Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Blog Moving

I've decided to move the blog from Blogger to Wordpress. Blogger have looked after me very well over the last few years but I think that he features at Wordpress may suit me better. The view on an IPad is particularly pleasing.


New site

Don't forget to update your google reader if you follow from there.

More Making Disciples

I had a few more thoughts on discipleship that I wanted to get down on paper before they flittered away out of my sieve like brain.

Firstly, who makes disciples?
Perhaps the classic answer to this in some circles would be pastors or those in full time leadership with some theological training. I may be overstating the case there but there can be a tendency even in non-conformist churches to see the leaders as the sole "doers" in the church. That can mean that discipleship is left to only a few people. The Apostle Paul seems to take a different view:

2 Timothy 2:2
and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

There seems to be a model here of teaching and training others who can then pass it on. In other words we don't keep it to ourselves but pass on the good news of the gospel to others to pass on too. A good description of discipling I think. The idea seems to be that we don't have a model where one person does all the discipling but rather disciples who make disciples who make disciples and so on.

Secondly, to whom, or how many?
This is a slightly difficult question to answer because to a large degree I guess this will depend a bit on who God sends our way. But here is my thought: what if instead of quantity with discipleship we think quality? What I mean by that is rather than thinking of the maximum number of people we can disciple perhaps we should concentrate on a few people each over a longer period. The reasoning that got me to this tentative position is that both Jesus and Paul seemed to concentrate on just a few people even though they could have done more. Jesus, God the Son, only trains twelve, he deliberately only chooses twelve and then invests a huge amount of time on those twelve. Paul seems to spend a considerable amount of time on Timothy and Titus. Again there were others he spent time with but in terms of discipling and mentoring it is only a few.

I understand there seem to be two categories here; disciples and apprentices but when Jesus talks about going and making disciples he is speaking to the ones he has discipled which at least suggests that discipling is not a lesser category than apprenticing.

So here is the challenge:
Think of a person or a small group of people God has brought you into contact with and think about ways you could pass on the great things you have learnt about Jesus and communicate some of the joy of walking with him. The original twelve turned the world upside down.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Making Disciples

This morning, while on holiday in rural Lincolnshire, we were treated to a sermon on discipleship. This got me thinking a bit about what it means to disciple people and what I've seen work both in my own experience and while watching others.

It seems clear to me that Jesus expects his disciples to make more disciples.

Matthew 28
18 And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

Two things seem to be key here; baptising and teaching. I guess the baptism is the call to repentance and public identification with Christ and then the teaching is the ongoing business of growing in our understanding and application of all that Jesus said.
So discipleship is then first of all leaving an old life and following Jesus and making disciples is about calling people to do that and then teaching them how to live for Jesus. Nothing too radical there so far, although I wonder if in some circles we are good at the first and hesitant in the second.

But here is where my own experience and observation factor in. It seems to me that the people who have had the most influence in discipling me and the people I have seen discipling most successfully are those who commit themselves to time with people. That is to say, discipleship is more than the presentation of facts but involves sharing a life that is already marked by discipleship itself.

Perhaps this is part of the reason why we are slightly reluctant to get involved in discipling people: we are reluctant to commit the time and we feel our own inadequacies. We perhaps wonder if someone else would be better and fear that our busy schedules won't allow it.

Jesus was a busy man but he committed himself to sharing his life with the twelve men who travelled around with him for three years (as well as the women who travelled too) and in so doing discipled them with words and more.

In the quest to find the perfect discipleship course perhaps we might be overlooking the simple fact that discipleship is not achieved in a ten week programme but rather in a lifelong commitment to share and talk and pray together. This is not to decry discipleship courses but rather to encourage more.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Another year through the Bible

I looked this morning at my daily reading planner and it shows as 99.7% done which means that all being well tonight will be our last reading through the Bible for 2010 and we'll have completed the M'Cheyne system for Bible reading. I thought I would jot down a few reflections on how the reading has gone for the year. I'm not aiming to be profound but rather just honestly reflect on how this year has affected us.

1. Firstly and without a doubt most importantly it's been tremendous to spend another year reading through the Bible and being challenged and humbled and thrilled by what God has to say. As a man who loves his food it seems unthinkable to go a day without having at least one square meal and likewise feeding on  God's word each day has been profoundly satisfying. In an age when some seem to love to despise and ridicule discipline and almost deliberately confuse it with mere religion it's worth noting that certain disciplines lead to a healthy lifestyle and some do not. Feeding on God's word helps keep my heart right and my head in gear.

2. The M'Cheyne system has felt like more of a challenge than the previous EDWJ plan. This year has involved reading through the Old Testamement once and the New Testament twice which while good has also been more demanding time wise. If we missed a day for illness or other reasons then the catch up is truely time consuming. For that reason being committed to doing it and sticking with it is not for the faint hearted.

3. Once again I've been amazed at how much of the Bible I feel I don't recognise as I read through. I've read it all through before but still I am hit by some passages as if I'd never heard them before. That may simply be a reflection of my own poor memory but sections of the prophets are so powerful and so unfamiliar that I am glad to be "made" to read through them again and again in a set reading plan.

4. Youversion, who are the people who have provided us with the reading plans are absolutely excellent. Applications on the IPhone, Android and PC make completing each reading simple and the calendar view makes missed days a sinch to spot. ( As individual verses or sections have stood out or challenged us as we've read them the system of linking in with Twitter has means posting stuff for review later has also been of real benefit. (

I don't know what system you use for reading your Bible but let me encourage you to find one that works and do it. Good intentions are all well and good but making time each day to read the Bible is hard at first but I would suggest essential to pressing on in our Christian faith. God's awesome power was at work in creation through his words, in the Lord Jesus his power over sickness, demonic powers even death itself  is demonstrated in his words and I am committed to staying connected to him by listening to those words.

In the immortal words of John Chapman (Chappo) "Read ya Bible you idiot!"

"Break open your words, let the light shine out, let ordinary people see the meaning." Psalm 119:130

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Is Luther too risky with his language

I came across this quote from Luther in another blog and I thought it was good so I thought I'd re-blog it. But then it got me thinking about it. I know Luther loved to be shocking in his language and his constant references to his bowels can raise an eyebrow - but what do you think of this?
In this sort of temptation and struggle, contempt is the best and easiest method of winning over the devil. Laugh your adversary to scorn and ask who it is with whom you are talking. But by all means flee solitude, for the devil watches and lies in wait for you most of all when you are alone. This devil is conquered by mocking and despising him, not by resisting and arguing with him. Therefore, Jerome, joke and play games with your wife and others. In this way you will drive out your diabolical thoughts and take courage
Be of good courage, therefore, and cast these dreadful thoughts out of your mind. Whenever the devil pesters you with these thoughts, at once seek out the company of men, drink more, joke and jest, or engage in some other form of merriment. Sometimes it is necessary to drink a little more, play, jest, or even commit some infraction in defiance and contempt of the devil in order not to give him an opportunity to make us scrupulous about trifles. We shall be overcome if we worry too much about falling into some sin.
Accordingly if the devil should say, "Do not drink," you should reply to him, "On this very account, because you forbid it, I shall drink, and what is more, I shall drink a generous amount." Thus one must always do the opposite of that which Satan prohibits. What do you think is my reason for drinking wine undiluted, talking freely, and eating more often, if it is not to torment and vex the devil who made up his mind to torment and vex me.
Is he right?
What is the difference between conscience and the Devil's lies that drive us to despair?
How do I know when to stop and when to ignore?
Interested in all input...

Sunday, September 05, 2010

A bed of duck feathers

It's easy to feel a little bit embattled and discouraged with the struggle against the world the flesh and the Devil, but Spurgeon had some good words for me this morning:

As a Christian you have to live in the midst of an ungodly world, and it is of little use for you to cry "Woe is me." Jesus did not pray that you should be taken out of the world, and what he did not pray for, you need not desire. Better far in the Lord's strength to meet the difficulty, and glorify him in it. The enemy is ever on the watch to detect inconsistency in your conduct; be therefore very holy. Remember that the eyes of all are upon you, and that more is expected from you than from other men. Strive to give no occasion for blame. Let your goodness be the only fault they can discover in you. Like Daniel, compel them to say of you, "We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God." Seek to be useful as well as consistent. Perhaps you think, "If I were in a more favourable position I might serve the Lord's cause, but I cannot do any good where I am"; but the worse the people are among whom you live, the more need have they of your exertions; if they be crooked, the more necessity that you should set them straight; and if they be perverse, the more need have you to turn their proud hearts to the truth. Where should the physician be but where there are many sick? Where is honour to be won by the soldier but in the hottest fire of the battle? And when weary of the strife and sin that meets you on every hand, consider that all the saints have endured the same trial. They were not carried on beds of down to heaven, and you must not expect to travel more easily than they. They had to hazard their lives unto the death in the high places of the field, and you will not be crowned till you also have endured hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. Therefore, "stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong."

Monday, August 02, 2010

Simple Books

A little while ago I was working through Thomas A Kempis'  book The Imitation of Christ. I'm not endorsing the whole book but there was a couple of chapters that I thought were really good. Listen to this from chapter 5.

TRUTH, not eloquence, is to be sought in reading the Holy Scriptures; and every part must be read in the spirit in which it was written. For in the Scriptures we ought to seek profit rather than polished diction.
Likewise we ought to read simple and devout books as willingly as learned and profound ones. We ought not to be swayed by the authority of the writer, whether he be a great literary light or an insignificant person, but by the love of simple truth. We ought not to ask who is speaking, but mark what is said. Men pass away, but the truth of the Lord remains forever. God speaks to us in many ways without regard for persons.
Our curiosity often impedes our reading of the Scriptures, when we wish to understand and mull over what we ought simply to read and pass by.
If you would profit from it, therefore, read with humility, simplicity, and faith, and never seek a reputation for being learned. Seek willingly and listen attentively to the words of the saints; do not be displeased with the sayings of the ancients, for they were not made without purpose.

I like the way he presses us to seek out truth not eloquence and that is particularly useful in the culture of twittering and blogging eloquently and insightfully.  I want to read stuff that does my soul good. I want to read stuff that isn't impressed with it's own cleverness. I want to read stuff that stretches my mind but I also want to read stuff that reconnects my mind to simple truths that stir my heart.

Connected with that, it seems that many people are turned off by Christianity because they think it's all about being clever and bookish. I know that some will find that bizarre when Christianity is portrayed as switching your brain off and believing fairy tales but in massive sections of our society the idea of reading a book and discussing it's meaning or debating philosophical ideas is completely alien to everyday life. Many people read the Sun or the Mirror, watch Corrie or Big Brother and live for Friday night. To them debates about Federal Vision, Sabbatarianism and New Covenant Theology are meaningless. So they view us as people who love to debate and argue about stuff that doesn't matter.
And then along side those we have others in the churches who can't compete in arguments and debates and so think that they can never be "proper" or "advanced" or "mature" Christians because they don't understand what people are talking about or they don't understand half of the sermon.

Back to A Kempis: I think that encouraging people to read simple stuff about the Christian faith is good for everyone. Not everyone can handle reading John Owen, excellent though he may well be, but I think that books that talk simply and clearly about real issues are gold. In other words read stuff that stretches you but also read simple stuff that fires you up too.

Why don't you enter a comment below with the title of a simple book that has done you real good.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

How to read the Bible

I love reading through the Bible once a year. For me it's a great discipline to keep me from only visiting those bits that I like or feel I need to read for some specific reason or other. The problem with reading through the Bible is a year is that it can easily become an exercise in simply getting through the material rather than properly engaging with it and feeding on it.

I was going to twitter Martin Luther's comments on reading the Bible but I thought it would be difficult to understand them without some small explanation:

First I shake the whole Apple tree, that the ripest might fall. Then I climb the tree and shake each limb, and then each branch and then each twig, and then I look under each leaf.
It would be nice to not only have all the hours in the day to read and meditate on God's word but also the energy and discipline of heart to do so. But it still stands as an encouragement to me to work through each passage I am reading and ask the important questions:

  • Who is this speaking to?
  • What would they have understood by it?
  • How does this relate to Jesus?
  • How does it relate to me through Jesus?

And then some of the older questions that divines used to ask:

  • Is there a promise here for me to claim?
  • Is there a command here for me to obey?
  • Is there a warning here for me to heed?
  • Is there a truth here for me to rejoice in?

There are no end of blogs, articles, tweets, papers, books and collected works to wade through but you know... the Bible is better than all of them.