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Review: POTSC 27th September, 2016

Posted by Scotty in Life.
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“When God writes our lives, there are never mistakes, just movements to bring us closer to Him” (59)

potscI’ve been a fan of People of the Second Chance (POTSC) since it began, having first been introduced to Mike Foster at a church retreat back in 2008/2009. I was excited to see his new book coming out and happy to get my hands on a copy. Here are a few thoughts in response to the book.

  1. Mike Foster’s writing style is really accessible. He in an artist, so has a great way with words, plenty of engaging stories and illustrations, and brings these gifts to bear on some really deep truths surrounding receiving and giving grace.
  2. When I first interacted with his writing, I found his invitation to be radically-gracious-people absolutely compelling. I admire his bravery in sharing his dark side and his clear pastoral heart that want to help people experience grace. This book takes his raw vulnerability a step further.
  3. Foster’s material is enjoyable and deep, but it’s not academic. If you’re looking for a robust and clearly articulated theology of grace, that’s not what this book is for. But if you’re hungry for hope, looking for a real life attempt to put God’s grace into action, and desiring to be an instrument of grace, then this book will scratch those itches!

One of my favourite sections of the book discusses the ways God uses the challenges in our lives to grow and shape us (pp.204+) .

  • Addiction (the power of surrender)
  • Doubt (the power of faith)
  • Emptiness (the power of self-care)
  • Loss (the power of appreciation)
  • Desperation (the power of weakness)
  • Loneliness (the power of engagement)
  • Confusion (the power of creativity)

I’m grateful for Mike Foster and POTSC! May God continue to bless his work.

Review: Failure: The Back Door to Success 9th September, 2016

Posted by Scotty in Books.
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Failure-The Back Door to Success.inddI just got done reading Failure: The Back Door to Success by Erwin W. Luther and I can see why there have been over 100,000 copies sold!

In this day and age where people idolise success and quick-fixes to problems, it great to read people wrestling with the theology of mess or failure.  Lutzer writes his book from the conviction that “failure of some kind is common to us all… Successful people are those who apply God’s remedy for failure” (14). For people like me who lived riddled with perfectionism masking a tremendous fear of failure, books like that are so important!

Lutzer’s writing is biblically grounded, concise, logical, and takes some complex themes and presents them simply. He states his case humbly, while providing adequate challenge and practical steps toward godliness. He anticipates the reader’s push-back well, for example, qualifying his theology of failure, “It is not necessary to fail before we succeed, but God often uses our failures to make us more sensitive to our need of Him” (53), drawing attention to the value of these painful seasons.

This is a solid, biblically grounded, and devotionally valuable book! I look forward to reading more from Lutzer!!

(I received this book from Moody Publishers in exchange for an honest review)

Review: GO 6th September, 2016

Posted by Scotty in Books.
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Back in January I read Barna’s The State of Discipleship and came across a short article called “Four Reflections on the State of Discipleship.” I thought was a great and insightful piece of writing, and so having no idea who Preston Sprinkle was, I jumped on google. I quickly discovered he was soon to release a book about discipleship  based on the findings of that Barna research project. And so, I put it on my wishlist, and was overly extremely excited when I saw a chance to grab a preview copy.

gocoverLast week I received a copy of Go: Returning Discipleship to the Front Lines of Faith by Preston Sprinkle. And I really liked this book! I flew through it in a couple of days because his writing style is so easy to follow and the content was engaging. Here are a few things I enjoyed about this book:

Firstly, I love reading works by people who have a heart to see more effective discipleship and are theologically insightful. Then when they back up their opinions with facts and figures beyond  anecdotal experience, it’s particularly enjoyable. Preston Sprinkle brings all three to the table.

Secondly, the flow of the book is great, progressing from our personal experience of Jesus, to the importance of relationship, to our missional outworking in this world.

Thirdly, I applaud Sprinkle for the positive way in which he critiques the present discipleship condition, while offering compelling vision for how things could be. The book cycles between humble critique, appropriate challenge, and attractive vision.

I’m glad to add this book to my collection. I’ve read a LOT of books about discipleship and really enjoyed this one.  It may be my new go-to for someone who is looking for a good overview of what effective discipleship can look like, or to help inspire passion for discipleship.

Here are some quotes I enjoyed that show the three layers of discipleship:

Personal: “The Scriptures are clear that grace must be the centrepiece of discipleship. Without a rich understanding of grace, our efforts to become like Christ will fail.” (26)

Relational: “Discipleship can’t happen without relationships. Deep relationships. Authentic relationships. Relationships where people can share their intimate struggles, confess their socially unacceptable sins, and rely on others for spiritual strength.” (42)

Missional: “Discipleship is far more than just mastering morality. It’s even more than thinking critically about tough topics… Biblical discipleship must include mission—embodying and displaying the presence of Christ beyond the four walls of the church.” (113)

I received this book free for an honest review from Tyndale Publisher’s.

Review: Messiology 1st August, 2016

Posted by Scotty in Life.
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Messiology_COV.inddI love short, quick, insightful reads, which certainly describes George Verwer’s Messiology. The subtitle beautifully summarises what he tries to get across in the book “The mystery of how God works even when it doesn’t make sense to us.”

Written in the latter stages of a life as a career missionary, communicator, and respected evangelical leadership, Verwer invites people to consider how “God in His patience, mercy, and passion to bring men and women to Himself often does great things in the midst of a mess” (13).

Verwer writes from a place of great humility, revealing many ways he has fallen short over his life, and the various ways God has brought him from a place of critical judgementalism to a pace of greater grace, deeper unity, and a new appreciation of the place of mystery.

In a beautifully simple and humble way, Verwer calls us to trust God with our failures and our differences, to believe that He can work through us and others even when our methods are wrong, and along the way he helpfully draws attention to numerous books that have helped cultivate his heart and understanding in various areas of the Christian life.

And all of that in 127 small pages. This book is a little gem.

(I received this book from Moody Publishers in exchange for an honest review)

Where it all began! 2nd October, 2014

Posted by Scotty in Calling.

Inside the ChurchA few weeks ago I was sitting with some new friends who asked me to share about my faith journey and my decision to pursue vocational ministry.  There is a very significant experience in my life that was a “turning point” for me.  It’s an important part of my story, and one I have shared many times and in many parts of the world.  When I finished sharing my tale, my friend went back to this part of the story and asked me a question that led to this blog!

Not Happy
About 15 years ago, I was away on a music weekend and was told we had to go to a church on the Sunday.  To my 15 year old self, it was the most excruciatingly dull experience I’d had in a church.  It was a fairly typical church—sandstone building, arched wooden ceiling like an upside down boat hull, two lots of wooden pews separated by a centre aisle, red carpet, organ playing, hymn singing—and I was not very happy to be there (a feeling shared by all my friends!)  I had to sit at the front because I was playing some music, which gave me a unique view.

There is a particular moment during this service that I recall vividly.  The service was moving along as normal, and the minister was speaking, when I, a not-really-a-Christian Christian, began to analyse what I was seeing…

Not Sustainable
As I looked out at the congregation, from my vantage point, I was aware of the 15-20 people scattered down the right hand side, all crowned with grey hair; while the left side was packed with a number of my also-forced-to-be-there adolescent musical peers.  I distinctly remember thinking, as I looked out at the old congregation, “I’m no expert on the whole church thing, but the elderly congregation don’t have a long time left, so if things don’t change, this church will be dead in the next 10-15 years”.

Not Engaging
I turned my attention to the minister who was talking.  I remember his beard, and being repulsed that he wore a cardigan!  I remember him standing talking with his toes hanging over the edge of the step.  I remember a dull monotony to his speaking, random stories from the newspaper, old people drifting to sleep, and young people clearly interested in everything other than being there.  I remember clear as day analysing what I saw: “Again, I’m no expert on church, but aren’t you supposed to be teaching stuff about the Bible?  Why then are you talking about the news instead?  You’re supposed to believe the stuff the Bible says, and so, shouldn’t you be more enthusiastic about what you’re saying, rather than speaking in monotone?  The future of your church are sitting right there—all those young people—and you’re doing nothing to get their attention; even your own congregation is falling asleep.”

Not Honouring
I remember looking over at the organist who was known best for their consistently unpleasant nature—sitting in a robe that looked like Batman’s Bat Cape—and thinking: “I’m definitely no expert on church, but are hymns not supposed to be a way to honour God?  How then can you have a person as horrible as that leading people in worship?  That just doesn’t go together!”

Not Working
And I remember turning my attention back to the minister and having an imaginary go at him in my head: “I don’t get it.  This just isn’t working!  What are you doing?  Your congregation is dying.  You’re so irrelevant, and even you sound bored.  You’re doing nothing to get the attention of these young people who may be the future of your church.  And you have that person leading “worship”.  Do you not know how they treat people?!  [and the part I’m least proud of…] This is a joke.  You are a joke.  This Church is a waste of space!” 

Not Expecting
As I sat back, frustrated by pleased with myself, that’s when it happened.  I couldn’t tell you where it came from—inside, outside, above, below, beside, around, a voice, a thought, a feeling—but something went: “Well, Scott, if you’re so clever, go show me you can do it better”.

Never one to back down from a challenge, I thought with a gulp, “Ok, I will!”

Right then, in that very moment, everything made sense.  All at once I realised: “God is real. His Word is True.  Jesus died for my sins. The Church is His vehicle for reaching the world… and this is not what God intended The Church to be”.

This is not your normal called-into-ministry story.  I cringe as I think about my immaturity and corresponding attitude.  I’m encouraged by God’s ability to use (what appeared in the eyes of the world to be) a failing ministry to lead someone to Him; and I’m humbled by God’s ability to use a potentially-negative-trait—my competitiveness—to grab hold of my heart.  That Sunday morning, I wanted to be anywhere other than in that church.  Today, I dread to think what my life would be like if I hadn’t been there!

Unusual Response
As I was saying at the beginning of this entry, I’ve told my story many times but this time there was something new in the response.  My friend looked at me and said “Have you ever gone back to that church to tell them what happened?  If that church has been struggling along years, don’t you think it would be such an encouragement to them to hear that God called you into ministry during one of their services (leaving out the negative details of course!)?  If you haven’t, you might want to think about doing that!”  And I knew she was right!

A couple of weeks later I was up in Scotland and, with this conversation playing on my mind, I spent some time online working out what church it was that we’d been in and I paid it a visit.  The church building was open but empty.  It was surreal to be back there realising how much has happened since then!  I went and stood where I’d been sitting all those years ago (and took the photo above!)—it looks exactly as I remembered it—and I thanked God for the adventure He’s had me on and the way He’s transformed my life since that day!  It was a special moment.

Unable to speak to someone I did the next best thing I could think of… I found their visitor book by the door and in BIG LETTERS wrote a simple message: “15 years ago during a service here God called me into ministry, and since then I’ve travelled the world for Him”!

I hope they read it and are encouraged.

2014 ONE WORD 31st December, 2013

Posted by Scotty in Challenges.
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After a break from blogging I’m looking forward to getting back in the game later in the year (summer-ish).  For now though, here is my ONE WORD for 2014.

The ONE WORD idea is simple: instead of coming up with a list of resolutions for the new year, you come up with one word that summarises what you’d like to cultivate in your life for the coming year.  Last year, I chose “grace”, and over the course of the year I have grown significantly in what it means to receive and to give grace.

This year, I have decided that the attribute I want to cultivate is:


I’m a naturally analytical person which has its strengths and weaknesses.  On the negative side, I can be overly critical, failing to appreciate the good because I’m too busy looking for flaws.

Gratitude should be the natural result of appreciating the multitude of blessings God pours over our lives.  This year, I am choosing to practice thankfulness!  And worship flows from a thankful heart!

What’s your ONE WORD?

House Hunting in Birmingham 20th August, 2013

Posted by Scotty in Life.

Forgive me for the serious lack of blogging over the past months.  It’s been a very busy time between the reading and assignments for my degree, the fundraising, and preparing to move.  Now that things are settling again, I’m looking forward to diving back into the blogging world to share all the things God’s been showing me.

We live in Birmingham (England)!?!?!

On Thursday 8th we loaded up a van.
On Friday 9th I drove it to Birmingham (5hrs), unloaded it, and drove back to Glasgow to spend our last night there.
On Saturday 10th we cleaned the flat and moved out.
We spent a couple of days with my parents, then
On Tuesday 13th, we moved to Birmingham!

Today is a week since we arrived in Brum.  We are staying with a wonderful couple, Tom & Judi, who offered to house us while we search for a place of our own.  They have been outstanding hosts!

We’ve spent the week recovering from the move, viewing houses, meeting our team, and familiarising ourselves with our new stomping ground.  We have a BBQ tomorrow evening where we’ll meet the rest of the people who serve the Birmingham area with The Navigators, and then this coming weekend is a conference where we’ll meet the rest of the staff from around the UK.

We have a lot of work to do in the coming weeks as we continue to house hunt, fundraise, plan curriculum for the coming year, spent time with the team, as well as familiarising ourselves with the area.

We’d appreciate your prayers as we look for a house.  At the moment we have to choose between space and location.  We’re asking God to make a place available that has both!

We’re excited to be here, and ready to be put to use.

We are exactly where He wants us and excited to share the things He’s been teaching us.

arial-campus(Aerial picture of the University of Birmingham Campus)


HAPPY BIRTHDAY ELLA! 16th August, 2013

Posted by Scotty in Blessings, Family.


One year ago today we were given the most incredible gift: our daughter Ella Joy.

She is the happiest, bubbliest, smiliest, most people-loving baby I’ve met.

And I just love waking up to her huge smiles and babbling.

Happy 1st Birthday baby girl!

We praise God for you!

RESOURCE: Kneeling With Giants 30th June, 2013

Posted by Scotty in Books, Discipleship, Prayer.
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kneeling with giantsBack in December I received a message from someone I didn’t really know.  I’d followed Gary Hansen on twitter or he’d followed me (which ended in following each other) and that led him to my blog (check out his blog here).  After reading my blog and seeing my blogs about prayer and various books, he offered to send me a copy of a book on prayer he’d written, in return for reviewing it on my blog.  My thought process went like this:

“Free book?  YES PLEASE!!”
Prayer? BONUS!!

I’m glad to say that like the book!  I wasn’t all that far through when I realised it wasn’t just a book on prayer, but also a great discipleship tool.  So rather than simply reviewing it, I want to recommend it to you as a great discipleship resource you can use to help you (or people you’re discipling) grow in the essential area of prayer.

I’ve read a number of books on prayer and have a couple of “go tos” that I suggest to people but none that I’ve taken a specific liking to… until now.

The aspect of the book that really sold it to me is how practical it is.

There are many books that talk about prayer without really helping you develop your prayer life.  While many books provide a new insight into prayer, often prayer books stay quite theoretical, talking about ways to prayer without helping you understand how to do it.  Kneeling with Giants provides you with both. More than the other books on prayer that I’ve read, Kneeling with Giants gets into the how, providing us with practical instruction and examples that really help you to engage each style of prayer.

The premise of the book is wise: Awareness of different styles of prayer will help keep prayer fresh over time, and give you access to new styles of prayer which can help sustain you in different seasons of your life.  The author’s hope in the book is to help you find a way to pray that you will find life-giving, since for so many people prayer can be such a struggle.  By introducing you to different styles of prayer found throughout the history of the church, hopefully you’ll discover a style that will bring new life and enjoyment to your time spent in prayer.  Gary’s clear pastoral desire to lead us deeper into the arms of God, and to equip us with tools to enhance our intimacy with Him come through the book clearly.

The book looks at ten styles of prayer.  For each one Gary Hansen explains the particular type of prayer, grounds it in Scripture and historical writings, then by using his own experiences he helps guide us in experimenting with that particular method of prayer.  Of the ten styles covered, I’d say that his chapters healing and intercession are the weakest, but they introduce you to some great writings you can jump to for more!

When I received the book back in January my thought had been to bash through the book quickly and get a blog up.  At the end of his introduction came the exhortation: “However you go through this book, the one crucial thing is to pray (p15)” and I realised that “bashing through” would not do justice to his gift!  [If you read this book without giving time to his suggestions, you’ll miss just how rich this resource is and rob yourself of some opportunities to experience God in a new way!!]

The material is rich!  Each chapter looks at the writing of a great man or woman in church history (like St Benedict, Luther, Calvin, Ignatius of Loyola, and the Puritans) and explores how they experienced prayer.  Coated with Hansen’s personal experiences, which he reflects on throughout the book, the pages take on a humble pastoral persona, like a spiritual director helping you (and challenging you) to experience deep new ways of meeting with Jesus.

This would be a good book to work through as a group study.  At the end of the book are two helpful appendices.  The first suggests ways to use the book as a small group or class curriculum, and the second is a helpful summary of suggestions for to how to practice each of the 10 styles Hansen discusses.

I’d recommend buying the e-book.  It includes a reader (that isn’t included in the paper copy) containing excerpts from the primary source texts, which he draws from throughout the book.  Though the book is a fine tool without this, the reader would add an extra element of depth through exposure to some of the writings from the history of the Church.

So… if you find prayer challenging, if your prayer times seem dull, if you’re looking for a prayer study for yourself or a group, or if you’re simply intrigued now that you realise there’s more than one way to pray, I’d highly recommend you grab a copy of Kneeling With Giants!

Thanks go to Gary for sending me such a great resource!

We’re moving to Birmingham!!!! 6th June, 2013

Posted by Scotty in Calling, Life, Ministry, Travel.

ukmap_birminghamWe’re moving to Birmingham!!!

I’ve not blogged in AGES, but that’s because there have been A LOT of significant things happening in the background. Here’s the brief update and we’ll give you more information later:

Firstly, we’ve just finished a major transition and have joined the ranks of The Navigators. They are an organisation I’ve respected for a number of years, and have always had an interest in being more involved. I am excited to move into an environment that is all about discipleship. We’ve already been having some great conversations with other workers within the organisation, and I just love rubbing shoulders with other people who are as passionate as us about this foundational aspect of the Christian Journey.

Secondly, we’re moving to Birmingham (England, not Alabama!!). When we first started talking with Navigators in December, they asked if we’d be willing to move to Birmingham. Initially, we were very reluctant, but as we prayed and our conversations continued, God confirmed to them and to us that this is what He wants. And so it’s looking like we’ll move down there at the beginning of August to dive in to the work they are doing in the city.  Birmingham puts us in close proximity to leadership team, central for a lot of their training, with easy access to a number of key ministries around the UK. This is even more helpful because…

Thirdly, I have begun doctoral studies in Discipleship. After looking at a very specific discipleship-focused degree for the last couple of years, I have finally embarked on that journey. As you know, I love to read and think and write about discipleship, and want to work out ways to assist the Church to become more effective at making disciples. As part of my new role with Navigators, I have been asked to undertake some large research and writing projects…. Which will end up being the body of my doctoral thesis. The doctorate fits beautifully alongside our new roles and will give some added structure to the projects I’ll be working on for Navigators. Not to mention the ways it’s already sparked thoughts for a thousand other blogs on discipleship!

Since chemo God has been refining me, cleansing my heart, honing our calling and bringing more focus to our lives and ministry. It’s always rewarding to see God brings things together and we’re looking forward to seeing what He does in this next season!

I’ll post more soon, so watch this space!