Monday, January 23, 2017

Designing your life

From time to time I happen upon something that's in the 'that was very thought-provoking' box. This podcast with Dave Evans about 'Designing your life' did that. Maybe it just caught my mood. He's seems to be a really interesting guy (career with Apple/ Gaming/Software then a teacher at Stanford) He's also a Christian.

I have always, as we all are, been interested in calling, purpose and vocation. Most of us never stop asking the question, 'Am I doing the right thing?' or 'Is this the right job?' or 'What should I do next?' Or even the bigger one of 'What's it all about?'  Too often, I see in the church we fail to speak to what vocation looks like in the world and careers (or multiple careers) so I am always looking for interesting books to recommend to people in that zone.

Inevitably, as a pastor, I do spend lots of time speaking to people about their jobs and I found Dave Evans both interesting and helpful. He's challenging in his critique of the church in relating to the world (my moment was his story of the man who taught him the Saturday morning Bible study). Personally, my life as a pastor feels like a second life and the more and more I look at the world in God's economy there may well be third and fourth one's on the way.

As I look at the education system, it seems preoccupied with  passing exams. Surely, a life well-lived shouldn't peak at fifteen with good GSCE results? A good and rounded education/ upbringing should prepare you to answer the question 'What do I want to do with me life?' Now, of course, to answer that question depends very much on your worldview but we all ask this question repeatedly. However there are I think particular seasons when this question becomes paramount and front of mind.

a. When you leave school

This is a time when you choose the course you will study or the job you will take. What will govern that choice? What are your gifts and skills? What are you interested in? What parental/mentoring wisdom is available to you? What influence have good teachers and leaders had? What jobs have you tried or seen adults do that appeal? What do you like about them?

b. When you leave university

This is a season when you have tons of time to work out what you want to do- much of it wasted in my own experience. Often, you are so preoccupied with working out the boundaries of freedom and what is means to be an adult that vocation falls down the list and is left until the last minute.

c. When you reach middle age/retire

We are all living longer. If you are planning to retire then you now have almost another life ahead of you once your done with your official 'job'. 'Falling upward' speaks to this- particularly in men. Do you have a plan for your last years? These are the years when we begin to realize we might actually know something that might be useful. It's struck me that both Obama and Cameron are not yet 55 and have so much more potential than to speak about what they've already done for lots of money (Tony Blair).

Anyway, this might be food for thought if you are the parent of a teenager, in transition, planning retirement or changing course. Here is the link to the 'Christian Companion to designing your life' referred to in the podcast.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Wednesday wanderings

1. I don't know what my heart would have done without Eugene Peterson. Here he is on 'Learning to love the church'

2. I meet with some friends on a Wed morning to pray and spoke to them about what happened to my heart when I got the order of things the right way around, This talk will explain what I mean.

3, I am missing my dad today.

4. A very encouraging pal told me John Wimber used to often say:

'Our orders are standing orders until they are changed orders'  

5, Here's another 'Best books of 2016' list that might put a few reads on your 2017 list.

6. I like this quote from Cromwell when he was having his portrait done:

'Mr Lily I desire you would use all your skill to paint my picture truly like me and not Flatter me at all, But remark all these ruffness, pimples and warts and everything as you see it. Otherwise I will never pay you a farthing' 

'Abraham' Chuck Swindoll

7. I enjoy J D's preaching so I am interested what he's got to say about heaven and hell

Monday, January 16, 2017

The most decisive question

'Jesus doesn't encounter Matthew and John - or you and me- and ask, 'What do you know? He doesn't even ask, " What do you believe?' He asks 'What do you want?'  This is the most incisive, piercing question Jesus can ask us precisely because we are what we want.'

You are what you love, Page 2

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

You are what you love

This quote on the opening page of 'You are what you love' is one to ponder:

'Lovers are the ones who know most about God, the theologian must listen to them'

Hans Urs von Balthasar

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

How to spend a day with God

On New Year's day in a talk, I encouraged people to spend 40 days reflecting on the landscape that might lie ahead of them (Numbers 13) and suggested scheduling a day with God. Afterwards, someone came up to me and said 'I wouldn't have a clue how to spend a day with God.'

Here are a few suggestions of how you might do that. 

1. Kit

A Bible
A book or two
A journal or a tablet
Some music
A hat, coat and gloves

2. A Place

Depending on your disposition you might like to be indoors in one place or outside. I have been going to the same place on and off for 25 years which is a park with a cafe in the middle of it. I tend to do my reading and writing/reflecting in the cafe and walk and pray/worship outside. But I have also been to retreat houses, museums, art galleries, mountain villages, rivers and all sorts of other places to spend time alone with God over the years. 

3. Books to read

You can take anything really but these are some that come to mind:

4. Lives to reflect on

Biography is such a powerful thing and can be such an encouragement. People who follow Jesus are imperfect beings but looking and learning from those who have gone before is good. 

5. Questions to ask

Ron Klug's 'How to keep a spiritual journal' is full of journalling ideas and questions. 

The Chapter in Klug's book called 'Looking forward' suggests

Envisioning your future
  • Before I die
  • I have a dream
  • Spiritual legacy
  • Dying and rising
Clarifying Major Life Purposes
  • If you were guaranteed a slary for the rest of your life, how would you spend your time?
  • What changes would you most  like to see in your life?
  • If you knew you had only one year to live, what would you do with that time?
Setting goals

'We are engineered as goal-seeking mechanisms. We are built that way. When we have no personal goal which we are interested in and means something to us, we have to go around in circles, feel lost and find life itself aimless and purposeless. We are built to conquer environment, solve problems, achieve goals and we find no real satisfaction or happiness in life without obstacles to conquer and goals to achieve. People who say that life is not worthwhile are really saying that they themselves have no personal goals which are worthwhile. Get yourself a goal worth working for. Better still, get yourself a project. Decide what you want out of a situation. always have something to look for.'

Maltz Psycho-cybernetics quote in Klug, Page 94

6. Bits of the Bible to Read

A Character ( we are about to preach through the life of Abraham)

A Theme

A Psalm

A Letter

A Gospel

Rick Warren's 'Bible Study Methods' is a great resource for this and again any one of these could be a day.

7. Talks to listen to

There are so many to choose from, My preachers of choice to name a few are Keller, Gumbel, Lloyd Jones, Chandler, Piper, Rich Nathan, Hybels and Ponsonby.

Talks I have listen to recently:

Forging stronger families  (personally I could spend a day reflecting just on the content of this talk

8. Worship

I love a couple of worship albums called Glory revealed I and Glory Revealed 2 and I've walked around the park on many occasions with these songs in my ears. Scripture set to music.

I hope this is a bit of a primer and offers a few resources and ideas for a day in the wilderness with God.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Monday musing

1. I found this post and, from it, this line helpful. 'You are what you love' is on my 2017 reading list:

'Discipleship is a rehabilitation of our loves'

James K A Smith

2. Why simple wins

3. This post about the Seeker-church movement had a quote that landed with me:

 .'....the notion that community is what church life is all about, that people must connect relationally and “do life” together, is not something the emerging or missional movements innovated. It was the church growth movement, borrowing from the house churches, parachurches, and the ’70s Jesus Movement that recovered the notion of relational community over against the traditional church’s persistent substitute of cliques and classes.'

4. This is an interesting piece on 'Spare moments'

5. Yesterday I spoke a bit about where I sense God is leading us. As ever, I shared the impact reading Romans had on my life. This article on Romans contained this great J I Packer quote:

 “All roads in the Bible lead to Romans, and all views afforded by the Bible are seen most clearly from Romans, and when the message of Romans gets into a person’s heart there is no telling what may happen.”

 6. 'Why you will marry the wrong person' by Alain de Botton in the NYT was the most read of last year.

7.  My 7 favorite compliments as a pastor.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Thursday thoughts

1. A book called Mosaic Leadership has come on my radar.

2. 'We think evangelism is for unbelievers and discipleship is for believers but really both are for both'

The Stories we live, Page 139

3. As folk have probably resolved to read the Bible more intentionally these tips might be a help.

4. We really enjoyed this about getting old.

5. I read Silence a few years back and now its a film.

6. I haven't got Facebook or Twitter on my new phone so I read Digital; Detox with interest. I've decided I can log in when I want to catch up.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Best Books of 2016

1. 'It ain't over til it's over' by R T Kendall: This was the last book I read in the year having completed it on NY eve. A friend in our church bought it for me and put it through my door. R T Kendall has had a tremendous impact on me down the years- his book '25 Years at Westminster Chapel' was a seminal primer for me as I embarked on ministry. Equally, his teaching on 'The Anointing' to New Wine Leaders thirteen years ago made a deep impression on me. This may well be his final book and it's probably his best. It's about finishing well and it is full of wisdom, grace and continuing passion for Jesus from a man who is, I think, 83.

2. 'Jesus continued' by J D Greear: I discovered J D Grear through one of his sermons on the Holy Spirit which took me to his book on the same subject. It's full of good stuff and out of it came a preaching series.

3. 'Different' by Simon Ponsonby: There were no articles in the NY day paper's entitled 'How to live the Holy Life'. Perhaps there should be? This is a book about exactly that subject and it feels timely and vital. I am recommending it as our church Lent book and feel free to adopt it as yours too.

4. 'Future grace' by Piper: I read this on my summer holidays (to be honest I've thus far read half of it). It's a deep, challenging and theologically rich read.

5. 'Making Sense of God' by Tim Keller: This is Keller in his apologetic sweet spot and the reason I still have a few chapters to go is I keep giving it away to people. This is the book for the clever sceptic or the apologist in training.

6.' Song of Songs' by Charlie Cleverly: Charlie used to be my Vicar when I was in Oxford and I enjoy his writing. In fact, he started preaching on Song of Songs while I was there and this is the fruit of his years of study of and reflection on this amazing OT book.

7. 'Date your wife' by Justin Buzzard: I came across Justin Buzzard because he planted a church at the same time I did. His blog gave me much encouragement and personal resourcing. A pal on my wedding day said about marriage 'The secret is 'Keep paying in' Cookie'. This little book was a helped/ is helping me with what that means- not least because of its appendix of 100 ideas for dates.

8. 'The stories we live' by Sean Post: This a book that tells you the gospel and connects you to stories. It had quite a few interesting bits and bobs and introduced me to a film called 'Life as a house' that made me cry.

9. 'Edwards' by Dane Ortlund: I am in awe of Edwards since reading of his life in the Iain Murray biography a decade ago. He's far too deep and clever for my simple mind but a book like this will unpack him and his ideas for you and make him come alive. You might also want to check out George Marsden's short biography of him.

10. 'How to survive a shipwreck' by Jonathan Martin: Martin will never know how much he has helped and blessed me. His life and ministry hit choppy water last year and this book tells some of that tale. Beautiful writing.

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