Friday, August 30, 2013

Sheds, Organs, Country Music and a day of rest

A word used often at Vicar factory by Uncle Geoff (our college Chaplain) was the word 'liminality'. It means being transitional and I suppose now, for me (us), is one of the those times. Through this liminality I have continued to blog and people have asked me if I will continue to blog once I am married. I hope so is my answer and Mrs Cooke to be is a fan of me continuing to write/blog. I love sharing stuff - in many ways I was built to blog. It means I can share stuff and not annoy too many people because you only have to come here and read if you want to.

This week, for what it's worth, I have learnt about sheds and their bases, teak oil, what the colour violet is, waistcoats and tie combos, speeches (this is the best book on speeches) the problems of tuning organs, wedding regulations, I watched a documentary on songwriting and mused on the parallels with sermon writing, learnt about the connection of scripture to community (6/30/13), I've discovered Miranda Lambert (who could possibly not love lots of high chairs, acoustic guitars and a country music jam?)- love Mama's broken heart and I've been to this with my mum and in-laws to be. Oh- and I lost my Oyster card and also spent money on mending my car having hit a brick and flint wall reversing out of my sister's drive. Not a good time in life to drop and unnecessary dollop of cash :( Finally, I had a chat with an Italian man on the joys of the Brompton and he fixed my seat for me on Sheen high street which was jolly decent of him.

You see my blog is simply a diary of stuff that impacts me or I discover. I post it here and if anyone discovers it and it's helpful or thought-provoking to them then praise God. If not then there are plenty (I say plenty) of other blogs to read.

Today is my day off so I am less disciplined about my clicking and time spent reading and thinking which I think is OK. Years ago, a Keller sermon I think called Work and Rest helped me when he said Sabbath time should be divided into three segments.

1. Worship and prayer
2. Restorative activity
3. 'Uncommitted' time.

1. is easy to understand. 2. is the challenge of doing something that refreshes and restores you and this will be different depending on the person- go for a walk, a picnic, watch a movie, see a pal. 3. is the section I like and is so counter-cultural and it says 'don't make a plan, don't schedule anything, don't plan to meet anybody just simply have a third of your time blank and see what happens. Rest, play, cook something, read a book or a paper, nap. We seem to live in days when uncommitted time greatly unnerves people but it's part of what Sabbath is supposed to be about.

I love Rob Bell's Sabbath quote. We beg to differ on heaven and hell but he has been a help to me in lots of ways that are hard to sum up.

I think I should probably stick it on my (soon to be our) fridge.
"There are so many layers to the healing of the soul. One practice that has brought incredible healing is the taking of a Sabbath. Now when we read the word Sabbath, most of us think that the real issue behind the Sabbath isn’t which day of the week it is but how we live all the time.
I decided to start taking one day a week to cease from work. And what I discovered is that I couldn’t even do it at first.
I would go into depression.
By the afternoon I would be so . . . low.
I realized that my life was all about keeping the adrenaline buzz going and that I was only really happy when I was going all the time. When I stopped to spend a day to remember that I am loved just because I exist, I found out how much of my efforts were about earning something I already have.
Sabbath is taking a day a week to remind myself that I did not make the world and that it will continue to exist without my efforts.
Sabbath is a day when my work is done, even if it isn’t.
Sabbath is a day when my job is to enjoy. Period.
Sabbath is a day when I am fully available to myself and those I love most.
Sabbath is a day when I remember that when God made the world, he saw that it was good.
Sabbath is a day when I produce nothing.
Sabbath is a day when I remind myself that I am not a machine.
Sabbath is a day when at the end I say, “I didn’t do anything today,” and I don’t add, “And I feel so guilty.”
Sabbath is a day when my phone is turned off, I don’t check my email, and you can’t get ahold of me.
Jesus wants to heal our souls, wants to give us the shalom of God. And so we have to stop. We have to slow down. We have to sit still and stare out the window and let the engine come to an idle. We have to listen to what our inner voice is saying."

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Explaining Christianity to a post-Christian culture

Frank Viola posted this great ad. Trying to explain what on earth Christianity is to post-moderns in London has rather similar challenges. It made me chuckle.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

For the pod: The Divine Loving Warrior

For many in our days the idea that a loving God can also be a wrathful one is an anathema. But the Biblical God is to be both feared (Proverbs 9:10) and loved (Mark 8: 28-29) and these two seeming opposites collide in the person of Jesus.

I listened yesterday in the car to a wonderful sermon The Divine Loving Warrior (04/03/12) that will teach you how this works.

Lots of things impacted me in this talk but it is worth taking the time to listen to simply to hear the incredible story Simon tells about his mother.


Saturday blog-sweep

Iphone turned into a distraction free device

Welby says church 'on the edge of a precipice' 

How to simply explain the existence of God

Yearn (Amazing song-listen to and pray it)

Seven reasons every pastor should have a blog and Ten enemy attacks on leaders

The writing tools of twenty famous authors

Jesus on every page

G K Chesterton on how to truly live life

Will you be a believer tomorrow morning?

Six blessings of church planting and Six challenges of church planting 

How to seize the last of summer

Ben Affleck is the new Batman

Just love a bit of good old fashioned romance.... and Duct tape surfing

Friday, August 23, 2013


My reading today contained a fantastic verse offering advice to us for when we don't know what to do.

Maybe today is one of those days for you. If so, meditate on 2 Chronicles 20:13. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013


Here was me driving around listening to the radio and what did I learn? Well, apparently monogamy is 'so yesterday'. There was an extraordinary interview with two couples one married, one engaged who all live together. He loves her but she also is in love with and sleeping with her and she is in love with the other man who isn't her husband (who also happens to be gay and sleeps with other men). Follow all that? Well done you. It's called being 'polyamorous' (in the Oxford dictionary from 2006) or perhaps to use the Bible's 'so yesterday' terminology 'consensually adulterous'. 

A very extreme yet interesting take on contemporary sexual ethics. You can listen to Monogamy and the Rule of Love and do read How does a polyamorous relationship between four people work?.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

For the pod: Enjoying God

Three times in as many weeks the same sermon series has been recommended to me by someone.

The series is called 'Enjoying God' by Judah Smith

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Nicky Gumbel thinks Judah Smith is one of the best young preachers in a pulpit in our day.  Judah spoke at the 2012 Leadership Conference and his talk was called 'The Soul of a Leader'.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Saturday blog-sweep

Unarmed Egyptian man with hands raised gunned down

Twelve myths about Arminianism (a follow up to Twelve myths about Calvinism)

One second on the internet....

Eleven things you might not understand about your minister

Seth Godin 'What did you do this summer?'

'Ted meets Book Club'

What Christians must learn from the 'new atheists' if only we will listen and What six types of atheist mean for Christian outreach

D A Carson has a few quotes

-How to overcome

-The Wrath of God....we can't ignore it

-Perceiving our greatest need

A letter from C S Lewis on Christian piety and homosexuality

The Managed life vs the Unmanaged life

John Wesley on the importance of reading

'I scarce ever knew a preacher read so little. And perhaps, by neglecting it, you have lost the taste for it. Hence your talent in preaching does not increase. It is just the same as it was seven years ago. It is lively, but not deep; there is little variety, there is no compass of thought. Reading only can supply this, with meditation and daily prayer. You wrong yourself greatly by omitting this. You can never be a deep preacher without it, any more than a thorough Christian.'

Friday, August 16, 2013

For the pod: I decided to go

'We are not changed by the promises we make to God but by those he makes to us'

Craig Groeschl

I happened upon this excellent talk by Craig Groeschl who spoke at Willow Creek a few weeks ago. He planted and created the Youversion app. In some of my summer posts I have been trying to encourage myself (and hopefully you) to a greater level of faith.

The two questions at the end of this sermon will, if you ask them and work them through, initiate that.

These are:

1. What does God want you to want?

2. What step of faith do you need to take in order to want what God wants?

In answering both these some of you may write a very different story for your life than the one you've written thus far.

I pray it is so.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Less than three minutes

I have found with some regularity that Steve Furtick's little ditties have encouraged me and offered me wisdom during this year. He did so here in less than three minutes.

Leading Kingdom Movements

Our church plant is now nearly a year old and we are about to embark on the next season in this adventure. There have been both successes and failures in this kingdom endeavour and I am reflecting and praying about both.

Now, one of the buzz words for those who live in church land is the word 'missional'. Millions of words have been spilt on what this means and much of it has seemed to me an articulation of the blindingly obvious. For me, if church is about both coming and going then mission is the 'going' bit. It's about doing daily life and ordinary things in the Spirit's power. We do this in the hope of engaging those who do not yet know Jesus with the gospel.

But how do you actually do that? The truth is, I've really little idea but here are ten things that have had some impact to varying degrees over these last twelve months.

1. Be kind
2. Pray
3. Practice hospitality
4. Practice joy
5. Be yourself and repent when you mess up (which I do with huge regularity)
6. Have faith for the release of God's power and be obedient to whatever he tells you to do and then do it.
7. Sing
8. Be interesting (in order to encourage this I recommend reading books) and also hang out with people and in places where the not-yet Jesus followers gather e.g Your local neighbourhood coffee shop.
9. Rest well
10. Practice silence, solitude and journalling

As part of my where next discussions and negotiations with the Lord, I've been reading Mike Breen's latest book called 'Leading Kingdom Movements' (I have also been studying 1 and 2 Timothy). For those who don't know Mike, he was a Vicar in both London and Sheffield and now lives in the US. This book tells his amazing story and is his 'this is everything I've learnt so far' work on what it means to follow Jesus and live out his mission in a post-Christian western culture. I would place it in the 'you must have read this or I won't ordain you' category for Ordinands. It's a very thought-provoking read and it makes me so sad that the C of E failed to make him a Bishop. Surely we need his like and leadership in these days?

For those who won't get around to reading this, you may instead like to check out this post by Timmy Brister called 'From Strangers to Missionaries: A Neighbourhood Strategy for Mission'. It's very 'missional' in tone and is worth reading, reading again slowly and then praying through and working out how you might implement some of its content.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

What will you do with the time you are given (in Jelly Beans)

Resolved, to think much on all occasions of my own dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death.

Jonathan Edwards

Resolution Number 9.

Yesterday, I went to a moving funeral in a Baptist church and as always happens I realised anew that people will remember my life in a formal sense for about half an hour (someone will speak about it for no more than ten minutes- six if we have an extra hymn). My pal who played the piano at the said funeral reminded me of this and we chatted in the car on the way back about the fact that how we respond to Jesus and his mission is the only thing that is ultimately going to count. So, first thing this morning I listened to 'What is our mission' (Chandler is one of the shouty no-nonsense preachers I like that won't be your cup of tea but I am someone who needs a raised voice to kick me into action). It gave me fresh focus on what things really matter.

You see, not much of the stuff people get their knickers in a twist about truly matters and most of the issues you are terribly flustered by today you won't, given time, be able to remember. If you are forty-five you now realise that your O-levels didn't have the enormous consequence you were told they would (I managed not even a single A, let alone an A star, which hadn't yet been invented) and the truth is most of the people we know who have achieved and done interesting things didn't triumph aged 16 with good GCSE's. Not that many of the middle classes of West London stop for a moment to tell their children this.

Now, on with my morbid reflection. If you are posh (and Anglican) you may have what's called a "Memorial service' which will be about all the things you achieved and is the opportunity to gather everyone together to tell them you were 'Chief Executive of This' or 'Head of That' or 'Dean of the other'. If you are a Christian a memorial service is an opportunity for some testimony to how you followed Jesus. This is always good to hear and to be encouraged by. However, most ordinary people these days go to the Crem and that's all done in under half an hour and, if you opt for a Christian funeral then Cranmer's liturgy takes about twenty of the thirty you're allocated (or to be fair the Vicar is allocated it because I'll be dead). If you go for a humanist funeral they will be happy to talk all about you for the full half hour and will also play some of your record collection but talking about 'you' for longer won't make your impact any greater or the significance of your life any more meaningful. Anyway, to be a secular humanist is by definition to have done away with the idea of hope or purpose or anything more than this. The only thing left is your life and then dust so personally I've chosen Christ's life and the hope of Glory over my own motley record (and the dust)

Cranmer's liturgy is a good and marvellous thing and is very short on 'us', exactly because your life isn't, never will be and wasn't purposed to ever be about you. It was (and hopefully is) meant to be centred upon Jesus, his life, his purpose and his mission. As an aside, if you have a think about what your life revolves around and it's not Jesus there is every likelihood that this is your idolatry. We all have idols.

In a secular culture no one likes to speak about death. I always remember a man who I worked opposite when I first started working for 'Sunshine deserts'.

My colleagues name was Clive and he'd worked for Sunshine deserts for 36 years and then one day I said goodbye to him at five and he dropped dead in his back garden that same night. Clive spent his life organising the movement of containers of deserts from one depot to another. We all went to the Crem for his funeral, had a finger buffet, a pint of Adnams and a sausage on a stick in a pub in Amersham and then all went back to work. The very next day there was someone different sitting at Clive's desk moving the 'deserts' from a to b. I had something of a moment that only with hindsight of course led to me resigning from spending my life as Clive had. Clive and many many like him were in my mind when I wrote 'What's it all about?' and I emailed it to anyone and everyone who asked me 'Why are you leaving?'.

We should all spend a bit of time, as Covey says, beginning with the end in mind. Also, reading 'If you want to walk on water' and a book called 'Let your life speak' by Parker Palmer might be good and I found personally so helpful.

Here are a few questions:

1. How are you currently spending your time?
2. Who are you spending your time with?
3. What are you spending your money on?
4. Have you made any disciples?
5. Do you have a plan for how you are making a disciple of yourself and others?
6. Are you reading?
7. Are you growing?
8. Are you praying, reading scripture and journalling in order to know God better and serve him more faithfully?

Apologies this isn't very cheery but nor is death. Fortunately, if you're a follower of Jesus death is not the end of the story. Instead the promise is of a life of unfettered fullness and joy that continues forever.
Without Jesus, let's be honest, it's all rather pointless and I for one will not be playing those I leave behind my record collection. They should all be very grateful to me for that.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Saturday blog sweep

Vicky Beeching on Cameron's terrible advice on cyber-bullying.

An interesting interview with Maria Popova via Jesus Creed. It includes the wonderful Annie Dillard quote 'A life spent reading- that is a good life'

12 Myths about Calvinism

This is far worse than the fiction of Jaws

Ten tips to overcome discouragement

Matt Perman is blogging 'The Willow Leadership Summit' and I am mulling on Henry Cloud's wisdom.

Dangerous calling is worth checking out and anyone in ministry would do well to read Tripp's big idea, as quoted, and reflect on it long and hard. I certainly am.

Piper and Keller reveal the influence of  C S Lewis on their lives

If you want to plant a church (or lead one) some have the expectation you might have read some books (I do enjoy a book list).

Two for twenty

Hope for difficult churches

Becoming a great commission Christian.

I love this BA ad....

Friday, August 09, 2013

When your world collapses

I have written down the years quite a bit about Rick Warren and this year met him and heard him teach a group of 100 or so Vicars. Reading 'The purpose driven life' deeply impacted my life when I read it over a decade ago. For more on PDL see a great interview here.

I found Rick Warren to be a warm, generous, wise and kind man. Not more than two weeks after his time in London with us we heard that his son Matthew had committed suicide. This was both shocking and deeply sad and was reported across the world's media. Since then Rick and his wife have been in mourning and processing the horrific death (he shot himself) of their beloved son.

He returned to the pulpit a couple of weeks ago and preached this message:

How we're getting through

You may also want to listen to 'When your world collapses'

The central message is one of hope and our need of it and how it is found in the gospel. The message is that God's plan is bigger than your immediate circumstances or seemingly devastating trials and with Jesus you can come though.

Maybe you too are in a season of testing and 'shock'.

-We all at times get sick
-We all have people we love who will at some point die
-We all have marriages that go through tests
-We all experience loss
-We will all face mental health issues in ourselves and/or others
-We all have unexpected events that shake and shock us (if you haven't yet you will)
-We all have things that go wrong or jobs that we lose or opportunities/things we long for that pass us by
-We all have seasons when 'Why' questions surround us
-We all have prayers that remain unanswered
-We all have the temptation at times to give in to hopelessness
-We all, each one of us, desperately need hope.

I hope these messages offer you some hope and encouragement and if you are in a good place use them to prepare you for the times of difficulty that are inevitable and coming.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

How do you pray?

Yesterday I read a book called 'A simple way to pray' by Martin Luther. I read it on the basis of a review by R C Sproul, author of the classic work 'The Holiness of God' (on my essential reads list).

A simple way to pray was written for Luther's barber to help him pray and is only 34 pages long. In this edition, there is an excellent chapter on the spiritual disciplines at the end of the book. For more on the disciplines do make time to read Don Whitney's 'The Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life'.

Here's the review:

"No book has done more to revolutionise my personal prayer life than this little book by Martin Luther"

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

For the pod: Dangerous leaders

Sometimes you come across a talk that fires up the boiler anew (2 Timothy 1:6). This one by Bill Hybels did that for me. He only really has one talk but it always drips of his passion for Jesus and his church.

The summer break is always a good time to take a morning or even a day (as I am about to) and reflect on how dangerous you are as a leader. Dangerous in a positive sense and dangerous in the negative way that he describes so vividly.

Here's a few general questions that came to me as I listened:
  • How is my prayer life and time alone with God?
  • How much am I comparing myself and my church with others?
  • How much time am I spending in the Scriptures?
  • What things that I used to do when I was more dangerous have I stopped doing? When was the last time I shared the gospel with someone and spoke of Jesus to them?
  • What things lie under the surface that could sink me or am I in denial of (the Tiger Woods illustration bears some reflection knowing what we all now know)
  • What goal is most important to me?
  • What things distract me most?
  • Am I keeping still keeping a record of the things God has done and is doing in my journal?
  • How attentive am I to the care of both my body and my mind?
  • Who and what feeds me and who and what drains me and how am I managing these two taps?
  • How is my personal reading and how many books have I read this year and what did I learn from them? Have I stopped reading?
  • How is my marriage?
  • How are my kids?
  • How much risk am I taking in my decisions and for the cause of the gospel?
  • Who am I investing in to grow and encourage leaders into order to multiply their kingdom impact?
  • Have I re-evaluated and re-calibrated the cost I am prepared to bear for Christ and his call on my life?
  • How is my rest and my fun and my time-out?
There is also quite a helpful grid that lays out the key points of the talk and might be worth some time journalling out. I really hope listening to this is a blessing to some readers and that it fires your heart anew. You may also want to read '10 ways to raise the spiritual temperature of your church.' I am praying for many of you to find fresh purpose and fire from the content of this talk over the summer.  

Monday, August 05, 2013

Ten things for a Monday

1. What drives writers to drink

2. Welby says 'conversion was like having measles'

3. Monogamy and human evolution

4. Be famous for not trying to be famous

5. I am enjoying James's new blog called 'I write what I like

6. Tim Keller does Q & A on twitter

7. Rachel Held Evans and Trevin Wax on 'Why millenials are leaving the church'

8. I spent last week listening to Jay Pathak who is a terrific fellow. I am now going to read his book called 'The Art of Neighbouring' . He does seem to have a typo on the cover which must be a blow :)

9. I wonder if Sunday school is destroying our kids

10 'Some of why I preach' and 'Confessions of a leadership junkie'

The words of this song are digging deep into me currently

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