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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!

living for Christ?

Some outtakes or summary from Sunday’s talk with our church family…….

From the brilliance of Jonathan Edwards – the puritan, not the triple-jumper! As a young adult mid 1800’s – Jonathan Edwards set down on paper a series of thoughts and practices to help cultivate growth in grace. These resolutions are immense, and Edwards would re-read this list at least once a week to keep his mind focused and renewed. The result: A man of humble godliness, who was to become a significant spark used to ignite one of the greatest revivals known to history. Even many unbelieving scholars admit Edwards may have been the greatest mind to be born on the North American continent.

The seventy resolutions of Jonathan Edwards are still a practical and beneficial tool for spiritual life if a little stuck in 18th century language that makes it sometimes difficult to grasp what Edwards wrote. Here’s some of these refreshed as a scene setter…… “Aware that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do pray that, by his grace, he will enable me to do all that will honour Christ.
1. Resolved: I will do whatever I think will be most to God’s glory; and will provide the most good and benefit to mankind in general.
3. Resolved: If ever – really, whenever – I fail & fall or grow weary & dull; I will repent of everything I can remember that I have violated or neglected, …as soon as I come to my senses again.
6. Resolved: To live with all my might, …while I do live.
7. Resolved: Never to do anything which I would be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life.
10. Resolved: When I feel pain,…… to think of the pains of martyrdom – both of Jesus and of believers around the world; and remind myself of the reality of hell.
14. Resolved: Never to do anything out of revenge…….Never to suffer the least emotions of anger about irrational beings.
16. Resolved: Never to speak badly of anyone, except if it is necessary for some real good.
30. Resolved: To strive to my utmost every week to be brought to a higher spiritual place, and to a greater experience of grace, than I was the week before.
65. Resolved: To declare my ways to God, and lay open my soul to him: all my sins, temptations, difficulties, sorrows, fears, hopes, desires; and every thing in every circumstance.
70. Let there be something of good and grace, in all that I speak.

Matthew 10 v 29-42 shows a pattern in following Jesus.
1. Following Jesus means taking up your cross & laying down your life – v24 and this cross, is ‘not a velvet cross’

2. Following Jesus means Rejection v21, v22 & v36. In survey conducted in 2014 of thousands of British Christians – over half said they’d experienced some measure of persecution for their faith.

3. Following Jesus means Persecution – See v17, v19, v21 and v28
Political correctness, conceived to protect the minority has ended up discriminating against Christian free speech & free expression. Christians and Churches that remain true to orthodoxy will become a persecuted and prosecuted minority. The only way to reverse this is revival……

In the twentieth century more Christians have been martyred than all personnel killed directly as combatants in all the wars in the same period.

4. Following Jesus is worth everything
The great anthem of heaven “worthy is the Lamb” – Put it another way – martyrs cry ‘worth it every time” Notice v37-38, three times Jesus uses the phrase, “worthy of me!” This is the invitation, to live worthy of Jesus!
Alex Early say it this way “He is God almighty, who has got off his throne and has poured out relentless, reckless, scandalous grace on you, not at your best moment but at your worst. What makes him worth all this, why should I suffer and have the world hate me on his behalf, and have a life of controversy – here’s what, I get Jesus in the middle of it”

Will you dare with me :- To live your best year for Christ?
Dare to live your best year with Jesus.

intending?

and here’s the handout from our new years eve gathering….. I’m still chewing over questions 1 & 3 that I scribbled up for us all. What did you love most in 2016? and How might you better follow Jesus tomorrow and in all of the 2017?

So what are you intending in 2017? Spend it well….

Are you ready?*

I groan when I’m asked “Are you ready for Christmas?” It seems to get earlier and earlier each year.

However, Christmas is God’s preparation to meet us. No-one looked forward to the first Christmas more than God. For all eternity He set his heart and mind to coming, dwelling, loving, revealing himself and redeeming humankind at Christmas. Nothing would have stopped him.

The detail of God’s preparation, patient waiting and the oversight of all the characters makes for an unforgettable Christmas story. It unfolds with majesty and purpose. It’s the story that has defined history.

The shepherds were instructed to hurry to meet the baby Jesus. The hills of Bethlehem were where sacrificial lambs for Jerusalem’s Temple were kept, so it is fitting that Jesus, who is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, is first seen by those shepherds. Ironically shepherds were social outcasts, considered the lowest of the low, living with animals which made them unclean, yet God first welcomes those thought to be unclean and unworthy to come to Him.

The only other guests were the wise men – the noble, scholarly and kingly ones. Those able to bring high-end gifts and to travel more than five hundred miles, A-list people, talented and able to communicate. God isn’t interested in human status – he came to high born and low-level strugglers alike. All were welcome to the birth of his son then, and all are invited to new life through His son now! All are welcome.

Simply put, you are welcome. Christ invites you to know his meaning, beauty and purpose this Christmas. Matthew 2 verse 10 tells us that those first wise Christmas worshippers “rejoiced with very great joy”. This is my prayer and our wish for you this year. However pressured or prepared you are, might you welcome Jesus this Christmas, again or for the first time? He welcomes you and so do we.

*part of our parish-wide CONTACT this Christmas

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