Lord Jesus Christ Draw Close – A New Advent Video for 2011

This year’s Advent video focuses on our need to draw close to our Lord Jesus Christ during the Advent season. The music is “In Toto Corde ~ Lament” from the CD, ANTIPHON by the Coram Deo Ensemble.

Below is a low quality preview, which you are free to use. The high quality version is now available for download ($15) from our Mustard Seed webstore.

Also available are the videos from the past four years for immediate download or on DVD.

Music by Janet Chvatal, Jeff Johnson & Brian Dunning
℗© 2011 Sola Scriptura Songs / ArkMusic.com
Used with permission. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Lord Jesus Christ Draw Close

Draw close, Lord Jesus Christ
Draw close, lead us with you light
Teach us the wonder of your love
Show us the glory of your saving grace
Draw close, God’s beloved son
Born to be redeemer of our world
The promised saviour of all creation
Draw close, shine for the world to see
Ignite in us your flame
Prepare us for a world of justice
Prepare us for a world of peace
Prepare us for a world of righteousness
Draw close renew our lives
Until our hearts ache for freedom
Our minds long for holiness
Our spirits seek for unity
Draw close we long for your coming
God of compassion and mercy
God of might and power,
God beyond imagining
Draw close, transform all things
Fill us with you love
Draw close, shine for the world to see


World Population – 7 Billion and Counting

The world’s population is about to hit 7 billion.  And it seems only yesterday since we hit 6 billion (actually 12 years).  So what does this all mean.  Here is a helpful video to give an over all perspective of the trends.

And for those that find 7 minutes a little long to sit and watch anything, here are the numbers behind the numbers – a few of the most pertinent facts on Grist.

What do you think are the implications for us as followers of Christ?

Tools for Prayer – Learning from Teresa of Avila

Teresa of Avila by Peter Paul Rubens

Teresa of Avila by Peter Paul Rubens

I have always found inspiration from the lives of those who have gone before us.  Their footprints provide places for me to stand and words and prayers encourage and strengthen me as I too seek to move forward into the ways of God.

Teresa of Avila is one such person.  In many ways she was a very ordinary person – struggling with some of the same life challenges we struggle with today.  But out of that struggle came a rich inner prayer life that continues to inspire many today.

Here is one of my favourites.  Read it through several times.  Listen to the beautiful musical rendition at the end of the post.   Allow their truths to take root in your heart.  I prayed this prayer several times this morning as I considered the plight of the 12 million people whose lives are at risk  in the Horn of Africa because of drought.  As you read this prayer and listen to the music may you too consider what action God may ask of you as a result of reading and meditating on them

“Christ has no body now, but yours.
No hands, no feet on earth, but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which
Christ looks compassion into the world.
Yours are the feet
with which Christ walks to do good.
Yours are the hands
with which Christ blesses the world.”

Music by David Ogden 

Worshipping God in the Reality of Riots – by James Prescott

Many of us watched in horror last week as riots broke out across England.

Today’s post if from James Prescott who came closer than he ever wanted to the reality of these events.


Worshipping God in the reality of riots


The theme of this blog series was meant to be ‘Worshipping God in the real world’. For myself and the people of London, Manchester and other areas hit by rioting in the last week, the world has never seemed more real than it did earlier this week at the height of the rioting. I sat and watched a building in Croydon – a town not far from my own – burn to the ground live on the news, and the world never seemed more real. In that time I was feeling real fear, as rumours abounded my own town was next on the list of towns to riot – and the world appeared more real than ever before.

It often seems to happen that way. When people speak of their most life-changing moments, or the significant moments that impacted them, you’ll find they often speak of these kind of times. It’s when life is experienced at it’s most raw, and the things we often brush under the carpet in our secular consumer-led world suddenly are in the midst of us.

What happened has raised so many questions, and the reality is we don’t have all the practical solutions to the real problems in our society. But in some senses what happened was almost inevitable. In a secular consumer society, when people’s identity comes not from what they produce, or from any inherent value they have, but from what they possess, and what they consume, events like occurred on the streets of the UK this week are ultimately inevitable.

Why? Because when you make those things your god, when your identity rests on those things, then the ultimate irony is that it will produce a culture of a culture of entitlement – and it will produce a culture of have and have nots.

In this culture, when times get really tough and people don’t have the possessions they believe they are entitled to, and they lose hope that the institutions they put their faith in – government and the police for example – which either provide these services or are responsible for supplying the finance to support this kind of lifestyle, then it’s going to create an atmosphere of discontentment & disrespect which eventually is going to be sparked into life, and when that happens, looting, stealing and rioting is all so inevitable.

The tragic thing is that what has happened has still not woken people up to this idea, and the folly that lies behind it. Which leads us neatly to Jesus.

It would be easy for people to use what has happened as an excuse to attack the church & God, and the age-old question of why a God of love allows suffering rises its head again. But you only had to look at the news to know that it wasn’t God who caused this tragic set of events.

No, it was this chain of events that showed our desperate need for God, and how much we have forgotten about Him.

It shows what happens when you try to fit God into your life rather than fit your life around God. It is what happens when you make idols out of money, status, possessions and have a culture of consumerism. It shows what happened when you have a culture of Christian spectators, rather than participants.

Which brings me neatly as to a simple way to bring about change. It is very simple.

What has happened exposes the reality at the heart of our culture – it is one of greed, selfishness and entitlement. It is one which worships at the idol and religion of consumerism, which is full of sinners needing a saviour, people looking for identity and recognition, searching for a purpose.

It is the cultural equivalent of being honest with yourself and being totally honest about who you are – and that is usually a catalyst for real change, if we let it.

But it is only a catalyst for real substantive change if we respond in the way of Jesus. It is only a catalyst for change if we respond with love, if we respond with action. Because chances are, the response we get from the government won’t necessarily be that.

I was praying about this earlier in the week, prayer walking through my town whilst it was under threat of riots – which thankfully, didn’t come to my town – and I was wrestling with what it meant to for me – and all of us – respond to this, how we can make the cross bigger than this, and bring resurrection out of this cultural death.

I felt at a very deep level that I needed to be ready to be the answer to my own prayer – and that we all do – if real change is to happen. That each of us has to be willing to participate, to put ourselves out there, as communities, churches and individuals, if we are going to bring life out of this darkness, and this is the question I am still wrestling with as the first steps are taken in the restoration of these communities, in light of these events.

One of my friends wrote on Facebook during the riots “It’s times like these we are called to worship”. That is absolutely true.

It is in the times we don’t feel like worshipping, the times when we are struggling to see God or understand where He is at all, that we need to be worshipping God – and we need to be participating in worship.

It is in those times we need to be giving our all in praise of God, not just in sung worship, but in what we do.

When we participate in the resurrection of our communities, and the restoration of this world, and we play the role God has given us to remake it in the image of its creator, then we are making a sacrifice of worship, and in so doing we open people’s eyes to see the God who is there amongst them, and ultimately lead others into worship.

The resurrection shows us that death is not the end. That there is a new beginning, new life, a new day which dawns. It shows us that there is always hope.

But for that hope to become a reality, we need to take the advice of Mahatma Gandhi, and “Be the change you want to be in the world”.

As Christ’s followers, we are called to participate in the restoration and reconciliation of all things, in remaking this world back more into the image of it’s creator, bringing light from darkness, death from life. We are called not to spectate, but participate, and it is in that act of worship that the resurrection becomes a reality, and the kingdom of God becomes true in a way that we could never imagine.

That is how we in the UK must respond to this dark time – and we must all respond to the darkness that is around us, whether seen or unseen. We must not sit in judgement or condemnation, but we must respond with love and service, and we must be willing to be participants, God’s agents of reconciliation & healing, and in the midst of the darkness, be the light that points people towards a new way of doing life, that rather than creating a sense of entitlement and self-centrednes, involves & demonstrates the death of self in the service of others.

It is as we do this, that the kingdom of God becomes a living reality, and worship becomes something songs of worship, they take on more power, because in that moment they are not just songs with great lyrics, but a living reality in our lives.

What change are you going to be in the world?

Are you a participant, or a spectator?

How are you helping to make God’s kingdom a reality in the community you live in and are a part of?

How real is your worship?

Celebrating the Big 60th

Today is my 60th birthday.  Hard to believe that I have been on God’s good earth for such a span of time.  And it has been a wonderful time so far.  I am humbled by the numbers that have contacted me in the last couple of days to share ways in which my life and ministry has impacted them.  I feel privileged to be a part of what God  is doing to transform the world and am so appreciative of the many friends and family who have made that possible. Milestone birthdays like this are not just a time to celebrate but also a time to remember and give thanks to God.

On Saturday we are holding a big celebration.  We are calling it  A Feast of Friends because we want it to be a celebration of those many friends who have walked with me along the way.  More than anything I am aware at this time that I do not walk my journey alone.  There are so many who have supported, encouraged and strengthened me along the way.  There are saints past and present who have been Godly examples for me, providing role models that have made it possible for me to follow God even when the going got tough.  Friends have provided a shoulder for me to cry on when I was depressed, and a loving embrace when I was in need of comfort.

So may good memories and I thought that I would share a few of them with you here in this video.  My apologies to friends in New Zealand where I lived for 5 years .  In the years of travel my photos from that part of my life seem to have disappeared.  But they are still stored in my heart.


Population in Australia – Does it Matter

This is a very hurried post as Tom & I are just about to head to Camano Island for our Celtic retreat.  It comes from an email sent to me by Bruce Hulme who lives in Adelaide Australia.  I thought that many of you might find it interesting.

Last night there was a significant documentary by Australian entrepreneur and adventurer, Dick Smith, followed by a panel discussion on a regular show called “q and a”, around what Smith calls ‘the elephant in the room’ – population growth in Australia.

Many of you  will be fascinated to watch both segments, each lasting about an hour.  You can see them here.  The website is also very informative.

We are one week out from a federal election, so the timing of this was pretty interesting.

It will give you a good taste of the scene in Australia around this significant issue, and might be a good , especially for Aussie readers who missed it.  This issue is certainly increasingly in the forefront of Australian’s conscience. I think it also has some interesting theological implications, not least around stewardship, hospitality and the theology of family and fertility

So my question is “What does this have to do with theology?

Am I Worshipping God for Only Me?

I don’t usually blog or in fact open my computer on Sundays but because we are still waiting to make sure that our flight out of Pittsburgh this afternoon is actually going to fly, my routines have been somewhat disrupted.  So I decided to work on another Lenten meditation video based on Isaiah 58.  In the process I came across this beautiful and heartrending song by Shirley that is also based on Isaiah 58.  It would make a powerful Lenten reflection and I thought some of you would appreciate it.

What Shapes our Spirituality?

This week my main task is to complete the lead article for the MSA Seed Sampler on What Will Shape Our Spirituality in the Coming Decade?  It is a rather daunting task to narrow this down to a couple of trends as there are so many things that will shape both our spiritual practices and our theology in the coming years.  My read is that the most impacting of these will be

  1. The growing pressures on our time created by the 24/7 work week and our increasing involvement in online activities
  2. The coming of the majority church with our need to embrace theological perspectives from other cultures
  3. The growing religious pluralism of our Western societies and the need to engage in dialogue with those outside Christian faith.

Yesterday I was sent a link by Jason Fowler to this fascinating video trailer of an upcoming PBS Frontline series Digital nation.  It looks like a must see for all of us.

The opportunity these challenges present is sobering but exciting.  And as you think about your response I suggest you also reflect on these words from Mighty Stories, Dangerous Rituals a book I am re-reading presently as I think about the implications of our changing world

… even our most treasured rites are not simply inherited and repeated; rather they are always in the process of being created.  In fact they need to be recreated.  Each succeeding generation with its new stories and fresh challenges must weave together recent tales with those of one’s ancestors.  Furthermore, believers of each age must reckon with ritual newness that is born of the intersection of the ever-changing human narrative as it encounters the divine narrative. (p129)

As we engage the challenges of the coming decade our place is not to criticize or try to deny the changes that are coming.  Our task is to enable individuals and communities to fashion narratives that weave together divine and human stories into a single fabric

What If We Were in Charge of Jesus’ Publicity?

This hilarious video gives a wonderful idea of how Jesus parable of walking on the water might be reinterpreted (with commercials of course) by modern day marketers.

I felt that underneath the humour there was a sobering and unfortunately probably truthful message about consumerism and the gospel.

Building A Dream for the Future

Tonight we are hosting a brainstorming session.  We are building a futures’ watch group and dreaming about how we can equip followers of Jesus to imagine new ways to be a difference and make a difference in God’s world.  We don’t just want to help people come up with ideas about how to live into the future of God, we want to enable them to launch their new models.

Two scriptures came to mind as I was praying for our meeting – both of them very encouraging as we imagine the future that God is moving us towards:

Proverbs 24: 14 Know also that wisdom is sweet to your soul; if you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.

Jeremiah 29: 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

On a lighter note – Not surprisingly this video also came to mind as we were planning this afternoon.  I realize that many of you have already seen it but I think it is one of those videos that is always worth another look it is so inspiring even if it is just an add.