Monday, 8 December 2008

To be written...

... i've been challenged on a few big things recently - all of which very much blog-worthy. This is me officially committing to getting round to it at some point in the next few days!

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Learning to swim.

Over the last couple of weeks I've started thinking about Deeper. That's the name (at least for now) of Vinelife's gap year/ministry training programme and if I stay on after this internship one of my main roles will be to co-ordinate it. So it's been tres exciting thinking about what sort of stuff the programme will contain and how we'll go about it. Part of this has been spending some of time finding out how other people do it, essentially so I can steal all the best ideas! There's this church in Cleveland which used to run something called 'Focus Academy' that took a very holistic approach to the whole thing - I especially liked their idea of a built-in fitness programme!!

The whole research process has also started me thinking a lot more about ministry in general and, for example, how I might go about leading a church in the future. It's really interesting to see the different emphases different leaders/churches have in terms of both aspects of leaderships and also methods and strategies. I'm still very much a 'work-in-progress' in terms of sorting mine out but I think it is important to clarify where you stand on certain things and what your values/goals/passions are, so as not to just drift along randomly picking things up for a while, dropping them, and then carrying on to the next thing. For me, the biggest issue in my head at the moment is how to go about discipleship. For if you're not creating a culture of people sold out for Jesus then ultimately your church will just become a personality cult - seasons of growth/decline dictated to solely by the quality/identity of the leadership. Obviously the leader has a massive responsibility towards the group, but if you're not putting strategies in place to help individuals develop a personal and active faith then you'll end up with a church that more resembles a stagnant structure (albeit sometimes a very attractive one) rather than a lvining, growing organism.

Which brings me back round to Deeper. Not only is the preparation of it exciting but the prospect of being able to do some hardcore discipleship with people is doubly so. We just need to find some people to sign up now - so if you think you might be interested, keep your eye out for details in the new year!

P.S. I'm hoping to get back on the train to poetry town over the Christmas hols so make sure you watch out for the next installment of 16 Steps - we'll get there eventually!

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Hebrews. Or does he...?

I'm back round to Hebrews on my bible reading plan and I've realised that a lot of it is quite confusing! I love all the chat about Jesus as the high priest - our hilasterion who administered the ultimate blood sacrifice and continues to intercede for us in order that God's just wrath against us is permanently placated. Awesome stuff.

One thing I really don't get is Melchizedek. I understand what the author is doing in showing Jesus to be a high priest not bound by Levitical law, but who the heck was Melchizedek?! Where did he come from? Where did he go? (where does he come from, cotton-eye joe) How come Hebrews makes such a big deal about him when the Old Testament doesn't really seem to? Maybe I'm just reading it wrong.

Also, I'm intrigued by chapter 4 - "The Sabbath Rest". It seems to refer to the seventh day as as a future event which may or may not be entered, seemingly dependent on being in the 'People of God'. This is interesting, especially in terms of the impact on interepreting Genesis. For if this seventh day is the reward for obedience, rather than a weekly day of chill-out time, then no longer does one have to follow the 7 x 24 hours view. On the face of it this makes things a lot easier - dinosaurs, the poetic nature of the account/similarity to other ancient cosmologies etc etc. However, that's one heck of a big step to take on the back of an inference from one chapter of one book - hence the continued confusion on my part! Any thoughts would be appreciated.

On the more practical side of things, it's been another crazy few weeks. God's really been reminding me how much I need to rely on him for everthing: energy, joy, the ability to do my job! We've had a shed-load of new students this year and it's tempting to feel proud about that sometimes. Don't get me wrong, it's amazing and I'm delighted, but they're a gift from God and he just chooses to use me to help facilitate them. And like the good steward, i need to recognise the significance of this and respond accordingly - i.e. not lazy/resting on laurels and driven by a reverence of the giver and a desire to see them and the church grow, not a desire to make myself look good.

RE: joy, it's been quite a difficult time personally for various reasons (Well, one main one really) but again God's teaching me to look to him and not to other things, no matter how great I think they might be! I just need to make sure I'm obedient and rely! One thing I've been saying to others loads recently is that joy is a mindset, not an emotion - it comes from the knowledge of who God is and what he's done for us/what he will do for us at the judgement seat. Time for a spot of preach-practising!!

I feel it would only be fitting to close with one of my favourite verses form Hebrews, for no other reason than I just love it!

"For we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved" - Hebrews 10:39

Friday, 17 October 2008


Hey there sports fans! Check out this wicked cool blog

I spent my first few weeks in the office working on a booklet for students called, 'Survive: Your Guide To Student Life', and now we've decided to release it periodically on t'internet for your reading pleasure. You should go have a cheeky look - it might change your life.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Summer School Part 2

A quick one from everyone's favourite Eugene:

A pastor should be:

1) Unbusy - i.e. not over-churched, in order to spend quality with God/family etc

2) Subversive - Jesus taught in parables. People had to analyse them and search for their higher meaning; the resulting message made much more of an impact on those who heard it and, in Jesus's case, remains as relevant now as it was 2000 years ago. Pastors need to be skilled in the subversive in order to help them engage better with those they are addressing. (hence the poetry)

3) Apocalyptic - This world is finite; the judgement seat is coming. This not only a) increases our urgency towards the lost but b) reminds the pastor that is church is not a business - it does not need to conform to the same patterns and systems that the world operates in, it answers to something higher. This should then liberate the church/pastor to be what God calls them to be, irrespective of how the world says it should be done.

Summer School

A few things made a real impression on me during my time in Tarvin over the summer and I thought I'd give them the blog treatment to make sure they don't drift off my radar.

This stuff comes from 'Knowing God' by Jim Packer:

The absolute greatest thing that can happen in my life is for me to be able to say that I have known God - all else is secondary in comparison. This doesn't mean just knowing about God, but actually knowing him for who he is.

This knowing God produces a reaction in us (Packer takes the example of Daniel):
1) We have increased energy for God - in prayer etc
2) We have great thoughts of God - we recognise his sovreignity
3) We show great boldness for God
4) We find great contentment in God - peace. There is complete satisfication.
Such traits can then serve as a litmus test for whether or not we truly do know God ourselves. If the above list doesn't describe us, then we still have more 'getting to know' to do!

Philippians 1:21 - "For me, to love is Christ and to die is gain" - This is an attitude which comes from knowing God

Packer concludes by citing two main steps we can take in knowing God:
1) Stop measuring yourself on what you know, what gifts/roles in the church you have. Instead evaluate how you pray and what goes on in your heart.
2) Seek the Saviour - those who chase him with all their hearts can testify that they have known God.

In terms of 'seeking the saviour', I found this clarification helpful:
How do we know God? We know him by hearing the voice of Jesus through the bible.
How do we hear Jesus' voice? We hear it by: acknowledging his claim of being the Christ (...on this rock i will build my church), trusting his promise of salvation, and answering his call to discipleship and mission.

I want that to be me. I want to say whole-heartedly that I have known God, not just known about him - such knowledge cannot do anything else other than cause me to live a life of radical discipleship!

Monday, 22 September 2008

Adapt to survive

Working life is a lot harder than I thought! I can cope with early mornings but it's the first time since school that I've been consistently getting up in the 7's. Coupled with busy-ness both in and out of the office I was absolutely shattered by last Friday evening. But I love it! And the sooner my body adjusts the better, as I can't imagine my time getting any freer any time soon. In fact, I reckon I've still got it super-easy at the mo - it's just a bit of a shock after an August in which I became a little too familair with both my sofa and the BBC's coverage of the Olympics!

There's one big prayer request this week for anyone who's that way inclined. As far as i'm aware (still not yet confirmed) I'm going to be speaking at CU fresher's event this week. They're doing a lunchbar along the lines of 'If you could ask God one question, what would it be?' and I'm charged with the task of providing some answers. Should be interesting! I'm really excited tho - I've been itching to have a crack at a CU talk for a year or two now so it'll interesting to see how I get on. But at the end of the day, the important thing is that the good news gets out there so please pray that I'll be a faithful steward and a clear communicator of that very truth.

Speaking of evangelism etc there are a couple of things God has put on my heart over the last few weeks. First, I'm praying that this fresher's week/fortnight/term every single student will have some kind of contact with God. That's right, every single one - all 40 odd thousand of them! Whether it's a full blown face-to-face divine encounter or a brief glimpse of an Alpha poster on the side of the bus, I'm praying that God would start to infect this city with his presence. Second, I want some more non-Christian friends! Most of my close friends before this year were Christian but now that I work full time at church the scope for life in the 'bubble' has soared. As such I'm asking God to protect and strengthen the relationships I still have (such as old school friends) as well as providing some new ones. I'm fully aware it's no good just asking that and then just continuing to do what I've always done, so I'll have to be on the look out for opportunities and then go and take them. (I'm hoping they involve lots of football!!)

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Step 3 (..slowly getting there!)

Doomed to fail and I'm not the first;
Neither will I bring down the curtain.
Surely one - somewhere?
Not out of this lot.

Saftey in numbers then,
Black brings white into view after all.
We're helping, I'm sure.
- Bamboo words, as if He needs a contrast!
True diamionds sparkle on the shelf and in the mud - there's no room for Rasputin theology here.
The lines are redrawn and the chasm widens.

Bad news, then. Still.
It must be game over this time.

With the hills in sight the spotter would do well to stay vigilant -
There's only one way out from here.
Red ink flows off the seat for the last time,
Drop by agonizing drop.
New covenant, new contract - now written on hearts. Stone wasn't strong enough.
No signs and no signatures, but deliverance?
You bet.
The goat's not coming back this year.

No longer an exchange rate but a rescue package!
And it took a lot more than a parachute to slow my descent:
I can see the ropes on those things; no data required for this decision.
Blind? Maybe. Necessary? Without doubt.

But it's his deal, his headlines.
I just stand here amazed,
Not even I could seek out column inches for this one.

Here today, gone and thrown on the fire by morning;
Without the rain at any rate.
No boasting from the grass, yet growth continues on the promise that more is to come.
Why? Well that's the cloud's prerogative.

Step 2

Two-by-two as the saying goes; count the judges in the courtroom
One brash, arrogant - the 5 digit code still prominent on his wrist,
Echoes of the past; a sure sign of future failures
Cries of "Guilty" rain down from his mouth -
Speckled records don't pass here, even with the timber blocking the view.
Stocks plummetting, equity moored in the negative.
Oblivious. It won't hit the fan just yet.

Another watches from the balcony
Still with splinters to show for his work - my house, my rules.
Time bidden, the potter gets his say.
Reward and ruin dispensed with unerring accuracy.
Night does follow day.

Sunday best and warm fuzzy thoughts won't cut it here,
Gold stars and Jesus points aren't enough.
It's peeled back hearts or bust:
You can bin your checklist without one.

Confident? I think I'll call for back up.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Day 1

I'm up and running!

First off a massive PRAISE GOD! for his provision. I'm edging ever closer to my target and am just blown away by how faithful God has been and how generous everyone who's supporting me has been/is too. It might sound strange, but I'm not actually shocked that the money's come in - I'm just super-grateful it has!

It was so good to finally get into the office today and get started after talking about it for soooo long. It's great too that I already know my way around which meant I was really able to hit the ground running.

I still find it slightly weird that this my job, this what I'm doing with my life - it's crazy but I love it!

I decided when I started this blog that I wanted to comment rather than chronicle so I'm fighting every urge not to just splurge out what's been going on with me. But one thing most worthy of note was reach on sunday. I was really challenged by Rob's talk - that it's not what we receive that counts, but how we re-invest it. God's blessed me, but if don't do anything with it, so what? I'm no different to the servant who hoarded the talent/mina and incurred God's wrath.

(In other news, parts two and three of '16 Steps...' are done, but I'm not going to put them up just yet)

Monday, 18 August 2008

16 Steps from Rome

I have a new project. On the advice of Eugene Peterson (of The Message fame) I'm going to try and tap into my creative side by writing some poetry. I'm reading Romans at the moment so I've decided to try and write a poem inspired by each chapter and see what the end result looks like. Here goes with the first offering...

No excuses.
Power so great that the world cannot keep the secret;
Naturally divine.
God-stained landscapes, God-stained seas, God-stained skies but top story - the God-man
The I.d. badge says 'David's'
He knew different and mercifully so now do we.
Good news, then, to start.

No excuses.
Truth known, Way and Life seen and accepted
We're good to go, right? I've got work to do, a name to make
God's frame; my fame. He'd like that I'm sure
Time for the clay to shine.

Taken for a ride by a local dealer and what an exchange rate!
Creator for created; Clarity for confusion; the Man upstairs for the boy next door
The loose change provides no comfort:
Soiled remnants that stain the pockets and spread like a disease.
So it's his fault why I'm like this!
Critcism rings hollow on thoughts of how I'd have responded.

Bad news, then, as it stands.

Saturday, 9 August 2008


I thought it would be a good idea to sit down and work out some goals for my internship; not so I can give myself a mark out of 10 at the end, but so that I can focus in on what (I think) I'm supposed to be doing and make the most out of my time.

Here goes..

1. To serve: God, the church, our students - to practically live out the knowledge that my life should be a living sacrifice and that next to knowing (and therefore responding to) Christ, I can count all else as loss. I want to be living exclusively for the advancement of the Kingdom of God.

2. To encourage all our students to be closer to God and live lives of radical discipleship.

3. To see an increase in 'unchurched' students across the city getting to know Jesus.

4. To develop my gifts as a leader through practical experience, observation of other leaders and in commitment to the leadership training material.

5. To have a stronger and more intimate personal relationship with God; one that is not sacrificed on account of doing too much 'church stuff'.

6. To 'see what the father is doing' and go and do it!

"Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?" - Galatians 3:3

I know it's only through the power of the Holy Spirit that any of this is going to happen. And I also know that when it's God's way, I can be sure that it's going to be 'immeasurably more than I could even ask or imagine, because of his power that is at work within me.' (Eph. 3:20) Bring it on!

Off and running.

I threatened to do it, and now I have. The blog is here.

I can't wait to get going properly. Summer so far has been one of preparation and I'm itching to get stuck into everything God's got for me back in Manchester.

I hope this blog will be useful for me - to help clarify my thoughts and focus in on things I might otherwise neglect. I also hope that if anyone does actually read this, they would enjoy it and be encouraged by hearing about what I'm up to.

And so in keeping with the current Olympic vibe - let the games begin!