Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Entwined Stories

I had the great privilege of sharing at our (Church of Christ the King Watford) Christmas Service on the evening of last Sunday. It is always a difficult message to prepare as a Pastor because it seems that you need to make it fresh, or new, each and every year, even though it is obviously the same theme. Christmas is the only time of the year that there is a 'retained' inclination within the people of the UK to actually attend a church service, so it is important that each of us as leaders uses it as an opportunity to bring the gospel to the ears of those who do attend.

The theme that struck me this year was to highlight how the stories of Santa and Christ intertwine at this time of year in a way that actually muddies the water and destroys any clarity about what may be true and what is fantasy. The story of Santa is a fun one, even a good one. It is one that is meant to bring smiles, and expose us to a season of peace and goodwill, so that must be a good thing. But the joy does not last, in fact 'Experts' say that the last Tuesday of the month of January is typically the saddest day of the year. So you have 5 weeks to enjoy any good feeling that may have come with the Christmas rush.

The Christmas story of a Saviour born as a child is riddled with reports of peace to all men and goodwill. In Isaiah chapter 9 where the birth of Christ is foretold over 700 years before the event, we see some stunning phrases about the eternal reign of Christ, the peace that will last forever as the 'government' rests upon His (Christ that little baby) shoulders. This is the essential point of departure for the two stories. In fact, the way to see the difference is to imagine a world without either of the two stories.
A world without the story of Santa and his industrious elves leads to quite a mundane, even if less chaotic, end of the year without the hope of receiving that 'super gift.'
A world without the story of Christ... well that is a world without a hope; it is a world where the horrors of the World Wars; traumatizing stories like the murder of Baby P (see story) have no conclusion; and where there is nothing to deliver us from our own passion for genocide.

Think about it...


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

Normally have a rant about this time of year, but I think I will keep you from that this year.
All I am going to say is have a brilliant Christmas filled with the knowledge of the presence of the Saviour once in a manger- Jesus Christ.

In Him


Proverbs for Starters- Part II

Well let us kick off the musings on this brilliant book with the theme, the Theological/Practical context, that undergirds all of its words. Again and again through the book you will get words like Wisdom, Understanding, Discernment entwined with this phrase "The fear of the Lord." All those other terms, all of life in fact, if you take this book as a guide to living, grows from this soil-bed of fearing God.

This makes so much sense because if God is creator of all that is reality, if He is the orchestrator of the rhythms of nature and all the laws that make creation exist in balance and harmony, then it will do us an immense amount of good to know Him. But you do not truly know God if you do not fear Him. He alone is awesome (a word sadly abused by our American friends, now adopted by the English), He alone is worthy of this deep-rooted consuming respect and honour. And this alone is the path to living life well (My brilliant philosophy professor at Uni told me that wisdom is simply the knowledge to live life rightly in God's world).

That is what Proverbs wants for you: to live life well. I think when we are younger or if we are immature we want to live life excitedly or quickly; Proverbs does not see that as meaningful or worth our pursuit. Proverbs has greater goals for us. Proverbs wants us to live the great life of peaceful, abiding relationship with God and is loaded with practical tips to enable such a life. In my 30s I now know that I want to live that life.
So, "The fear of the Lord." Do you think this would be a label for your lifestyle: He/She FEARS THE LORD. It in itself is a constant pursuit that must be renewed by an ongoing fixation with knowing and loving Him more.

Again, read this book, it's loaded!


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Proverbs for Starters- Part I

One of the things I set out to do at the beginning of this time of R&R in the States was to spend time daily in the Proverbs. A central reason for this (there are several) was that in 1998 when I had a time of really stuffing up my relationship with Christ through pursuing my own ego, the Proverbs was a section of Scripture that radically pointed me back to the person of Jesus.
So with a time of rest available and a desire for restoration as the reason for this rest Proverbs was definitely a book I wanted to live in for a season.

Proverbs are a unique section of the scriptures as they seem to resemble very few other books in approach or outlook. Some scholars/individuals may go as far as to say that there seems to be no references to Salvation or God's redemptive plan and in this sense the Proverbs are 'out of place' in Scripture. I think people are reading the Proverbs trying to find in them what was not intended by God to be in them if they were to have that outlook.

The Proverbs are within a section of the Scriptures known as Wisdom Literature and in that lies the greatest clue to the Hermeneutic (means of interpretation) one should hold when reading this book.
Also the Proverbs seem to have little continuity (I say 'seem' as in reality there is much continuity) in comparison with other sections of Scripture, the Gospels or more Historical books for example. It is a book loaded with short 'pithy' statements. And I think for a consumer generation like ours (also one that is 'unwise', self-centered', Godless, riddled with 'foolishness') that makes it a simply magnificent book to read- repeatedly and regularly.


So with that in mind, I am going to take time to do only my second 'series' of musings (see series on What we're Looking For). Again, they are only mine, they will definitely not be any where near the best thoughts available on the Proverbs or anything for that matter, but your invited to pop in and check them out.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

The enemy known as 'The Self'

Still pressing on in Lloyd Jones' Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, which is simply exquisite reading for any who would choose to partake. In a chapter entitled Denying Self & Following Christ Lloyd Jones highlights a commitment made by George Muller and then writes a brief but hard-hitting excursus on Muller's words. I thought I would let you see both:

Muller: "There was a day when I died, utterly died, to George Muller and his opinions, preferences, tastes and will; died to the world, its approval or censure; died to the approval or blame of even my brothers and friends; and since then I have studied only to show myself approved unto God."

Lloyd Jones writes
"I wonder whether we have ever realized the extent to which the misery and the unhappiness and the trouble in our lives is due to one thing only, namely self... There is no question about it. Self is the main cause of unhappiness in life. 'Ah,' you say, 'but it is not my fault; it is what somebody else has done.' All right; analyse yourself and the other person, and you will find the other person probably acted as he did because of self, and you are really feeling it for the same reason... Most of the unhappiness and sorrow, and most of our troubles in life and in experience, arise from this ultimate origin and source, this self."

Lloyd Jones preached in a way which is very unpopular in our current pop-psychological-extremo-self-esteem boosting culture. He calls upon us to read ourselves and challenge our own hearts and lives. I concur with him, we must look at our hearts and see where the self is crowding out the work of God.


Monday, December 8, 2008

More Charnock: Love 'the first spring'

Still immersed in what is proving to be a simply stunning little book. Here is another excerpt (Commenting on Ephesians 5:2, "And walk in love, as Christ loved us, and gave himself for us an offering and a sacrifice..."):

"['He loved us'] This is the first spring of all the actions of Christ towards us, and the passion of Christ for us. There could be no other motives with regard to us. Our misery might excite his pity, but his affection produced his passion. He loved us, as God, in common with His Father; he loved us, as man, by a participation of our nature. In this love, their is His divine will as a priest and His human will as a sacrifice. He pitied us while we were insensibly hurried down by the devil to a gulf of perdition. Love was the only impulse. Love excited Him, love prepared Him, love sent Him, love offered Him. The highest assurance of His love was the loss of His life. THE EXCELLENCY OF THE FRUIT SHOWS THE GOODNESS OF THE TREE."

My heart simply radiates at these insights into the astounding love of Christ for His chosen people.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Charnock on Christ Crucified

"He [the sinner without Christ] instead of craving the pardon of his Judge, he flies from Him, and when his flight would not advantage him, he stands upon his own defence, and extenuates his crime; thus adding one provocation to another as if he had an ambition to harden the heart of God against him and render himself irrecoverably miserable.
God so overlooks these, as in immense love and grace to settle a way for man's recovery, without giving any dissatisfaction to His justice, so strongly engaged for the punishment of the offence. And rather than this notorious rebel and prodigious apostate should perish according to what he deserves, God would transfer the punishment (which he could not remit without a violation of His truth and an injury to His righteousness) upon a person equal to himself, most beloved by Him, his delight from eternity, and infinitely dearer to Him than any thing in heaven or earth...

It was love that would restore man after the fall; there was no more need to do this than creating the world... But that he might wind up His love to the highest pitch, he would not only restore man, but rather than let him lie in His deserved misery, would punish His own Son, to secure man from it. It was purely His grace which was the cause that His Son "tasted death for every man" (Heb. 2:9)."

Glory to God

A Dose of Theology

On Saturday I chose to start a new book that I brought over here to the States as part of my reading schedule. It is a book by a puritan writer, and once again I sat there astounded by the theological depth and the sheer passion and love for God that is evident in every sentence. The book is Christ Crucified (click on title for link), by a man called Stephen Charnock.
Reading it, brought about a clash in thought. Firstly, I was so grateful to read such lofty, God-glorifying thought on Christ Crucified; yet I found myself saddened that in that brief first chapter I probably encountered more deep, solid, inspirational theology on the cross then I have stumbled upon in all the contemporary reading, and preaching I have been exposed to in the rest of the year.

Preaching the theology of the cross, the wonder of the cross, the fruits and effects of the cross seems to be a lost art. In fact it seems to be "out of vogue." There are so many other self-help topics out there. So much need to talk about who we are as churches and the difference we are going to make to society... but everything we preach is without foundation or meaning unless it draws us to and evokes in us a renewed fascination with Christ Crucified.
More and more I see that the teaching of men like Tim Keller & Edmund Clowney is of absolute importance for this generation of church leaders and particularly those who preach and teach. Their constant call is that we would preach Christ in all of Scripture; literally they would say that in every section of scripture there is a legitimate, necessary way to speak of Christ and Him crucified as its fulfillment.

I am challenged, even as I think upon a series on Joshua after Easter I am burdened that every sermon would draw my people from Joshua as the deliverer to the great deliverer.
The book is obviously written out of a desire to share the burden and passion of the Apostle Paul who writes these words in 1 Corinthians,
"For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified."

Let that be our fixation.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Meditating on Scripture

I have sadly gone through a season of simply reading the word of God. Some of you might say, "Well hey Simon, I don't even really do that." Well let me tell you that is a drastically sad situation for you, but for me I find it tragic that all I have done is set myself the task of reading it on a day by day basis. Why do I say this? Well for many reasons I guess.

The emotional reason behind why I am writing these words is because only last week I re-committed to doing what I, believe it or not, used to do as a really young believer. I re-committed to studying the word of God and trying to meditate upon it, ingesting the words that God inspired a multitude of writers to pen in order that I may know Him intimately. Highlighting the verses and words that seem to just jump off the page speaking of the magnitude and wonder of this God who has chosen to love me. Already I feel as if I am drawing nearer to Him who made me, and feeling my faith being renewed. It is great! It is where I should seek to be on a consistent basis, for my life is so much emptier without it.

So I, in grace, challenge you. Meditate on His word daily. Eat it, chew on it; let it define who you are and allow it to transform you into the likeness of Him who is the very likeness of God- the logos, the WORD, Jesus Christ.

Will you...

Upholding His Holiness

In the final verses of the book of Deuteronomy when Moses has climbed on to a mountaintop upon which he knows he is to die, for the Lord has told him such, we read these simply heart-halting words:
"There on the mountain that you have climbed you will die... this is because you did not uphold my holiness among the Israelites."
Chapter 32: 50-51

These words rocked me this morning while sitting in Starbucks in Temple, Texas. They struck me particularly, I guess, because I am so very near to stepping into a position of leadership over God's people-the position that Moses had (obviously in a way that will never be equalled (scripture says that at the very end of the book of Deuteronomy.)) Also, a friend had asked me just last night what it was I fear as I step into this position in the New Year. Having read these words I see the single thing that I must fear.

It is easy to fear the ramifications of my own insecurities: the desire for recognition; success defined by numbers; a competitive spirit, but these things just must not be what I fear as I step into this role and fulfill my calling.
I must fear the Lord. I must primarily desire to fulfill what is hidden in this astonishing phrase, "Upholding His Holiness." What does it mean? And, Lord Jesus by the power of Your Spirit please never let me fail in this area.

I want to expound this phrase at some stage, but for now I think it is of absolute importance that I take to heart how it is that such a mighty man of God would be denied the joy of entering the promised land of God. He did not enter that place because he failed in this area: UPHOLDING THE HOLINESS OF GOD!

God help me my great Helper.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Shout out to Dave Capener

Being meaning to do this for yonks now (a brit word I think for my other mates wondering what that was) but I want to give a big shout out to a very good friend of mine, Dave Capener; currently getting all set and seeking the glorious grace of our Father to plant a church in to Belfast City... Go YOU!!

I have set up his blog roll on my 'Musings out There' section so you can have a peek at what is going on in his world. But if you want to check it out, click here!


Dr. Lloyd Jones with a blast on 'Formal Christianity'

One thing I have felt, even spoken of, alas without the powerful eloquence of Lloyd Jones (whom I am set to quote), is the foolishness and stupidity of living halfheartedly as a Christian, in a sense just kind of being a half-Christian. Well, yesterday I stumble upon these astounding words from Dr. Lloyd Jones (A preacher recognized by Piper as one of the best of the 20th Century) in a book called, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount.

He is preaching on Matt. 5: 15 & 16 where Christ calls us to LET OUR LIGHT SHINE. In the middle of his sermon Lloyd Jones says these words about this way of life I was referring to above, he calls it 'Formal Christianity.' Read this:

"... there is nothing in God's universe that is utterly so useless as a merely formal Christian. I mean by that. one who has the name but not the quality of a Christian... They appear to be Christian but they are not. They want to appear as Christians, they are not functioning as Christians. They are salt without savour, light without light, if you can imagine such a thing.

...The formal Christian is a man who knows enough about Christianity to spoil the world for him; but does not know enough about it for it to be of any positive value. He does not go with the world because he knows just enough about it to be afraid of certain things... that he cannot be wholeheartedly with them. On the other hand he has no real fellowship with the Christian. He has enough 'Christianity' to spoil everything else, but not enough to give him real happiness, peace and joy, and abundance of life. I think such people are the most pathetic people in the world. Our Lord certainly says they are the most useless people in the world. They do not function as worldlings or as Christians. They are nothing, neither salt nor light, neither one thing nor the other...
They are finally outsiders.
They are more outside, in a sense, then the man who is entirely worldly and makes no claim or profession, because he at least has his own society!"

Hard but true. Hot nor cold, we cannot play the 'luke-warm' game with a Holy God.


Wesley on 'Tending to the Life of the Mind'

A good friend of mine yesterday, during a discussion on the role of reading to grow the soul, led me to a quote in an Appendix at the back of John Piper's The Pleasures of God (A must read, honestly). The man quoted is the great John Wesley, "A leader in the Great Awakening in England of 250 years ago... not an impractical ivory tower inhabitant."
Wesley is counseling (although gives this word new meaning I think) another preacher about a "proper esteem for tending to the life of the mind"--

"What has exceedingly hurt you in time past, nay, and I fear, to this day, is want of reading. I scarce ever knew a preacher read so little. And perhaps, by neglecting it, you have lost the taste for it. hence your talent in preaching does not increase... It is lively, but not deep: there is little variety; there is no compass of thought. reading only can supply this, with meditation and the daily prayer. You wrong yourself greatly by omitting this. You can never be a deep preacher without it; anymore than a thorough Christian. Oh begin!
... Whether you like it or not, read and pray daily. It is your life: there is no other way: else you will be a trifler all your days, and a pretty superficial preacher."

Totally politically incorrect counseling indeed; yet I can confirm seeing the reality of this. I have heard preaching that never seems to bring fresh thought, thought far greater and broader then their own when they speak.
Yes it is often lively, but the depth and variety is certainly amiss.
Preacher or not, take these strong words to heart from a man who made a startling difference to the face of Christianity in a generation.


Friday, November 14, 2008

Carson on God's Ideas of Leadership

As I mentioned in my last post, I have time at the moment to really invest in some reading. Again and again I am struck by the wealth of wisdom and inspiration that is available to us as the people of God if we are just willing to put the effort in to read the thoughts and 'heart lyrics' of the many men and women more attuned to the words of the Spirit then ourselves.

D.A. Carson is such a man, with simply marvelous insight into the meaniong and exposition of scripture. The quote I want to share today is from a stunning little book that should really be on any Christian Leaders shelf entitled The Cross and Christian Ministry which is an exposition of the book of First Corinthians in relation to ministry and leadership with the Cross of Christ as the pivotal moment/idea/theological/devotional reality through which such ministry/leadership must be pursued.

His thoughts (particularly relating to Factionalism within the church and the 'worship' of leaders as divulged in I Cor. 3):
"[In the first 2 chapters of this epistle] one discovers that the Almighty utterly reverses so many of the values cherished by the world. What the world judges wise, God dismisses as folly; what the world rejects as foolishness is nothing less than God's wisdom. The world loves power and prestige; God displays himself most tellingly on the cross, in sublime and wretched weakness-- yet that "weakness" effects God's utterly breathtaking redemptive plan, and thus proves stronger than all the world's "strength."
The world pants after strong leaders, but leaders in the church must first of all be servants of the Lord Christ...
The world tries to impress with its rhetoric and sophistication, cherishing form more than content. The apostles of Jesus Christ prize truth above style and quietly refuse to endorse any form that may prove so attractive, even diversionary, that the centrality of the gospel truth is jeapordized."

Leadership and ministering for Christ is a simply immense responsibility and privilege, we must never, and can never, seek glory for ourselves or bring about any faction due to our preference for the leader and not for the Centrality of Gospel truth and Cross-centric leadership!


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Brilliant thoughts from Sinclair Ferguson

It is such a joy getting through a bunch of books at the moment and I am reading a simply brilliant one by Sinclair Ferguson at the moment. (Who by the way Piper rates as one of the quintessential preachers of the 20th Century along with Dr. Lloyd Jones) In one sense this is a Systematic Theology but with a great angle in that it is less systematic and more devotional and is written primarily with a Christological 'Bias.' It is entitled 'IN CHRIST ALONE'

Here are some words from him that struck me last night:
Before all time; prior to all worlds; when there was nothing "outside of" God Himself; when the Father, Son, and Spirit found eternal, absolute, and unimaginable blessing, pleasure, and joy in Their holy triunity-- it was Their agreed purpose to create a world. That world would fall. But in union-- and at infinitely great cost-- this glorious triune God planned to bring you (if you are a believer) grace and salvation.
This is deeper grace from before the dawn of time. It was pictured in the rituals, the leaders, and experiences of the Old Testament saints, all of whom longed to see what we see. All this is now ours! Our salvation depends on God's covenant, rooted in eternity, foreshadowed in the Mosaic liturgy, fulfilled in Christ, enduring forever. No wonder Hebrews calls it "so great a salvation" (Heb. 2:3).

Eat well on words such as this people, and remember the greatest quotes from the greatest of men should cause us to race straight back to the source of all GREAT truth... God's words in Scripture.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Heartfelt Thanks

A chapter in my life drew to a close yesterday. Subject matter, well let’s see: 4 years, one marriage, one gorgeous boy, a little one on the way, a multitude of friends and many, many good memories. We said farewell to New Community Church Sidcup yesterday and the emotion was simply all consuming. The wife, little guy and myself had to stand before the loving people of New Community yesterday for the last time as a member of the leadership team there, a member of the loving community that has wholeheartedly embraced us for this chapter of our lives and which, in many ways, has played a significant role in the formation of who we are as a family. Not easy to say the least, far more meaningful and momentous than I presumed!

This is just a blog of immense gratitude, a blog to put my heart on display regarding our joy yesterday. So thank you people of New Community; thank you for love, for care, for grace, for rebuke, for joy, for time and for simply pushing us towards the person of Jesus Christ in a myriad of ways.
No time with a community of people is even near perfect and I am not even attempting to intimate that. But even imperfections within a community of God’s people, when shaped and steered by the sovereign purposes of our Great Yahweh, can bring enormous good (just listen to Joseph as he talks to his brothers at the end of the book of Genesis).
We have known much ‘good.’
You have forever touched our hearts and will remain dear to us until we will certainly meet again as that trumpet sounds (hopefully before but hey…).
Remain in the grip of His grace.


An Ode to my friend Caffeine

My gorgeous wife has convinced me to refrain from the intake of Coffee (a Christian's legal drug of choice) for 3 weeks. I know it is out of love for me and out of a desire for my health (not that 3 weeks will make a difference I know) but I do miss my dear friend, already!

A mate of mine recently refrained from the black liquid gold for a month or so, really just to prove to himself that he was not controlled by this ‘drug.’ His time is up and I know he is all the happier for it, still haven’t checked in with him if he is now more certain that he is the ruler of his own life. I have sort of taken a page out of his book to show my body who is boss and I will let you know how well I do. I thought I would write a brief ode to this dear friend of mine (and millions of others) just to show that there are no hard feelings I guess (please note I am just being stupid here):

It was in the west that you first won my heart,
How deeply it aches whenever we’re apart.
My emotions, my mind lifted in the arc of your stride,
Yes, it seems my body you lift in a ‘mini-high.’
But you do not own me, this I assure,
You’re just a drink, a beverage and nothing more!
(Forgive me if I upset you dear friend, see you soon.)


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sinclair Ferguson on Archegos

Once again my miniscule knowledge has been exposed by the brilliant mind of a far wiser, far more intelligent man of God. It's Sinclair ferguson this time. Here is what he writes regarding Christ as Archegos (it's Greek).

Perhaps the most intriguing title for Jesus in the [book of Hebrews] is 'author.' He is called the 'author of...salvation' and the 'author... of our faith' (Heb. 2:10; 12:2, NIV)...

Adam was the first archegos. He was called to lead the human race in obedience, through testing, to the destination of glory. He sinned and failed, falling short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). This world became a jungle where man and God, man and Satan, man and woman, man and beast, man and his environment, and man and his brother have all become entangled in hostility (Gen. 3:8-19; 4:1-12).

Jesus came as the second archegos, the second representative man (I Cor. 15:45-47). He entered the jungle. He broke through and subdued all its opposition to God. He dealt with God's solemn curse (Gen. 3:14, 17) and opened the way into God's presence for all who believe in and follow Him (Heb. 10:19-20).
The Son of God took our human nature and entered into our fallen, sin-ravaged environment. he lived a life of perfect obedience for the glory of God. Bearing God's judgment against our sin on the cross, he experienced the divine curse. Now divine blessing and restoration flow to us along the path of grace He has opened (Gal. 3:13).


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

C. J. Mahaney on Reading

One of my elders, thanks Andy, directed me to some absolutely enriching discussion(click here) between C.J. Mahaney and others on several topics relating to pastoral leadership.

The one I immediately was drawn to was their insights on A Pastor and Reading. I was not let down one bit. I have always said that for me personally one of the most beneficial contributors to my growth in desire for God and an ever-increasing love for Him has been reading. Mahaney powerfully and wholeheartedly agrees.
I thought I would just include a few confirming quotes
“[One reads to attend to the soul..] Abide close to the cross, dwell where the cries of Calvary can be heard!'(A quote by Spurgeon)
“Create a library of men that attend to your soul- read and meditate on their works.”

“Most new books are just repetitions of what has gone before!”

“The best way to serve your soul, your family, and your church is to devote time to reading & study.”

“I view reading and study as one of the most important ways that I can serve a church… the most effective way. Because the best way I can serve a church is by responding to the charge to watch my life and to watch my doctrine!”

Take these words to heart, honestly you cannot and will not be able to feed those in your flock (those whom you lead) unless you are feeding aggressively yourself on rich, soul-expanding books.


Consumerism Insights

I am reading a thought-provoking, although rather difficult, book titled, ‘Consuming Religion’ by a catholic author, Vincent J. Miller. It is extremely insightful and eye-opening with regards to consumerism as a broad cultural phenomenon which has risen to the fore in the West. His desire in writing is to educate us about the consumerism/religion relationship. I thought I would share a brief quote found midway through the second chapter that is helpful in its summation of some issues:
“[Religious leaders often see things for which they criticise consumerism…] We see an explicit system of values that was actively disseminated though advertising. After centuries of negative connotations, consumption not only became a necessary dimension of the economy but was promoted in service of the common good. Acquisitiveness became a virtue. Individualism was intensified in a variety of ways. The nuclear family in its single-family dwelling became the new fundamental unit of society. The social isolation that this brought was assuaged through consumption. Appliances stood in for the labour once exchanged as part of the lives of extended family or neighbourhood relations. Individualism was also intensified through the narcissism elicited by advertising. Deprived of communal sources of identity, people were encouraged to invest in commodity-based self-enhancements. The economic structure of the single family forms political and ethical choices in a way that corrodes a sense of the common good. Finally… the shift from the extended to the nuclear family weakened our relationships to cultural traditions.”

The author goes on to expose the shallowness and ineffectiveness of the above general critique, but I thought it was a brilliant summary of the onslaught of the consumer culture that now drastically taints our faith.


Monday, October 13, 2008

Values Discovery

Had the most fantastic day on Saturday with the two other elders at the church we are moving to in Watford.
The whole purpose of the day was to seek the heart of God for the deep-seated things that we as a leadership love and cherish that may in turn become the CORE VALUES that define us as a people. Coffee was consumed, prayer was really enjoyed and then off we went.
Multi-coloured ‘Post it’ notes spread out on the wall, words flying, pens scribbling, hearts-racing and, yes, brilliant progress made. The outcome: Eight things that profoundly identify the DNA of who we are, and how we function as a church. The unity of mind and the clarity of thought was only outdone by the excitement of what God was doing in us as a leadership.

There is a long way to go of course, but it is so liberating to know that we have laid a foundation as to who God has called us to be and what will most identify us as a leadership team. I thought I would just put a little blurb here on the blog about why I think defining values is so essential. So give it a read, if you want.
Why Values?

Team, unity, synergy, togetherness, harmony, partnership, the absolutes of fulfilling the mission God has called us to are only possible through shared values. If we seek to pursue a vision that is not birthed out of our shared values it will never happen. Our vision must have (as the firm foundation supporting it) a set of core values that are shared by the ministry team.

Without a certain set of values we will not know why it is we have the vision we have. Without values we will not know who is meant to be on the team that battles with us to achieve what it is we are called to achieve. Without shared values we will not ‘die by one another’s side’ as partners in mission.

That is why values!


Unleashing the Church II

After part I of this series exposing God’s INITIATIVE to release ‘the city’ from bondage through the person of Christ, I guess people could quite sarcastically say, “Well where’s your Jesus now? Who’s God going to use now to sort out all the cr*p?”
They would not be the first to wonder about that (see Acts 1:6-9), but the answer is simple: The CHURCH!

Sadly, the church today is suffering a massive identity crisis!
If we the church do not know who we are then there is no way we will know what we are to do.

For us to flourish, for us to fulfill our call ‘to release the city so to speak’ we must reaffirm our identity. And I don’t think there is a more identity exposing passage in all of scripture than then I Peter 2:9-10… this is mind-altering, heart changing, passion-inspiring stuff.
This passage answers three questions:

1) Chosen People”- This is the first of four metaphors used of Israel that now describe who we are as the church.
We are a new race defined not primarily by colour, wealth, social status or place of birth, we are defined primarily by our being chosen by God to be new creations in Christ.
Read Jn. 1:12, 13.

“CHOSEN”See Eph. 1:4; Rom 8: 28; Jn. 15:16; II Tim. 1:9; I Pet. 1:3
2) “Royal Priesthood”- To understand this second metaphor more fully we must delve into the OT. Look at Ex. 19:6
WE ARE ROYALTY (The ‘glory’ of royalty is: 1) Honour of a Kingdom, 2) The possessions of a King, 3) The authority of a king)
We are co heirs with Christ! Gal. 4:6-7
PRIESTS- There is now no longer just one person once a year that is allowed access into God’s presence, WE CAN EACH ENJOY IT AT EVERY MOMENT! Heb 4:16.
What do we offer, what is our sacrifice? Rom 12:2 Lives dominated by the Holy Spirit, that bring joy and pleasure to God.
3) “Holy Nation”- We have a new citizenship Ph. 3:20.
The single greatest factor that distinguishes us is Holiness, we are a HOLY nation. This word means set apart. John McArthur explains:
“Holiness means that we have been set apart unto God. While that includes being set apart for service, the primary emphasis is our relationship with God…We are set apart not just from sin and hell, but to an intimate relationship with God.”

The fourth and final metaphor not only confirms our identity but gives us the answer to the 2nd question of how we get the identity we have.
4) “People belonging to God”- Here is where we must realize the beauty, the wonder the greatness of our identity. We are God’s possession, purchased for a price.
What Price? What price was paid? The blood of Christ; each drop of blood of the Son of God is of inestimable worth. It was shed for you!
Acts. 20:28; I Cor. 6:20; Tit. 2:14; I Pet. 1:18,19
“Received Mercy”-
“Called out of darkness into His wonderful light”-
Lazarus being called out of the tomb!
Eph. 2:1-7; Col 1:13, 14; 21, 22.

“Declare the praises of Him”- Note that we have 4 designations of who we are but just one purpose!
‘Declare:’ Only time in NT; advertise, publish, make widely known.
‘arete’- ‘Praises, Excellencies’: Heroic deeds, perfections, unparalleled love etc. of God.

“He has given us our identity in order that His identity might be proclaimed through us. God made us who we are so we could make known who He is… Therefore being a Christian and making the greatness of God known are almost identical”



Thursday, October 9, 2008

Tim Keller at His Best

Have just finished reading the transcript of this video and man his insights are simply breath-taking. I am most captured by his strength regarding the importance of preaching. It appears to me that very few have this regard any more.

Click Here


Monday, October 6, 2008

Final Preach

October 5th was my final preach at New Community Church, a really intensely emotional moment for me actually. I cannot actually articulate why? I am one of those guys who feel things at a depth that it takes me a while to draw out the content of what is going on ‘in there.’ I have two more parts of my ‘Unleashing the Church’ series in Watford and then a final Sunday here at New Community on the 2nd of November; a stage of life is coming to an end.
Here is the skeleton of my final preach here:
We have started a preaching series through the book of Acts called ‘The Pioneering Church’ and I had the great privilege of preaching from Acts 3. I entitled it “The Message of the Pioneering Church: The Gospel.”
In Acts 2, the day of Pentecost, the church was equipped with the power to continue the ‘Mission of God’ (Missio Dei) which is our mandate as the church.
This is a mandate that we must respond to! In Acts 3 we the message of the mission is unveiled. In verses 1-11 we have described a powerful attention-grabbing miracle that would leave any contemporary Christian pleasantly satisfied.

Surely Peter could walk away pleasantly pleased at this powerful display of healing. NO! Peter is abundantly aware that the church’s participation in culture is not just the initiation of social justice; the church is more than a social help agent solving our societal ills. He must stand; he must declare the message of the pioneering church. He must declare the message that God has given the church to bring about the restoration of all reality and the reconciliation of relationship with the offended creator God and self-destructive mankind.

The gospel is our message for the mission, it is a stunningly beautiful multi-faceted jewel that the church is commanded to use and capture the attention and hearts of a lost world in which we are immersed.
Here are just 5 stunning facets of this message, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, revealed in the verses 12-26 of this passage:

GOSPEL THAT MUST BE ANNOUNCED: We must notice that what Peter and John have just accomplished in the healing of this man was not enough for them. These men were filled with the Spirit of God and knew that this moment was one to be seized to announce the Gospel.
This message is not a new message! This message is not one plucked out of thin air. This message is one with ancient testimony. Listen to what a commentator writes on Vs. 24, “From the inception of the prophetic office down through the whole order of the prophets, all had spoken of ‘these days’, which had found their ultimate fulfilment in Jesus Christ.”
GOSPEL ABOUT JESUS CHRIST- (Vs. 6, 13-16, 20) Tim Keller: “Irrevocably Christological”. Listen to Peter in Acts 4:12; Jesus Jn. 14:6; Rom 5:1,2 & 6-8
There may be nothing more important to us than coming to understand this truth. If only Jesus’ righteousness and obedience and goodness is acceptable to God the father. Nothing, NOTHING we do or seek to achieve will achieve acceptability before God.
Note these verses Rom. 3:21-26; 28 ‘faith’, ‘faith’, ‘faith’.
This is the extremely unpopular bit, this is a concept virtually unspoken of in current Christianity. But it is central to the gospel. Why? Because we don’t just have a loving God we have an offended God.
Check out these verses: Is. 55: 6,7; Mt. 1:17; Mk. 1:15; Acts 2:38; Acts 17: 30-31; Acts 20: 21; Heb 6:1 (‘foundational teaching of the faith’).

The Gospel: It is the best story ever told, the truest truth, the power of God to save; it is a stunning jewel.

Spurgeon on Repentance

Now, a repentance which makes me weep and hate my past life because of the love of Christ which has pardoned it, is the right repentance. When I can say, "My sin is washed away by Jesus's blood," and then repent because I so sinned as to make it necessary that Christ should die—that dove-eyed repentance which looks at his bleeding wounds, and feels that her heart must bleed because she wounded Christ—that broken heart that breaks because Christ was nailed to the cross for it—that is the repentance which brings us salvation.

Again, the repentance which makes us avoid present sin because of the love of God who died for us, this also is saving repentance. If I avoid sin to-day because I am afraid of being lost if I commit it, I have not the repentance of a child of God; but when I avoid it and seek to lead a holy life because Christ loved me and gave himself up for me, and because I am not my own, but am bought with a price, this is the work of the Spirit of God.
And again, that change of mind… which leads me to resolve that in future I will live like Jesus, and will not live in the lusts of the flesh, because he has redeemed me, not with corruptible things as silver and gold, but with his own precious blood—that is the repentance which will save me, and the repentance he asks of me.
…He asks you to weep and wail because of him; to look on him whom you have pierced, and to mourn for him as a man mourns for his only son; he bids you remember that you nailed the Saviour to the tree, and asks that this argument may make you hate the murderous sins which fastened the Saviour there, and put the Lord of glory to an ignominious and an accursed death.

Preached July 1862

Wow! I think those words need to pierce our heart like an arrow to imbed this central tenet of the Christian faith.


Monday, September 29, 2008

Live Vertizontal

Flew into Dallas to speak at a church down in Temple, Texasthis weekend just gone. It was over two months ago that I was struck with what I would share with these young people at the weekend.
If one goes to the bible and looks at the book of Matthew and chapter 22 there is a magnificent section of text which is where Christ is interacting with a whole bunch of guys that are trying to attack Him and undermine Him. Particularly they want to destroy the claim that He made all through His life that He was the Messiah, the anointed one of God who would deliver people from bondage; one who would inaugurate a new Kingdom of the rule of God that would bring peace, and restoration to a broken, destruction-bound world.

In this section Jesus in the unbelievably powerful way He was so often capable of doing sums up all of faith, all of life & solidifies the matrix of what it is to live out the life God has desired for mankind. In a word Christ tells us to live VERTIZONTALLY.
This word that I use to sum up the stunning call that Christ makes which is this. Love toward God (vertically) with all of your heart, soul, and mind; then as a visible expression of this love for God love your neighbour (horizontally) as you love yourself. Christ says give all of your being to loving God, and if you claim to love God you will love people in the way they most need. The greatest way you can love others is to love God in the way defined here by Christ.

Mark these words of John Piper

“…there is a sense in which the second commandment (to love your neighbor) is the visible goal of the whole Word of God. It's not as though loving God is not here, or that loving God is less important; rather loving God is made visible and manifest and full in our visibly, practically, sacrificially loving others...
'Love your neighbour as yourself…': It is overwhelming because it seems to demand that I tear the skin off my body and wrap it around another person so that I feel that I am that other person; and all the longings that I have for my own safety and health and success and happiness I now feel for that other person as though he were me."

Live it!


Flying back to London today from Dallas, Texas. Have had a great time, but have to admit that I have missed the wife and little guy immensely. If I refer back to an earlier blog that I wrote with regards to how my wife has become my greatest friend I can now bring some thoughts to how that shift has influenced my feelings on this trip.

I have certainly missed her in a far more obvious way then I have in times before. It is not that I am totally incapacitated or anything like that. It is more like a strong, inward awareness that I am not meant to be alone. I am not meant to wake up alone and turn to the side and realize that my beautiful angel is not with me. This is has certainly influenced me emotionally.
One thing for certain is that my friends know that the family is missing. Even though I made all of my friends here before I met my wife, it is as if I am incomplete to them without her. There is so much to me then just being alone. Even though I was fully sufficient to them as a friend etc. when I was alone, now there is a certainty that with my family I am most who I am.

It is a wonderful transition. Not one that I expected to make, and certainly not one to make with the ease and settledness that I have. We have a new little one on the way, so I wonder what that she/he will add to us.
Can't wait to be get back to that family. Miss them immensely, just counting the hours now.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008


There was a sense of disappointment as we left the mall
All the young people looked the same
Wearing their masks of cool and indifference
Commerce dressed up as rebellion

Because we are so handsome and we are so bored
So entertain us, tell me a joke
Make it long, make it last forever
Make it cruel just make me laugh
We can't be hurt

Drink to forget your blues on the weekend
Think about more things to buy
The TV taught me how to sulk and to love nothing
And how to grow my hair long

These are words from a song by the British band Bloc Party, Uniform. They are eye-catching to me because they poetically express, in the words of a secular band, the product of one of the most invasive ills of our time, APATHY.

The effect and extent of Apathy among young people alarms me. It has a soul-numbing, even destroying power. As I go to preach in Dallas this weekend I want this song to bring home a point that I want to make. In Matthew 22, Christ gives an overarching answer to the question of a lawyer as to what is the greatest commandment in scripture. He states that it is to Love God with all your being, and to love your neighbour as yourself. A primary enemy of that love, particularly in young Christians in the West is Apathy.

It robs us of passion, or even any feeling, and can seriously stunt our ‘experience’ of faith in Jesus Christ.


Unleashing the Church

Started a three part series at the church this past Sunday:

The series is drawn out of this passage I Peter 2: 4-12.
Part 1 was all centered on the stunning initiative of God to release ‘the city’ from bondage with a person and a people. The person, the glorious Hero of the redeeming story of God is, of course, Jesus Christ.
Below is a brief summary-

Purpose of Passage- This passage is written to the scattered, persecuted Hebrews throughout the Diaspora. In this brief passage Peter directs their (and ours) gaze to the stunning initiative of God to break in and redeem His people.

Introducing Christ- In these verses Peter introduces shows these ancient readers of the letter and us the great person who has brought in the inexplicably majestic initiative of God to release captives from the curse of sin: Jesus Christ

We first need to confirm that Jesus is the hero and it is in scripture that we find absolute confirmation of that. Then we can look see two phrases in this brief passage of scripture that explain why it is Jesus that is the great Hero of the Father’s ‘redeeming’ story for mankind.

1. How can we be sure?- Is. 9:1, 6-7; Lk. 2: 8-14; 25-32; 4: 17-21; Acts 2:36 JESUS CHRIST IS THE HERO
2. Living Stone Chosen and precious’
i. CHOSEN- ALONE ABLE: Jn. 14:6; Acts 4:12
UNEQUIVOCALLY UNIQUE: unique in His being (God/man) unique life Heb 4: 15; unique high priest Heb. 10: 11-12
ii. PRECIOUS- ETERNAL INTIMACY: relationship between father and Son in the eternal Trinitarian relationship. “This is my Son in whom I am well pleased.” (Talk about my new but wonderful insight into this with Malachi)
BEAUTY/PERFECTIONS: “For as God is infinitely the greatest Being, so he is allowed to be infinitely the most beautiful and excellent; and all the beauty to be found throughout the whole creation, is but the reflection of the diffused beams of that Being who has an infinite fullness of brightness and glory.” Jonathan Edwards


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

First Day

Phew! So it is all out now, I can finally tell the world—The gorgeous Mrs., Malachi, and I are heading to Watford, UK to lead a church.
Yesterday (Sunday 14th Septmber) was our ‘Introduction Sunday’ and what a brilliant Sunday it was. Unity, excitement and vision seemed to rest over us like a comforting cloud of God’s grace.

Watford is a great place, and seems to be a place where God is doing some unique stuff among church leaders who want to come together and take the town for Christ. There are about 75000 people in the greater area, lots of young folks and a brief walk down the high street gives a glimpse of the life in the town.
Watched the Liverpool Manchester United game (Oh what a day!) in the Walkabout pub there and just soaked in every ounce of the atmosphere and had a couple of fantastic conversations with guys who seem to love the place. Feel a real favour here for what God has called us to.

It has been a journey I am not going to lie. One of many years for me I would say, but even the last 12 to 14 months have been real difficult (always so hard to transition and there is always a ‘bigger story’) but I think it is cause God is knocking edges off of us and equipping us with a far greater capacity to lead.
We know we are in the right place now and I think we just want to be blown away as God downloads vision, unites us with the two brilliant elders there (big up to Andy & Craig) and prepares us for a stunning future.

We’re exited and I want to blog here often so watch this space.
Added below what I shared at the church, take a look, let me know what you think.


First Thoughts

What do you say to intoduce yourself to a church you hope to lead with all the love, energy and vision you feel God has given you? I am not too sure. I decided to just lift their eyes to the vision of God for His church and the glorious role it plays in the ‘redemption story’ that is reality.

Here is a brief summary of the exhortation I gave to the church in Watford:

The dynamic church leader Bill Hybels has made this stunning statement, “The local church is the hope of the world…” I believe this wholeheartedly. Every moment of my life is driven by a consciousness of this glorious truth. Hybels did not just pluck this from the air, he did not just come up with it, this is the overarching truth of God’s redemption plan.

The whole story of the bible is a story of redemption, a story of a gloriously just and loving God orchestrating a marvelous plan to redeem lost, broken, self-destructive people back to Himself. The story is now in its final chapters and these are the best ones—these chapters are about THE CHURCH.

Just let these verses strike you:
Is. 2: 2-3; Jer. 31:33; Ezek. 36:33-36; jn. 17: 21-23; Eph. 3:10

All these verses are about this time, they are about you and me. They are about the startling story that God is now using you and me to redeem the world to Himself. He is using you and me to advance the Kingdom of God…

“[and] we who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”- II Cor. 3:18

This verse is all about transformation, it is all about God the Spirit transforming us into bright reflections of Christ that display His glory to the people surrounding us. Do you get that, how powerfully does that strike you? I am riveted to this verse. This verse grasps the ‘life’ of the church perfectly. It speaks of MISSION because it is written to a community of people so it means that WE, the church, should reflect the glory of Christ to a lost, broken, and dying world.

The community of God’s people is the agent of change for this world. This vision, the vision of this church transforming lives, changing communities and impacting nations is the overarching, driving hope that has united these men of God, your brilliant elders with me as God has worked in bringing us together ‘for such a time as this.’

We know what God has called us to. We see a future and it is captivating, exhilirating but will be extremely demanding.

We will not be an army of people with a family mindset that is stunted by self-love we will be a family with an army mentality, strategically advancing the Kingdom of God in Watford and watching the ripple effects influence the ends of the world.


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Leaning In

Just finished writing in my journal how much I long to hear from God in this season. Funny, some people would read that comment and dismiss all I am for claiming that I believe you can hear from God, I am not going to engage in that conversation.

We, my wife, Malachi and I, are in one of those seasons where you are made acutely aware of how you need the guidance of God in making right decisions and following the most fruitful path that is divinely ordained. It is one of those seasons when, if you get it wrong, it could take a real long time to repair the damage and a lot of other people could get hurt.

When in college in Dallas, my philosophy professor (legend that he was and is) made us read the book of Proverbs quite intensely as part of a Philosophy of Language class. It was at that time that I read a verse in Proverbs chapter one that seems almost to expose the longing of God to speak intimately to us, but the tragedy is that often we do not ‘heed His rebuke’ (pay attention, stop to listen, receive the outcome of His disciplining) for long enough to be still and listen.

Right now I am trying to take Him at His promise and wanting to hear Him so much. I can imagine the fruit of a life that is lived responding to the intimate whispers of the Divine Conductor of all would be quite stunning to behold.


Leaving Church

We’re leaving our church. Had enough really, looking for something that is more ‘us.’
NO NO, I am joking big time! Strangely, there are scores of people I know, and tens of thousands that I don’t, who see church attendance with this consumerism mentality. It is a bit of a tragedy really and I am sure it does not reflect the heart of Christ when He sets out the importance of loving a local family of believers and giving all of oneself to become a ‘member’ of that family.

I am sure Christ really did not compensate for the, “Well I am not too sure I can do church without a smoke machine Nigel;” or the, “Cyril those drums are just too loud and I know that God would not have it that way in heaven” approach to church. Oh I know He knows it exists and always knew it would, but I do not think that reflects His fascination with the local church.

I am certainly of the opinion that it is essential to find a place where you fit and where you know you can participate. I just think it is important we set out biblical precedents as to the governing paradigm determining where we live out our Christian faith. The effects of consumerism are so widespread that I am certain very few people really come to grips with them. We must search our hearts and embody Christ’s powerful lesson that ‘to give is better than to receive.’

Ps. We are leaving our church but I can’t quite say why or where yet… watch this blogspace!


Monday, September 1, 2008

Peace Squared

Ancient philosophers like Plato and Socrates spoke of ‘the happy life’, a place of absolute serenity, tranquillity and harmony of soul. They said happiness was something or someone that was to be pursued because it was completely fulfilling and satisfying in and of itself—it needed nothing added to it. St. Augustine (the early and great Christian philosopher) made it plain where he knew happiness to lie—in a deeply intimate relationship with Christ. He stated in his Confessions, “Our hearts were made for you and we are restless until we find our place in you.”

I preached yesterday and said that two quintessential elements of ‘the happy life’ are peace and joy; they are inextricably linked you cannot have one without the other! The book of Philippians in the bible is a letter all about joy and then at the end, in the last chapter there is the promise of a divine peace ‘that transcends all understanding.’ Wow that is the peace we all long for.

What is unique about this peace? Well it is peace squared. The ultimate peace that is necessary is not peace between the warring military giants squaring up over Georgia but the peace between man and God. Man chooses rebellion to God and this uprising will be dealt with. Faith in the peace-making work of Christ on the cross is the only way to restore fellowship with God and I assure you this peace is all-important.

What makes this peace ‘peace squared?’ Well in the last chapter of Philippians Paul promises not only the peace of God but the God of peace!
Christians can not only know a peace that calms us in difficult times, peace that wars against the cancerous work of anxiety and all its fruits but we can know closeness with the God of peace.
I can live knowing there is no longer war between God and me. I can live strengthened and blessed that I can lift all my needs and cares to God in prayer. Finally, I can live in wonderful relationship with this God who gives peace.

Bring on ‘the happy life.’


What We’re Looking For (III) RELEVANCY

This is a very important component of the faith and churches that people of this generation are looking for. Sadly, some churches have gone to such extremes ensuring that they are ‘relevant’ they actually place that as the essential element of who they are thus losing sharpness in the process.
Relevancy to me is something that needs to be taught into people and combined with teaching OUT of people some things. People have come to honour the forms by which church used to do things in past generations to a point where those forms can never be changed and are therefore so outdated and shockingly irrelevant that it turns people away from the truth that the church offers. This must be taught OUT of people.
Forms must change with the times and forms must connect with and impact the people that we need to reach or we are not fulfilling the mandate we were given by Christ.

What must be taught into people to enable relevancy is that all of life can be lived and enjoyed when done so to the glory of God. Good music is good music and must be celebrated; good wine is a fantastic gift to mankind and must be enjoyed biblically; rest and play originate in the heart of God so we as Christians should be doing it the best way. (Those are just examples to try make a point.)

Here are some words written by the ever prophetic Francis Schaeffer that speak to this entry
Not being able, as times change, to change under the Holy Spirit is ugly. The same applies to church polity and practice. In a rapidly changing age like ours, an age of total upheaval like ours, to make nonabsolutes absolutes guarantees both isolation and the death of the institutional, organized church.

We have an increasingly secularised culture to reach and to save people from that culture we must look at the form/packaging of everything that we do! Let’s pursue relevancy but remember that we do not have to give up any of our core values in the process.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

What We’re Looking For (II) AUTHENTICITY

In the States I was part of a church that had a seeker sensitive (design the service for those who are asking questions about the Christian faith) approach to their services. Their heart was great; it was just the approach that ‘missed’ our generation. The quality of music and the idea of the involvement of media was brilliant but they aimed for a style and approach that totally missed the ‘postmodern’ inquirer.

Polished, Christian-sub-cultural productions become what we call ‘cheesy’. We want to see the heart behind things. We want to see what is genuine and above all authentic. In one sense it is not even about the quality of the finished product it is about the heart and genuine motive of the leadership involved being plain to sight.
For example, it is not a secular song being done in a quasi-Christian way (without swear words and innuendo) by some highly gifted band that makes us go, “Whoa that is cool.” It is just a dude jamming on a guitar telling his story and how Christ has invaded and redeemed that story in an authentic, passionate, real way that makes us go, “Man, I want to hear more about that!”

I don’t think I would be wrong in saying this may be one of the fundamentally essential aspects of church and church leadership for ‘our’ generation. I am afraid to say that a huge number of Christian leaders put across an unreal approach to life. U2’s Bono gives some insight into one area of this desire for the authentic when he says that Christian music is typically not real, it is always happy and victorious, whereas the Psalms (the Christian’s song book so to speak) are very different to that and far more ‘believable.’

We must be authentic, in fact more than all other people we should be!


What We’re Looking For (I) SIMPLICITY

Thom Rainer & Eric Geiger write brilliantly to expose the first of those things that this generation of ‘unchurched’ (or even a new generation ‘within the walls’) are looking for from the church. They write a book called Simple Church which is about, well what do you think, restoring simplicity to programme heavy churches. I think churches in the past generation have come to believe that if they offer myriads of different options for each age group and even for particular niches within each of those age groups they will most effectively reach out to people. I don’t feel this is the case.

This generation is flooded with options, most of which are at a level that can never be replicated by the church. We have to understand what the church has to offer that distinguishes us from anything that is secular. Once we discover that we need to excel at that one thing.
Rainer and Geiger say that one thing is making Christian disciples; in fact Christ said that a long time before them. The church alone is called to transform people in a supernatural/natural coalition (work of God and work of prayerful Christian leadership) into counter-cultural followers of Jesus Christ.
So, with that in mind, we need to engage people in a simple process of taking them from their unchurched state to being mature Christian disciples and not get distracted by every other thing that we may be able to do ‘sort-of-well’ as a church.

People are looking for simplicity.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

What We’re Looking For

I am going to attempt my first little series of entries on a similar topic for the first time on my blog. Will have to see how well I actually pull it off.
The basis upon which I will embark on this series is a desire to articulate (in my words) what I think the generation we are a part of is looking for from the Western church. The church can often be criticised for being behind the times and without any anti-church motive I think I can see why.

In the realm of apologetics the author Francis Schaeffer noted that it was not that trained seminarians did not have the answers it was that they did not know the questions being asked. He was trying to say that because times have moved on people are burdened by different things affecting their souls (at their roots they are all the same but they are understood through different lenses of the current postmodern mileu that is our world) and so are asking different questions than they were a generation ago.

This is true of what people are expecting, wanting, or needing from the church. They have different but equally painful soul destroying issues at work than people did 30 years ago. Intensifying that is the rapid secularisation of Western culture that blinds them from the transcendent nature of their ‘issues’ and so the church needs to be a very different ‘anti-culture’ then it needed to be less than a generation ago. I will start in due course…


Apple Store

Sitting in a Starbucks, writing on the office Macbook and listening to Jose Gonzales on my ipod- Wow I must appear like an absolute yuppie but I am quite certain that I am not.
I am surprised how Apple has invaded my life really; honestly it has just snuck in and won a real place of affection in my heart. I know there is a grand war between Mac users and PC junkies but I am not that advanced or intelligent to understand why, I am just writing as one who loves simplicity and aesthetic purity thus, for me, Mac has won hands down.

I walked into one of their stores this morning (Bluewater shopping centre) and saw in a microcosm (the store) why Mac is so appealing. There is simplicity combined with beauty, or maybe it is the simplicity that leads to the beauty. There is less choice but great quality, which means minimal fuss just time to feel like the customer actually is King (I hope I am not seeming like too great a consumer). Apple captures something (this store captured something) that connects so powerfully with what it is this generation is looking, even hungry, for.
As is mentioned by the authors of Simple Church, maybe the church has something to learn from these Apple boys.
Just thinking out loud folks.


Friday, August 8, 2008

Message to Young Leaders

Hey there folks, back from a week away with five and a half thousand crazy kinds at the Newfrontiers Newday week. Brings back serious memories of my own youth camping days... mmm thank God I am a different guy.

I was young crazy, now I am older but still crazy about Jesus and leading His people. So when I stumbled upon Driscoll's reflections on a get together with J. I. Packer I found the words encouraging and inspiring. Enjoy if you get the link.

Click here!

Simon, a Passionate, aspiring servant leader.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


I want to preach a sermon series one day about the lost words of the current Christian dictionary. The words and concepts that riddle the scriptures yet are decidedly absent from the majority of believers today. My time has not yet come to do that but one thing has been on my heart for a long time now and was brought back to the fore by two things.
The first was when Mark Driscoll made reference to this lack in his first main session at the Newfrontiers Brighton Conference and the second was today when I began reading Imitation of Christ by Thomas A. Kempis again.

The concept that I am alluding to is Contemplation. Driscoll noted that far too many charismatics particularly do not have this as an element of their faith and Kempis, well he just writes in a way about the art of contemplating the wonder and person of Christ in all His manifold majestic perfection that it is obvious from my conversations and even my own life that current Christianity is experiencing a tragic dearth of this discipline.

There is far too much talk, action and noise which pass as the marks of ‘deep’ ‘passionate’ faith.
Deep meaningful talk and action, that which will make a difference to our relationships and our communities needs to stem out of a life marked with this discipline.
Well only when we look deep into the nature and person of Christ will we in any way begin to reflect Him.


3 Years Till Friendship

Last Wednesday my wife and I celebrated 3 years of marriage. It seems like such a short time, especially when I compare it to the length of time that some of the people that I am close to have been married. Yet, many, many marriages in this day and age do not make it to 3 years. For far too many people 3 years is just too long to actually ‘love’ someone, to move past that celebrity or reality TV show love and get to something that involves commitment and trust.
Please do not think for one moment that I am saying 3 years is the perfect length of time for marriage after which there is no divorce- I certainly am not.

In fact the reason I am writing is to just note something wonderful that I think has taken place in our relationship in the 12 months since our last anniversary (obviously). Before now, there were always one or two guys that I would have said were my closest mates, but now my wife has slotted wonderfully into that position. She alone has read the pages of my life to a degree that no other has; she alone knows my vulnerabilities and heart aches; she alone has touched the deepest parts of my soul and interacted with what lies in there: the good and the really not so good.

Ironically, this closeness, this shift has taken place in a season of real hardship, pain and loneliness for us. Yes, God has worked a miracle in our relationship to strengthen and deepen it so I can now lean so fully upon her and open myself up completely to her.

Marriage is a beautiful thing!


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Clear as Day

Just finished reading an article in the Daily Express (not sure if Christians in Middle Class Suburbia are even allowed to read it). The article was about a clairvoyant, Laura Day, based in New York. The image accompanying the article was a picture of her with Demi Moore and Jennifer Aniston, two of her high profile clients. Apparently she has been intrinsically involved in a multi-million pound building partnership with an American firm and a Japanese one. Oh, and by the way, she earns around £250000 a year, I tell you what I am choosing to engage people with the wrong Spirit if all I am in this for is the money.

It seems people are very open to hearing from the ‘spiritual realm’ about their future; or, able to lean on someone who has this ‘direct line’ apparently to a source of power that can give guidance to those in need of it and are willing to pay for it.

Spirituality is more popular than ever.
In fact it is popular across every class within culture from celebs to those struggling to make it that pop into the local clairvoyant or tarot card reader to seek help in some situation.

Christianity must rise to its place as the only source of fulfilment for those with spiritual hunger. How?
In two ways I think:
1) Followers of Christ living out the abundant life that was promised to them by Christ and testifying in every context to the completeness there is now in their lives.
2) The church teaching the truth of man’s estrangement from that Spiritual being who alone can fill the void that is so very evident whenever they give a moment’s thought to it. And, of course, how faith in the person of Christ who ‘redeems’ us from this certain estrangement.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


I like many have been to the Newfrontiers Conference in Brighton, England, and like almost everyone else was gloriously inspired by the preaching and teaching. But another thing struck me while there and I thought I would just share that.
During the worship, which was lead with absolute grace and awareness of the guidance of the Spirit (Well done Simon Brading), the consciousness of the work of Christ inspired by His love for me has come upon me with real force.

When I think about all that I can tend to be distracted by (life situations, leadership, ministry, personal development) it seems that God has reminded me in these days of the wonder and gratitude I actually have towards Christ for His atoning work on my behalf. ‘Atoning work’ you may ask, well let me explain…
The holiness of the person of God demands that justice towards any form of evil must be shown. The love of God means He wants to make a way for those who are ‘unholy’, deserving of justice, to enter relationship with Him. We, stuck in ‘unholiness’ are unable to enter this relationship because we deserve just punishment for our wilful rebellion to God. Enter Christ as an obedient perfect substitute (His life for mine) to take on Himself the punishment for sin I deserve. This enables me, by faith, to accept this work (the work of atonement) of Christ on my behalf in order to receive the rewards of His life and obedience: a righteous standing before this Holy God.

This baffles me, why the most glorious, beautiful, loving being would give His life for me, offer me His righteousness in exchange for my sin.
What love is this, so divine
That demands my soul, my life, my all.


The Man!

I find myself often struggling with the effeminate imagery of Christ that is perpetuated by, well by the church really. I rarely hear a rallying war cry to follow this warrior like figure that conquered sin through an obedience that no other man could have had the guts or strength to fulfill. This man really is a legend, He is a great man to follow! Of course love permeates every thing He does, but let us not forgot what a glorious man Jesus was. Here just a brief reminder from Scripture in the book of Revelation

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron scepter." He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:


Monday, July 7, 2008

Personal Revelation

This one should be brief, I think.
Been a follower of Jesus for over 15 years now. It was June the 20th 1993 that the grace and love of God in Jesus overpowered my hardness and rebellion of heart and brought me into relationship with God as I believed wholeheartedly on all the work of Christ on my behalf.
Two weeks ago, something struck me as I wrote in my journal (no not lightning) and it was this:
Things are not easier for me now as a father and husband then they were when I was a carefree 17 year old filled with all the excitement of future and freedom of youth. Living the Christian life, in fact, is no easier. Every day is not a bed of roses and no matter how hard I try to find my delight in how wonderful it is to be living the Christian life, this would be ill-placed delight. So then what is the delight, what is supposed to be so much better these 15 years on? Why start the whole thing off if it gets no easier?
Easy, and this is what struck me! It is fellowship with Him, it’s knowing Jesus! It is the ineffable glorious delight of being in relationship with He who is both God and man. It is the certain truth that I have a friend who is greater than any foe, someone who loves me not because of what I bring to the relationship—but because he has already put his life on the line to insure that we will never know the terror of being apart (this terror is an eternity separated from every good thing, even the knowledge of goodness). I am loved by Jesus and I will never, ever, ever plum the depths of knowing him or exhaust the joy of being known by Him.

An Honest Preacher

Had a South African preacher with us this morning at our church. A man called Francois—he was like a breath of fresh air I tell you! Now it was not because he was young and cool and hip (he was a tad hip); and not because he brought a new dynamic message that he had plucked from some divine encounter with some angelic being! It may be that you are asking by now, “So tell us why? Why was it so fresh?”
The answer is nothing more than the fact that he was honest; no, maybe honest is not the word I am looking for, he was real. It is such a pity that honesty or being real should be something so surprising and uplifting, but this is the case. (Now, please note, I am not saying that the other preachers I hear quite often lie because they don’t. I am using the word honest more in the sense of real and authentic, he was honest to his own true understanding of what it is to bring a message to the people of God as a person living out his Christian walk within the parameters of real life.) It felt there was no separation in essence between preacher and people, he was one of us who faces all the pains, discouragements and disappointments that any of us do. This was fresh! And yes he finished with a brilliant, poignant reminder of the great and glorious goodness of God to those of us who are in relationship with us as highlighted in the eighth chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans in the bible.

Why is that one of the unfortunate marks to the men and women of God that minister for God ‘professionally’ is the mark of ‘got it all togetherness’? Do we not know that honesty, openness, being real and authentic is what most endears us to those whom we lead? I fear not as I have heard far too many messages from far too many men of God that never quite said it all, there was always a holding back of something.
Bear your heart, reveal your soul, talk of the pain, the joy, the confusion and delight then bring the magnificent promises of God to bear as revealed in the word. Preach to the heart by exposing your own.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

On a Knife Edge

Just looking at the TV guide for tonight’s listings and there is at least 9 hours of shows devoted to all the issues surrounding the increase of knife crime in the UK. 17 youth murdered in London alone in the first 6 months of this year. I think the total last year (the highest I believe) was 18 and it would not take rocket science to estimate that total will pale in contrast to this years at the current rate.
Of course, all of secular society is in reactionary mode giving an endless list of reasons as to why this is taking place. The list is typically always the same: youth culture; the rise of the prominence of gun and knife crime in media; increased violence in video games; societal trends; unemployment; oh the list goes on. Yet I cannot seem to shake the notion deep in my heart that all of these are symptomatic of something far deeper in the human psyche. Focusing on externals, for some time now, has always seemed far too shallow to me as a follower of Christ. There is a core issue that needs to be faced here!

Black Eyed Peas have a fantastic single called, ‘Where is the Love?’ which asks the quintessential question. Humans have a default setting that enables them to so ‘unlove’ someone that they (unlike any other creature around) can take the life of another of its own kind. We have a value way beyond that of any other creature (sorry dog-lovers but I am yet to see billions of dollars spent on a military rescue mission crossing several borders for even the most beautiful dog) but in a mere moment that value is defaced and demeaned by a violent action- where is the love? How can we be so loveless?
This is the core issue, the issue that effuses in the myriad of social ills that secular society would define as the core issue itself. It is a three-letter word, one devoid of meaning today.
Ready for it… sin! Will write more on this, but it may evoke thought for some of you.
Comment if you will.

Logical Conclusions

Martin Lloyd Jones was an outstanding preacher even before he got to Westminster Chapel in London. I am reading a book of his Evangelistic Sermons preached while in Aberavon in Wales, so insightful and extremely enriching. The most recent sermon I have read, referring to Herod’s fascination with John the Baptist and yet lack of commitment to the Baptist’s preaching, reaches a pinnacle as he challenges us to draw conclusions logically (a missing element to much current thought) to the gospel. I thought I would share it with you

Have you ever followed the gospel to its logical conclusion? If not do so know. Here is the argument. How simple and how logical it is. There is God, the judge eternal. Here am I, the sinner. God demands certain things of me and has made them quite plain and clear in His law, which is also attested by my own conscience. I have to appear before Him. Do what I will, it cannot be avoided. And I am guilty, and I am told that for the guilty there is nothing but damnation and hell. But here comes the gospel offer which tells me that Christ having died for me, God is willing and ready to pardon and forgive me, and give me a new life, and that he calls upon me to leave my sin and give myself entirely to God and to do all I can to please Him whatever that may involve. Refusal means eternal damnation, acceptance means eternal life. I do not know how long I shall live; I have no control over the length of my life. The offer is there now, is open at the present moment. Surely there is only one thing to do and that is to act at once.


Friday, June 27, 2008

Morality in an Amoral World!

Alright, all I am going to say is that this guy is a legend! Here is a meaty blog by Tim Keller of redeemer church in Manhattan on what it is to present the Christian faith to those who are immersed in or governed by an amoral society like Manhattan NYC or here in London england.
Take the time to read it. Follow this link..


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Heart Scarring

Have been ruminating ‘muchly’ on something and recently was reminded again of it while reading something with the wife. Unforgiveness is a deadly cancer that eats away at the heart. The more there is the more rampant the cancerous effect. I may be oversimplifying here but one effect of cancer is that it literally decays tissue making it cold and hard where before it was warm and soft. So it is with unforgiveness, bearing a grudge, harbouring a hurt however you want to define it; it makes cold the heart, hardening it and removing its capacity to love and feel. Bitterness rises up and can literally take possession of your soul. The burden can be incapacitating.
Read these words
How heavy is a glass of water? That depends on how long you have to carry it. A minute is no problem and after an hour your arm might ache. But after 24 hours you’ll probably be in bad shape… It is the same with a grudge; it can get so heavy it stops you from living.

Every person, if they have been around any length of time, would have to admit to the reality of this truth. Relationships are torn apart by the effect of this cancer, any relationship. There is no ground that unforgiveness fears to tread. Marriages, brothers and sisters, parents and children, work mates, fellow members of the church, you name a relationship unforgiveness has had its destructive way there.

The God of grace revealed in the bible is so aware of this and unequivocally calls us to remove the dreaded effects of unforgiveness from every area of life. Christ states that God can’t forgive us if we are unwilling to forgive others. That is how fundamental forgiveness is to living well as a Christian. Fortunately, God empowers us as we look to the indescribable magnitude of God’s forgiving heart towards us in the death of Christ to reciprocate to others such forgiveness. He also gives us His Spirit to fill our heart with the love, grace, and strength to offer forgiveness where it seems impossible.
Don’t die inside, don’t lose the capacity to live life, don’t be ruled by a destructive master! Forgive!


Not even certain that anyone is out there in the world of cyberspace dedicating any time to reading this little blog at the moment; this is understandable as it has been far too long since I posted here. I hope I am back and will once again resume my additions to these musings more often.
Not exactly sure why it has been such a while since I have dedicated time to this blog; time itself is the central issue though, in this and pretty much every other thing. One thing I have thought about a lot in recent weeks as a Christian is how my ‘normal life’ tends to get in the way of pursuing depth in my ‘spiritual life.’ This is an absurd distinction to make as my ‘normal life’ should flow from the depths of my ‘spiritual life’, my relationship with Christ I mean. But, that is how it feels!

Juggling work, family, marriage, physical fitness and whatever else in the 21st century does not seem to be at all conducive to pursuing intimate closeness to Christ, which, of course, is the bedrock of Christianity. I think this may be the underlying cause of a real dearth of depth in Western Christianity, and is something I may comment on more completely in the future.
Anyway, my apologies, I have not committed the time I had intended (and you know what they say about good intentions) and now must step this up again. Meanwhile, I will just have to ‘sacrifice’ time in some other section of my life… I will ask my wife if she is willing to hand some over…mmm!


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Marriage for Holiness not Happiness (Part I)

Speaking at a couple’s wedding in 3 weeks and have been reading a book I read before my own marriage to help me with my preparation. It is called Sacred Marriage and it poses the question, “What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?”
This is a question of fundamental importance that actually enables us to work through all the externals and marriage and get to the biblical reason for marriage. To get married without any relationship to God seems almost impossible for me as it denies a basic biological maxim. Males of the species mate with many of the females in order to ensure the continuation of the gene. This ensures that ‘the strong survive.’ Without God we are just animals, why commit your life to just one person if there is no other ‘divine’ reason for this relationship?
Well here is a quote to chew on, and I may place a few more on this blog in the coming weeks:

We need to be called out of ourselves because, in truth, we are incomplete. God made us to find our fulfilment in Him—the Totally Other. Marriage shows us that we are not all there is; it calls us to give way to another, but also to find joy, happiness, and even ecstasy in another.

An Everlasting Kingdom

Here’s the picture. A bold Spirit-filled young Jew stands before the great King of the Babylonian Empire declaring that the God he knows will reveal to him the dreams that have been haunting the King leading to sleepless nights and haggard appearance. It seems the dreams were about the future Kingdoms of the earth and their end…well all except for one.
For at the end of the dream a ‘rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces’ appeared setting up an everlasting kingdom.
Oh how well I know this Rock, He is the firm foundation upon which the ‘house’ of my life is built! His name is Christ. Read these words spoken by Daniel, the fearless Jew in the story, so many years before this great Messiah came to dwell among us stating what His great power would achieve
[In that time] the God of heaven will set up a Kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever.

I know the King of this Kingdom. I have experienced His kingdom-destroying power. I have tasted of the Eternal power that can transform a heart of stone to a heart of flesh. What a wonderful thing to think that I am a warrior in this kingdom, I am called to advance this kingdom by force. A force unlike the force used by nations of the world and other religions—the force of a Spirit-Empowered love, a Christ-like love that has the power to transform culture.
Do you know this king, are you in His Kingdom, or are you a rebel adamantly denying the longing in your heart to bow the knee and give your life to such a one as this? Big Question!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

An all too Glorious Exchange

It seems repeatedly in past weeks I have been struck by an exchange all too marvellous to fully comprehend. Teaching two weeks ago and then on consecutive Sundays while preaching this exchange has beautifully reappeared to take the place in my heart and mind that it always should.
What exchange you may ask? Well it is this one:
An all sufficient, absolutely lovely, infinitely majestic, gloriously perfect Saviour who dwelt in the midst of the praise of myriads upon myriads of angels for eternity gave his iridescent righteousness to a rotten, self-centred, glory-hating, God-ignoring sinner like me while taking upon Himself my sinfulness that I may know all-together sweet fellowship with the Lord of all!
Read it, believe it, absorb it, cry out for it if you know you have not received it! For this, this exchange is too magnificent to comprehend yet certain for all whom, by faith, receive this Saviour, this one called Jesus. Again I am astounded.

Pondering Marraige

21st Century Britain’s view on marriage is dire to say the least. Someone could respond with a declaration that the divorce rate has dropped in recent years, to which I can immediately respond, “Well that is because the number of people choosing marriage, as an option by which to enjoy life with the one you ‘love’ has dropped significantly!” Mark Greene from the LICC notes in an article on marriage that the number of marriages in the UK has dropped to the lowest figure in 111 years, and this while the population of England then was the same as that now crammed on to the London tube lines on any Monday morning.

There is no other subject on which I have heard more derogatory jokes. Even while working in retail upon my arrival here in 2004 I must have heard a snide, demeaning, or downright wrong comment from a ‘jaded’ husband at least once a day during the brief moments of interchange. It is tragic to say the least and profoundly destructive in actuality. The youth culture of Britain today makes a believer in the coming glorious Kingdom of God ache with sorrow at the state of our young people. It is not a case of looking at them through ‘old peoples’’ lenses and just having a moan—no it is sorrow at their loneliness, pain, and emptiness! Why broken chaotic families? Easy—Christ-defined marriage as the bedrock of society is no longer even a part of the backdrop of society.

Christians must respond to all the commands of Scripture and faithfully open their hearts to the empowerment of the Spirit of God to reflect the beautiful picture of marriage painted by Paul in Ephesians.
Men, Christ has embodied for His people the level of love we are called to for our wives to win the raging war ravaging marriages. We must love as He loved!
Wives, Christ has portrayed the submission to His Father that is demanded (however counter-feminised-culture) for flourishing biblical marriages.
Oh that we would heed the word. Oh that we would live His life. Who knows the societal transformation we could inaugurate?