Monday, November 19, 2012

mind the gap

There is a gap between our love for the gospel and our love for godliness. This must change. It's not pietism, legalism, or fundamentalism to take holiness seriously. It's the way of all those who have been called to a holy calling by a holy God.
Kevin DeYoung, The Hole in our Holiness, p.21

Saturday, October 06, 2012

the sermon of a man who stayed up all night praying

Preparing to speak on Jesus' 'sermon on the plain' in Luke 6. It's hardly a model to follow by today's standards of what makes for an effective sermon - no neat illustrations, no clever introduction and no technology to help the wandering mind. But it had this (and this is what challenges me most): "It is a sermon of a man who has stayed up all night praying." (Michael Card)

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Did Paul have a mission strategy?

The point of this post–and Schnabel’s point–is not to overstate Paul’s strategy. For the most part he didn’t have one. He went where people were, where people needed to hear the gospel, and where he had opportunity to share the gospel. That led him to cities, but also smaller towns and villages too.

Kevin De Young (citing the work of Eckhard Schnabel)

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

How will you help those who follow?

There is always a sense in which every minister must finish his life's work in the same position as Moses: on top of Mount Pisgah, overlooking the promised land but not having entered it. I don't mean to suggest that ministers conclude their lives outside God's Kingdom (that would be somewhat discouraging) but rather that our ministries will mostly conclude before Jesus' return in glory and, hence, before the fullness of God's kingdom is known. We will end our ministries with more work still to be done.

Given that is so, what help and encouragement do those that remain need from those whose work is done? Moses reminds Joshua, "You have seen with your own eyes all that the Lord your God has done to these two kings. The Lord will do the same to all the kingdoms over there where you are going. Do not be afraid of them; the Lord your God himself will fight for you" (Deut 3:21f). And the LORD's instructions to Moses are to "commission Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him" (Deut. 3:28).

Joshua is to draw strength and hope from the Lord's previous dealings with his people and is to proceed with courage, trusting in the Lord. It is all so very general, so imprecise, so indistinct. But maybe precisely and distinctly so. Joshua does not need a detailed strategy; he needs a vision of hope. He doesn't need tactical insight but strength and resolve. There will be time enough for the Lord to direct him in detailed terms for the work he calls Joshua to do; for now, he needs what the LORD and Moses offer him.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

church & numbers

Kevin deYoung has an interesting piece here on numbers in church (people, not the OT book). It includes some helpful observations by Leslie Newbigin and concludes with these words by DeYoung:

We love to see more people loving Jesus and living in greater accordance to his commands, but we should not think church size, when judged by the only Judge that really matters, is a reliable measure of a church’s success or a pastor’s faithfulness.

Friday, February 03, 2012

you need to waffle

Well, sort of...Seth Godin identifies that most issues are both simple and complex and, somewhere along the line, nuance is necessary. Substitute 'gospel' or 'the Christian life' for 'issues' and you've got some wisdom we all need.

Viewed from 10,000ft they are indeed simple and we need to be able to communicate that simplicity of vision to others, as well as hold it before our own eyes. But we will never pastor well unless we know that what looks simple at a distance is complex when nearer and learn to apply the requisite biblical nuances to the vision.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

my first book has just been published!

OK, I'll admit that sounds rather grand, so I'll come clean and humble: it's a self-published book, available on Kindle only (don't forget, you only need a Kindle app, not a Kindle device, to buy it...) and it's only an experiment - to see how easy or otherwise it is to publish that way.

But in case you want to go ahead and buy it......

It's just some Bible study questions on Paul's letter to the Philippians - no Bible text included, just the questions. In 18 sessions. If you buy it and find it helpful, I'll be glad. If you buy it and find it rubbish, I'll refund you. If you don't buy it and simply laugh at me, I'll......retire.

Friday, January 20, 2012

don't go to sleep angry

Why not? Well, the Bible encourages you not to do so. And now science is chiming in, too...

Their take-away point? "Sleep strongly 'protects'...negative emotional response(s)".

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

how to kill your mission

In this interview, John Dickson was asked about how to effectively engage the broader culture. His remarks, although pertaining to Australian society, have much to say to the needs of the church in the UK:

What advice do you have for church leaders in America about how to engage the broader culture effectively?I think the very first thing is to do is adopt a stance of mission instead of admonition toward the world. Here's an example. In the Australian context, there are church leaders who remember the glory days when about 20 percent of the nation went to church. They look at how Australia is secularized today, and their stance toward the world is basically admonition, the way you would talk to a backsliding Christian. How dare you slide away? How dare you legislate against Christian morality? I call that the admonition paradigm.
What's wrong with this approach?
I reckon that's how you kill your mission, because if you speak with a sense of entitlement, you won't be flexible, you won't be humble, and you won't take hits and just bear it. You'll want to strike back. And people will think you're arrogant. Quite rightly, probably.
What do you recommend instead?
When you move out of admonition into mission, you realize Australia is no longer Jerusalem; it's Athens. Then you instantly adopt a humbler approach to non-Christians. You don't expect them to live Christian lives if they don't confess Christ. You don't expect Parliament to pass Christian-specific laws. But as a leader, you try to persuade the nation with winsomeness, with gentleness and respect, as Peter says in 1 Peter 3:15.

Friday, January 13, 2012

how the song functions (leithart)

(from this article by Peter Leithart, on the Song of Solomon)

The Song helps us relearn what nearly every civilization before ours already knew: Sex is allegory, and as allegory it is metaphysics and theology and cosmology. For Christians, sexual difference and union is a type of Christ and the church: How could an erotic poem (and in the Bible!) be anything but allegory? From the Song we relearn that poetic metaphor does not add meaning to what is itself mere chemistry and physics. Nor is erotic poetry a euphemistic cover for Victorian embarrassment. Poetry elucidates the human truth of human sexuality, and it seems uniquely capable of doing so. Only as allegory does the Song have anything to teach us about sex. Only as allegory can the Song play its central role in healing our sexual imaginations.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

the justification for reading novels

This piece might be all you need to convince yourself it's a valid, pastorally-wise, humanity-enhancing activity. And it is.

the effects of stress in utero

This is a helpful insight into how the experience of stress in the life of a pregnant mother can have ongoing implications for her child in their response to stressors.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

making a difference

One option is to struggle to be heard whenever you're in the room...Another is to be the sort of person who is missed when you're not. The first involves making noise. The second involves making a difference.
Seth Godin

Friday, January 06, 2012

Oh no!

Apparently, memory loss begins earlier than previously believed - can't remember where I read that, mind you.....

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

helping others combats depression

Doing something nice for someone else often leaves people feeling good about themselves and positive about their place in the world.
But does that mean practicing random acts of kindness has scientifically proven therapeutic value in treating mood disorders like depression?
Yes, according to a growing body of research that has found that "positive activity interventions" -- like helping someone with groceries, writing a thank you note or even counting your blessings -- can serve as an effective, low-cost treatment for depression.

To read the rest, go here.

HT: David Murray

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

access to books at home & a child's educational progress

This piece over at The Telegraph draws on studies into children's educational prospects in relation to whether their homes contain books or not. Apparently, "being raised in a household with a 500-book library would result in a child remaining in education for an average of three years longer than those with little access to literature."

I wonder if that is susceptible to change where books are stored in the home electronically - e.g. on a Kindle. That is, does the positive impact of book at home in part lie in the ability to browse a physical bookshelf?

And how would it apply to the availability of specifically Christian books in the home?

Monday, January 02, 2012

worried about your health?

Then why not try this intervention?

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Humilitas: John Dickson - some helpful quotes

Humility is the noble choice to forgo your status, deploy your resources or use your influence for the good of others before yourself. More simply, you could say the humble person is marked by a willingness to hold power in service of others... humility is about redirecting of your powers, whether physical, intellectual, financial or structural, for the sake of others.

(Not to be confused with modesty)  humility is more about how I treat others than how I think about myself.

Heavy reliance on authority is often the result of laziness, since enforcing is much easier than energizing and creating momentum.

Character or example is central to leadership. Unless a leader is trusted by the team, she will not get the best out of them. 

Since life is fundamentally about relationships, the relational virtues such as humility, compassion, trustworthiness and so on are keys to virtually all spheres of life.

All of us tend to believe the views of people we already trust...Aristotle rightly observes that even a brilliantly argued case from someone we dislike or whose motives we think dubious will fail to carry the same force as the case put forward by someone we regard as transparently good and trustworthy.

Expertise could legitimately be described as uncovering the depths of my ignorance. It is a principle that leaders should ponder regularly.

Humility involves both a sense of finitude and a sense of inherent dignity.

Humility is not an ornament to be worn; it is an ideal that will transform.

Humility generates learning and growth.

Humility not only signals security; it probably fosters it too.

creative animation; great song

predicting outstanding achievement

Modesty probably prevents you from listing 'outstanding achievement' as an ambition but this article by Jocelyn Glei has some helpful insights into the kind of character traits and approaches to life and work that seem to make a real difference. Chief among those she lists:
1. The tendency not to abandon tasks from mere changeability. Not seeking something because of novelty. Not "looking for a change."
2. The tendency not to abandon tasks in the face of obstacles. Perseverance, tenacity, doggedness.
In a follow-up article she adds a third trait: a formidable capacity for self-analysis..."we need to be able to step outside of ourselves, observe how we are operating, reflect on what could be better, theorize how we could change it, and then test out a solution. The problem is: This is very, very hard for most people."

Putting it all together, she concludes that "This ability to tolerate, and even embrace, uncomfortableness may well be the "X factor" that underpins outstanding achievement. Self-control, grit, self-analysis... these are not comfortable qualities."

I think we could helpfully apply this to ministry.

tips for decision-making

From an interesting article over at the 99%, here are the 5 takeaways:

1. Satisficers or maximisers? Gathering additional information always comes at a cost. We’re better off setting our criteria for making a decision in advance (as in, “I’ll make the call once I know X, Y, and Z”). Once you have that information, make the choice and move on.

2. Less can be more. We are designed to process information so quickly that "rapid cognition" – decisions that spring from hard thinking based on sound experience – can feel more instinctive than scientific. Trust your gut.

3. Different intuitions. We should trust our expert intuition (based on experience) when making choices about familiar problems. But when we need a break-through solution, we shouldn’t be too quick to jump to conclusions.

4. Trust experience. If you’re wrestling with a difficult decision, consult a friend or colleague who’s been in your situation before. Their insight will likely be significantly more valuable than almost any research.

5. Choose your battles. Ask yourself if this decision is really that meaningful. If it’s not, stop obsessing over it, and just make a call!

making your preaching worth the cost

Actually, the title of the article is Making your presentations worth the cost but it has a lot of helpful advice for preachers - none of it ground-breaking but worth reminding oneself of.

Simon Raybould makes the point that, in its simplicity, "All a presenter has to do in a presentation is think of two things: What do I need to tell my audience? and How do I need to tell them it?"

He goes on to underline the importance of filtering your material (on the basis that 'less is more') and then checking your assumptions, on the basis that you, the presenter, are likely to know more about your subject than those listening - so make sure you take nothing for granted and open-up your jargon, workings and assumptions.

the doctrine of creation and the state of the economy

Another article in today's Guardian ruminates on Why Britain Should Think About Doing Things The German Way, highlighting the decline in the UK of manufacturing. It struck me that the points it made chime nicely with a robust doctrine of creation. Here is its concluding paragraph:
At its best, the making of things is an all-absorbing activity. It seems odd to have so many people in Britain making things purely as a hobby, when we might be earning our living making high-quality modern products every bit as desirable in their own way as bright new BMWs. The truth is, a consumer or service economy will never make us happy. It is time to curb the shopping, and the environmental destruction this involves, and to rescue ourselves economically, and in terms of wellbeing, through more of us making intelligent, useful and profitable things contentedly and well. (Jonathan Glancey)

hardwired to read books

Over at The Guardian, Gail Rebuck has written about humans being hardwired to read books. She makes the point that technology has shown that "reading a book leaves us with new neural pathways" and, thus, "our brains are physically changed by the experience of reading". Why is this significant: Rebuck answers,

This is significant because recent scientific research has also found a dramatic fall in empathy among teenagers in advanced western cultures. We can’t yet be sure why this is happening, but the best hypothesis is that it is the result of their immersion in the internet and the quickfire virtual world it offers. So technology reveals that our brains are being changed by technology, and then offers a potential solution – the book.
Rationally, we know that reading is the foundation stone of all education, and therefore an essential underpinning of the knowledge economy. So reading is – or should be – an aspect of public policy. But perhaps even more significant is its emotional role as the starting point for individual voyages of personal development and pleasure. Books can open up emotional, imaginative and historical landscapes that equal and extend the corridors of the web. They can help create and reinforce our sense of self.

ending the year at zero

One of my aims for today is to make sure that:

- my inbox is empty (it usually ends most days that way, so not such a big one)
- my google reader starred items are emptied (either deleted or sent to instapaper or evernote, talking of which....)
- my instapaper/instafetch is empty of articles waiting to be read
- notes tagged 'ReadItLater' in evernote have been read and either saved or deleted.

ok, let's go to it........

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival

My brother Robert lives there.....

good design in the christian life

"Good design accelerates the adoption of new ideas" says Yves Behar in this interesting video over at the 99%. Seems to be essentially the same point made by the Apostle Paul when he urges Titus to teach a lifestyle that "make(s) the teaching about God our Saviour attractive" (Titus 2:10).

Behar goes on to say that "If you want to prove that an idea has merit, don't write a book about it - go out and test it." Writing about or preaching the truth has to be in concert with living the truth or it will lack any real power. A sobering thought for all pastors.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

An inside job....

He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.

Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God — children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

(John 1:10-14)

Saturday, December 17, 2011