Courses for this season

I believe strongly that we need to embrace this season rather than deny what is happening, get angry or depressed about it. To do this we need to be positive, structure our time and invest some of it in learning new things.

There are other blogs suggesting books you might read in this season. This blog introduces several Christian courses that are being made available free of charge on the internet now. I would encourage you to consider investing sometime each day in doing a Christian course.

Here are some suggestions –

https://www.emotionallyhealthy.org/product/emotionally-healthy-discipleship-dvd-course-stream/?v=ad0777e6b3ef

This gives you access to two courses.

Emotionally healthy relationships, an 8 session course with each session lasting around 30 minutes. It refers to other resources, but these are not essential to benefit from the course. The aim of the course it to equip us to build healthier relationships of all types. It is very practical and down to earth.

Emotionally healthy spirituality is another 8 week course with each session around 20 minutes long. This course focuses on your relationship with God, again in a practical and down to earth way.

https://masterlectures.zondervanacademic.com/surprised-by-hope-n-t-wright/videos/surprised-by-hope-session-1-hope-for-the-world

Tom Wright, also known as N.T. Wright, is one of the best and most respected biblical scholars of today. This is a course based on his classic book Surprised by hope. It focuses on what the Bible says about the age of come, our future hope. After each lecture there is a question and answer to check you have understood what is taught. You can sign up for a free two week trial.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Revelation-Introduction-Commentary-Tyndale-Testament-ebook/dp/B01C9KYZQ8/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3KY0RDA6U5HKM&dchild=1&keywords=ian+paul&qid=1585048928&sprefix=ian+Paul%2Caps%2C169&sr=8-1

https://thinktheology.co.uk/blog/article/think_2019_sessions_now_available

How about giving your time to study one of the most challenging yet stimulating books of the Bible – Revelation! There is a link to an excellent introductory commentary on the book and to a series of lectures that I attended on the book last year. If you want to follow the lecture course get in contact with me and I will forward you the lecture notes that accompanied the course. There are 8 lectures each of around 90 minutes, so it is a considerable investment of time. However, it will open up this elusive book in an incredible way.

These are a few of the resources currently available. Set yourself a challenge, try something new, invest your time in something to help you grow as a christian!

Tony Thompson Tony@hopechurch.co.uk

 

Books for this season. Dominion by Tom Holland

Yesterday I started a short series on books worthy of investing time in during social isolation. Todays offering is for those who want a meaty read, something that will keep you enthralled for many hours. It is Dominion by Tom Holland. I read it last year and it took many hours. It needs to be thought of as an investment rather than a light read…….

Tom is an academic writing an academic book about the impact Christianity has had on contemporary culture. He admits that when he started the book, he wasn’t a believer but from the conclusion of the book and subsequent interviews it seems that he probably is now.

Joel Virgo has produced an excellent review, which I cannot better so I recommend you read it rather than me say anything more about the book.

https://thinktheology.co.uk/blog/article/how_christianity_made_the_western_mind_joel_virgo_reviews_tom_holland

Joel says, It’s one of the most stimulating books of history you’re likely to come across. I totally agree.

I think it is excellent value for money at £13.89 for the hardback

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dominion-Making-Western-Tom-Holland/dp/1408706954/ref=sr_1_1?crid=WXY7ZCABMB0X&dchild=1&keywords=dominion+tom+holland&qid=1584972406&sprefix=dominion%2Caps%2C163&sr=8-1

£10.99 for the kindle version.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dominion-Making-Western-Tom-Holland-ebook/dp/B010RGSEC2/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1584972406&sr=8-1

 

Books for this season. Screwtape letters – C.S. Lewis

As I have said before the current requirement for social distancing presents many challenges but also many opportunities. We need to embrace the opportunities as well as overcome the challenges.

For me this includes spending more time reading, it may mean that for you. I have been asked already for recommended books. I am currently rereading an old classic, Screwtape letters written by CS Lewis during the second world war, over 70 years ago. It is a series of letters from a senior devil to his nephew on how to tempt humans. It is an easy read but also profound and still very relevant. Certainly, one of the books I would commend to you at this time.

One of the letters deals with how to cause problems for a young Christian living with his mother. It could equally apply to any close relationship and speaks into situations when we may be sending more time with the same people than is usually the case.

The demon is encouraged to build up a habit of mutual annoyance, daily pinpricks that harm the relationship. This is to be achieved by –

  1. Keeping his mind on the inner life.

Keep his mind off the most elementary duties by directing him to the most advanced and spiritual ones….

You must bring him to a condition in which he can practise self-examination for an hour without discovering any of those facts about himself which are perfectly clear to anyone who has ever lived in the same house with him or worked in the same office.

  1. It is impossible to stop him praying for his mother, but we have ways of rendering his prayers innocuous.

Focus the prayers on the state of her soul, not her rheumatism. This means he is thinking of her sins and, in time, begins to pray for an imaginary person far removed from the real person.

I have had patients of my own so well in hand that they could be turned at a moment’s notice from impassioned prayer for a wife’s or son’s ‘soul’ to beating or insulting the real wife or son without a qualm.

  1. When people have lived together for a while there are things about each other that irritate.

Work on them! Remind him of how he dislikes the way his mother raises her eyebrow. Make him think she knows this and does it on purpose to annoy him. Never let him suspect the same is going on the other way around and how absurd that his mother could know it irritates him.

  1. Recognise hatred is expressed by saying things that if the words were written on paper appear harmless but are said in such a voice and at such a moment, that they are not far short of a blow in the face.

Each must demand that what they say is taken at face value whilst judging the other with the most over-sensitive interpretation. From every quarrel they can both go away convinced that they are quite innocent.

There is much more like this, practical, down to earth, witty and very relevant. 31 easy to read short chapter mean this can last you a month.

Paperback it costs £7.37 on Amazon

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Screwtape-Letters-Senior-Signature-Classic/dp/0007461240/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=screwtape&qid=1584971181&sr=8-1

Kindle is only £2.29

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Screwtape-Letters-Clive-Staples-Lewis-ebook/dp/B084S9BVLT/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1584971181&sr=8-1

I will publish other suggestions over the next few days.

 

Some initial thoughts prompted by the Coronavirus

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By Tony Thompson

The events of the last few days have been shocking to us all. I had been in touch with friends in Spain and Italy, talking about the impact on their daily lives and then suddenly we are experiencing the same. I think it is healthy for us all to reflect on how we feel about it. It would be great to hear your reflections. Here are some of my early ones.

The most immediate is a wakeup call to the flimsiness of our plans. I am used to being able to plan what will happen, now it seems I can’t from one day to the next. I expect to go to the shop and buy what I want, now I can only buy what is left on the shelves. I expect to book a home delivery for a couple of days out, now I am lucky to get a slot in 3 weeks. I am used to planning services and preaches months ahead, now I don’t even know when we will be able to meet again. I am used to going wherever I want and meet with whoever I want. Now I am told to self-isolate.

Things work. Things are predictable. It has been easy (and reasonable) to say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money’ (James 4:13).

That has now all changed with chaos in the financial markets, the closure of public events, and the total impossibility of making any plans for travel. All we do know is that life is likely to be much more disrupted and restricted over the coming weeks. We can make plans for this, but we know any plans we make will be subject to rapid change.

James’ warning, ‘What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes’ (James 4:14), has often rung hollow in a world where we are able to plan with confidence. Now it rings clear. That is a good thing. If the current challenges teaches us to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that’ (James 4:15), we will actually be in a healthier place.

I realise the world we have created tends to make us very arrogant. We feel we are in control because of the general predictability of our systems and services. But really, we are not. Corona virus is humbling us. It is teaching us not to ‘boast in your arrogant schemes’ (James 4:16). For that we should be thankful – and seize the opportunity it affords us to proclaim the good news of an unshakeable heavenly Father ‘who does not change like shifting shadows’ (James 1:17).

Like James, this is a time to proclaim: ‘Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded’ (James 4:8). Our plans are flimsy: His are immovable.

You may also want to watch a short video, just 5 minutes long, where some one shares her previous experience of coping with uncertainty and unwelcome shocks.

https://thinktheology.co.uk/blog/article/kissing_the_wave

 

Failing as a leader is OK.

More thoughts from Dan Allender

 

God loves reluctant leaders and, even better, he loves reluctant leaders who know they are frightened, confused, and broken. In fact, he seems to have a special fondness for rebels and fools. Does God choose troubled leaders because few other people are foolish enough to say yes, or does he choose weak, troubled people because they serve a unique purpose in their broken state? The answer is yes.

 

Here is God’s leadership model: he chooses fools to live foolishly in order to reveal the economy of heaven, which reverses and inverts the wisdom of this world. He calls us to brokenness, not performance; to relationships, not commotion; to grace, not success. It is no wonder that this kind of leadership is neither spoken of nor admired in our business schools or even our seminaries.

 

Paul calls leaders not merely to be humble and self-effacing but to be desperate and honest. It is not enough to be self-revealing, authentic, and transparent. Our calling goes far beyond that. We are called to be reluctant, limping, chief-sinner leaders, and even more, to be stories.

 

The leader who fails to face her darkness must live with fear and hypocrisy. The result will be a defensiveness that places saving face and controlling others as higher goods than blessing others and doing good work.

 

We assume that if God spoke to us out of a burning bush and told us to do something, we would bow before him and then immediately do as he bid. Not Moses. He stood his ground and fought God’s plan.

 

Most leaders had no intention or desire to lead; instead they were thrown into the mess by being discontent. If they had been willing to endure life as it was, then they would never have become leaders. The person who merely puts up with life becomes a manager or a bureaucrat, not a leader. The difference between a manager and a leader is the internal urge to alter the status quo to create a different world.

 

Why we should enter Christian leadership reluctantly

More thoughts from Dan Allender

 

A good leader will, in time, disappoint everyone. Leadership requires a willingness to not be liked, in fact, a willingness to be hated.

 

But it is impossible to lead people who doubt you and hate you. So the constant tug is to make the decision that is the least offensive to the greatest number and then to align yourself with those who have the most power to sustain your position and reputation in the organization.

 

Doubt is the context for surrender. And flight is the path for obedience. When we’re reluctant to lead, doubting ourselves and our call, we are ripe for growth as a leader.

 

We should bless men and women who have done their level best to escape leadership but who have been compelled to return and put their hand on the tiller. We should expect anyone who remains in a formal leadership context to experience repeated bouts of flight, doubt, surrender, and return. Why would this be God’s plan? Why does God love the reluctant leader? Here is one reason: the reluctant leader is not easily seduced by power, pride, or ambition.

 

The reluctant leader detoxifies power by empowering others to bring their vision, passion, and gifts to the enterprise. She creates an environment of open debate that honours differences and where no one fears reprisal.

 

A reluctant leader knows that her calling to lead is ridiculous, but she bears the high glory of God’s decision to call weak fools into the work of leading others. Consequently, a reluctant leader smiles at the striving ambition of power- hungry leaders to make more and keep more.

 

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