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Spirit of Paradox

It is not every day you get to meet someone who has helped to start a genuine movement of change and restoration.  So you can imagine my excitement when it came to spending time with David and Mary Pytches – the couple who helped to birth both New Wine and Soul Survivor.

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David and Mary returned to the UK with four young daughters after serving as cross cultural missionaries in Chile.  Unsure what God wanted them to do they looked for a base in Chorleywood, which offered education facilities for the girls.  David was hoping to learn how to run a parish from the Vicar, but the Vicar was about to leave and David was offered the incumbency.  David speaks about his sense of inadequacy and eventually set up a daily early morning prayer meeting.   From this time saw an increasing number of people added to the church.   Mary recounts how they faithfully retained the liturgy at the same time as being open to the Holy Spirit.

Learning that John Wimber was coming to York David suggested that he call in on Chorleywood on the way.  It was an unforgettable weekend.   Despite very different ecclesiologicol backgrounds John and David hit it off and became close friends.   And soon David was helping John to find organisers for the UK conferences.

I enjoyed being able to tell David how grafeful I was for the Brighton Conference in 1986, where a friend of mine came to faith.  He later stood up in our class at our rough and ready comprehensive school and shared his new found faith in Jesus.  This was Steven Whittington – a key influence in my becoming a Christian.   It was great to learn about a young youth worker from a Baptist church where had run an open youth club, until the local teenagers rampaged the church.  The youth worker was Mike Pillavachi, who later became the youth worker at Chorleywood.

David and I had this opportunity to meet after he had read my book “Paradoxology” -  Why Christianity was never meant to be simple.  David explained to me that it was the title that grabbed him as he had reflected for many years on the paradoxes of scripture which we tend to brush under the carpet, which means our Bible teaching has no real integrity.   David reminded me of Charles Simeon, a great evangelical clergyman and bible teacher who had said

“The truth is not in the middle, and not in one extreme; but in both extremes.”

Mary commented on how we tend to cut God down to our size but ‘wouldn’t we rather have a big God’.   Interestingly we talked a lot about the liturgy undergirding our spirituality and both Paradox and Liturgy are things that James K.A. Smith has been arguing for recently.  Sadly many churches seem to opt either for intimacy with God or depth of teaching when there doesn’t need to be a choice.   Depth of true teaching should help us develop intimacy with God and our intimacy with God should drive us towards deeper teaching – it should be a virtuous circle.

David has kindly written a commendation for the reprint of ‘Paradoxology’ which is out soon.  It has some typos and corrections added thanks to those of you who spotted my errors.  The book will be even better  because of you.   David says:  “I have been looking for a book like this for the last fifty years and am so delighted to have found it.”

I came away from David and Mary greatly encouraged.  They are rare people who have experienced so much of God and done so much in His name, and in their seniority are still keen to bless others.

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A sofa-isticated faith

With a major row brewing in the church on the assisted suicide bill in the House of Lords, the Evangelical Alliance is encouraging people to pose this and other difficult and seemingly contradictory questions about Christianity. Dr Krish Kandiah, executive director of churches in mission, is tackling the most difficult questions that one can possibly raise about Christianity in the next week when he invites questioners to join him on the ‘paradoxology sofa’.

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“The issue of assisted suicide is engaging widespread debate on Twitter and in the pages of the national press. Rather than avoid these tough questions I want to encourage people to bring out their most perplexing queries and questions and have confidence to talk about them rather than hiding them away,” he said.

 

“Other tough questions being discussed are why God seems to sanction genocide in the Old Testament, why is there so much suffering in the world? Is God an egomaniac that he wants everyone to worship him? Is God racist that he chose the Jews to be his people? Rather than discouraging awkward questions I will be actively discussing them at Keswick.”
These are being discussed during week two of the Keswick Convention (19-25 July), where the his ‘Paradoxology sofa’ has been set up to engage people during his seminar series based on his new book Paradoxology: Why Christianity was never meant to be simple.(Published by Hodder).
He will be sporting a ‘Paradoxology sofa’ (whose upholstery matches the cover of the book) complete with matching cushions (which are printed with quotes of reviewers!). A prize is being offered for the best questions or paradox raised in a photo competition.
“It’s a bit of fun to help Christians begin to sit up and engage with some serious questions. I believe that Christianity is true and so we do not need to fear any questions but we do need to be on our guard against over simplistic answers,” he added.
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IF YOU WANT TO TAKE PART IN OUR LITTLE COMPETITION SIMPLY Tweet a picture of yourself with your question and use the hashtag #paradoxology. The best picture / question will be sent a book bundle including a copy of Paradoxology.
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Summer Reading 2014

Books are such a wonderful gift and what could be more relaxing and refreshing that using some of the Summer holiday to get some reading in. Here are some of my Summer recommended reads:

Goodbye to All That - Robert Graves

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This is a fantastic firsthand account of life as an officer in World War 1. Graves writes very poetically and movingly about the both the horror and the madness of life in the trenches and how he lived afterwards. It is controversial as some parts of the account are contested. On the 100th anniversary of ww1 this is well worth the read.

1913 The World before the Great War - Charles Emerson

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This is a very interesting snapshot of life before world war 1 , it’s a strange thing how cosmopolitan and civilised relationships between the various european nations seemed to be before all hell broke loose with the bloodbath of the trenches. This is a fascinating global tour.

The Global Diffusion of Evangelicalism – Brian Stanley

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This is a very well written and enlightening history of the Evangelical movement in the english Speaking world from the 1940s-1990s. (read my full review here).

Creativity Incorporated - Ed Catmull

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Here’s the inside track on how Pixar conquered the world and then turned around Disney. Its an easy read with some great stories from life inside the world’s most successful animation studio.

Novels

Canada – Richard Ford

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I loved this book it was my favourite novel of last year. It had me from the first sentence and maintained both beauty, depth and intense readability all the way through.

The Fault in Our Stars – John Green

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This is a very good teen novel – it wrestles with intense questions such as mortality, disability, beauty and friendship. It is funny, witty and of course tragic. Haven’t seen the movie – am worried it will wreck the nuance and subtlety of the book.  If your teen is reading this – read it to. You will enjoy lots of it and it will give you a lot to talk about with them.

More than This – Patrick Ness

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This is a great bit of science fiction – its a quick gentle read with some great ideas floating around. Another good book to engage the teen reader in your household .

Help Needed:

So now I need your help. I am looking for some good book recommendations for my Summer holidays. I’d love some good novels. I am currently planning to read:

To Kill A Mocking Bird- Harper Lee
The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver
Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury

Cover Photo by Lightgrapher  CC

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Yes this is the best World Cup Ad ever

Wow, this video is awesome.
I love the joi de vivre.
I love the way skills long honed in practice are on display
I love the idea of people sharing their skills to bring a smile to friends and strangers
Well done for a beautiful piece of art – shame its advertising a fast-food chain…

Thanks to Jonny Laird for sharing this on twitter.

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Labyrinth of Prayer

Love the fact that our little local church is so keen to help all ages experience God together. This morning we continued a series on spiritual growth through looking at a number of spiritual disciplines. This week we used the Labyrinth prayer experience as a church.

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All age travel guides

One of the exercises today involved everyone writing down a prayer on some special paper and then heading off into the Labyrinth. Once you got to the middle of the labyrinth there was a font with some water in that you placed your paper prayer into and it dissolved.

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Then you were encouraged to write an attribute of God that you appreciated as an act of praise in chalk on the floor.

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Then for your journey out of the labyrinth as you go on to face the world you are to take a psalm with you to meditate on.

A Psalm for your journey
A Psalm for your journey

All the ages took part today with some of us acting as guides for the travellers.

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Well done to the team that put this together!

My 7 year old daughter had a great time, though her prayer did make me laugh…

“Please God please don’t let me get lost in the maze.”

Other ideas for all age services here.

 

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I have a confession to make… Paradoxological Thought #5

Big news in the pop world as the clean cut” One Direction” boy band members seem to have been caught on camera smoking marijuana. The discrepancy between their fresh faces, boy next door pop videos has set the tabloids ablaze with rumours. An incriminating video which apparently has “Louis Tomlinson, 22 explaining that ‘So here we are, leaving Peru. Joint lit. Happy days!’ The picture and quotation come from this report in the Daily Mail.

The child stars who go through a rebellious stage to prove they are grown ups is a sadly predictable storyline: see Zac Effron, Vanessa Hudgens, Miley Cyrus et al. But I have some sympathy with the challenge facing these young stars and starlets

- they face immense pressure to present an idealised image of yourself to the world
- the fact that once they turn a certain age their PR consultants probably advise them to redefine themselves as edgier by releasing sex tape or getting caught using drugs

None of that takes away the final responsibility for the decisions they make that of course impact their adoring fans view of life and success. We all must take responsibility for the choices we make; even if some of that responsibility is diminished due to extreme circumstances.

But most importantly I feel sympathy for them because I know the challenge of living a double life… listen in to my final Thought of the Day from Premier Christian Radio below. It is the final of five reflections based on my new book Paradoxology.  You can hear the other reflections here:

(1) (2) (3) (4)

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Simple Simon Says… Make Disciples

Francis Chan certainly has a direct way of challenging the way we go about fulfilling the mission Christ commissioned his church to complete.

Francis Chan – Making Disciples from Verge Network on Vimeo.

Of course the challenge is what does disciple making actually look like. I have been thinking about this for a while now, see the suite of resources we have collated here.

I have been thinking on how we create disciples that are not just clones of celebrity church leaders or so fragile that their faith falls apart during transition – let along tragedy. See my article for Christianity Today’s leadership blog.

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A matter of perspective

I couldn’t believe these amazing street art photos from: justsomething.co

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Its an amazing skill, lining everything up so that from just the right angle these 2D pictures suddenly take on a whole new dimension. It reminded me of the opening lines of a Tale of Two Cities “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times” was the French revolution the best thing to have happened to France – it depended who you were and where you stood. That got me thinking about  the most significant crisis in human history – was it a disaster or deliverance? The Cross of Jesus is either the lowest point in history or the highest point – it just depends where you stand…

Take a listen to a 2 minute little taster from the Cross Paradox which is taken from Paradoxology my new book which tries to bring a new perspective on some of the  most challenging parts of the Bible.

You can listen to the 3 other recordings here from the Premier Christian Radio Thought of the Day series I did here. (1) (2) (3)

For more Premier Thought of the Day material by other speakers check here.

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Paradoxological Thought for the Day #4

There’s been a lot of debate recently about which books should be included in the English Literature syllabus. “To Kill a Mocking Bird” is out and so is “The Grapes of Wrath” as they are not English enough. What is often missing in these debates is the way that English literature has been shaped by the Bible. So many of the key tropes and themes in our literature have been shaped and formed by the biblical narrative. For young people to fully grasp English literature they need biblical literacy too.

In today’s thought for the day take a listen to my reflections on one of the all time classics of English literature (even though it is based on the French Revolution.)
This is a taster for a chapter called “The Cross Paradox – how God wins when he loses” in Paradoxology. I hope you enjoy it.

You can access more of Premier Christian Radio Thought of the Days by a whole range of speakers here. 

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Paradoxological Thought for the Day #3

People grow up quickly.
Looking at the actors from Harry Potter on the first day of filming and then again on the last day is a strange experience. We all watched Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint grow up in front of us. We feel older and wiser as we recognise this fact but we also wonder where the time went.

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If you are a believer I wonder how long it has been since you became a Christian?  I look back on the last 27 years since a friend of mine helped me to become a follower of Jesus and wonder where the time went. I’d love to be more mature in my faith by now – I ought to be more mature by now…

I am trying to take some deliberate steps to grow in my faith and by God’s grace I hope as I grow I will be able to help others. My book Paradoxology tells a little a bit of the story. Listen in to today’s excerpt to see what I mean.

You can also click to  listen to Day 1 and Day 2.