Surprised by Hope, Tom Wright

This book by Tom Wright investigates the resurrection, ascension and second coming of Jesus and ‘heaven’ from a thoroughly biblical point of view and explains how first century Jews would have understood Jesus’ teaching. It smashes commonly held misunderstandings by putting teaching back into its original context.

Wright also looks at the commonly held misunderstandings of today’s UK/US cultures and helps us go back to the biblical grounds for our theology of Christ’s return, where He is now and what happens to believers after death.

As I read it for the second time, I’m realising how deeply engrained my wrong understandings can be, as I’m still getting it wrong even though I’ve read the book before!

Today I’ve been reminded that Jesus’ parable of the talents is about the first coming of Jesus not the second. Wright explains that, although early Christians quickly reinterpreted it to refer to the second coming, the original hearers heard it to be about God coming back to the Jerusalem temple after the exile, in the person of Jesus.

Press Release

New Bible Study resources available from Time For Change Ministries

Time For Change Ministries offers 3 new Bible Study series, on Luke’s gospel, Romans and James, all written specifically for use with small groups in the prison environment. 

The studies aim to help participants understand the Bible through a series of questions relating to what the passage says, what it means and how this applies to our lives today.  These studies are free to download.

A Prison Chaplain says, referring to the studies in James, ‘It just hit the spot’.

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When I Don’t Desire God, How to Fight for Joy, John Piper

dgJohn Piper has a ministry called ‘Desiring God’ and he has written various books about desiring God that I haven’t read.  This one caught my eye because it’s about when we don’t desire God – something that we may find hard to admit and even harder to do something about.

Piper says that ‘God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him’ and he calls the doctrine surrounding this ‘Christian Hedonism’ (don’t stop reading because I used the hedonism word!).  In his words, ‘Christian Hedonism is a liberating and devastating doctrine.  It teaches that the value of God shines more brightly in the soul that finds deepest satisfaction in him.  Therefore it is liberating because it endorses our inborn desire for joy.  And it is devastating because it reveals that no one desires God with the passion he demands.’

He opens by telling us why he wrote the book.  He had had an ‘unbiblical bondage of fear that it was wrong to pursue joy.’  Having understood that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him, ‘What had once seemed like an inevitable but defective quest for the satisfaction of my soul now became not just permitted but required. …I was free to pursue my fullest joy in God without guilt.’  The flip side of this, he explains is that we are not just permitted to pursue joy in God, we are commanded to and therefore not doing so ‘would be indifference to the glory of God, and that is sin.’

That was all on the first page, and having read that maybe you are thinking what I thought – ‘Well now I’m kind of committed to reading the rest of the book to find out what the pursuit of joy looks like, because I sure don’t know…’

Perhaps I should stop here, and just let you read the book!  I’ll give you a few ideas of what’s in it first…  Having unpacked the difference between desire and delight and reviewing the gospel message, he helps us to see how reading God’s word can satisfy us in him (and thus bring glory to God) and how prayer can do the same.  He also devotes a chapter to how our 5 senses help us to sense God if we are listening to them, an experience of the glory of God that we maybe missing out on.  He ends with a chapter about depression and spiritual darkness, which is really helpful.  This book is a good primer on all these subjects, and worth reading just for that (but please don’t read it just for that – read the whole thing!).

Addictions, A Banquet in the Grave, Edward T. Welch

addictionsI haven’t read many books on addiction, but of those I have, this is certainly the best.  The title refers to Proverbs 9 v 13-18.  Whether you are struggling with your own addiction or with that of a family member or friend, this book will really help you to understand the spiritual war that is raging over the addict and how Christ can set them free.

Welch describes the nature of addiction and recovery from a Scriptural viewpoint and the book is filled with quotations from Scripture that are incredibly relevant, but which most of us would of we brainstormed it together.

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Foreign to Familiar, Sarah Lanier

foreign to familiarRelevant to anyone involved in cross-cultural mission, including talking to your next-door neighbour, this isn’t the usual type of book we review here at the Highfields Book of the Month slot, but I understand that the author is a Christian and the topic is relevant to anyone involved in cross-cultural mission, including talking to your next-door neighbour.  So here we go…

This book aims to give you a general understanding of two broad generalisations of the world’s cultures, so that you can avoid making simple cultural mistakes.  Lanier says that there are ‘hot-climate’ and ‘cold-climate’ cultures, and you can pretty much work out which one your country is in just by the climate.

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Why bother with Church? Sam Allberry

why botherSam Allberry’s book ends with the question, ‘Why on earth would I not bother with church?’, and by the time you’ve read it, it seems a very reasonable question.

One of the Good Book Company’s ‘Questions Christians Ask’ series, this little book is jam-packed with what the Bible says about why we should bother with church.

Allberry begins by explaining what church is: it’s not a gathering of 2 or 3 believers over a latte, a building or a denomination.  It is God’s family.  He reminds us that the local church is not a part of the universal church but that it is the church of God in a particular locale.  ‘Church is… not a meeting you attend but a body you belong to.’ (p30).  He addresses some tricky questions, including ‘Hasn’t the church done more harm than good?’ and ‘Why are there so many denominations?’ and gives very clear answers, which we would do well to be able to articulate, since they seem to come up so often in ministry to prisoners.

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Me and my shadow – a prisoner’s poem

When I pictured my depression there’s always one thing I could seegangster
A 1950’s gangster slowly walking after me.
He would wear a long black overcoat
That would reach down to the floor
His back was broad, his neck was thick
He stood taller than a door.
His wide brimmed hat was pulled down low
Above his soulless eyes
His face carved out of granite
Always void of smiles.

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Philippines 2016


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We visited the Wea village today, which POC has been supporting since a mudslide destroyed several houses, killing 9 children a few years ago.  POC supporters have enabled POC to help the Wea people to build breeze block houses, on high ground – more stable structures away from the sea front.  A team from POC go every Wednesday morning for a time of ministry and children’s work.


2016-02-02 15.14.10Today we went to Angeles and PPJ jails, where I spoke about the shepherds who visited Jesus.  The people judged shepherds as dodgy characters and so they weren’t recognised as legal witnesses, but God sent them as the first witnesses to the birth of his Son!  God was breaking down social barriers as soon as Jesus was born!  And the shepherds went to ‘see the thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about’.  They didn’t sit down and discuss how many angels would fit on the head of a pin, or save up the visitation as a good story to tell the grandchildren, they obeyed God and went to see the Lord.  That’s what we are called to do.  To respond.


We’ve finished the Christianity Explored course in the local jail today. First thing this morning we thought we wouldn’t be able to run the last 2 sessions but the Lord answered prayer and opened the way!!

We had a graduation for the ladies this afternoon, giving out certificates, and sang ‘Mahal na mahal kita Paginoon’ (I love and I love you Lord). They were a lovely group who really looked after each other well and were hungry to hear the good news about Jesus.


2016-01-30 15.03.43We’ve had a day off today, with a lazy morning and then out to the mall for frappes, pootling and lunch.

It’s been a really busy week, CE all day mon, weds and thurs, jail ministry all day tues and fri morning, and medical mission at the jail after ministry yesterday. We’re seeing prisoners who present with healthcare needs and offering what we can, seeing about 20 ppl between 2 of us yesterday, some new and some follow ups from last week. All communication goes via a translator in both directions.

2016-01-25 13.32.37The CE course in a jail is going really well, the ladies seem really keen and are faithful in attendance. We will have a graduation and certificate giving on Monday afternoon.

It’s been lovely to see old friends, particularly ppl who have been in prison on previous trips and are now free!


We’ve started the Christianity Explored course in 164 jail today. CEPE12 women are in the group, some of whom did the Guilt and Forgiveness course with us last year.

2016-01-27 16.22.31Its a different dynamic to running the course in your own language; the personal conversations are missing, and the depth of understanding of an individual’s journey of faith.  But that’s not a problem for God, he knows all those things anyway!

I’m here with Rachael from Integritas Healthcare, and Amy who is a junior doctor. They are running health care clinics for prisoners and POC staff, which I am able to join in with sometimes.

We’re now all sitting in my bedroom, having mossie sprayed the rest of the building. It will take 15 minutes for it to become habitable for humans again.  Realised we’ve trapped ourselves in the only room with living mosquitos…


2016-01-22 14.09.37Been to Iba jail today.  I spoke on Colossians 2:6-7, about Jesus being our Lord, not just our Saviour.  Knowing that Jesus is your Saviour, that he has forgiven you for all your sins, is a wonderful blessing! But knowing that He is your Lord, the One who has authority over your life, mind and heart, can be very inconvenient!

2016-01-22 14.10.36We considered the scenario of spending an afternoon chatting with Manny Pacquiao, who was very interested in you, and you both had a wonderful time. But then you never spoke to him again, even tho he wrote you letters (that you never read) and called you often (but you didn’t answer). You were happy to live on just the memory of that afternoon.  That would be crazy!  But we often treat Jesus this way.


20160120_011435Had an easy day today to recover from jetlag and unpack.  I was reminded of something amazing on the way – Jesus lived a life of complete obedience to God and in the greatest swap in history, he took my sin and paid for it and he gave me his righteousness.


Filipino flag10 sleeps to go till Rachael and I fly to the Philippines where we work alongside Philippine Outreach Centre Ministries.  I’ll be running Christianity Explored in a women’s jail and speaking in jails.  I’m currently adapting the CE DVD talks as there’s no DVD player in the prison and everything has to be translated so takes twice as long to say!