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'

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Thursday thoughts

1. My pal tells me I am old and not middle aged. Middle age he thinks is mid 30's to early 40's.

2. Dr Moore ask 'Have the planned parenthood films changed anything?'. Do watch his short film which will take you a couple of minutes.

3. After reading this, I bought the new Matt Redman album.

4. I am still reflecting on and preparing for Shared Conversations which I may participate in. I confess that when some paperwork and links came through with the letters 'LGBTIQ' - I had no idea what two extra letters 'I' and 'Q' stood for. Am I alone in this? There unexpected addition made me, a traditionalist/theologically orthodox Anglican, feel freshly a little ignorant about this issue that I have endeavored to think about, read and studied on quite widely and deeply. For your information, the 'I' stands for 'Inter-sex' and the Q for 'Queer' or 'Questioning' depending on which website you read.

5. I am in my BioY reading Ecclesiastes which coincided with Driscoll sending me an email about a new study he has done on the same book. I am wondering about the merits of Bible teaching that is not connected to a local church (as well as teaching from someone so flawed yet gifted). Is this simply a reworking of old material or a fresh, humble study on failure and regret from a book and by a leader who is learning from its lessons and is obviously in need of it?

6. Reading the interview with Jeremy Corbyn in the Belfast Telegraph makes me wonder if Labour party members have really thought through who they want as their leader.

7. It's bake off time of year. Here's how to make a sourdough loaf.

8. We made Ella's Veggie Lasagne and we are in agreement that the one thing it supremely lacked was meat.

9. We are watching Series 4 of Suits.

10. My mother in law loved reading Lila and found it hard to finish.


A big shout out for a friend's book 'All sorts of possible' '(and my sister's partner) which is published today.If you read it and like it tell others. I plan that a review will follow....

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Learning from bright young things

We watched 'The Internship' which is a ridiculous but fun film about Google and so I read the 'Eight habits of highly effective Google managers' (via What's best next) with fresh interest.

Here are a couple of things I am feeling prompted about currently:

1. To write and read more

2. To learn what it means to be young in our culture (young people, young churches, young leaders and young companies).

Now, like it or not I am now old. Yes, I know you find that hard to believe but I am quickly advancing to my half century and by anyone's definition that is not young. Whilst I don't have a coherent set of thoughts yet about youth culture I have read a few things recently has got me thinking and made me realize that in some area I am very out of touch. Also, having a son has forced a necessary re-engagement with such matters.

Here's a question for you.

Is dating and dancing a thing of the past?

Rod Dreher's post called Tinder Mercenaries combined with the fact the half the night clubs in the UK have closed over the last decade made me wonder if dancing and asking someone to 'sign your dance card' are now unnecessary parts of the young adult experience. In such a highly sexualized and relationally isolated culture,why bother going clubbing when you can simply hook up earlier in the evening through a phone app? Just a thought.

At Focus this year I felt rather old which I took to be a good thing. During the worship set led by Bright City it dawned on me that it was not aimed at me- a middle-aged man with a new baby. That's a healthy thing methinks. I do worry that some conferences (incl Focus at times) may be in danger of getting a little grey and out of touch- New Wine (as this post  implicitly suggests) and Greenbelt- see here- to name but two. Pete Hughes, Vicar of KXC, impressed me as a younger leader and movement influencer.

Finally, into the mix, I also throw two lists of young emerging Christian leaders and thinkers called '33 under 33' which offered some hope that there are lots of bright, talented and passionate younger folk in the pipeline. Thank goodness for that.

33 from the UK

33 from the US

Monday, August 03, 2015

Monday musing

1. Much to reflect on in 'The imitation game'. A couple of quotes that will live on with me:

'Sometimes it's the very people who no one imagines anything of who do the things no one can imagine.'

'Do you know, this morning I was on a train that went through a city that wouldn't exist if it wasn't for you. I bought a ticket from a man who would likely be dead if it wasn't for you. I read up, on my work, a whole field of scientific inquiry that only exists because of you. Now, if you wish you could have been normal... I can promise you I do not. The world is an infinitely better place precisely because you weren't.'

2. I love Jason Isbell's 'How to forget'. I'll let you into a little secret- I'm learning to play it on the guitar.

3, I have Donald Witney's Praying the Bible on pre-order.

4. I praying and weighing about my participation in 'Shared conversations'.

5. 1 Timothy tells us that to be an overseer you must 'above reproach'. This article on 'Seven spiritual challenges for Imperfect leaders' was a help to me and has this line that I am mulling on:
'Perfection isn’t the requirement for those who wish to lead. Progress is'
I recently watched John Piper reflecting on one particular imperfect leader: Mark Driscoll and also the Brian Houston Hillsong interview.
6. I am trying to learn to be more proactive. A book that is on my radar is 'The emotionally healthy leader' .

7. I re-read these words on prayer in 'Working the angles':

'The appearances mislead: Prayer is never the first word; it is always the second word. God has the first word. Prayer is answering speech; it is not primarily 'address' but 'response'. Essential to the practice of prayer is to fully realize this secondary quality'' [p 45-6]

8. The Panorama about the Tunisia massacre is captivating and terrifying.
9. Already looking forward to Focus 2016

10. This little piece on the real 10k hours is a challenge (via Paul Sohn)

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