Book Review: ‘Play the Man’ – Mark Batterson

PTMcoverWhere did we lose sight of what it means to be a man?
As we look around society it’s increasingly obvious that we have lost our way. Men seem to have neglected their responsibilities to teach the next generation of men, leaving boys trying to figure things out for themselves or follow their peers. Adding to the mayhem, more and more kids are growing without a dad (or in some cases even a father figure) to teach them what they need to know, or have someone to cheer them on or coach them. No wonder men in our society are confused and lost when it comes to their roles in society.

Mark Batterson arrives with a great book Play the Man to address the issue and start to look at really practice ways to attack this head on. Mark Batterson is the New York Times bestselling author who’s works include The Circle Maker and The Grave Robber, and Pastor of the multi site National Community Church in Washington DC.

A book, for men?
“Is it a picture book?” I hear you shout from the cheap seats.
Okay… men aren’t renowned for their reading skills, in fact it’s something that Mark himself even addresses in his book.

“According to the Pew Research Institute, half of adults read fewer than five books per year. Men read 13 percent fewer books than women”

I’ve been an admirer of Mark’s writing for years and the main reason is simple ‘readability’ – it’s easy to read.
It’s obvious that Mark is well read as he has a real knack of taking a tale and twisting it full of intrigue and natural logic. To this he adds a dash of science and pinch of history. 
Batterson is the the author for men who want substance,  don’t want to read the Encyclopedia Britannica and still want to learn.

In ‘Play the Man’ Mark uncovers what he calls the seven virtues of Manhood.
The six virtues of Manhood in the book are:

  • Tough love (sacrificing yourself for others)

  • Childlike  wonder (never losing your desire to learn about God’s world)

  • Will power (that sanctified stubborn streak)

  • Raw passion (an infectious enthusiasm)

  • True grit (the combination of passion and perseverance)

  • Clear vision (knowing what you’re fighting for)

In ‘Play the Man‘ Mark is able to use  his natural storytelling ability to share an anecdote about manhood, the good the bad and the ugly. However the thing that makes this book great is his ability to be able to couple that together with the scriptures, and give really practical ways to teach this to the next generation of men.

Let’s be honest, men are really great at avoidance and I wonder if we have lost our way a little because of it? Men are living in some weird void where it seem like we have become the joke of the party. I think it was Scottish comedian Billy Connolly who said “Middle aged white males are the only people you can make fun of without being told off” and he’s right to a point. Men are living in a no mans land where manhood is skewed.

The subtitle of ‘Play the Man’ is ‘Becoming the Man God created you to be’.
This is more than just a book, it’s a manual for manhood. Imagine if this is shared, developed locally, put into practice and focused on, it could be the start of a manhood revolution that could change the world.

The revolution starts at home, in our families and in our communities. Are you willing to ‘Play the Man’?

Viva La Revolution


The Great Ambush…

Maker Faire UK 2011

What happens when creative type get together and seek God?

A couple of weekends ago I went to one of the very few weekends that my wife and I have together every year… and both Emma I are really blessed to have family who allow us do this one thing every year.

Now it’s not a romantic getaway in a house over looking the sea… and it’s not even time getting spa treatments… It is however one of the most important times of our year, and if at all possible we wouldn’t miss it.

It’s our CM (Creative Ministries) retreat.

This is the time when all our creative types… from musicians, to artists, to song leaders and songwriters within our church go and refocus… a time to add to the creative way we do corporate worship in church. Where we as a creative group can go and really seek God.  Specifically it is a great start to the year and sets the tone (no pun intended) for the rest of the year.

This year, God was there in a real tangible way and some people were able to ‘do business’ with him in areas that were left un-dealt with.

God touched me in a real way… but there wasn’t a sense of ‘doing business’ it was a real feeling his presence type thing.

… however…

After a time of ministry I went to my room to finish a book I was one chapter off finishing (The Circle Maker, by Mark Batterson)  a great book on prayer (Oh the irony)… I had almost finished when two of my close friends came in to check I was ok (as I dashed off in a bit of a hurry to finish my book…)

I said “I was fine” and really didn’t think there was anything more to say… and then they both asked if they could pray for me.

I said “yes” of course… if there any time that God can touch your life I found it’s best to take it with BOTH hands… anyway.

Jo started praying and she said somethings that God had placed on her heart… and they were accurate and they were full of truth and love and in that moment… I was broken… I started to cry and God started to deal with some stuff in parts of my life that I had just left to sort out themselves.

It was a new chapter… a clean page.

So far this year,  one of the memorable moments is what I have been calling ‘The Great Ambush of 2012’… if I hadn’t of rushed away and spent time by myself I wonder if I would have had that moment… I just don’t know.

What I do know is this…

  • I have close friends who are honest enough to come to me to check I’m OK…
  • I have close friends who are humble enough to ask if they can pray for me and to seek God for me…
  • I have friends who are brave enough to say what God has place on their hearts…
  • And I have friends who are willing to ambush me… because they don’t want me to miss out on what God had in store for my life.
I wish everyone is able to have friends who are able to ambush them.




Why we don’t pray

Mary Magdalene, in a dramatic 19th-century pop...


Our Church (Hornby Presbyterian Community Church or HPCC) has just finished 21 days of prayer, however I was talking to my friend Mel who made the comment “there isn’t that many younger people at the prayer meetings” – and she’s right, there is certainly more ‘older’ folk… so why is that?

Could it be the fact that we’re to comfortable? – are we just so comfortable just so blessed that we don’t feel the need to pray?

If you talk to some older people you will discover that prayer was the thing that got them through lots of hard times… but that’s just the thing isn’t it? They have something to pray for.

Is it because we don’t know HOW to pray? Maybe we’re just so out of practice that we have forgotten what words to say and so when we do pray our prayers are vague and shallow…

I wonder if part of the reason we are not very good at praying is because we’re not really good at reading the Bible. Pastor Mark Batterson once said “You don’t read the Bible… You pray the Bible”.

You see the really BIG miracles in the Bible were from people standing on the PROMISES of God. When Joshua asked God to make the sun stand still so he could finish his battle… it was because he believed that the promise of God. God had said he would always be with his chosen nation. I’m not sure Joshua knew exactly what he was asking for… however I believe he knew the immensity of the prayer.

I wonder if our prayers are so boring because we’re not willing to let God be God. We’re scared to pray a BIG prayer just in case God doesn’t do something.

But do you know what? I believe the main reason prayers go unanswered… is because they are not asked.

All through the Bible we are told… “Pray first…” but it seems that we have put prayer as our last resort… and for some it’s not even an after thought.

If you want miracles… you need to stand on the promises of God and trust that God will fulfill those promises.



We need a new normal

Jesus in Pray

It starts with PRAYER

I’ve recently been convicted (on a few occasions now) on these words from Jesus.

You will see even greater things than these.” John 1:50

Now the problem I have is not that I don’t believe the words, but I don’t SEE it happening, and I guess it makes me ask… Why is that?

I personally think it’s because we are an arrogant generation…

We think of God not as our King or as our Saviour… but as a Magician… and like the magicians we see we want to know how he did the tricks… We know it’s not REAL magic so how did he do it???

We think we know how he made the Earth we think we know how the miracles in the Bible happened, we think we can explain things away… however we are then stuck with a problem… our god that we see is only just a little bit bigger than we are… When the truth is our God is  bigger and stronger and more powerful than we could ever care or could imagine.

The truth is we are most likely the most educated church in the history of the church and we have lost the AWE of God… We’ve lost the WOW of God… and we’ve lost the faith it takes to look silly in believing that. We are educated way beyond our means.

Pastor Mark Batterson recently made an observation:

“I wonder if our faith is so subnormal that the normal of the Bible seems abnormal.  We need a new normal.  Prayer meetings should be normal.  Miracles that are the byproduct of prayer should be normal.  Radical conversions should be the normal.  But there is a price to be paid.  The price is prayer.”

Do we need to get out of our trying to crack the code of The Bible… to stop trying to understand why God would do certain things… and maybe just let God be God and rediscover the awe and wonder of God.

Didn’t Jesus say that we are to be like Children?

Lets put our trust wholly in God and let him start the miracle within us…

Lets start to let the miracle overflow from us…

Lets start fighting by getting back down on our knees and be audacious enough to ask God to start showing us the ‘Greater’ that Jesus was talking about.

New Years: From here we can do ANYTHING!

Deutsch: Mutter Teresa (26.8.1919-5.9.1997); 1...

At the end of the day, God isn’t going to ask, “Why weren’t you more like Mother Teresa?”

A Telecommunications company in New Zealand had recently put into their advertising the phrase ” From here we can do anything”… at first I thought it was a bit arrogant sounding however when I started to put it into context of my Christian life it suddenly looked pretty good.

I believe that God has ALREADY placed a seed in our hearts that leads us to doing what we were originally designed and ultimately destined to do. How do I know this?

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. – Ephesians 2:10

So God has ALREADY place a passion, a dream into our lives… and he’s got it all mapped out.

So what is holding us back?

You might be wanting kids… but holding back because you want to pay off more of the house.

You might want to travel the world… but are scared of leaving your own country.

You might want to start a business… but your friends are telling you that the climate isn’t right for it.

And the list goes on… a dream… and the excuse why you’re not pursuing it. All of these things are a good to think about, however if you let them get in the way of what God has planned then you’re playing God in that part of your life.

When I read the Bible I see stories of men and women who changed the world regardless of their circumstances.

A shepherd boy defeating a trained fighter… a farmer building a boat that would save the world from a flood… a young boy who dreamed that he would become in charge of all of Egypt… even in our time there were people who weren’t willing to lie down and let the world pass them by… A old lady sat on a bus and refused to let the prejudices of the time dictate her right as a human… an inventor failed again and again until he invented the light-bulb.

What is holding you back?

Are you using the excuse that it’s just not your time?

That may be right… however are you preparing for when it IS your time?

I’m not sure if it’s really God or just me? Is what you have in your heart something that just won’t go away? Then it’s a good sign that it’s bigger than you…

Andy Stanley wrote in his book ‘The Next Generation Leader’:

“Generally speaking you are probably never going to be more than 80 percent certain. Waiting for greater certainty may cause you to miss an opportunity”

It’s always good to pray that the wind and waves will stop crashing round you, and in fact it says all throughout the Bible that it’s good to pray first, however there is a time when you need to stop praying and step out of the boat with your eyes fixed on Jesus and start walking on the water… something impossible that you were destined to do. Failure to do anything can lead to it being your greatest regrets.  It’s the only way to be true to ourselves, and more importantly, true to God.

In Mark Batterson’s book ‘Soulprint’ he says this:

At the end of the day, God isn’t going to ask, “Why weren’t you more like Billy Graham or Mother Teresa?” He won’t even ask, “Why weren’t you more like David?” God is going to ask, “Why weren’t you more like you?”

In other words what are the fears holding you back?

Are you sitting waiting for the storm to pass?

Or are you preparing for the adventure that God has already placed on your heart?

With God beside you from here you can do ANYTHING! 

To those on the outside looking in… it may seem arrogant… but what we have is  a Holy confidence… an audaciousness that we know that our God won’t let us down… we may get things wrong… but we can never fail.

What a great way to start the New Year…




Album Review: The God Anthology

The God Anthology

I like the idea of concept albums… I don’t however always like the albums themselves. So when I heard National Community Church (N.C.C.) lead by pastor and author Mark Batterson was releasing an album around some of the attributes of God I have to say I was interested… I where do you start when you’re talking about God?

As it turns out the actual answer may be where would you finish talking about the attributes of God.

This is a really well done album, especially since it’s tackling such a huge topic… and by huge I mean immeasurable. The NCC team of songwriters and worship leaders have done a fabulous job in creating songs that really let you reflect on a different aspect of God, but not only that… but what it means to us as a body of believers, especially when God in our society is becoming more like a one trick ‘love’ pony.

Now I’m from New Zealand… a country that is renown for punching above our weight… claiming the first man to climb Mount Everest, when everyone else told us it couldn’t be done… and Peter Jackson creating the Lord of The Rings trilogy… but not only having the guts to attempt it… but do ALL three movies at the same time. And it’s with this gutsy determination that NCC have tackled a huge task in this album… and God has anointed it.

One thing the song writers have done really well is to not only give great melody… but also great lyrics that stay with you in your mind for ages.

For me… one stung extra hard in the Portishead tinged song attributed to a ‘God of Wrath’ called “Day of Rescue”

“A hanging execution
A ruthless resolution
Out of wrath true love has sprung

and it’s lyrics like this that are really cleverly thought out… and divinely inspired, as we often look to the Wrath of God negatively and even try to skip over it in the Bible, because it doesn’t fit our expectations of who God is.

And I’m grateful for this album… I’m grateful that along with Gods attributes like Love, Beauty, Mercy and faithfulness NCC have tackled wrath, jealous and the mystery of God.

This is a great album… go onto iTunes and buy it. Every single Christian should be listening to things that give us a bigger view of God, because “there is nothing more important than a right understanding of God.”

As A.W. Tozer once said

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”

So lets think about God, and thanks to NCC we can do it to a soundtrack… WIN!


Don’t Pray Vague Prayers

Aren’t praying vague prayers just one big cop out?

When you pray a vague prayer, you can’t really tell if God answered it or not. Sometimes we don’t have enough faith to be specific for the things God has put in our hearts.

What if God doesn’t answer our prayers?

What if my faith is shaken?

And so we start to play things safe, and then we have the God of the universe as our pocket ‘go to’ guy… and it take very little faith and very little effort and we wonder why we find ourselves stagnant, not growing spiritually, and wondering why our life is going nowhere.

Pastor Mark Batterson put’s it like this:

“The truth is, our prayer life has very little to do with our circumstances and far more to do with our character. It is not about where we are at or what we are doing, but who are we becoming?”

In other words God wants you to pray NO MATTER what the circumstance…

So what are we doing praying that we “have a nice day” or thanking God for “such a nice day”… he knows HE MADE IT in fact in Genesis it says he looked at the world he made and said “It was good”… but that’s a whole different topic.

But that’s the kind of point isn’t it? The God who made the whole world in 7 days (well 6 and a day to rest) – can do so much more than just making sure we don’t crash our car… or help us find a car park close to the mall entrance.

Pray BIG