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Showing posts from 2015

Draw me after you and let us run together

At this time of year in church life there are not many quiet moments. At the end of a busy term, Christmas, and all the events and activities associated with it, looms large on the horizon.Add to that tiredness, late nights, too many people, and the need of a break - It doesn't feel always like there is so much peace and goodwill around!
Coming into my office this morning, aware of a long list and a longer day ahead, I grabbed an old paperback from the shelf which I haven't touched for 20 years. It literally fell open on a page which stopped me in my tracks, and pulled me up short from my unthinking tendency to busyness without intimacy. Ever been confronted by a text which shows you up in this way so readily? Well, here it is. The book, Mike Bickle's Passion for Jesus. The quote, as follows:
Song of Solomon 1.4 "After the maiden in the Song of Solomon awakens to fervency, she prays a twofold prayer. 'Draw me after you and let us run together.' The order of th…

Bonfires, Mary and the English martyrs!

Fifty years before Fawkes, England was already lit up by bonfires. During the last 4 years of Queen Mary’s reign 288 people were burned at the stake for their biblical faith, including women and some children. Countless others died in prison. Foxe writes with his usual gusto, ‘the faggots never ceased to blaze whilst Mary was alive.’ 
41 perished in the flames from Sussex, including 17 from Lewes alone – Much of the strong bonfire tradition and feeling in these parts goes back here rather than to 1605 and the Gunpowder Plot. 

Bloody Mary of course gets the blame. Her zeal in persecuting the new breed of English Protestants now famous. She perhaps deserves our sympathy though- As the disowned daughter of her monster father, Henry VIII, she grew up in terrible fear and conflict. Mary watched the outrageous treatment of her mother and found her own estrangement from the man who should have protected her the most, her father and her King. No wonder the poor girl had issues! Her suppressed r…

The fabulous 59 - Climate control for ever changing lives.

'One anothering' is one of those church phrases that the rest of the world rarely registers. However, the fifty nine one another references in the New Testament are all so active and powerful that it's time we gave them a bit of profile and started living them out. As I make some space to study and think about the kind of culture we want to live in, these verses could form the very heart of our lives together.

Eat, sleep, read, repeat as the song goes (almost!) In our lives, churches, homes, workplaces, we seem to be in perpetual transition. In such a climate, our key relationships with one another are what matter most, what demonstrate most readily who we are as disciples, and yet they are the arena where we come under most pressure.
So here is our prescription -  Copy and print. Stick them around the house, meditate on them in the mornings. We will mature as we align with this truth, as we let them become the default setting, the climate control for this season of life tog…

The amazing 2 week legacy of John Livingstone Nevius.

I've just returned from a wonderful two week holiday in a far flung place, but if you write to the locals next week they would not remember me. There is no trace of me having been amongst them, no legacy from my impact, any tracks left in the sand long since washed away.
John Livingstone Nevius spent only two weeks in Korea in 1890, yet the simple advice he gave to missionary leaders on that visit continues to shape the ongoing growth of the Korean church to this day!

Travelling into Korea from his base in China, Nevius was at odds with the normal, colonial missionary approach. He understood that both the gospel and church plants failed to penetrate national culture when they remained in the hands of western missionary leadership. Nevius believed that local leaders could and should be trained. Leaders who could establish their own churches and reach their own people far more effectively.

Thankfully the Korean missionary group who heard Nevius in 1890 were open to his remarks. He left…

Founder's Day - Reflections on 150 years of the Salvation Army.

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As a young boy growing up in the Salvation Army, it seemed as though every home I would go to had a dark and terrifying print of William Booth, usually on the stairs. It was worse at night, the beaked nose, the stern face, the full white beard - all left a young Junior Soldier like me in awe of The Founder!


As an adult, I'm no longer scared of William Booth, but I remain in awe of his life, the ferocious pace, the crystal clear vision which first impacted the East End of London, then quickly spread around the world.

150 years ago today, Booth began preaching in the filthy poor streets of the East End, true Dickensian England at it's worst. His motto from the start, 'Go for souls and go for the worst!' Night after night in those early days he would return home after midnight, bruised, bleeding, his clothes sometimes torn after being assaulted. It was only after the conversion of former prize fighter Peter Monk that Booth had a bodyguard to stand with him in the more intim…

A little encouragement for runners everywhere!

I’ve recently read a great little book called, ‘Running with the Kenyans’, By Adharanand Finn. At a time when my training has suddenly got a little more serious, his personal story of transformation through running has made all the effort seem inspirational, almost spiritual. There are some great quotes from his book here which runners everywhere will find themselves identifying with. Enjoy, then get your trainers out!

‘Every day in Africa a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows that it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle. When the sun comes up, you better be running.’ Abe Gubegna, Ethiopian author.

‘No race begins at the start line.’ Haile Gebreselassie

‘If you want to win something, run 100m. If you want to experience something, run a marathon.’ Emil Zatopek

‘When the missionaries arrived, the Africans had the land and …

Genova street scenes

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We happy few....

Warm beer, cricket, stoolball, morris dancing, conkers, maypoles, poll tax, queueing, Brighton rock, Stonehenge, stony beaches,the Rolling Stones, the rolling south downs, Ugborough Beacon, Hadrians Wall, 'all in all we're just another brick in the wall', northern bluntness, Cheddar Cheese, Kendal Mint cake, Eccles Cake, Victoria Sponge, Queen Victoria.

Tea with the Vicar, Harrods, the corner shop, red telephone boxes, 007, Harry Potter, Del Boy Trotter, Whit Friday bands, the Beatles, Benny Hill, the Old Bill, the Robin Reliant, the Mini, the mini skirt, Notting Hill, Robin Hood, Yorkshire Dales, the Daily Mail, Diana Queen of our hearts.

Ed, Dave, Nick, Nigel, UKIP, you what, you want fries with that? Nicola Sturgeon? We've got Charles Spurgeon. First past the post, in off the post, lost in the post.

Sunday roast, marmite on toast, open fires, Spitfires, 1066, 1666, 1966, Pooh Sticks, Albert Hall, the dome of St Paul. 'We'll fight them on the beaches', an…

Don't miss Maundy mysteries!

If you are somewhere in the world which follows the Western church calendar, then today is Maundy Thursday! Maundy : The day before the much more celebrated Good Friday, the last day of the working week, the day we can't wait to get through in order to finally reach the holiday weekend!

Traditionally, Maundy celebrated the last Supper that Jesus enjoyed with his disciples. In some circles it carries other names, my favourite, 'Thursday of Mysteries. 'It sounds like a day spent watching back to back Scooby Doo cartoons!
The word Maundy, an evolved Anglicisation of the old French 'mande' - command. 'A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another as I have loved you' John 13.34

Saying these words, Jesus, the leader and champion, took a towel and began to wash the feet of his friends and his betrayer. What a shocking and uncomfortable way to demonstrate your love as service. Bending, humbling, assuming the position and role of a servant. A lowly serva…

Bridging the religious gap with a trail of Jif lemon and batter mix.

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 pre Chr…

Jesus stories and the British Library....

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I love study days in the British Library! Over 170 million items are stored there from all over the world.Each year, every book published in the UK is added to the library, meaning that they grow their collection by three million books per annum, requiring a staggering six miles of extra shelf space - now that is the kind of library I would like to make room for!

Sitting within the main atrium, dwarfed by the towering central shelving unit which rises up the middle of the building like a glass covered skyscraper, I was reminded of the words at the end of John's gospel.'Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.' John 21.25
Is this just a bit of apostolic hyperbole at the end of an action packed gospel account? I don't think so, and even on this scale, the greatest collection of published works in the British nation can't keep up with the work…

'I grow and I rejoice'. An essay in support of London Gatwick airport expansion

Cities once grew by rivers. Then at the intersection of roads with the Romans. The biggest cities of the last 150 years grew most rapidly when linked with major rail routes. The 21st century city will prosper around the airport. Thats how people, goods and business move these days.
It's not even about nations anymore. City hubs are all important, global south mega cities are close already to dwarfing European nation states.

Global demand and the need for major hub airports.
Put simply, cities which invest in airport growth will see population, jobs, and prosperity grow.
Cities that don't invest are doomed. It's not just that the additional jobs will go elsewhere instead. Ultimately, the existing ones will too.
The reasoning is stark. If we don't invest in a major hub airport, a nearby European neighbour will, and the long term flow of business will get rerouted.
In this world economy, the demand for rapid movement of goods, services and people, airlines will look for and …

Counter culture worship for the selfie stick generation

Against the fast flowing current of our lives and culture, the act of worshipping God is like a river trying to work it's way uphill.
In the week in which I heard the latest phenomenon of 'selfie sticks' (the aid to ensuring your face appears constantly in the centre of your own universe) being renamed 'narcissi-stics', the idea of worshipping another outside of ourselves is a brave new concept.

Worship invites us to leave the safe handholds and hiding places of our own comfort and sufficiency - to step into the one whom we instantly recognise as greater and infinitely more absorbing than self.

David's Psalm 27 rightly orientates us this way. Lifting our heads as we declare our desire to 'gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and seek him in his temple.' The narcissist sings different lyrics to the same tune,' to gaze upon the beauty of myself, to find myself in my own temple!'

From this folly of self pursuit we are utterly rescued by the God who draw…

Prayer heroes habits 3.

We are in the middle of 24 hours of continuous prayer to conclude our week of prayer and fasting in the local church. With the crowd which gathered during our Friday evening session, we shared some of these inspirational stories which serve well to complete this short series of the habits of prayer heroes.

In Ulster it all started with four new young converts - James McQuilkin, Jeremiah Meneely, Robert Carlisle and John Wallace. They agreed to meet weekly on a Friday night to pray through the long winter of 1857-1858 in the Old Schoolhouse near Kells.

They took armfuls of peat for the fire in with them and in Paisley's words 'The peats made a fire in the schoolhouse grate and warmed their bodies from the winter chill, but their prayers brought down unquenchable fire from heaven which set all Ulster ablaze for God, and warmed with saving rays at least 100,000.'

Jeremiah Meneely described their meetings as follows: 'The prayer meeting was started in the autumn of 1857 an…

Prayer heroes habits 2.

Continuing this Prayer week study of the prayer habits of heroes of the faith:
David Brainerd, who died whilst a missionary to the Sasquehanna Native Americans in October 1747, did his greatest work by prayer, often alone in the depths of the forests, unable to speak the language of the Native Americans and so spending literally days in fighting prayer.

Brainerd knew that if he wanted to reach the Sasquehanna, he must find someone who could at least vaguely interpret his thoughts. Understanding this, he set aside whole days praying, asking the Holy Spirit to come upon him so powerfully that these people would be moved by his message.

Dr A J Gordon in his biography of Brainerd wrote the following:
'Once he preached through a drunken interpreter, a man so intoxicated that he could hardly stand up. Yet scores were converted through that sermon. We can account for it only that it was the tremendous power of God behind him.'

Brainerd would not have seen himself as a superhero of pray…

Prayer heroes habits 1.

What better time than a week of prayer in the local church to reflect on the prayer habits of some heroes of the faith.

Martin Luther is known for this quote:'If I fail to spend two hours in prayer each morning, the devil gets the victory through the day. I have so much business I cannot get on without spending three hours daily in prayer.' 
The content of this daily discipline led Luther through the Lord's Prayer, the 10 commandments and the creeds. Praying morning and evening. Using them as a launch pad to pray for his own heart and for the world around him.

In England soon after, Cranmer's prayer book became established- giving believers prayers every day and teaching from the scriptures. Taking them through the seasons of the year in the hope that this mix of scripture and prayer would create a rhythm of growing maturity in the infant English church.

John Welch, 1568-1622  the wonderful Scottish preacher thought the day ill spent if he did not spend eight or ten ho…