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.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Canada called

1. I spent some time in Canada with a dear pal and was so blessed. He gathered a wonderful crowd and we immersed ourselves in the world of Daniel. I  recommended 'Against the flow' as a follow-up read for a window into what it means to live in a pluralistic/relativistic culture.

2. As an example of 'With the flow', the Anglican church in Canada voted recently to change their doctrine as it relates to marriage.

3. While I was away I read 'Play the man' and was struck the chapter about wonder.

4, This post made me pause and ponder:

Our main problem is not lack of time or resources or the annoying people in our lives. Your main problem and my main problem is that we do not see enough the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. We are not amazed. We do not stand in awe. We are not rendered speechless in his presence.

5, I have been much blessed down the year reading Dash House. It was such a joy to hang out together in Toronto. 

6, I have pre-ordered 'The Unhurried leader'.

7, I have been enjoying the song 'Love so great'.

8. I also read 'Contagious' while sitting waiting for my pal to finish his meeting. By the way, if you read this can you put it back on your church office desk!

9. I showed 'God's wonderful surprise' as part of a sermon which quotes C S Lewis and the phrase 'Will everything sad come untrue'.  As a result a dear lady wanted to meet so I could explain what that means. I did my best to help and have since been working it out.....

10. I showed a clip of the final scene of 'Man on Fire' which is a fairly on point example of substitution.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Tuesday terror

1, Unbelievable carnage in Manchester as captured here.

2. My friend Simon saved our church weekend as our speaker cancelled with three weeks to go. You should listen to these talks on Ephesians 3. It's quite beyond me why someone wouldn't want to hear these three talks at one of the big summer festivals but of course we'd rather have a 'big name' which is of course our great loss. It never ceases to amaze me the treasure trove of teachers and preachers the fly under a C of E banner. We were so blessed. Get Si to do your next weekend away.....

3. Seven ways the OT deepens our love for Jesus 

4, Simon ended his talks with this quote from Kierkegaard

''For all that has been thanks. For all that will be yes'

5. I am looking forward to hanging out with Darryl this weekend. I've read and been blessed by his blog for many years.

6. Good post about old books.

7. The book Grit was mentioned on our church weekend and a few of our number have done the Grit test.

8. Off to Canada to do a church weekend for a dear pal and to preach a bit so the blog will be quiet for a few days.

9. I am just closing out 'Love does'.

10. This is a horrifying fact.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

LC17 Talks

The LC 17 talks are now up. I really enjoyed Sinek, Cardinal Tagle and John Gray made me laugh so much it was good for my soul (Wonderful preaching too). Louise Pentland and Miranda Hart were also very funny. The highlight for me was Nicky Gumbel on 'Leadership and love'. Enjoy.

Not the road we want

“Since making disciples is the main task of the church, every church ought to be able to answer two questions: What is our plan for making disciples of Jesus? Is our plan working?” 

Dallas Willard

Wednesday, May 17, 2017


Jesus is described as having "an uncanny ability to look past the obvious flaws in people's lives and envision who they could become if the power of God were released in their lives  Intrinsically, he just wondered about people. Wondered what they could become. Wondered how they might look in a transformed state. wondered what impact they could have if their lives were invested in things of eternal value'

When was the last time you stopped in the middle of a busy day and simply wondered about someone you came across?


Friday, May 12, 2017

A conversation with Jean Vanier

Way better

'We're God's plan, and we always have been. We aren't just supposed to be observers, listeners, or have a bunch of opinions. We're not here to let everyone know what we agree and don't agree with, because, frankly, who cares? Tell me about the God you love; tell me about what He has inspired uniquely in you; tell me about what you're going to do about it, and a plan for your life will be pretty easy to figure out from there. I guess what I'm saying is that most of us don't get an audible plan for our lives. It's way better than that. We get to be God's plan for the whole world by pointing people toward him'

Love does, Page 143

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Thursday thoughts

1.My pal recommended a sermon called 'The Land Between' which for a season he tells me he listened to over and over again. It was first given at The Willow Creek Leadership Conference. If you feel you're life is in transition then this might be worth a listen.

2. I enjoy Kevin de Young's blog and books and note he is something of a high-capacity man. He's the author of 'Crazy busy.'  It was a help to me. He has two jobs- a seminary professor and a senior pastor, a Phd in progress, an author, has an international preaching ministry and ....wait for kids.....Wow. Pray for him. I've heard him preach and he seems like a good egg.

3. The C of E is entering it's next incomprehensible but not quite yet entered into a 'schism development plan'. Ian Paul to the rescue for what's happened. For a minor point of interest, many years ago I was born again into the love and power of the Lord Jesus in Jesmond Parish Church (the centre of the latest curfuffle).........

4. I've bought 'Play the man' by Batterson. He's another busy bee.

5, I've been pondering on the Great Get Together which is sort of like the idea of something called the church given it's remembering someone who tragically was killed and working good from it (but not church cos it's only on one Sunday...and of course its not about Jesus)

6. Someone cut out Bear and stole him from our Alpha banner.

7. So enjoying preaching a series inspired by this book.

8. This quote was on the Forbes website: 'If you delegate tasks your create followers. If you delegate authority you create leaders' Craig Groschel

9. "For me a leader is a story teller" is something Cardinal Tagle said at LC17 and I haven't been able to shake it.

10. Jean Vanier, when I heard his speak last week, moved me to tears and the word he said that stuck was 'Tenderness'.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Blessings everlasting

'Nothing can surpass or supplement the forgiveness of sins. This is so because the Sovereign rule of Christ is present where there is forgiveness of sins; and with forgiveness of sins everything, life and blessings everlasting, has in fact been granted'

Lohse quoted by Lucas in 'The Message of Colossians, p.42

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

How many breaths?

'No one knows how much longer they have in this life- how many breaths, how many beats of the heart, how many opportunities to say 'yes' or 'no'. But we will certainly all stand before our Maker soon enough. And on that day we'll be held accountable for the decisions we have made, and especially for the ways in which we have stewarded and shared the riches of the gospel.......And after more than twenty-seven years as a Christian, I am ashamed to admit how few there may be because of me, how many gospel opportunities I have squandered because I was merely too scared, or too busy, or too uncaring to speak'

Dirty Glory, 218-9

Tuesday, April 18, 2017


Some time ago I spent time listening to J I Packer preach about Catechism in two talks (here and here). It is, he believes, vital that this practice is recaptured by the church.

He also writes this, which I have been reflecting on:

“I have found that churches, pastors, seminaries, and parachurch agencies throughout North America are mostly playing the numbers game—that is, defining success in terms of numbers of heads counted or added to those that were there before. Church-growth theorists, evangelists, pastors, missionaries, news reporters, and others all speak as if
(1) numerical increase is what matters most;
(2) numerical increase will surely come if our techniques and procedures are right;
(3) numerical increase validates ministries as nothing else does;
(4) numerical increase must be everyone’s main goal.
I detect four unhappy consequences of this.
First, big and growing churches are viewed as far more significant than others.
Second, parachurch specialists who pull in large numbers are venerated, while hard-working pastors are treated as near-nonentities.
Third, lively laymen and clergy too are constantly being creamed off from the churches to run parachurch ministries, in which, just because they specialize on a relatively narrow front, quicker and more striking results can be expected.
Fourth, many ministers of not-so-bouncy temperament and not-so-flashy gifts return to secular employment in disillusionment and bitterness, concluding that the pastoral life of steady service is a game not worth playing.
In all of this I seem to see a great deal of unmortified pride, either massaged, indulged, and gratified, or wounded, nursed, and mollycoddled. Where quantifiable success is god, pride always grows strong and spreads through the soul as cancer sometimes gallops through the body.
Shrinking spiritual stature and growing moral weakness thence result, and in pastoral leaders, especially those who have become sure they are succeeding, the various forms of abuse and exploitation that follow can be horrific.
Orienting all Christian action to visible success as its goal, a move which to many moderns seems supremely sensible and businesslike, is thus more a weakness in the church than its strength; it is a seedbed both of unspiritual vainglory for the self-rated succeeders and of unspiritual despair for the self-rated failures, and a source of shallowness and superficiality all round.
The way of health and humility is for us to admit to ourselves that in the final analysis we do not and cannot know the measure of our success the way God sees it. Wisdom says: leave success ratings to God, and live your Christianity as a religion of faithfulness rather than an idolatry of achievement.”
J. I. Packer, A Passion for Faithfulness: Wisdom from the Book of Nehemiah (Wheaton: Crossway, 1995), 207-209.

These talks on Catechism made a deep impression on me and so it's with interest that I see Tim Keller has now produced a resource called 'The New City Catechism' that takes what Packer says and puts it in an accessible resource for people to use. Here is a sneak peak at the contents.

Thursday, April 13, 2017


1. Traditionally, on Maundy Thursday, those of us who are ordained in the C of E recommit to our ordination vows and collect a fresh batch of blessed oils (3 bottles). I think I must have missed the lecture at Vicar Factory about oils :) The Bishop gave an encouraging address to his clergy yet and one I/ we probably need to hear. It was about well-being, self-care, joy, worship and '...quietness, love and peace'. He also made a parallel between eating good cheese and evangelism. He commended us to, from time to time to:

....'sit still without feeling guilty'

2. The baptism pool is up in the church garden. Join with me in praying for warm weather as I am going to be standing in it for a while on Easter day.

3. I have been studying for a message on 2 Thes 1: 11....'we constantly pray for you that our God may count you worthy of his calling'...:

'When was the last time you prayed this sort of prayer fro your family? for your church? for your children? Do we not spend far more energy praying that our children will pass their exams, or get a good job, or be happy, or not stray too far, than we do praying that they may live lives worthy of what it means to be a Christian?'

A Call to Spiritual Reformation, Carson, p.54-5

4. The was an interesting BBC survey of 'Christians' that Peter Ould has done some statistical analysis on.

5. I have for many years been blessed by Oswald Chambers and this review of 'My Utmost: A Devotional memoir' looks interesting. The same list contains a review of 'The Techwise Family' by Andy Crouch which seems required reading for the modern parent, teacher or anyone involved with young people or kids,

6. Darryl has some wisdom if you are preparing to preach this Easter.

7. The dialogue between Matthew Parris and Rod Dreher  is worth checking out in this weeks Spectator and its lead article 'Keep the faith'.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Wednesday wanderings

1. 'The writer Donald Miller rightly observes that no one makes a movie about a guy whose dream is to buy a Volvo. To this day the greatest stories of all time are adventures of sacrifice, resilience and risk'

Dirty Glory, p 202

2. There is an often publicized figure that '40% of the clergy of the C of E are due to retire in the next 10 years'. Someone recently told me that that figure is actually nearer 70% but for PR reasons no one dare mention this so as not to cause a panic. I am sure it must be possible to work the real figure out factually?

3. I fell asleep listening to this talk called 'Help me teach the Bible'

4. I have put 'Practicing the power' on my list of 2017 reads.

5. I do agree that there has been a stunning media silence since the massacre of Christians in Egypt.

6. I have this quote in mind as encouragement as we approach 24 hours of continuous prayer from 6am Easter Sat to 6am Easter Morn.It's not too late to sign up for an hours slot! :

When your prayers are accomplished and you are in heaven your joy will surely be fuller for having prayed. For if there is joy in heaven at the conversion of a sinner, as at the birth of a new prince and heir of heaven, then in happy proportion shall we rejoice most when our prayers have had a hand in it and a special interest therein. As with your other works, so your prayers follow you "and the fruit of them (Rev 14:13; Jer 17:10). At the Day of Judgement, you shall rejoice with those who enjoyed the fruit of your prayers, you having sown the seed of their happiness. "Both he that sows and he that reaps shall rejoice together' (John 4:36)

The Return of Prayers, Thomas Goodwin, p 25

If I had $220 to spend on a set of books I'd buy these.

7. Love Does.