Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Transformation from the inside

Take some time to think about this:

We often want to force change on a culture when we see it does not align with Scripture.  Forcing change from the outside is like kicking down a brick wall – it is possible, but it is going to take a long time and it will hurt.  Instead of forcing external change, we need to plant the Gospel within a culture, disciple people to obey what it teaches, and enjoy watching God transform that culture from the inside out.  Although the process of discipling this way takes time and is not easy, the transformation is deeper and more lasting.

You can find a video along with this quote here.

How can you plant the gospel in your cultural setting so that it can bear the fruit of transformation from the inside out?

The Upside Down Kingdom

We, as in Anne,  Ally and myself, had a really good evening at the Oasis Centre last night listening to Shane Claiborne on the upside down kingdom. There's one London date left on the tour in Bromley tonight and there are a few tickets left. visit Bromley Baptist Church's website for details.

Much of what Shane had to say is in his book The Irresistible Revolution, but it was good to hear him speak and to reflect again on how we step towards living in this upside down kingdom where the first become last and the marginalised are welcomed. Not everyone in response to the call of Jesus will move into an inner city area, form a community and challenge the status quo. But everyone can, and everyone should be thinking about what being kingdom Christians means where they find themselves.

We live in a very middle class place, among very middle class people. So what does the upside down kingdom look like here? Answers on a postcard please. Maybe it's time to consider starting a movement of Suburban Expression!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Psalm 103

I reached Psalm 103 in my slow passage through the book. I remember learning several verses from this psalm many years ago. Perhaps I should have learnt more! Anyway, here are a selection of my favourites:

1 Praise the LORD, my soul;
   all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
2 Praise the LORD, my soul,
   and forget not all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your sins
   and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit
   and crowns you with love and compassion,
5 who satisfies your desires with good things
   so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
   or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
   so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
   so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
 13 As a father has compassion on his children,
   so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;

17 But from everlasting to everlasting
   the LORD’s love is with those who fear him,
   and his righteousness with their children’s children

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Up in the air

No, this isn't about unknown futures or playing volleyball. Yesterday I went for a flight in a light aircraft. I saw the local area from 2,000 feet from a small two-seated cockpit. It was quite an experience!

There were moments of pure wonder as we left the ground and as we circled around. There were also moments of near panic as we made what seemed to me to be very steep turns! At one point we dropped about 500 feet very quickly. It took me by surprise.

So okay, there were moments when I wanted to say can I get out one please, but it was good. I don't think I'll be doing it again. I prefer something a bit bigger and with a little more legroom (although some passenger jets are not great for someone of my height).

The world certainly looks different from two and half thousand feet. there were things I never knew existed because from ground level you just can't see them. Makes you realise that if it's true about geography, it might just be true about life. Perhaps there are things we can't see unless we look from a more heavenly perspective. But I didn't really have to get philosophical, I was concentrating more on not looking straight down!

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Whom do I serve?

An extract from an interview with Richard Foster, author of Freedom of Simplicity, Celebration of Discipline, streams of Living Waters.

Dallas Willard once told you, "You need to decide if you are the minister of the people or a minister of Christ." What's the difference?

Dallas knew that I was being pulled in all kinds of directions because of people's expectations for a pastor. If I'm a minister of the people, then I'm controlled by what the people think and feel. If I'm the minister of Christ, then he is the one who calls the shots, and then I serve the people. Be a minister of Christ, then your work among the people finds its proper place.

Can it really be that simple?

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Friday, August 12, 2011


Before we condemn outright those involved in the recent outbreaks of violence and criminal damage in our cities, perhaps we should spend some time listening to those who know the communities and who understand what marginalisation and hopelessness does to a people.

Perhaps too, those middle-class and middle-aged Christians and non-Christians who advocate National Service as a solution should remember that our elders thought the same about us.

Justice, yes, but what about education, opportunity and hope. Who is going to to provide that?

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The Great Commandment

I was preaching this last Sunday on "The Great Commandment" from Luke's Gospel. Jesus is approached by an expert in the law who asks about the greatest commandment. Funny how religious people can be preoccupied with what the most important rule might be.

By way of an answer we hear words that would have been very familiar to the religious community of the day. Put simply: Love God wholeheartedly and love others in the way you want to be loved. this precipitates a further question about neighbours and the parable about a good Samaritan.

What intrigues me about this discussion between our expert in the law and Jesus, the fulfilment of that very same law, is that he never asks Jesus about how to love God. He has no question about how to love God wholeheartedly.

He has no questions about what to do with the philosophical questions that he faces or the temptations he conjures up in his imagination and what that has to do with loving God with all your mind. He seems unconcerned about how you keep loving God even when you reach the end of your physical, emotional and spiritual capacity to do os. When you’ve used up all your strength.

None of this worried him. He’s just bothered about who his neighbour might be.

Is that you? Is it me?

Are you so concerned to make sure that you limit the measure of your grace towards others so that it is manageable but still honouring of God that you’ve forgotten that the primary commandment is to abandon yourself into God’s hands?

Surely there is a missing the question that this expert ought to be asking: How do I love God that fully?

Paul gives a clue about how he saw it working out in the lives of Christ-followers:

#1 Root your faith

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. (Col. 2:6-7)

#2 Focus your heart in the right place

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. (Col. 3:1-2)

#3 Serve God in everything

Whatever you do, do it wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord (Col. 3:23)

What are your missing questions? Are you more concerned with making your faith manageable? More concerned about fitting Jesus into your life than building your life around him?

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Monday, August 08, 2011

The Great Commandment

We began our summer series with a look at the great commandment in the story of the expert in the law and the parable of the good Samaritan. It's interesting isn't it that just like the rich young ruler, the expert in the law is preoccupied with a sense of personal justification that obedience to the law doesn't appear to be giving them. They both as the same question: What must I do to inherit eternal life?

Note the emphasis on self and on doing. But the gospel is not about what we do for God, it's all about what he has already done for us. Without the cross, the commands are just rules that lead to self-rightous moralising if we are not careful. 

But there's a twist in the story in the form of the missing questions. This expert never asks about loving God. Surely that's the big question. How do I love God with all my heart, soul, strength and mind? 

I wondered yesterday if we too focus out attention on the limit of our grace towards others in order to avoid  asking the difficult questions about our life with God.

Summer series

We began a short summer series looking at four great themes through Luke's gospel. Interestingly we started withe great commandment from the Good Samaritan story, which happens to contain great compassion, great commission and great commitment too!

The artwork was the easiest thing I could think of doing!

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Monday, August 01, 2011

End of the year!

Having faithfully carried my pedometer since August 1st 2010, I've completed a whole year of recording my steps. The bare statistics paint one picture, but the whole is more than the sum of the parts. July saw the greatest number of steps taken in a single month since I started to keep a record (422766) compared the previous highest which turns out to be June! So the last two months were the most successful if you count success in terms of steps taken.

But what if you count days when more than 10k steps were taken (the daily target)? Well, that would make May the best because I didn't miss a day and I took the most steps in a month when I didn't miss a day.

The value of the pedometer is not just in the simple accumulation of steps, but also in the motivation to monitor activity. It's so easy to sit at the desk for a day and do nothing. The numbers, for me at least, got me out of the house and into my trainers.

So, for the last time in the past 12 months, here are the facts:

From August 1st I've walked a total of 4,565,972 steps, which is about 2283 miles at an average of 6.25 miles per day.

The pedometer will stay in the pocket as a reminder to get out and walk, but I think I might just stop keeping a long term record although I might set myself a new target, I'm not sure. I'm still wondering if I could hit 500, 000 steps in a single month. Given that August has 31 days, it might not be a bad month to try!