• How to Grow as a Christian

    We live in a time where people are so busy that really important things get pushed to the periphery of life. For example reading the Bible and praying. This is the stuff that Christian growth is made of and yet we are more likely to listen to podcast than hear from God himself or read a book rather than read the Bible.

    I have been reading a book by Andy Stanley called Deep & Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend. In it he has this quote about devotions or time where you read your Bible and pray:

    “Personal spiritual disciplines introduce a sense of intimacy and accountability to our faith walks. Private spiritual disciplines tune our hearts to the heart of God and underscore personal accountability to our heavenly Father. There is a direct correlation between a person’s private devotional life and his or her personal faith. And regardless of how long you’ve been in ministry, this is something you can’t afford to lose sight of. When God speaks to us personally through his Word or answers a specific prayer, our faith is strengthened. This is why private disciplines is a faith catalyst. One of the most impactful things I heard my dad say growing up was, “The most important thing in your life is your personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” That’s direct. And I have found it to be absolutely correct. As my personal devotional life goes, so goes my faith, my confidence in God. And I don’t know if this is true for everybody, but as my confidence in God goes, so goes my personal confidence.”

    Andy Stanley – Deep & Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend

    Did you read those sentences “As my personal devotional life goes, so goes my faith, my confidence in God. And I don’t know if this is true for everybody, but as my confidence in God goes, so goes my personal confidence” Wow.

    I have seen that if a Christian is reading their Bible and praying then their walk with Jesus will be much stronger than if they aren’t. In fact when people are feeling far from God the first thing that I try to get them to do again is pick up their Bible, read it and pray. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t other factors that make people feel far from Jesus it just means that the cure for feeling distant from God is something that all Christians know they should do but a lot of us (including myself) need reminding to do.

    How is your Bible reading and prayer?

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  • Unexpected Pastoral Ramifications from the Fresh Perspectives on Women in Ministry series

    Martin Luther is reported to have said “Theology is never naked.” What he meant by that is that all theology is connected, so if you change one part of your theology over here it will have knock on effects to this part over here.

    This is never any more true with how we read the Bible. If we read the Bible on one issue in certain way we have to be consistent and allow people to read all parts of the Bible in the same way that we have read that one part.

    This principle has hit home recently with the publication of John Dickson, Michael Bird and Kathy Keller’s books in the “Fresh Perspectives on Women in Ministry series”. Around Christmas and in the days following there was a lot of chatter on social media about these e-books and it seems that a lot of people have read them or have understood the books arguments because the authors have given summaries of their arguments. This is not only good marketing but it is very generous. This I applaud.

    But since these books have been released two Christian men who have been struggling with same sex attraction for years have asked me “If these guys can read the Bible in such a way that gets us out from under what the Bible appears to be saying about gender in the church why can’t I read the Bible in such a way that lets me live in a committed same sex relationship?” Now I am not sure how Bird and Dickson would respond to these men. No doubt they would respond biblically and with great care but the question still remains if Dickson and Bird are allowed to deal with words in a way which makes us read the texts entirely differently than what they seem to be saying. (I think this is what Dickson does as he defines the words “to exhort” Gk. parakaleo and “to teach” Gk.didasko.) Why can’t a pro gay reader redefine the words that seem to prohibit homosexual unions in the Bible (i.e. the Greek words Malakoi and Arsenokoitai in 1 Corinthians 6:9 where we get prohibitions of homosexual sexual sexual activity)?

    In putting forward this blog I am not saying that Dickson and Bird are pro gay. That would be stupid and sinful on my part. But the question I would love to know is “How they would respond to this question that our brothers in Christ have put forward?”

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  • Successful People Plan

    One of the things that doesn’t come naturally to me is planning. I am a spur of the moment guy which is fun for me and not so fun for those people around me who aren’t like me. But leaders and successful people plan and so I try to plan well and I try to lead Resolved in planning for the future.

    The other day I read through Proverbs to see what it said about planning. Here are a few verses that hit me as I was studying this great book:

    1. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
    2. “Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure.” (Proverbs 4:26).
    3. “For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the Lord, and he ponders all his paths.” (Proverbs 5:21).
    4. “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.” (Proverbs 11:14).
    5. “The wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way, but the folly of fools is deceiving.” (Proverbs 14:8).
    6. “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” (Proverbs 15:22).
    7. “The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord. All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit. Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” (Proverbs 16:1-3).
    8. “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9).
    9. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” (Proverbs 16:25).
    10. “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” (Proverbs 16:33).
    11. “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” (Proverbs 19:21).
    12. “The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.” (Proverbs 20:5).
    13. “Plans are established by counsel; by wise guidance wage war.” (Proverbs 20:18).
    14. “A man’s steps are from the Lord; how then can man understand his way?” (Proverbs 20:24).
    15. “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.” (Proverbs 21:5).
    16. “For by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory.” (Proverbs 24:6).

    There are a few things that I glean from these verses:

    • God is absolutely Sovereign and all planning we do is done with the acknowledgement that he can do whatever he wants with us and our plans
    • We plan in humility knowing God is the one who will ultimately make our plans succeed or fail.
    • Good planning takes time. The successful planner ponders and reflects as they plan
    •  The successful planner plans in consultation with others
    • The successful person plans

    What about you what do you get out of these verses about planning?

    Do you plan well? If so why/why not?

    “Those who don’t plan plan to fail.” – John L. Beckley

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  • Fight for your Holiness

    Christians believe that we are right with God, forgiven and cleansed by the death of Jesus. We also think that we are sanctified or made holy by what Jesus has done. These are things that no biblical Christian would want to deny.

    But as we rightly remember that Jesus sanctifies us through his death do we also remember on the other hand that we are to fight for our sanctification?  Take Paul in 1 Timothy 6 for example:

    11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 1 Timothy 6:11-12

    Notice the verbs Paul is using here. We have to pursue, fight, take hold. They are all active verbs. Meaning, that we are not to sit back on our laurels but we are to fight to be more holy, more Christ like.

    Or take Paul in Philippians 2 for example:

    12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13)

    Notice what he is saying. He is saying that God works in us and we are to work out salvation. Now what does it meant to work out our Salvation? I think it means that we are to strive to live as a Christian because a Christian is one who is saved. So I think Paul is saying work it out, live it out. Live life like you are saved.

    So Christians are meant to fight for our holiness. We are meant to battle sin. We are meant to walk away from the internet when we are tempted. We are meant to work hard at seeing the good in others so that we don’t gossip. We are meant to fight to read our Bible  and fight to be encouraged by it. We are to labour in prayer. But we do this all because we have the power from God to do it!

    Here is what Martyn Lloyd-Jones say about our fight for holiness:

    “The New Testament calls upon us to take action; it does not tell us that the work of sanctification is going to be done for us. . . .We are in the ‘good fight of faith’, and we have to do the fighting. But, thank God, we are enabled to do it; for the moment we believe, and are justified by faith, and are born again of the Spirit of God, we have the ability. So the New Testament method of sanctification is to remind us of that; and having reminded us of it, it says, ‘Now then, go and do it’.”

    Martyn Lloyd-Jones Romans:Exposition of Chapter 6: The New Man, 76

    How do you fight for holiness?

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  • Guest post: Alie Benge’s Strategy for Managing the Crazy

    Alie is a former member of Resolved who moved to NZ a few months ago. She is focusing on carving out a writing career while studying a bachelor of arts in Philosophy. Follow her writing at www.searchingforourselves.wordpress.com

    Welcome to my five point strategy for how to deal with the things life throws at you. No one’s life is a perfect ray of sunshine and every now and then you may find yourself in a rut. It’s ok, it happens to the best of us. Whenever you need it, here’s some ideas for how to get back on the happy train.

    1.Keep a book of crazy.

    Get a journal and write in it how you’re feeling, why you are feel the way you do, and try to bring it to a resolution. The benefit of writing things down is it forces you to carry a thought to completion. I have the tendency to mull over something, turning it over in my mind, never actually thinking helpfully about it. Writing it down gets it out of your head, puts it where you can see it and enables you to be a problem solver, not a problem wallower.

    2. Don’t be a jerk about medication

    There seems to be a stigma attached to medicating things. Believe it or not, anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medication isn’t concocted over a cauldron and there’s no eye of newt thrown in there. It definitely shouldn’t be a first resort as there are side effects involved, you also don’t need it if you’re just feeling a bit down in the dumps that particular week, however if a doctor has agreed that it would help you then there is nothing wrong with taking it. We aren’t living in a dark age. There’s nothing to fear about modern medicine. However, they should be used in conjunction with some kind of counselling. What the drugs do is help with the process of getting better by lifting your mood and allowing you some perspective. The idea is to reach a stage where you no longer need medication.
    3. Don’t run from your problems. They run faster.

    Seeing a counsellor or psychologist is mentally depleting. You’ll be asked hard questions and asked to think about things you’ve been avoiding. You know those memories that you’ve buried away in a dark corner of your mind? Well, you’ll need those. You’ll have to brush the dust off and bring them back into the light. I used to have an image of myself standing on a cliff, facing land. Over the cliff was all this crazy, hovering menacingly in the open space. I thought if I turned around and really looked at my problems they would drag me over the edge. Now I see that as one of my face palm moments. By not looking behind me, I couldn’t see that it had already begun pulling me over. My psychologist asked me hard questions. She made me feel uncomfortable, she made me take deep breaths, and she left me feeling like I’d run an emotional marathon. Sometimes I left her office feeling confused, sometimes furious, sometimes terrified, but I realised after a while that I hadn’t fallen over the edge; in fact I was walking away from it, descending the hill. You can ignore your problems, keeping them in your peripherals, but that’s where they’ll always be, growing and manifesting in secret ways. Or you could muster all your courage, face your problems and begin pushing them away.
    4. Don’t be a hero

    This is the part where I need to take my own advice. Don’t be the strong, silent one, bearing up under suffering all alone so as not to hurt others. I’m a witness to the dangers of internalising. Soon the problem will warp and mutate and blow your brain up. It will become a heavy secret that will bear down on your shoulders and cause you to distance yourself from people. Those who love you would be more horrified at the thought of you suffering alone. They’ll want to help you but they can’t read minds. Talk to your pastor, parents, siblings or friends. Trust the wisdom and perspectives of others and don’t be afraid of being a burden. It is one that most would gladly bear.

    5. Find healing in the Bible

    No one gets through life entirely un-bruised. We’ve all been damaged in some way by the people around us or by the things we’ve lost. At some point in your life you may not have been loved perfectly, maybe your parents, your friends or your spouse let you down, maybe you were rejected or anxious. Not everything that damages us is unreasonable or even noticed. Lucky for us we have in the bible one who has loved us perfectly. One who will never reject us or let us down. One who will keep loving us and keep forgiving us every time we turn around sheepishly and ask to come back. You can trust God with your anxieties. You can ask him to forgive you when no one else will. You can see how he loved you on the cross when it seems you are unloved. When you feel you are unworthy you can know that you are made in the image of God.

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  • 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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  • How Christians get Holiness Wrong

    What does it mean to be holy? When I was a teenager I thought that to be holy meant that you shouldn’t do certain things (e.g. have sex outside of marriage, swear, listen to the Backstreet Boys, etc.). This version of holiness says you are holy if you avoid the wrong things. This is what I think Christians generally mean when they talk about holiness.

    But there is something missing with this view of holiness. Actually not something missing but someone missing. Notice how Jesus is missing from this view of holiness? Because Jesus is missing from this view of holiness it not only is it not Christ centered but it can be legalistic. I I am only concerned with doing the right things and not doing the wrong things my life therefore becomes about me and what I am doing but as Christians we know that our lives should be all about Jesus.

    Having Jesus at the centre of our holiness also reminds of us of where our holiness comes from. It doesn’t come from a certain will within ourselves. It comes from Jesus who made us holy by his shed blood on the cross.

    What does this look like practically I hear you ask. It means now we live out of who we are. The Bible says we are new creations and therefore we live like we are new creations. We don’t do the things we did once because that is not who we are anymore. As you can see a Jesus centered holiness is less about striving to be someone or something and more about becoming what we already are. Sure it means that we will not do some things (like listen to the Backstreet Boys) and we will do other things (read our Bibles and pray). But our motivation for doing these things is different. We are trying to be who we are because,  in Jesus, we already are holy.  It means because Jesus has made us right with God we are totally dedicated to him and therefore we will be apart form anything that is sinful. As Anthony A. Hoekema says

    Contrary to popular opinion, therefore, holiness means more than doing certain good things and not doing certain bad things; rather, it means being totally dedicated to God and separated from all that is sinful. 

     

  • Pastors always look better on social media

    Here are list of things that you will never see a pastor put on Facebook or Twitter:

    “We had the lowest attendance ever but the gospel was preached!”

    “I am really bombing on this camp I am speaking at”

    “I am burnt out and I want to quit ministry!”

    “My wife is going through post natal depression and I am struggling.”

    “My Church wont seem to grow no matter what we try.”

    No here is what we (and I am putting me square in the middle of the we) put on Facebook and Twitter:

    “Please pray for me because my church has grown from 10 to a quarter of a million in 24 hours and I really need wisdom on how to pastor them.”

    “How good are the first 9 chapters of Chronicles? God’s word is amazing!”

    “Can’t wait to preach at John Piper’s church’s youth group. I am humbled by the opportunity”

    Granted, these posts are sarcastic posts that I have never seen on social media.  But I have seen and I have posted things that are very close.

    I have been challenged over the past few months to think about why I post what I post on Social Media I especially have been challenged by how my posts affect others. Sure my church is going great at the moment and I want more people to come to it but would posting how awesome my church is going discourage a godly and faithful brother in Christ who is struggling leading a church that is elderly and dying no matter what he tries to do? Putting up a post about my great wife could be cute or romantic but how does the single person who is struggling with their singleness feel when they read that post? How does the man who is married to a woman who is going through post natal depression feel when he reads my tweet about my amazing wife?

    I am not saying that we should never put things on social media about how great my church is or how awesome our spouse is but we should check our hearts before we post. We should ask what is the motivation behind posting this tweet. Is it to show the world that I have arrived  that I am awesome and that my life is fantastic? Or is it for a more noble reason? Also, ask this question before you post “Would I say what I am posting to all my Facebook friends or Twitter followers if they were right in front of me”? If not why would I post it online for them to read it?

    Twitter and Facebook has shown me for who I am in the past. That I am really quite narcissistic and this narcissism is deadly to my soul. What about you? Do you need to change they way you use social media?

  • How to talk with a Christian who wants a divorce

    This Sunday at Resolved I am preaching on Matthew 5:27-32  where Jesus talks about lust and divorce. I am nervous to be speaking on such important and potentially painful topics. I have never preached on divorce before and have been reading widely on it this week. In my reading I found this brilliant piece of pastoral wisdom from John Stott about speaking with someone who wants to get divorced:

    “So, speaking personally as a Christian pastor, whenever somebody asks to speak to me about divorce, I have now for some years steadfastly refused to do so. I have made the rule never to speak with anybody about divorce, until I ahve first spoken to them with him (or her) about two other subjects, namely marriage and reconciliation. Sometimes a discussion on these topics makes a discussion on the other unnecessary. At the very least, it is only when a person has understood and accepted God’s view of marriage and God’s call to reconciliation that a possible context has been created within which one may regretfully go on to talk about divorce. This principle of pastoral priorities is, I believe, consistent with the teaching of Jesus.” 

    John R.W. Stott, The Message of The Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 5-7 pgs.98-99

    What do you think? Is he right? Would you follow his advice?

  • Why are you a Christian?

    Postmodern Christian and brilliant author Lauren Winner has a had a tough trot of late. She has gone through a divorce and a year where she didnt feel particularly great about being a Christian. She has written a piece for Relevant Magazine entitles “Why I am (still) a Christian.” Her ultimate answer to why she is still a christian may surprise you. It did me!

    “Here’s a less-than-sexy, less-than-po-mo response: I am a Christian because of doctrine. Really, I mean this. In particular, I am a Christian because of the doctrine of sin—because the Christian story includes an account of everything I see when I look in the mirror and when I look out the window. It includes an account of the beauty and goodness I see—created and redeemed goodness—and also an account of the corroded, corrupt things I see. Indeed, it is Christian doctrine that not only explains those things but that allows me to see them in the first place. So, I am a Christian because of the ways the Christian story teaches me to see reality for what it is.

    I am a Christian because the self-hiding God of Isaiah 45 holds me even when I am in hiding, too.

    I am a Christian because Matthew 25 has been the only thing that has gotten me to interrupt my own career advancement, social life, housework and more and go to a prison—or in some other way do something other than advance my own interests. I know many a secular humanist is motivated by something other than Matthew 25 to do good things, to participate in the in-breaking of justice, but nothing else has ever actually gotten me up and out of my house. But Matthew 25 has.

    I am a Christian because when I sing “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” the words always tell the truth.

    I could go on, but you get the point.”

    So, why are you a Christian?