• Keeping your Word

    “Is this done?” I was asked by a member of Resolved. The problem was that it wasn’t done and today was the day I said I would have it done. What was I going to do? I thought of so many rationalizations for why I haven’t got this thing done:

    • I had less sleep now that Kate and I have a small baby. (Not really true)
    • I have been too busy writing the sermon for this weekend or in other meetings that have come up. (Kind of true but still no excuse)
    • She hadn’t reminded me that I had to get it done. (But we hadn’t agreed that she would remind me either)

    I looked her in the eye and told her the truth “No, I haven’t done it. I am sorry.” Her words were kind and gracious. She and I agreed on the date I needed to have it done by. But there was still an issue. When I told her I didn’t have it done, for a split second, I saw in her eyes that I had let her down. I had disappointed her. I told her I would do something and I didn’t do what I said I would do.

    I didnt keep my word.

    I lacked integrity.

    Integrity is the key to leadership. In their famous book The Leadership Challenge, Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner surveyed 1000’s of people around the world and found people wanted integrity in their leaders more than anything else.

    Get that, your people want you to do what you say you will do more than they want you to be dynamic leader or a visionary leader.

    But not only do your people want you to have integrity God values you keeping your word more than almost anything else.

    Ecclesiastes 4:4 says:

    When you vow a vow to God. do not delay in paying it for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow. 

    Did you see what God calls a person who doesn’t keep his word or his vow? That’s right a FOOL.

    Wow that hurts! But it is true, a fool is rash with their words and doesn’t  think about how to use them. A fool makes promises and doesn’t keep them.

    So do you keep your word?

    Do you have integrity?

    Keeping your word or integrity is the key to you being a biblical leader.

    Keeping your word or integrity is the first step in you becoming the best leader you can be.

    “According to Scripture, virtually everything that truly qualifies a person for leadership is directly related to character. It’s not about style, status, personal charisma, clout, or worldly measurements of success. Integrity is the main issue that makes the difference between a good leader and a bad one.”  ~ John MacArthur 

    How do you think you can have more integrity?

  • 7 Resources you can use to Fight Pornography

    Pornography is one of the biggest issues facing many Christians, male and female, today. Over the past few weeks the issue of pornography has come up over and over again in pastoral conversations that I have had. I also have had different friends in ministry asking me about dealing with this dreaded issue in the lives of their people.

    How do you deal with pornography if you are addicted to it?

    How do you help someone else in their addiction to pornography?

    The following are some resources that you might use in your fight:

    Here are some videos about dealing with porn addiction that you should watch:

    In this one Don Carson talks about temptation but the example he uses is pornography

    John Piper has a few clips about dealing with pornography. One about unbelief and porn addiction. In this one John Piper is talking to a bunch of youth about pornography. Both are fantastic!

    In this one John Piper, Tim Keller and Don Carson talks about how the gospel and accountability conquers the sin of Pornography.

    If you struggle with pornography you need to get some kind of monitoring software. I use Xwatch Pro which costs 7 dollars a month. You can get the free version here

    Mark Driscoll has written a book called Porn again Christian. It is very blunt and very frank but very good.

    Pornography looks so good and yet it never delivers what it advertises it will. It promises gratification but that gratification is quick and shallow and ultimately it leaves people empty. But more than that, when we look at porn, even free porn, we are playing our part in the victimization of the women and men who do porn. These men and women are created in the image of God and therefore should be loved and respected.  And because porn distorts our self image as well as our view of sex and other people we are alspo destroying our lives. But most of all God hates porn and we should too.

    The answer, as the guys say in the various videos, is not to give yourself a list of rules. If you are trapped in this sin you don’t need another list of do’s and don’ts, you need to realise that your greatest joy will not be found in sex but in Jesus.

    When realize that, and this truth becomes central to your being, you will have overcome pornography.

     

  • Is your church successful?

    “Thus, when we plan our church life and judge its successes, let us not be guided by management technique or modern theories of presentation and influence. The basic principles of church life and practice are laid down in the Bible and are exemplified in the lives of biblical saints. Is the church weak and despised by society at the moment? Well, that is sad; but on another level, who cares? We are not meant to be respectable, to have political influence, to be an organisation that those outside admire for our slickness and savvy. We are meant to be those who preach Christ to the world around us both in our words and deeds. I find it worrying when evangelical success comes to be measured in the categories of worldly success, for precisely this reason: we are not meant to be successful by worldly standards; we are meant to be faithful by biblical standards; and the example of Christ indicates that these two things are, at the end of the day, implacably opposed to each other.”

    Carl Trueman, Reformation: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, 55

    What do you think?

     

  • 9 things that Inform the way Christians Interact with the Gay Community

    Whether or not Gay people should be allowed to be married keeps getting splashed all over the media. It is a confusing time for all people especially Christians. Christians should love all gay people because God loves gay people and we are called to imitate God in his love. We also need to acknowledge that there are gay people in our churches. Some people are struggling with their orientation in silence, others are figuring out where they are at with Jesus while living as a practicing gay person and while others are open about their struggle and are seeking to conform to the image of Christ. The following are 9 things that I think Christians need to keep at the forefront of their mind when thinking about the current sexual climate. If you are reading this and you don’t call yourself a Christian the following is a summary of what (I think) Christians should believe about Gay people and being gay. My hope is that this belief that we Christians should have is worked out in love for the Gay community.
    1. All people are created in the image of God. Just because a person’s sexual orientation changes, it doesn’t change that they are made in the image of God. Therefore, Christians should treat homosexual people with love and respect knowing that, just like them, gay people are created in the image of God.
    2. The gospel says that gay people, just like straight people, are loved by God. When the Bible talks about the love of God (John 3:16; 1 John 4:10; Rom 5:6-8; etc.) we see that the love of God is open and knows no boundaries. Therefore, Christians need to biblically affirm that gay people are loved by God, and we, as Christians, should be known for our scandalous love for the Gay Community.
    3. The gospel says that gay people, just like straight people, can change. The Bible calls Christians ‘new creations’, which infers that people can be made new. This shows that through the power of the gospel all people, including gay people, can change. This does not mean gay people will automatically change their sexual orientation. That may change but just like a person who is arrogant will struggle with pride for the rest of their life we must not think that all gay people will change their orientation. This may change, but all people (married,single, gay, straight) are called to faithfulness to God. This is a tough pill to swallow but we all need to acknowledge that our humanity and identity is tied up with God and who he is and not our job, money, sexual orientation, etc.
    4. Biblical sexual ethics starts with Genesis 2:18-25 and this text is never superseded, but always remains foundational for biblical sexual ethics. This text affirms that the right context for sex is between one man and one woman in one relationship for one lifetime.
    5. Although Jesus did not talk about homosexuality specifically, he understood marriage as being between a man and a woman. In his conversation about divorce in Mark 10:1-12, Jesus uses Genesis 2:18-25 as foundational when he speaks of marriage. In using Genesis, Jesus is affirming biblical sexuality as being between one man and one woman in one relationship for one lifetime.  Also, in his teaching on divorce (Matt 5:31-32, 19:9; Luke 16:18; Mark 10:1-12) Jesus shows he is conservative on divorce, thus deconstructing the myth of the sexually-tolerant Jesus.
    6. People in the Roman world around the time of the New Testament had similar views on homosexuality, including long-term homosexual union, as the general population in the Western world has today. In Greco-roman literature[1] as well as art[2], homosexual activity was normal and sometimes was held up above heterosexual sex![3]
    7. We need to do careful word studies on the words the New Testament uses when speaking of Homosexual acts. We need to look at the Greek words ἀρσενοκοῖται and μαλακοὶ in their contexts in 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10. Some scholars seek to show these words to have an extremely wide range of meaning and therefore render the words unusable because they lack specificity. But the overwhelming support from New Testament scholars is that ἀρσενοκοῖται should be translated something like ‘males who take other males to bed’[4] and μαλακοὶ should be translated something like ‘effeminate males who play the sexual role of females.’[5]
    8. The Bible is univocal in its condemnation of homosexual practice. Wink, a theologian who argues that Christians should fully accept all people regardless of their sexual orientation,[6] says this: ‘I have long insisted that the issue is one of hermeneutics, and that efforts to twist the text to mean what it clearly does not say are deplorable. Simply put, the Bible is negative toward same-sex behaviour, and there is no getting around it. The issue is precisely what weight that judgment should have in the ethics of Christian life.’[7] Wink is saying that the Bible clearly condemns homosexual behaviour but he asks what place the Bible has in speaking to Christian ethics. So, even a theologian who is agreeable to homosexual relationships recognises that the Bible clearly condemns all homosexual acts.
    9. Gay people, like straight people, need to hear the gospel first and foremost. Christians have a tendency to be moral warriors. But what the world needs to hear is the gospel. The world needs to hear the fact that God is there and he created them. The world needs to hear that we have all rejected God as our king. The world needs to hear that God, in his great love, sent Jesus to die and take the penalty for our rebellion. The world needs to hear  that Jesus has risen from the grave guaranteeing our Resurrection. The world needs to hear that God is inviting us all to know him and one day to be with him where  there is no more evil, pain or suffering. The world needs to know the gospel. Christians sometimes act like as if we get gay people to be straight we have won. But you don’t go to hell for being gay and you don’t go to heaven for being straight. You go to hell because you have rejected Jesus as the lord and saviour of your life. The world needs to hear the gospel from the lips of Christians who have their heart broken by the love of God for the world.
    What do you think?
    What would you add?
    What would you take away from this list?

    [1] See the discussion in Robert Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics (Nashville: Abingdon, 2001), 350-360 as well as Thomas K. Hubbard, Homosexuality in Greece and Rome: a Sourcebook of Basic Documents (University of California Press; 2003); and Marylin Skinner, Sexuality in Greek and Roman Culture (Wiley-Blackwell 2005).

    [2] See John R. Clarke, Looking at Lovemaking: Constructions of Sexuality in Roman Art, 100 B.C. – A.D. 250 (University of California Press, 2001)

    [3] See Plutarch Dial, Love 750B-751B, 752B-C

    [4] This is how Gagnon takes ἀρσενοκοῖται. Some alternative translations from other scholars include ‘Men who take the female role in sex.’ Victor Furnish, The Moral Teaching of Paul: Selected Issues (Abingdon Press; April 2009); ‘Men who assume a passive sexual role with other men.’ Bernadette J. Brooten, Love between Women: Early Christian Responses to Female Homoeroticism (University Of Chicago Press; 1998).

    [5] This is how Gagnon translates μαλακοὶ.

    [6] Walter Wink, ‘Biblical Perspectives on Homosexuality’, Christian Century, November 7, 1979, 1082

    [7] Walter Wink, ‘To Hell with Homosexuals: Sex and the Bible’,  The Christian Century, June 5-12, 2002, 32-34

  • What people need most from their pastors

    Robert Murray M’Cheyne often said to ministers “what your people need most from you is your personal holiness.” This flies in the face of so much church leadership talk. Because holiness doesn’t really get a mention does it?  M’Cheyne is saying  that the most important thing a leader needs is a holy, loving, Christ-like character. M’Cheyne was a Scottish minister who died in the 19th century. His last sermon was preached  on Isaiah 60:1 – “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee”. He went home to bed sick, and died a week later. After his death they found a letter in his bedroom, here is a quote from it:

    “I hope you will pardon a stranger for addressing you a few lines. I heard you preach last Sabbath evening, and your sermon brought me to Christ. It was not anything you said, but it was what you were as you preached. For I saw in you a beauty of holiness that I had never seen before. You were talking about the glory of our God resting on the Savior, and I saw the Savior’s glory resting on you. That brought me to Christ.”

    The life and teaching of M’Cheyne shows that before being skillful, innovative or gifted, we as christian leaders, need to be holy.

  • What the next Archbishop of Sydney can’t be

    I am not an Anglican, but I have been profoundly influenced by the Anglican Church.  I am so thankful for years of being faithfully taught the bible at Anglican churches and I am thankful for my time at Moore College. The Sydney diocese is a very influential diocese. Not just in the Anglican Communion, its influence stretches to the broader Christian world. That is why the election of the next Archbishop of Sydney is so important. It has been very encouraging to hear of people already praying for and working hard to get the right man for the job. Needless to say, this man is stepping into a job that is too big for him, or anyone else for that matter, so he needs our support in prayer. He obviously needs to be a man of evangelical character as well as a great communicator and leader but is there anything he can’t be?

    I was talking with a mate who I met at Moore College. He is no longer in Sydney but has strong ties to Sydney Evangelicalism about who should be the next Archbishop. He said this:

    “The next Archbishop must not be an egalitarian because every time a diocese or denomination chooses to allow women to be the lead pastors of churches the push to fully accept practicing homosexuals into all spheres of church life is pushed by the next generation. If you capitulate on the women’s issue the next generation will capitulate on the homosexuality issue. If the Sydney Diocese appoints an egalitarian then he will push for women being able to fill any role that a man can and that is one of the paving stones on the road to liberalism”

    We have seen this scenario played out in the Anglican Church but also in other denominations. But what about you, do you think the Sydney Diocese would go down this line if they appointed an Egalitarian as the next Archbishop?

     

  • How to pastor like the Apostle Paul

    One of my greatest heroes is Paul. He was a man who loved
    his people with great passion and intensity and he was a great pastor. In 1 Thessalonians 2 we get a glimpse of ‘Paul the pastor’ as he reminded the Thessalonians of how he cared for them. Therefore 1 Thessalonians 2 is great food for thought and it is a passage that we come back to again and again to learn how Paul did and how we should do our ministry. Here are some of the things Paul did  that wecan do:

    1. Paul cared for and loved his people and shared his life with them. 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8 says “Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.” The question is do we love our people like that? Are we sharing our lives with our people or loving and caring for them like a mother?
    2. Paul had courage. He says he preached in spite of strong opposition (1 Thessalonians 2:2). How could he keep preaching in spite of strong opposition? I think it was his confidence in God and who he is.
    3. Paul’s holiness was apparent to everyone. Paul can say “You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed.” (1 Thessalonians 2:10.) If you got up in front
      of the people you lead could you say that? Are you growing in holiness each day in a way that is obvious to those you lead/pastor?
    4. Paul worked his butt off. Paul says “Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.” 1 Thessalonians 2:9. Pastoral work is very flexible in the hours we can keep. We can coast and cruise through our pastoral ministry and collect a cheque or we can work hard for his glory. We don’t want to be workaholics to be sure but we also don’t want to be lazy. No, we should be like Paul who consistently worked hard for God’s glory for the benefit of those he pastored.
    5. Paul was himself. He didn’t seek to put on a mask so other’s would be more impressed with him (1 Thessalonians 2:5). I have to keep asking myself; is that what I am doing? Or am I trying to be the next Piper, Chandler, Dever, Driscoll etc.
    6. He didn’t seek to please men but God. “For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed —God is our witness.  We were not looking for praise from people,
      not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority.”
      (1 Thessalonians 2:3-6). Paul was all about pleasing God first and foremost, he didn’t fear man nor did he seek to please everyone. He never sucked up to people; he always used straight talk (see Galatians 2 if you don’t believe me!). Pastors, who are you seeking to please?
      Other men or God. Are you withholding confrontational sin just to keep people happy? Are you not going to have the hard conversation just because it will be awkward? Do you not preach on some topics because poor culture will hate them? Do you not lead strongly because you are afraid of people getting their noses bent out of shape? Do you suck up to pastors or leaders so you can be in their inner ring or to be getting a bunch of speaking gigs? Paul didn’t seek to please men but God. And as pastors or leaders we should do the same!

    I Love the apostle Paul and I love 1 Thessalonians 2. It is always a challenging read for me as a pastor. How else do you think we can learn from Paul’s example?

  • How good things become sinful things

    “To make sin even more difficult to see, it often rides on the back of many good things. For example, work is a good thing , but sin can take it and exalt it to the point where it rules us. We become workaholics, we say we are doing it for the kids, but we are really doing it for ourselves. What about financial planning? Isn’t it wise to establish a nest egg for the future? This, too, is a good thing, but it can grow to ruling proportions and we forsake generosity. Most sins are ungodly exagerations of things that are good. As a result, we can supply proof texts to justify our behaviour long after it has become idolatrous.”

    Ed Welch When People are Big and God is Small pg. 101

    How have you seen good things become all encompassing things in your life?

    What things in your life might be an idol?

     

  • Tim Keller on Staying Spiritually Vibrant

    Here is how Tim Keller stays spiritually vibrant:

    1. Private devotions – regular, consistent; morning  (40 mins), lunch-time (5 mins – recap), evening (40 mins), bed-time (pray with Kathy his wife)
    2. Spiritual friendship – Christian brothers & sisters who hold you accountable. Intimate friendship. Hebrews 3.16. Who have you given the right to do that?
    3. Right kind of pastoral counselling – Regular evangelism, discipleship, helping others. Some form of serving.
    4. Study & reading – you’ve got to read your head off!
    5. Corporate worship – do you really worship in your services or are you merely the producer and director?

    I found this really challenging because it seems Keller and other well known pastors spend a lot of time working on their spiritual walk. This is not me and is something I need to change.

    What disciplines are you doing to keep spiritually strong?

    H/T A Faith to Live By

  • Training the next generation of leaders

    “What are you doing to raise the next generation of leaders in the church?”

    This is the question that Mark Dever put to me least year when I was over in Washington. He said that all pastors should be working hard at raising the next generation of leaders of the church because if we don’t who will?

    So what is your church doing to raise the next generation of leaders? Are you doing anything at all?

    This month I read a book called The Leadership Pipeline by Ram Charan, Stephen Drotter and James Noel. In the book they talk about how there is a leadership drought in corporate America. That business leaders havent developed their people to be skilled at the different levels of leadership required of them, as they go up through the corporate ranks. What companies need is a leadership pipeline which is a strategy for developing leaders from the ground level right through corporate management to CEO.

    This had me thinking about Resolved and how we are doing with leadership development and whether we should have a leadership pipeline. I think we should but what stages would be in it?

    What leadership programs have you been in? What do you think?

    What do the leaders of the church need to be trained in?

    How should churches train the next generation of leaders in the church?