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five

another clutch of favourite reads and these sage words from Thomas a Kempis, “Let this be thy whole endeavour, this thy prayer, this thy desire, that thou be stripped of all selfishness, and with entire simplicity follow Jesus only.”

1 James KA Smith and his remarkable cultural exegesis
2 A kindled heart and other preaching counsel from Kevin De Young
Leading for the love of Jesus, and regularly checking motivation!
4 Marriage and being that ‘right person’? 
5 Searing social media challenges and when to walk away

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five…..returning?!

Yep a stupid amount of delay….
“Ministry to broken people is messy. And there’s no more beautiful ministry to be involved in! In fact, we leaders, we teachers, we pastors need it way more than we’re willing to admit. It’s the best way to extend the ministry of Jesus through the church as we “bind up the brokenhearted.” Brandon Cox
1 A big five theological influences?
2 Healthy emotional engagement matters
3 Learning leadership from Leicester City FC
4 Bono and Eugene Peterson talking the Psalms!
5 Disciple making culture….and progress?

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the door

I was reminded of this poem leading our recent Evangelism and Witness consultation, some abbreviated words by Sam Shoemaker – The Door

“I stand by the door.
I neither go to far in, nor stay to far out.
The door is the most important door in the world –
It is the door through which men walk when they find God.
There is no use my going way inside and staying there,
When so many are still outside and they, as much as I,
Crave to know where the door is.
And all that so many ever find
Is only the wall where the door ought to be.
They creep along the wall like blind men,
With outstretched, groping hands,
Feeling for a door, knowing there must be a door,
Yet they never find it.
So I stand by the door.

The most tremendous thing in the world
Is for men to find that door – the door to God.
The most important thing that any man can do
Is to take hold of one of those blind, groping hands
And put it on the latch – the latch that only clicks
And opens to the man’s own touch.

Men die outside the door, as starving beggars die
On cold nights in cruel cities in the dead of winter.
Die for want of what is within their grasp.
They live on the other side of it – live because they have not found it.

Nothing else matters compared to helping them find it,
And open it, and walk in, and find Him.
So I stand by the door.

Go in great saints; go all the way in –
Go way down into the cavernous cellars,
And way up into the spacious attics.
It is a vast, roomy house, this house where God is.
Go into the deepest of hidden casements,
Of withdrawal, of silence, of sainthood.
Some must inhabit those inner rooms
And know the depths and heights of God,
And call outside to the rest of us how wonderful it is.
Sometimes I take a deeper look in.
Sometimes venture in a little farther,
But my place seems closer to the opening.
So I stand by the door…….

Where? Outside the door –
Thousands of them. Millions of them.
But – more important for me –
One of them, two of them, ten of them.
Whose hands I am intended to put on the latch.
So I shall stand by the door and wait
For those who seek it.

‘I had rather be a door-keeper
So I stand by the door.”

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suffering…

In all of our joys Christ is better and in all of our sufferings Christ is enough! or as Tim Keller would say, “there’s not shelter apart from God. We must continue to trust in Him because all other ‘shelters’ will prove to be places of greater danger. There is no other place to go. He has the words of eternal life.”  And so in our preaching we’ve felt we should look straight there….

For even in the face of suffering and struggle…. for it’s where we can grow most in our confidence about Christ, about the long arc of God’s story and how we increase trust for the inbetween. I found more and new things in Romans 5. I believe in declaring, and living that “Christ will win out in me more than my circumstances.” So here’s my approximate transcript  and the audio files’ here.

 

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saturate

Being disciples of Jesus in the everyday stuff of life is the call to all healthy followers of Jesus. Regrettably, many Christians have unwittingly embraced the practice of church as a once-a-week event rather than a community of Holy-Spirit-empowered people; that ‘ministry’ is done by some on Sunday, rather than the 24/7 calling of all believers; and that “discipleship” is a program rather than the normal state of every follower of Jesus. God has called his people to something bigger: a view of the Christian life that encompasses the ordinary, the extraordinary, and everything in between. Here are some of my favourite takeaways from this very fresh book from Jeff Vanderstelt;-

Before Jesus did formal ministry, he spent thirty years of his life doing normal, mundane, unremarkable stuff. He lived a regular life for the glory of God.
I’ve found one of the main reasons many people do not get involved with the work of God in this world is because they don’t believe God wants to or can use them. They don’t know that Jesus prefers normal, weak, and broken people.
God the Father, the Creator of the universe, receives and accepts you in Christ Jesus. If you believe this, you can rest. You are loved. You are accepted. You are already significant.
God’s Spirit calls us out of hiding reminding us that in Jesus there is no more guilt, no more shame, and no need to cover up.
The thing that matters most cannot be taken away from us, and nothing can happen to us to prevent us from inheriting it.
Our job is not to change people. That’s God’s job. Our job is to love people so they come to know the Father’s love through us.
If we believe Jesus is the Saviour of our future—we can rest secure in him in the middle of this broken world where we live.
God always intended that every part of life be a participation in His activity and a celebration of His goodness.
If we are servants of Jesus, we are in the place where he has put us in order to serve others like he served us.
Jesus didn’t call us to merely make a decision for him. He doesn’t need our vote of approval. He doesn’t want deciders. He wants disciples—people who are devoted to becoming more and more like him in everything, everyday.
If we are to be disciples of Jesus who are being reformed and restored to become more like him, we need to have people in our lives, up close and personal.
Genuine repentance and faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ always lead to a change of behaviour.
We have the Spirit of God in us so that we might be empowered, just as Jesus was.
We taught Christians to see themselves as the church in our city, instead of seeing church as only an event they attend on Sunday. They learned how to see all of life as sacred and every action as part of God’s missionary work in the world. They began to see that he was in them, working through them in the normal stuff of life.
It’s amazing how often Christians want to experience the presence and power of God apart from the mission of God.
This is what Jesus does. He takes empty religion and ritual, and brings it to life every day for everyday people.

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five recent bests

“For those who feel their lives are a grave disappointment to God, it requires enormous trust and reckless, raging confidence to accept that the love of Jesus Christ knows no shadow of alteration or change. When Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who labour and are heavy burdened,” He assumed we would grow weary, discouraged, and disheartened along the way. These words are a touching testimony to the genuine humanness of Jesus. He had no romantic notion of the cost of discipleship. He knew that following Him was as unsentimental as duty, as demanding as love.” Brennan Manning
1 Harsh truths that’ll make searing sense!
2 Guinness and the missional plan?!
3 Mike Breen’s typical insight:- calling and context
4 Characteristics of being a high-achiever
Growing like Anna

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favourites…

at year end. Here’s some things that I’ve gathered quickly from the memories of the past months. Some of my favourite from 2015!
books
1 The good and beautiful community, by James Bryan Smith
2 Visions of vocation, by Steven Garber
3 Yawing at Tigers, by Drew Dyck
4 Creating a missional culture, by JR Woodward
5 Giving blood, by Leonard Sweet

discoveries
1 Swiss mountain-views with Julie, Northumbrian wide open spaces and Cornish coastlines were thrilling
2 Summer-sunshine water-play and pure silliness with Noah & Esther, sans wifi!
3 Culling a serious excess of stuff – was both helpful and healthy!
4 the ongoing preciousness of new and deepening relationships
5 the delight of being-spent daily for Christ and His cause. Easily the best!

viewing
1 Capital
2 River
3 Luther but more episodes please!
4 Suffragette
5 Humans
And yes this is miserable proof I’ve watched little!

And more randomly….
1 Griddled beef from Keevil & Keevil, with red wine & good people around the table.
2 “So let my deeds outrun my words, and let my life outweigh my songs” Matt Redmans new song 
3 Adele’s brilliant song even with it’s narrative hopelessness! Haunting stuff!
4 My new armchair:- because refurbished possibilities are always better than new, right?
5 Oh and moderate amounts of Terry’s chocolate orange!

And yes it was far too full in some ways…..but ever so glorious. And Noah, Esther and I didn’t get the Christmas tree lights tangled at all!

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seasonal inspiration

“Give up for a while your false and failing attempts at merriment, and thank God for thin places, and for Advent, for a season that understands longing and loneliness and long nights. Let yourself fall open to Advent, to anticipation, to the belief that what is empty will be filled, what is broken will be repaired, and what is lost can always be found, no matter how many times it’s been lost.” Shauna Niequist
“Christmas is built upon a beautiful and intentional paradox; that the birth of the homeless should be celebrated in every home.” G.K. Chesterton
“Of course there is a Santa Claus. It’s just that no single somebody could do all he has to do. So the Lord has spread the task among us all. That’s why everybody is Santa Claus. I am. You are. “ Truman Capote
“Christmas is a tonic for our souls. It moves us to think of others rather than of ourselves. It directs our thoughts to giving.” B. C. Forbes
“For many, Christmas is also a time for coming together. But for others, service will come first.” Queen Elizabeth II
” Christ always seeks the straw of the most desolate cribs to make his Bethlehem.” Thomas Merton
” Christmas is God lighting a candle; and you don’t light a candle in a room that’s already full of sunlight. You light a candle in a room that’s so murky that the candle, when lit, reveals just how bad things really are.” N.T. Wright
“Let him into the mire and muck of our world. For only if we let him in can he pull us out.” Max Lucado
“As I read the birth stories about Jesus I cannot help but conclude that though the world may be tilted toward the rich and powerful, God is tilted toward the underdog.” Philip Yancey
“God is in the manger, wealth in poverty, light in darkness, succour in abandonment.” Bonhoeffer
“Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.” Calvin Coolidge
“It’s Christmas, and no matter what historical usage you choose to assign to “mass,” be it mission or Lord’s Supper, Christ’s Mass refers to why he came, not that he came. Christ’s mission was to be a sacrifice.” William Branks

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advent

I’ve seriously loved the journey towards Christmas this year more than most. I’ve discovered in a new deeper and fuller way. Having to preach our Advent Carol Service and then having designed our Resource Night to lean into this, means I *really looked up close. People have agitated me to post my best take-aways from my thinking about this, this year……So here goes!
My advent manifesto is best captured as, ‘ready, steady,…..wait!’
Each year, during the season of Advent, the church sets off on a journey. We begin to prepare our hearts and minds for the coming of the Christ-child, so that this time he will have a proper place to be born.
Are we preparing our hearts and spirits to receive again the coming of the Christ child into the world? Or are we preparing for yet another month-long shopping spree that some have called “economic first-degree murder.” If we allow ourselves to get caught up in the consumer Christmas – I firmly believe that we can easily find that instead of preparing to sing “O Holy Night” we will find ourselves living out one unholy nightmare.
Advent is worth lingering over – for Advent invites us to fill the cup of today with a full measure of tomorrow.
The Bible reveals that the Advent of God is much more about surprise than predictability, more about revelation than decoration. But the message of Advent is not “Put up the decorations! Here I come!” but slowly “Watch and wait!
Christmas will come whether we get ready for it or not. Christ will come whether we’re ready or not. Ready-or-not, here comes King Jesus!
Advent is a season of preparation for the coming of Christ…but it’s a case of ready – steady – wait!
What’s hard to take about prophets is what they say about the PRESENT. And what they say about the present is almost always, “You’ve got it wrong! You’d better repent!”
Priestly life seeks to uphold the status quo. “God’s in His Heaven, all’s right with the world. Prophetic faith invites repentance and change. Priestly religion comforts the afflicted. Prophetic faith afflicts the comfortable.
Advent is the time to renew our connection with the only One who can truly comfort us.
Light and movement is what God wants for us his people… Not shadows or darkness… frustration or stuckness. Light and movement is what God wants for His people.
Matthew describes the gift of the season of Advent with a single word, my personal favourite of all the “Christmas words” – Emmanuel, God with us. Not God HAS BEEN with us; not God WILL BE with us; but God WITH us, right now! Proximity, nearness and NOW!
God invites us to live in the present in expectation and awareness of the fact that eternal realities can and do break in at any moment.
Are we passively waiting, or are we “walking in the light of the Lord” while we actively await his coming?
Advent challenges us to hear and believe the promise of Emmanuel, God with us. Here, now – and for you… Not shadows or fear. That challenge doesn’t call us to be so heavenly-minded that we’re no earthly good, to become so starry-eyed over the future that we overlook the present.
Advent reminds us that God often breaks in to our lives unexpectedly. We cannot know the time or the day of our next encounter with the holy. Neither can we predict whether that meeting will be a joyful experience of forgiveness and peace, a call to repentance and responsibility. I will wait well this Advent.
Advent is crazed with contradictions. There’s holiness and depth if we linger a while.
The First Advent is the coming of Christ to earth (incarnation). The Second Advent is the birth of Christ in each one of us on earth (conversion). The Third Advent is the final return of Christ to earth (consummation). As we await the First Advent, we should not be counting out minutes, hours, or days. Rather we should be feeling a ground-swell of kairos expectation. Remember, Advent is revelation more than decoration…
Christians who “clothe” themselves in Christ are “armoured” for the battles of the Second Advent. Living in the overlap, the “in-between times” of the new age between “now” and “not yet,” there are real and true powers of darkness that walk among us. This is Kingdom tension. So how does Advent suggest that we prepare?
1. Repentance — forsake the sins of the world for a godly way of life. 2. Prayer — pray for the coming of Christ, for he shall save. 3. Patience — his coming may be delayed. Watch and wait, for his coming may be sudden.
In the midst of Advent, our season of great traditions, we receive this announcement of newness. Everything is going to need to change. The arrival of this baby changes everything. The incarnation changes everything…. Jesus changes everything.
Advent prepares us to receive the gift of actual “matter” that matters. Christmas is at its essence a “material” celebration. We can never again be matter-of-fact about matter.
The miracle of incarnation is that everything — heaven and earth, and all that live in heaven and earth will be “renewed,” that is, recreated and reborn.
Jesus’ arrival brings together matter and spirit, physicality and spirituality, and melds into one human vulnerability and divine victory.
Christian spirituality is always as much about dealing with each other as it is about dealing with God.
The gravity that pulls you down is no match for the grace that lifts you up.

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