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Showing posts from 2008

So, farewell 2008

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For the last few years I've used a montage to help churches reflect on the year past, and here is this year's. It's an easier one than in years gone by, the stories this year seem to have been written in marker pen on billboards, rather than in pencil in the margins. A small prize to the first person to corectly identify each person or story here. My prayer for you in this year ahead is that you'd know true prosperity; that you'd have enough to meet your needs, and the needs of those God puts in your way.

In the midst of the darkness

Our prayer for last night's midnight service, as we watched and waited for the light to break forth in darkness: We pray with and for those who this night await the Saviour of the world to be revealed. Lord, in the midst of the darkness, Let your light shine. We pray for the children who will be born this night, in conditions that are hostile, inhospitable, uncomfortable and temporary. We pray for the women and men, whose children will be born in an alien land, in a place they seek refuge, hope, peace. Lord, in the midst of the darkness, Let your light shine. We pray for those who this night undertake jobs unseen by others, who in the midst of their toil and labour, in the humdrum of their everyday life, need a revelation of the divine, and an assurance that they are not forgotten, not overlooked. We pray for those who have no work, who face redundancy, or whose work and financial future seem uncertain and insecure. Lord, in the midst of the darkness, Let your light shine.

For whose benefit?

John & Olive on 2churchmice's blog posted a thought provoking article today. Some readers may know that churches are now required to register as charitees (something many of us have not needed to do until now) and the Charity Commissioners are working aplan to get all churches registered by 2012 (starting with those who have an income of over £100,000 and then working down). One of the areas of concern for many churches has been the need to demonstrate that they have some public benefit, a necessary condition for charitable status. Well, the Commission has published its report into the matter and you can download the .pdf here. John & Olive write (in the midst of a longer and brilliant post): Now the report is out, it looks as if the Charity Commission has more confidence in the transformational power of the Gospel than some Christians, as they clearly state that ‘Charities whose aims include advancing religion do not have to undertake secular activities in addition to

stuff

So, it's been a while since I posted (holidays, church and advent busyness etc.), so today I'll post twice. Below is the results of a couple of evening services reflecting on Habakkuk, and here I'll bring you up to speed with a few things. I have finally got around to watching "Constantine", the Keanu Reeves movie. I thought it was fun, some cool ideas and reflections on heaven, hell, the nature of angelic creatures (Gabriel was brilliantly re-imagined). Keanu is Keanu, he only has one style, but it really did suit this film I thought. I disagree with just about all the theology in it, but love the way that faith stories and ideas can be fodder for a mainstream movie, that there was a lot of theology in it at all was a cool thing. I watched that film on my iPod, the first time I have, and it worked well, I watched it over the space of a couple of days, wherever I could catch 5-10 mins, so in coffee times and those occasional slack moments. The screen amazed my

A Habakkuk Psalm

A few weeks ago I led a 2-part series on Habakkuk in our evening services. The first week was a kind of bird's eye view, looking at the setting in the minor prophets - what they were, why they're often ignored, and why it's important to grapple with them - the situation Habakkuk was writing into, and a brief overview of the book. In the second week we looked at how Habakkuk raises questions about God's compassion, his presence and his judgement. And we saw how God dealt with these questions. Habakkuk's response to the situation he saw with his own eyes, and the conversation he has with God is to write an outpouring of praise, a psalm, meant to be read with passion. Our response to the message, as a congreagation, was to write our won psalm, with people being invited to submit a line, or comment, or scripture. What follows below is a copy of those comments, arranged a little, and is the reult of our reflection on Habakkuk, the world we find ourselves in, and what we

Disasters Emergency Appeal for the Democratic Republic of Congo

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Please support this latest appeal by the DEC, phone the number above or click on this link. Please, just do it now. You can find out more here.

Review of "The Shack"

*Spoiler Alert - I will reveal some of the plot in this post* I was loaned a copy of The Shack by William P Young recently. Over the course of the last few weeks I've been reading it as spare time allows, and finished it this week. So, what to make of it, and it's popularity? Well, in reply to a friend who asked for a quick response I penned this: It's not entirely without merit, and there were some interesting thoughts that caused a few moments reflection. I did, however, find it quite sentimental. I guess if you imagine putting "The Road Less Travelled", "The Celestine Prophecy", "The Search for Significance" and "A New Kind of Christian" into a blender and whizzed "The Shack" is what might result. It's a good story, and it does involve and pull the reader in and along, but I'm not sure it's saying anything that an up-to-date reader of contemporary Christian thinking would have read better elsewhere. Oh

Christian Falk Ft Robyn - Dream On (Released 17/11/08)

A great, haunting and moving sound, with a vid that plays with expectations and prejudice - I'm wondering if there's a place to use this over Advent.

Cutting through the stereotypes

As I watch coverage of the US election I am continually alarmed at the way the american public is stereotyped as middle-class liberals who support Obama, or big business and working class patriots supporting McCain. Add to this mix perceptions around sex and race, and this campaign has at times revealed an ugly underbelly of people's perceptions (as well as the reality) around voting motivations. This morning I found this article from the BBC's website. Matthew Price has been following the McCain campaign and came across "Cupcake" an "unusual" Obama supporter. May God use videos like this to prevent us from falling into the trap of assuming we know about people by the way they look or sound!

Dear Mark Brewer

I'm copying below the contents of a letter sent on behalf of a group of bloggers (of which I am part), who are concerned at the treatment of David Walker. It's an issue that raises many questions about free speech, fair comment, and the censorship of blogs, bloggers everywhere ought to be concerned. Here's a quote from the group's facebook page outling things briefly. On 22nd July cartoonist Dave Walker was issued with a 'cease and desist' notice from SSG, giving him just a few hours to remove all posts about SPCK/SSG from his Cartoon Church blog, or face libel action. Dave complied with the request, though the posts contained nothing libellous. 2 other bloggers were issued with 'Cease and Desist' notices: one on the same day as Dave (Phil Grooms SSG/SPCK blog), another the day after for republishing some of Dave's posts (Sam Norton). Both have disputed the claims in the letters, and have not taken down any blog posts. So far, the threatened respo

ASBO Jesus hits the nail on the head

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Check out the link to The Ongoing Adventures of ASBO Jesus on the left there... Brilliant stuff Jon, and I'm pleased to reproduce it here.

Immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine

This evening we've reached chapter 3 in our evening series on Ephesians, a letter from Paul that I love, that excites me about church, and that I think is foundational in building a church that intends to fulfil its destiny in Christ. At the end of the chapter Paul writes down his prayer for his reader/hearers, and it ends with these words, "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations for ever and ever! Amen!" (TNIV) as a response to this, we spent some time writing prayers, spreading them out around the edge of the meeting space, and then walking around, pausing, praying, kneeling, standing, weeping and allowing faith to rise, that God might indeed want to answer our prayers, in ways that will bring glory and honour to his name. I promised the folks there that I'd make a note here of the prayer requests, so t

Mission in Ramadan

I came across a news item this morning, and had mixed responses to it: News article from the BBC A church in Indonesia is preparing and then selling evening meals for their Muslim neighbours to break fast. They serve them in the church, and invite a local imam to come and say the fast-breaking prayers. Could this (should this) translate into the UK, or is the current lack of sensible discussion and understanding too much of a hindrance? One of the things that challenged me most, and where I guess I'd need convincing would be inviting the imam in to say prayers. I've been reading and reflecting on the story of Jesus feeding the 5000+ and loving that there was no theology check before that particular communion. What thoughts and reactions do you have to this story?

3 full weeks

After many months of praying, talking and preparing, we are now in Wolverhampton. The last Sunday in August saw us bidding farewell to the church in Bromley, it was a good ending, and we left feeling that the church were praying for us. The highlight for me in that day was the prayer during the Later Service – a time of intimacy and intensity. Gifts, prayers and warm wishes were gratefully received, and we were sent into a week of final packing and getting things together for the house move the following week. We moved here on Monday 8th, with our belongings packed into a removals truck, and some delivered to the house, some to the church and the rest to storage, awaiting the day when the manse situation is resolved (the church is currently selling one, renting another and looking to buy a new one) all this in the midst of a difficult housing market, and great financial uncertainty. One of the passages of scripture that (although completely out of context) has given us some encoura

LibraryThing

So, three strands came together in my mind, and led to an idea. First, a friend of mine had a very successful book sale recently - and he used the LibraryThing website to do it. He catalogued them all, and people could examine his library and make offers. Secondly, in the process of getting ready to move, one of the removal company reps asked, "if there was a fire and all your books were lost, would you know what they all were?" As I'd never catalogued them I figured I ought to do that as I packed them, and so I also got a LibraryThing account and have begun adding them, just over 200 done, maybe another 800 to go (not as many as I thought). I've added a link to my library at the bottom of the left hand column here. Thirdly, reading "Jesus for President" reminded me of some values my wife and I held dear a few years ago, that have not been forgotten, but have been less at the forefront of our lives. And one of those values is holding things in common, sha

The Worship Industry

I guess it's not surprising to many that I like Brian McLaren's writing and teaching. I don't agree with everything he writes and says, but his openness to a questioning, searching, real faith is appealing to me. This video comes from "The Work of the People" and a hat tip to the BU's E-Sweep today for pointing me to it. Go look and explore, the address will be in my links soon. Bromley, Wolverhampton - let's listen to the message of this little video and covenant to know and express what is real.

Amongst other things, I am not my father

It was my birthday last week, and I bought myself a pressie – an iPod nano – and very lovely it is too! My family bought me a very very cool bedside digital radio / alarm / docking station thing which I’m enjoying playing with, and loving the huge assortment of stations now available to me. One of the reasons I wanted an iPod was to listen to some teaching when I’m walking the dog and going to and from the church building. So I’ve been downloading some samples of teaching, there’s a great choice of free stuff on itunes alone. So far I have listened to Walter Brueggemann give an overview of the whole of Isaiah, a surprisingly good podcast of Rick Warren sitting with some church leaders and chatting about ministering in an urban context, and most helpful of all Paul Scanlon preaching a message entitled “I am not my father”, which I found helpful, moving and healing. If, like me, your own experience of being fathered wasn’t great, then I want to highly recommend you listen to this tea

Moving again!

If you follow this blog, or if you’ve read it through from the start, you’ll know that when my family and I moved to London it was in order for us to take on a newly-created role in a suburban Baptist Church. My hope had been that it would be a place where we’d be able to spend a significant amount of time exploring the emerging church agenda, as well as helping the church identify and resolve some weaknesses in its ministry amongst 13-30 year olds. Towards the end of last year (following on from the anniversary of my arrival here) I’ve been reflecting with colleagues and other wise friends about the way the role has actually panned out, and have become convinced that what we hoped for here just hasn’t been possible. So since the start of this year, my name has been available to churches that have been seeking a new minister, and this process has culminated in my accepting a call to be the new Senior Minister at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Wolverhampton (The Tab). My wife and I are

Revival loot

So, if you go to a revival meeting and get gold dust, or a heavenly gem, or a promise of oodles of cash, here is a (fairly graphic) video that might give you some idea of why God made you wealthy. I'm serious, collect that gold dust up and sell it - God's people need the money. And a ht to Lev for the link.

An outpouring on outpourings

I guess many of us will have been looking with a mix of interest, curiosity, hope, bewilderment and maybe amusement at the events taking place in a conference centre in Lakeland, Florida, USA. For a few of weeks now, nightly “Revival” meetings have been taking place there, led by Todd Bentley. A google or youtube search on “Florida Outpouring” will give you a flavour of what's been happening. There are now reports of a “Dudley Outpouring” as well as others around the globe as leaders who have seen what’s been happening (normally on godtv.com or the God Channel on satellite) go to Florida and bring back what they have “caught”, and impart it to the folks at home. So, what to make of this? I’ve been asked for my reflections by a few folks, possibly because when the Toronto Blessing movement was at its height in the UK I was involved with a ministry (that I deeply appreciate and love) that sought to introduce people to what God might have been doing in that time. As I reflect on t

Baptist Assembly 2008, Blackpool

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I'm in Blackpool for the long weekend. It's the annual Baptist Assembly, where the Baptist Union of Great Britian and BMS World Mission gather together for a time of celebration, encouragement, sharing news and making decisions about our future together. I love the Assembly. It's a chance to catch up with old friends, remind ourselves of why we do what we do, and for me it's a place to have a bit of fun. This year I'm co-hosting a late-night chat show with a friend, Juliet Kilpin. Last night's show was a good start, despite some sound and light issues that we hope will be resolved today. We had some good guests being interviewed, introduced our mascot, Embly the Bapist Ass (see what we did there...) and had ELVIS!!! It was a very Blackpool start to the shows.

teenage song

Came across this on the Pumphouse in my Good Blog Almighty list. Loving it!

Day of celebrating

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Yesterday was a day of celebrations. in the morning i led a service for the Boys' Brigade here. Each year the local battalion gathers at one of the churches to join in a service, and to be together for a time of sung worship and celebration. The nearby URC church hosted us, and 130+ people from the Brigade joined with the usual congregation of 25 or so - it looked like a coup! We had a fun hour together, reflecting a little on how God has been using the Brigade as a tool for discipleship in the lives of young men, before considering what we might all do as we wait for the appearance of Christ again (this being the time between Easter and Ascension, then Pentecost - a great season to think about waiting). I had fun, folks enjoyed it, and people went away thinking about how they might grasp God's passion for them and the world, God's power to live in a way that is distinctively that of a Christ-follower, and to know and be God's presence in thier own homes, workplaces, sc

Remembering Dr King

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Today is the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Revd Dr Martin Luther King Jnr, and this is the last in a short series of posts that have sought to share something of his message, in places particularly timely for the situation we find ourselves in. In meditating on his words these past days I’ve been acutely aware that often the words we read about and the descriptions of Dr King come from others. So today I share with you a quotation from “The Drum Major’s Instinct”; a sermon King preached at Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, Georgia on the 4th February 1968, just two months before he was killed. Here we see how King understood himself, his faith, and his position as one seeking to see the kingdom of God - a kingdom of justice and love - established, strengthened and extended. From “The Drum Major’s Instinct”, Every now and then I guess we all think realistically (Yes, sir) about that day when we will be victimized with what is life's final common denominator—that somethi

Remembering King, part 5

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This is part five of a series of postings reflecting on the life and message of Revd Dr Martin Luther King Jnr, in the days leading up to the 40th anniversary of his assassination on 4th April 1968. Today I post two quotations from his final speech, the world famous “I have been to the Mountaintop” speech, giving us insight into the mind and faith of King as he reflects on the struggle for freedom, and as he is painfully aware of the threats against his health and security. These words were spoken on 3rd April 1968, the eve of His death. Something is happening in our world. The masses of people are rising up. And wherever they are assembled today, whether they are in Johannesburg, South Africa; Nairobi, Kenya; Accra, Ghana; New York City; Atlanta, Georgia; Jackson, Mississippi; or Memphis, Tennessee -- the cry is always the same: "We want to be free." And another reason that I'm happy to live in this period is that we have been forced to a point where we are going to have

Remembering King, part 4

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This is number four in a series marking th e martyrdom of Revd Dr Martin Luther King Jnr, the 40th anniversary of which falls this coming Friday, April 4th. The struggle for equality in Alabama continued and on March 25th 1965 a great march from Selma to Montgomery was organised. Speaking to the crowd at the end of the march King addresses the question of “How long?” that hung in the air. Today’s quotation comes from that speech, and as I read it I have in mind the struggle to end extreme poverty, as well as injustices like Darfur, Palestine, Guantanamo Bay and some of our own detention policies. I know you are asking today, “How long will it take?” I come to say to you this afternoon however difficult the moment, however frustrating the hour, it will not be long, because truth pressed to earth will rise again. How long? Not long, because no lie can live forever. How long? Not long, because you still reap what you sow. How long? Not long, because the arm of the moral universe is long,

Remembering King, part 3

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This is part 3 of a special series this week, in memory of Revd Dr Martin Luther King Jnr, who was killed by men of hate forty years ago this Friday. I guess the most well known of Dr King’s teachings come from three places, the I have a dream speech, the Mountain Top message and the Letter from Birmingham Jail . It would be incomplete to have this series without some of those great inspiring words, so today’s quotation comes from part of the Letter from Birmingham Jail . On April 12th 1963 – Good Friday that year - King and some colleagues were arrested for staging protest marches in Birmingham, Alabama. That same morning, several white ministers had written an open letter to King that had been printed in the local newspaper, calling on him to end the protests, and labelling him an anarchist, an extremist and a lawbreaker. King's reply, a few days later on the 16th April 1963, from his cell in Birmingham Jail, was to pen the now-famous Letter from Birmingham Jail . It is a calm

Remembering King, part 2

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This is part two of a series this week, remembering Revd. Dr Martin Luther King. Part one is below. I invite your comments on the tone of King’s message, and whether it has resonance today. At the end of the Montgomery bus boycott, when the Supreme Court issued a bus desegregation order, King stood before a large gathering in order to give final instructions before people started using the buses once again. Aware they had won a great victory, King is keen that they win not only in the law courts, but in the individual court of each person’s heart, Our experience and growth during this past year of united non-violent protest has been of such that we must respond to the decision with an understanding of those who have oppressed us and with an appreciation of the new adjustments that the court order poses for them. We must be able to face up honestly to our own shortcomings. We must act in such a way as to make possible a coming together of white people and colored people on the basis of

Remembering King, part 1

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This coming Friday (April 4th) sees the 40th anniversary of the martyrdom of Revd. Dr Martin Luther King Jnr. Today and each day this week I’ll be posting a quote from him, and I invite you to comment on the relevance of parts of his message to contemporary people. In 1964 Revd. Dr King was awarded the Nobel peace prize. In his acceptance speech he said, I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsam and jetsam in the river of life which surrounds him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight or racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality. I believe that even amid today’s mortar bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow. I believe that wounded justice, lying prostrate on the blood-flowing streets of our nations, can be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men. I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have

A belated Easter thought

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I had wanted to blog about this pic just before Easter…ah well… On the Saturday before Palm Sunday, as a family we were out at a local outdoor play area, and as we left I looked back and saw this sprayed on the wall. I’ve no idea who did it, nor what their motivations might be. I don’t know who the “weak” are that it is referring to. And yet, as I saw it, I was instantly reminded, in that mysterious and holy of times, that it is the weak that God has chosen to shame the strong, and the foolish to shame the wise. This Easter, in preparing to lead people in reflecting on the story, in watching the very excellent “The Passion” on the BBC, and in personal prayers, I have seen afresh just how inconspicuous much of what Jesus did really was. On Palm Sunday, according to Matthew’s account, the inhabitants of Jerusalem had no idea who Jesus was, it was the people from the north who knew him, who cheered as he entered as king. And whatever the scale of the event, it wasn’t enough to warrant int

Here is Hope

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Last Friday, my wife gave birth to our beautiful baby girl, Hope. Thanks for all your prayers, she delivered at home, in a birthing pool, and both of them are doing really well, if very sleepy. Our son is adjusting well to the presence of an even littler one, and is going to be a wonderful big brother. I'm taking a couple of weeks paternity leave, so won't be around churchworld much, but there are some reflections I want to share about midwives as a picture of church, and about the appropriateness of a baptist minister's daughter being born into water! The details...7lb 13oz, born at 10.05am, labour lasted 14 hours. And here's a pic of some skin-to-skin time we enjoyed last night.

The Later Service

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Here's the postcard we're using to advertise the Later Service - any comments?

Repentance

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Time to tip the cap to ASBO Jesus once more. Things are a little busy in our house, with the very immanent arrival of our second child, so I missed this yesterday, but am copying it here for your edification. Wonderful 'toons, take a look if you haven't yet.

Experiments

Yesterday I was with 90 other people sharing together in a Café Church training day. It was a good time to meet some old friends, and to make a few new ones. The aim of the day was to equip and inspire churches to plant congregations into coffee shops in their localities. On the whole it was a good day. Juliet Kilpin led a session on connecting with the wider community, and with her blend of humour, passion and compassion challenged us about a number of things, including the way that churches have hindered, rather than helped, people make meaningful relationships outside the context of churchworld. Worrying stuff. I’ve written elsewhere about the need for church to be more experimental, and today sees some of that working out in Bromley. We switch (for the next 3 months at least) from having a pattern of two services (10.30 & 18.30) to having three (10.30, 16.45 & 19.00). The 16.45 “Sunday Break” will be a classic-style service, for those who appreciate a more traditional fla

2007 in pictures

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Following on from last year's montage, here's to 2007, the goodness, the badness, and the downright ugliness demonstrated in actions and words. A small prize goes to whoever can name every pic or story represented.

Looking back, looking forward

Over on his thought-provoking blog, Leaving Munster, a friend of mine, Graham, has challenged folks to reflect on good things that happened in 2007 and their hopes for 2008, he asks in his post Three from last year, three for the next What three things from 2007 are you most thankful for? What 3 things do you hope/intend to do or not do in 2008? I'm going to answer here, and I'd love to hear your responses. So, from 2007, what would be the top three things I'm thankful for? Firstly, it would be the successful fertility treatment that has resulted in a baby due in February. We've had three goes at treatment, and have had two pregnancies. Given that we reduce our chances of success greatly by the method we choose, I'm grateful to God for a precious gift of life. Secondly, I'm grateful to be in a place in my life and ministry where I'm able to spend some time reflecting and researching bigger picture issues, as well as being involved in day-to-day ministry

Happy New Year

May the God of peace who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ that great shepherd of the sheep equip you with everything good for doing his will and may he work in us what is pleasing to him through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever amen