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Summer reading

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This long hot summer, don’t forget to invest in some reading time, whether for study or just plain old escapism. I’ve got a large pile of books and kindle titles to work through this July and August, but here are four of the best so far this month.
12 Faithful Men - Portraits of courageous endurance in pastoral ministry. Colin Hanson and Jeff Robinson Using stories from the lives of 12 men through church history who have remained faithful to their call in spite of severe pressures, this helpful book acts a reset for our disposable, throw away culture. Indeed, it reminds us that rather than be surprised when the heat is on, that we should expect hardship, pressure, pruning, and even more so in christian leadership. It was both an easy read and a difficult one, where I found the need to stop, think, pray as I faced my reflection in the lives of these pioneers. Honestly, this book is worth it just for the short foreward from Ray Ortlund - that part of a book you normally skip, but which …

World Cup Prayers

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The World Cup starts this Thursday with all the usual hype, and now, inevitably politics, with the host nation Russia. Football giants Italy and Holland are sadly absent, and perhaps it’s for the best, in order to avoid a Cold War side show, that the Americans also failed to make the cut this time.  The World Cup Prayer guide is NOT about praying for the football! I gave up on that years ago as my team struggled in the lower reaches of the English football league, Heaven apparently deaf to my cries for mercy. To add insult to injury, the team dominating football at the time were nicknamed the Red Devils!  No, enjoy the football, win, lose or draw.  World Cup Prayers will help us to pray daily for countries featured in the fixture schedule. Psalm 2 invites us to make bold requests for the nations to our God who sits enthroned above them, 'Ask of Me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.’ So each day through the tournament, I will tweet s…

Rob Matthews and dependency upon the 'one who comes alongside.'

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Rob Matthews, a blind runner who broke 22 world records and won eight gold medals for Team GB at the Paralympic Games, died on April 11th in Auckland, aged just 56.

This naturally gifted and courageous man became the unwitting subject of a teaching illustration with the local church last Sunday as we reminded ourselves of our dependency upon the Holy Spirit.
Like other runners with visual impairment, Matthews ran with a guide runner, tied by a short rope which is looped around their fingers. A blind runner needs to work and work at becoming synchronised with his guide in order that they might navigate the course confidently, and at top speed.


Matthews has been quoted in the past with regard to his running guides, 'I'm trusting this guy with my life!'

One of his guides, Matt Lawton, was reported in the press last week with this insight; 'Most of Rob's guide runners become lifelong friends, but the guy who ran him into the lamp post on their first outing together didn…

Discipleship questions for a new year

I've been preparing some questions for students at our training Academy to reflect upon at the start of 2018. In doing so, I've realised that these questions are perhaps ones which could be wisely considered by any disciple in any context, not just those embarking upon deliberate training.

So, here are the questions. Maybe you want to add one or two of your own? Happy new year!


1/ What is my Bible reading plan for 2018?  More than just an intentional plan, how will I meet with Jesus through his word and worship him on a daily basis? 2/ What specific step will I take in the new year to love my family and friends better?  What intentional plans can I make which invest in my key relationships and prevent them from drifting 3/ Which non-believer(s) will I focus my prayers and evangelistic efforts in 2018? Who are they? What does it look like in private prayer, and in friendship with them. 4/ In whom will I invest my life as a disciplemaker this next year? Are there some you need to get…

Musings on marriage: Mars, Venus, dogs and balloon flights!

Charles Darwin was considering marriage to his cousin Emma Wedgewood, and wrote some brilliant thoughts on the subject. Writing out of his scientific personality, Darwin drafted this rather cold sounding logic as an argument for marriage. Ladies, don't expect to swoon over the next few lines with romance heaving in your bosom!

Against the idea of marriage Darwin noted, "the expense and anxiety of children" and the fact that a married man could never "go up in a balloon". An odd one perhaps, but maybe just his way of expressing that marriage will tie him down and limit his risk taking (in his view!)

More positively, in favour of marriage, he spoke of acquiring a "constant companion and friend in old age". The clincher that settled the argument was that a wife would be "better than a dog, anyhow."

Remarkably, (and leaving aside the thought of marrying your cousin!) Mr and Mrs Darwin continued on to have a strong and happy marriage. On his deathbe…

Pancake day and the cultural trail to Easter.

Happy Jif Lemon Day - the official start of the Creme Egg Season! That climactic weekend of gorging ourselves stupid on our own body weight in chocolate, is now only 40 days away - Let the the countdown begin!

Nobody really understands Pancake Day anymore, apart from a few of our more religious friends who also happen to go to church the following day to have ash crosses painted on their foreheads. There is a huge disconnect today between our ancient festivals which used to mark the pattern of the year and our modern mindset.

Most of them we have happily buried in the past, (I include the idea of having an ash cross daubed on my head) but some we have kept. Pancake Day, or Shrove Tuesday to the real aficionados, incredibly made the cut. When you consider that we have quietly disposed of maypoles, harvest and most of the real meaning of Advent in our urban culture, it is amazing, downright extraordinary that millions will batter pancakes into submission around Britain tonight!

The recent …

Strangled for Scripture : A tribute to William Tyndale

480 years ago today, one of the greatest Englishmen to have ever lived was first strangled, then burned at the stake in Flanders.
William Tyndale's terrible crime was to have translated the New Testament, and large parts of the old into the English language. His mission, simply for ordinary Englishmen to be able to hear the scriptures in their own tongue, and therefore understand the gospel for themselves.

Tyndale's big idea was a terrible threat to the Catholic monopoly, their need for control meaning that most of the population never understood a word that was being said by Priests. More significantly than just understanding the words spoken, the gospel itself was shrouded in medieval mystery and superstition.

That psychotic monster Henry VIII was the worst player in all of this. Remembered wrongly for his reforming zeal, Henry's earlier years were defined by a robust defence of the Pope and violence against reformers. The royal title,'Defender of the faith' which r…