Sunday, September 30, 2012

Good news at the heart of it

If you pastor anybody or think that one day you might then you certainly need to spend an hour watching and learning from this. I recommend you do so with a pen in your hand to take a few notes. It might change the way you see everything.

(h/t Keller quotes)

Friday, September 28, 2012


'Not what a man is as himself as a Christian, his spirituality and piety, constitutes the basis of our community. What determines our brotherhood is what that man is by reason of Christ. Our community with one another consists of what Christ has done in both of us'

Life Together, Dietrich Bonnhoeffer

Thursday, September 27, 2012

20 ways to not have visitors to your church

David Keen provides some amusing viewing if only it were not so true of quite a few churches in the C of E. We are trying not to be that church and you can find us here and you'd be very welcome this Sunday. You can tell us how many of the twenty apply to us.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

4/14 Window

I went to St Mellitus on Monday to support our youth intern and hear about her degree course in Theology and  Youth ministry.

It was also interesting to hear about the changes to theological training and the proposal that Durham University is to be the sole validation partner for all academic work.

For those interested in leadership St Mellitus are now offering a one-year MA in Christian Leadership. This might be good for anyone feeling called to take an influencing role as a Christian in any sphere
of public life (media, politics, business, the arts, science or the church). It's worth thinking of anyone you know (or maybe it's you?) who may be blessed by this.

While I was spending a day thinking about children and young people with Jess a friend asked me:

"Have you heard about the '4/14 window' Initiative' with young people?"

I hadn't but I have now and so have you and you can read more about this movement on their website.

Just watching the film will give you a passion to see children and kids released into empowered leadership and discipleship and our job is surely to enable this.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Spiritual MOT questions

I have been reading about and challenged by Celtic spirituality in the excellent new book by James Emery White:

'Let's begin at the beginning, which is you don't actually have a spiritual life. You just have a life, and it's meant to be lived spiritually. This is the heart of the matter- are you in a relationship with God through Christ? One that is nurtured, cultivated and intimate? If you are not attending to yourself spiritually, your symptoms will become apparent:

  • If someone were to ask you where you are growing spiritually, or what new things you are discovering about God you would not have a ready answer. 
  • You do not feel close to God; he is more concept than friend, more idea than Father. You are comfortable talking about him as an idea or theological category, but not about your relationship with him
  • You do not often consider God's presence throughout the day
  • You have little or no reserves for crisis moments, such as failure, humiliation, suffering, the death of a loved one or loneliness.
  • You publicly worship God but cannot remember the last time you privately worshipped God
  • You do not feel particularly troubled or convicted by behaviours and attitudes that you know to be sin. You ask for forgiveness, but aren't particularly interested in repentance.
  • You would not be comfortable spending time alone with Christ in prayer, or waiting to speak yo you in a time of silence or solitude.
  • You cannot cite the last time you felt a specific prompting come to you from God to act in a counterintuitive way as a result of time spent alone with him. Much less the last time you obeyed a prompting. 
  • If someone were to ask you if you were more like Jesus today than you were a year ago your honest answer would be no.
I don't raise these questions to demean or demoralise, but to awaken you from any spiritual slumber you may have allowed yourself to drift into. Living on the surface of life is easy; days are easily filled with activity and noise, deadlines and duty. Your spirit is beneath the surface, and does not often cry out for attention. The ancient Celts knew that life has to be lived on both levels and they had to be brought into union with each other.'

This is an excellent spiritual MOT talk and if these questions resonate and challenge you why not book a day or half a days retreat time. Take your Bible, a journal, some other spiritual reading, listen to the talk, reflect and pray. 

Monday, September 24, 2012


'Here's an insight I hope will change your life:

What you complain about reveals your gifts

In other words, you're noticing injustices, inefficiencies, gaps and abuses in ministry because God has uniquely wired you to do something about them.....As Henry Blackaby says, a calling is an opportunity to prepare. When the time is right, God will open the door'

Church in the making: what makes or breaks a new church before it starts, Ben Arment, Page 159

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The two greatest words in the NT

'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.'

Martin Luther's Preface to his Commentary on Romans

Today we have our first service at Holy Trinity Barnes.

It may not surprise readers to know that I will preach my first sermon from Romans.

As I have studied and worked to establish this day over these last few weeks, I have been reminded once again of grace.

Two words have struck my heart afresh like a thunderbolt and if you see them they will change everything for you.

'But now......'

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The diagnostic question

'Dr M L J often used a diagnostic question to determine a person’s spiritual understanding and condition. He would ask, “Are you now ready to say that you are a Christian?”
He recounts that over the years, whenever he would ask the question, people would often hesitate and say, “I do not feel that I am good enough”
To that he gives this response:
At once I know that ….they are still thinking in terms of themselves; their idea still is that they have to make themselves good enough to be a Christian…It sounds very modest but it is a lie of the devil, it is a denial of the faith….you will never be good enough; nobody has ever been good enough. The essence of the Christian salvation is that He is good enough and that I am in Him!'
Centre Church, Tim Keller, Page 30

In order to understand the implications of the Dr's question this is essential listening.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Use words if necessary

Here is a quote from Keller's latest book called 'Centre Church':

'The popular saying "Preach the gospel; use words if necessary" is helpful but also misleading. If the gospel were primarily about what we must do to be saved, it could be communicated as well by actions (to be imitated) as by words. But if the gospel is primarily about what God has done to save us, and how we can receive it through faith, it can only be expressed through words. Faith cannot come without hearing....'

Page 32.

Keller was the keynote speaker at the London 2020 Vision conference for the clergy of the Diocese of London.

How exciting they have vision for 2020

Thursday, September 20, 2012

For the pod: How to learn from people you may disagree with

I haven't posted a Driscoll talk for a while. This is called 'Best of: The High Priestly Prayer' and what I love about it is he describes his willingness to work with anyone who loves Jesus. His description of his working with the Assemblies of God made me laugh out loud. It is so easy to become tribal, critical and partisan and huddle in our little worlds with our little opinions and at the end of it all discover we haven't really impacted anybody or changed anything.

A pal says he likes this blog because I post people from all sorts of spheres of the Christian world and culture and its canon.

Why do I do that?

Because we are all learners or should be if we are following Jesus. We also have to learn to see the good or as someone once said 'eat the fish and spit out the bones'. If you don't have time to listen to the talk then watch Driscoll describe why he has invited Craig Groeschl to speak at the R2 Conference and it will give you a flavour of its message.

The Two Questions

'Do what others cannot and will not do

'The greatest amount of wasted time is the time not getting started'

Today is the day I get started. I will be licensed as The Vicar of Holy Trinity Barnes this evening and the church plant we have been pouring ourselves into will become an 'official' reality. 

A man and a talk that has deeply impact me recently is called Born to reproduce by Dawson Trotman. Billy Graham said of Trotman that he was the man who had more influence over him than anyone else. He was the founder of the Navigators. I would commend you to both listen to the talk and read/mark/learn from the transcript of Born to reproduce and think deeply about it's implications. 

We would all do well today to let Dawson Trotman interview us, as he did to these 29 missionaries, with his two penetrating questions:

"Some time ago I talked to 29 missionary candidates. They were graduates of universities or Bible Schools or Seminaries. As a member of the board I interviewed each one over a period of five days, giving each candidate from half an hour to an hour.
Among the questions I asked were two which are very important. The first one had to do with their devotional life. “How is your devotional life?” I asked them. “How is the time you spend with the Lord? Do you feel that your devotional life is what the Lord would have it to be?”
Out of this particular group of 29 only one person said, “I believe my devotional life is what it ought to be.” To the others my question then was, “Why is your devotional life not what it should be?”
“Well, you see, I am here at this summer institute,” was a common reply. “We have a concentrated course. We do a year’s work in only ten weeks. We are so busy.”
I said, “All right. Let’s back up to when you were in college. Did you have victory in your devotional life then?” “Well, not exactly.”
The other question I asked them was. “You are going out to the foreign field. You hope to be used by the Lord in winning men and women to Christ. Is that right’?”
“Y es.”
‘You want them to go on and live the victorious life, don’t you? You don’t want them just to make a decision and then go back into the world, do you’?”
Then may I ask you something more? How many persons do you know by name today who were won to Christ by you and are living for Him?
The majority had to admit that they were ready to cross an ocean and learn a foreign language. but they had not won their first soul who was going on with Jesus Christ. A number of them said that they got many people to go to church; others said they had persuaded some to go forward when the invitation was given.
I asked, ‘Are they living for Christ now’?”
Their eyes dropped. I then continued, “How do you expect that by crossing an ocean and speaking in a foreign language with people who are suspicious of you, whose way of life is unfamiliar, you will be able to do there what you have not yet done here?”
We traced back and found that never since they came to know the Saviour had they had a period of victory in their devotional lives. That was one of the reasons for their sterility—lack of communion with Christ.
These questions do not apply to missionaries and prospective missionaries only. They apply to all of God’s people. Every one of His children ought to be a reproducer. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What happens at communion?

I was trying to explain to my church planting team what Catholics (and Anglo-Catholics) believe about communion. I am no expert , being some have observed, rather low-church. It was a flying education for them in doctrine, the Reformation and church history and by the end of it they all looked utterly confused. To be honest so was I.

This morning I read How a sixteen year old explained the sacraments to her Catholic interrogator in 1554 and I found it absolutely fascinating and splendidly timely.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tweeting good news

One of the first biographies of a preacher I ever read was of D L Moody and I wanted one day to be like him. Sadly, I may be waiting a while methinks. Bill posted this great quote by him:

''Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at something that doesn't really matter"

Church planting tips of the day

1. Get a twitter account

2. Ask your MP to do you a favour and tell his 14961 followers about your church plant with a link to your website (oh and feel free to follow Zac and retweet it)

Congrats and good luck David Cooke, the brilliant new Team Vicar of Holy Trinity Barnes who starts this Sunday:

If I was going to pick one talk that everyone in Barnes had to listen to you will not be surprised to find it would be 'The Prodigal Sons'. If you are a reader and you have not yet listened to this you should be ashamed of yourself :) A priest pal told me that he was converted listening to it eight years after having been ordained while driving across New Zealand on holiday. So be careful.

My friend Erin who is a youth worker thinks every teenager and student should list to this.

I can't stop singing this song- think someone must be praying for me :) I know many of you are and I'm so grateful. Keep at it.

Monday, September 17, 2012

How to pray with more faith

I heard Pete Ward from 24/7 prayer speak last night. It's timely as I am slowly reading Prayer: The Real Battle. Pete told us that to pray you need faith and gave us ten suggestions on how we might see our faith increase.

1. Prayer and worship
2. Fellowship
3. Fasting
4. Starting small
5. Allow yourself to be open to pray in the Spirit
6. Adventure
7. Bible study
8. Pilgrimage
9. Journalling
10. Listening to God

He recommended we read The Hour that Changes the World which has no new ideas but is packed with helpful things. I would also recommend Too busy not to pray which I read years ago and have never forgotten Hybels describing how he prays. Also read Fresh wind fresh fire if you want a heart-thumping description of what happens when a pastor and his church start to pray.

If you want a talk to listen to then Foundations for Prayer Toward the Global Purpose of God is a good one. About 25 minutes in there is a helpful section on how to pray for the lost. There is also a phenomenal story of a puritan missionary to the Indians of Massachusetts.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Grace and menus

All week I have been waking up very early. Not six o'clock early but proper proper early- 3.30am. Just bing- eyes wide open hello world let's get on with it awake. Some of this might be to do with the fact that in a week something I have been pouring my heart and life into for nearly two years (23 actually unknowingly) is going to come into being.  

It's really is nearly time. On the 23rd of September this is going to happen and you are all invited- most especially if you don't 'go to church' (David Fitch has an interesting thought on the phrase 'going to church'). And today we are starting the whole thing off with a party (it worked for Jesus) and at the rate people are being invited we may indeed face similar issues. I think I may be in trouble for inviting people 'who don't even come to our church'. This is really something everyone is going to have to get used to I'm afraid. And anyway, isn't that the whole point or did I entirely miss something?

I have been reading the excellent new book by James Emery White and it has prompted all sorts of memories for me. He writes about C S Lewis (among other things) and if you don't know who he is you need to listen to 'Lessons from an inconsolable soul'. What's funny about the book is White describes his sense of pilgrimage in going to the Eagle and Child the moment he arrived in Oxford to study. I did exactly that armed with a copy of 'The Four Loves' and sat with a warm ale and was in wonder at being in the place the Inklings created history. It's the very first thing I did (after emailing a Vicar friend in Canada advising him how barmy it was that I of all people was attending a Vicar Factory in the Church of England)

White tells a great story about the Eagle and Child on which I will end and it raises lots of questions about grace and the gospel but I will let you work out your own conclusions:

This brings to mind another pub story. One day as I sat at my favourite little table, and another stream of tourists entered- and left - I heard the manager muttering, "Bloody Christians." I was enough of a regular to feel comfortable asking him what he meant.

"Take a look at this," he said, holding up a menu.

They cost me two pounds each. Two pounds! I ordered hundreds of them, and now I only have ten because they keep getting nicked."

'You mean people are stealing them?' I asked incredulously. 

"Yeah, the bloody Christian's take the menus, while the students take the spoons and ashtray"....

He paused a moment, and then said, "What gets me is that all these people who come in for Lewis are supposed to be Christian's right?"

Yes. I thought to myself they are.

The irony is bitter. The manager of the Eagle and Child pub holds Christians and, one would surmise, Christianity itself, in disdain because of the behaviour of the Christians who flock to pay homage to Lewis. Many wouldn't dare drink a pint, but they will [it seems] gladly steal'

Friday, September 14, 2012

Bits and bobs

I like this 3-2-1 film.

This photo must be an answer to prayer.

Out of Ur carries some of Piper's thoughts about homosexuality.

A reading list for students who want to grow via J R Briggs

The book J R Packer thinks you should read three times.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

For the pod: A bold vision

The fire and love in the heart of Nicky Gumbel is amazing and seemingly unrelenting. It's well worth listening to his talk called 'The Year Ahead'.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Prayer: The Real Battle

Someone today recommended a book called 'Prayer: The Real Battle' to me. They said they had only read the first chapter and already they feel utterly humbled and challenged.

Here are the words from the first page:

'The Book of Acts is filled with prayer meetings; every forward thrust the first church made was immersed in prayer. Take another look at the church at Pentecost. They prayed ten days and preached ten minutes and three thousand were saved. Today we pray ten minutes and preach ten days and are ecstatic if anyone is saved'

Ronald Dunn

It's an Open Door publication and is only £2 and 48 pages long.

Monday, September 10, 2012

One out of ten

When I was embarking on a life of ministry a decade ago I came across a book called Finishing Strong. If I could give a copy to every man I know (it is written with men very much in mind) I would. A friend bought ten copies after he read it and gave them to all his friends.

If you know your own heart you know you can fail, wander, deceive and stumble so very easily. We entered a spiritual battle at conversion even if we didn't at the time know it, want to acknowledge it or you may indeed not yet have been tested in it. The most anointed, ambitious, driven, dynamic and gifted individuals are so often, it seems, those who don't make it to the end of the race. So if you are one of those you are probably most at risk.

The truth is few finish well. It's a constantly sobering thought for me.

When was the last time you went to a conference and found the keynote speaker to be someone in their seventies? How many impassioned, fiery, Spirit-filled, running the race full-tilt wise and elderly Christians do you know? There are some, but sadly far too few. I can't guarantee that I will be one either but for mercy and grace.

This story shared by Steve Farrar struck me so hard when I first read it and it has stayed with me ever since. It is on my heart to share it with you now.

"John Bisgno has been pastoring First Baptist of Houston for a number of years. When John was just about to finish college, he was having dinner over at his fiancee's house one night. After supper, he was talking with his future father in law, Dr Paul Beck, out on the porch. Dr Beck had been in ministry for years, and that was inevitably the subject toward which the conversation turned.

"John, as you get ready to enter ministry, I want to give you some advice," Dr Beck told the younger man. "Stay true to Jesus! Make sure that you keep your heart close to Jesus every day. It's a long way from here to where you're going to go, and Satan's in no hurry to get you."

The older man continued. "It has been my observation that just one out of ten who start in full-time service for the Lord at twenty-one are still on track by sixty-five. They're shot down morally, they're shot down with discouragement, they're shot down with liberal theology, they get obsessed with making money......but for one reason or another nine out of ten fall out.

The twenty-one year old Bisagno was shocked.

"I just can't believe that!" he said. "That's impossible! That just can't be true."

Bisagno told how he went home, took one of the blank pages in the back of his Scofield Reference Bible and wrote down the names of twenty-four young men who were his peers and contemporaries. These were young men in their twenties who were sold out for Jesus Christ. They were trained for ministry and burning in their desire to be used by the Lord. These were the committed young preachers who would make an impact for the Lord in their generation.

Bisagno relates the following with a sigh: "I am now fifty-three years old. From time to time as the years go by, I've had to turn back to that page in my Bible and cross out a name. I wrote down those names when I was just twenty years of age. Thirty years later, there are only three names remaining of the original twenty-four."

There is a page later in the book where Farrar says that if you have read it thinking that will never be you then you are precisely the sort of person who it may well happen to. If you are married or single, male or female we would all do well to listen attentively to How to commit adultery by Craig Groeschl however secure, holy and model your marriage and ministry looks to you and to the outside world.

The stunning statistic three minutes in is worth reflecting upon and it may encourage you to listen on.

'Up to 65% of husbands and 55% of wives will commit adultery before the age of 40'

Source: Journal of Psychology and Christianity

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Freedom writers

A new book entitled Jesus never said to plant churches is a quick and interesting read. It's written by a young guy in Utah who planted a church while at the same time trying to work out what on earth he was supposed to be doing (which is rather how every planter feels I imagine). It has a ton of quite interesting thoughts in it but most of you will only need to know its conclusion. The point of the church and of life itself is to make disciples.

David Platt says this so clearly in this talk called 'Commissioned by the King' on Matthew 28 (listen to the last 13 minutes of the talk or all if you have the time) and the proceeding deeply challenging one called The danger of damnation in sincere religion (on the Matthew 23 'seven woes'). No wonder he and Francis Chan have become such good friends. He says:

"As long as your Christianity just consists of what matters to you for your own self-consumption you'll miss the whole point and you'll stagnate in your growth in Christ and many people live there for fifty years and I'm urging you don't live there for fifty years...'

Some of you may be thinking 'I know this but how do I/we actually do this?' Well, if you are leading a group or a church you might want to check out this material and adapt it for your needs. It seems to be really good disciple-making stuff that you may like to use or adapt as the new term starts.

One of the things that I underlined in the book was a film recommendation. I love it when people say something is 'the best movie ever made' and it's one you have never even heard of. I have now got around to watching Freedom writers and it is really rather profound. If you watch it as an allegory of the gospel and of the sacrificial call to 'make disciples' it leaves you with lots to ponder. It's the classic inspirational teacher with down at heal kids narrative but done extremely well and movingly.

Related to the movie, I had an interesting read of Toxic Children: How the modern world is damaging our children and what we can do about it by Sue Palmer. It's a good primer on all the current cultural issues around parenting, education and kids. She articulates the blindingly obvious in each chapter (diet, sleep, the importance of marriage, play, limiting screen time, day-care, discipline etc) and the fact that we are not doing these things means we are raising a nation of feral children. There again what do I know? Having had a recent confrontation on holiday with a group of feral children the reality of her analysis is slightly fresh in my mind. A noticeable absence in this book though is the benefit of healthy spirituality in the development of children which would be a chapter I would add. If you are a parent wondering how to navigate the journey of raising kids then this is certainly worth having on the bedside table. The follow-up is called Detoxing Children.

You should probably have Keller's Center Church and Every good endeavor on pre-order (you'd expect me to say that). Furtick also has a new book called Greater.

The other film recommended in the planting book is called Multiplicity which will probably be my next watch.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Obstacles to dullness

What happened to radical Christianity, the un-nice brand of Christianity that turned the world upside-down? What happened to the category-smashing, life-threatening, anti-institutional gospel that spread through the first century like wildfire and was considered (by those in power) dangerous? What happened to the kind of Christians whose hearts were on fire, who had no fear, who spoke the truth no matter what the consequence, who made the world uncomfortable, who were willing to follow Jesus wherever He went? What happened to the kind of Christians who were filled with passion and gratitude, and who every day were unable to get over the grace of God?

Robert Capon 'Obstacles to dullness'

(Quoted by Simon Guillebaud in 'More than conquerors' P. 40)

Thursday, September 06, 2012

What to do when you are in the wilderness or the midst of trial?

Adversities do not make a man frail. They show what sort of man he is.

Thomas a Kempis

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. 

Come thou Fount, Robert Robinson

Everyone has difficult times in life. One of my favourite quotes is the first line of M Scott Peck's 'The Road Less Travelled' which starts 'Life is difficult'. For those of us following Jesus we all have seasons of doubt, rebellion, dryness, suffering, trial and difficulty. It's what we signed up for. The other day I noticed something I'd never seen before reading the parable of the sower. In the good soil part Jesus says if we want to produce good fruit we can only do this 'by persevering' (Luke 8:15).

Here are just a few things that have helped me down the years during the tough seasons and some habits that I have formed to help me from wandering which, as the hymn says, we are so prone to do (at least I am).

1. Tell a friend or your Pastor (if you are the Pastor then you tell a friend): A few friends gathered recently and one of them confessed to being in a tough spot spiritually. There is something very releasing about being honest and real about where you are with God. Simply voicing it is the start of the process of change and it allows others in to walk the season with you.

2. Obedience: A few years ago I was sitting in a Sainsbury's car park in Hampton listening to Eugene Peterson being interviewed on a tape. He was asked what to do if you feel distant from God. He replied 'Find a scriptural command or promise and be obedient to it'. For example, we are told to 'love the poor' and actually doing that in a practical way he said will move you closer to God than where you are right now. It made a lot of sense to me. Reading or listening to 'A long obedience in the same direction' is a great thing to do.

3. Pray the Psalms: Again, Peterson's Answering God helped me see the power of praying the Psalms out loud. Very often, when we are in a tough spot we don't have the words and the Bible's prayer book gives them to us. Recently, I recommended to someone as a discipline to pray Psalm 84 out loud every morning for a week.

4. One verse: Sometimes we make a huge religious meal of following Jesus. Evangelical Christian's particularly can be so weighed down by all the things they are meant to be doing but aren't. This usually gathers around the burden of not having a 'quiet time'. Now don't mishear me, time alone with God is so important but for so many it goes on a list together with collecting the dry cleaning and answering your emails. That is why sometimes one verse can be a much better sustainer for you and be meditated upon far more fruitfully than half an hour of boring duty. The other day I spotted 1 Cor 13:8 and it completely blew me away (as an aside trying reading this famous passage replacing the word 'Love' with Jesus)  I am still chewing on verse 8 ten days later.

5. Let others carry and pray for you: Sometimes we need others to hold our arms up as Aaron and Hur did for Moses (Exodus 17:8-16). You then just need to plant your bum on the rock and let God do the rest. This may include intentionally choosing to go up for prayer ministry at the end of your worship service and humbling yourself by letting another pray for you. My life adage is 'Never turn down a bit of prayer' which has thus far served me fairly well. Here's another bit of advice. If you are in the habit of saying 'I'll pray for you' you so often don't. My practice is to do the praying there and then if I am on a bus, in the street or wherever  .I sometimes lay on hands (Hebrews 6:2) -even with people who are not yet Christians. The more you pray for the sick the more you are likely to see them healed was Wimber's wisdom and experience (The way in is the way on).

6. Pray in Tongues: A dear elderly friend and mentor always asks me when I see her if I have been using my prayer language. When I was at Vicar factory she wrote me a long letter checking up and urging me to use this wonderful gift. (So often Vicar factory sucks the spiritual life out of people leaving them theologically clever but with little passion or power). 1 Cor 14 tells us we are 'edified' as we use this gift and I have found it wonderfully strengthening down the years. If you desire this gift a start is to ask for it and ask someone who already has it to pray that you might receive it. The Father gives good gifts to his children.

7. Listen to teaching:  Someone told me yesterday that they had become addicted to the preaching of Martyn Lloyd Jones since I recommended it on the blog and told you that all his sermons are now free. There are worse things to be addicted to! As readers will know, I listen to stuff all the time and recently bought myself some trendy headphones that my nephew tells me are 'well cool'.  I listen to this talk once every six months or so and this one is good if you are feeling like quitting and 'In whom I am well pleased' to be reminded you're loved. I am currently listening to the excellent and tub thumping preaching of Dr Johnny Hunt who is simply brilliant.

8. Read a biography: There is nothing better than discovering that the great saints and missionaries had tough times, doubts and struggles. Mother Teresa struggled for much of her life with all sorts of doubts and difficulties. Read about the lives of Jim Elliot, Hudson Taylor, Whitfield, Corrie ten Boom and James O' Fraser.

9. Seek out some power: Charismatic Christian's particularly are very good at intentionally seeking out wells to drink from. The power pilgrimage of which Bethel is for many a key destination currently. I flew from Moscow to Toronto in 1992 when I was in a very dry spot as a new Christian but that is a post for another day. You don't have to fly around the world as there are all sorts of places, conferences and people who are blessed with the ability of encouraging others. Last Sunday, I went to listen to Randy Clarke (the talk was 1 hr 7 mins and will for some readers get their doctrine-o-meter's spinning but he tells some incredible Holy Ghost stories) He was speaking at St Paul's Hammersmith and even though I confess to being a teeny bit unsure about some parts, nonetheless I was blessed by an incredible empowering encounter and blessing during the ministry time. The Holy Spirit generally wins even when I don't think the talk was quite on the money or the doctrine is a bit off centre :) Pretty providential timing given I am planting a church in two weeks. The title of the talk was 'There is More'. If you haven't read this do so.

10. Thanksgiving and a Journal: If you are in a fix write it down. I have written a journal for years and one of my habits is to write a thanks list. Just start with 1. and keep writing down things you are grateful for.

11. Give some money/stuff away: It is better to give said Jesus but we are all of us not that good at it. The 'better' life will probably come a bit more easily if we were all a tad more generous. There is something freeing and good about crazy generosity towards others. I read a Penty book called 'The Blessed Life' recommended by Craig Groschel and it gave me lots to think about my giving.

12. Break break: Sometimes all you can muster in the wilderness is sticking out your hands. Do that- especially when you are feeling dry. The wonderful thing about the sacraments is you can't give them to yourself. You just receive and remember grace.

Anyway a few thoughts and hope some are a help.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012


Francis Chan's latest discipleship material that he spoke about when I listened to him teach at New Wine. He has teamed up with David Platt and he explains the story here. Well worth checking out.

National Day of Prayer

You can read more and get tickets here

Monday, September 03, 2012

Why bother reading a book if you are about to die?

Longing for God is a splendid springboard into reading good things and more of them.

But let's be honest- why on earth bother? There's TV to watch, Facebook to fart about on and, if you are between the age of 12 and 22 (or sadly probably 32), you could spend 4 hours a day on a Playstation. Or indeed you could pass the hours texting, emailing, tweeting or coveting things on ebay or surfing your favourite websites (clothes, gadgets, interiors, cars and other hobbies). Why make time to read (listen to) books and most especially why when you are just about to die as Paul was?

Piper has some thoughts about this entitled Reading and Dying Well.

While we are on Piper, Krish has an interesting post about something he wrote on Norwegian justice and C S Lewis.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

The Missionary Heart

A friend of mine is in the wilderness spiritually and we chatted about those times we all have that we feel like quitting on Jesus.

I was reminded of this amazing letter written by a 38 year old missionary who was killed and decided to keep on following Jesus whatever the cost or difficulty. It's humbling stuff. The letter had been left with her pastor to be read to her church in the event of her death.

Dear Pastor, You should only be opening this in the event of death. When God calls there are no regrets. I tried to share my heart with you as much as possible, my heart for the nations. I wasn’t called to a place; I was called to Him. To obey was my objective, to suffer was expected, His glory my reward, His glory my reward …. THE MISSIONARY HEART
Cares more than some think is wise Risks more than some think is safe Dreams more than some think is practical Expects more than some think is possible
I was called not to comfort or to success but to obedience …. There is no Joy outside of knowing Jesus and serving Him. I love you and my church family. In His care, Salaam, Karen

Saturday, September 01, 2012

My summer reading

I have had a much needed break and August is a time when I read mainly novels and biography (and I am reading one devotional book).

Longing for God: A couple of people I know are starting to study theology this autumn which is exciting. I would put this on my list for some 'primer' reading. You see there is a reason why the big guns of church history are indeed big guns. These giants had insights, encounters and wisdom that have managed to last the centuries and are still being constantly referred to by many of us today. To name just a few that you will meet if you read this: Augustine, St Francis, Luther, Calvin, St Teresa, Origen and Thomas Aquinas. This is a wonderfully informative and reflective book and is one you might like to try as a 'back to school' read and I am only half way (going at a Chapter a day pace to let it soak in). Foster has dedicated his life to the subject of 'spiritual formation' and this is a very welcome addition to his canon. He writes it with a theological pal called Gayle Beebe who is another rather well-read and clever chappy.

The Agony and the Ecstasy: This is a simply belting and unputdownable read about the life of Michelangelo. One of the things I may not have revealed about my schooling is that I acquired a very average C grade in A-level History of Art. The truth is, I did History of Art because everyone told me it was a breeze and quite a few fun people I knew seemed to be opting for it. Somehow, spending two years looking at slides of pictures and buildings seemed more interesting than the periodic tables of the science labs. As a result, I do now know a wee bit about the Renaissance. Despite this pedigree, I never got around to reading this pretty thick tome. It's so good and so informative and gripping I said I would pay my nephew twenty quid to read it. Since seeing it is 750 pages long I suspect he will negotiating my fee upwards and I sense it may be a while before he actually reads it. One to take on your next holiday.

3. Any Human Heart: I have always enjoyed Boyd and this is a great read. It tells the story of a terrible rogue called Logan Mountstuart and is written in the form of a journal. Stylistically it reads almost identically to The Journals of John Fowles (I wrote about them here) who was a real life literary rogue and must surely have inspired this book. This is not a read for the faint hearted (there are a few E L Jamesesque journal entries) but it made me laugh out loud, particularly once the lead character becomes a grumpy old man. It is perhaps because I am quite familiar with private schools, Oxford, the Army, the lives of writers, the art world and the lives of cads that I enjoyed this so much. However, there is a such a clear and sad backdrop of lostness and pointlessness to this dear man's life. He entertains his every whim but is left in the end with so very little to show for it all. A lesson to us not to trust our hearts too closely until they are regenerate. Logan, I think it's very fair to say, most certainly wasn't nor did he want to be. More's the shame.

Management in 10 Words: When I worked in the world of commerce Tesco was our biggest customer. The story of this company and it's transformation is amazing and is one of the real British business successes of the last twenty five years. This is in no small part due to the extraordinary leadership of Terry Leahy. This is now a much dog-eared book and with many a sentence underlined. The chapters titles sum up the book: Truth, Trust, Simple, Courage, Lean, Act etc. As I now work for an institution somewhat on the wain there may be a lesson or two from Leahy for those overseeing the C of E decline.  Leahy turned around a company that, when he took it on, everyone told him had had it's day. Sound familiar. He didn't listen to them and proceeded to change the face a British corporate culture in a generation. Tesco are not all good: their cost cutting and squeezing of the supply chain forced there customers completely to the wire which you can only do for so long without stifling innovation. Interestingly, the pilot scheme for the concept of 'Express' shopping was none other than the service station opposite my new home in Barnes. The book that Leahy constantly quotes as his leadership inspiration is 'Viscount Slim: Defeat into Victory' which is now on the one to read list.

Still life of a woodpecker: This was a present from a pal and it has taken me too long to get around to reading it. This is a weird, creative, sexy and at times bonkers book that I quite enjoyed. It is not my usual genre and so it took me a bit of time to work out what was going on but once I did it tripped along quite happily. It is one of the most interesting and odd bits of writing I have read in quite some time. It tells the story, among others things, of the history of the Camel cigarette pack and as an ex-tobacco man I probably found this more interesting than most might. It's also about bombs, outlaws, freedom, love, pyramids and solitude. I think it's good for me to read a book like this every now and again and I may be hunting out the Robbins back catalogue.

I also read Catching the Sun and The Fear Index by Robert Harris

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