told in the first six chapters. Farrar has the great ability to be faithful to the story and clearly has a love of bible teaching whilst also being able to enable this amazing story to come alive for a contemporary context. His real gift is discovering wonderful stories and the account of the life of Churchill and his meeting with Billy Graham makes this book worth its cover price and more. I long to tell you it but it will spoil the enjoyment.

I often return to the story of Daniel and recently taught it to some lovely Christians serving in the British army in Germany. What has struck me afresh is Daniels lack of compromise in the face of real pressure to do just that. It is a timely read for me. I really recommend this as an easy, engaging yet challenging read that you will chomp through quickly and rewardingly.

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