Thursday, March 30, 2017

Lift my eyes up to the mountains

'Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage' 
Psalm 84:5

Another year of walking, praying and telling our annual story with my seven friends. I am happy that we are all still standing, married and remain followers of Jesus. We're different, older, more battle weary, full of zeal but with questions, joys and challenges. The truth is we are a mix, as Rick Warren says, of battle and blessing. I am moved by my friendship with such special men.

One quoted a line from Hamilton: The Musical 

'Talk less and smile' I agree.

This journey started because one of our number read 'Relational leadership' which asks the question 'Who's going to see you through?' so he started what we now call 'Men on Mountains'. Fresh air, honesty, painful moments, laughter, stories, debate, beer, 'trail mix', endless chatter about life (and the C of E).

The now retired Bishop of London would be by the phone for any of his clergy to call him between 9 and 9,15 each Monday morning.

Tom Smail's question in 'The Forgotten Father' is one I have been asking since my pal told me about it walking up a hill:

Is Jesus facing me or the Father?

How might we start conversations about God. A pal is most impressed by Table Talk: A Game of Conversations. I am planning to explore more. Good for a bunch of men in the pub. 

One of us is preaching on 1 Peter 3 and was struck by Piper's question in a sermon which we chatted about on the mountain:

Who says 'Let's.....' in your marriage? Too often, it's not the man particularly over spiritual things.

If you want a good present idea: Spicery

These are the books we chatted about and have been read by our number:

John Flett 'Apostolicity' and he writes:

This is important because it challenges how we do mission and it’s just as important for doing church plants and Fresh expressions today. If we’re really reaching new cultures then we need to be prepared not to impose our leadership structures on new churches, but we also have to redeem the whole of these cultures (and their history) - so we have to really get inside the heads of those sitting sipping their cappuccinos reading the Sunday Telegraph.

He also read:

Michael Goheen 'A Light to the Nations': Haven’t finished reading this yet, but it takes the whole of Scripture and shows how missional church has been part of the plan from the beginning - not least it’s about bringing people together from different cultures (ethnicities). Me speaking: It’s a travesty that the word ‘nation’ is now understood as ‘nation state’ rather than ethnic - we of course are ethnic cousins of Saxons, Vikings and Normans but we are transfixed on our nationhood as defining our identity. Churches need to overcome ethnic differences and demonstrate unity in Christ, and offer that to divided world. 

Also read by the chaps in no particular order:

We chatted about a few films Chi-Raq, Hidden Figures, Moonlight, La La Land and a few others.

My pal and I listened to 'The Pastor, the People and the Pursuit of Joy' in the car on the way home. This quote from the sermon seems like a good place to end and I pray I can be this for my own people in the years ahead.  

Now a pastor hearing this realizes, If I groan with the burdens and difficulties of the ministry and am not sustained by joy in this work, I will be of no advantage to my people. That is really important — no advantage to my people, no good for them, no blessing to them, no help to them.
So as he ponders he realizes: In order to love my people — to serve them and be of an advantage to them — I must devote myself to being happy in this work. I cannot let my heart be defeated by this work. I can’t act as though emotions are superfluous. As though I just need to do my duty and show up with a plan and word from God. And how I feel doesn’t matter as long as I do my duty. No. This this text says joy is your duty. Because love is your duty, and your people will not be loved without your joy. If you try to do this ministry dutifully, without pursuing your joy in it as part of your duty, this people will gain no advantage. That is, they will not be loved.

Thursday, March 23, 2017


'In every age God has given the church the resources and the ability to evangelise the whole world'
Leonard Ravenhill

As a very new Christian, my Vicar suggested we try a 'morning of prayer' and so I gave it a go. I can distinctly recall sitting on a park bench on a Saturday morning feeling rather shabby reading John Pollock's 'Wesley the Preacher' and being gripped by the story of revival it told. As a matter of minor detail, it is the same park bench I proposed to my wife on over 20 years later.

A wonderful team are planning 24 hours of prayer to take us into our Easter day baptisms and their plan is to end with a sunrise service. I have been tasked with crafting a liturgy for this which is, for those who know me, quite clearly my sweet spot. Fear not, the Moravians (who I first learnt of on the park bench) are coming to my rescue.

Watching this film will tell you who the Moravians are and if it stirs you as it stirred me then that will be an answer to prayer. It's fascinating and worth the time. I've sent it to the team.....

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Empty hands

'At the heart of true repentance is an acceptance that we bring nothing to God but empty hands to receive his grace'

Different, p.183

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Half a mill

1, I noticed on my sidebar that the blog has hit over 500K. It began on a wet afternoon in the Bodleian library. I have no idea who visits here and I only know of four people who are still reading it. Anyway, thank you for passing by from time to time....

2. I enjoy Matt Redmond's 'Random thoughts' and very often there is one sentence in his list that is worth a good ponder:

Christians should be more offended by unkindness and gossip than by culturally-conditioned profanity. Far more. 

3. I always enjoy a bit of Francis Chan. Here he is on the JW's :

4. Here is a quote about repentance which is my topic of the week:

'Repentance is not fundamentally a motion of the hands, mouth or feet; it is a motion of the heart in which we abandon our posture of rebellion and adopt one of submission toward Christ. Repentance is evidenced by outward action, but it does not equal that'

5. Neither Simon in his chapter on repentance in 'Different' nor J D Greear in 'Asking Jesus into your heart' are great fans of the sinners prayer. I think they would get on:

I think Peter and the apostles would laugh and then freak out at today's evangelical 'Sinner's prayer'- where the listener is encouraged to echo the preachers pithy penitential prayer, then raise a hand, while every eye is closed and every head bowed, before coming to collect a leaflet from the preacher. That only became de rigeur in the Victorian era. How are we to be sure the new birth has been given, a new life has come into existence? This model seems neither biblical nor fruitful- how many of those whose hand went up incognito became true disciples' p 183

I am mulling on the repentance chapters in both books (which are excellent by the way) and I am someone who 'prayed the prayer' and here we all are. However, there is of course a little more to the story than that.....

6. I sent this talk to someone after a long discussion about the difference between religion and the good news of Jesus.

7. In the context of point 5, A W Pink prayed this prayer at the end of one of his sermons.

Why not believe in him for yourself? Why not trust his precious blood for yourself; and why not tonight? Why not tonight my friend? God is ready, God is ready to save you now if you believe on him. The blood has been shed, the sacrifice offered, the atonement has been made, the feast has been spread. The call goes out to you tonight, 'Come, for all things are now ready' A Life, p.52-53

8. Simon references his favorite preacher James S Stewart in 'Different' and blow me down here is a post on him. Si sent me this book when I got ordained.

9. As I have been studying holiness of late this prayer and insight hit me. It's the gospel in a couple of sentences:

Augustine's famous prayer, 'Give what you command, and command what you will,' expressed a profound insight into biblical theology. God does indeed give what he commands; the holiness which He required of His people is also His gift to them. God himself sanctifies sinners.' 18 Words, p.170

10. Mrs C is still reading bits of 'Dirty Glory' out to me. Did I mention at all that you really should read this book......

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Surveying Clergy Stress and Well-being

I remember visiting a Bishop to discuss the prospects of a Curacy in his area (not in my current Diocese) and him telling me that nearly half of his clergy were suffering some form of work-related stress, addiction, depression or some other mental health condition. He said dealing with the fall out from this occupied much of his time. Unsurprisingly, I have never forgotten that meeting.

My friend Kathryn is doing her Phd on this subject and would greatly appreciate Clergy doing a questionnaire that will form part of her research data, If you are able to 'pass this forward' to other Clergy then please do so.

This is her study:

 Enhancing Ministry and Encouraging Clergy Well-Being
A study to support the development of ministerial resources

A group-coaching course that engages with the relational challenges of ministry is currently being piloted in three Church of England dioceses. The course offers a framework for thinking about congregational relationships and supports participants to develop an empowering response to these, potentially emotionally demanding, situations.

This research project is exploring the impact of this course on participants’ experiences of ministry and on their personal well-being. In order to ensure our conclusions are robust and meaningful, and identify whether it might be pertinent to offer this coaching approach more widely, we are also conducting a Church of England wide study. We are inviting a random cross section of clergy across England and Wales to participate in a survey that explores the influence of pastoral role and relationships on clergy’s experience of ministry.

Previous research indicates that relations with others, whether inside or outside the Church community can be both a resource and a demand for clergy. Facing unrealistic congregational expectations, dealing with conflictual situations and managing the diversity of the pastoral role are some of the interpersonal scenarios which have been found to act as significant sources of ministerial pressure (Berry et al., 2012; Charlton et al., 2009). Alongside this, support from colleagues, congregation, friends and family have been shown to sustain clergy and promote their well-being (Ling, 2016; Proeschold-Bell, 2015). This research will explore the impact of these relational factors in greater depth.

If you are a full-time stipendiary minister working in a parish whose role is of incumbent or holds incumbent status (e.g. team vicar, priest-in-charge) we would like to invite you to participate.

The survey should take no more than 30 minutes to complete.

If you would like to take part in this research please visit here:

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A word for the hour

1, At Vicar factory we used to have discussions about first and second order issues. I prefer Wimber's sentence 'Keep the main thing the main thing'. Of course, that begs the question about what exactly we think the main things is. I might at this point direct you to 1 Cor 15:1-11.

2. This morning I met to pray with what goes in my diary as 'Pastor's prayer'  and it struck me that in our little gathering we have: Anglican, Congregational/ NFI , Free Church Charismatic, Pentecostal and Catholic seeking to focus on/work out falteringly together the main thing (we hope).

3. Each day I scan blog posts and a book I have known about for ages caught me eye as it was mentioned twice today. It also fitted with some of our discussion of the morning. It's called 'The Benedict Option' and is reviewed here and this is an Andy Crouch post on the same topic.

4. It seems to me that every generation is concerned about the seeming state of the Church as 'A Word for the Hour' by Spurgeon in 1887 testifies:

An abiding consolation in these evil days is to be found in the fact that the Holy spirit is working in the same manner as ever. A conversion to-day bears all the marks of which authenticated a conversion five hundred years ago.....It matters not how much the wise men of this world deride the gospel of our Lord Jesus, it still arouses the careless, guides the despondent, renews the guilty and sanctifies the believing.....While this is the case, what means this clamour for advanced thought? Can there be an advance upon a revelation which is complete? Is there anything better than Jesus Christ., the same yesterday today and forever? In patience let us possess our souls, resting not in talent and learning and influence for the progress of the Gospel, but in the Holy Spirit alone./ He can raise up leaders of eminence if other Pauls are needed. He can find learned pens if other Augustines are required. He never fails, not even pauses, for lack of instruments'

The Life of A W Pink, p.2

5. Darryl has a timely word that fads come and go.

6. I watched this at the urging of Mrs C and was reminded, as I often am, that our mandate is to preach the gospel afresh to this generation. The kids dancing on the bridge is an image that I can't shake.

7. We are meeting to pray and get the word out about Just One tonight here.

8. Is the Pope right or wrong on begging?

9,. We got given a free virtually new trampoline. Hello A & E.....

10. I appreciate Ron Edmondson's wisdom and this is a bit of it which might be timely for some of you.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017


1, The other day I read 'Being loved by Christ' to my wife as our son slept in the back of the car. The phrase .' the end' has been with me ever since.

2. In a Bible study today I was struck by Gen 18: 22..'..Abraham remained standing before the Lord'

3. I got a lovely letter from the dear lady selling her husband's book collection with my 'Life of A W Pink' delivery. On the phone, we had spoken about Martyn Lloyd-Jones and she wrote:

'I will have to look up in the attic where all Peter's books are kept and see if I have any D M Lloyd Jones. I remember many years ago listening to him preach when he came to our town and he was very good'

4. We had a wonderful gathering of a few men in our church and ate stew, shared (only Christians say that which ironically was one of our discussion points), prayed and ended with Ephesians 1:3-15 being spoken over our hearts.

5. I have been pondering the prayers of Paul.

6. Before I left to study to be a priest in the C of E all I ever described myself as was 'a Christian'. Apparently, so I was told along the way since, I am an ......rather than a........ and I'm certainly not a ......... The longer I follow Jesus I  increasingly am happy with the simple descriptor 'Christian'. It seems to me that what matters is that you are one.

7. My wonderful in-laws went to 'Hidden Figures' and said it's the best thing they have seen in ages.

8. The last story Simon tells in 'Different' is one of those treasures you'll miss out on if you don't finish the book.

9. The new birth is a miracle.

10. I am the most blessed man alive to married to my wife.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Monday musing

1. Watching this  made me think afresh about the Great Commission

2. I bought a book (The Life of A W Pink) from Amazon and a dear lady rang me on Saturday to tell me that the one I ordered was soft back not hardback as she had advertised. She is the widow of a Welsh pastor who died leaving his library of 5000 books. She is selling them piece by piece (800 so far) and tries to pray for each person who buys one by name and said she would be praying for me. Amazing. If you want to know how you become a Welsh pastor with 5000 books you would do well to read this truly gripping biography.

3. I enjoy a book recommendation and this line from 'Different' struck me:

'One of the most inspiring books I have read in recent years was the autobiographical account of a remarkable man called Jan Karski.' p. 193

4. Elaine Storky, who taught me at Vicar Factory, has written a piece about the Sheffield Bishop incident.

5. This post which you should read contains this great line: 'We cannot know who we are without first knowing whose we are'

6. Ru did a fantastic job with John 3 yesterday. She is such a gifted evangelist.

7. I have been mulling on this:

'The American motivational speaker Jim Rohn famously said 'You are the average of the five people you spend time with' quoted in Different, p. 199.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Busy bees

1. I have just spent a couple of days learning about mission with some other churches run by Lead Academy. One thought I gleaned from Michael Harvey was that ministry is about faithfulness and not success.

2. The Biblical thought again expounded by Michael was 'God gives the growth'. Too often we think it should read 'The church (leader) gives the growth'

3. As I have been mulling on kindness I listened to 'How to change' which is a wonderful look at the Fruits of the Spirit.

4. This passage from 'Different' moved me and made me want to dig deeper into the Bible for the good of my son, my family and the health of my own soul. Reading it made me want to be a more Godly man:

I grew up with my father modelling a life of Scripture reading, often in the original languages- he was fluent in biblical Hebrew and competent in New Testament Greek. I never woke up when he hadn't been up for an hour or so already, reading the Bible- every night after the nine o'clock news (as it was then) he would retire to pray and read his Bible. I once asked him how many times he had read the Bible through- he was reluctant to say, not wanting to appear boeastful or to repeat the sin of David's census (I Chron 21), but on being pressed he shared that, during my teens it had only been once a year, otherwise as many as four times each year- so in fifty years as a Christian, he had read the Bible in excess of one hundred times. And with what result? Well, he is unquestionably the most Godly man I have ever met and I have met and known close up some of the leading church figures of the past twenty years. A life lived immersed in God's word, seeking God, has rubbed off'. p.143

5. My next read is going to be 'The life of A W Pink'

6. I enjoyed this film as a metaphor for how the un-churched experience us on a Sunday.

7. Why, so often, when I speak to clergy do they tell me how busy they are? I would much rather hear about what God has been doing or how much fun they are having. The reason I chose 'fun' is I listened to John Peters sermon called 'Fun'( by which he means joy) - something we all could do with a bit more of. John is a breath of fresh air and the least Anglican Anglican Vicar in the land........

8. A quote that has lived with (and challenged) me that I wrote down yesterday:

'A Church can only go as far as the relationship the church leader has with God'

9. Cranmer on the broo ha ha about the next Bishop of Sheffield and then this development. I am sure my phone will soon be ringing....:)

10. 'Dr John Stott, in an interview at the age of eighty-six, said there are many themes in the Bible but there is one we have tended to neglect, that is the call to be different from the world'

Different, p.142

Tuesday, March 07, 2017


1. I've spent the day talking and learning about mission. Here is the quote that has stuck with me:

'Mission takes place when we honour the presence of the Spirit in ordinary believers' 
Roland Allen

2. I've reread a chapter in 'Different' about kindness and it made me pray to be a kinder man and also that our church would be a place where people meet with kindness.

'Abraham Heschel once wrote that when he was young he admired intelligent people, but as he grew older what impressed him most was meeting kind people.' p, 99

3. I am musing on the fact that the early church managed to grow without a snazzy website.

4. Preaching a sermon called 'The Free Gift' in a church I attended for many years made me cry but I pulled myself together eventually.

5. Imagine a life and achievements that sought not to be remembered.

6. I enjoyed 'On my bookshelf' and am often blessed by David Murray's blog.

7. Someone sent my wife this who then sent it to me. We are looking at 'How and why should I read the Bible?' tonight at Alpha.

8. If you were picking a starter book to read, this might be the most helpful.

9. This sentence from 'Grace in practice' has lingered:

'The past resolved gives the present its only chance' p. 13

10. I chatted with a dear pal who attended a Korean pastors prayer meeting held in his church. He told me what struck him was they prayed with 'expectancy' that God would answer. Expectancy.Years ago, I read this book and feel I should dig it out again.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Monday musing

1. I've finished reading 'Dirty Glory' but I am not sure its finished with me.

2. I preached yesterday on an away match and someone said to me afterwards, 'We don't hear much about sin in the church these days' 

3. If you are an over-stressed man or know one they might need a Reset.

4.' A W Tozer wrote, 'Men do not become Christians by associating with church people nor by religious contact, nor by religion education; they become Christians only by invasion of their nature by the Spirit of God in the new birth.'

quoted in Different, p. 32

5. Zuckerberg World President

6. A pal recommended 'The January Man'

7. Al Mohler on 'The Shack'.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Thursday thoughts

1. This argument for the existence of God is compelling to me.

2. I have been thinking about worship songs (many in fact that I appreciate) that can mean one thing if you are a Christian and entirely another if you aren't. Its strikes me that whilst they can be good songs and even have meaningful lyrics for a believer, if they become the diet of the church many of those singing them will overtime become ignorant of the gospel.

3. Deep work is a book that caught my eye

4. I am preaching on Romans 5 at my old church and this quote from Barth's commentary is marinating:

'Therefore, as new men we stand on the threshold of a new world. But the old man also is mankind, humanity, and the world of men. Each particular man is therefore doubly conditioned. He is conditioned, on the one hand, by that which dissolves his particularity. and on the other, by that which affirms it. As the old man, he is what he 'is', the man 'we' know, who is under the wrath of God; as the new man, he is what he is not, the man 'we' do not know, who is righteous before God'

P. 164

5. I have been mulling on 'Ten things I would do if I was raising a son today' and 'Ten things I would do if I was raising a daughter today'. ( the context is North America)

6. We are starting our Lent preaching series 'Different' on Sunday. I have been thinking a bit about the fact that my church tribe in general 'don't do Lent' and am starting to think that this is beginning to show.

John Wimber, after seeing several close friends and colleagues in ministry crash and burn over moral issues, said, 

I have seen for years where some people who experience grace and charisma of God deceive themselves that they don't have to work on their character because God is self-evidently with them and working through them. Gifts are given to the Church because of our generous God, but gifts without character can do much damage. Therefore, I've learned to look for people with character rather than people with gifting'

Different, Page 5

7. I've been listening to Rag' bone man and wondering if he's a Christian.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Brokenness aside

Take a day to let your life and soul breathe

This quote from 'Velvet Elvis' by Rob Bell came back to me as I have been pondering on Sabbath. It blessed and struck me when I read it for the first time a decade or so ago:
"There are so many layers to the healing of the soul. One practice that has brought incredible healing is the taking of a Sabbath. Now when we read the word Sabbath, most of us think that the real issue behind the Sabbath isn’t which day of the week it is but how we live all the time.
I decided to start taking one day a week to cease from work. And what I discovered is that I couldn’t even do it at first.
I would go into depression.
By the afternoon I would be so . . . low.
I realized that my life was all about keeping the adrenaline buzz going and that I was only really happy when I was going all the time. When I stopped to spend a day to remember that I am loved just because I exist, I found out how much of my efforts were about earning something I already have.
Sabbath is taking a day a week to remind myself that I did not make the world and that it will continue to exist without my efforts.
Sabbath is a day when my work is done, even if it isn’t.
Sabbath is a day when my job is to enjoy. Period.
Sabbath is a day when I am fully available to myself and those I love most.
Sabbath is a day when I remember that when God made the world, he saw that it was good.
Sabbath is a day when I produce nothing.
Sabbath is a day when I remind myself that I am not a machine.
Sabbath is a day when at the end I say, “I didn’t do anything today,” and I don’t add, “And I feel so guilty.”
Sabbath is a day when my phone is turned off, I don’t check my email, and you can’t get ahold of me.
Jesus wants to heal our souls, wants to give us the shalom of God. And so we have to stop. We have to slow down. We have to sit still and stare out the window and let the engine come to an idle. We have to listen to what our inner voice is saying."

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