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recent reading…

Decent amounts of reading make for a great holiday tradition for me. Here’s what I’ve read recently…. and here’s the headlines if they’re of interest to you?! Yes some of you have asked, so here’s the titles, how I rated it out of 5, a simple one sentence summary and a favourite sentence quote. Just a takeaway…

Sandcastle Kings, Rich Wilkerson Jr 2.5* A surprising rummage in Luke 7 around longings, lack and the lordship of Jesus Christ. p45 “In scripture two things amaze Jesus. Great faith and lack of faith. When Jesus looks at your life, what does he see?”

Why on Earth did anyone become a Christian in the first three centuries? Larry Hurtado 3* Research-rich, challenge-full, geo-historic academic survey of the cost of early discipleship to Jesus. p113, “…if what you desired was greater social acceptance, early Christianity was hardly a sensible route to take!”

Radical leadership, Michael Green 3.5* Biblical, wide-ranging but ultimately a very bitty offering. p34 “Christ’s back is broad enough to carry all our worries and he will because literally, ‘it matters to him about you.’ Our part is to cast the burden firmly and intentionally on Jesus.”

42 seconds, Carl Medearis 3.5* A pacey four part approach to winsome missional living. “We’re starting to build a friendship. Everytime I’m there, I bring up something about Jesus.” ps disappointingly the title had almost nothing to do with the contents!

The road to growth less travelled, David Runcorn 4* Engaging and subversive exploration in contemplation, rootedness and missional pathways. p10 “The outer life of the church must always be lived in careful partnership with its hidden vocation.”

Community and growth, Jean Vanier 4* An enduring if lengthy classic about shared, loving responsibility and it’s character, meaning and reach in God’s heart for our world. p84 “The pains of community are situated between the joy of this communion and friendship with Jesus and the joy of giving life to others: the mission.”

Leading congregational change, Herrington, Bonem & Furr, 4* Interdisciplinary insight in the nurture of congregational flourishing with the highlights being preparation, urgency, mission and change. p11 “Are the things we are doing the most faithful and effective means of reaching our community with the gospel.”

Leading by story, Roberts & Sims 4* Substantive exploration into our storied world: its ecology, purpose and reach. p201 “May you have a story-worthy experience of leading by story.”

Demolishing strongholds, Johnny Hunt 4.5* An unvarnished pastoral intervention on the stereotypical strongholds in the male psyche. p65 “Distractions can easily lead to attractions that cause us to veer off course.”

This is our time, Trevin Wax 5* Jesus-exalting, culture-understanding and challenge-speaking to the heartland of habit, purpose and formation. p26,58 “Knowledge is the drug and ‘feeling right’ is the high. And what goes missing is…. wisdom……..Faithfulness requires us to see the world’s longings and lies in light of the gospel.”

Subversive sabbath, AJ Swoboda 5* A beautiful substantive invitation into the rest and delight of God. p8 “Sabbath baptises our week into the grace and mercy of God.”

The Spirit driven church, Terje Hegertun 5* A chewy academic ecclesial worldview in partnership with God’s spirit’s activity. A robust and energetic celebration. p162 “The church is always more than it seems from the outside.”

Don’t follow your heart, Jon Bloom 5* Heart-challenging, faith-deepening, discipleship-forged biblical meditations. p38 “Stressed vines produce good wines….God produces rich, complex, intense faith in His children. Because when it comes to faith God loves good wine.”

A wilderness of mirrors, Mark Meynell 5*Remarkably researched, excellently crafted cultural analysis on lost trust and the possibility of gospel hope. p107 “Reality has a maddening habit of puncturing what we presumed were the hermetically sealed walls of our constructed realities.”

Facing leviathan, Mark Sayers 5* Truly pioneering and wonderfully inspiring cultural analysis holding Jonah and Hitler alongside others in the mix of faithful biblical leadership. Brilliant and bracing stuff. p201 “Sacrificial love wrapped up in grace, is what save. The power with which God triumphs over the abyss, sin, chaos and death is a power made perfect in weakness.”

God dreams, Mancini & Bird 5* Tactics, strategy and blue-sky vision explored and engineered brilliantly. p10 “The church of God doesn’t have a mission as much as the mission of God has a church.”

The burden is light, Jon Tyson 5* Deft, challenging and visionary biographic theology. p53 “The Father’s approval gave Jesus the security to avoid an addiction to success and scandalously give His life away in love.”

The gospel comes with a house key, Rosaria Butterfield 5* An inescapably biblical vision for transformative Christian hospitality, deeply rooted and with a generous side of whimsy. Radical, refreshing and revolutionary. p40 “In post-Christian communities, your words can be only as strong as your relationships. Your best weapon is an open door, a set table, a fresh pot of coffee and a box of kleenex for the tears that spill.”

A gospel of hope, Walter Brueggemann 5*A rich, fresh expansive kingdom vision of the world shot through with the generousity, hospitality and forgiveness of the King! Immense compilation good of the Brueggemann’s best writing. p96 “Hope is indeed a communal activity, for none can hope alone. The intention of holy agency is to form communities of obedient action that rely upon and respond to divine intention.”

Shrink, Tim Suttle 5* A subversive kingdom cocktail for church health and community flourishing. p35& 44, “Sometimes the promise of greatness is all it takes to destroy the good in us…… If I am not vulnerable, I am not leading!”

A snowy Sunday…

Today #snowstoppedplay and it was a little bit gutting to have weather affect our last full Sunday at Emmanuel. Some great preaching ideas were on the slate, and lots of you asked,…so here’s my full notes and slides. The Apostle Paul’s awesome finish and motivation for Timothy was what I sought to work with this morning – life and death, meaning and calling, faith and reward impacted me in a whole new way. Here’s my my preaching notes, and my slides for this.

Tonight I’d have been sharing the preaching with Kathryn from Philippians 3, Paul’s searing focus on one thing, and my closing invite to faithfulness and fruitfulness. Again here’s my preaching notes, and my prepped slides for this. And the farewell bash, with minor amounts of gluttony is now set for Thursday night!

Changes ahead…

It’s a bittersweet day as this morning we announced news that I’ve been offered, and accepted the invitation to serve as the next Vicar of Swanley and Hextable in Rochester Diocese. This will mean a move for us, leaving the wonderful people of Emmanuel Church, Northwood and the wider community here, to lead and serve in mission and discipleship there.

Just as God very graciously guided us purposefully to Emmanuel in 2014, so we trust His hand in this detail. It is a bittersweet announcement. Leaving Emmanuel and the wider community will be painful yet the season and circumstances invite it for the good of all going forward. The unanimous invitation of the parish reps, patron and diocesan Bishop to serve this one church family across two locations, as well as being a New Wine hub, is an exciting and significant opportunity for us.

We have known God’s clear leading and provision in all of the details and events of the last few weeks. We are still working out the timescale for finishing here at Emmanuel with the licensing start planned for Monday 29th January in Rochester diocese as we join in with all that God is already doing in that place. Here’s to more of God’s kingdom life in all our lives – yes we all get to play! Partnering with the Holy Spirit, following Jesus best we can and having daily adventures! We’re humbled, excited & trusting for all that’s ahead!

News as shared at Emmanuel and with Swanley & Hextable

words about God

Eugene Peterson serves up another treat in his newest title. This forty-nine part delight directs us to lives of congruence and fruitfulness as disciples of Christ. These forty-nine chapters are former sermons gathered around the writings of key bible leaders. The shape and flow of these are measured, weighty and inspiring. Peterson’s gift is wisely weighted words. This book drips with wisdom and is full of life. His heartbeat for the gospel is gently and winsomely proclaimed, “Always and everywhere in Scripture our attention is brought back to the central fact: God is a person; God makes persons; God remakes persons. A person like me.”

There is sting and insight galore in the way Peterson engages to point us to Christ. “We live in a culture that knows little or nothing of a life that listens and waits, a life that attends and adores.” His pursuit of integrity and congruence are graciously unrelenting.

Ego will be challenged, selfishness rattled but the beauty of life with Jesus is clearly on offer for each reader. My bias is this; Peterson has been the most formative pastor-writer in my life. His brilliance, consistency and godly sting are so helpful for me. His gentle scholarship is a gift for the church. As Peterson pens it, “our lives are lived in the company of both the Shepherd and the shadow.” The call to godly attentiveness in an anxious age is what shines through from beginning to end.

five on Friday

“Jesus said you are to love one another as I have loved you, a love that will possibly lead to the bloody, anguish gift of yourself, a love that forgives seven times seven, that keeps no record of wrong. This is the criterion, sole norm, the standard of discipleship in the New Israel of God.” Brennan Manning, The furious longing of God.
1 ways to nurture bible reading commitment 
2 church is always meant to be a little uncomfortable!
3 a great summary about the wonderful Helen Keller
4 the moment app is helpful and this article about taming your smartphone use
5 things church people want to be able to say of their leaders

God’s Beloved

During last Sunday’s talk from Luke 3 we saw that after Jesus is baptised and at prayer, the Holy Spirit descends upon Him and the Heavenly Father declares Him to be his Son as well as Servant. “Heaven was opened.” The baptism opens communication with heaven, that is, with God. Being earthbound is no longer a barrier. This is why faith in Jesus is so beautifully important. As God’s children we have instant access to him and his grace.

Jesus underwent baptism not because he sinned, as we do, and needed forgiveness, but because he identified so much with us and our condition, that he wanted to rescue us. Jesus became like us in all things but sin, so that we, too, could become like him without sin.

Our greatest threat is a way of life which day in and day out, crowds out faith, elbows God out, takes over in subtle ways, forming and shaping us in such a way that we forget who we are and what God has called us to do in this world.

This thought of our belovedness by faith transcends rational thought as we long transformation at the very core of our being. For I’m convinced that this Luke 3 moment, when the spirit of God splits the heaven and descends on Jesus is the hinge point of Jesus’ life and ministry. The weight of his destiny is in this phrase – “You are my beloved Son with you I am well pleased”.

And the voice that declared Jesus God’s beloved Son is still speaking in our souls, “You are mine. You are unique and special. I am pleased with you. I love you. I love you so much that I gave my beloved Son for you. You are my beloved son, you are my beloved daughter.”

Know yourself beloved of God. Can you receive this greeting of Jesus? It may be hard. But believing what Jesus never forgot will truly change everything. May the love of God sustain you and I in 2017?  By faith you are His beloved!

five on Friday

John Wesley, the great evangelist, said, “Give me a hundred persons who fear nothing but God, hate nothing but sin and are determined to know nothing among men but Jesus Christ and him crucified, and I will set the world on fire with them.”
1 Samuel Lane’s worship ministry is so very helpful – enjoy this. 
2 Habit formation is vital to pastoral ministry – a TED talk perspective
3 Mary deMuth is a helpful voice and here’s her writing wisdom
4 Attractional church is not enough, it has to be about mission!
5 The ministry of presence and the Church of England described.

so 16, turning 17…

So here’s my seasonal list. It was a curious year that saw many wonderful and varied things globally and locally, including Julie and I stopping drinking diet coke! Books still win out…. real books that is!

Books I most benefitted from were You Are What You Love by James K.A. Smith, Strong and weak by Andy Crouch, Essentialism by Greg McKeown, Deep Work by Cal Newport, Brand Luther by Andrew Pettegree, Being Disciples by Rowan Williams, The Imperfect Pastor by Zack Eswine, The Seven Stories That Shape Your life by Gerard Kelly, The Pastor’s Justification by Jared Wilson, The Emotionally Healthy Leader by Peter Scazzero and Joy and Human Flourishing by Miroslav Volf.

Some of my favourite sounds to listen to;- Inheritance by Audrey Assad, My favourite faded fantasy by Damien Rice, The Wild Swan by Foy Vance, Walls by Kings of Leon, God’s Highway by Sandra McCracken and whatever Spotify throws up in the discover weekly mixtape!

Have hardly seen anything on the big screen, but I enjoyed these eclectic few:- Louder than bombs, Room, X+Y, The Revenant, and High Rise.

Viewing wise I’ve loved National Treasure, Happy Valley, Line of Duty s3, War and peace, The Missing s2, The Night Manager and together we loved The Crown & Designated Survivor.

five on friday

I have been mildly erratic in posting and will seek to do better in frequency, content, and some creativity in 2017!
1 Pete Scazzero continues to speak to this vital area of emotional health brilliantly…..
2 The insights and wisdom learnt from Winnie the Pooh!
3 The reasons we do liturgy….. some learning.
4 TED talks are a gift, and here’s some preaching application.
5 Never needed at a funeral – wisdom from Challies!

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