Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Rainy days

Apparently it was the coldest bank holiday on record. We thought about lighting a fire and then didn't allow ourselves because it was August.

The picture of a hand in 'The Walk' (p.64) and its explanation of how it helps you pray the Lords prayer has stuck with me.

Matt Damon's Ice Bucket challenge with toilet water.

My Mum gave me Cook Simple  for my birthday. I cooked a spicy sausage recipe and nearly blew Mrs C's head off (a tip -use half a tea spoon of chilli flakes not 2). Yesterday, I cooked 'Penne with walnuts and gorgonzola'. Stupendous. Today, I may do something clever with a leg of lamb.

We watched Sunshine on Leith and absolutely loved it. A scene near the end made me cry and seemed to me to be a gospel moment.

I been thinking a lot of Scotland recently and the referendum, together with sandwich spread, has had me thinking about my childhood. I lived and went to school in Scotland as a laddie and one of the many helpful skills I acquired was an ability to do the highland fling.

I enjoyed this interview with Daniel Montgomery about Proof and like the thought the the best way to be a Calvinist is not to tell anyone that you are one.

Holiday beckons and so too the dilemma of what to read. I've lost my Kindle having lent it to someone at church and have since forgotten who it was. If it's you can I have it back please! This book is on my pile and may come away with me.

Faith and Fate (and the link it contains to a post called 'Will God protect my children?') has got me thinking today.

Last night Mrs C and I got a 'Text alert' to pray for Iraqi Christians from Open Doors. This morning I had a little look on their website and I learnt it was a hoax. Too late- we've already prayed which is one to mull on.

Tim Keller describes The Umbrella which disappeared long ago in the UK.

I have many thoughts having watched the Driscoll statement and was reminded of this quote which someone once left as as comment here after I had posted something about him. We are all such deeply flawed folk as pastors- as is this very 'Saulesque' man. I'm praying for him and his walk of repentance, for his church and for those he has seemingly so alienated and hurt while inspiring them to plant churches.

 “Let my name be forgotten, let me be trodden under the feet of all men, if Jesus may thereby be glorified…let us look above names and parties; let Jesus be our all in all…I care not who is uppermost. I know my place…even to be the servant of all.” George Whitfield

I have also been reflecting on On Platforms, On Self Promotion and Pleasure Complete  

One of the tasks of the week is to buy a suitcase. I have an expression I quote often 'Buy cheap buy twice'. Should this apply to luggage I wonder and should I go Samsonite or will Antler or Delsey pass muster? These are the big questions.

All suggestions and guidance welcome :)

Monday, August 25, 2014

'The Walk' and the story Jonah Kule

I sat in bed this morning and read 'The Walk: Steps for New and Renewed Followers of Jesus' in one sitting. It's a book that offers a new follower of Jesus a basic framework on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. It is quite influenced by the work of John C Miller and is a very easy but weighty work that you could helpfully use in one on one discipleship. 

Essentially, it unpacks methodically prayer, reading the Bible, the life of Jesus and Romans in a very practical and helpful way and applies it into the life of a new follower. It manages to introduce a new believer to the 'the deep truths of the faith' in a way that you can then chat through and explore over a coffee with someone over a few weeks or a couple of months. I plan to read this and drink coffee with someone in the autumn.

The story above was both moving and timely as you will read. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Some random Sunday thoughts

1. I spotted a jar of Sandwich spread the other day and bought it. It's reawakened the taste of my childhood

2. Tim Keller now has all his resources on one site called 'The Gospel in Life'

3. A man who planted a church encourages everyone who is new to read this book. Just started reading it and it looks pretty good and helpful on getting set on the road of discipleship. 

4.  I am loving Bake Off. If Norman keeps it simple he may not last (but we do love Norman!)

5. Talking of simple- Bill Hybels new book is called Simplify

6.  I've been tapping my toe to Mess like me (Mrs C really like this)

7. We have been dwelling in Jer 5:22 in the Contemporary English Version:

'I'm the one who made the shore to hold back the ocean. Waves may crash on the beach, but they can come no further'

8. Barnardo O Higgins ended up in my sermon. It makes me chuckle that the first leader of Chile was actually an Irishman.

9. I have to confess to readers that my penchant for country has led me to 'Nashville'. From it, Black Roses is a stunningly beautiful song.

10. If you had £2m quid you too could have a pool like this.

Bees don't sting twice

From my Bible in one year notes this morning:

The evangelist, David Watson, used to tell the story of when he was called into the garden by the frightened cries of his daughter who was being chased by a bee. He wrapped his arms around her and then she felt his body go tense. He let her go and said to her, ‘You needn’t worry anymore, darling, the bee has stung me.’

On the cross, it was as though Jesus wrapped his arms around us and took the sting of death for us. We still die (if Jesus doesn’t return first) but, for everyone trusting in Christ, ‘the sting of death’ has been removed through the cross and resurrection. And, as David Watson said to his daughter, ‘Bees don’t sting twice’. ‘Thank God!’ (v.57, MSG).

Friday, August 22, 2014

We can't mess it up

‘In the end, the Christian concept of God’s sovereignty is a marvelous, practical principle. No one can claim to know exactly how both these truths fit together. And yet even in our own ordinary experience, we know something of how to direct people along a path without violating their free will. Good leaders do this in part-why would the infinite God not be able to do it perfectly? The sovereignty of God is mysterious but not contradictory. It means that we have great incentive to use our wisdom and our will to the best effect, knowing God holds us to it and knowing we will suffer consequences from foolishness and wickedness. On the other hand, there is an absolute promise that we cannot ultimately mess our lives up. Even our failures and troubles will be used for God’s glory and our benefit. I don’t know a more comfortable assurance than that. “God performs all things for me!” cries the psalmist (Ps 57:2)’

Keller, Walking with God through pain and suffering, Page 143

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Troubled times

This morning I read of the alleged murder by beheading of American Journalist James Foley. I had in mind Cranmer's very challenging post from yesterday quoting the exiled Archbishop of Mosul.

The Bishop of Leeds has rightly asked of the government 'What's the plan?' in his recent letter to the PM:

Dear Prime Minister,

Iraq and the Islamic State

I am conscious of the speed at which events are moving in Iraq and Syria, and write recognising the complexity and interconnectedness of the challenges faced by the international community in responding to the crises in Syria and Iraq.

However, in common with many bishops and other correspondents here in the UK, I remain very concerned about the Government’s response to several issues. I write with the support of the Archbishop of Canterbury to put these questions to you. 

1. It appears that, in common with the United States and other partners, the UK is responding to events in a reactive way, and it is difficult to discern the strategic intentions behind this approach. Please can you tell me what is the overall strategy that holds together the UK Government’s response to both the humanitarian situation and what IS is actually doing in Syria and Iraq? Behind this question is the serious concern that we do not seem to have a coherent or comprehensive approach to Islamist extremism as it is developing across the globe. Islamic State, Boko Haram and other groups represent particular manifestations of a global phenomenon, and it is not clear what our broader global strategy is – particularly insofar as the military, political, economic and humanitarian demands interconnect. The Church internationally must be a primary partner in addressing this complexity.

2. The focus by both politicians and media on the plight of the Yezidis has been notable and admirable. However, there has been increasing silence about the plight of tens of thousands of Christians who have been displaced, driven from cities and homelands, and who face a bleak future. Despite appalling persecution, they seem to have fallen from consciousness, and I wonder why. Does your Government have a coherent response to the plight of these huge numbers of Christians whose plight appears to be less regarded than that of others? Or are we simply reacting to the loudest media voice at any particular time?

3. As yet, there appears to have been no response to pleas for asylum provision to be made for those Christians (and other minorities) needing sanctuary from Iraq in the UK. I recognise that we do not wish to encourage Christians or other displaced and suffering people to leave their homeland – the consequences for those cultures and nations would be extremely detrimental at every level – but for some of them this will be the only recourse. The French and German governments have already made provision, but there has so far been only silence from the UK Government. Therefore, I ask for a response to the question of whether there is any intention to offer asylum to Iraqi migrants (as part of a holistic strategy to addressing the challenges of Iraq)?

4. Following on from this, I note that the Bishop of Coventry tabled a series of questions to HM Government in the House of Lords on Monday 28 July. All but two were answered on Monday 11 August. The outstanding questions included the following: “The Lord Bishop of Coventry to ask Her Majesty’s Government what consideration they have given to resettling here in the UK a fair proportion of those displaced from ISIS controlled areas of Northern Iraq.” I would be grateful to know why this question has not so far been answered – something that causes me and colleagues some concern.

5. Underlying these concerns is the need for reassurance that a commitment to religious freedom will remain a priority for the Government, given the departure of ministers who championed this. Will the Foreign Secretary's Human Rights Advisory Panel continue under the new Foreign Secretary? Is this not the time to appoint an Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom – which would demonstrate the Government’s serious commitment to developing an overarching strategy (backed by expertise) against Islamist extremism and violence?

I look forward to your considered response to these pressing questions.

Yours sincerely,

The Rt Revd Nicholas Baines 
The Bishop of Leeds

We must pray in these troubled times.

A redeemed life

'The basic conviction of a Christian is that God intends good for us and that he will get his way in us. He does not treat us according to our deserts, but according to a plan. He is not a police officer on patrol, watching over the universe, ready to club us if we get out of hand or put us in jail if we get obstreperous. He is a potter working with the clay of our lives, forming and reforming until, finally he has shaped a redeemed life, a vessel fit for the kingdom'

A long obedience in the same direction, Eugene Peterson, p 64. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The best prayer quote you'll read this summer

'Prayer is rebellion against the status quo' 

Tim Keller

The most excellent way

From my Bible in one year notes this morning:

'The great evangelist D.L. Moody was once staying with a group of friends in England. One evening they asked Henry Drummond to read and expound on a portion of Scripture. After some urging, Henry drew a small New Testament from his pocket, opened it at 1 Corinthians 13 and began to speak on the subject of love. D.L. Moody wrote in response:

‘It seemed to me that I had never heard anything so beautiful. The one great need in our Christian life is love, more love to God and to each other. Would that we could all move into that love chapter and live there.’

We get an idea of what Henry Drummond must have said that evening in his book The Greatest Thing in the World. He writes: ‘What is ... the supreme good? You have life before you. Once only you can live it. What is the noblest object of desire, the supreme gift to covet? In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul takes us to Christianity at its source; and there we see ‘the greatest of these islove.’ Henry Drummond divides this chapter into three parts, as we shall see in the New Testament for today.

God is love. We deceive ourselves if we think we can love God and hate other people (1 John 4:20). Love should be number one on our spiritual priority list. It should be the main thing in our lives. Love is, indeed, the greatest thing in the world. It is, in the words of St Paul, ‘the most excellent way’ (1 Corinthians 12:31).'

Monday, August 18, 2014

Our wedding in 3 minutes

Here it is in three minutes.

How to chat to people at work about Jesus

I found this post very helpful- 21 ways to "Provoke the 1 Peter 3:15 Question".

I think about all the times I engaged with folk in my workplace down the years. This would have been a real help to me. Hope it is a help for you as many of you return from holidays and to your workplaces.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

For the pod: Conquering insecurity

'He who marries the spirit of the age, widows himself in the age to come'

Pete Greig

I keep this blog as a resource for myself and for anyone else who may be interested. It's my public filing cabinet. I couldn't care less how many readers I have but I do care about my readers and often take much encouragement from them. It is especially encouraging to me when someone writes or tells me that something they found here or that I have recommended to them has blessed them. 
  • I posted a talk by James MacDonald and a pal and his wife listened to it and have since been listening to all sorts of teachings from Walk in the Word. Mrs C does find JM 'a bit shouty' as may you, he is at times, but he is someone who preaches the Bible with great power and very often with helpful application. My friends recommendation to me were two talks called 'Conquering Insecurity'.
  • I gave 'A long obedience in the same direction' to someone in our church and they told me they found it a real blessing. This may be one to read as part of your 'secret place' time or to take on hols.
  • Someone told me this morning they listened to R T Kendall's three talks on Romans three times this week. The fact that over 200 stood in response to his altar call shows this teaching demands a wider audience- especially for those yet to comprehend the message of God's grace. 
  • A friend saw the quotes from 'Proof' I posted and as a result bought the book. They texted me this:   '....haven't got to page 81 yet and already in tears'
  • A Vicar pal in NZ listened to Archie Coates and took great encouragement from it. 
  • Giving counsel to a man I prayed for this morning- I recommended he listen to 'Running with the witnesses', by John Piper. In fact, as I reread 'A long obedience' I see I need to listen to this sermon again and think it's one we will listen to on holiday. 'The letter to the Hebrews defines our program: 'Do you see what this means-all the pioneers who blazed they way, all the veterans cheering us on? It means we'd better get on with it. Strip down, start running- and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no  parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished the race we're in' (Heb 12:1-2), A long obedience in the same direction, p 18. 
So thank you for reading and for being a blessing.to me I will keep posting the bits and bobs I find, books I read and recommendations that I receive. Click about and see if you find something you like and I always appreciate your prayers. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Saturday blog sweep

All weeks are full of good and bad news but recently the bad from the Middle East seems to be so very dominant.

Like you, I googled the Yazidis to find out more and the BBC was helpful.

5 Things you can do for the Christians in Iraq

A number of people have asked me about Cliff Richard and like you my hope and prayer is that it is not true. The Independent in this article is very critical of both the police and the BBC.

Worship leader and church media pundit Viccy Beeching shared her sexuality struggles this week and here interviewed on C4 News.

Former Boxing promotor Frank Maloney revealed his changed gender.

Robin Williams died.

Of all the posts I have read Russell Brand's was moving and ends with this:

'What I might do is watch Mrs Doubtfire. Or Dead Poets Society or Good Will Hunting and I might be nice to people, mindful today how fragile we all are, how delicate we are, even when fizzing with divine madness that seems like it will never expire.'

This one entitled 'Robin Williams Jonathan Edwards and Heaven on Earth' also lingered with me.

To mourn or not to mourn will provide some food for thought.

This post caught my eye and questioned the priorities of white American evangelicals in light of Ferguson.

Rachel Held Evans wrote on racism.

Thomas Creedy reviews R T Kendall's 'Holy Fire'

As many holiday a post on 'How to escape being too busy to get anything done'

The latest HTB plant in Spitalfields gets some noise in the Standard. There are many things I have been called in my time but hipster is not one of them! Great team so do pray for them as they launch and perhaps a touch of hipster in the C of E makes for some interesting times ahead. Its both interesting and challenging the way the journalist reads hipster Christianity and being liberal on human sexuality as one and the same thing.

I read this post by Matt Walsh, a Christian conservative blogger, on Robin Williams and depression which has caused a mighty stir across the pond and will prompt you too to react in one way or other. For what it's worth, it seems to me to lack compassion and also to be ill-timed.

I have been pondering this review of Myron Penner's 'The end of apologetics' and the idea that what is needed in apologetics is not the genius but the apostle. For listeners - he is interviewed here.

We watched the film One chance (the story of Paul Potts) and it made me cry.

We have taken delivery of the film Calvary.

 We enjoyed All the little lights.

A reflection on Ebola and Christian Missionaries

A new version of Left Behind will have us all revisiting our thoughts on the rapture.

The bizarre- and costly- cult of Dawkins.

My sister was gripped by reading this on holiday.

'Ask John Piper' marked its 400th episode with this one.

I've been thinking and chatting about 'The price of fame' since I watched it with Mrs C.

I dabble from time to time in books on leadership and this one caught my eye.

Soon we won't need mobile phone chargers because Bat tat's will do it for us.

I love these photos which are interestingly called Earth porn

Finally, Mrs C and I will be doing this in the autumn.

At the end of a long week, I remember who is ultimately in charge and breath a grateful sigh of relief it is not me and just let this song wash over me. You can do that too.

h/t Ann Voskamp

Monday, August 11, 2014

A good company

'There may be religions that come to you through quiet walks in the woods, or by sitting quietly in the library with a book, or rummaging around in the recesses of your psyche. Christianity is not one of them. Christianity is inherently communal, a matter of life in the Body.....Jesus did not call isolated individuals to follow him. He called a group of disciples. He gathered a crowd.....Privacy is not a Christian category. We are saved from our privacy by being made part of a people who can tell us what we should do with our money, with our genitals, with our lives. We have been made part of a good company, a wonderful adventure, so that we no longer need "mine"

William Wiillimon and Stanley Haurewas, 'Lord teach us'

Quoted in 'Proof: Finding freedom through the intoxicating joy of irrestible grace', p 101

Saturday, August 09, 2014

For the pod: R T Kendall on Assurance

Here are three wonderful talks on Romans 8. If you struggle with knowing if you are saved or not then spending time with these three talks should be a help to you.

Part 1

Part 2 (I am told 200 stood to give their lives to Christ at the end of this talk)

Part 3

Saturday blog-sweep

The new has been horrific this week and these two posts caught my eye The silence of peaceful muslims and Some hard truths behine Israel/ Gaza and Isis/Iraq

Gay, Christian and ...celibate

Driscoll has hit yet more choppy water and this article Not our problem sums up the problems and lessons.

Rowan Williams on the Christian life

One simple leadership tip

For any budding apologists, this book looks worth checking out.

Don't shoot down new ideas

The story told in Proof  (p.81-83) about a trip to Disney world made me cry.


I read this prayer from George Whitefield on Steve McCoy's twitter feed and it blessed me:

'God give me a deep humility, a well-guided zeal, a burning love and a single eye and then let men and the devil do their worst.'

This (via J D Greear) made me smile

Eric Metaxa tweeted why much of the Islamic world is such a problem....."It is the test of a good religion whether you can joke about it" G K Chesterton

I presided at a wonderful wedding yesterday and the bride came down the aisle to an instrumental version of Oceans. This song seems to have followed me everywhere over the summer and its words are gently seeping into my heart.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Focus talks

The Focus Talks are now up here. My pick of the bunch was Archie Coates on finding strength through weakness.  It was real, honest, encouraging and hopeful. Great talk and one to linger and reflect on.

Craig Groeschl's talk on 'Increasing your capacity' is the sort of talk you might want to play to a leadership team or indeed to your church as you envision them in September for the post-summer season. It takes a bit of time to recover from him looking like a cross between Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tom Cruise but once you're over that there is some wisdom to glean. It's very glass half full, North American and can-do but these are not bad things but will annoy some readers (and in some ways is rather antithetical to Archie's word). However, let's be honest, the C of E is not always brimming over with optimism so I hope this talk gets a wide audience and will encourage folk to step in to all God has for them.  Be warned though, he's going to ask you at the end which of his five points applies to you, about which I was wracked with indecision which is probably why I don't pastor a church of 60K!

On the opposite end of the spectrum from Craig- Sam Wells (Rector of St Martin in the Fields) gave a thought-provoking talk on the incarnation.

Sadly, R T Kendall's talks have not been posted and they were absolute rocket-fuel on assurance from Romans 8.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Say thank you

Someone in our church has awakened to thankfulness through reading this book.

Here are '25 people you should say thank you to today'

Ron Edmondson ends this great post with this suggestion and I for one am planning to act on it:

Send a card. (Handwritten notes are awesome — and rare.) Write the email. Make the phone call. Plan a personal visit. Say thank you.
By the way, if you can’t thank the person anymore — thank their family. Can you imagine how encouraging that would be?'

Why not join me in saying thank you.

Not a scrap of help

'Christianity is not a religion, it is the proclamation of the end of religion. Religion is human activity dedicated to the job of reconciling God to humanity and humanity to itself. The gospel, however- the good news of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ- is the astonishing announcement that God has done the whole work of reconciliation without a scrap of human assistance'

Robert Farrar Capon

'What you need isn't a better purpose, another prayer, or one more plan for self-improvement. What you need is what we all need- to "wake up" to God's wonderful and undeserved love. You need to wake up to the freedom and joy of what God- on his own- has accomplished for us in Jesus. What you need is grace'

'It's time to wake up. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, your deeds no longer determine your destiny'

Proof, Pages 16-17, 22

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

The gap

'You say yes to far too many tasks, scrambling after the slightest hints of praise in the faces around you. When you fall short of others' expectations, you replay your failures again and again. On your better days, your successes almost seem to balance your screw-ups. On your darker days, you suspect that your shortcomings have forever skewed everyone's opinion of you- even God's- and you wonder what it will take to regain God's good favour. In the end, you're left with a calendar that's full but a soul that still feels empty, one more captive of the deadly delusion that your deeds determine your identity. The futility you feel is real, and it's far larger than you. The whole world groans beneath the weight of this vast gap between the way things are and the way we long for them to be (Romans 8:20-25)'

Proof, Page 16

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

The Way

The song that became the anthem of Focus was 'The Way' by Tim Hughes. I have found myself not being able to get the lyrics out of my head since. Upon returning, I came across David Platt, author of 'Radical', making the case for why there is only one way. (h/t J Taylor). I have been pondering the implications of the gospel afresh ever since. You might be equally challenged.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Monday musing

I last spent week camping at Focus. For me the pick of all the talks were Archie Coates on 'Weakness' and the three talk series R T Kendall did on assurance which was the highlight for our folk (even though I have to confess I slept intermittently through one of the talks and sadly had to miss another).

For those off on holiday this month this might be helpful for some on how to unplug

This quote reminded me anew of needing to reflect on my own weakness and also to keep going.

I have been dipping into this by Andrew Walls as I think about what it means to be a church that 'does' mission.

Now the dust has settled on women bishops in the C of E I think 'The Black Swan Effect' might be an interesting and timely read.

One of my secrets for anyone contemplating a church plant is this. Have a BBQ. I know- it's very profound stuff you get here.

I have been thinking about dating and singleness and its consequences and read most of this on Saturday morning. It contains lots of common sense for both Christians and those who are not.

Camping is made much better when you invest in the right kit. The Therma-rest neo dream air is the cats-pyjamas of a mattress. Also, doesn't the reviewer have a cracking beard! It's pricey but well worth saving up for.

I love books on grace and 'Proof' is going on my bedside table.

We had baptisms and a visit from our Bishop yesterday. Great occasion. I have since been mulling on a couple of Calvin quotes I came across and especially the phrase underlined below:

“It is not necessary that faith and repentance should always precede baptism. They are only required from those whose age makes them capable of both. It will be sufficient, then, if, after infants have grown up, they exhibit the power of their baptism." - John Calvin” 

“How do you know yourself to be a son of God in fact as well as in name?”

Answer: “Because I am baptized in the name of God the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” - John Calvin (from his catechism)” 

If you never get to visit Australia than this is a way to do so through a few amazing photos.

Mrs C has gone wake-skating.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

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