• What You Need To Know About The Mission Of The Church

    Because of the reality of hell and the nature of the cross by far the biggest concern for those of us who are Christians needs to be the eternal fate of those who do not know Jesus. So therefore the priority of our time, money and planning should go to making sure that the most people hear the gospel as possible.

    At Resolved we see Social Justice and evangelism as distinct expressions of the outworking of the gospel. We agree with Stott who writes that social Justice and evangelism are “partners the two belong to each other and yet are independent of each other.  Each stands on its own feet in its own right alongside each other.  Neither is a means to the other, or even a manifestation of the other.  For each is and end in itself.  Both are expressions of unfeigned love.”[1] This is not to say that evangelism won’t be done because of social justice or that we will be trying to both evangelise and do social justice in every situation. We see both evangelism and social justice as necessary and yet distinct outworking of the gospel. But that being said, as we have noted because of the day of judgement we put an emphasis on preaching of the gospel. Because that is what we are called to do (c.f. Matthew 28:18-20)

    This brings us nicely into the question about the mission of the church. Is Social justice part of the mission of the church? I would say no. The mission of the church is outlined by Jesus in the above quote from Matthew’s gospel. The mission of the church is to make disciples, baptize them and teach them to obey everything that Jesus commanded them. But social justice is part of what Jesus taught and so as pastors and leaders it is our duty to help people see the need for social justice, equip them to serve the poor and displaced and to provide opportunities to do so.

    I put social justice on the same level as pastoral counselling. Christians are commanded to love each other and provide support for each other but is pastoral counselling the mission of the church? If we take the mission from  Matthew 28:18-20 then we conclude no it isn’t.  But the church would be disobedient if it didn’t partake in caring for each other.  That is the same with social justice. Is it part of the church’s mission? No it isn’t but it is commanded by Jesus and the bible and so we must do it if we are to be bible believing Christians.

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    [1] Stott, J.R.W, Christian Mission in the Modern World (Downers Grove, Ill.: Intervarsity Press, 1975), 27

     

  • What You Have To Know About Our Culture’s Preoccupation With Sex

    We live in a world where sex is everywhere. It seems every magazine has a sealed section about how to have hot sex. Sex sells everything. People pay for sex or pay to watch people get naked and have sex.

    But what does our cultures preoccupation with sex say about us and our culture? In the middle of last century C.S. Lewis said this about the culture’s preoccupation with sex:

    “You can get a large audience together for a strip-tease act–that is, to watch a girl undress on the stage. Now suppose you came to a country where you could fill a theatre by simply bringing a covered plate on to the stage and then slowly lifting the cover so as to let every one see, just before the lights went out, that it contained a mutton chop or a bit of bacon, would you not think that in that country something had gone wrong with the appetite for food? And would not anyone who had grown up in a different world think there was something equally queer about the state of the sex instinct among us?

     

    One critic said that if he found a country in which such strip-tease acts with food were popular, he would conclude that the people of that country were starving. He means, of course, to imply that such things as the strip-tease act resulted not from sexual corruption but from sexual starvation. I agree with him that if, in some strange land, we found that similar acts with mutton chops were popular, one of the possible explanations which would occur to me would be famine. But the next step would be to test our hypothesis by finding out whether, in fact, much or little food was being consumed in that country. If the evidence showed that a good deal was being eaten, then of course we should have to abandon the hypothesis of starvation and try to think of another one. In the same way, before accepting sexual starvation as the cause of the strip-tease, we should have to look for evidence that there is in fact more sexual abstinence in our age than in those ages when things like the strip-tease were unknown. But surely there is no such evidence. Contraceptives have made sexual indulgence far less costly within marriage and far safer outside it than ever before, and public opinion is less hostile to illicit unions and even to perversion than has been since Pagan times.”

    C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, pp. 89-90

     

    Lewis shows that our preoccupation with sex shows that our society is broken. That we are defined by sex shows that we are enslaved by it. The gospel shows us that our identity is not formed by or based on our sexuality. It is based on the fact that we are made in the image of God and he has redeemed us through his son. Only through that lens can we see our sexuality in the light that we should see it in.

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  • The Kind of Prayer that Kindles Revival

    A praying church is a church that is a fearsome weapon for the growth of the gospel. But what kind of prayer should we pray if we want to see our city impacted with the love for Jesus for God’s glory? Tim Keller in his awesome book Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City says this about the type of prayers we should pray if we want to see revival come:

    To kindle every revival, the Holy Spirit initially uses what Jonathan Edwards called “extraordinary prayer” — united, persistent, and kingdom centered. Sometimes it begins with a single person or a small group of people praying for God’s glory in the community.

    What is important is not the number of people praying but the nature of the praying. C. John Miller makes a helpful and perceptive distinction between “maintenance” and “frontline” prayer meetings.1 Maintenance prayer meetings are short, mechanical, and focused on physical needs inside the church. In contrast, the three basic traits of frontline prayer are these: 1. A request for grace to confess sins and to humble ourselves 2. A compassion and zeal for the flourishing of the church and the reaching of the lost 3. A yearning to know God, to see his face, to glimpse his glory These distinctions are unavoidably powerful. If you pay attention at a prayer meeting, you can tell quite clearly whether these traits are present.

    In the biblical prayers for revival in Exodus 33; Nehemiah 1; and Acts 4, the three elements of frontline prayer are easy to see. Notice in Acts 4, for example, that after the disciples were threatened by the religious authorities, they asked not for protection for themselves and their families but only for boldness to keep preaching! Some kind of extraordinary prayer beyond the normal services and patterns of prayer is always involved.

     

    How does what Keller says effect the way you will pray in the future?

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  • Is God Arrogant?

    Some people find the idea of God demanding we worship him uncomfortable or plain wrong.  It seems like God is arrogant. I mean If I said “I am the greatest in the world worship me!” you would find me arrogant wouldn’t you? Well the same goes for God than doesn’t it? Or does it?

    Paul Copan in his book Is God a Moral Monster?: Making Sense of the Old Testament God. Answers the question “Is God Arrogant” like this:

    Pride, we know, is an inflated view of ourselves—a false advertising campaign promoting ourselves because we suspect that others won’t accept who we really are.2 Pride is actually a lie about our own identity or achievements. To be proud is to live in a world propped up with falsehoods about ourselves, taking credit where credit isn’t due.

    What then is humility? This involves having a realistic assessment of ourselves—our weaknesses and strengths.

    Well, then, is God proud? No, he has a realistic view of himself, not a false or exaggerated one. God, by definition, is the greatest conceivable being, which makes him worthy of worship. In fact, our word worship is a kind of contraction of the Old English word weorthscipe—or “worth-ship.” So if an all-powerful but despicably evil being demanded our worship, we shouldn’t give it to him. He wouldn’t be worthy of worship.

    So God can demand our worship because he alone is worthy of our worship!

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  • Why Pastors Must Cultivate A Passionate Love For Jesus

    Pastoral ministry is hard work. It is hard work because there is always more going than merely the here and now. One of the hardest things to do in pastoral ministry is to work out of a love for Jesus and the gospel.  Paul Tripp in his book  Dangerous Calling says this about the the shaping of ministry by the heart of the Pastor:

    You see, it is absolutely vital to remember that a pastor’s ministry is never just shaped by his knowledge, experience, and skill. It is always also shaped by the true condition of his heart. In fact, if his heart is not in the right place, all of the knowledge and skill can actually function to make him dangerous.

    What should a pastor’s like look like? Tripp says this:

    The pastor must be enthralled by, in awe of—can I say it: in love with—his Redeemer so that everything he thinks, desires, chooses, decides, says, and does is propelled by love for Christ and the security of rest in the love of Christ. He must be regularly exposed, humbled, assured, and given rest by the grace of his Redeemer. His heart needs to be tenderized day after day by his communion with Christ so that he becomes a tender, loving, patient, forgiving, encouraging, and giving servant leader. His meditation on Christ—his presence, his promises, and his provisions—must not be overwhelmed by his meditation on how to make his ministry work.

    But why is it vital for a pastor’s heart to be filled with the love of Jesus? Tripp explains:

    You see, it is only love for Christ that can defend the heart of the pastor against all the other loves that have the potential to kidnap his ministry. It is only worship of Christ that has the power to protect him from all the seductive idols of ministry that will whisper in his ear. It is only the glory of the risen Christ that will guard him against the self-glory that is a temptation to all who are in ministry and that destroys the ministry of so many. Only Christ can turn an arrogant, “bring on the world” seminary graduate into a patient, humble giver of grace. Only deep gratitude for a suffering Savior can make a man willing to suffer in ministry. It is only a heart that is satisfied in Christ that can be spiritually content in the hardships of ministry. It is only in your brokenness in the face of your sin that you can give grace to the fellow rebels to whom God has called you to minister. It’s only when your identity is firmly rooted in Christ that you are free from seeking to get your identity out of your ministry.

    What are you doing to cultivate a passionate love for Jesus?

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  • The Sin of Plagiarizing Sermons

    I went into this particular church for the first time. I had been interviewed to be on staff as a student minister and then I heard the preacher and his sermon convinced me not to take the position.

    No the sermon wasn’t heretical

    No the sermon wasn’t terrible

    But the sermon was plagarized

    I had heard this particular sermon a few months ago from another man who I know got it from a preacher in the states. When I confronted the Preacher who was interviewing me he didnt think preaching someone else’s sermon was a big deal. When I told  the search committee why I wasn’t taking the position no one seemed to mind that this man had plagiarized the sermon.

    With the advent of the internet and podcasting plagiarism in sermons is continuing to go through the roof. I have heard of more than my share of Pastors with theological degrees from great colleges plagiarizing sermons.

    But is this such an issue?

    I think it is and here is why:

    1. The pastoral task it to preach the word in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:1-5) so there is a biblical command that you preach. But it is the content of what you preach that matters. The content is meant to be the word. I think that implies you have spent good amounts of time studying the text of scripture yourself and have let it shape the sermon. You haven’t merely downloaded the sermon  and become a human speaker for someone else.

    2. The congregation is paying you to preach. So there is a sense in which you are taking money under false pretenses if you plagiarize sermons.

    3. The sermon is meant to be from your heart to the congregations heart. Out of love for God and your congregation you are meant to preach.

    4. The heart of a pastor is corrupt when he plagiarizes a sermon because he thinks that faithful preaching isn’t good enough. That is why he plagiarizes the sermon because he thinks that what the congregation needs to is a killer sermon replete with great illustrations, awesome applications and a few great jokes. But in the end faithfulness not flair makes a good preacher. It is love for your congregation not laughter from your congregation that matters.

    If you are plagiarizing sermons you are robbing your church and yourself of great time in the word. Repent of this sin and take Paul’s words to Timothy to heart:

    In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

    2 Timothy 4:1-5

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  • Jason Collins, Homosexuality and So Called Religious Bigotry

    Yesterday Jason Collins, a 12 year NBA veteran, came out and announced he is gay. Both the blogosphere and the twittersphere has exploded with this news. NBA stars like Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Bradley Beal, among others, have tweeted their support of Collins. Collins has also received encouraging tweets from people like Bill and Chelsea Clinton, Ellen DeGeneres and Spike Lee. The Sydney Morning Herald’s headline for this news was “‘I’m raising my hand’: basketball star reveals he’s gay after being inspired by bombings

    There are a few things to say here. Firstly this is not as big news as it seems. Contrary to the SMH Jason Collins is not a star or never has been a star. He is coming towards the end of his 12 year career (which is a very good stretch in the NBA!) and is a free agent that no one probably wouldn’t have been signed regardless of whether he is gay or straight. If Kobe Bryant, Blake Griffin or Lebron James came out and announced they were gay this would have been a far greater news story. This fact is in ten years time no one will remember Jason Collins as a great basketball player only as a gay one which I think is sad for Jason Collins.

    Secondly, it has been interesting to watch how to media has reacted to people voicing their religious belief that practicing homosexuality is a sin. For example, the NBA team I support, the Golden State Warriors have a lot of Christians on the team and a lot of those guys are Christians. The coach, Mark Jackson, is a pastor and was questioned about Collins coming out: Here is the transcript:

    Q: “Did you hear about Jason Collins today coming out as the first gay athlete still in the game?”

    Jackson: “I will say this. We live in a country allows you to be whoever you want to be. As a Christian man, I serve a God that gives you free will to be who you want to be. As a Christian man, I have beliefs of what’s right and what’s wrong. That being said, I know Jason Collins, I know his family, and am certainly praying for them at this time.”

    Q: Is there a stigma attached to him now? Will he be able to get on another team?

    Jackson: “That’s not for me to answer.”

    Q: “Would he be welcome as a Warrior?”

    Jackson: “If he had game.” (Jackson laughs, as do several members of the media.) “If he can help this basketball team. Today he can’t help this basketball team.”

    Q: “You said you knew Jason. How well do you know him and were you surprised to hear the news, knowing him a little bit?”

    Jackson: “I called Nets games for three years and he was a member of the Nets team. Also, living in LA, his parents, his mom, I don’t know if she does but works for one of the private schools. We had interactions in terms of attempting to get one of my kids into school and she was instrumental in it. Comes from a great family, and he’s a great guy.”

    Q: “Knowing the locker room atmosphere as you do, Would any player in general have trouble gaining acceptance around the league not just this team or not just with Jason, but in general? Would that be difficult?” Jackson: “It’s something that obviously being around Jason, and I played with John Amaechi in Utah, that there’s a reason why in these situations these players are at the end or done. So obviously that answers itself. Right, wrong or indifferent, it is something that’s new to people.”

    Q: “Are you shocked?”

    Jackson: “Shocked? That there’s a gay man?”

    Q: “That he came out.”

    Jackson: “It’s like asking me if I was shocked that he came out and said that he liked women. It is what it is. To each his own. And like I said, I know him as an individual, he’s a good guy, and I’m certainly praying for him. I’m not shocked at anything these days.”

    After these words were reported the Twittersphere exploded. Marcus Thompson (@gswscribe), the Warriors beat writer for the Bay Area News Group and a Christian, went on twitter defending the rights of Mark Jackson to say what he thought. But the guy who has really copped it was ESPN NBA writer and Christian Chris Broussard. Broussard was asked whether Collins could be Gay and a Christian because Collins has said he is both. This was Broussard’s reply:

    Personally, I don’t believe that you can live an openly homosexual lifestyle or an openly, like premarital sex between heterosexuals. If you’re openly living that type of lifestyle, then the Bible says you know them by their fruits. It says that, you know, that’s a sin. If you’re openly living in unrepentant sin, whatever it may be, not just homosexuality, whatever it maybe, I believe that’s walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ. So I would not characterize that person as a Christian because I don’t think the bible would characterize them as a Christian.

    This was a very bold statement! But did you notice how Broussard carefully says that all sex outside of the confines of marriage is sin. He is therefore not saying that homosexuality is worse than any other sin but he is standing on his own convictions and saying it is a sin. Ironically, many people have spoken out and called what Broussard said wrong. It seems you can’t call things a sin today because that would be, well, sinful right?!? Whether or not you agree with Broussard’s thoughts about homosexuality I am sure you can agree with what he said in the same show about name calling and bigotry:

    In talking to some people around the league, there’s a lot Christians in the NBA and just because they disagree with that lifestyle, they don’t want to be called bigoted and intolerant and things like that. That’s what LZ was getting at. Just like I may tolerate someone whose lifestyle I disagree with, he can tolerate my beliefs. He disagrees with my beliefs and my lifestyle but true tolerance and acceptance is being able to handle that as mature adults and not criticize each other and call each other names.

    We need to be truly tolerant about this issue and many others today. To call each other names like “bigot” or “intolerant” is, in the end, not tolerant at all. If we are to be mature adults about this we listen respectfully to each other and we can all agree that even though I may disagree with your moral choices or your sense of morality and you me disagree with mine we need to hear each other out on the issue of sexuality as well as many others.

    Maybe you are reading this and you aren’t a Christian, I would add one more thing. The Bible doesn’t say that  homosexuality as the worst sin, nor does it permit abuse or vilification of homosexuals. If any Christians vilify Gay people they are in deep sin and God hates all sin, especially the ones religious people commit. But the Bible does hold to a high standard of sexual morality that we all fall short of (e.g., Matt. 5:28). That means we are all  sinners and that all of us are in desperate need of a savior. The good news is that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners (1 Tim. 1:15), no matter their sexual orientation. Because he loves us he died on the cross and took upon Himself the punishment that we deserved. Then God raised Him from the dead three days later. This is what Easter is all about.  Now anyone can receive forgiveness and eternal life when they trust Jesus as their lord and saviour and repent of their sin. God loves you and has done everything you need to be right with him. The choice is yours as to whether you come into relationship with him or not.

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  • Bible Reading Plan for May

    Arguably no other piece of writing has had the impact that the book of Romans has had on history. Many great theological minds were converted after reading the book, hearing it preached or reading a commentary on it.

    N.T wright says about the Book of Romans:

     It dwarfs most of his other writings, an Alpine peak towering over hills and villages. Not all onlookers have viewed it in the same light or from the same angle, and their snapshots and paintings of it are sometimes remarkably unalike. Not all climbers have taken the same route up its sheer sides, and there is frequent disagreement on the best approach. What nobody doubts is that we are here dealing with a work of massive substance, presenting a formidable intellectual challenge while offering a breathtaking theological and spiritual vision.

     

    With this in mind we are going to look at Romans over the month of May. The instructions for following this reading plan are below. Please give this reading plan to anyone who would profit from it.

    Read the Bible passage that is assigned for the day of month (e.g. read 1 on the 1st of May and 15 on the 15th of May) and meditate on what hits you from the passage about God or yourself. Pray in response to what you have learnt and then pray the prayer below that is based on Philippians 1:9-11 for yourself and two other people at Resolved. Tweet what you are getting out of these readings using the hashtag #savedbygodalone

    1. Romans 1:1-17
    2. Romans 1:18-32
    3. Romans 2:1-16
    4. Romans 2:16-29
    5. Romans 3:1-20
    6. Romans 3:21-31
    7. Romans 4
    8. Romans 5:1-11
    9. Romans 5:12-21
    10. Romans 6: 1-14
    11. Romans 6:15-23
    12. Romans 7:1-6
    13. Romans 7:7-25
    14. Romans 8:1-17
    15. Romans 8:18-27
    16. Romans 8:28-39
    17. Romans 9:1-29
    18. Romans 9:30-10:13
    19. Romans 10:14-21
    20. Romans 11:1-10
    21. Romans 11:11-24
    22. Romans 11:25-36
    23. Romans 12:1-8
    24. Romans 12:9-21
    25. Romans 13:1-7
    26. Romans 13:8-14
    27. Romans 14:1-12
    28. Romans 14:13-23
    29. Romans 15:1-13
    30. Romans 15:14-33
    31. Romans 16

    Pray this prayer based on Philippians 1:9-11 for yourself and two others at Resolved every day for the month of May.

    To the God of all grace,

    I pray that _____ love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that ______ may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ. I pray that _____ may be filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ. To the glory and praise of God.

    Amen

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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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  • An Aussie Poem For Good Friday

    And a Good Friday Was Had by All

    You men there, keep those women back
    and God Almighty he laid down
    on the crossed timber and old Silenus
    my offsider looked at me as if to say
    nice work for soldiers, your mind’s not your own
    once you sign that dotted line Ave Caesar
    and all that malarkey Imperator Rex
    well this Nazarene
    didn’t make it any easier
    really-not like the ones
    who kick up a fuss so you can
    do your block and take it out on them
    Silenus
    held the spikes steady and I let fly
    with the sledge-hammer, not looking
    on the downswing trying hard not to hear
    over the women’s wailing the bones give way
    the iron shocking the dumb wood.

    Orders is orders, I said after it was over
    nothing personal you understand -we had a
    drill-sergeant once thought he was God but he wasn’t
    a patch on you

    then we hauled on the ropes
    and he rose in the hot air
    like a diver just leaving the springboard, arms spread
    so it seemed
    over the whole damned creation
    over the big men who must have had it in for him
    and the curious ones who’ll watch anything if it’s free
    with only the usual women caring anywhere
    and a blind man in tears.

    Bruce Dawe