Updates from Publishing: Cute Kitten, Audiobook and Illustrator for Second Book

Updates from Publishing: Cute Kitten, Audiobook and Illustrator for Second Book

 

The Audiobook, narrated by James, has been released on www.audible.com and FREE review copies are available. Contact us if you’d like one.

The Second Listening Book will be out later in the year. Carys Jenkins is our illustrator, with Josh Gauton hopefully contributing a picture.

James’s Blog is a great weekly read – if you haven’t already done so, sign up on the website to get a FREE chapter from the next book.

The picture is a Cute Kitten taken by Mark Lewis, TLB photographer – there are more and lots of other photos at his phanfare site!

James’s Blog: The Parable of the Talents – One.

James’s Blog:  The Parable of the Talents – One.

Ah, Matthew 25:14-30. ‘The Parable of the Talents’ practically writes its own sermon. “So, in conclusion, God wants us to use our gifts for Him. Coincidentally, we need people to help lead the Sunday School. There’s a sign-up sheet at the back.” I did mention that I’m cynical, right?

I remember sitting in a classroom, waiting for the lecturer to arrive. He came in and, out of the blue, went off on a rant that had nothing to do with the session that was scheduled. “Some of you,” he said, “are frustrating God because you’re not using your gifts”. Having delivered this message, he calmed down and got on with the lecture that we were supposed to have. I suspect that, years later, he wouldn’t even remember that he’d done this and I’m certain that he has no idea that he was talking to me. Make no mistake, he was talking to me.  That random little outburst changed my life. There would be no The Listening Book if he hadn’t been obedient enough to vent on the Holy Spirit’s behalf.

If Jesus had wanted the message of this parable to be ‘God wants you to use your gifts’ then he probably would have finished at verse 25, but he didn’t. Verses 26 to 30 bring the story to its chilling conclusion. The servant who buried the money loses the little that he was entrusted with and is thrown into the sinister ‘Outer Darkness’. No wonder we don’t dwell on that bit. After all, you can understand why the servant did what he did, right? Would a little empathy have killed the master? And before you check, Luke’s version isn’t much better.

These days, when I read this parable I think about the times that I diligently prepared sermons, carefully making the message of Jesus a little more palatable for my congregation. Perhaps it was because I’m a sensitive, pastoral soul, or maybe it was because I was labouring under the mistaken belief that you can make a rose more beautiful by removing its thorns. These days I am even more committed to taking responsibility for how  I am communicating, but I am equally aware that I am not doing God some great favour by coming up with eloquent and clever ways to de-fang the Gospel.

What if Jesus’s message here isn’t ‘God wants you to use your gifts’, but rather that ‘Waste makes God angry’?

If that’s true, what do you make of that?

James’s Blog: Indifference.

James’s Blog:  Indifference.

When Jesus came to Golgotha, they hanged Him on a tree,
They drove great nails through hands and feet, and made a Calvary;
They crowned Him with a crown of thorns, red were His wounds and deep,
For those were crude and cruel days, and human flesh was cheap.

When Jesus came to Birmingham, they simply passed Him by.
They would not hurt a hair of Him, they only let Him die;
For men had grown more tender, and they would not give Him pain,
They only just passed down the street, and left Him in the rain.

Still Jesus cried, ‘Forgive them, for they know not what they do, ‘
And still it rained the winter rain that drenched Him through and through;
The crowds went home and left the streets without a soul to see,
And Jesus crouched against a wall, and cried for Calvary.

G. A. Studdert-Kennedy

James’s Blog: Giving God Room to Speak.

James’s Blog:  Giving God Room to Speak.

When I set aside time to spend with God, I make a habit of trying to spend some of that time listening. This can take many forms. Sometimes it’ll be about what I’m reading, or what has been happening in life, but often I will have a time of silence where I wait on God and see if the Holy Spirit has something to say.

When I was the dean at Cornerstone Canowindra I would get phone calls from people who were interested in coming to spend a year studying and working with us. Sometimes, as the person told you their story, you would get a clear feeling that them coming wasn’t going to be a good thing for them or for the community. But, if I could, I would avoid saying “No” right there and then. My preferred option was to explain to them what my concerns were, and then suggest to them that I have a few days to think and pray about it, before getting back to them with my final recommendation. After all, it’s in your own interest to give God the opportunity to let you know if you’re about to make a mistake.

The Listening Book has this thinking at its heart. It’s really nothing more than a tool to help you slow down and give God some space to speak. You don’t need it – there are plenty of ways to do that – but it’s an important idea to me, and I thought that it wouldn’t hurt to have a book about it. I know that when I talk about ‘hearing God speak’ there are all kinds of things (and warning bells) that can go through people’s minds, but I am convinced that we don’t really expect God to speak to us, so we don’t even give Him a chance, and so it’s no wonder that we never hear anything.

James’s Blog: A Lesson in Humility.

James’s Blog:  A Lesson in Humility.

When it comes to me, most worship leaders are up against it from the start. I have no musical talent myself, and therefore little appreciation of the skill required to play the handful of chords that most worship songs seem to employ. Neither am I a big fan of the contemporary worship style – on the whole, I like my music to have a little more edge. Furthermore, I’ve suffered over six years of formal theological training, so find myself hyper-critical of and disappointed by the content of most lyrics. Finally, many more years of hard yards in following Jesus, and trying to help others to follow Jesus, has resulted in me having nothing but contempt for the shallow, I-feel-pretty-good-about-God-right-now sentiment of many worship songs.

However, whenever I find myself drifting too far down the path of seething rage, I remember what C.S. Lewis said. He too struggled with the church music of his time, considering it fifth-rate poetry set to sixth-rate music, but he also wrote, “I realised that the hymns (which were just sixth-rate music) were, nevertheless, being sung with devotion and benefit by an old saint in elastic-side boots in the opposite pew, and then you realize that you aren’t fit to clean those boots. It gets you out of your solitary conceit.”

Hard as it is to believe sometimes, not everything is about me.