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.