On the reading of books

So last week I threw out this question: When I say ‘God of the Bible’, what are the first three words that pop into your mind? And it has had some healthy engagement, with almost a hundred comments (if you include the various threads of dialogue that emerged in the fertile soil of this question’s provocation). Indeed, thanks to Nik Tomanovic’s energetic commitment to polite and intelligent discussion, the conversation seems to be continuing, particularly along the avenues of morality, religion, and the possibility of accounting for such phenomena by evolutionary theories. In forthcoming weeks I may manage to finetune a good question that helps a broader audience connect with those themes.

But this morning I have been struck by the question of another Facebooking Ywamer, Taylor Stutts, about how many books people read and whether people use book-summary websites.

Now I love books. And I love the fact that in this day and age I can type the name of any book into Amazon and more often than not buy a copy for less than £10 (assuming you’re happy to have a second-hand copy or an ebook). What I don’t necessarily do is to read a book cover-to-cover. I used to admit this with a little guilt and shame, but then I read Pierre Bayard’s ‘How To Talk About Books You Haven’t Read’. Bayard argues that there is no-one who has fully, thoroughly, completely, adequately read any book at all. He divides the possible relationships one can have with a book into four categories: 1. Books You Don’t Know; 2. Books You Have Skimmed; 3. Books You Have Heard Of; and 4. Books You Have Forgotten. And it empowered me to unworriedly admit that I skim books and forget them.

But I try to remember the lessons I learn from them. And I do this by coming to books with specific questions. And letting them modify my questions. And supply with new questions. And also launch me on to other books. The Contents and the Bibliography are sometimes the most interesting parts of a book! Amazon’s ‘Customer’s who bought this item also bought…’ is also very helpful in this respect.

So if you were to glance at my bookshelf, you would see that I am asking questions about Israel and Zionism (the hundredth anniversary of the Balfour Declaration having just passed) [My Promised Land – Ari Shavit; Israel: A History – Anita Shapira; The Case For Israel – Alan Dershowitz]; questions about constitutional law, legal enforcement, criminal justice and a Christian engagement with such things [Constitutional Law – Loveland sixth ed.; The Locust Effect – Gary Haugen; and everything else by Gary Haugen who founded IJM] and the prayer & worship movement [Enthroned – David Fritch; Fire & Fragrance – Sean Feucht & Andy Byrd; Punk Monk – Andy Freeman; The Return of the Musical Prophet – Steve Abley]. And I’ll stop there, but there are other questions that are on my mind.

So, over to you.

What’s one book you’ve recently read that has taught you something new–and what was it?

In Search of Good Questions

So apparently I haven’t been blogging much recently. Which is to say that if you glance to the right of this blog post you will see that my Archives widget counts my post a couple of weeks as one of two in this month (right now that’s the only one in existence, but by the time you read this post, this post will have increased the count to two), and then only one in the two years since October 2015 — a lonely lyric on ambition and perspective inspired by a pop chorus I came across one night on YouTube.

Now, partly that is explained by the usual intensity and busyness of being involved with a YWAM Discipleship Training School, which has defined my rhythm of life for five consecutive years (2011-2016), and which always starts in late September — so you can see in 2012, there are no posts between October and March; and in 2013, no posts between May 2013 and April 2014 (that was extra-busy: moving from Harpenden back to Cambridge to start the first DTS); in 2014 though it seemed I had cracked the code! and had nineteen months of consecutive posting (between one and nine posts a month) until October 2015.

But then I was overambitious, and thought I would try and blog my teaching notes from each week of DTS–and didn’t get beyond Week 3.

It wasn’t actually that I wasn’t able to write anything during that DTS, but that when the dam of writer’s block broke, the words all flowed out in rhyming couplets as a mediation on the problem of evil and the Book of Job, in the form of what I’m hoping will become an operatic hip hop concept album in four quartets. But that is a long term project which is nowhere near even really beginning (let alone completion!). Though if you really want you can ask, and I will be more than happy to share some lyrics with you :)

Anyway, I would like to revive this blog. And I’m going to do so by attempting to learn the art of asking good questions. James 1:19 says we should be slow to speak and quick to listen. And in this age of instant communication how much more do we need to be slow in our speech. But on the other hand, if we were to be silent the rocks would cry out. And God has called me to blog!

So asking QUESTIONS seems a good way of proactively speaking in a way that invites the opportunity to listen.

Anyway, today’s question is this:

When I say ‘God of the Bible’, what are the first three words that pop into your mind?

And the conversation is already exploding…

12 Passages to Pray for your City’s Church

So some of you might know that I’m spending these next six months on the Manchester House of Prayer team as an intern, and one of the things I’ve been asked to do is to help with their strategy to connect with and pray for the church in Manchester. So I spent this morning asking God for a strategy. And this is what I felt he said: “use the biblical model of the church in Ephesus”. Now, Ephesus was the one church for which the critically-minded controversialist Paul the Apostle had no criticisms when he sent them an apostolic letter. So, it’s probably a good, positive place to start praying for the church in any city! So running with that, I’ve gone through the relevant Scriptures about the church in Ephesus, and put together a rough sketch that could direct twelve months of prayer:

1. Acts 18:24-28. Apollos and Priscilla & Aquilla.
i. Word & Spirit coming together.
ii. Powerful preaching.
iii. Humility to receive correction, boldness to lovingly confront, unity amongst differences.
iv. Jews reached with the message of the Messiah.
v. Fervency in Spirit.
vi. Competency in the Scriptures.

2. Acts 19:1-10. Paul and his twelve disciples.
i. Conversion
ii. Fullness (Spiritual gifts, prophetic, signs)
iii. Discipleship
iv. Multiplication
v. Properties, facilities, material resources.

3. Acts 19:11-20. Sons of Sceva; confession of witchcraft.
i. Spiritual warfare.
ii. Conviction of sin.
iii. Revival: Deliverance, healing, sozo; extraordinary miracles.
iv. Reformation: transformation of education, businesses, religious institutions.
v. Name of Jesus extolled
vi. Fear of the Lord.

4. Acts 19:21-22. ‘I must also see Rome’. Cf. Letter to the Romans.
i. Expansion of vision: regional, national, international.
ii. Written word: books, etc.
iii. Missionary task–unreached (cf. Rom. 15:20).
iv. Missionaries sent out (T&E).
v. Timing, seasons, discernment.

5. Acts 19:23-41. Riot of the idol-makers.
i. Shake the city.
ii. Persecuted Christians.
iii. Wisdom and discernment (19:30).
iv. Vindication of Christians facing opposition.
v. Forgiveness of those who have wronged us (cf. Alexander 19:33; 2 Tim. 4:14)

6. Acts 20:17-38. Established Church Leaders.
i. Full counsel of God.
ii. False teachers.
iii. Corruption.
iv. Fulfilment of calling.
v. Grace.

7. 1 Timothy. Emerging Leaders.
i. Skill with Scripture.
ii. Testimonies of grace.
iii. Prayerfulness.
iv. Honour of older leaders.

8. Ephesians 1:1-2:10. Grace for the praise of His glory.
i. Grace
ii. Wisdom
iii. Revelation
iv. Holy Spirit power
v. Salvation

9. Ephesians 2:11-4:16. Unity
i. Church unity.
ii. Racial reconciliation.
iii. Unreached nations & Jewish salvation.
iv. Leaders to be unified and bring church to maturity.
v. LOVE.

10. Ephesians 4:17-5:21. Character.
i. Repentance.
ii. Sanctification.
iii. Purity.
iv. Community.
v. Awakening.
vi. Worship.

11. Ephesians 5:22-6:9. Relationships.
i. Families: marriages.
ii. Families: children.
iii. MARRIAGE—its meaning.
iv. Workplace: employers.
v. Workplace: employees.
vi. WORK.
vii. Modern slavery—justice, freedom, deliverance.

12. Revelation 2:1-7. First love.
i. Revival.
ii. Repentance.
iii. Faithful toil.
iv. Discernment of leaders.
v. Revelation of Jesus.

I might turn this into a longer and more well-thought through resource, but in the meantime, please feel free to use this to help catalyse your prayers for whatever city you’re in!