• How Should Christians Respond To Mockery?

    If you are a Christian today and you try to tell your friends about Jesus two of the ways your friends will respond to the great news about Jesus is to want to know more or to mock.

    It is amazing when our friends want to find out more isn’t it? I hung out with a mate this week and just kept asking questions about Christianity and Jesus.  I am so encouraged in this because I see God working slowly but surely in my friends life.

    But I have experienced too many times, as I am sure you have, the mocking that comes from some people towards God and the gospel. How should we as Christians respond to mockery? Firstly we should expect that it will come and don’t take it personally because they are rejecting Jesus not us.  Secondly, we love our mockers. We pray to for our mockers  and we are going to ask God that he would be merciful to them. Why are we going to do that?  Because it is exactly what Jesus did. Jesus as he was dying on the cross was mocked and ridiculed and yet what the words that came out of his mouth were not words of hate but words of love. He prayed to God that he would forgive his mockers (Luke 23:32-39). If you are mocked for being a Christian you are called to love and your love will outlast mockery. Because in the end the love of God will always outlast those who mock.

    And lastly as we are mocked we know there is something that is special about Christianity that allows people to mock us. As Ravi Zacharias shows in this brilliant video:


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  • Tim Keller on Pastors and Gospel Identity

    Absolute brilliance from Tim Keller:

    “Perhaps the greatest dilemma of the pastor – or any Christian leader – is the danger of hypocrisy. By this I mean that, unlike other professionals, we as ministers are expected to proclaim God’s goodness and to provide encouragement at all times. We are always pointing people toward God in one way or another, in order to show them his worth and beauty. That’s the essence of our ministry. But seldom will our hearts be in a condition to say such a thing with complete integrity, since our own hearts are often in need of encouragement, gospel centeredness, and genuine gladness. Thus, we have two choices: either we have to guard our hearts continually in order to practice what we are preaching, or we live bifurcated lives of outward ministry and inward gloominess.

    In this way, the ministry will make you a far better or a far worse Christian than you would have been otherwise. But it will not leave you where you were! And it will put enormous pressure on your integrity and character. The key problem will be preaching the gospel while not believing the gospel. As ministers, we must be willing to admit that ministerial success often becomes the real basis for our joy and significance, much more so than the love and acceptance we have in Jesus Christ. Ministry success often becomes what we look to in order to measure our worth to others and our confidence before God. In other words, we look to ministry success to be for us what only Christ can be. All ministers who know themselves will be fighting this all their lives. It is the reason for jealousy, for comparing ourselves to other ministers, for needing to control people and programs in the church, and for feeling defensive toward criticism. At one level we believe the gospel that we are saved by grace not works, but at a deeper level we don’t believe it much at all. We are still trying to create our own righteousness through spiritual performance, albeit one that is sanctioned by our call to ministry.”

    What resonates with you from this quote?

  • Does Jesus Make a Difference in your life?

    Does the fact that you are a Christian make a true difference in your life? So many Christians today live normal lives with just a bit of Jesus in them. Just enough Jesus so as to not make us look weird. Just enough Jesus so that he will not interrupt our lives. But if Jesus is who he said he is surely this is something we need to radically correct. If our lives are truly changed by what Jesus did on the cross surely our lives should show this difference.

    As you know, I have been reading Francis Chan’s book Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit. (This will be the last time I blog about this book I swear!) read what Chan says about living life with a bit of God added in:

    “Nowhere in Scripture do I see a “balanced life with a little bit of God added in” as an ideal for us to emulate. Yet when I look at our churches, this is exactly what I see: a lot of people who have added Jesus to their lives. People who have, in a sense, asked Him to join them on their life journey, to follow them wherever they feel they should go, rather than following Him as we are commanded. The God of the universe is not something we can just add to our lives and keep on as we did before. The Spirit who raised Christ from the dead is not someone we can just call on when we want a little extra power in our lives. Jesus Christ did not die in order to follow us. He died and rose again so that we could forget everything else and follow Him to the cross, to true Life.”

    It is a challenge to live lives that are truly shaped by Jesus. Are you living the type of radical life that Jesus demands?

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  • Do you make Jesus want to throw up?

    “You make me sick!!”

    Has someone ever said that to you? Only one person has but one is definitely enough! It is so confronting!

    Do you realize that you can make Jesus want to throw up? In the book of Revelation Jesus, through John, writes a letter to the church at Laodicea and the words he uses are stinging. He says: “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:15-16 ESV)

    Near Laodicea there was a river which had lukewarm salty water that was couldn’t be used for anything. In fact if you tried to drink it you would throw up! Jesus is saying to the Laodcieans you are like this water useless and you make me want to throw up![1]

    But did you see why the Laodiceans make Jesus want to throw up? It was because they were lukewarm! They weren’t on fire for Jesus. This is a challenge for all of us because we all tend towards lukewarmness don’t we? We are all tempted to have just enough of Jesus so we are saved but not enough so that we are seen as on fire for Jesus.

    But what is the cure for lukewarmness? Well Jesus gives us the cure:

    Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. (Revelation 3:19 ESV)

    See what he says? Repent and be zealous!! Do you realize that lukewarmness is a sin to be repented of? Do you realize that Jesus wants you to live zealously for him? 

    How will you do that? How will you live every moment if every day for Jesus?

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    [1] On this point see Osborne, Grant R. Revelation (BECNT. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002.) , 205

  • Is trying to be cool making us unholy?

    I have been reading Kevin DeYoung’s new book The Hole in our Holiness and so far it has been a great read. In  the first few pages Kevin talks about why we either don’t want to be holy or ignore holiness. Here is what he had to say about being a cool christian and the pursuit of holiness:

    “Our culture of cool is partly to blame. To be cool means you differentiate yourself from others. That often means pushing the boundaries with language,  with entertainment, with alcohol, and with fashion. Of course, holiness is much more than these things, but in an effort to be hip, many Christians have figured holiness has nothing to do with these things. They’ve willingly embraced Christian freedom without an equal pursuit of Christian virtue.” (The Hole in Our Holiness pg. 18)

    This hit me hard, have I in my attempt to fit in with the world ditched or pushed to one side my pursuit of holiness? I am ashamed to say that sometimes I have. I have said many times that you cant be a cool christian because you will either have to choose one or the other. And I need to hear that God wants me to be holy more than I should want to be hip with the world.

    Have you let worldliness creep into your life so much so that holiness is not something you think about let alone strive for?

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  • A prayer that all Christian leaders need to pray

    I have been reading Replenish by Lance Witt and on page after page it has been cutting to the core of me and doing significant heart work. Today, I have been reading about the desire pastors have to be significant in people’s eyes which is a significant struggle I have. Here is a prayer that I am going to pray daily which Lance has in his book. I think it is  a prayer that all Christian leaders should pray:

    Today I still long for so much honour, I am so pleased with myself, so rooted in my nature. I am pleased when others as for my opinion, when I am made to feel I am needed, when people know that I am clever, talented and popular. I am glad when I am friends with everyone, when I can share what is in my heart, when I can shine.
    But Lord Jesus, you were servant of all. Today I surrender all desire to be great; I renounce all pleasure I take in being important.
    (From Baselia Schlink’s book I found the Key to the Heart of God: My Personal Story, 47-48 as quoted in Lance Witt Replenish)
    Is this a prayer you need to pray too?
  • Starving pastors can’t feed their sheep

    Last year was a dark year for me. My father passed away from cancer, the culture at my church was toxic and to top it all off I was going through a very dry time spiritually. I wasn’t making an effort to read my bible and pray. I wasn’t speaking with people who encourage me.

    I was dry.

    Now dry times happen to all Christians but it seems like so many of the stats I read say that pastors feel spiritually dry more of the time than they feel spiritually vibrant. Therefore, it is no surprise that a lot of pastors don’t spend quality time caring for their own souls. This is where I was at for a significant time last year and my church took a hit. My preaching lacked power and depth and was largely ineffective. Sure God did move but I could discern that my preaching didn’t have the power it should have.

    I realised this year that I was starving. I hadn’t been feeding on God’s word and when I did read it I read it either to tick a box saying I had done it or I was reading it to prepare for something. The thing is starving pastors can’t feed their sheep. As pastors we are to be people who watch our life and doctrine (1 Tim 4:16). Carson says about this verse says that there should be a discernible growth in life and doctrine because of our feeding and meditating on the word. Whenever I think about that I am always challenged.

    I want to feed my sheep. I want to be able to preach with passion and vitality. Therefore I need to be feeding on God’s word in a way where I am satisfied in it.

    Are you a starving pastor?

    When was the last time you had a satisfying time in God’s word?

    What steps do you need to take so you are refreshed by Gods word?

     

  • How to forgive your Pastor

    Pastors can be the most disappointing people in the world. I know because I am one. We disappoint ourselves; we let down people in our congregation sometimes by forgetting something and sometimes by a hasty word or action.

    We all can recount times when we have been hurt or at least frustrated by a pastor. This hurt or frustration if left unchecked can fester and destroy our respect and love for our pastors and can even destroy our faith

    What is the solution?

    The Gospel is our solution. Nothing more nothing less.

    Sorry to disappoint you that I didn’t come up with something new and hip but the Gospel is the solution for the following three reasons:

    1. The Gospel teaches us that all people are sinful. Pastors are called to a different standard of Character (e.g. 1 Timothy 3). But we pastors are still sinners, we do make mistakes and we will do in the future. The gospel teaches us to expect this and not to subscribe to some wrongheaded notion of “Pastor Perfect”. Now this can’t be an excuse for pastors and if there is sin your pastor’s life he, just like you, needs to be made aware of it and helped with it in loving and helpful ways. If we recognise that our pastors, just like us, are sinful then we would be more able to forgive them. It also gives us pause to think about what sin I have brought into the relationship that I have with my pastor.

    2. The Gospel teaches us that we have been forgiven. You have been forgiven for everything, how amazing is that? Have you ever thought about how much your God loves you and how much he has forgiven you? When we compare what we have been forgiven to what we need to forgive the two are incomparable. We have been forgiven infinitely more than anything we should forgive. When you pastor sins, upsets you, disappoints you remember forgiveness and how much you have been forgiven and see your pastors sin in this light.

    3. The Gospel teaches us that God is in control. God wasn’t surprised by what happened between you and your pastor. God is not in heaven thinking “I didn’t see that one coming!!” No, God works all things for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28) and so God is working what just happened for your good and his glory. If you knew this would it be easier to forgive your pastor?

    The answer is always the gospel nothing more nothing less.

     

  • Pastor Fashion?

    Pastor Ed Young Jr. has a new website for Pastors it is called Pastor Fashion.com. (No I am not lying click the link!)

    Here is the first blog on the site:

    “Pastors aren’t typically known for their fashion. Most people don’t think of the runway leading up to the pulpit. But why not?! Why can’t the men and women of God set the standard for the rest of the world in fashion as well as faith? That’s why we’re launching PastorFashion.com. We want to set the trends.

    Check back with us regularly, as we’ll be posting things like what not to wear, fashion tips, the latest trends and so much more!

    We’re not trying to be like the world…we just want to be fashionable while we try to change it! Have fashion tips, things you’ve seen done (whether right or wrong)? This is the place we’ll keep the conversation going and the trends growing!”

     

    Now a couple of reflections are worth considering:

    1. There is really nothing inherently wrong about pastors wanting to look good or giving each other advice about what to wear or not wear if that is what floats their boat and as long as looking good doesn’t define them. In fact I have seen in some churches Pastors dress down as much as possible in reaction to a tradition where pastors have to wear a dress and a collar. This is an overreaction which communicates more than dressed down pastor wants to communicate.

    2. What we look like communicates a hell of a lot. If I go to church in my daggiest clothes what is communicating? If I rock to church in a suit or robes or a footy Jersey what is it communicating? What I wear communicates how I want people to treat me, what I think of myself and in some sense what I think of God. If drag some clothes off the floor and sniff them to make sure they don’t smell too bad and then put them on and go to church I may be seen to be saying “I don’t care about how I look” Or “I have no self confidence” or “Meeting with God and his people isn’t a big deal”. Conversely, if I wear a really expensive suit I may seem to be saying “I care a lot about what you think of me” Or “My God is a blingy God who will bless you!” What we look like communicates a hell of a lot.

    3. In the Bible women are told that they shouldn’t be known by what they wear but their inner character (1 Peter 3:3, 1 Timothy 2:9). This command surely has to be applicable to men also. What a website like pastor fashion does is take our attention off what the bible says should define us as pastors (godliness, theology, love for people etc) and put the attention onto the very thing that shouldn’t define us i.e. what we look like. So even though we have to be careful that what we wear communicates the right things about us we cannot fall into the trap of making something that should be far on the periphery come to centre stage.

    4. It is a sad day when one of the most well known pastors in the world launches a new website for pastors and it is not about theology, joy in God, pastoral skills or something else that God is concerned about but fashion, which is something that the world is deeply concerned about but which God doesn’t care about. But this gives us pause to reflect on our own lives. If one very intelligent pastor who wants to reach people for Jesus is spending his time talking about periphery are we doing the same?

    What do you think?

     

     

  • What I wish I did when I started fulltime ministry

    It is the time of year that people in their last year bible/theological college or in their last few weeks of work before doing an internship next year. Either way these are exciting times, times of great opportunity and potential but opportunity and potential need to be worked with to be fully realised. If you are doing an internship or going into fulltime ministry have you though and planned for next year? Have you worked out what your priorities are?

    Here are a few things I wish I did when I started fulltime ministry:

    1. Scheduled in times for bible reading, prayer and reading.

    When fulltime ministry hits one of the first things that can go out the window is personal bible reading and prayer. This is because bible reading and prayer seems not urgent but those 50 emails are urgent. This is where we need to work on things that are not urgent but are very important. This means scheduling in time to read the bible and pray, time to read theology, time to have significant alone time with God. If you are in fulltime ministry and you don’t work on your relationship with God why should you expect anyone else to work on theirs?

    2. Got a mentor

    There is a temptation that when we enter into fulltime ministry we have got it all sorted and we know how things are because we have had great training. But one of the things I realised (and am still realising) is that despite all the great training that I had at bible college there is so much more to learn about myself, theology, the world, people etc. Having a mentor who will put time into you and keep you accountable with your bible reading prayer, godliness etc is a great thing to have.  I know I have benefitted greatly from my mentors!

    3. Worked on my health and fitness

    Since starting Resolved I have put on about 13 kilos. Yes you read that right 13 kilos! In the first year of Resolved I slept very poorly, ate worse and almost never exercised. I have been convicted of my need to look after myself by my beautiful caring wife and my rapidly developing gut. Needless to say in the grind and rapid pace of ministry there will be temptations for you to eat junk, not work out and sleep only a few hours a night. This will surely mean you will burn out or become very ineffective.

    4. Worked harder on my preaching.

    I think I have a gift of communication and sometimes I am lazy and I rely on this. I wish from day one I not only prepared the text properly (which I usually did) but I also worked on how to communicate that text properly. Working out how to communicate the word properly turns your speech from a boring exegetical lecture to a great expository sermon.

    5. Worked harder at being organised

    I like flying by the seat of my pants. It is fun and exciting for me. But it is not for everyone else. I need to love the people I lead/pastor by being as organised for every meeting as I can, setting deadlines and keeping them and keeping myself to a high standard in the area of organisation. If I don’t do this I will lose credibility very fast and I bring the gospel and my ministry into disrepute.

    6. Made every moment count

    Because of my lack of organisation and my arrogance I wasted time. I didn’t realise and keep in front of me that every moment matters and that God is going to hold me to account. So when I am at work I need to work hard with all the hours I have. I shouldn’t scroll endlessly through blogs or YouTube or debating about how much pastors should be paid on my bible college year Yahoo group. Brothers and sisters going into fulltime ministry, you will have a lot of time to use effectively but also a lot of time to waste. Please don’t waste your time. The gospel is too important, hell too real and Jesus too amazing for us to waste time!

    These are things I am continuing to work and I will be working on these till I die I am sure. My prayer is that if you are going into fulltime ministry next year you will have a long and fruitful ministry and you will see many people come to know our great Lord Jesus!