• The Trap of Materialism

    We live in a very materialistic society. We work jobs we don’t like to buy stuff we don’t need to impress people we don’t like. Mark Driscoll in his book Who Do You Think You Are?: Finding Your True Identity in Christ shows us the problem of our culture’s incipient materialism:

    Today, with television tours of the world’s wealthiest people’s homes, we no longer compare our possessions to those of the generations before us or our neighbors but rather to the elite’s. The results are coveting, overspending, and debt fueled by advertising. Some sociologists call this “competitive consumption,” which forces average people and families to work harder, spend less time with those they love, and live more miserably enslaved to debt in an ongoing effort to prop up some false sense of identity and personal value. Third, products are not simply valued for their usefulness but rather play a central role in the cultivation and maintenance of our identity. This is a powerful explanation for why consumer goods are so much more than objects we use; they are things for which we will fight and sometimes even kill. The point is that in today’s consumer culture, our goods are carriers of meaning. They define us, send social signals to others, and construct our identities. Subsequently, wearing non-designer clothes, driving an old car, and using anything but the latest technology somehow devalues us as human beings. Put bluntly, when consumerism is your religion and stuff the object of your worship, “the things you own end up owning you,” to quote Tyler Durden from the movie Fight Club(1999).

    Where can you see materialism in your own life?

    You may also like:

    Where Should Christian Generosity Come From?

    What is your attitude to the poor?

    We Live in Very Religious Times

  • Bill Maher Helps A Cocaine-Dealing Atheist Come to Know Jesus

    This is an amazing testimony!

    For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes Romans 1:16

    You may also like:

    Do You Have to Believe in a Historical Adam to Believe the Gospel?

    A Question About Predestination

    Spiritual warfare is more boring than you think

     

  • 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?

    You may also like:

    Is Your Church Successful?

    Tim Keller on Staying Spiritually Vibrant

    Pastors, Bad Priorities and Wasted Time

  • If you don’t Praise Others do you Functionally Deny the Gospel?

    I have started reading Sam Crabtree’s book Practicing Affirmation. So far it is a great book. But the foreword floored me. Not many forewords have floored me. But not many are written by John Piper either. In the foreword Piper quotes the following passage from C.S Lewis’ Reflections on the Psalms:

    “The world rings with praise — lovers praising their mistresses, readers praising their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game — praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians or scholars.  I had not noticed how the humblest, and at the same time most balanced and capacious minds, praised most, while the cranks, misfits, and malcontents praised least.  The good critics found something to praise in many imperfect works; the bad ones continually narrowed the list of books we might be allowed to read.  the healthy and unaffected man, even if luxuriously brought up and widely experienced in good cookery, could praise a very modest meal:  the dyspeptic and the snob found fault with all.  Except where intolerably adverse circumstances interfere, praise almost seems to be inner health made audible.”

    Did you hear what he says. It is only those who are humble, balanced and capacious that are liberal with their praise of others. It is those who are arrogant, snobby and full of themselves who do not praise others.

    Piper goes on to comment about the central idea in the book:

    “Sam says, “The best affirmation is rooted not only in the character of God, but in the Gospel.” Which means that every glimmer of good in the life of God’s children is blood bought. Jesus died to make it possible. What does it say about us if he died to bring it about, and we don’t consider it worth praising? That is, to say it again, I need this book.”

    To put some skin on it. When we see something that someone else does and it is good and we do not encourage them we are saying something profound about God and his good gifts. We are saying they are not praise worthy.  And we know that all good gifts of God that we can see in others are there only because of the gospel. So there is a sense in which our failure to praise the good in others is a functional denial of the gospel.

    But the sentence that floored me the most was this one:

    When our mouths are empty of praise for others, it is probably because our hearts are full of love for self.

    When I am only full of negativity toward others, when I give no praise, no compliment, only put downs and negativity I do it because I am full of myself and arrogant.

    Wow.

    I need to repent a lot! My lack of praise of others shows how much I don’t praise my father in heaven and it also shows how full of myself I am.

    Do you agree that if you don’t praise others you functionally deny the gospel?

    What do you need to change to see and comment on the evidences of God’s grace in the people around you?

    Who do you need to praise today because you can see evidences of God’s grace in their lives?

     

     

  • What if I’m not excited about my church’s vision?

    My church, Resolved, unveiled its vision the weekend before last and it was received very well. Our vision for 2012 is to grow to 80 people coming every week at Resolved, to see 20 people converted and grow from 3 to 6 community groups.

    But I have had a few people say that they want to be excited about this vision and yet they can’t be for some reason. Here is some advice if you find yourself in that position:

    1. Check your heart

    One of the things that can stop us from buying into a vision is our hearts. Sometimes we have unresolved tension between us and the leader(s) of our church. Maybe there is a lack of forgiveness or something else. Maybe there is pride, maybe you think you can do it better than the guy up the front. So first thing to do is check your heart then pray that God would change your heart if needs be and then seek out resolutions for the tension you feel. That being said, I don’t think this is an issue with anyone who is finding it hard to buy into the vision of Resolved.

    2.Inquire about the vision

    Maybe you have significant unresolved questions about the vision. Maybe it is a new vision or a different direction that your church is being taken. These times can be very hard and there could be confusion. If this is you I would suggest sitting down with your pastor or an elder and asking about vision. See if you can get your questions answered and see if you can see the heart behind the vision.

    3. Realise where you are in life makes it impossible to be excited about most things

    I don’t have depression or anything like it but I do know that depression and other mental illnesses makes it hard for some of us to be excited about most things so it would be only natural for those of us who suffer under these oppressive conditions to find it very hard to be excited about a vision no matter how good it is. I am encouraged when a person with a mental illness will say “I see the vision, I see how good it is and I want to be excited” because this person has probably already bought into the vision in a significant way. Because anyone can feel hyped about a vision. It is when the hype goes and the vision remains is when we see who really bought into the vision. So if you are suffering from a mental illness and yet you want to emotionally buy into the vision of your church and yet you can’t it may be the case that you have already bought into the vision in a far deeper way that you first realise!

    What do you think?

    Am I missing something here?

     

  • 12 things I want to achieve in 2012

    1. I want to grow closer to Jesus. By reading my bible and praying every day.
    2. I want to grow closer to my wife by finding two ways each week to romance her and being more intentional about our relationship
    3. I want to build stronger and more loving relationships with my friends and family.
    4. I am praying to see 10 people I love come to know, love and serve Jesus
    5. I am determined to see a Jesus centered culture of love, encouragement, execution, evangelism and discipleship to be instilled at Resolved
    6. I am dedicated to read at least 50 books
    7. I am planning to spend 5 hours a week practicing guitar
    8. I am planning to spend 5 hours a week working out
    9. I am going to finish the two books I have started writing
    10. I plan to be on time for everything
    11. I am determined to always do what I say I will do
    12. I am endeavouring to enjoy every moment and make every moment count

    What do you want to achieve in 2012?

     

  • What makes a great leader, a great church or a great organisation?

    I have been reading Jim Collins’ latest book called Great by Choice. In it, he looks at a group of companies that have made returns ten to fifteen percent greater than their competition at least ten times over a fifteen year period.

    Now one of the things we must ask when reading a book tailored for the business world is “How much of this is transferable?” How much of this can I take to my church, youth group, band or sporting team? How much of this should be just left in the business arena? These are very important questions to ask and you will have to read the book to find out how much of it is transferable to your context. But here is one thing that is universally applicable.

    Collins noticed two things about the leaders who ran these companies:

    They were:

    1. More ambitious for the company than themselves.
    2. They practiced maniacal discipline.

    More ambitious for the company than themselves:

    It is very easy to want to build your name rather than the team, company, church or band you are working with. I think we see this all the time because it is hard to be ambitious about anything but ourselves, but if we want our organisation or team or church to be successful we need to put our ambitions in the back seat which allows the goals of the organisation to remain number one.

    They practiced maniacal discipline:

    Everyone knows the things they need to do to be great. If you are a musician you practice, are prepared and rock up on time with great gear and a great attitude. If you are a part of a sports team you work hard in practice, are an awesome friend and teammate and work your butt off on the court. But how much of us practice the things we do with maniacal discipline? What are the 5 things that if you did everyday would make the most difference to your organisation/ church/ band/ career? If you did those things every day with maniacal discipline what would change?

     

  • What I Wish I Did When I Planted Resolved Part 5: Worked on my Preaching and Prayer Life More

    “That was a lazy way to make that point!”

    This was one thing an older brother in Christ told me over and over as he critiqued my sermon. But his next comment hit harder.

    “Hans, you have potential but if you just rely on your gifts and don’t work hard that potential will be wasted!”

    Cutting words but true words. They were spoken to me a few years before I planted Resolved. But what I found when I started Resolved is that I didn’t work on my preaching and prayer like I should have. I was happy to arrogantly rely and rest on my gifts instead of putting the hard work in. This meant that my sermons weren’t as good as they should have been and that I haven’t improved as a preacher as much as I should have. It also meant that my prayer life sucked and I now am working hard to get it back on track.

    As a pastor my primary job is to be a man of the word and prayer and so I need to give adequate time to these pursuits.  A great sermon doesn’t just happen, it comes about through work and sweat and prayer and reading and thinking and practicing and….well you get my drift.

    It is easy when you plant a church to neglect the things that don’t seem urgent like preaching and prayer. But these things are vital if we want churches to grow and flourish.

    How are you organising your days and weeks so that you can adequately prepare your sermons and you can spend good time in prayer for yourself, your family, your church and your city?

    Let’s not be lazy in these things. Let’s be disciplined!

     

  • Every church must do social justice part 3: Social Justice and the Gospel

    The problem with just stating that the bible commands that we are to care for the poor is that it is a cold hard law which will either make us fall into despair because there is always poor and we can’t help them all or we will be proud because we are doing more then the next Christian or church. Christians need to be motivated by grace first and foremost. As Jerry Bridges says “We are brought into God’s Kingdom by grace; we are sanctified by grace; we receive both temporal and spiritual blessings by grace; we are motivated to obedience by grace; we are called to serve and enabled to serve by grace; we receive strength to endure trials by grace; and finally, we are glorified by grace.  The entire Christian life is lived under the reign of God’s grace.” So if this quote is true then the ministry of social Justice must be motivated by grace but how is this so?

    The bible gives us a great example in 2 Corinthians 8, in verse 1-5 Paul tells us about the example of the Macedonians who out their poverty they want to give money and be abundantly generous. But Paul Gives us the theology that motivates their giving Paulstates “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). The motivation for their giving is the fact that Jesus gave up his riches and made us rich. Once you were poor, once you were spiritually destitute and Jesus left behind the riches of heaven and became so poor for you. It is in the cross we see the great exchange that Paul describes here in economic terms. Because of the cross we are able to give our money away because Jesus has given us the example of how to treat riches just as he gave his riches away, we, like the Macedonians, are free to give our money to help those who are poor. Therefore it is because God has been generous towards us in Jesus and the cross that we can be generous towards those who are needy and suffering in our world.

     

  • God has given you this life therefore be loving

    Have you ever thought “Why do I have air in my lungs?”

    Have you ever thought “Why do I have that meal in front of me?”

    Have you ever thought “Why do I have the education I have?”

    Have you ever thought “Why am I living?”

    Why do you have those things? It is because God has given those things to you.  He didn’t have to give you life or breath or food or education or friends but he did. Why did he give you these things?

    Because God is the God who gives good gifts

    “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! “

    (Matthew 7:9-11)

    Did you notice the character of God in these verses? God is better than a loving father who knows how to give gifts. This is because God is compassionate and loving.

    If God has been compassionate and loving towards us we should be compassionate and loving towards others.

    “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

    1 John  4:10-11

    If you have only one life and Jesus gave his life for you what should your attitude be to the people around you?

    Love and compassion

    What about those people who are unlovely? What about those people who get on our nerves? What about those people who hate me?

    Did you see 1 John 4:10? God loved you so much that he sent Jesus as an atoning sacrifice. He loved you and I when were unlovely, when we were his enemies and he has infinitely more reason to turn his back on us. So our response to his love is to love him and everyone else.

    Who do you have to pour some love on today?

    You have only one life therefore be loving