• Lies the church tells about sex: Gay people choose to be Gay

    I remember sitting across from my friend who was in tears. He was gay and he had been living with his partner for 3 months now. Every time I brought up anything to do with Jesus there was this massive amount of hostility and so one day I asked him where did this hostility come from?

    He said that he was a Christian once and he grew up in a Christian family. He also told me that he knew he was gay since he was a kid and one day he plucked up the courage to tell his pastor about his sexuality and his pastor asked

    “Why did you choose to be gay?”

    As you can imagine he didn’t stay long at that church. He went to eleven other churches and every time he brought up his sexuality he was told that he chose his sexuality.

    He said he didn’t choose it. He told them he didn’t want to be gay.

    They told him he obviously did want to be gay that is why he chose it!

    When I hear Christians say that gay people choose their sexuality it raises a whole heap of questions

    Why would a person who is a Christian choose to be something that they know is wrong?

    Why would anyone choose a lifestyle where they know at least one person they love will reject them because of their choice?

    If they chose it so easily why don’t they just choose heterosexuality when the gospel is made clear to them?

    I think when a Christian says that gay people choose to be gay they don’t understand the doctrine of Total Depravity. Total depravity means that sin has corrupted every part of our nature and therefore what we like and dislike, what we find attractive and unattractive will be marred by sin’s stain.

    Total depravity has affected my sexuality when I struggled with pornography.  I didn’t want to be attracted to the images on the screen but I was.

    Total depravity affected my friend by making attracted to other men. He didn’t want to be attracted to other men but he was.

    If we take total depravity seriously we have the theology to say to a person who says they never chose to be gay “I believe you.”

    This may be the first step in sharing about how we are all sinful and need Jesus. Or it may be just the first conversation they have with a Christian who has not tried to correct their experience.

    We all know gay people, we need to learn, as a church, how to speak to them with grace and love.

     

  • Why you shouldn’t be a tough pastor

    I remember a church planter coming to check out my church. He said he liked my sermon and that he heard a sermon that morning which was so weak he wanted to “Punch the preacher in the frigging neck!” A friend of mine who looks like he could go bear hunting with a twig and come back with seven carcasses and who also does ultimate fighting for fun and fitness (!!!) was listening in on this conversation. After the church planter left I turned to my huge friend who could kill me in an instant and I said “What did you think of that pastor. He is tough eh?” And my friend quietly said “I don’t want a pastor who is going to punch guys in the neck. I want a pastor who loves his people. I don’t want a tough pastor I want a biblical Pastor who loves me.”

    When I look at the biblical qualities of a pastor (1 Timothy 3 etc.) and I look at what Jesus says should define us as Christians (i.e. John 13:35) the word tough doesn’t even get a mention.

    What should define us as pastors or Christians? I think my thickly muscled brother was right. What should define us is Love. We should be loving people. Think of Jesus and Paul, they both loved (e.g. John 15:12-13, 1 Thessalonians 2:7-11). In fact I think we can say their ministry was defined in large part by the fact the loved their people. But here is the most interesting thing, they were extremely tough. Both took beatings (Matthew 27:26, Acts 16:16-24), both were deserted (Mark 14:43-52, 2 Timothy 4:9-18) and people rejected their preaching (John 6:60-70; Acts 17:32-34).

    It seems to me that if we define ourselves by trying to love our people we will be tough.

    It seems as though love produces grit and toughness

    Whereas many pastors and other men who want to be tough lack love

    That is why I don’t want to be a tough pastor I want to be a loving pastor

    I want love to define me as it did with Jesus and Paul

     

  • What is a biblical man?

    Lately I have sat down with guys who are trying to prove to me how much of a man they really are.

    I know they are trying to prove this to me because they talk about eating steak, drinking, listening to heavy music, punching preachers who don’t preach sound doctrine or punching their team who are not following orders. They boast about how much they are having sex with their wives or how little sleep they get because of how hard they work etc.

    This all comes across as hollow and show boatey.

    When I hear these guys talk like this my mind is flooded with questions.

    What should a man do?

    What does the Bible say a man should be?

    If we are wrong about what a man is where did we get this distorted view of manhood?

    When I look at passages which talks about wheat men should be (Proverbs, 1 Timothy 3, Ephesians 5) and I look at Jesus I see that God is concerned with character rather than characteristics.

    God is more concerned with if we are men who love and who keep our word than if we eat steak and listen to Metallica.

    Why?

    Because God is concerned with character rather than characteristics

    A biblical man is one who loves the people around him, does what he says he will do, reads his Bible and prays, attends church regularly, fights sin, and loves Jesus. He is a man even if he is a vegan who listens to Taylor Swift, drives an automatic and does ballet in his spare time.

    Why?

    Because God is concerned with character rather than characteristics

    Conversely, you could be a guy who drinks beer or scotch, drives a ute, plays football, likes his steak with an extra side of steak, listens to metal and still be a little boy because you don’t love the people around you, you don’t do what you say you will do, you don’t read your Bible and pray, you go to church when you feel like it, and you aren’t grieved over your sin.

    Why?

    Because God is concerned with character rather than characteristics

    Are you a biblical man?

     

  • Live your life for what counts

    I read an article today called The top 5 regrets people have on their deathbed.

    It was a sobering read.

    When I think of regrets in life I always think of the Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards. If you have never heard of the resolutions, they were written by Edwards in his late teen years and they are well worth taking the time to read them. Each of the resolutions is a decision that Edwards has made to improve his life in the light of the gospel. Of the seventy resolutions, some resolutions deal with his thought life, some with his actions and some deal with how he used time. If we take them all together we get the bid idea that Edwards wants to live every minute of his life for Jesus.

    Here are my favourite of Jonathan Edward’s resolutions:

    4. Resolved, Never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God, nor be, nor suffer it, if I can possibly avoid it.

    5. Resolved, Never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it in the most profitable way I possibly can.

    6. Resolved, To live with all my might, while I do live.

    7. Resolved, Never to do any thing, which I should be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life.

    16. Resolved, Never to speak evil of any one, so that it shall tend to his dishonour, more or less, upon no account except for some real good.

    17. Resolved, That I will live so, as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.

    24. Resolved, Whenever I do any conspicuously evil action, to trace it back, till I come to the original cause; and then, both carefully endeavour to do so no more, and to fight and pray with all my might against the original of it.

    28. Resolved, To study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly, and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive, myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.

    41. Resolved, to ask myself, at the end of every day, week, month, and year, wherein I could possibly, in any respect, have done better.

    52. I frequently hear persons in old age say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again: Resolved, That I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age.

    Read Number 52 again

    52. I frequently hear persons in old age say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again: Resolved, That I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age.

    We all know of old people with regrets who wish they had done things differently. If we were to ask Edwards what he thinks the key to living life in such a way as to die knowing that you have live life to the fullest I think he would say two things:

    1. Live every moment for Jesus

    2. Be in every moment

    When I think about these two things I ask myself the following questions:

    1. Am I taking my cues about who I am from Jesus or something or someone else?
    2. Are there things in my life that I know Jesus wouldn’t approve of?
    3. How am I using my time?
    4. Am I coasting through life or attacking it?
    5. Of the moments in my day am I really there or am I punching the clock?
    6. Are my relationships where they need to be?

    How are you doing with your life?

    Are you living every moment of every day for Jesus?

    Are you in every moment?

    Are you in every conversation?

    Or are you just punching the clock waiting till death or the return of Jesus?

     

  • Help I am a single guy and I like a girl!

    Disclaimer: I don’t consider myself Dr. Love in any sense and the fact that I am married to an amazing woman is more to do with God’s grace than my own ability. But there have been things that I have wanted to say to young Christian men about dating and girls. Over the last week I have had three guys ask me about dating and how to get a girl to like you (I don’t know why they ask me) so I have written this blog.

    Love and the questions of courtship vs. dating and to kiss or not to kiss etc are perennial questions that have been around ever since Josh Harris penned the book that every 16 year old guys hates but every Dad with a sixteen year old daughter loves and wants to give to every hormonal teenage guy on the face of the planet. The book I am talking about is I Kissed Dating Goodbye. And there are many other books like it.

    But even though there are books out on dating and love and relationships many questions still remain. As I have said, over the past few weeks, a few guys have asked me about dating and being a Christian guy who likes a girl and so here are questions that I have asked them to think about:

    1. 1. Are you the kind of guy that you would want your future daughter to marry? This is the question that is going to shape the whole conversation. Take a hard look at yourself would you want your daughter marrying someone like you? If for any reason you would say no. It is time to get to work
    2. 2. Do you have a plan? I am not just talking about a plan for asking her out and where your first date will be I am asking do you have a plan for the rest of your life? Do you have a plan for the next five years? Do you have a plan for, if you start going out, how you are going to help her love Jesus more? If you don’t know where you are going why should she look to you for leadership? If you don’t know what you are doing in the next five years why would she want to join you on this journey? If you have no plan for how you will help her love Jesus more you will be a dead weight to her spiritually. Guys get a plan.
    3. 3. Do you have character? I didn’t ask “Are you a character?” I asked “Do you have Character?” Character is about being solid and dependable. A man with character does what he says he will do, on time every time. Are you that? Or do you rock up late, don’t work hard, sleep in till noon, look up porn and generally annoy everyone around you because of your lack of character?
    4. 4. How are you doing spiritually? I am not asking if you feel great and connected with God (though that is a good thing). I am asking how are you doing with reading the Bible and praying? How are you doing with serving at church? How are you doing with going to Bible study or community group? How are you doing morally? If you need to work on these areas take yourself out of the dating/courting game so you can work on your relationship with Jesus so you won’t be a dead weight to a girl spiritually.
    5. 5. Are you an interesting person? Are you a person who has a life? Or do you sit at home playing world of warcraft or xbox or whatever? If you have an interesting life where you are doing things that bring value and meaning to people she will be more likely to be attracted to you. Also if you are interested in her more than being interesting she will find you more interesting.

    Guys these are the questions I wish someone had asked me when I was 18-20. Have you got men around you who love you enough to keep you accountable?

    Be the man that God wants you to be and girls will be attracted to you.

     

  • Sometimes I don’t live in reality

    Go, my people, enter your rooms
    and shut the doors behind you;
    hide yourselves for a little while
    until his wrath has passed by.
    See, the LORD is coming out of his dwelling
    to punish the people of the earth for their sins.
    The earth will disclose the blood shed on it;
    the earth will conceal its slain no longer.

    Isaiah 26:20-21

    Amongst other things I read in the Bible this morning was Isaiah 26 which is a passage chock full of imagery that speaks of God and his salvation of the righteous and his destruction of the wicked.

    But it was the two verses above that really hit me. This passage hit me again in the heart about how God is going to come back to save some people and punish others for their rebellion against him.

    That is reality

    I prayed that God would give me a renewed sense of reality and went out of my office to buy a heater and it hit me in a real way.

    The guy who I bought the heater off if he doesn’t know Jesus he is under God’s terrible judgement!

    The woman pushing that pram if she doesn’t know Jesus she is under God’s terrible judgement!

    The funky looking girl reading a book in the cafe if she doesn’t know Jesus she is under God’s terrible judgement!

    Then I thought about my friends and family, if they don’t know Jesus they are under God’s terrible judgement!

    And the only thing that can save them is the gospel!

    This is reality

    It hit me how much I really don’t live in reality. Of course I know intellectually about the reality of the coming judgement. I know intellectually about the reality that salvation if found only in Jesus. But I go through my day without ever thinking about reality. I go through the day without letting reality shape my day.

    I don’t let reality inspire me to pray

    I don’t let reality give me courage to tell my friends about Jesus

    I don’t let reality impinge on how I use my time

    I don’t let reality push me to use my money generously

     

    My prayer is that I will live in reality every moment of every day.

     

    Are you living in reality?

     

     

     

     

  • How to come out of Bible College a normal human being

    Something weird happens to a lot of people when they are at Bible College, I call it Biblecollegeitis. You know if you have Biblecollegeitis if any of the following are true:

    • When someone asks you about the origin (The State of Origin) you think they were talking about the heretic Origen and reply “Yeah I don’t like him he was a heretic.”
    • You think that the most interesting aspect of 24 is Jack Bauer’s utilitarianism not the fact that he kills a bunch of people and saves the world from nuclear destruction.
    • You act like being right is always more important than relationships.
    • Your vocabulary rivals that of Don Carson’s.
    • You think if people haven’t read the book you have just finished they are obviously not as well read or as intelligent as you.
    • You think you need to correct everyone on everything or have an opinion on everything.
    • You would rather read a profound book than a faithful book.
    • You believe in your heart that the people at your church don’t really know how to run a church, manage their lives, raise their kids or even think and that is why they need someone with a Bible college degree telling them how to do these things.
    • You have used the word fructify in a sentence in the last two weeks.
    • You think Barth is a great evangelical theologian who got the Bible right when in reality he was a liberal who confuses the gospel.

    If this is you, don’t worry help is here. I didn’t want to be this kind of guy coming out of Bible College. I wasn’t entirely successful at coming out Bible college a normal person and I have had people at my church lovingly knock a few edges off me. But here are some things that I did through Bible College that helped me be semi normal when I finished.

    1. I had loads of non Christian friends. I think I had more non Christian friends than I did Christian friends. This was great because I was in touch with the people I wanted to lead to Jesus. I heard where they were at, I prayed for them, I laughed with them, I cried with them. I worked my butt off to not be enveloped by the Christian ghetto that was my Bible college. (By the way I love the college I went to and wouldn’t trade my time there for the world!) When was the last time you hung out with a non Christian?
    2. I had my sermons critiqued by lay people. Here are some of the things that were said about my preaching. “You didn’t understand us”, “You didn’t connect with us”, “that was a Lazy way to make that point!” “What the hell was that all about?!?” This did hurt but what it made me do was understand the people at church and seek to craft my sermons to communicate to them. When was the last time you got feedback from a lay person about your sermons?
    3. I tried to listen to people’s lives. I went out to lunch with the 40 year old single woman and the man who was in his third marriage and the wife of the unbelieving husband and many others as well. My time with them was not just about what I could do for them (although I hope I helped them by pointing them to Jesus and his gospel) my time with them was about hearing their stories. Hearing how hard it was to be divorced, hearing how hard it was to be single for the last 20 years, hearing how hard it was to have your kids walk away from Jesus because they are following their unbelieving father.  I listened and I found that I knew a lot about theology but these guys could teach me so much about applying that theology. I realised that when it came to life I was a baby and these people were veterans. I just listened and learnt.
    4. I had normal fun. I played Bball, I did gigs, I saw movies and musicals and bands. I tried to have a normal life and tried to know what was happening in the real world.
    5. I had Christian friends who laughed and joked a lot. My saving grace in college sometimes was my friends at college. We ripped each other off constantly, we laughed at each other, we laughed at the stupid parts of Christian culture. We laughed and laughed and laughed. We made sure we took Jesus seriously and but not ourselves.

    The question is not whether or not you will be a perfect preacher or a great theologian or pastor when you come out of college, the real question is will you be a person who is able to relate to people, who is able to be approachable, who loves people and who comes across as loving, a person who truly believes the Bible but will be able to lovingly share your beliefs with your church or youth group. Will you be that person when you are handed your degree?

     

  • Day Three at Capitol Hill Baptist

    Day three was really when the conference proper started. We kicked off with a Q&A session about the Elder meeting with Matt Schmucker. As I said in my previous post the elder meetings that Resolved has and that CHBC has are very similar so there were no burning questions that I had to ask or get answers to in this section. After this Mark Dever and Matt Schmucker took us through a potted history of CHBC. This may sound boring but this might have been the highlight of the weekender for me. To hear a Pastor like Dever talk about where the church was and hear about the battles he fought and what he did and why was amazing. It helped me, as a young pastor, to think about my ministry in the long term not in the quick battle.

    Here are the sixteen lessons that Dever has learnt in his time at CHBC:

    1. Consider future generations in decisions the church makes

    2. Be straight forward with your search committee, even telling them the things they may not like about you. This helps put the candidacy in Gods hands not your own

    3. As a candidate tell the church what they can or cannot expect from your wife

    4. Move slowly. Generally speaking, don’t plan on changing any practices in the beginning. If there’s something you will change immediately, tell them before they hire you.

    5. Every element of the public service teaches and leads the congregation. Therefore, it should be given elder/pastoral oversight.

    6. In your services, beware of entertainment culture; beware of manipulating emotions.

    7. Be deliberate about each gathering of the church. What is its purpose?

    8. Beware of sacred cows. Choose your battles wisely.

    9. Promote congregational singing! Consider the advantages of music that is mere and enhancing

    10. Clean your membership role as quickly as you can

    11. Ask yourself, what am I doing to raise up future pastors?

    12. Consider whether or not members of the church know what’s expected of them as members. Is there a church covenant? Is it used? How do you teach your church what it means to be a member? How are these lessons reinforced?

    13. Don’t lead your church through change before they are ready. Don’t lead your church through change before there is a consensus

    14. Expect to be opposed from unexpected places when leading change.

    15. Once, maybe twice, in the process of transition, you may have to be willing to put your job on the line.

    16. Always hold your job with a loose grip

    At lunch we had assigned seating and on each of tables was a staff member so we could ask any questions we had. After lunch we had a session on church discipline by Jonthan Leeman. The main things I was reminded of were:

    1. You need to think through what membership looks like in your church

    2. You need to have a process of church discipline

    3. Church discipline doesn’t need to be done quickly in all circumstances

    4. You need to teach, teach, teach and teach on church discipline before you do it.

    We also received a free copy of Jonathans book The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love which I will read and post a review of soon. We then had elective sessions, I chose to go to the one on choosing elders. I was reminded that an elder is first and foremost a pastor and he needs to be doing pastoral work before he is asked to be an elder and he needs to be able to handle the scriptures and theology well. We then broke for dinner and after that we went to the membership classes.

    Points of learning:

    Time – the whole day it was stressed to look at ministry as a long term thing. It is a marathon not a sprint. I was thinking about Resolved and it encouraged me to think I will be at Resolved for decades and even though I want things to happen in Acts like proportions what I need to remember is that gospel work should be viewed over months, years and decades not hours, days and weeks.

    Teaching before change – I want things to change now! But if we take the long term we can teach, teach, teach and teach about a change before it happens. Dever said to teach on something so much so that people will ask “Why aren’t we doing that?” and then you know it is time to change.

    Intentionality – Dever is intentional about everything. He has thought deeply about everything to do with the ministry at Capitol Hill Baptist and he has implemented it all. I have been challenged to think deeply about everything we do not just the things I like to think about.

    Surround yourself with the right people – It is not good enough to say we need an elder/youthgroup leader/pastor you need the right one. The best ones are home grown. I saw this as everyone on pastoral staff at CHBC has at least been an intern at CHBC.

  • 5 questions to ask when you are bored with your church

    It is a common problem. People are bored with their church and they do not know what to do. Here are 5 questions I think everyone should ask when this is the case:

    1. Am I going to church expecting to hear God speak?

    If the answer is no I must ask “Why not?” If God’s word is being preached it is powerful and active (Hebrews 4:12) and God is speaking (2 Timothy 3:15-17).  What would happen if you went to church expecting that God would speak? What if you read the passage a week ahead and you were ready for God to speak to you? Would you find church far more engaging?

    2. Am I actively listening?

    We live in a consumer culture and one of the drawbacks of this is we think we need to be entertained. If someone or something is boring I will switch off and anyway, it is not my fault for me switching off it is their fault because they didn’t keep me entertained! As we have seen God is speaking when his word is read and it will be applicable to my life and therefore when I go to church I shouldn’t be passively listening as if the preacher is there to entertain me. No, I should listen actively always asking myself “what is God saying to me in this sermon/ reading/ song etc?” What would happen if you actively listened at church? What would happen if while you were at church you were always asking the question “What is God saying to me?”

    3. Am I looking for evidences of Grace?

    It is easy to get into a mood where we are seeing all the bad things that are happening at church. It is easy to notice that the sermon wasn’t as good as sermons have been in the past few weeks. It is easy to notice the kid on drums can’t hold a beat to save his life. It is easy to notice how the service leader was trying to be funny but it really didn’t work. But do you know in your church God is at work? Do you realise that God is working through his word? If so do you have eyes to see? Do you have eyes to see that God is working in that new person’s life? Do you see that God is healing that marriage? Do you see that person stepping up to leadership? This is all happening at your church because God is at work. Are you seeing these evidences of grace?

    4.  Am I serving the church?

    It is easy to sit on the sidelines. When we do it is easy to become a coulda, woulda, shoulda person. You know the people say “I coulda done better than that. I woulda if I wanted to. Someone shoulda listen to me!” But when we serve we have a role in making the church better! We have an opportunity to impact people’s lives. When we see that we make a difference I think we then see how God is using us at church and therefore church will be an amazing place!

    5.  Have I got sin in my life?

    Sin is deceitful. It can be so fun when we are in the middle of it but when it gets pointed out in our lives it hurts and then we naturally feel guilty. What can happen is we just start pushing away our friends from church and shutting out what God may be saying to us through his word because we don’t want to feel the sting of rebuke. If we looks squarely at our sin and we also look to our saviour we see that Jesus has cleansed us of our sin and therefore we need to live the forgiven life. Part of this is dealing honestly with sin in our life. When we realise that Jesus has taken our sin on the cross church then becomes a place where I can praise him because of what he has done for me!

    So much of the time we want our churches to be better. Our churches should be working at improving in all areas but sometimes the reason we don’t like church or find it boring is not about church at all it is about us!

    So if you find church boring ask yourself first “Am I the problem?”