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

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