• The Great Porn Experiment

    Porn screws up guys lives and here is a very important video that all guys, pastors, coaches, teachers, etc. should watch. Trust me it is worth the 18 minutes of your time to watch.

    Gary Wilson has a webpage dealing with the content of his talk more fully. Access it here http://yourbrainonporn.com/

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  • How Jesus Helps us in Our Suffering

    You and I will suffer at some stage in our lives. That is just a fact of life. But the question is how are we going to deal with our suffering?

    The biggest question for a belief system whether it be a religion, a philosophy or some other worldview is how does this belief system help me suffer?

    Christianity is unique among worldviews because at the centre of Christianity is a God who comes into our world and suffered for us and like us and therefore we can go to him when we suffer.

    Here is how Mark Driscoll helpfully puts this idea in his latest book Who Do You Think You Are?: Finding Your True Identity in Christ:

    For those who are afflicted and in Christ, Jesus is a God to whom you can speak personally. You can run to him and walk with him. Jesus Christ didn’t sit back in his heavenly ease and from a safe distance give us mere counsel for our suffering. Instead, he entered into human history to identify with us. He was tempted. He wept. He was poor and homeless. His family rejected him. His friends abandoned him. His disciples betrayed him. His enemies falsely accused him. The government unfairly tried and condemned him. The soldiers mercilessly beat him beyond recognition. He bled, suffered, and died in shame. And he did it all for God’s glory and your good.

     

    Jesus is our sympathetic High Priest, who gives grace to the hurting and promises justice to the unrepentant. He is preparing a place for us, and he’s given us God the Spirit as our Comforter until he returns, so we can live out of our identity in Christ. One day, we will see Christ face to face. Our faith will be sight. His nail-scarred hands will wipe our tears away. One day, all who are in Christ will sing his praises and see his glory together forever. One day, he will work out all things for the good of those who love him. One day, all our questions will be answered, our hopes will be realized, and our fears will be forgotten. Until that day, we will be afflicted, but our identity in Christ need not be affected.

    When we are suffering we have a faithful high priest that can sympathize with us in our weakness! What a great God we serve!

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  • 5 Reasons why Some Pastors Finish Poorly

    Everyone in ministry wants to finish well. We all want to hand off the ministries that we have built and created well. Ed Stetzer has written a great blog called  5 Reasons Some Leaders Finish Poorly. Make sure you read the whole blog (especially the great story about Jack Hayford!). But for now, here are the five reasons that Ed gives as to why some leaders finish poorly.

    1. They did not trust the very people they developed for succession.

     

    2. They fought over things which were just not that important.

     

    3. Their identities were too connected to their movement.

     

    4. They grew angrier as they grew older.

     

    5. They could not pass on what they helped create.

     

    Ed elaborates on each of these points. But it made me think as a young man how am I going to work each day to minister well and finish well?

    What are you doing in your life to make sure you finish well?

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  • How to Overcome the Fear of Man

    Am I more concerned with what God thinks of me or what people think of me?

    Fear of man grips us all at some time. We are all concerned to a certain extent with what other people think of us. Ed Welch in his great book that everyone should read “When People are Big and God is Small” gives the following steps for overcoming the fear of man:

    Step 1: Recognize that the fear of man is a major theme both in the Bible and in your own life.

    Step 2: Identify where your fear of man has been intensified by people in your past.

    Step 3: Identify where your fear of man has been intensified by the assumptions of the world.

    Step 4: Understand and grow in the fear of the Lord. The person who fears God will fear nothing else.

    Step 5: Examine where your desires have been too big. When we fear people, people are big, our desires are even bigger, and God is small.

    Step 6: Rejoice that God has covered your shame, protected you from danger, and accepted you. He has filled you with love.

    Step 7: Need other people less, love other people more. Out of obedience to Christ, and as a response to his love toward you, pursue others in love.

    Step 4 is the crucial one. We need to grow in the fear of God and I think Isaiah 6:1-8 is the passage we need to keep coming back to to get a right perspective on who God is. Because this passage shows God in all his holiness and greatness. If we truly get Isaiah 6 and let it minister to our hearts we will find our fear of man diminishing.

    Take some time and Read Isaiah 6:1-8 now:

    In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:

    “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
    the whole earth is full of his glory.”

    At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

    “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”

    Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”

    Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”

    And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

    If we truly get how great God is man will seem very small and our fear of man will diminish significantly.

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  • Do You Make the Mistake of Finding Your Identity in Your Work?

    So many people today find their identity in the work they do. Is this a harmful or a good thing? I have been reading Peter Bregman’s book 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done in which he quotes Dr. Paul Rosenfield, Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University who says:

    Establishing your identity through work alone can restrict your sense of self, and make you vulnerable to depression, loss of self-worth, and loss of purpose when the work is threatened

    This seems to me to be exactly in line with what the Bible says about identity. When we find our identity in anything other than Jesus we will always find the thing we build our identity on to be lacking.

    What are you building your identity on?

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  • The Secrets to Having a Good Confrontational Conversation

    From time to time we all have to have them and most of us don’t like them. You know those conversations where you have to confront someone because they hurt you or someone else or they let the team down. If you don’t have this conversation the pattern of behavior may cause more damage and may never be fixed.

    But these kind of conversations make most of us quite nervous. How do you have these conversations well?
    I was bad at having these conversations because I either didn’t have them or I blew up when I did have them. So I spent a lot of time researching how to have a good confrontational conversation. One where the truth is explored and there is a way forward with as little emotional turmoil as possible.
    Here is the method I use to having these hard and yet necessary conversations:
    Mindset
    Firstly you have to change your mindset about the behavior and the conversation. Instead of justifying the behavior you need to imagine the consequences of this behavior keeping on going. What would happen if this behavior kept on going? What date would it do to you or your organisation? This will give you the motivation for having the conversation. Secondly, think of the conversation not as a confrontational one but one where you are both going to explore truth and find a way forward. If you think about the conversation in this frame of mind it is far less nerve wracking. And thirdly, pray thanking God for the person. In the first chapter of 1 Corinthians Paul gives great thanks to God for the people he is about to rebuke. He has a divine perspective on these people. If you and the person you need to have this conversation with are Christians you have to realize that God is working through and in this person by his spirit. Thanking God for the person helps us remind us of what God is doing and it will help is see the person in a balanced frame of mind.
    Now onto the conversation.
    I think a conversation like we are talking about has four elements
    1. Firstly you as the person to explain their side of the story. This helps you hear the person out and they don’t feel like they are being attacked
    2. Talk about the facts. Now these are the facts that you can both agree on. For example “You said x and why to this person” or “You said you would do this and you didn’t”
    3. Talk about your feelings. Without being overly emotional describe the way the issue made you feel. For example “When you said this I felt hurt.”
    4. Talk about the way forward. You have to define the way forward and make it very clear. For example “If this happens again we will have to put you on probation and if it happens again after that we will have to fire you.” Be as clear as you can in this step.
    A few days later make sure you follow the person up. Especially if you are their leader. If you are their leader they need to know that you are in their corner and you want them to flourish. Make sure you tell them this!
    And finally here are two books that I found of great use to me in this area are:
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  • Is the Old Testament History or Story?

    There seems to be a growing kind of scholarship that is seeping into the minds of our students at Bible College. This is the kind of scholarship that sees the biblical text primarily as a story. Seeing the Old Testament as story is a good thing in some respects because it helps us see the whole story of the Bible and not see the Bible as a collection of little stories that we can atomize. Also, seeing the Bible as story is that helps us see the wonderful literary geniuses that wrote the books of the Old and New Testaments.

    But one of the things that is sometimes pushed in reading the OT as story is a “historyless” reading of the OT.  That is that the OT narratives themselves are contain truth but their connection to history is somewhat vague at best or at worst they shouldn’t be considered as history because that is an error of genre. We need to see the texts as story and therefore the writer of the narrative may have embellished facts or added in narratives that may not have happened but contain “truth” in the sense that the narrative is saying something that is true i.e. that God is powerful. To hold onto this “historyless” reading of the story of the Old Testament one must in the end jettison any idea of Biblical inerrancy.

    This sounds like theological liberalism as described by the Liberal theologian Stephen Sykes:

    Liberalism in theology is that mood or cast of mind which is prepared to accept that some discovery of reason may count against the authority of that traditional affirmation in the body of Christian Theology….. For many protestant Christians the most momentous step of theological liberalism is taken when they deny the traditionally accepted belief in the inerrancy of scripture.

     

    Stephen Sykes, Christian Theology Today, 12

    But the proponents of reading the Old Testament as a “historyless” story say that Sykes has got it wrong and we who hold to the inerrancy of scripture of have got it wrong. They aren’t denying the historicity of scripture they are merely seeing that God accomodates himself to us as he speaks through the scriptures by sometimes using human errors or establishments or myth to help us get at what is true. To do anything else would be to have an Apollinarian or a Docetic view of scripture.

    Apollinarianism and Doceticism  are both  early church heresies about the nature of Jesus  They both denied that he was fully man and said in some fashion that he was only God. If we don’t read the Bible in the way our interlocutors have outlined above we are  accused denying the humanity of Scripture. Now for a bible college student the last thing you want to be is a heretic so when an lecturer says something like this you quickly jump to his position because the last thing you want to be is a heretic even if they get to wear cool glasses like Rob Bell.

    But this whole idea that if you hold to a traditional doctrine of scripture where you affirm innerancy you are an Apollinarian or Docetic heretic is just plain stupid. Firstly, the Apollinarian or Docetic heresies are about the person of Jesus and to use them to talk about scripture is a bad category mistake  Secondly, to my knowledge those who held to the  Apollinariius and Docetic heresies never spoke to the doctrine of scripture because the early church (except for the heretic Marcion) held to the full authority and the inerrancy (even if using that word is a bit anachronistic) of the scriptures. Therefore, to my knowledge, even the heretics who held to apollinarianism or doctism would have problems with the view of reading the Old Testament outlined above. And finally, this view is stupid because in the end it is not an argument but a bullying tactic. It is akin to calling someone a name where the content of that name is totally unsubstantiated. is it right to call people names and put them in boxes? Yes as long as the name fits but in this case it clearly doesn’t and therefore it is just bullying.

    But what about the argument that God accommodates himself to us in scripture? Hans are you denying that? No way am I denying that! There is a good way of talking about God accommodating himself to us. I can find no better example of good accommodation than Calvin:

    “Indeed, that they dared abuse certain testimonies of Scripture was due to base ignorance; just as the error itself sprang from execrable madness. The Anthropomorphites, also, who imagined a corporeal God from the fact that Scripture often ascribes to him a mouth, ears, eyes, hands, and feet, are easily refuted. For who even of slight intelligence does not understand that, as nurses commonly do with infants, God is wont in a measure to “lisp” in speaking to us? Thus such forms of speaking do not so much express clearly what God is like as accommodate the knowledge of him to our slight capacity. To do this he must descend far beneath his loftiness.”

    John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, , 1.13.1.

    Most doctrines have an ugly sister (or brother if you want) and the doctrine of accommodation has one too. This is the Socinian view of accommodation  The Socinian view of accommodation is where God stoops to use erroneous conceptions of humans as vehicles for divine communication. Or in other words God uses human errors or establishments or myth to help us get at what is true. What is the difference in the Socinus’ view of accommodation and Calvin’s view? Calvin appealed to accommodation to reconcile apparent contradictions in scripture, Socinus accepted the contradictions and used accommodation to explain why and how they happened. These two men we see two ways of using the historical doctrine of accommodation. Calvin’s orthodox view uses accommodation to hold to the integrity of the scriptures. Socnius’ view uses accomodation  to undermine the scriptures. (This section is heavily indebted to ““The Peril of a ‘Historyless’ Systematic Theology” By Graham Cole  in Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith?)

    If you are being taught to see the Scriptures as story in a way that is undercutting the historicity of the scriptures by saying things didn’t happen as they are in scripture or something similar to this be wary. This kind of teaching comes about every few decades and ultimately it is not the generation that hears this teaching that suffers but the ensuing generations that suffer as the line of what is correct gets moved further and further to the left of biblical orthodoxy. (On this point see “‘Intellectual Respectability’ and Scripture” in Iain Murray’s book  Evangelicalism Divided: A Record of Crucial Change in the Years 1950 to 2000.)

    The view of scripture I have confronted in this blog is taught by Godly men who think they are doing the right thing. They are kind, fun to be around and some of the guys who teach this I would consider my friends. But ultimately their view of the scriptures is out of line with traditional orthodoxy and should be rejected. The future of the preaching of the gospel is at stake.

    If you want to read further on these issues read the book that I think should be required reading by everyone at Bible College called  Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith? edited by  James K. Hoffmeier and Dennis R. Magary.

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  • Does Knowing Theology Make you a Mature Christian?

    Have you ever met a person who knows a bunch of theology but hardly lives it out? Does knowing theology make someone a mature Christian? How can some people (even some pastors) seemingly know the Bible cover to cover and know a lot of theology but don’t seem to love like Jesus or live like him?

    I think Paul Tripp in his great book A Dangerous Calling nails these questions in this quote:

    Since seminary tends to academize the faith, making it a world of ideas to be mastered (I will write about this at length later in this book), it is quite easy for students to buy into the belief that biblical maturity is about the precision of theological knowledge and the completeness of their biblical literacy. So seminary graduates, who are Bible and theology experts, tend to think of themselves as being mature. But it must be said that maturity is not merely something you do with your mind (although that is an important element of spiritual maturity). No, maturity is about how you live your life. It is possible to be theologically astute and be very immature. It is possible to be biblically literate and be in need of significant spiritual growth.

     

    Paul Tripp A Dangerous Calling

    What do you think?

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  • What to Pray When You Don’t Know What to Pray

    One of the most frustrating things can be prayer. I know we all struggle to find the time to pray but do you find that when you do pray that sometimes you don’t know what to pray?I find this especially true that I don’t know what to pray for the people at my church.

    One of the things that I do when I don’t know what to pray is pray one of Paul’s prayers (e.g. 1 Thessalonians 1:3:9-13 ,2 Thessalonians 1:1-12, Colossians 1:9-14, Philippians 1:9-11, Ephesians 1:15-23, Ephesians 3:14-21, Romans  15:14-33). What could be better than praying the prayers that are in scripture for each other?

    The prayer that I like most our of the above list is Ephesians 3:14-21. It reads:

    14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

    20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

    The two things Paul is praying for is firstly, that the Ephesians would have Christ dwell in their heart more. This is akin to asking God to change their life so they are more centered on him. And secondly, that they would know the love Christ more and more. What great prayers to pray!

    Next time you are praying why not pray this prayer for the people at your church if you get stuck for things to pray for?

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  • Are you Still Using Your Greek?

    One of the things I learnt at Bible college was New Testament Greek (I did a year of Hebrew but I really didn’t learn it!). One of the questions that gets thrown around between pastors that I meet is “Are you still using your Greek/Hebrew when you prepare sermons?”. To our shame the answer is usually no.

    I read this quote by John Wesley on a blog by Ray Ortlund:

    “Do I understand Greek and Hebrew?  Otherwise, how can I undertake, as every Minister does, not only to explain books which are written therein but to defend them against all opponents?  Am I not at the mercy of everyone who does understand, or even pretends to understand, the original?  For which way can I confute his pretense?  Do I understand the language of the Old Testament? critically? at all?  Can I read into English one of David’s Psalms, or even the first chapter of Genesis?  Do I understand the language of the New Testament?  Am I a critical master of it?  Have I enough of it even to read into English the first chapter of St. Luke?  If not, how many years did I spend at school?  How many at the University?  And what was I doing all those years?  Ought not shame to cover my face?”

    John Wesley, “An Address to the Clergy,”

    Ortlund then finishes the blog by saying:

    I do not believe that every minister of the gospel, to be faithful, must know the original languages.  But many should and must.  It is the standard.  Yes, let’s make room for special cases.  But they are special cases.  And if we have had the privilege of studying the Bible in the original texts, the Lord has given us a stewardship to cultivate, not neglect.

    This rebuked me because I find I use the Greek knowledge that I have only when I really have time. But using the Greek will help me with exegesis and it is a privilege  Consider this preacher thoroughly rebuked!

    Pastor, are you using your Greek/Hebrew that you learnt at college?

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