Wednesday, October 30, 2013

For the pod: Kingdom PHD's

Simon Ponsonby preached an excellent sermon called 'Kingdom Phd's' that you might like to listen to if you've been following the debates on-line about John McArthur, Strange Fire and cessationism.

The sermon makes a compelling and Biblical case for the continuationist position.  Well worth checking out.

So illiterate we don't get the joke

This week on Alpha is 'Why and how should I read the Bible?' and interestingly Nicky Gumbel doesn't in the talk mention the fact that if you don't read the Bible you won't find 'Life of Brian' funny. Who would have imagined this when the media frenzy broke in the 1970's?

Do read 'So Biblically illiterate in the UK that we no longer get Life of Brian'.

Sunday, October 27, 2013


If it feels like you're in the thick of it right now then perhaps make this your song before the Lord

Friday, October 25, 2013

Prince George's Christening

Justin Welby wonderfully inviting the masses to church.

There really is life in the old girl C of E yet....


'Every time you look at your sin, look five times at your Saviour'

Tim Keller via my pal Tim James

Monday, October 21, 2013

Not so strange fire

There is a fresh debate about the Holy Spirit raging on-line. To be honest it's rather got the 'been there done that' about it. It is the old 'Do we think God does what he did in Acts and are the gifts for today?' discussion and this remains very divisive in evangelicalism both in the UK and across the water. Well known conservative Bible teacher John MacArthur has organised a conference that has got many people hot under the collar. To be frank, it's not frightfully helpful and he seems the think that himself and about three other people in the world are Christians. None of these other three nor he obviously speak in tongues :)

So what's the debate about? Adrian Warnock (worth reading all four of the posts) can fill you in.

So how should we respond?

Terry Virgo, speaking here, has some very helpful things to say about the bringing together of both Word and Spirit.  He, like myself, has found MLJ to be the voice of reason on many theological matters including this one. For any who have read the Murray biographies, especially the second one, this was all thrashed though in the times of Charismatic renewal in the '60's and '70's.

Why comment on this and not ignore it all?

Well, firstly and factually I think MacArthur is wrong on some things and he is accusing many godly and grace exuding Jesus-loving folk of not being Christians (on reading his transcript this seems to also include me apparently). Tim Challies has some interesting reflections having actually attended this conference and thereby is in some position to report a few facts.

Secondly, I think this a 'work it for good' opportunity to point people to material that can help them think through these important theological issues. My dear pal Simon has spent much of his life thinking, preaching and writing about the Holy Spirit and if I could put a couple of books in people's hands in the midst of this debate they would be God inside out and More.

If any of my readers know Tim Challies do ask him to review 'More' and 'God inside out'. It might be timely.

I would also point you to a couple of talks on the work of the Spirit one by Ellie Mumford (Vineyard UK) and the other by Mark Driscoll (A29).

It's always good at times like these to do three things.

1. Pick up your Bible
2. Pray
3. Find wise people from the past and present who can help, inform and teach you.

If this prompts you to buy 'More', to grab a pen and to do some study on the person and work of the Holy Spirit then that would be great.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Latest batch

I know my readers are fascinated by the theological depth of the blog. However, one friend and sporadic reader flew past all my words and profound links, with the exception of the chutney recipe, and was inspired to actually make it!. Bless you Will. He think its a mark of his middle age. Agree?

Just put 'Beetroot/ spiced orange/bbc food into google. Here's the latest batch on the hob as we speak. Thanks to my pal Ian for the beetroots from his allotment!

Friday, October 18, 2013

It's not over til it's over

"The difference between where you are and where God wants you to be may be the painful decision you refuse to make" 

Craig Groeschl quoted in Wild Goose Chase by Mark Batterson (Page 156)

'Today as never before there is being laid upon the heart and conscience of the Church the burden of evangelism. Other generations have had there own specific tasks: confessional restatement, theological reorientation, ecclesiastical reconstruction. Today the demand is more radical and basic. It is spiritual resurrection: it is -under God- the creating of life. To confront a bewildered and dishevelled age with the fact of Christ and smite its disenchantment with the glory of the Resurrection- this is the urgent, overruling task. "Son of man, can these bones live?"

There is therefore, no place to-day for a Church that is not aflame with the Spirit who is the Lord the Giver of life, nor any value in a theology which is not passionately missionary. If there throbs through the Church the vitality of a living union with Christ- and apart from this the Church has no claim to exist, no right to preach, it is merely cumbering ground- if the Church can indeed say "It is not I who live, it is Christ who lives in me, " then the dark demonic forces of the age have met their match, and the thrust of life is stronger than the drift of death. A church that knows its Lord and is possessed by its Gospel cannot but propagate creatively the life that it has found. A Christian who is taking his faith seriously cannot but evangelize'

A Faith to Proclaim, James S Stewart, Pages 11-12 (1953)

Bill Hybels in this amazing talk has a wonderfully simple adage that vision is about moving people ....'from here to there'. He asks the question 'What happens if we chose not to do something verses the challenge of actually doing it.'

You see I know we could not bother with all the hassle of many things that we are dreaming and praying about about as a church. For example, we could as the people of God not bother responding to Strategy for ministry and just let 30 or more churches/livings in London close/disappear over the next five years- just so long as we're alright Jack. Let's be clear- that's potentially 30 parishes and 30 communities that need reaching with the gospel. It's 30 potential Foodbanks and Riverbank hubs and 30 youth groups and 30 mother and toddler ministries and 30 churches that could be ministering to the elderly and the needs of the poor. It's 30 Alpha courses that could be running and 30 student ministries and 30 hubs of worship and prayer and foreign mission. It's 30 community centres where people could receive debt counselling and Citizen's advice. It's 30 job clubs and community cafes. Lack of resources requires contraction but we could and should be making plans to keep churches open through church planting and grafting and missional communities. That's all of our challenge and it's the challenge probably every Diocese across England faces. Also, I suppose we could simply ignore the fact that for every two vicars who retire in the C of E we are only training one replacement. We could ignore the fact that the average bum on a seat in the Church of England is 62 and 40% of the Clergy of the C of E are due to retire in the next ten years.

There are so many 'We could not's......'

We could not bother changing the way we train and prepare clergy.

We could not make demonstrable evangelistic and missional gifting and passion an over-riding criteria for the recruitment and ordination of new clergy.

We could not ask the question of our church "What plan do we have in place to reach the lost in our parish/town/city who don't yet know Jesus".

We could not believe that our church is able to plant another church. After all once upon a time someone planted us. Ask why it is that your church isn't planning a church plant, a new missionary endeavour or a new idea to reach those who don't yet know Jesus? What's stopping you dream? Are you asking God for whatever you think it is that might make this possible?

We could not ask the question as a church community "When was the last time we saw someone saved, who are they, how did it happen and have we as a church heard their story to encourage ourselves and rejoice (as happens in heaven)?"

We could not run Alpha or some another evangelistic course but it might be worth a revisit as a church to ask why exactly it is we don't believe in or aren't currently doing/training people in evangelism? The NT (read Acts) does seem rather keen on us making disciples and proclaiming the gospel to others.

We could not have a plan for how we can minister to the poor, the slaves, the addicted and the broken both here and abroad (today is Anti-slavery day).

We could not innovate our worship services to make them more accessible to those in their teens and twenties.

We could not do any apologetics for teenagers.

We could not get around to reading 'I never left care, care left me' and then not respond to it as a church

We could not train any leaders and send no one to be ordained or on mission.

We could not have any discipleship groups

We could not bother reading The Circle Maker which might have transformed the way we pray.

We could not ask ourselves the question 'When was the last time I invited someone to church'

We could not ask the question "If I did ask someone to church is the service I am inviting them to accessible, welcoming and a place the gospel is preached in a way they might comprehend."

We could not ask the question "Is our style of music consistent with and for the people we are trying to reach or for the people who are already attending?" (this is a point of particular reflection as we start to plan our new youth service)

We could not worry about what forms of service we like and instead be more concerned about what we need to change and innovate in order to reach the people and groups we are currently not reaching.

These are the questions we are asking as a church and you might be asking them too. We're asking them because we want to make disciples and plant churches and we want to work out how to do this.

Time dear friends is short. So......








Look around

Have faith

Pray again

Then pray more

and then pray even more.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

So many Christians

My friend Elllie who runs 'The Riverbank Trust' and spoke last night about praying for our Government will be encouraged by this piece in the Standard today (sorry can't make it rotate) 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Those who say you can

This article in this months Marie Claire is both moving and disturbing- you should read it.

It's an interview with author Jenni Fagan who grew up in care and overcame extraordinary odds to become a novelist. This quote- the last line of the piece- struck me:

'Don't listen to the people who say you can't do something, listen to those who say you can'

The article has prompted me pray for the work of The Riverbank Trust of which we are involved as a church. For any who are interested, we are hosting a breakfast at HT Barnes on November 16th for any who want to get involved in supporting it.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Six short rules for young Christians

 Six Short Rules for Young Christians 
(By Brownlow North) 

Brownlow North was a man greatly used of God in the great 1859 Revival that swept the North of Ireland. His grandfather was the Bishop of Winchester, who was the son of Lord North, and once Prime Minister of England. Brownlow North, then, was an aristocrat; but, as we well know, position has no bearing on a man's spiritual quality, and Brownlow North spent his days in godless living. "For forty-four years of my life," he tells us, "my object was to pass time pleasantly; so long as the day was spent agreeably I was satisfied". In 1854, God laid him low with a sever illness and raised him to life eternal to work the works of God. Two books give us an insight into the life and work of Brownlow North. "Wilt thou go with this man?" The story of his life; and "The Rich Man and Lazarus", which is a collection of the sermons which he preached during that great awakening in 1859. 

1. Never neglect daily private prayer; and when you pray, remember that God is present, and that He hears your prayers. (Heb. 11:6).

2. Never neglect daily private Bible reading; and when you read remember that God is speaking to you, and that you are to believe and act upon what He says. I believe all backsliding begins with the neglect of these two rules. (John 5:39).

3. Never let a day pass without trying to do something for Jesus. Every night reflect on what Jesus has done for you, and then ask yourself, "What am I doing for Him"? (Matt. 5: 13-16)

4. If you are in doubt as to a thing being right or wrong, go to your room and kneel down and ask God's blessing on it. (Col. 3:17). If you cannot do this, it is wrong. (Roms. 16:23).

5. Never take your Christianity from Christians, or argue that because such and such people do so and so, therefore, you may. (2 Cor.10:12). You are to ask yourself, "How would Christ act in my place"? And strive to follow Him (John 10:27)

6. Never believe what you feel, if it contradicts God's Word. Ask yourself, "Can what I feel be true if God's Word is true"? And if BOTH cannot be true, believe God and make your own heart the liar. (Roms. 3:4. 1 John 5:10-11).


'Prayer simply dies from efforts to pray about 'good things' that honestly do not matter to us. The way to get to meaningful prayer for those good things is to start by praying for what we are really interested in. The circles of our interest will inevitably grow in largeness of God's love......Many people have found prayer impossible because they thought they should pray for wonderful but remote needs they actually had little or no interest in or even knowledge of.'

Dallas Willard 

'.....lay before Him what is in us, not what ought to be in us'

C. S. Lewis

in 'What they say about prayer' by David Pytches, p.46

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Fatally fragile

'Therefore, no matter what precautions we take, no matter how well we have put together a good life, no matter how hard we have worked to be healthy, wealthy, comfortable with friends and family and successful with our career-something will inevitably ruin it. No amount of money, power and planning can prevent bereavement, dire illness, relationship betrayal, financial disaster, or a host of other troubles from entering your life. Human life is fatally fragile and subject to forces beyond our power to manage. Life is tragic.'

(Walking with God through pain and suffering, Page 3)


My life is in a new season and I am very much enjoying it.

As a weird aside, I've made a couple of batches of chutney from the produce of our garden and some beetroot a pal gave me from his allotment and I have to say it's really rather good. Green tomato and Apple and Spiced orange and Beetroot for those who feel so moved to join me. It's a very therapeutic endeavour is chutney-making.

I've been reading a book a pal gave me on prayer by Bishop David Pytches. It's called 'What they say about prayer'. It's absolutely fantastic and I've been dipping into it as I have my quiet times. Sadly, it only seems to have a limited print run but do try your best to somehow get hold of a copy. Perhaps write to him?

A dear friend and constant encourager attended this conference in Toronto and was much blessed. When we skyped recently he commended Eric Mason who spoke at it to me so I listened to a sermon by him entitled 'Breaking free from strongholds'. Great stuff. He's a church planter in Philadelphia.

This quote by C S Lewis stopped me in my tracks this morning:

'The almost impossibly hard thing is to hand over your whole self to Christ. But it is far easier than what we are all trying to do instead. For what we are trying to do is remain what we call ourselves- our personal happiness centred on money or pleasure or ambition- and hoping, despite this, to behave honestly and chastley and humbly. And that is exactly what Christ warned us you cannot do. If I am a grass field- all the cutting will keep the grass less but won't produce wheat....I must be plowed up and re-sown.'

(Keller Reason for God P. 171-2)

I've been tapping my toe to 'This beating heart' by Matt Redman. It has more than a smattering of Mumford and Sons about it....

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

What should we be?

I read this today:

'The church should be a launching pad not a landing zone'

How true. 

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Brotherly countenance

'A Christian fellowship lives and exists by the intercession of its members for one another or it collapses. I can no longer condemn or hate a brother for whom I pray no matter how much trouble he causes me. His face that hitherto may have been strange and intolerable to me is transformed in intercession  into the countenance of a brother for whom Christ died the face of a forgiven  sinner.' 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer  'Life Together'

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Don't believe- 'Delight'

I read this quote from Desiring God this morning and it challenged me and it may do the same to you:

'Someone may ask, “If your aim is conversion, why don’t you just use the straightforward, biblical command ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved’ (Acts 16:31)? Why bring in this new terminology of Christian Hedonism?”

My answer has two parts. First, we are surrounded by unconverted people who think they do believe in Jesus. Drunks on the street say they believe. Unmarried couples sleeping together say they believe. Elderly people who haven’t sought worship or fellowship for forty years say they believe. All kinds of lukewarm, world-loving church attenders say they believe. The world abounds with millions of unconverted people who say they believe in Jesus. It does no good to tell these people to believe in the Lord Jesus. The phrase is empty. My responsibility as a preacher of the gospel and a teacher in the church is not to preserve and repeat cherished biblical sentences, but to pierce the heart with Biblical truth. In my neighborhood, every drunk on the street “believes” in Jesus. Drug dealers “believe” in Jesus. Panhandlers who haven’t been to church in forty years “believe” in Jesus. So I use different words to unpack what believe means. In recent years I have asked, “Do you receive Jesus as your Treasure?” Not just your Savior (everybody wants out of hell, but not to be with Jesus). Not just Lord (they might submit begrudgingly). The key is: Do you treasure Him more than everything? Converts to Christian Hedonism say with Paul, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8).

This leads to the second part of my answer. There are other straightforward biblical commands besides “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” The reason for introducing the idea of Christian Hedonism is to force these commands to our attention. Could it be that today the most straightforward biblical command for conversion is not, “Believe in the Lord,” but, "Delight yourself in the Lord”? And might not many slumbering hearts be stabbed broad awake by the words “Unless a man be born again into a Christian Hedonist he cannot see the kingdom of God”?”   (my emphasis)'

Via Take your Vitamin Z

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