• What Everybody Ought to Know About Jesus

    It is very easy to think that Christianity is for a certain kind of person. Someone who is weak willed or someone who is a moral outcast or someone down on their luck. There are people who think Christianity is not for them. They are the people who are, in their own eyes at least, strong, successful, morally reputable and because of these qualities they think they don’t need Jesus. But if Christians are honest we have two groups of people in mind too and they accord with the two groups of people mentioned above.

    It is interesting as we read the biography of Jesus entitled John that we come across two people in two adjacent chapters who couldn’t be more different. In John chapter 3 we meet Nicodemus. Nicodemus is a person who has got it together in almost every way. He knows his Bible, he is moral and he is a well respected leader. In John chapter four we meet an unnamed woman who is almost the opposite of Nicodemus. She is a moral failure, a person with no influence who has a broken life. But here is the thing. Jesus shows that they both need to trust him. As Don Carson puts it:

    “John may intend a contrast between the woman of this narrative and Nicodemus of chapter 3. He was learned, powerful, respected, orthodox, theologically trained; she was unschooled, without influence, despised, capable of only folk religion. He was a man, a Jew, a ruler; she was a woman, a Samaritan, a moral outcast. And both need Jesus.”

     Don Carson, The Gospel According to John, 216

    There is application for all of us here.

    Those who don’t call ourselves Christians. Have you really checked Jesus out? Have you examined the reasons why you think you don’t need him and the reasons why he says you do? What if you chose to read 1 chapter of John’s biography of Jesus every day for the next 21 days and really come to grip with who Jesus is and what he did? I promise you it will enrich your life. You can start reading John’s biography of Jesus here

    For those of us that do know him lets not think of two different categories of people, those that obviously need Jesus and those that don’t, because in John Chapters 3 and 4 we see that all people need Jesus.

    What else hits you from John chapters 3 and 4 as you read it?

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  • How to Make Announcements in Church Without Boring Everyone to Tears

    I remember being at a church where anyone who had an announcement could get up and share. Because people were giving their own announcements they all had to justify why everyone in the congregation should go to the the thing being announced. One time, I kid you not, the announcements went longer than the sermon!

    Good announcements in church very rarely happen without thinking about how and what we are trying to communicate. In fact good communication doesn’t happen in church unless there is a lot of thought put into it. I have been helped in thinking through church communication by a book called Less Clutter. Less Noise.: Beyond Bulletins, Brochures and Bake Sales by Kem Meyer. Here are some pointers that I found helpful when thinking about announcements and communication in church:

    “Stick to the facts. Don’t over-sell, over-explain or overcontrol. Just provide the information someone needs to self-sort and self-decide. People don’t need a page on the philosophy of each ministry, activity or event. They do need to know who it’s for, what it is, when it happens and how to get there or sign up.

    Stick to the point. Start with the end in mind before you’re about to do something. If you know the purpose behind your letter, brochure, meeting, etc., it makes it easier for you to stay on track and focused. Otherwise, it’s hard to recognize your own excess. Do you want people to show up or respond? What are you asking them to do? If you can’t answer that question easily, they won’t be able to either.

    Consider the crowd. Does your announcement (bulletin or verbal) apply to everyone or just a handful of people? If it’s not affecting the masses, it’s just going to land like dead weight. Don’t punish the crowd to keep a few people happy (even if they are the most vocal). Find a way to deliver your news in appropriate venues.”

    What have you found works and doesn’t work for you in communicating to your church?

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  • Where Should Christian Generosity Come From?

    I have just finished Jamie Munson’s free E-Book called Money. You can get it for free here. Matt Chandler calls it “The best book on money. Period.” Matt’s assessment is pretty close. It is a gospel centered book which goes through everything from giving money to budgeting. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. 

    Here is a section of the book which hit me. It deals with where my motivation for generosity comes from. It also encourages me as a pastor to remember what will change people is not may telling them to be more generous but the gospel:

    “Often books and speakers tell Christians that they should help the needy because they have so much . . . Ultimately it produces guilt. It says, “How selfish you are to eat steak and drive two cars when the rest of the world is starving!” This creates great emotional conflicts in the hearts of Christians who hear such arguing. We feel guilty, but all sorts of defense mechanisms are engaged. “Can I help it I was born in this country? How will it really help anyone if I stop driving two cars? Don’t I have the right to enjoy the fruits of my labor?” Soon, with an anxious weariness, we turn away from books or speakers who simply make us feel guilty about the needy. The Bible does not use guilt-producing motivation. . . . The deeper the experience of the free grace of God, the more generous we must become. This is why Robert Murray M’Cheyne could say: “There are many hearing me who now know well that they are not Christians because they do not love to give. To give largely and liberally, not grudging at all, requires a new heart.”

    If I want to be generous and I want those who I lead to be generous I will preach the gospel and let the gospel affect our wallets.

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  • Church Musicians, Lets Cut the Acting

    I have been a church musician for about 18 years now. I have played in front of ten people and I have played in front of ten thousand people. God has blessed me with great opportunity to serve his people through playing guitar. Which I am eternally grateful.
    Over the years I have seen in myself and other church musicians either a rock star mentality that lacks humility or a phoniness where you look the part of a “worship leader”, “worship guitarist”  or “worship musician” (i.e. eyes closed, head back, suitable hip yet not revealing attire, etc.) and yet your heart is far from God. Does this last sentence mean that I think all church musicians that have their eyes closed have hearts far from God? No not at all. But I have been around enough church musicians who do look and act the part on stage but when they speak they confess their hearts are from God or they live lives that are far from giving glory to God.
    Let me be blunt  it is stupid to raise your hands, close your eyes and look like you are worshiping God when you are leading people in God’s praise if your heart is far from him. I don’t really care if you close your eyes or raise your hands that is not my point. My point is the emotion that you are displaying when you lead God’s people in song has to come from your emotional connectedness to God and not because you saw some worship person act like that on a YouTube clip.
    Church musician, the biggest gift you can give your church is not your hip clothes that give you that cool “I want you to think I have got bad hygiene but I really don’t” look if you are a guy. Or that “sweet kind of sexy but very wholesome” look if you are a girl. The biggest gift you can give to your church is not whether you are raising your hands or not. Or whether you look like you are in touch with God when you sing.
    No, the biggest gift you can give to your church is a passionate love for Jesus and a life committed to his glory. If you live in that way it won’t matter if you have the clothes or the right vibe because you will be giving people the kind of leader they need one that is passionate about Jesus looking great and one that is not concerned with how they look.
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  • An Argument for the Existence of God from Beauty

    Our recognition of Creativity and beauty is one of the many reasons I think God exists. What advantage does recognizing creativity or beauty have in the survival of the fittest? But, if there is a creator God we should expect to be blown away by creativity and beauty because he has been creative in creating this beautiful world and therefore creativity and beauty have intrinsic value because they point us to our great creator God.

    If you are an atheist or an agnostic how would you respond?

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  • Tim Keller on Pastors and Gospel Identity

    Absolute brilliance from Tim Keller:

    “Perhaps the greatest dilemma of the pastor – or any Christian leader – is the danger of hypocrisy. By this I mean that, unlike other professionals, we as ministers are expected to proclaim God’s goodness and to provide encouragement at all times. We are always pointing people toward God in one way or another, in order to show them his worth and beauty. That’s the essence of our ministry. But seldom will our hearts be in a condition to say such a thing with complete integrity, since our own hearts are often in need of encouragement, gospel centeredness, and genuine gladness. Thus, we have two choices: either we have to guard our hearts continually in order to practice what we are preaching, or we live bifurcated lives of outward ministry and inward gloominess.

    In this way, the ministry will make you a far better or a far worse Christian than you would have been otherwise. But it will not leave you where you were! And it will put enormous pressure on your integrity and character. The key problem will be preaching the gospel while not believing the gospel. As ministers, we must be willing to admit that ministerial success often becomes the real basis for our joy and significance, much more so than the love and acceptance we have in Jesus Christ. Ministry success often becomes what we look to in order to measure our worth to others and our confidence before God. In other words, we look to ministry success to be for us what only Christ can be. All ministers who know themselves will be fighting this all their lives. It is the reason for jealousy, for comparing ourselves to other ministers, for needing to control people and programs in the church, and for feeling defensive toward criticism. At one level we believe the gospel that we are saved by grace not works, but at a deeper level we don’t believe it much at all. We are still trying to create our own righteousness through spiritual performance, albeit one that is sanctioned by our call to ministry.”

    What resonates with you from this quote?

  • A Question About Predestination

    Predestination is one of the hardest biblical concepts to grasp. I once heard an older Christian gentleman say that if you think you fully understand predestination then you don’t. Probably the biggest question regarding predestination that people have is “How does God choose people?”. In effect does God say something like “Well that person is good looking. I will choose them. But that person likes country music so I will leave that person!”

    Here is a quote from R.C. Sproul which helped me on this matter. It doesn’t make predestination any more easy to grasp but it shapes predestination in away that is biblical and it clarifies our question:

    “The ground on which God chooses the objects of his mercy solely on the good pleasure of his will. Paul makes this clear: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will… (Ephesians 1:3-5)

    That God chooses according to the good pleasure of his will does not mean that his choices are capricious or arbitrary. An arbitrary choice is one made for no reason at all. Though Reformed Theology insists that election is based on nothing foreseen in the individuals  lives, this does not mean he makes the choice for no reason at all. It simply means that the reason is not something God finds in us. In his inscrutable, mysterious will, God chooses according to his own pleasure, which is his divine right. His pleasure is described as his good pleasure. If something pleases God, it must be good. The is no evil pleasure in God.”

    R.C. Sproul What is Reformed Theology? pg. 147

    Does this clarify predestination for you? What questions still remain?

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  • Something that both Evangelical Egalitarians and Complimentarians Can Agree on

    The two sides of any issue seem to find it very hard to really hear each other. This is very true when it comes to the question of biblical gender. It seems complementarians are pigeonholed as oppressive and women haters and Evangelical egalitarians are painted as liberals in drag.

    Recently I read Michael Bird’s E-Book Bourgeois Babes, Bossy Wives, and Bobby Haircuts: A Case for Gender Equality in Ministry from the Fresh Perspectives on Women in Ministry series. He writes something that I think no matter where we are on the “women’s issue” we can agree on:

    “Evangelical egalitarians remain in the tradition of an orthodox Christianity and possess a high regard for Scripture even if (like all of us) they occasionally fall prey to the cultural ethos of our time. At the same time, complementarians do not wake up every morning and conspire how to oppress and abuse women. Many of them are deeply concerned with protecting women from abuse and stemming the exploitation of women, and they wish to see women reach their highest potential in Christ even if their own patriarchal culture rather than Scripture has shaped their thinking at times. In a nutshell, egalitarians are not opposed to biblical authority and complementarians are not deliberate oppressors of women. When both sides concede as much, then perhaps the gender war will be over.”

    As Christians, we need to represent the views of others and not caricature them. This is love. To caricature anyone is sin.

    This is especially true when we are talking about such a vital topic as gender. To caricature is to not listen and not really engage in conversation and when that happens, we all lose.

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  • Hope you Have a Great Christmas!

    I just want to say to all those who have read my blog this year thank you! Thanks for pushing me and making me think. Thanks for keeping the conversation going!

    I will be blogging again in February so look out for more blogs then!

    Hope you have a great Christmas and remember that 2000 years ago God set his son on a rescue mission to save the world. What a great God we serve!

    Merry Christmas from the Kristensen clan and see you in the blogosphere in the new year!

  • How Old Should the Archbishop of Sydney be?

    The election of a new Archbishop for the diocese of Sydney is happening next year. This is huge news and we should all be praying that God would choose the right man for the job.

    I came across this survey from the Australian Church Record. It is about the age of the next Archbishop of Sydney. Surely if you were going to put out a survey on what you want in the next Archbishop his age would not be your first concern? Surely his theology would be wouldn’t it? Wouldn’t you then think  about other matters like his leadership ability, his pastoral skill, his ability to deal with the media and those of other theological persuasions before how many years he has been on earth?

    I am not an Anglican but the next Archbishop of Sydney affects every reformed evangelical in in Sydney in some way or another. Here is my shopping list for the next Archbishop of Sydney:

    The next Archbishop should be a man who is solid theologically:  He should be reformed, hold to the inerrancy of the scriptures and be complimentarian. He not only needs to hold to great theology he needs to be able to think theologically.

    The next Archbishop should be a man who is courageous  he needs to be a man who holds onto the truth of the Scriptures and solid theology come what may. This requires tonnes of courage.

    The next Archbishop should be a man who can communicate graciously and effectively:  As part of the job the new  Archbishop will have to communicate with the media and Christians of other theological persuasions as well as the usual preaching to different kinds of congregations. This will require a great ability to communicate.

    The next Archbishop should be a leader: thousands of people worldwide will be looking to this man for leadership therefore leadership needs to be one of his strengths.

    The next Archbishop should be a man who is godly: a leader of a church must be a man who “must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable,able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?  He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.” (1 Timothy 3:2-7). Therefore, those who are electing the next Archbishop need to be able to discern whether this man has these qualities.

    The next Archbishop of Sydney is crucial appointment please be in prayer that Sydney Anglicans would choose a man to lead them who is God’s man for the job.

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