Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Surrendering the lot

'Billy Graham, already established in his ministry, felt frustrated and as if he was living at second best. At a conference, he  woke up another guest speaker in the middle of the night to talk over his difficulties. This speaker was Edwin Orr, a famous historian of revival. As Graham expressed his hunger for 'deeper blessing', Orr told him it came 'by way of surrender'. Orr probed Graham: 'Have you surrended your will, emotions, intellect?'

Graham went out alone that night into the woods. There was one issue which he knew was holding him back- he had an issue that needed to be put to death. After deep wrestlings, he surrendered this  issue to The Lord. He returned saying that he had been filled afresh with the Spirit of God and had received a vision for his ministry. A revival shortly followed him to Los Angeles, and his new-found power and authority astounded all'

'More' by Simon Ponsonby, Page 81

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

More on not so strange fire

The Scriptures suggest we should ..'.not be ignorant of spiritual gifts'.

A couple of things on this chestnut:

Thomas Creedy has reviewed Frank Viola's critique of Strange Fire (which you can download and read for free for the next few days)

Also, John Piper has now offered some thoughts on Strange Fire.

('Strange fire' was the number one trending issue on twitter a couple of weeks ago so it seems many are interested in these things)

Monday, November 11, 2013

For the pod: The end of Christendom

This introductory talk to R13 is an interesting critique of Christian history and post-Christian culture and thinking and although American in context many of these realities are similarly true both in Europe and here in the UK. It addresses sexuality and culture, Christians no longer having a seat at the table and tribalism. As you might expect given the speaker, the talk contains some thought-provoking and some controversial nuggets.

Ten things for a Monday

1. Trust the guys in the field

2. Breakfast and Cycling

3. I laid my ten page sermon aside and showed this in church. Someone became a follower of Jesus.

4. Christians and the Sabbath introducing Andy Crouch's new book (which may be my next read)

5. A friend asked a Vicar with a large library"What's the best book outside the Bible you've ever read?" This was his answer.

6. Productivity for pastors

7. Why C S Lewis remains so read 50 years after he died.

8. 6 reasons for expository preaching and I've been reading a few chapters in this book to work on/ improve my preaching.

9. This essay has been around for ages but made me laugh out loud.

10. This is a WONDERFUL story and also this is now on our fridge.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Billy Graham's Message to America (and the UK)

I took my secretary Sacha (age 21) to listen Billy Graham in Moscow in 1995 so that she might hear the gospel. Little did I know that six months later she would be dead.

This is well worth taking half an hour out to watch and please do pass it forward to friends.

Billy Graham is 95.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Jesus at the centre

I met up with a crowd of Vicars who have planted, are planting or planning to plant churches for a morning to chat, pray and encourage each other.

Much blessed.

We sang this song together. (Rather than being in a big stadium with flashing lights and dry ice we were in a little 1960's prefab redbrick C of E church just off the Finchley Road :)

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

For the pod: Mary the leader

I heard Nicky preach on Sunday evening. His talk was entitled 'Mary: Called to lead' which if you've never really thought about Mary much is well worth a listen.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Guest post: Mrs C on 'What did you expect?'

Two weeks after getting back from our honeymoon road trip, I spent a few days on a clergy wives 'get-away' in Kent. This book was recommended to us so David and I are reading it together on our days off. We are only on Chapter 2 and we both feel it is already blessing us in a mighty way. Having a book you read (listen to) with your spouse is not a bad idea even if your marriage is in great shape.

Marriage is a mighty calling; to love, pray for, encourage and bless someone every day this side of eternity which is summed up so well in this piece that David posted yesterday called 'Marriage is not for you'. This is one to read, even and perhaps especially if you are single, as both David and I were for many years.

"So I’m going to make this really simple: marriage isn’t for you. You don’t marry to make yourself happy, you marry to make someone else happy. More than that, your marriage isn’t for yourself, you’re marrying for a family. Not just for the in-laws and all of that nonsense, but for your future children. Who do you want to help you raise them? Who do you want to influence them? Marriage isn’t for you. It’s not about you. Marriage is about the person you married.”

So many people told us that 'marriage isn't easy or a bed of roses' and that the first year is particularly tough so it seemed there is no time like the present to start investing in ours. Most people take their car in for an MOT, service the boiler, and go to the GP for a health check, so why do so many of us not do the same for our marriages? Perhaps it is the lack of time, exhaustion, preoccupation with kids, over work, to do lists, hobbies... and ultimately, not putting Jesus first.

The chapter we read today is called 'Reason to Continue' and was all about this last point:

"Worshiping God as Saviour also means you find joy in being part of the work of grace that God is unrelentingly committed to doing in your spouse's life. So, when your spouse blows it, you will not throw her sin in her face. You will not make her feel guilty for how hard her failure makes life for you. You will not use her sins against her. You will not keep a detailed history of her wrongs against you. Rather, you will look for ways of incarnating the transforming grace of the Saviour. You will be ready to encourage her when she fails and restore her when she falls, and you will not treat her as less righteousness than you.

.. When your heart rests in the amazing wisdom of the choices of a powerful Creator, you have given yourself a reason to continue. When your heart celebrates the myriad of careful choices that were made to bring your stories together, you have given yourself reason to continue. When your heart is filled with gratitude for the amazing grace that you both have been and are being given, you have given yourself reason to continue. You are not alone. Your creating, ruling, transforming Lord is still with you. He has brought your stories together and placed them smack-dab in the middle of his redemptive story. As long as he is Creator, as long as he is Sovereign and as long as he is Saviour you have reason to get up in the morning and love one another, even though you aren't yet what he created you to be."

Although I realise we have only been married a matter of weeks, and many of you will have bountiful wisdom to throw our way, if you do decide to pick up this book, I have no doubt that you will enjoy reading it together. We are finding it helpful to read it aloud, underline bits and make notes at the end of each chapter before praying through what God has revealed to us together.

This book is well worth a read!

Monday, November 04, 2013

Ten things for a Monday

1. Loving Educating Yorkshire.

2. Amazingly, I had to queue to get into a church last night. 'All in' (which you should read) has me simultaneously reflecting on who some of us are following and this was fresh in my mind.

3. We've just finished over a year in Mark and you might like to work through these as a recap.

4. Two people who spoke at a conference I attended have hit some choppy waters here and here. A note to myself and all of us that if you have a big platform you need both wisdom and character to maintain and sustain it. The problem with pedestals is they are terribly easy to fall off and many are willing you to do so- a particularly the media. People who lead need prayer- especially those who inspire us and are used by God to influence others.

5. A visit means more than a text

6. A thought-provoking piece entitled 'Marriage isn't for you'.

7. My father-in-law put me on to this article that he read in his Telegraph called 'The Bishops of Bling' and in reading it I learnt the Catholics have Bling too. It's always good to be reminded of the seduction of the prosperity gospel.

8. Seth Godin on Owning it.

9. In our day, we so desperately need the old and the wise.

10. A giant Jesus in the middle of a war.

Sunday, November 03, 2013


'When did we start believing that God wants to send us to safe places to do easy things? That faithfulness is holding the fort? That playing it safe is safe? That there is any greater privilege than sacrifice? That radical is anything but normal?

Jesus didn't die to keep us safe. He died to make us dangerous.

Faithfulness is not holding the fort. It's storming the gates of hell.'

 from 'All in' by Mark Batterson

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Saturday blog-sweep

Mark Batterson's new book is called 'All in' (love the title) and an interview with him on '5 insights on following Jesus'. 

When is the best time to drink coffee?

How to pray for your children and grandchildren

Real sex for a £1 and if you love books you'll love this.

Good interview with Trevin Wax on about the new book 'The Sending Church'

An interesting article called '5 differences between Catholic theology and the gospel'

The first assignment of the great commission is 'Do nothing'

Three good questions

A good article in the Speccy by James Mumford about the fight for your life.

20 photos to make you cry

Our ridiculous standard of beauty in 37 seconds

What is our problem with Hell?

Gay couples choosing to say 'I don't' and a thought from Campolo on homosexuality.

US spied on the Pope

The ordinary to the extraordinary

I don't know who Doug Phillips is but this piece is worth reading as we call all fall.

New and notable books

It nice interview about a generous waitress.

And if you want some more truly wonderful links check out A Holy Experience. I don't know where Ann Voscamps finds such marvels with such regularity.

Friday, November 01, 2013

The Circle Maker

'Next to the wonder of seeing my Savior will be, I think, the wonder that I made so little use of the power of prayer.'

'Some people think God does not like to be troubled with our constant coming and asking. The way to trouble God is not to come at all.'

D.L. Moody

Recently there was an article in USA Today about the benefits of walking for health. I read it while three quarters of the way through a book that has deeply impacted my prayer life and it too talks about walking. I think the sign of a good book is one that you start to live out while you are still reading it. You tell others about it, you put into practice the things you learn, you quote stories from it and you see that through reading it you're being changed. This book has put a fresh spring in my prayer life and faith in my bones. I have, as readers may know, been a man who often likes to walk and pray as I pace around my secret place (which I try to go to often).

The book is called 'The Circle Maker' (the website has lots of films you can watch if you are the visual type). To summarise, it's basically about prayer and its incredible power. It's written by Mark Batterson who planted National Community Church in Washington DC and who has seen God do remarkable things in his city through prayer and, more specifically, through his own prayer walking. The idea that you can pray while walking may be news to some of you. You can indeed pray and walk and this may be a relief to activist readers who shudder at the thought of a lonely chair and a silent room.  By the way, Gary Thomas unpacks all this in his excellent book Sacred Pathways.

How has this book impacted me?

Well I'll be honest. Things are very dire in our land and in the C of E. No one likes to mention this too much and if you live in London you are a bit shielded from the realities of national church decline-particularly in the North. Someone this week told me that that in Durham Diocese for instance, where the A of C hails from, if you take out St Nics, the average church attendance on Sunday is 8. Surely it must be more than 8? My source assured me this is the figure- I truly pray they are wrong.

So what's to be done if we want to see churches planted and disciples made and the land revived?

Whenever I come across someone dressed in purple I ask them - 'What's the plan?' Average age 62 of our congregants, too few Curacies, no money, buildings in disrepair, clergy depressed and 40% of clergy retiring in the next 10 years. And the plan is........?  

Batterson makes lots of good points- one of them is that too often we pray but then have no plan to act out of the prayer. Alternatively, we act without any prayer and these become just plans with no power. We must both pray and act. The books starts with a story from the Talmud about 'Honi the circle maker' and this may get some of your sound-o-meters gittery from the off but do press on. The book does at times have the slight feel of 'name it and claim it' but again the author is at pains to qualify from Scripture the points he knows may raise an 'I'm not sure about this' in his readers. Also, many of his illustrations of answered prayers are around provision of money for capital and other projects. But do press on and pray through (to use the term from the book) and you will find plenty of nuggets and stories to encourage you. You see, whilst the other side of the water the danger is often towards a prosperity gospel- our side of the pond it's in the opposite direction towards an impoverished and gloom filled one. A Vicar pal only yesterday recommended I read 'Abundance: The future is better than you think' which makes this point from a secular perspective. 

The chapter called 'Life Goals' will make some readers groan but I have to say it has greatly inspired me and I am planning a half a day to reflect on just this chapter. The author, by his own admission, is a type A and is someone who naturally likes challenges and goals and can probably get more done before breakfast than most of us do in a week.  But the idea of committing things to paper that we want to do and see happen in and through our lives is a good and healthy one I think. You can read his '10 Steps to setting life goals' if you can't be naffed to read the whole book but it you can't be naffed you're probably not the 'Life Goals' type!

Maybe this book just catches me at a time when I need someone to tell me some good news stories and to hang around a pastor with buckets of faith and hope. Maybe it catches me at a time when the 'can't do' approach of so many who lead is dragging me down. This has been a wonderful antidote to the gloom and lack of vision I see all around me. 

To conclude, I really do think reading this book has changed me. Maybe I shouldn't be that surprised as the author prayed it would. You never know, reading it might change you too.

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