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Review: Dirty Glory 14th November, 2016

Posted by Scotty in Books, Reviews.
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207_1000Over six years ago I read Red Moon Rising, the story of the 24-7Prayer organization, and it remains one of my favorite books. (You can read my thoughts on it from six years ago). Because of that I was excited to get my hands on Dirty Glory which is part 2 of the story, updating the reader on what God has done in and through 24-Prayer over the last ten-or-so years.

As I expected, I loved Dirty Glory. I was a little disappointed at the start as it seemed a lot more autobiographical of Pete Greig than the earlier book, but I got over that quickly as the book progresses from some key events in Pete’s life and expands to God’s work around the world.

Pete Greig has a wonderful way with words. He has a gift for seeing God at work and tying together many isolated events in a way that leaves you in no doubt that God is moving. It is full of paradoxes that place to glory of God amidst the mess of the world in a way that challenges neat paradigms while exalting Jesus. It makes prayer, and indeed answered prayer, so normative that you thirst for it!

Dirty Glory aso does a good job of showing you the heart and philosophy behind 24-7 Prayer, often through real-life stories of prayer in action more than direct articulation (though there are those parts like pp238-243). 24-7Prayer is an organization that cares about “Prayer, Mission and Justice” believing that true prayer should always catalyze us outward to impact the world, and so the book leaves you hungering for prayer and desiring to make a difference in the world. This is one of those books that inspires faith, calling to something deep within your being. (Even for that reason alone it should be worth the read!)

The book has a few extra resources at the back including a study guide to help mine and apply the contents of the book, and my personal favorite: a UK-English to US-English glossary!

I’ll end with a few of my favorite quotes:

God offers a big, holistic promise of salvation for individuals, societies, economies, and the environment. Whenever God’s people restore the proper ecology of creation by returning humbly to dependency upon their Creator in prayer, his life begins to overpower sin’s destructive influence at every level. The new creation begins to bud and bloom in every sphere of society. Wounded nations are made whole, poisoned creation is renewed, broken economies are repaired, dying cultures are revived, fractured relationships are reconciled (p99).

Economics, politics, the arts, education, and enterprise may well be the tools God uses to heal the land, but the impetus is repentant integrity. Humility is the heavenly algorithm for social transformation. The rusty hinge of human history turns out to be the bended knee (p99)

As a Christian you have received an even greater invitation. The King of Kings requests your presence “at the very seat of government.” He offers you a place on his executive so that you can influence his actions on behalf of the people. It is an unspeakable honor, and yet we are often too busy, or too disbelieving, to accept the invitation. The Bible is clear that our opinions and choices really can shape history, that our prayers really do make a difference in the world (p105).

(I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review)

Review: Discipling as Jesus Discipled 13th November, 2016

Posted by Scotty in Books, Reviews.
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9780802414632Discipling as Jesus Discipled is a Bible Study written by Dann Spader of Sonlife ministries. I was keen to have a look at this after hearing Dann’s story and philosophy of discipleship on the discipleship.org podcast.

The resource is designed to be a 10-week study, with 5 lessons each week. There’s great flexibility with how this could be implemented.

Based in John 17 this study explores the “seven disciplines of a disciplemaker” taken directly from the chapter:

  1. REVEAL: I revealed You to those You gave me
  2. SPEAK: I gave them the words You gave Me
  3. PRAY: I pray for them
  4. PROTECT: I protected them
  5. SENT: I sent them into the world
  6. SANCTIFY: For them I sanctify Myself
  7. SHARE: I have given them the glory You gave Me

What I like?

The study is grounded in Scripture, seeking to inspire disciple making through reflection on the life and ministry of Jesus. Each day looks at the topic through a lens of one of Dann’s stages of Christian maturity (Seekers, Followers, Workers, Mature Disciplers). There are good questions which push the reader beyond finding-the-right-answers. The questions encourage deeper reflection on the Biblical narrative trying to get you to enter into the story.

The material keeps moving from the content to practical implementation. So for example, the SPEAK section looks at Jesus as a man of the Word dependent upon the Spirit, introduces (and requires practice) of devotional Bible study and learning to hear God in Scripture, then sets the expectation of sharing what learned with others. Similarly, the section on PRAYER aims at establishing consistent prayer for those who are sovereignly positioned around you.

What I don’t like?

Dann likes to speak of those you are investing in as “your disciples”: “let’s refer to them as your disciples that God has brought to you… don’t feel uncomfortable calling them your disciples” (p81). I think it’s more appropriate to speak of them as Jesus’ disciples, not mine. As disciples of Jesus we come alongside others in their discipleship to Jesus.

However, this is a minor issue in a robust study. Overall I think this is a great resource to give people a firm grounding in how Jesus trained his discipleship and the implications of this for our investment in the lives of others. Well worth the time investment.

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

Review: Culture 11th November, 2016

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9781600668012

I was a bit surprised by this book. I enjoy reading Tozer. He has written some wonderful Christian Classics that are deep, provocative and insightful. I recently read Culture by A.W.Tozer and I’m surprised to say that I was disappointed with this book.

What did I like?

As you’d expect from Tozer, his writing is packed full of Scripture, he affirms God’s Word and our need to guard the Truth. He calls the reader to consider the cost of following Jesus and to accept that living like Christ should mean we experience trouble in the world, since the morality of Christ and morality of the world will always be at odds. He upholds the need for holiness and gives a number of critiques of the church that give pause and invite consideration about the state of our churches.

What didn’t I like?

This book is not for those who are interested in engaging the discussion about Christ and culture and how the church can engage with culture for the sake of the Gospel. From the title and subtitle (and from other Tozer books) I expected the book to contain deep insight into how to live and engage culture as Christians. Instead the chapters were mostly critical and separatist in their approach, rightly encouraging holiness and purity as Christians living in the world, but failing to give any practical help for how to engage the culture around us in a meaningful way. I’ve come to love Tozer for his penetrating insights into the character of God and the heart of man, but this book was more shallow in its discussion and somewhat one-sided in it’s approach.

Who should read it?

Those who are looking to be challenged to be distinct from the world and who are perhaps newer to contemplating the relationship between Christ and Culture.

I’ll finish with a couple of my favorite quotes:

There is an inactivity that, paradoxically, is the highest possible activity…
In the Old Testament, to wait on God meant coming before His presence with expectation and waiting there with physical and mental inactivity… There is a place where the mind quits trying to figure out its own way and throws itself wide open to God. And the shining glory of God comes down into the waiting life and imparts an activity (p101).

One picture of a Christian is a man carrying a cross… The man with a cross no longer controls his destiny; he lost control when he picked up his cross.  That cross immediately became to him an all-absorbing interest, an overwhelming interference. No matter what he may desire to do, there is but one thing he can do; that is, move on toward the place of crucifixion (p148)

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

Review: POTSC 27th September, 2016

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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

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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

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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 Books, Reviews.
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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.
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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”.

Unconventional
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:

Thankfulness

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.
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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)