Sunday, December 24, 2017


‘The gospel makes us Christians, not ascetics. Jesus Christ did not die and rise for you so that you would stress out about whether your being spiritual enough. So take a nap. Go for a walk in the woods. Play with your kids. Eat some chocolate. Watch a good movie. Christian, you are free’

Gospel wakefulness, p. 111

Tuesday, December 19, 2017


Happy to announce James Randle Cooke has arrived and everyone is doing pretty well. I’ve been able to sit for an unnervingly peaceful amount of time in the hospital and have a bit of a read. 

As a consequence, I have been mulling on these:

 ‘Signs you have not experienced gospel wakefulness:

1.  The gospel doesn’t interest you- or it does, but not as much as other religious subjects

2. You take nearly everything personally

3. You frequently worry about what other people think. 

4. You treat inconveniences like minor ( or major ) tragedies. 

5. You are impatient with people

6. In general, you have trouble seeing the fruit of the Spirit in your life ( Gal. 5:22-23 )

7. The Word of God holds little interest

8. You have great difficulty forgiving

9. You are told frequently by a spouse, close friend, or other family members that you are too “clingy” or too controlling. 

10. The idea of gospel centrality makes no sense to you. 

Gospel wakefulness, p 72-73

Monday, December 18, 2017

Monday musing

1.  Our second son will have arrived by the end of the day. 

2.  ‘This is in fact the thrust of the gospel: it is Christ’s work that saves, not yours’

Gospel wakefulness, 27

3. Another Jared Wilson on my radar is his latest ‘Imperfect disciple’. 101 reviews on Amazon. 

4. My grieving friend has been listening to and blessed by Cory Ashbury’s ‘Reckless love’

5. The dance, during our Family Carols, made me weep. My friend told me to ‘man-up’. Tears really are ok. 

6. Mrs C lent over to me during church yesterday and whispered ‘God’s word this Christmas is that he’s come to make his home among us and he’s calling each of us home’

7. Our son, given the choice of a baby brother or a Paw Patrol car, would find it a hard call. Fortunately, he’s going to get both. 

8. Debbie McGee should have won Strickly. 

9. Yesterday we sang: ‘He didn’t want heaven without us so he brought heaven down’

10. I’ve developed a liking for the Cadbury’s mini roll. What a magnificent culinary invention. 

Saturday, December 16, 2017

When was I saved?

‘If you asked me today when I was saved, I would answer, not entirely humorously, “about two thousand years ago”. Indeed, because I have been predestined for salvation by the one who foreknew me before I was born or had done anything good or bad, and because the Lamb was slain from the foundation of the world, I don’t need the security of the date of my new birth. I only need the security of knowing he whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to safeguard my life for all eternity’

Jared Wilson, Gospel wakefulness, p.30

Saturday blog-sweep

Mission Impossible: The C of E's attempt to woo new members

Tim Challies Collected Best Book Lists 2017

Buzzard Best Books 2017

'My secret is that I need God'

Asian Christianity and Christian History (h/t Jesus Creed)

R C Sproul (1939-2017)

Is Jerusalem Important?

Who is going to be the new Bishop of London? (Gavin Ashenden is a hoot and when his hut door blows open it's the sort of thing that makes me fall in love again with the good old C of E )

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Is that a glory cloud?

As I may have mentioned a Vicar pal sent me a link to a discussion about 'a glory cloud' that appears periodically in a church the other side of the pond. He's been very taken with the whole idea and has been willing his own 'glory cloud' to settle over his gently declining church of 70. It was 120 before he brought his powerful anointing to bear on things.

Anyway, the other morning he was leading worship and quite amazingly he saw a cloud coming through the open doors at the back of his sea facing church and he thought- finally it's happening! It was only once the 'glory cloud' got nearer to him and began to smell of sausages that he realized instead of a 'glory cloud' it was in fact his youth worker barbecuing below.

Undaunted, he waits on patiently for the glory to fall......

Monday, December 11, 2017

Monday musing

1. 'Love Big Be Well' may very well make it as one of my books of the year.

2. Speaking of books, a pal put me on to a fellow called Ryan Holiday who produces a monthly book recommendation email that I now enjoy. It's where I discovered 'The Shepherd's Life'. These are his Best reads of 2017.

3. If you want a stunningly good talk on calling then 'Real Security and  the Call of God' is for you.

4. I am engaging in a more real way with the incarnation as we have a baby which is due to arrive any day.

5. My devotional for 2018 is 'Seeking God's Face' which I began in Advent. I've done a few years of BiOY and sensed it was time for something new.

6. I am mulling on the fact that I am just as loved by Jesus even though less people are coming to our church than a year ago. Surprisingly, no one is interested in inviting me to speak at a conference to share the profound things I am learning about my heart, myself and the gospel as I reflect on the nature of Jesus's upside down kingdom. My friend, mentor and fellow race runner is pastor of a slightly declining church too so we make an interesting pair in this season of our lives.

7. I have been really enjoying cooking recipes from Leon One Pot.

8. I've been wondering what Eugene Peterson would say to my pal who told me his church has grown so much he no longer has time to work on sermons. He is a far more gifted leader than I and a very good big-hearted friend and encourager. He tells me he now uses superb sermon outlines of a gifted mega-church pastor and his folk absolutely love their content and the church is growing even more. So many things to muse on from these couple of sentences. Now, I've googled the preacher in question and he has written a blog post complaining about 'pastoral plagiarism' by other pastors. I then googled his name and 'sermon outlines' and discovered his own website sells PDF's of his talks. If you sell PDF's of your own talks then it should not be a huge shock that people then preach and use them? I could write so much more on this but I won't....

9. 'Our entire story is predicated on the assumption that we're massive screw-ups. What's supposed to be unique to Christians is how we’re the first to recognize the trouble we're in, the first to cry uncle. If we want to lead in anything, it's this prayer: Help me, I've made a mess of things.

And boy, how often have we made a mess of things. We've screwed up more than a few of the basics: neglecting care of the poor and the children, failing to nurture creation, participating in systems of power rather than sacrificially laying down our power for others. And yet this is why we need the church all the more. This is not the time to surrender the whole idea of church, nor is it time to retreat into empty theological ideals or rhetoric that have nothing to with our place and our neighbours. We don't  need religious platitudes. We need an actual community of friends who take responsibility for..... [fill in the place name of your church]' 

Love Big, Be Well, p.26

10. This is a good piece on the Pope wanting to change the Lord's prayer.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Long term

'You should have a fifty year plan- a vision for growth over a long period of time as you embrace your weakness'

The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb, p 27

Monday, December 04, 2017

Work advice

I spend quite a bit of time chatting to people about their work and careers. I enjoy this and feel I have a little to contribute as I have had what some term 'a proper job' before becoming a Vicar.  However, I am bluntly aware that the work place I left aged 35 is now so very different and the idea of a 'career' is for most a pipe-dream.  So how do you navigate such an uncertain future and how do you make a plan with such a variety of options?

Seth Godin is one person who helps me stay connected to 'the workplace' and to the world of ideas and marketing in which I once worked. His post 'Reading at Work' has a list of twenty books he thinks we should all be taking a look at and making time to read with colleagues at work.

I've put 'The True Believer' on my Christmas list.

Weakness is the way

'There is widespread desperation for power, but an equally broad neglect of the patience it takes to bear kingdom fruit. We want the promised land without the testing of the wilderness; we want to have a voice that powerfully proclaims truth without first learning to be 'slow to speak' (James 1:19). Jesus attacks our shortsighted impatience and calls us into the long way. He calls us to the way of power found in weakness that comes only from a long obedience in the same direction'


Sunday, December 03, 2017

The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb

Some wise retired Anglican sages put me onto 'The way of the dragon or the way of the lamb'. It's an important read for those of us who pastor churches or aspire to:

'In a culture drunk on power and in need of an intervention, the church has too often become an enabler. In many places, churches openly affirm the way from below. Instead of being told how desperately I am in need of God, I am repeatedly told how much God needs me . Instead of being exhorted to pick up my cross and follow Christ, I am told that Jesus wants to be my partner in the plan I have to rid my life of struggles and challenges.. We hear gospels of moral ism, centering on my power to become a better person and we hear sermons offering up God as merely another resource along my journey for successful and happy living. Sermons become pep talks amid a quest for power and significance. Instead of worship being an invitation to come before God in humble awe and reverence, worship becomes an experience meant to lift us above the travails of everyday life and give us a sense of transcendence. Instead of hearing God's vision of redeeming all things in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, we hear of the pastor's vision to grow an even bigger church that does bigger things so that he can be powerful with him'


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Lord, I am willing

'As last I said, "Lord, I am willing" and he came in. He did not force the decision on me: I had to decide. I was carried right into the presence of God and the verse he gave me was: 'Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus' (Hebrews 10:19). From that time on there was a line drawn between my old life and this new one. Like John the Baptist, I had to decrease and he had to increase'

Rees Howells

Monday, November 27, 2017

The first of many book lists

Apologies to readers that I have not returned to Saturday blog-sweep. This will be rectified.

Here is the Desiring God Books of 2017 list and as a result of it I have put a Martin Luther biography on my Christmas list.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

What's a church?

...'for the church is not what we organize but what God gives, not a people we want to be with but the people God gives us to be with- a community created by the descent of the Holy Spirit in which we submit ourselves to the Spirit's affirmation, reformation and motivation'

Reversed Thunder, Peterson, p.55

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Bits and bobs

1. This is good on the gift of tongues.

2. I am enjoying reading 'Walking with God'. It may simply be because Eldredge is a dry-fly fisherman.

3. I am currently reflecting on the book of life as I prepare to preach on Sardis on Sunday (Rev 3)

4. I have been falling asleep to this talk 'How the gospel changes our heart' on a few nights recently. It's excellent when you finally manage to get through it.

5. 'What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us' A W Tozer

6. Our personal prayer life is contested.

7. You know something is up when you are spending your evenings reading 'The Diary of David Brainerd ' in tiny print in Vol 1 of Edwards complete works. I should be watching a box set like everyone else.

8. Mrs C and I have been fascinated by Trump: An American Dream.

9. I have not been able to get past the Calvin quote on page 17-18 of 'The New Catechism'. As Peterson says 'Reading Calvin is prayer'

10. A Vicar pal sent me this interview in which Bill Johnson talks about the glory cloud (18 mins in) and asked what I think. When the glory comes scripture describes people as 'face down' in awe, not filming it on a mobile. 

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Shepherd's life

'My job is simple: get around the fields and feed and shepherd the different flocks of ewes- dealing with any issues that arise. 

First rule of shepherding; it's not about you. It's about the sheep and the land.

Second rule: sometimes you can't win.

Third rule: shut up, and go and do the work.'

p 201

If I were to recommend a book to someone who wanted to be a pastor it might be this one and, interestingly, he's not a Christian. It's basically the job description. It's also a deeply honest and moving read.

Thursday, November 16, 2017


I watched this interview and am left in doubt of my need to go through a very steep and urgent learning curve on this issue. The classroom and the workplace of my children will be a very different one from that which I experienced.

This seems like a primer which I have just started to read.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

For the pod: Hard pressed

For those of you who feel 'hard pressed on every side'- this Ransomed Heart podcast is worth a listen. 

You can also listen to Part 2 and Part 3 which follow-on with this theme.

Monday, November 13, 2017

With- In- Upon

'The Holy Spirit was with us prior to our conversion. He came alongside us to convince us to surrender our lives to the Lord. Once we opened our heart, He then came in us, giving us power to say yes to God's will and to resist all that is not compatible with His way. Then in response to our soul's longing for intimacy with God, the Holy spirit came upon us, empowering us to deny ourselves and to reach out to others that they may also learn from Him'

Free to shine, Opening the gift of Tongues, p 43

'I am convinced that the need of the church is to realize again the activity of the Holy Spirit. You see, we organize meetings, organize campaigns, but that is because very largely we have forgotten the element that I am trying to emphasize to you. When the Spirit comes his evidence is unmistakable and the results amazing and astounding'

Joy unspeakable, p 120

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Sabbatical reading

The subject of my reading and prayer over the last couple of months has been the baptism of the Holy Spirit and Revival. As an aside, I was reading an old journal where I had asked a friend what I should read on my ordination retreat. He said 'Romans and the best book on the Holy Spirit you can find'

Oh and I have been fasting all media for eight weeks and it's been a joy and I do recommend it.

My reading was as follows and as to its fruit - well only time will tell:

Taking my God for a Walk: A wonderful tale of a man walking the Camino.

When breath becomes air: A moving and wonderfully written book about death and dying. It made me sob uncontrollably.

Conclave: A total page-turner on how you pick the Pope.

The Rosie Project: Light, funny and profound.

Joy Unspeakable: It is hard to sum up what this book has done in me and one of the reasons I can't is it's still in motion. Get this book, read this book and may it set you aflame.

Face to Face with God:  I read this with Lloyd Jones and was struck how similar it was in parts.

Great Revivals: A taster book of where God has moved his hand through history.

Defining Moments: The stories of revivalists and what we can learn from them.

Living Forward: One quote in this prompted me to start writing a book.

Draw the Circle: A forty day journey of prayer which is worth the walk. Packed with interesting facts and perspectives.

The Shepherds Life: A wonderful book about being a shepherd by a shepherd. An immersion into beautiful writing and life in the Lakes.

Grace Outpouring: The account of what happens when you pray. This book tells the incredible story of the place I stayed in Wales. I can't recommend it highly enough. You should visit and then see what happens next.....

The Way of Blessing: I read this while I was in Wales and it follows right on with the story of what God is doing through Flald y Brenin.

The Revival We Need: Recommended by Roy Godwin and it cut me to the core. The impact of this book on my heart and soul is still under way. I will keep you posted.

Intercessor: I read this nearly thirty years ago and have revisited it after a visit to The Bible College of Wales. If Rees Howells has never crossed your path it's time he did. Astounding.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

True Revival

Would we think of calling a doctor before we were sick? Do we urge people who are well and strong to hasten to the physician? Does the man who is swimming well beseech those on the shore to come and save him? Certainly, not!  But let sickness come, and at once we feel our need and a doctor is called. We know that we require a remedy. When we feel ourselves sinking below the surface, and realise that we are drowning, we will then soon call for help, and oh, the agony through which we pass as we find ourselves going down and know that unless someone saves us, we are lost and must perish!

So it is with a perishing soul. When a man is convicted of his lost condition he will cry out in anguish of heart: "What must I do to be saved?' He will need no urging, no coaxing; it is a matter of life and death to him, and he will do anything to be saved.'

.....'A revival always includes conviction of sin on the part of the church. Backslidden professors cannot wake up and begin right away in the service of God without deep searchings of heart. The fountains of sin need to be broken up. In a true revival, Christians are always brought under such conviction; they see their sins in such light that often they find it impossible to maintain a hope of their acceptance with God. It does not always go to that extent, but there are always, in a genuine revival, deep convictions of sin, and often cases of abandoning all hope'

Charles Finney

Quotes from 'The Revival we Need', p 45, 52 

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

For the pod: The Father Wound

I have revisited some of John Eldredge's books and he speaks often of something he calls ...'the father wound'. This same phrase was then the pivotal subject of this talk and it impacted me profoundly. It has moved a number of men I have shared it with- including some who are not yet Christians so I pass it forward.

We are all so very broken (including Driscoll himself as most know) and I am so thankful for the Cross.....

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Denial of power

'Work among believers of itself will not suffice. It matters not how spiritual a church may profess to be, if souls are not saved something is radically wrong, and the professed spirituality is a false experience, a delusion of the devil. People who are satisfied to meet together simply to have a good time among themselves are far away from God. Real spirituality always has an outcome. There will be a yearning and a love for souls. We have gone to places that have a name of being deep and very spiritual, and have often found that it was all in the head, the heart was unmoved, and there was, not, infrequently, hidden sin somewhere. "Having a form of godliness but no power thereof'. Oh, the pathos of it all! Let us then challenge our spirituality and ask what it produces, for nothing less than a genuine revival in the body of Christ resulting in a true awakening among the unsaved will ever satisfy the heart of God'

The Revival We Need, Oswald J Smith, p24

If you are a Christian and your still breathing - read this book. It will change your life.......

Monday, October 30, 2017

True sonship

'You are the son of a kind, strong and engaged Father, a Father wise enough to guide you in the Way, generous enough to provide for your journey. His first act of provision happened before you were even born, when he rescued you through the life, death and resurrection of our elder brother, Jesus of Nazareth.  Then he allied you to himself- perhaps is calling you even now- to come home to him through faith in Christ.  When a man gives his life to Jesus Christ, when he turns as the prodigal son turned for home and is reconciled to the Father, many remarkable things take place. At the core of them is a coming into true sonship'

The Way of the Wild Heart, John Eldredge, p.31

Friday, October 27, 2017

A new resolve

'A new resolve had entered my life. Instead of talking to him and preaching about him and evangelising about him and being a pastor for him, I wanted to know God. And now that's my heart: to know him and to know him more. Not to know more about him, but to know him more. Everything else follows as a overflow of that relationship. When the major passion of my heart changed from mission to simply knowing him, the mission activity then began to flow out of the knowing'

The Grace Outpouring: Becoming a people of blessing, Roy Godwin and Dave Roberts, Page 85

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Four principles

'Wigglesworth's ministry was based on four principles: First, read the Word of God. Second, consume the Word of God until it consumes you. Third, believe the Word of God. Fourth, act on the Word of God'

From the chapter 'Never the same again' in Johnson's Face to Face with God, p.157

Friday, September 29, 2017

A bit of risk is good for you

To laugh is to risk appearing a fool
To weep is to risk being called sentimental
To reach out is to risk another's involvement
To expose feelings is to risk exposing your true self
To place your ideas and dreams before a crowd is to risk their loss
To love is to risk being loved in return
To live is to risk dying
To try is to risk failure

But risks must be taken
Because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing
The people who risk nothing may avoid suffering and sorrow
But they cannot learn, feel, change, grow or really live
Chained by their servitude they are slaves who have forfeited all freedom
Only a person who risks is truly free

William Ward quoted by John Brierley in 'A pilgrims guide to the Camino de Santiago', p.36

Monday, September 25, 2017

The greatest need

'I am convinced that the greatest need of the church is to realise again the activity of the Holy Spirit. You see, we organise- organise meetings, organise campaigns, but that is because very largely we have forgotten this element that I am trying to emphasise to you. When the Sprit comes his evidence is unmistakable and the results are amazing and astounding' 

Joy unspeakable, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, p 120

Saturday, September 09, 2017

The death of reading

I really commend reading Philip Yancey's important article  'The death of reading is threatening the soul'. 

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

The Ultimate Quest

'If our value system places more importance on what God does than who He is- if we are religiously motivated rather than relationally motivated- we will not be drawn to recognise the greater revelation behind God's acts. The sad reality is that some are satisfied with what God can do and have little concern for who God is. Such a preference is costly in the long run. Many have missed out on the purpose for their creation by settling for the acts of God, thus failing to come under the influence of the face of God- the ultimate quest and our ultimate destiny'

Face to Face with God, Bill Johnson, Page 86

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Son of Man came....

English pastor and author Tim Chester once posed the question, "How would you complete the following sentence: 'The Son of Man came....'?  There are three ways that the New Testament completes that sentence; while the first two are well known (and might have come to your mind when you read Chester's question), the third is surprising:

  • "The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45)
  • "The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10)
  • "The Son of Man came eating and drinking" (Luke 7:34)
While the first two oft-quoted verses tell us about Jesus' purpose in coming- to serve, the give his life as a ransom, to seek and safe the lost- the third describes his method. How did Jesus come? He came eating and drinking. 

Surprise the World, p.44

Monday, August 14, 2017

The view of the stars

I was struck this morning by this quote Justin Taylor posted. How profoundly this picture of the comforts of the earthly clouding out our view of the heavenly is painted by Soren Kierkegaard.

Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855):
When the prosperous man on a dark but starlit night drives comfortably in his carriage and has the lanterns lighted, aye, then he is safe, he fears no difficulty, he carries his light with him, and it is not dark close around him.
But precisely because he has the lanterns lighted, and has a strong light close to him, precisely for this reason, he cannot see the stars. For his lights obscure the stars, which the poor peasant, driving without lights, can see gloriously in the dark but starry night.
So those deceived ones live in the temporal existence: either, occupied with the necessities of life, they are too busy to avail themselves of the view, or in their prosperity and good days they have, as it were, lanterns lighted, and close about them everything is so satisfactory, so pleasant, so comfortable—but the view is lacking, the prospect, the view of the stars.
—Søren Kierkegaard,The Gospel of Suffering, trans. David F. Swenson and Lillian Marvin Swenson (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1948), 123.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Divine reversal

'The act of Jesus was to reverse this structure: communion first, conversion second. His table fellowship with sinners implied no acquiescence in their sins, for the gratuity of the reign of God cancelled none of its demands. But in a world in which sinners stood ineluctably condemned, Jesus' openness to them was irresistible. Contact triggered repentance; conversion flowered from communion. In a tense little world of ancient Palestine, where religious meanings were the warp and woof of the social order, this was a potent phenomenon'

Ben Meyer quoted in 'Surprise the world' which inspired our current sermon series on missionary habits.

Don't miss the next installment on Sunday and make this little book your August read....

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Four Tuesday Bits

1. Philip North gave what some have hailed as a prophetic word on the poor directed to clergy to New Wine last week and this morning I have read it. It's a challenge to those of us not ministering on estates and also to the church planting strategy of the HTB/New Wine network. It is worth a read and some reflection. A pal who was there said it was, and I quote, 'electrifying'

2. Roger Olson has summarized what he considers to be the basic tenets of liberal theology.

3.  An interview with Eugene Peterson pre-gay marriage gate.

4.  18 books on suffering

5. Apparently research shows that sabbaticals are good for organisations which is good as I am about to take one.

6. Interesting post about Google doing what the church perhaps should be?

7. I am walking a stretch of the Camino and a friend met the man who wrote 'Taking God for a Walk' so I've bought it as preparatory reading.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

More Focussed Thoughts

1. A pal asked Nicky Gumbel what he thought of Focus and he replied 'Best Focus Ever'. I tend to agree, although I haven't been to all of them so I am unqualified to judge. He also told me that Nicky says that to him every year which is the mark of the 'enthusiast/ optimistic/glass half full DNA' of our movement. 

I enjoyed not having famous speakers. R T Kendall was the only 'name' and, were it me, I would have had him teaching on the main stage.When you make huge effort to make your movement younger, the danger is you ignore the wisdom and ability of the old. Those who have persevered and run the race arguably have the most to impart to us. Apart from Nicky, who was stirring and brilliant as ever, it might be nice next year to have space for one or two of the older sages of the HTB network and have them teach us the Bible from the front. 

2. In my many discussions about the state of the C of E with Vicar pals over the last week, one quoted Bonnhoeffer who said it doesn't matter that you are walking down a train away from the engine it's still going in the same direction. The only way to go another way is, at some point, to get off the train.

3. I am planning to walk a stretch of the Camino as part of my sabbatical. 

'There was never a pilgrim that did not come back to his own village with one less prejudice and one more idea.'


4. We are preaching a little series inspired by the book 'Surprise the world'. This quote struck me from it from another book he wrote called 'The Road to Missional'

'Trailers are tasters, short film versions of the soon to be released feature, and they usually include the best special effects or the funniest scenes or the most romantic moments, depending on the film, of the upcoming feature. now, watch those around you in the theatre at the end of each trailer. If it has done its job, usually one person will turn to the other and say, 'I want to see that movie'

This is a great metaphor for the missional church. If it does its job well, people will see what it does and say, "I want to see the world they come from' p. 86

5. Every week I pray with a bunch of pastors and we are due to discuss this talk over breakfast during August. It is packed with interesting thoughts on evangelism to a post-Christian world. It's ten years old but its themes still very much chimed with me.

6. If you are wondering what Keller would say about post-modernism ten years on then listen to 'The Closing of the Modern Mind'.. You'll need 90 minutes and a notebook and pen. Here is a taster:

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Unfocussed thoughts.

I am at Focus 17 which is a Summer conference. 

1.  I bought a book by Bill Johnson called 'Defining moments' and Sam Storms' book about J I Packer. It made me wonder if they have ever met and whether anyone, apart from me, would buy books by the two authors at the same time. 

2. Talking of J I Packer, the big idea of Focus so far is the Sovereignty of God. We've had some terrific teaching. Not sure Focus would be quite Jim's bag but who knows...

3. A chap I bumped into remembers me saying in a talk that Satan put sin on the roulette wheel and lost. I can't recall ever saying that and can't quite fathom what on earth that statement means. 

4. The same fellow credits me with the term 'hinge verse' which is apparently one that opens the door to a theological truth. Can't recall ever saying that either. 

5. On the first evening, the worship was fearfully loud. So loud, in fact,  that my wife and I had to leave. Has worship music become louder or have I just got more grumpy? It was Donington Monsters of Rock rather than my preferred volume which is Bob Harris country. Fortunately,  someone has now turned the volume knob down a bit. 

6. A pal always refers to Ken Costa as Kevin Costa which really makes me chuckle. 

7. Met and prayed for a dear couple (French and Polish) in their sixties who became Christians reading the Bible. Their story was extraordinary. They feel called to Armenia and randomly (Sovereignly) I have a missionary friend I met 25 years ago when selling fags to the Russians who has a wonderful ministry to that nation. Who knows what may come of a chance encounter in a bookshop? Might be a 'defining moment'. 

8. A wonderful young women spoke this morning but I didn't hear what her name was.  So anointed and glowing. She is not yet 30, a Pentecostal theologian and about to start teaching at St Mellitus. I was struck by her story of being affirmed aged 8 by an old lady in her church. 

9. I had lunch with the new Vicar of my old church and we were both amazed how many people we both had in common. He's a terrific fellow. 

10.  I told my friend not to count how many squares his church has on the Focus map. No good can come of it. None of the NT letters seem greatly interested in how many coloured squares you have on a map. 

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Story's solution

'In the end, it all comes down to this. One day you will stand before God, who will sit in judgement on your life, and you will be found guilty. I suspect you already know that. When that time comes for you- and it will come- only one thing will save you from punishment that is your due- God's Rescuer, Jesus. 

Here is the Story's solution to the problem of evil: perfect justice for evil doers, perfect mercy for the penitent; evil banished forever, and everlasting good restored.'

The Story of Reality, p. 164

Friday, July 21, 2017

With Him

This was from the notes in BiOY yesterday:

Bishop Taylor Smith, former Chaplain General to the Forces, once had a conversation with a young man that went like this:
Bishop: ‘When you think about the cross of Christ, what do you see?’
Young man: ‘I see Christ and two thieves crucified either side of him…’
Bishop: ‘What else do you see?’
Young man: ‘I see the soldiers gambling…’
Bishop: ‘If that is all you see, I think you will have trouble with the Christian life. When I see the cross – with all that – I see old Bishop Taylor Smith. I was crucified with Christ.’

Friday, July 14, 2017

Kept in a state of grace

'I think this little catchphrase, perseverance of the saints, is dangerously misleading. It suggests that the perseverance is something that we do, perhaps in and of ourselves. I believe that saints do persevere in faith, and that those who have been effectually called by God and have been reborn by the power of the Holy Spirit endure to the end. However, they persevere not because they are so diligent in making use of the mercies of God. The only reason we can give why any of us continue on in the faith is because we have been preserved. So I prefer the term the preservation of the saints, because the process by which we are kept in a state of grace is something that is accomplished by God. My confidence in my preservation is not in my ability to persevere. My confidence rests in the power of Christ to sustain me with His grace and by the power of His intercession. He is going to bring us safely home'

R C Sproul

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Poor and the Gospel

I posted a quote from 'The Story of Reality' about the poor that shocked me and may have shocked you too. That's why I posted it to prompt my own and others theological reflection. Of course, it has a context and I do commend reading this brilliant book so you can see it.

In a timely way, to help with some reflection, J D Greear has just written this post entitled 'If you don't care for the poor you don't understand the Gospel'

For the pod: Jesus the Saviour vs Jesus the fake therapist

The General Synod, as noted here, is moving ever nearer towards schism which makes those of us who are part of it so very sad. A pal sent me a couple of sermons by Rev Dr Gavin Ashenden (former Chaplain to the Queen) on the most recent debates about sexuality and on why he has decided to leave the C of E.

Friday, July 07, 2017

Something far more important

'What I am going to say next will come as a shock to some, but here it is. You can eliminate every single thing Jesus ever said in his life about the poor and social justice, and still you will not undermine his main message one bit. As severe as that may sound, this is precisely what one of Christ's closest followers actually did.

The Gospel of John is the last biography written on Jesus and it came to us from the last surviving apostle, the "beloved" disciple John, a member of Jesus' inner circle. Many think it the most elegant summary and most definitive statement of who Jesus was and what he came to do. Yet you can read from John's first sentence to his last and you will not find a single word about helping the poor or social justice. Not one. In John's lone reference to the poor, Jesus is somewhat dismissive of them. That is not because he doesn't care about them, but because he is comparing their situation with something far more important.

....The divide for Jesus is not between the poor and the rich, but between the proud and the repentant, regardless of income or social standing. Miss that and you miss everything'

The Story of Reality, Gregory Koukl, p.144. 

To discover what is the 'far more important' is you will need to read the rest of the chapter entitled 'Rescue' in this compelling and brilliant book...........

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Bits and bobs

1. This is an interesting piece by Tim Keller on the potential of ministry to make you conceited.


'Our influence will grow as we cultivate a way of living and working that feels far less draining over time and far more energized by the Spirit to the point of overflowing. We will experience more and more moments when we feel as if we are living and leading from abundance rarther than out of sheer willpower or our own detached-from-God human efforts'  An Unhurried Leader, p 12-13

3. A friend is reading 'A trip around the sun' and being impacted by the idea of the need to belong before you believe in a post-Christian context.

4. Mrs C is off to Just One with a pal. Do pray for this amazing event.

5. I totally agree with Ian Paul about mitres. They look ridiculous and are add odds with what it means to be Anglican. If you don't agree then read 'Anglican and Evangelical: Can they Agree?'.

6. From time to time, I spot a corporate book that looks interesting like this one. Reminds me of the days when I had a job in the real world :)

7. As readers will know we in the C of E love filling our meeting agendas with discussions about sex (do look the agenda shown on Cranmer's blog linked in the next sentence with words 'persecuted church'- it beggars belief ) We should of course be talking about mission, evangelism and the persecuted church. I have been mulling on the growth of bi-sexuality in young people that the article cites (Point 10). It is often spoken about in these church debates that what we are for is 'Loving committed relationships' (by the way, so to are those in 'the world' as adultery for most people has never been considered life enhancing) but I perhaps question how you can achieve that if you are in relationship with more than one person of different genders or am I missing something? Now, or course it is possible to do so if you exercise abstinence over one or other part of your bi-sexual inclination. Bisexuality is not something I have read or thought about in any great depth but I have been helped by the work of 'Living out' in my understanding of this complex ethical arena. I realize I have more to learn about all this. You might also be interested in this tangential piece 'The revealing Conservatism of J K Rowling'  By the way, did I mention that the average age of a person with their bottom on a pew is 66?

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Five Habits of Highly Missional People

'Mission is not primarily concerned with church growth. It is primarily concerned with the reign and rule of the Triune God. That is why those of us who are not gifted evangelists need to foster habits in our lives that draw us out into the lives of unbelievers and invite the kinds of questions that lead to evangelistic sharing. When our lives become questionable, our neighbours invite us to proclaim the reign of God. If the church grows as a result, so be it.'

Surprise the world, p. 21

I have been praying, reading about and learning about mission. I have recently read a book called 'Surprise the world' which has inspired our summer sermon series. Michael Frost recommends we cultivate the BELLS model of mission:






I really recommend you putting this book in your beach bag as summer reading. It is very short, easy to read and contains habits that if we adopted them would transform our communities and churches.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Monday musing

1. The abuse scandals of the C of E have seemingly been very badly handled.

2. I am currently reading a lot about mission. Michael Frost's idea of 'BELLS' that he explains in his little book called 'Surprise the world' is extremely helpful. I have to say it's also an encouragement that we are doing some elements of mission pretty well- particularly eating which is the 'E' of 'BELLS'.

'Sharing meals together on a regular basis is one of the most sacred practices we can engage in as believers. Missional hospitality is a tremendous opportunity to extend the kingdom of God. We can literally eat our way into the kingdom of God! If every Christian household regularly invited a stranger or a poor person into their home for a meal once a week, we would literally change the world by eating!' 

Hirsch and Ford quoted in Surprise the world, p.48

3. This is an interesting discussion about the Supreme Court gay wedding cake case.

4. 73% of Anglicans according to BSA think sex before marriage is 'not wrong at all'. I would want to ask if the same group think sex outside marriage is 'not wrong at all' and if not what's the difference? Survey data like this makes me despair at the comprehension of the basic tenets of the gospel, the work of the Cross and realization of the scandal of grace in the C of E.

The word 'porneia' means sexual immorality. In deciding how to translate porneia, we need to avoid extremes or too much laxity and rigidity.......Porneia was, in fact, a generic word for sexual infidelity or 'marital unfaithfulness' (NIV), and included "every kind of unlawful sexual intercourse' (Arndt -Gingrich)

Issues facing Christians Today, Page 294

Sadly, too many Anglicans it would seem do not these days read the Bible, let alone owning a copy of Stott's seminal text on ethics.

5. On the subject of the gospel someone on our current Alpha course said this. 'There are only two categories of people- 'sinners' and 'redeemed sinners'. That phrase has stuck with me all this week. Tomorrow we are exploring the question 'How can I have faith?'.

6. This account about MLJ's needing to 'make room for the cross' convicted and moved me.

7. I have a theory that ecclesiastical and academic titles are the enemy of power in preaching.

8. This Spurgeon line from a handout someone gave me following a gathering of one of our Community Groups is worth a ponder:

'He made you for an end. Find out what that end is; find out your niche, and fill it. If it be so little, if it be a hewer of wood or a drawer of water, do something in this great battle for God and truth.'

9. A few comments on Ordination services that a good number of Vicar pals/ Non-ordained folk have been commenting on as many happened across the country this weekend.

a. In a service with so many guests and people who do not yet know Christ to not preach the gospel clearly and accessibly is surely a radical missed opportunity. To steal a cricketing analogy, on the biggest game of the year we should really try to pad up someone who can hit the ball about a bit and with a proven track record for unction in preaching.

b. Why not have a bit of testimony? We have twelve or so folk who are giving their lives for the good of the gospel and in service of the church so why not ask a couple of them why they are doing it. It may inspire others in their own call:

What was life like before you were a Christian?

How did you come to know Jesus?

Why do you want to be a priest?

c. Don't sing the prayers

d. Choose hymns that people know with a tune they can follow.

e. However committed the person, no one wants a service to last two hours.

10. I went to the licensing of the Vicar of my old church last week. Firstly, the bun fight afterwards was a little taste of heaven seeing old friends and faces, eating sumptuous food and drinking good wine. Secondly, in the morning I had discussed whether or not we can be considered 'the treasure' in the parable of Matt 13. The answer of most of the commentators is no. So this bit of the liturgy was interesting to me:

The Bishop extends his hands over the Vicar and people and says:

The Lord declares this day that you are his own, his treasured possession; work together as a people holy to the Lord your god, and may God meet all your needs from his glorious riches.

All: To God be the glory for ever and ever. Amen

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Tuesday thoughts

1. I found some notes of a book called 'Zeal without burnout' which I sent to a pal. It's so easy to become overwhelmed as a pastor.

2. I friend is being ordained on Saturday which is exciting and I am planning to attend. He invited me by text saying 'You got me into this; so you'd better come'. He will make a fine Vicar.  I read this reflection on the nature of ministry and found it a timely challenge.

3. I am greatly enjoying 'The Story of Reality' :

'Did you ever wonder how to sum up the main theme of the Bible accurately in a single, simple concept? It's right there in the first line: 'In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth'. Put simply, the Story starts with a Sovereign who creates a domain he benevolently rules over. There is a King and his "dom" so to speak. There is a kingdom' 


4. Someone asked me on Sunday about the C of E's latest agenda items on sexuality. I pointed them to Ian Paul's piece entitled 'Three miracles'.  Won't it be great if the GS ever gets around to speaking about mission and evangelism before deciding to schism.

5. I preached on Sunday about heaven and hell and I tried to tell it as Jesus did. One of the most challenging sermons I have ever listened to is 'Why we all need to gospel' by Francis Chan.

6. Sometimes on a Monday morning it pains me how few in Barnes are in church.

7. I am increasingly convinced that pastors need the skills of the cross-cultural missionary. Yesterday I was reading a book by Andrew Walls and this quote struck me:

'About the third year of my liberation from slavery of man, I was convinced of another worse state of slavery, namely, that of sin and Satan. it pleased the Lord to open my heart......I was admitted into the visible Church of Christ here on earth as a soldier to fight manfully against our spiritual enemies'

Samuel Crowther quoted in 'The Cross-Cultural Process in Christian History' , p157

8. This morning I wrote a sermon in my head after reading Paul's experiences in Athens. Given the above, this sermon should be one of our go-to texts.

9. I am going to do some mulling on 'The Five Marks of a Servant Leader'. Number Five reminds me of a Nouwen quote my pal used on our recent church weekend. Christians should seek to be 'downwardly mobile'

10, I enjoyed this review of David Fitches 'Faithful presence'

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Wednesday wanderings

1. I have finished a book recently and have not chosen the next one yet. 'The story of reality' from this list of summer reading caught my eye and looks interesting.

2. The Grenfell tower disaster requires 'prayer not rage'

3. I have been mulling on the parable of the wheat and the weeds.

4. A line from Leading with a limp has stuck with me:

'Courage is fear that has said its prayers' Ann Lamott

5. I spent some time with some of the ''Senior Management" of the C of E and was left encouraged that there is something of a strategy for survival. The big idea for survival is resourcing churches that have planted to themselves plant churches.  Now there's an idea. Did I mention I wrote 'Why plant churches?'

6.  This article told me the average salary in Kensington and Chelsea is £123k which represents dreadful inequality. That seems to me staggeringly high or have stipends just not kept pace with everyone one else's incomes? Someone tell my Bishop- actually the truth is none of us do this for the money. I suppose a few Russian billionaires must up the average a tad.

7.  Many in our days are crying for human justice. In commenting on the destruction of evil and the divine justice of the Wheat and weeds (Matt 13) Michael Green writes:

'All this is very unacceptable to people today; we do not treat evil with great seriousness, and many do not believe in a future life, a heaven and a hell where the great separation will be finalized  But it is an undeniable part of the  teaching of Jesus. Are we going to claim to know more about it than he?'

Green, Matthew BST, 157

8. I read 'Healing Kenosis and the Third person' with interest. I also mused at my many memories of SS reading this article that appeared a while back in GQ.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Wednesday wonderings

1. I have ordered Eugene Peterson's new book which comes with happy expectancy of it hitting the mat.

2. I have revisited and been humbled again by a book I read a while back called 'Leading with a limp':  

'Few leaders operate out of confidence built on anything but the crumbling foundation of arrogance. Few know peace that is not dependent on performance. Few exercise freedom and creativity that are not bound to conventionality. And few possess the capacity to care for people that is not shadowed by either the urge to please others or to knuckle under the tyranny of "should".

Take a different path. As an act of leadership, consider the risk of giving up your life through facing, naming and bearing your weakness, and imagine the paradoxical yet promised benefits. Let's walk into that reality, but it's imperative to remember that all movement into reality requires enormous faith'. (p.8)

3. Tuition fees policy was a winner for Labour. However, I am still pondering how righting off the debts of largely middle class/privileged university students can be considered 'socialist'.VAT on private school fees was to be given back to the wealthy in no university fees.

4. I spotted someone recommending Ann Lamott's Ted talk.

5. I spent the early morning listening to an Irish friend talk about Northern Ireland. So helpful to hear from someone who actually knows something about Northern Ireland and the DUP. Much hangs in the balance once again.

6. I had to take a deep breath of air after reading today's Cranmer post.

'If “Mission is God’s way of loving and saving the world”, does not the mission leader (at every level) need not only to be “sympathetic to” that love, but to have tasted it? You might know in your brain that salt is sodium chloride, but until it has touched your tongue you cannot truly know the full meaning of Jesus’ exhortation for believers to be the salt of the earth.'

7. What a terrible fire in London.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Cross (in the box)

I enjoyed David Keen's election reflection.

For those of you still working it all out Ian Paul has these three posts:

Why I am a Christian voting for Labour

Why I am a Christian voting Conservative

Why I am a Christian voting Liberal Democrat

The only advise I am willing to offer is vote for someone. If you don't vote you can't complian....

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

You can only give out what's been sown in

A friend said that they used to read the blog but when I stopped writing things here they stopped reading. My friend suggested I try writing again so I will try and share a thought or two.

'Don't focus on church growth'. If you grow yourself everyone around you will grow because of it'

Play the Man, p.125

David strengthened himself in the Lord

1 Sam 30:6

1. For a long time it's struck me that it's very possible to lead a church without both prayer or personal Bible reading. This was born out when I read an interview with David Platt, a Bible teacher and preacher I respect. who confessed at the height of his success speaking internationally and writing he had all but stopped engaging with God in the scriptures for himself. There is a stat that is sometimes trotted out that pastors spend less than 5 minutes a day in prayer and scripture which of course I have no way of verifying. The best I could find was this which is happily a tad more encouraging.

2. I have a Facebook Vicar friend who is brimming over with successful initiatives and enthusiasm and offers this across the internet in short films about his church, marriage and life constantly. He really is, as far as I know, a genuinely good and Godly chap, but I have decided that it would not be helpful for me to mirror his approach.  I learnt recently that the word enthusiasm comes from the Greek roots en and Theos, meaning in God. Batterson writes on this....'the more you get into God, and the more God's Spirit gets into you, the more impassioned you become' (Play the man, p 81). Though I agree and am something of an enthusiast myself, I resist going on camera as one because I am not sure it would be good for my heart.

3. There was a lady interviewed about her son on the BBC post-London Bridge who spoke about 'religions' in a way that I imagine many secular people would. She quoted the first commandment as 'Thou shalt not kill' and of course it's semantics to point out that it's not. However, we are, as the Archbishop has noted, a theologically illiterate nation and he has had some courage on 'Today' to say as much. He is doing his job which is directing the conversation towards Jesus.. I also read this piece in the Sun quoting my local MP who seems to suggest radicals go to Syria 'for foreign travel and to find a wife'. She might perhaps do well to educate herself slightly better on the theology of Jihad.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Monday musing

1. I watched 'Broken' which is one of the most captivating bits of drama I've seen in a while.

2. Archbishop Cranmer has a challenging piece about some of the more stark realities of Islam that politicians to date have been reluctant to articulate. For more about the why's of relativism in our culture do read 'Against the flow'.

3. This was an interesting piece on leadership.

4. I have been mulling on the trend in the C of E to make more 'senior' appointments to head office of varying types and titles tasked with dreaming up new ideas all captured in courses or pamphlets. A Vicar pal commented to me recently that expansion in the upper tiers of an organisation is generally an indication of its final days. He went on to say 'We are greatly deluded to think the answer to decline is more management from above'....'the church is a bottom up organism'.

5. I listened to 'On the mountain' while I was away and it's worth your time.

6. Mrs C did a short talk on our church weekend which she would not want me to tell you about.

7. Batterson's 'Discipleship Covenant' is an interesting idea for any believer not just as a rite of passage for a son. He quotes Diana Nyad's little phrase 'You must set your will' (Play the man, P.168) which is a challenging one.

8. I think people have warmed to Corbyn because he has an integrated front stage and back stage. For more on this, you should dive into the work of Simon Walker. I genuinely have nothing more than a hunch but I think due to this fact he may even be our PM by Friday. Millennials like 'authentic' and he seems to be that.

9. I appreciated Tim Challies on 'Prioritize the local church'

10.  I spent the evening with Mrs C watching 'One love Manchester' which told me a few things

a. I've turned into my dad
b. Justin Bieber with just a guitar and voice was simple and moving. I confess I had never heard a song of his (see point a)
c. Imogen Heap was a bit flat or was it just me who thought that?
d. No cameraman was interested in a rear view shot of any artist apart from Little mix.
e. It struck me as interesting that a large crowd chose to sing about love on the day of the festival that celebrates and remembers its outpouring. For more see Acts 2.
f. What a sweet young women Ariande Grande seems to be.


I always enjoy an interesting book list and Al Mohler's 'Summer reading' doesn't disappoint.

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