Thursday, December 31, 2015

Best Reads of 2015

1. The Plausibility Problem by Ed Shaw: Oddly, the latter part of the year was consumed with reading and study about sexuality. I confess that this is a subject that,  in my view, consumes far too much of the church's (and media's) time. However, as an evangelical clergyman in the C of E you can run but you can't hide when it comes to working out and articulating where you stand on such matters. I also unexpectedly found myself participating in the C of E's  'Shared Conversations about Human Sexuality' which gave me fresh insight and empathy for those for whom this is a life-long struggle and campaigning issue. As Covey suggests with his first habit 'Seek first to understand'. I remain convinced that celibacy/singleness or marriage are the two options the Bible gives for those who are Christians. If you're not, you can clearly take your chance and do whatever you want. Ed Shaw's book was the best of the pile I read and makes this case well while challenging the church to work harder at being a place of love and importantly, family, for same-sex attracted people, Rosaria Butterfield ran Ed a very close second with her wonderful book Openness unhindered. which I also recommend for those who want to explore this complex subject further.

2 Scary close by Donald Miller: I am not quite sure why Don Miller seems like a close friend despite my never having met him. His latest book continues his life story as it unfolds before us- and indeed him. I guess this section of his life story could be called 'mid-life and commitment' (finally). I enjoy his writing, his observations and was fascinated by all his fears surrounding commitment and marriage. Being a man who waited until 45 to find my bride and enter wedlock, Don and I had much to trade on the state of our souls with regard to relationships. Every time I finish one of Don's books I look forward to settling down on the sofa with the next one. Let's hope he keeps living such an interesting life.

3. Us by David Nicholls: This made me laugh out loud from the first page and is a black comedy about a marriage in trouble. This is a man in a mid-life (something of a theme) crisis, which is much of his own making and the reflections on dad's and teenage son's were fascinating. Nicholls manages to capture so much that characterizes middle class, middle England in a way that is worryingly familiar to me. The turns of phrase and wonderful insights about modern family dynamics in secular culture are truely priceless. Underlying the laughter though, is a sad tale of a man and women who have failed to build a marriage and they only discover so when its too late to do anything about it.

4. Live Love Lead by Brian Houston: I found this to be a good and informative read telling the story of Hillsong. Houston is clearly a very gifted leader and witnessing him show amazing grace and counsel to Driscoll and his taking a bullet or two for him when he didn't need to prompted me to buy his book. He has much to offer those who seek to become better leaders, much to share about failure and controversy and his love of the church is catching. Hillsong has had an incredible impact in just one generation and the C of E would do well (as HTB do) to look at some of the best ways they are managing to connect with folk in post-Christian culture. We have much to learn from them I think and very little time left to learn it.

5. Against the flow by John Lennox: John taught me a bible class at Vicar Factory and also taught us preaching. He's a simply splendid man. This is the book of the lectures he gave us on Daniel. Lennox is one of the great apologists of the faith but is also a humble and clear bible teacher. If you want a book to make Daniel help our cultural challenges come alive then this is the one for you.

6. Praying the Bible by Don Witney: This very thin book is a one about the Psalms and since reading it I have been trying to pray the Psalms with more intention and it's working. I confess I am not praying through all of them every month as Witney does but I am using the Psalms as a spring board to prayer rather than endlessly praying my list. Believe me, this little book has the power to transform your prayer life.

7. The Road to Character by David Brooks: My 'pick up and put down' slow read of the year and it's well worth investigation. Basically, he takes a number of famous lives and tries to unpick what influenced and shaped their character. There are plenty of good and interesting observations and quotes in this one to keep you going for ages.

8. Chasing Francis by Ian Morgan Cron: My friend and worship leading colleague Will put me on to this one and I enjoyed it. This is a fictional tale of a mega-church pastor whose world hits the buffers of doubt only to be saved by a bunch of monks in Rome. This is the vehicle Cron uses to tell the story of St Francis and bits of it hung around with me long after I had finished it. However, it probably won't be everyone's cup of tea and for (reformed) theology wonks it might have you huffing  and puffing in quite a few places but I think that's just as Cron intended it!

9. The Imperfect Pastor Zack Eswine: I become more and more convinced that few pastors finish the race well and the opening chapter of Finishing Strong becomes ever truer as I witness the lives of those who lead as the years pass. I am simply hoping, by sheer grace, that I make it in some semblance of good order over the line. This is such a rich book that I thank my blogging pal Darryl Dash for putting me on to. I intend to soak in its words for at least another year and probably longer.

10. The Churchill Factor by Boris Johnson: I love Churchill and this was on my Christmas list and I have been falling to sleep reading it since unwrapping it. Not a lot of new material here but if you like a bit of bombastic biographical interpretation of a great life then Johnson is your man. Terrific stuff.

Saturday, December 26, 2015


'Abiding in Jesus means understanding that his acceptance of us is the same regardless of the amount of spiritual fruit we have produced. Ironically, it is only when we understand that his love is not conditioned on our spiritual fruitfulness that we have the power to become truly fruitful.  Only those who abide in Him produce much fruit. In other words, those people who get better are those who understand that God's approval of them is not dependent on their getting better'

Gospel, J D Greear, P 14 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Bits and bobs

1. Preacher Gray

2. Here's my advice and I tell you this in the strongest terms I can. 'Don't watch porn and do everything you can to protect your kids from it'. It's deadly.

3. This is a Good best books list 2015.

4. Using this film tomorrow.

5. This film for the Life Course made me laugh out loud. You could use it for Alpha.

Thursday, December 17, 2015


'For whatever reason God chose to make man as he is— limited and suffering and subject to sorrows and death—He had the honesty and the courage to take His own medicine. Whatever game He is playing with His creation, He has kept His own rules and played fair. He can exact nothing from man that He has not exacted from Himself. He has Himself gone through the whole of human experience, from the trivial irritations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiliation, defeat, despair and death. When He was a man, He played the man. He was born in poverty and died in disgrace and thought it well worthwhile.'

Dorothy Sayers quoted in 'Come thou long expected Jesus', P. 39

Monday, December 07, 2015

Friday, December 04, 2015

Tricky but clear

I enjoy preparing sermons and when you preach through books of the Bible or sections of it (eg The Sermon on the Mount) it means you just can't avoid the challenging and difficult bits.

Advent is a time when we think about judgement and in Matthew 7 Jesus speaks to us about that with bells on.

My passage of the week is v 21-27

''What does it mean to build on a solid foundation? It means more than hearing God's word taught and becoming familiar with it, or even agreeing with it. We can do all that and still be a spiritual fool (v 26) Obedience to Christ's word distinguishes the wise man from his foolish neighbour......and the true Christian puts into practice what he has heard from the Master in this sermon. The point of having choices set before us is that we might choose'

Sinclair Ferguson, The Sermon on the Mount, p.170

Thursday, December 03, 2015


I was struck yesterday but many things but most by Hilary Benn's oratory.

We preachers like a good bit of passionate talk and he certainly gave us that.

Now , you may or may not think the vote went the right way and, as an aside this caught my eye today, but this seemed to me like a defining moment -as Bill Hybels would name it

Was a new leader born before our eyes?

We'll wait and see.

All arm though to Hilary's elbow for picking up the ball and seeing where it might take him.

We'll discover where it leads soon enough.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Monday musing

We've have a bit of a pre-Christmas break so the blog has been quiet.

Lots in the news about war and bombing which Ian Paul has a view on.

I am always trying to learn how to encourage, develop and manage folk better and this was a help-
What amazing bosses do

Rev Barry Kissell had a powerful word for our joint-churches prayer meeting which has encouragement I think wider that just us. This from Russell Moore also struck me deep.

A pal put me on to this initiative to fight porn called 'Fight the new drug'. Fascinating links on how porn impacts the brain, relationships and society. If you have kids, sadly many of them are probably watching porn so you need to read this site.

Some pastors get lonely and yours might be one of them and this offers some good advice. Perhaps, think of a way to encourage your pastor/Vicar as the year comes to a close.

This book about being a pastor caught my eye,

Desiring God has its best books list which will now be coming in thick and fast.

A word to myself on what they need on Sundays. This is my passage for next week which will require some study methinks.

This is a healthy challenge to the C of E in the Guardian suggesting it needs to die to survive.

The Im-perfect pastor should be in every Vicar's stocking especially those who don't think it's for them.

'One of the lifelong privileges of our pastoral ministry in Jesus is learning to see people as people and ourselves as one of them' (p.41)

Friday, November 20, 2015

The difference between managing and leading

'Warren Bennis, one of today's most prolific writers on the subject of leadership, makes the distinction between leadership and management in his book 'On becoming a leader'. The manager, according to Bennis, is pre-occupied with doing things right. That is, the manager is focused on following procedures and gaining compliance from those she manages. It is a role in which the successful execution of established practices and adherence to standard policies determine the effectiveness of the manager. On the other hand, the leader, Bennis argues, is concerned with doing the right things. Rather than simply executing existing procedures and gaining compliance with accepted practices, the true leader will first question whether or not the accepted procedures are the right thing to do. The true leader is one who may determine that existing practices are no longer moving the organisation in the direction of its vision and mission and create a whole new set of procedures and practices. Rather than being content to transact business within the parameters of the existing paradigm, the leader looks to transform the existing system into something more effective. in essence, according to Bennis, leadership is by its very nature transformational rather than transactional'

Leading from the inside out: The art of self-leadership, Samuel Rima, Page 28

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The imperfect pastor

I am spending the week pondering specks and planks in eyes for my sermon on Matt 7.

Also, I've ordered this book because I am one.

Too easily, I fail to see my own shortcomings and offer way to little encouragement to others.

We did an interesting little thing on Wednesday as a team and simply shared one thing that has encouraged us. There is nothing like a bit of good news, however small, to take your eye off whatever might be wrong or not have gone to plan.

Here is a thought as we end the week. Encourage someone. Drop them a line, tell them face to face, give them a call or offer to pray for them.

It works a wonder.....

Monday, November 16, 2015

Monday musing

I chatted with a friend about our mutual 'blind-spots' and we wondered what they were and who in our life would tell us about them if they observe them in us. We took away much food for thought and it brought to mind the books of Samuel Rima.

My pal's life verse and biblical hero is Acts 9:17.

Tim Keller's 9-11 sermon called Truth, Tears, Anger and Grace is probably worth a re-listen given the events of the weekend.

Sometimes something catches my eye that looks interesting and I then wonder how on earth I can get hold of it if it's not on Amazon?

This post got me wondering about the state of pastoral care in our church and its relationship to growth.

A friend had something encouraging for me today but worried it would stoke my pride so asked if I wanted to know. I said yes and have since been reflecting on pride which is of course pretty much the root of everything that's not good. As C S Lewis observed:

“Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man... It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition is gone, pride is gone.” 

Twice in last two weeks I have come across this Nietzsche quote and the second time was reading this:
“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”
I have so many reflections having taken part in Shared Conversations. Who knows if I will share them here but it was a nice change to chat about the issues face to face rather than the way we usually do.. 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The only answer?

Andrew White (The Vicar of Bagdad) has just written 'My journey so far' about his life and was last year voted Christian of 2014. I was very struck by this quote by him that I read this week:

"White no longer believes it is possible to make peace with Isis. "You can't negotiate with them", he says sadly. "I have never said that about another group of people. These are really so different, so extreme, so radical, so evil.......The only answer is to radically destroy them. It is a terrible thing to say as a priest. It really hurts. I will do anything to save life and bring about tranquility, and here I am forced by death and destruction to say there should  be war' 

Quoted in 'The Week, 14th Nov, Page 10

Friday, November 06, 2015

What matters

I have been thinking a lot this week about what it means to be born again and, in my reading, one sentence just seemed to walk off the page at me:

'Seeing signs and wonders, and being amazed at them, and giving the miracle-worker credit for them saves nobody. This is one of the great dangers of signs and wonders: You don't need a new heart to be amazed. The old fallen human nature is all that's needed to be amazed at signs and wonders. And the old fallen nature is willing to say that the miracle worker is from God. The devil himself knows that Jesus is the Son of God and works miracles (Mark 1:24). No, Nicodemus, seeing Jesus as a miracle worker sent from God is not the key to the kingdom of God. "Truly, truly I say to you, unless you are born again he cannot see the kingdom of God"

In other words, what matters is not merely affirming the supernatural in Jesus but experiencing the supernatural yourself.'

Finally alive, Page 30

Thursday, November 05, 2015

A bit and a bob

I am completing some extensive reading on human sexuality and found 'The Plausibility Problem' to be such a helpful read.

'When we want to be something other than the thing God wants us to be we must be wanting what, in fact, will not make us happy. Those Divine demands which sound to our natural ears most like those of a despot and least like those of a lover, in fact marshal us where we should want to go if we knew what we wanted' (C S Lewis 'The Problem of Pain' quoted on p.69)

Tim Keller offers an observation about the gay Anglo-Saxon warrior

We are loving Downton.

This asks the question 'Before I die I want to...'

I spoke on a weekend away and someone recommended 'Seeking God's Face' to me which might interest you if you are looking for a new devotional for 2016.

I enjoyed reading the chapter 'How to pray' in this.

Can you find a better ad that personifies consumer idolatry than this ad? I wanted to save this until Christmas but I'm a sharer so enjoy and feel free to use as part of your Christmas day sermons :)

The C of E wins its court case.

Which job should you get with your personality type. Last time I did the test I was an ENFP.

Perry Noble asks the question 'Should women preach?'. We've rather decided that one in the C of E...

Toby's talk on 'Why did Jesus die?' is a very good one.

Someone pointed me to 'Become good soil' which I had a click around on.

We have 'The New Baby Mothers Survival Guide' in our bathroom for Mrs Cooke's perusal.

I note from these book briefs that Kevin de Young and I are both reading 'A Righteous Mind'. To be a little more accurate, he seems to have read it while I fell asleep reading the first chapter. However, I mean to read it which is I suppose a start.......

If you are a Christian leader, I imagine reading this book is never going to do you any harm.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Choppy water

I am praying for a pastor friend who has hit a bit of choppy water. Leaders all, at some point or other, hit a big wave or an unforeseen storm. I found this post helpful and it prompted me to turn again to the Bible. 'Praying the Bible' has been such a help to my prayer life and will, I pray, help me prepare for my own inevitable leadership challenges as they come.

Keller has written a book of devotions on the Psalms.

John Lennox, who taught me preaching at Vicar factory, told us that we would not survive in ministry if we thought studying the Bible for sermons was enough. I've found this to be true.

This piece about church plants hitting Year 7 has at least given me a four year early warning.

What Robert De Niro can teach you about leadership.

Rosaria Butterfield's new birth account and her commentary on Roman 6 in 'Openness unhindered' stopped me dead in my tracks. Stunning.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Prayer, books and an immersion

1. I baptized my son on Sunday. Michael Green's little book on baptism that I read at Vicar factory helped me get my head around questions of infant vs adult baptism.

2, I am finding Kenneth's Bailey's book 'Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes' a huge treasure trove for my sermon on the Lord's prayer. He has also done one on Paul.

3. The many debates about human sexuality and the church have a backdrop about whether or not scripture has authority. I re-listened to Keller's talk on the Bible which was very helpful to me as well as reading this at Jesus Creed.

4. "Ninety-five percent commitment to Christ is 5 percent short" Bill Hybels in 'The Call to Lead'

5. I am teaching on a weekend away on the book of Daniel and have found 'Against the flow' by John Lennox to be a tremendous resource.

'Surely it is but elementary spiritual logic that if we wish to persuade others that God is real and that it is possible to have a vibrantly meaningful relationship with him, we shall have to be personally loyal to God and his Son and adjust our lives to be consistent with our fundamental Christian confession, "Jesus Christ is Lord."'

Against the flow, Page 59

6. I can't get the song Waiting Room out of my head from Daniela Hogger's new album Arms Wide Open

7. I bought a Blok induction speaker in Hamley's. No idea how it works but it's amazing.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Thursday bits and bobs

Zac Ezwine has written a book about about the Imperfect pastor which sounds like my kind of book.

In the C of E we use the descriptor 'Priest' and Graham Tomlin tries to explain what we mean.

I can't stop singing Scandal of Grace from this album. It made me cry in the car on the other day driving to Tooting.

Alpha starts tonight and I am as excited as ever. I showed Charlie Mackesy's art gallery story on Sunday which has remained with me.

I am going to RSA vs NZ @ Twickenham on Saturday by the scandal of grace.

A fascinating article on 'The new sexual identity' which introduced me to the term 'pan sexual'.

I try and have one weighty theological tome on the go to stop my brain atrophying and mine for 2015 has been this one  Could next years be this?

I read about the life story of Ben Carson and the account of the knife and the belt as his turning point was amazing.

Brene Brown has things of value to share.

What's wrong with this picture. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015


'...we live in interwoven networks of terminally casual relationships. We live with the delusion that we know one another, but we really don't. We call our easygoing, self-protective, and often theologically platitudinous conversations 'fellowship' but they seldom ever reach the threshold of true fellowship. We know cold demographic details about one another (married or single, type of job, number of kids, general location of housing etc.), but we know little about the struggle of faith waged every day behind well-maintained personal boundaries.

One of the things that still shocks me in counselling, even after all these years, is how little I often know about people I have counted true friends. I can't tell you how many times, in talking with friends who have come to me for help, that I have been hit with details of difficulty and struggle far beyond anything I would have predicted. Privatism is not just practiced by the lonely unbeliever; it is rampant in the Church as well'

Paul David Tripp, 

'Rubble is the ground on which our deepest friendships are built'

quoted by Ed Shaw in 'The Plausibility Problem', Pages 78-79, 80

Monday, October 19, 2015

Church is forever

'Marriage and family are temporary for this age; the church is forever. I am declaring the radical biblical truth that being in a human family is no sign of eternal blessing, but being in God's family means being eternally blessed. Relationships based on family are temporary. Relationships based on union with Christ are eternal. Marriage is a temporary institution, but what it stands for is forever'

John Piper quoted in 'The Plausibility Problem', Page 48

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Ethics in one sentence

' If I had to summarize New Testament ethics in one sentence, here’s how I would put it: be who you are. That may sound strange, almost heretical, given our culture’s emphasis on being true to yourself. but like so many of the worst errors in the world, this one represents a truth powerfully perverted. When people say, “Relax, you were born that way,” or “Quit trying to be something you’re not and just be the real you,” they are stumbling upon something very biblical. God DOES want you to be the real you. He DOES want you to be true to yourself. But the “you” he’s talking about is the “you” that you are by grace, not by nature. You may want to read through that last sentence again because the difference between living in sin and living in righteousness depends on getting that sentence right. God doesn’t say, “Relax, you were born this way.” But he does say, “Good news, you were reborn another way.” 

Kevin de Young quoted in 'The plausibility problem' by Ed Shaw, Page 17

Friday, October 16, 2015

Tough calls

'When facing a difficult pastoral decision those of us in the leadership of the church need to remind ourselves that the first question we have to ask is, 'What is the right thing to do?' |And only then move to the second question, 'What is the most pastoral way to do it?'

Nicky Gumbel, BiOY notes on Jeremiah

Coincident with this, I read this observation in a book I've just started:

'Jeremiah received a tough calling from God; to speak God's word to God's people. The words God wanted Jeremiah to speak were words of warning to shake them up and wake them up, But nothing goes well for Jeremiah. No one likes what he has to say.

God tells him to keep speaking, so he does. He gets beaten and put on display for shame. And in Jeremiah 20, he tells God how he feels: You sweet talked me....and I bought it. This isn't what I had in mind." Jeremiah was torn between being faithful to his calling and his ache for success.

The call to lead is never easy. And it often requires us to prioritize faithfulness over success. We must learn to give up the ache to be successful in the eyes of the world and go with what God is calling us to do. Leaders of God's people always sense this inherent tension to their calling: in their ministry, in their personal life, and in the pursuit of their God given mission'

'The Call to Lead: Following Jesus and Living out your mission'
Hybels, Ortberg and Allender,
Page 7

Thursday, October 15, 2015

A Human Sexuality Reading List

There has been so much written on this subject but there is no avoiding that this debate will probably absorb many of the the newly elected good folk of General Synod over the next five years post-Pilling. Of course, instead of this we should really be attending to the development of a strategy for mission, evangelism and church planting to salvage what remains of the C of E while we still have time. According to one Bishop we have six years left to save a sinking ship but there is also some hope of regeneration.

Here are a few books among the huge number of resources that have and are helping me form my understanding of some of the issues. I take a traditional view, in keeping with the current stance of the C of E on human sexuality which is:

The Church of England’s teaching position on same-sex sexual activity has been set out in a series of reports and motions. The 1991 report Issues in Human Sexuality endorsed the traditional Christian belief that the teaching of the Bible is that heterosexual marriage is the proper context for sexual activity between two people. It went on to declare that what it called 'homophile' orientation and activity could not be endorsed by the Church as:

 '... a parallel and alternative form of human sexuality as complete within the terms of the created order as the heterosexual. The convergence of Scripture, Tradition and reasoned reflection on experience, even including the newly sympathetic and perceptive thinking of our own day, makes it impossible for the Church to come with integrity to any other conclusion. Heterosexuality and homosexuality are not equally congruous with the observed order of creation or with the insights of revelation as the Church engages with these in the light of her pastoral ministry.' 

This position was endorsed by the pastoral letter and statement on same-sex marriage from the House of Bishops in February 2014, and is the basis of the view expressed there that ‘the Christian understanding and doctrine of marriage as a lifelong union between one man and one woman remains unchanged.

......Where the Bible mentions homosexual behavior at all, it clearly condemns it. I freely grant that. The issue is precisely whether that biblical judgment is correct. (Walter Wink)

This is an issue of biblical authority. Despite much well-intentioned theological fancy footwork to the contrary, it is difficult to see the Bible as expressing anything else but disapproval of homosexual activity. (Diarmaid MacCulloch)

The task demands intellectual honesty. I have little patience with efforts to make Scripture say something other than what it says, through appeals to linguistic or cultural subtleties. The exegetical situation is straightforward: we know what the text says. But what are we to do with what the text says?... I think it important to state clearly that we do, in fact, reject the straightforward commands of Scripture, and appeal instead to another authority when we declare that same-sex unions can be holy and good. (Luke Timothy Johnson)

(Quote from the essay by Ian Paul in 'Grace and Disagreement'- setting out the Traditional Biblical position- which is the official reader for 'Shared Conversations')

Reading that I have found/am finding helpful around this subject:

Homosexuality and the C of E Andrew Goddard

Grace and disagreement: A Reader

The Bible and Homosexuality Gagnon

The Moral Vision of the NT Hays

Who is my enemy? Nathan

A Review of 'More Perfect Union?' by Andrew Goddard

The Bible and Same-sex Relationships: A Review Article by Tim Keller and a Response from Matthew Vines

Have we misread the Bible?

The Plausibility Problem Ed Shaw

The Righteous Mind Haidt

Tim Keller answering 'What do Christian's have against Homosexuality?'

Openness unhindered Rosaria Butterfield

Personal Identity in Theological Perspective Eds Lint, Horton and Talbot

Feel free to add anything else to my list in the comment section that you may think constructive and helpful.

If I were the devil

This was apparently broadcast on  ABC in 1965 and seems not at all far off the mark.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A bit and a bob

I went to a meeting today and someone recommended a book called Leadership pain.

I preached on anger and emailed this talk to someone I spoke to afterwards.

The C of E does have a bit of dosh sitting around as this article shows and we should probably crack on and spend some of it while there is still a bit of a C of E left.

A pal at my Pastor's prayer meeting this morning told me he showed this film at a men's breakfast and it made a few of the assembled cry. I said I'd try to watch it so why don't you too.

Mark Marx who founded 'Healing on the Streets',  preached at the weekend and seemingly it's a really good talk.

I bought a couple of books in the HTB bookshop today and this was one of them.

As you may know, I am going to spend three days talking about human sexuality as part of the C of E's 'Shared Conversations' and a pal recommended this and this to add to my already long book list of reading. I had already added this.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Thursday thougths

1. An unlikely source of fundraising wisdom

2. The Bishop of London's lecture has been much commented on with good reason. I hope the Diocese of Southwark (the other half of London) might give ear to some of it's lessons as we appear to be in steep attendance decline and financial free-fall (we carried a deficit of nearly £1m last year).

3. Some good thoughts on discipleship

4. Karen's talk on law and grace is a blinder.

5.Three clever pastors chew on the question of suffering.

6.'Praying the bible' has got me immersed in the Psalms anew.

7. Spent the day with J John who has booked the Emirates for a mission 

8. A moving and sad story from the Ashley Madison affair (via Mark Meynell)

9. The most important verse in the Bible? Suggestions for alternatives on a postcard please......

10. We have Tom Elliot with us tomorrow at HT Barnes which should be fun.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Jean Smith

This account told by Nicky Gumbel in my BiOY notes this morning struck me as worth sharing:

Jean Smith told me her story. She was in her mid-sixties. She came from Cwmbran in Wales. She had been blind for sixteen years. She had a white stick, and a guide dog named Tina. An infection had eaten away at the retinas and mirrors behind her eyes – they could not be replaced. She was in constant pain.

Jean went on a local Alpha course. They had a day away to focus on the work of the Holy Spirit. During this time, the pain left. She went to church the following Sunday to thank God. The minister anointed her with oil. As she wiped the oil away she could see the communion table. God had miraculously healed Jean.

She had not seen her husband for sixteen years. She was surprised at how white his beard was! Jean had never even seen her daughter-in-law before. Her six-and-a-half-year-old grandson used to guide her around the puddles to avoid her getting her feet wet.

He said to her, ‘Who done that Gran?’
She replied, ‘Jesus made me better.’
‘I hope you said thank you, Gran.’
‘I will never stop saying thank you,’ she answered.

Friday, October 02, 2015

The hammer

'Only if we hammer home the gospel, that we are loved sinners in Christ- so loved that we don't have to despair when we do wrong, so sinful that we have no right to be puffed up when we do right- can we help our listeners escape the spirituality bipolar world of moralism'

Keller, Preaching, Page 62

Thursday, October 01, 2015

What is great preaching?

'.....the difference between a bad sermon and a good sermon is mainly the responsibility of the preacher, the difference between good preaching and great preaching lies mainly in the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the listener as well as the preacher'

'Preaching: Communicating faith in an age of scepticism' by Tim Keller, Page 11

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Help for the refugee

A crowd of folk in our church and other churches + some local schools have been wonderfully mobilized to respond to the Syrian crisis and generated two truck loads of aid. Praise God. I spotted this which sets the crisis in its context.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Praying the Bible

'For thirty centuries, God's people have found in the Psalms an answer to the disciples' plea, "Lord teach us to pray"

Ken Langley quoted in 'Praying the Bible', Page 81

As a lad growing up, my family went to church. As far as I knew, no one else had parents who took them to church which made this a lone penance among my peers. As a result, I have the BCP communion service in my DNA and many hours of form in cold and dreary churches across the land. Oh, and not forgetting I am now a Priest in the C of E.

Church for me was all about the timing- much like staring at the clock in double maths waiting for break time- I always knew that once we had sung the Psalm we had turned for home and Sunday lunch was coming into view. On the hymn board, the Psalm was always in red and was sung to an incomprehensible tune where the notes changed at random word by word but never was a melody forthcoming.  

Wonderfully, years after I had long given given up on church attendance the Holy Spirit hunted me down and saved me. Despite this, I still never really got on with the Psalms- haunted by the Red number keeping me from lunch- and I still couldn't fathom what they were for. That is, until a seminar on our church weekend run by Ann Coles opened them up to me as she told me the Psalms were meant for prayer. I remember the 40 mins we spent together as though it were yesterday where she demonstrated how to pray by praying Psalm 27. Those 40 mins were transformational for me.

Here's my point. This little book will do for you what Ann Coles did for me 13 years ago. It is the simplest and most straightforward of books and I recommend reading it a chapter or two a day over a week. All you need to do is do what it says and if you do, I guarantee, you will become the praying man or woman you were formed in your mothers womb to be. 

Monday, August 24, 2015


30 things that might help you finish strong

What gives me the most hope every day is God's grace; knowing that his grace is going to give me the strength for whatever I face, knowing that nothing is a surprise to God.

'Charisma News previously reported that 70 percent of pastors constantly fight depression, and 71 percent are burned out. Meanwhile, 72 percent of pastors say they only study the Bible when they are preparing for sermons; 80 percent believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families; and 70 percent say they don't have a close friend.'

I read an article (from which the second quote above comes) about a pastor I respected who left his wife recently and it, yet again, made me see the need for mercy and grace if  we are to complete the race that lies before each one of us. I will never forget reading Steve Farrar's life changing words in Finishing Strong that if you're a Christian and you think that could never happen to you then you are precisely the person it is likely to happen to. If it already has- there is still grace and hope. I am not sure I have any silver bullet for how to stay on the road but here is a not very comprehensive list of things things that I've learnt thus far about how to cultivate a healthy soul:

1. Remember it relies on God and not you. We have been singing the words 'Sovereign over us' all year and I hope they are getting into our DNA.

2. Read the Bible for yourself every day. Phil Moore's BiOY tweets are blessing me. Do watch 'Coffee with God' again and maybe buy the new NIV Study Bible as new kit can sometimes kick start a flagging habit.

3. Have a few people in your life who you can be real and share things with and be in a Community Group.

4. If there is an order for things it's this: God, marriage, kids, work, everything else. Notice where work comes on the list. Someone in our church was really blessed recently reading Keller's book about work called 'Every Good Endeavour'

5. Fly fish.

6. Keep reading (listening to) books and the list of those that can bless, grow and encourage you will never exhaust. I found a new list only today.

7. Cultivate the habit of regular time with God. Mine is called 'Going to the wilderness' which is a place I go regularly and have done for 20 years with my Bible, journal, a book or two, some music where I walk, pray, listen, write and think. Someone in our church is going for the first time and I think this resource might be a help to them.

8. Eat curry.

9. Keep listening to good and challenging teaching. There is lots of it around- just find some (and a variety) and sprinkle your heart with it.

10. Try not to worry about your kids. Piper has some advice on this one.

11. By all means have people who inspire, teach and encourage but always remember God has called you and wants you to be you not ....(fill in the blank of the person, church, pastor, friend or work colleague you are subconsciously trying to emulate  or compete with)

12. Remember it's not what you do that matters it's who you are. I'm still reading 'A Road to Character' and may well not get through it this year but its got some helpful truths to impart.

13. Be brave and never forget you have an enemy. I've been watching the very poorly reviewed and ridiculous film Troy and a line in this clip has really stuck with me.

14. Tribes are imperfect things but work out which one your part of and do what you can to serve and encourage it. Try not to expend energy dissing everyone else's or bigging up yours. There are 12 and they all have good bits and bad bits.

15. Tell stories. We are all part of a story and are writing them with our lives so take time out to tell bits of yours to encourage others.

16. Two sets of words that I constantly return to in the Bible: a. 'Follow me b. 'But now'

17. Read though Romans with a pen in your hand at least once a year.

18. Take your day off and 'Date your wife'

19. Learn how to make chutney

20. Personality types are all very well but never forget you're the child of a king.

21. It may not be 'Men on Mountains' but if you can come up with a better reason for why I'm still standing then do let me know.

22. No one cares how big/trendy/ sound/ visionary/ happening/ respected/growing/ cool and radical your church is. It's a church and there a lots of them. Join one, love it, give to it, pray for it, encourage whoever leads it and pour yourself out for those who are part of it until Jesus returns. Nothing will prevail against it and that's because the church is not yours it's Jesus' and it's the only thing that's going to last.

23. Listen to this talk once with your husband or wife or friend and reflect on it. If you are are single (which I was for 45 years)  this talk is a help.

24. Start a journal and this book might help get you started.

25. Make love to your wife/husband

26. Give some money away and open a bank account to enable you to do it (and get the tax back).

27. The line from this talk that stuck with me was 'What amazes me is old people who are still buying things. What's the point?'

28. Have a worship album on the go  and a song (below) and read an un-challenging novel.

29. Sometimes I order a book that I know will have a nugget or two that could have a lasting impact on me but will also have things in it that make me shout 'Nooooooooooooo'.

30. Laugh and, whatever you do, don't take yourself too seriously.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Focus 2015 Highlights

A slightly wet and windy start but much blessing for us as a church and we are already planning for Focus 2016.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Monday musing

1, I watched this and it blessed me. It was a memorable worship moment in the midst of everyday life.

2. I am really enjoying preaching through Jonah. I included this Tim Keller quote yesterday

'Grace is a completely undeserved gift from a completely unobligated giver'

3. A Vicar pal was encouraged reading 'The Unstoppable force' which is perhaps one for you if you lead a church and are in need of some creativity and inspiration.

4. There is quite a bit of buzz about Songs of Praise from Calais

5. I my unqualified opinion the pick of the bunch on 'Unbroken praise' is this (Matt is helped a little by Isaac Watts):

7. In light of the planned parenthood video horrors it might be good and timely to watch the film 40 

8. I have bought Mighty (which goes to show I am refreshing my worship banks which have become a little stale of late)

9. My favorite quote from Bake off:

'It's just a cake'

10. If you want to read a depressing piece then avail yourself of 'When will the C of E be extinct?'


In light of this, it slightly beggars belief that the primary thing the C of E is putting its time and money into is Shared Conversations about sexuality rather than urgently gathering its leaders to equip them for mission and evangelism. Such is the way of things. Now, if I were recommending one chapter read for SC- I would point you to the chapter on homosexuality in Richard Hays masterful work 'The Moral Vision of the New Testament'

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