Friday, May 31, 2013

Not chained

'Greater' by Steve Furtick teaches from the ministry of Elisha in 1 Kings 19.

'But if you want to have the kind of greater life Elisha had, you have to do what Elisha did. You have to burn your plough.

Your plough is what chains you to the ordinary. It could be anything.

- A present job that's not in line with what God has called you to do
- The passionless and purposeless approach you take toward the job you have and where God is calling you to remain
- Old, small paradigms of thought about what God wants to do in and through your life
- The conscious choice to keep using your spouse's past mistakes against him or her
- A life that's a little too safe, a lifestyle that's a little too comfortable and tends to factor out God

When we consider following God in a way that would disrupt our lives, we usually try to prequalify our obedience before taking the first step. But the thing is, whether you'll see God do greater things in your life doesn't depend on having the equipment you'll need for the journey ahead. You can't get too worried about whether you've read the right books or been to the right school or have the right connections. Right now, the only equipment you need is a flamethrower (or, if that sounds too dramatic, at least a box of matches).

That's because you can't step into your new life until you first set fire to whatever is tethering you to your old life. Before you can go forward into the life God has for you, you have to offer Him every part of the life you have'

Pages 40-41

Thursday, May 30, 2013


I have been mulling on this paragraph from Steve Furtick's book 'Greater'.

'By leaving and then sending His Spirit to dwell inside His followers- ordinary people like you and me- Jesus released a greater power for us to do extraordinary things on an extraordinary scale. The kinds of things the early church saw and did. The kinds of things He still wants to do today through us.

Jesus isn't calling us to be greater than He is.

He's calling us to be greater with him through His Spirit within us'

Greater, Page 5

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

It's all in a name

'Barbara Clapham came to live in London. After two years she decided she was going to look for a church. One Sunday morning she walked into our church and the lady who was welcoming people at the door smiled at her. Barbara said that because of that smile, she decided to come back the following week. When she walked in the next Sunday the same lady said, ‘Hello Barbara’.

Barbara said that because the person on the door remembered her name, she decided that she was going to come back every Sunday. And every week since then, apart from when she is ill or on holiday, Barbara has come to our church. That was in 1946. She ran the finances of the church for many years. She has made a huge impact on the life of HTB. I wonder whether that person on the door ever realised the difference she made by remembering Barbara’s name.'

Nicky Gumbel in the notes for Bible in one year

Thursday, May 23, 2013

HTB Leadership Talks

Here are all the talks which are well worth working through- Lencione on teams, Chris Hyman and both Archbishops are excellent.

As my pal Si notes, Cardinal Schonborn was the runaway surprise of the conference.

Bill Hybels talk made me cry twice and Ellie Mumford's talk is spectacular on the Spirit.

Furtick blew our doors off. Some pals thought him 'a bit shouty and American' (I as readers know love the good of US of A)). I found him to be full of passion and power. See what you think but perhaps it's one that you actually had to be there for.

Suffice it to say this is rich material for life and leadership and I am looking forward to listening to Daniel Ho who's seminar I didn't make. Also, do check out Pete Greig's excellent talk on prayer.

For the pod: Revival and a call to the nations

Too long we have been waiting on one another to begin. The time for waiting has passed. The hour of God has struck. War is declared. In God’s holy name let us arise and build. The God of heaven will fight for us.  We will not build on the sand, but on the bedrock of  Christ, and the gates and minions of Hell shall not prevail against us.  Should men such as us fear?
Before the whole world, before the sleepy, lukewarm, faithless namby-pamby Christian world, we will dare to trust our God. We will venture our all for Him. We will live and we will die for Him, and we will do it with His joy unspeakable singing aloud in our hearts. We will a thousand times sooner die trusting only in our God than live trusting in man, and when we come to our position we realize the battle is already won and the end of the glorious campaign is in sight because we will have the real holiness of God. Not the sickly stuff of talk and dainty words and pretty thoughts, we will have a masculine holiness. One of daring faith and works for Jesus Christ.
~C.T. Studd

A revival is a revival when individuals get gripped by the great commission. This happened with the birth of the Victorian missionary movement and nutty men and women in frocks and tweed suits set off to share the gospel with the world taking their coffins with them.

I spoke to a group of Christian's this week and told them I think everyone should have a favourite missionary. If you don't have one here are 62 to choose from. One of the first books I read after my conversion was a little book by John Pollock called 'On fire for God' which tells a different missionary story in every chapter.

My favourite missionary is C T Studd not least because he uses excellent expressions like 'namby-pamby'.

If you get the chance listen to this talk called 'Why the great commission is great' and at the start you will hear that stirring C T quote. The man was bonkers but was used mightily by the Lord. May there be more like him in our day and if they arise we can then start speaking about revival. It will take us more than our flashing lights, trendy musicians and catchy choruses to complete the great commission. It will actually require some of us to go.

As it stands, six thousand people groups remain unreached.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Wise words

I while back someone wrote me this quote in a card:

'The gift came from heaven, let it go to heaven. Prayer brought it, gratitude sung over it, let devotion consecrate it'


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Recovering fundamentalist

via Ron Edmondson

Revivals and cultures

My neighbouring Vicar and pal Simon Downham told a story in his Pentecost sermon of a time several hundred church leaders gathered to hear Gordon Fee teach on the Spirit from Galatians. They had, so they believed and 'felt',  a wonderful time of worship and as Fee was about speak the leader of the meeting announced that the Holy Spirit "was powerfully present". Fee paused and then responded by saying: "He might be here, but given you are all white and middle class and all from one nation I cannot be sure"

Fee's point was that when a move of the Spirit occurs the nations are gathered in as happened at Pentecost. Recently, I read this report of conversions in Manchuria in China in 1908. As I aside, I enjoyed the cultural awareness and engagement of Scottish missionaries indicated by their use of the descriptor 'John Chinaman':

‘A power has come into the church that we cannot control if we would. It is a miracle for stolid, self-righteous John Chinaman to go out of his way to confess to sins that no torture of the Yamen could force from him, for a Chinaman to demean himself to crave, weeping, the prayers of his fellow-believers is beyond all human explanation
Perhaps you will say it ‘s a sort of religious hysteria. So did some of us.....But here we are, about sixty Scottish and Irish Presbyterians who have seen it- all shades of temperament –and, much as many of us shrank from it at first, every one who has seen and heard what we have, everyday last week, is certain there is only one explanation- that it is God’s Holy Spirit manifesting himself…..One clause of the Creed that lives before us now in all its inevitable, awful solemnity is, “I believe in the Holy Ghost!

The expression ..'..inevitable, awful solemnity..' has stayed with me.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Revivals and Conversions

As readers will know I am still following the events in Cwmbran with interest. Here is a latest update that reports that over 300 have given their lives to Christ and 60 of these were recently baptised.

One of the marks of revival is of course people coming to believe in and follow Jesus. This has various names to describe it -conversion, regeneration, the new birth (this is a good talk called 'What happen's in the New Birth' that explains what it is), salvation, 'being saved' and so on but they all denote a sense of both an event and an experience. In other words, in response to the proclamation of Christ people repent and believe on him.

For my Pentecost sermon I revisited the conversion story of C T Studd as told in Norman Grubb's book Cricketer and pioneer which puts words to one such conversion event:

“ But my friend exclaimed, ‘ Oh my child if anyone has had a warning from God, you have;  Give him your heart and nothing will ever disturb the peace of mind he will give you’ I was not conscious of wanting any such thing, but unlike my usual self, instead of mocking at such words but myself kneeling and saying ‘ I have never decided for God but I will tonight’ Then I realized I knew the devil as a person, as he actually seemed to come to my side, torturing me by bringing to remembrance all the times I had mocked and scoffed and said I would never love nor yield my allegiance to overshadow me and a voice, oh so different, asked ‘ Child, what do you want?’ To get to God but I can’t’ for their seemed a vertitable great gulf fixed, and I like Bunyan, with so great a load on me that I could not move.  Suddenly close to me was raised the cross with Jesus Christ nailed upon it, and with riven-side, and I saw blood flow.  Quickly the words came to me….’Why wast though there? And immediately a voice replied,  ‘ With my stripes you are healed.  The vision of the cross disappeared, my burden too, and I arose.  My friend greeted my with’ well what is it to be?’ I said ‘ I have seen Calvary and henceforth he shall be my Lord and my God” Page 73

Tim Challies has a timely piece on the great Welsh hymn Guide me O thou Great Jehovah' . Do sing it this new day and do pray for the people of Cwmbran, for Richard Taylor and all God is doing in that place.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Real power

A friend sent me this AW Tozer quote this morning: 

'We are turning out from the Bible schools of this country year after year young men and women who know the theory of the Spirit-filled life but do not enjoy the experience. These go out into the churches to create in turn a generation of Christians who have never felt the power of the Spirit and who know nothing personally about the inner fire....The only power God recognizes in His church is the power of His Spirit whereas the only power actually recognized today by the majority of evangelicals is the power of man...’ 

The Root of the Righteous, 1955, p.88

For the pod: Jesus is better than anything else

There is something better than the things you most desire.

There is joy in not having that thing you think you most desire.

If the thing you most desire isn't Jesus it won't bring you lasting joy.

Piper continues to preach and of these messages I commend to you Jesus is most magnified in us when we are most satisfied in him.

It may very well change the way you see everything.

You would be much blessed to listen to it twice- one of them with a pen and paper in hand.

Friday, May 17, 2013

For the pod: Francis Chan on 'Why we all need the gospel'

Evangelicals know that the power behind the eighteenth century revivals and the great nineteenth century missionary movement was prayer, and that the prayer was made out of hearts agonizing over the prospect of all who leave this world without Christ being lost. Was such prayer misconceived? uninstructedfoolishwrong-headed? An evangelical who values his heritage must ponder that question, recognizing that if universalism is true all that missionary passion and praying was founded on a monstrous mistake.

J.I Packer
Cited in: Evangelical Affirmations by Kenneth Kantzer and Carl F.H. Henry, Zondervan, 1990, p. 107-108, 

Understanding that God is a God of love yet is also a God of wrath (Eph 2:3) is a hard thing for the modern mind to comprehend. It's hard for my own mind to do so. We are so sanitised by 'search for the hero inside yourself' psychology that most people believe they are no longer, as the Scriptures clearly state, sinners in need of a saviour but are instead good people who need their idolatry blessing. The Telegraph tells us Christianity in the UK is declining 50% quicker than previously thought.

Let's do a bit of church history friends. Marcion was a chappy who thought the God of Joshua and Judges (which we've just read through in BiOY) was a rather judgemental and un-cuddly fellow so he decided to relaunch him with the nasty bits edited out. He also rejected/ cut out the bits of the New Testament that didn't fit with his misguided theological worldview. The church rightly decreed that he was a heretic.

It's therefore interesting to note that vast swathes of the western church have largely erased the reality of hell and judgement and never dare teach this or warn their people and congregations of its prospect. As Pentecost arrives in the church year so few pulpits will properly unpack Peter's first sermon in Acts 2 -especially this verse. I read recently that the idea of the wrath of God has been so offensive to Presbyterians that they have even decided to edit it out of their hymn book.

We would all do well to listen to Francis Chan explain 'Why we all need the gospel' and it may as a result put some passion in our sandals of peace to crack on with the mission. He also wrote the theologically thorough Erasing Hell which is worth reading if you want to do a bit of robust study on this.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The brains of Steve Jobs

Christians will – and should – continue to feel bad for not sharing their faith. Christ is the most glorious Person in the world. His salvation is infinitely valuable. Everyone in the world needs it. Horrific consequences await those who do not believe on Jesus. By grace alone we have seen Him, believed on Him, and now love Him. Therefore, not to speak of Christ to unbelievers, and not to care about our city or the unreached peoples of the world is so contradictory to Christ’s worth, people’s plight, and our joy that it sends the quiet message to our souls day after day: This Savior and this salvation do not mean to you what you say they do. To maintain great joy in Christ in the face of that persistent message is impossible.

John Piper
The Darkness that Feeds on Self-Absorption taken from When the Darkness Will Not Lift by John Piper, 2006, Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton Illinois 60187, p. 65.

In his talk on organisational health, in response to the question ‘What is a vision?’ Patrick Lencioni said it was a combination of these six questions :

  1. ‘Why do we exist? 
  2. How do we behave?
  3. What do we do?
  4. How will we succeed?
  5. What is important right now?
  6. And who must do what?
Recently, my friend's were helped to make their business work better by reading the book 'Will it make the boat go faster?'. I have been pondering that phrase ever since they told me it.

The C of E could use a bit of vision as in many areas it's in crisis. So much that it does and spends its money on, to use the Olympic analogy, doesn't make the boat go faster.
It amazes me that in the church you can get promoted for not doing the mission (and no it's not Christlike not be doing what Jesus has told us to do- that being making disciples). I know unmerited promotion happens in other organisations too but we need now to be appointing people who want growth, know how to do and are passionate about evangelism and it's just not good enough to say 'it's not my thing'. It's all our thing. Cardinal Christoph told us how he challenged all his Bishops on this and to ask themselves if they themselves are preaching the gospel and doing evangelism in order to reach the lost. He reported a rather stony silence was the response among his colleagues.

In the C of E it seems to be fairly normal practice for people who have overseen decline of one area to be given bigger jobs with a greater level of challenge and therefore oversee more dramatic decline somewhere else. It doesn't take the brains of Steve Jobs to work out that they may not be able to do the new job either. This is particularly true because the C of E, unlike other organisations, has such limited performance management processes, indicators and accountabilities. Surely, this is not a gender issue as has been our long debate- it's a competence and organisational issue. It's all mystifying to people like me who have worked outside the church.
Here's a thought. It might be a helpful idea for the A of C to look at these statistics and then call up whoever is responsible and ask them to apply Lencioni's six questions to their Diocese. If I was Justin Welby, I would want the report on my desk by Monday (as no doubt happened in BP and my former company when crisis hit and yes, if you needed to, you worked the weekend). We haven't got the time to spend 18 months fannying about on a Synod. 
Did I mention I wrote something called 'Why plant churches?'
It's urgent dear folks. Urgent. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Character flaws

Thanks to Steve McCoy for this Keller insight on character that he gleaned from Newton's Letters:

1. Know that your worst character flaws are the ones you can see the least. 
2. Remember that you can’t learn about your biggest flaws just by being told—you must be shown.
3. Be willing to listen to correction and critique from others.

Leading others

I have spent the last two days at the HTB Leadership conference and for a flavour click here and I will post the talks as they become available. Krish also has some good reflections.

There is a great deal to process but I share an initial thought or two:

'The local church is in the hands of its leaders' said Hybels and his talk made me cry not once but twice.

If the leader's of a local church don't:

.......put evangelism at the top of the list and do some themselves then ..... people to pray and teach them how to then ..... themselves to the gifts of the Spirit and teach people how to minister in them then..... for their own souls, rest, family life, holiness and leisure then.... and believe the Bible for themselves then........

.....believe that the lost are truly lost then ....

......make themselves vulnerable and open to feedback then........ the poor and the marginalised then..........

........and believe that 'here' is not a place any church can remain then.......

Steve Furtick preached to us with such power last night he almost set himself on fire and when you do that this happens.

Among the many insights he said:

'What can I do today that will enable me to do tomorrow what I cannot do today?'

Furtick was very important in the story of planting HT Barnes as this post recalls and this blog even ahead of HTB :) He had what he called his 'Page 23 Vision' reading 'Fresh Wind Fresh Fire':

'I despaired of the thought that my life might slip by without seeing God show himself mightily on our behalf'

He is the author of two books: Sun Stands Still and Greater and both are worth checking out.

Nicky Gumbel's key book recommendation was 'The Emotionally Healthy Church' and in it (p 60-65) there is an emotional inventory that rocked his world. We should probably all take the questionnaire.

The unexpected show-stealer of the whole conference was Cardinal Christoph Schonborn author of 'Loving the church'. What an extraordinary man of God.

If you listen to a better talk on the person and work of the Holy Spirit this year than Ellie Mumford's then I will eat my copy of 'Questions of Life'.

Patrick Lencioni was so very helpful on teams and his book recommendation to us was 'Absolute Relativism'. Nicky Gumbel also recommended The Five Disfunctions of a Team, 'The Advantage'and Death by Meeting.

Everyone I can think of (whether you were at the conference or not) would be blessed by taking half a day of silence and solitude and reading the chapter in Courageous Leadership called 'The Art of Self-Leadership' and listening to this talk.

Also, worth noting that HTB are launching a Leadership College from September. Applications by June.

It was a joy to spend time with folk from our church and inspirational to catch a renewed vision of all God will to do in our days.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Wonders to perform

These words of a famous hymn have meant a lot to me today:

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

William Cowper

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Dallas Willard's on 'The Four Great Questions'

Dallas Willard said the four great questions humans must answer are: 
1. What is reality? 
2. What is the good life? 
3. Who is a good person? 
4. How do you became a good person?
These are worth a ponder.

Saturday Blog-sweep

Dallas Willard died on Wednesday and few were not influenced by him in some way. A really good post here includes a collection of links to tributes -Ortberg and Foster are among them [both are essential reading] and take some of his wonderful advice here.

Ed Stetzer on Missing the mission

What will you actually do about it?

Deep immersion for deep work

What is a Christian?

The new normal in church leadership

What happens when you really disconnect?

David Fitch on 'Is the kingdom outside the church?' is a good and thought-provoking read.

Three questions that can help you avoid leadership blindspots

Friday, May 10, 2013

For the pod: Lessons from a lifetime of stewardship

I am/ We are starting to think more about money (which most of us avoid) and this is not just because Jesus seems to suggest this is a good idea. I know, as you do, that it is so easy to tick things along and to not enact changes/ practices that will over the long term produce great impact for good or ill. First things first -you're justified by faith in Jesus not through the state of your finances or how much you do or don't give away so ultimately, if you're saved, you can relax. However, there will be a day of reckoning and on that day we will all give an account for everything and this includes how we stewarded all we were given. Some of Jesus's parables are bone-shakingly challenging on this as you know.

I, perhaps like you, am desperate to pierce my remaining fears around money, security, the future, lack of generosity, consumerism and my many misplaced priorities and reliances. Jesus said 'Today has enough worries of its own' yet so many if us live way too much in the tomorrow. This is no more so than with regard to money and possessions.

Please do watch 'Significance in the Ordinary'
by Zack Erswine

I can't remember the book that has spoken to me as much as Sensing Jesus has and is. I am reading it slowly and prayerfully and seem to be underlining and re-reading almost every sentence in it. Particularly if you are a pastor, you would do well not to miss this life-changing read and if you read it with an open heart it will reveal truths to you that you probably don't like to acknowledge. 

'This is the day, says Wendell Berry, "when the road neither comes nor goes, and the way is not a way but a place." Forward requires a present and a past. "There" is not always preferable to"here", because the requirements of love are the same in both places. Furthermore, "here" is the only genuine way one can travel "there", at least if one intends to give shade when inhabiting either place. Consequently, I must not imagine where I will be without standing where I am"
Sensing Jesus Page 68

Driscoll's talk called Planning might be the kick you need to get everything out on the kitchen table in order to have a good look at your time and its allocation and your spending, saving and giving. Stewardship in its broadest context must include both how you spend your time and how you spend and prioritise your resources.

This talk called 'Lessons from a lifetime of stewardship' might also be a spring board to you looking at your money, how you spend it, what you are investing in and assessing the level of your generosity. Many readers won't bother listening to the talk so I will share one story from it that impacted me.

'Ron Blue has five kids and thirteen grandchildren and is 72. His children and grandchildren ask him what he wants for Christmas and he acknowledges that he doesn't need anything. At his age, if he wants something he can just go out and buy it. So what he does is he gives each of his grandchildren $200 to give away and his gift from them to him is he asks them to write him a letter tellling them how they gave it away and what happened. This is building an extraordinary number of family generosity stories and is teaching them the truth that it is indeed more blessed to give away.'

I also listened a while back to Sowing and reaping by Craig Groschl and his amazing testimony to his being called to be radically generous. Groschl always recommends 'The Blessed Life' by Robert Morris as his
go to book on the power of giving stuff away and money (the book does have a whiff of the prosperity gospel about it, but on balance I thinks it's basically a good encouragement to give more away and we can all do that more effectively).

Another book that's come on my radar is Money by Jamie Munson which you can buy for two quid on kindle.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

How revived is your church?

Pastor Richard offers an update on Cwmbran

I listened to Blueprint for Revival and it got me thinking about healthy churches. You could do a lot worse than listen to this and then do a critique on your church on the basis of Keller's five marks of a Revival.

1. Passionate worship: Have a look around you at the people of God next Sunday and ask if you are a people truly engaging with the presence of God and pursuing it. Could your worship be called passionate? It's not about style. Yesterday, someone asked me were we 'happy clappy' and whilst the term was meant to be derogatory I replied that yes I hope that we are both. The alternative, as I read it, is 'Sad and life-less' and who wants that?

2. Close fellowship and community: Do you meet in community? Do you meet together to pray and read the bible? Do you meet each others needs? Do you pray and support those who are sick? Do you care and nurture each other? Are you honest? Do you confess your sins not just by looking poh faced reading our words of the BCP but to each other?

3. Aggressive evangelism: I discovered a new descriptor from Keller about evangelism- 'Andrew Evangelism' which is simply about bringing your brother to Jesus but saying nothing and he says this is immature evangelism. 'Philip evangelism' is being able to explain and put voice to the gospel so another can understand and receive it- aka the Ethiopian man and this is a mark of maturity. Do people understand that Jesus is not a way but the way and people's eternity's are a stake?Have they got this into their bones? This talk (be warned and hold on to your hats) will do that if you are unsure. Too many today have a diet of homeletic twaddle which kindles apathy rather than zeal. So many churches in my city and sadly in the C of E have absolutely NO plan for evangelism and little or no concern for the lost nor any plan to reach them.

4. In-depth teaching and training: Does your church teach you the Bible and train you to 'do' the Bible. How competent and empowered are people in ministering to each other with their spiritual gifts? Are you raising and training leaders? Do you have a plan to teach people the books of the Bible? Are people able to study the Bible for themselves and apply it to their lives?

5. Compassionate social concern: How are you getting on loving the poor and being active and engaged with those in need in your city and community? Do you have a plan for this? Are you allocating resources and time to this?

If you tick all five of these boxes (which we don't yet) with some confidence you have the marks of a revived church.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Reflections on Revival

'There are many things concerning this work [of revival] that are well known. These are sufficient to determine it to be the work of God… The Spirit who is at work takes people’s minds off the vanities of the world. He engages them in a deep concern about eternal happiness. He puts their thoughts on earnestly seeking their salvation. He convinces them of the dreadfulness of sin and of their own guile and miserable natural state. The Spirit awakens men’s consciences and makes them aware of God’s awful anger. He causes in them a great desire and earnest care and endeavor to obtain God’s favor. He causes them to be more diligent in the use of His appointed means of grace. Especially, this is seen in a greater desire to hear and read the word of God. And it is well known that the Spirit who is at work operates as the Spirit of truth. He makes people more aware of what is really true in those things that concern their eternal salvation. He impresses on them that they must die and that life is very short and uncertain. He shows them there is a great sin-hating God to whom they are accountable and who will fix them in an eternal state in another world. He shows them they stand in great need of a Savior. He makes persons more aware of the value of Jesus who was crucified and their need of Him. And this awareness moves them earnestly to seek an interest in Him.'

Jonathan Edwards
Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God, 1741. Modern language courtesy of Archie Parrish, The Spirit of Revival, Crossway Books, 2000, p. 109-110.

This morning I met with fellow local pastors for early morning 'Pastors prayers' and I shared my experience of Wales and we prayed together. This lead on to each of us reflecting on the times we have witnessed moves of God- two of us had visited Toronto in the early 90's and other stories followed. Another of us told the story of George Jeffery (founder of Elim) which was new to me.

I am cautious about using the word 'Revival' and Keller here and here talks helpfully about what constitutes such a definition. However, in these times of great spiritual poverty, secularism, addiction and material need any move of God should be welcomed, protected, prayed for and encouraged. Our times are desperate ones. You can read the latest stats on C of E attendance here.

My thoughts on moves of God in no particular order are:

1. They start with prayer: Reading Red Moon Rising tells you that all the major awakenings have a backdrop of prayer. Its nature and who is involved in it is always different but be sure that it is prayer that moves God's hand. The kneeling, weeping, praying women of Cwmbran are fresh in my mind.

2. They are about the lost: A genuine revival ushers in the lost and to be sustained it must also have a plan for discipleship. Whitfield the evangelist was much blessed to have Wesley the organiser to put some structure and longevity into the great awakening. The healing miracle that took place in Cwmbran is happily being used by God as a springboard to the proclamation of the gospel to the lost which should encourage us all (and is the model in Acts). Too often the church hijacks such events for its own ends and stifles the Spirit. Genuine revival is always marked by salvations. Richard Taylor would do well to learn from Wesley and be convicted by Evan's failure to disciple the converts of 1904-6. He'd do well to read some Lloyd-Jones, Stott, Platt's 'Follow me', Chan's 'Multiply' and Breen's 'Building a discipleship culture' alongside books on signs and wonders so as to ensure Cwmbran's discipleship impact.

3. They are accompanied by a battle: All moves of God cause the church to ask the question 'Is this God?' The Bible is full of warning that we are not to be deceived but it is also full of hope of a harvest to be in-gathered. The enemy hates sinners turning to Jesus and being rescued from hell and will do everything to quash it.

4. The established church often looks on in disdain: The Pharisee's missed Jesus at work before their eyes for want of ritual, order and 'the tradition of the elders'. Revival's disturb the liturgy and bring the unchurched into our worship spaces who then disrupt things because they don't know how things are done. The C of E pushed Whitfield and Wesley into the fields but with hindsight praise God that they did.

5. They push internal theological debates to the sidelines: The church in this land has been ignoring mission for three generations and has been consumed with issues of theological liberalism, gender and sexuality. Do watch this debate between Rob Bell and Andrew Wilson of NFI. A real revival would I believe shift the conversation towards discipleship, the poor and to mission.

via Take your Vitamin Z

6. They usher in something new with something unchanging: The gospel remains the same but the means and who God uses will be different. Ironically, it is often the custodians of an old move of God who hold back or object to the new one. Simon Ponsonby's 'More' is another good commentary on the why's and how's around moves of the Spirit. If this is a move of God in Wales it may well not be like what has gone before and we should be prepared for it not to be. That is why its custodians needs prayer, the wisdom of loving peers and patience to wait on the Lord and be obedient to his leadings. 

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

A Bank Holiday visit to a church in Cwmbran

But may all who love you be like the sun when it rises in its strength. 
Judges 5 v 31 
Yesterday, I went on an unexpected trip to Cwmbran to visit a church. My pal and his pastor Simon Redmill, who leads City Church Salisbury, suggested Rachel and I come on an adventure with them to Wales where God has been at work for the last few weeks. The alternative was a takeaway and movie. So we drove down the M4 to a 'new town' that I last visited in 1984 on a geography field trip. Incidentally, as we arrived in Cwmbran, I did wonder who decides when a new town has been around long enough to be an 'ordinary' or 'old' town. New in 1984 can't really still be described as such.Here is the background to all this which you can hear direct from the pastor of the church (Richard Taylor) and also do read a Ship of Fools Mystery Worshipper report.
Moves of God in Wales have happened before, most notably under Evan Roberts in 1904 (a warning that 'Revival' requires wise stewardship and leadership if disciples are to be made). I was also personally captivated by the accounts of preaching to working men across Wales as told in Martyn Lloyd Jones' The First Forty Years. Many of you will also have read Rees Howells Intercessor. Suffice it to say there's been a bit of praying, preaching and singing of hymns in the valleys of Wales going on down the years.
The meeting we went to started at 7pm and people were queuing to get in which, it has to be said, is not true of many churches on a Bank Holiday Monday. Most of you were probably at home watching TV or worrying about getting kids back to school. 
The banner outside the church reads as follows:
1. Passion for the saviour
2. Love of Scripture
3. Rescuing the sinner
Amen to that. 
Here are a few reflections:
1. Much was made of Jesus: The name of Jesus was held in high esteem and proclaimed boldly. It wasn't about the church nor was it about a personality. (Richard Taylor wasn't there). We were led by one of the assistant pastors. I do confess to being a little disappointed though that he wasn't Welsh.  
2. The sick were prayed for: This all started because a man lept out of a wheel chair after a mid-week prayer meeting- so it is not unreasonable to be continuing to pray. We spoke to a dear lady who welcomed us in the queue and she had brought the man in question to church and he has been part of the church for some time and is a member of her bible study group. There were probably 400 people in the meeting we attended.
3. The word of God was opened up and the gospel preached: Something like 200 people have given their lives to Christ in the last 3 weeks. How many people have been saved in your church or mine in the last three weeks you might ask? A very simple but clear gospel presentation was made with great power and people were called under the blood to repent and believe in Jesus. Praise God for that. Any who witnessed the goings on in Lakeland know that Todd Bentley's failure to even have a Bible with him let alone preach from it was the writing on the wall. It told any prudent and bible literate observers things will go pear-shaped and sure enough they did. Too few Charismatics these days are rooted in the Scriptures but this is not so here. 
There is always a decision to be made. One pal having supper in Buckinghamshire who I texted from Wales replied 'Isn't God here too?' or words to that affect. As most people are conservative by nature it's easy to assume it's all a bit nutty and therefore to be avoided. Quite often these reports are- so my pal is right to be a bit cautious. However, personally I don't want to miss out on something God might be doing either because my pride won't let me join in or because I'm too sound or fearful. And yes, I do believe God is powerfully at work in Barnes- praise God. Its just I would like to see even more of his presence and power here and am always happy to have someone pray for me to be able to reach the lost and see more disciples made. Of course, you should have a bible to hand and be wise but at the same time relax and see what God might be doing. Also, it's cheaper to get to Wales down the M4 than to Pensecola, Seattle, NY, Bethel or Toronto :)
4. Pentecostals: Every church has a culture and 'Victory church' is no different. 'Victory' is Pentecostal and so has a theology that includes a belief in'impartation' (the passing on of God's blessing from one to another through the laying on of hands- Hebrews 6:2). This means the service leader and preacher is the one who both leads and pray's for people (A little like 'Father John' in your local Anglo-Catholic church who also does everything). We could have done with him not speaking over the mike as he was praying for each person in turn (as we were worshipping at the same time) but that's a detail. The pastor did pray for us all and he had a man who followed him around with a black cloth to wipe his brow. It sweaty work being a pentecostal :) -that's also a new job to enact for our service team rota- Vicar brow-mopping!
They also had 'a catcher' who looked like he played prop for Llanelli and was clearly at the beginning of time made for such a time as this. However, the ministry was ordered, heartfelt and passionate with little histrionics or drama about it (which is a nice change). Only at the end were the rest of the pastors released to pray for people which they did with patience and great kindness and warmth. This delay is perhaps part of ensuring things are done properly and with care.  
5. The people: I sat next to three middle aged women who wept through the worship and were calling out to the Lord on their knees. The pleading and passionate prayer deeply moved me. There were old men and young too- many you may not expect to have normally seen in church. It wasn't clear if they were some of the recently saved but they may well have been. There were many present who clearly had quite a story to tell.

Should you visit? 
As a traveller to a church or two in my time (I flew from Moscow to Toronto in 1993) I would say God seems to be doing a good thing here.
Some advice: 
-Be expectant
-Take your Bible
-Pray for the team @ Victory
-Pray for Richard Taylor
-Make it all about Jesus as Richard is encouraging you to.

The pastors seem wise, the ministry is well lead, the worship passionate, the Scriptures are opened and the overarching desire is that Jesus is made much of. They are also very passionate about reaching the lost rather than simply blessing/filling Christians. We were all refreshed, encouraged and we felt loved and welcomed. 
So, I would encourage you to turn off Eastenders and do get in the car and head up the M4 if the moment grabs you. If you lead a church put the staff team in the car and bring them too. Alternately, you can watch it on live stream (as my pal's wives did on Facebook) and see what you think.
Latest details here.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

One life to invest

'After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel'

Judges 2 v 10

'You don't have the luxury of babysitting the previous generations approach to doing church. You don't have time for that. Besides you've only got one life to invest in this glorious cause. So invest it well'

Andy Stanley in 'Deep and Wide: Creating churches unchurched people love to come to'

Thursday, May 02, 2013

For the pod: Be a Ruby

I listened to this wonderful sermon 'The hope of the gospel' (31/3/13) by Becky Pippert, the author of 'Out of the saltshaker' given @ St Aldates Oxford. The story she tells about Ruby is worth the 38 minutes of listening. Pippert offers a treasure trove of wisdom and encouragement.

Don't miss this!

How to read the Bible

There are lots of ways to read the Bible but my knower tells me there is not as much of it going on as their should be. Technology, schedules, long hours of work, family demands, educational pressure and TV all serve to push time with God to the margins.

Stephen Covey blessed us all with the idea that it is good habits that makes for effective people. Developing the 'habit' of setting time aside to enjoy God and listen to his word is surely the habit of all habits. As readers will know, I recently quoted Billy Graham whose only piece of advice to young (and old I might add) Christians was this:

"Read the Bible and Pray every day"

That dear friends is the big idea.

There is no other.

There are so many different ways to read the Bible but here are some thoughts.

1. Find a time
2. Have a place
3. Have a Bible
4. Have a Journal
5. Write and speak out some prayers

I have recently changed my habit and it is working well for me. For years I have used 'For the love of God' and a Moleskine but I have moved from a physical Bible and journal to two iPhone/iPad apps. Here's the thing- whatever method you choose it will probably take you 30 days to form the habit. Don't be religious about it but decide intentionally the read the Bible and pray every day for thirty days (do allow for a few days of grace and cut yourself some slack).

Step 1: BIOY app: I have started reading HTB's Bible in one year which has a wonderful app you can download onto your phone/tablet. It has three readings a day: OT, NT and either a Psalm or a Proverb and a daily commentary written by Nicky Gumbel. Today, I am pondering the conflict over the Reubenites and their altar (Joshua 21-22) and wondering about the relationship between prayer and the wind blowing (John 3). What are you pondering?

Step 2: Journal app: I have also downloaded a journal app- there are many to choose from. As I read the Bible if there are any verses that resonate then I copy and paste them into the journal and then write some thoughts, reflections and prayers for people and situations and capture a few events from the day before. I will sometimes give some time to meditate on a particular verse or passage (Check out Five ways to meditate and Piper on how and why he does it). A written record will give tangible and reference-able permanence to your story with God which will encourage you.

I hope this is a help.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013


'To relinquish; to admit that some dreams are presumptuous; to acknowledge that some needs outlast me; to recognise my inability to supply what is lacking; to admit that I am limited; to say no to competition with brothers and sisters, and to give to others what I strongly desired for myself; and in it all to still take up the pen or give voice to preach Jesus- these indicate a surrender to noble limits

....God is the remembered one. But this does not mean we are forgotten- not by him. Not by a long shot. In fact, being remembered by him means we no longer fear being forgotten by the world. Living humanly within his remembrance is enough'

'Sensing Jesus' by Zack Erswine, Page 19

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