• We Live in Very Religious Times

    I once had a chat with a pastor from Africa. I asked him what he thought of Australia? His answer floored me. He said “I can’t believe how much Idolatry you have in Australia! Everyone has their own God!” I found this hard to take as the cafe we were sitting in was in Newtown a suburb where the census data says that so many people have no religion. So it seems that there is very little idolatry in Australia. But my Pastor friend showed me that we Aussies worship things not Gods. We may not bow down to a statue but we give our lives to our job so we can get more money and therefore we are worshiping money. We may not pray to a God but we do chase sex like we need it to survive and therefore sex becomes our God. We find things to worship. Many theologians have noted this phenomenon. Calvin for example says this:

    Bright, however, as is the manifestation which God gives both of himself and his immortal kingdom in the mirror of his works, so great is our stupidity, so dull are we in regard to these bright manifestations, that we derive no benefit from them…..but we are all alike in this, that we substitute monstrous fictions for the one living and true God….almost every man has had his own god. To the darkness of ignorance have been added presumption and wantonness, and hence there is scarcely an individual to be found without some idol or phantom as a substitute for Deity. Like water gushing forth from a large and copious spring, immense crowds of gods have issued from the human mind, every man giving himself full license, and devising some peculiar form of divinity, to meet his own views. Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, (1.5.11-12)

    Calvin is really just echoing Paul who writes:

    For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. Romans 1:20-23

    We are living in a very religious age.

    The question is we have to ask is how do we preach the gospel in an age where there is a smorgasbord of God’s and gospels around?

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  • God is Not Interested in How Many People go to Your Church

    “How many people are you running?” I once was asked that by another pastor. I wasn’t sure how to answer. I mean by saying how many people we are running it sounds like we are counting head of stock doesn’t it? Also, if we have heaps of people does that mean we are going well or are there other factors in assessing church and leadership health? More importantly does God even care about numbers?

    Francis Chan in his book Forgotten God: Reversing Our Neglect of The Holy Spirit has this to say about what God cares about when he looks at our churches:

    “God is not interested in numbers. He cares most about the faithfulness, not the size, of His bride. He cares about whether people are lovers of Him. And while I might be able to get people in the doors of a church or auditorium if I tell enough jokes or use enough visuals, the fact remains that I cannot convince people to be obsessed with Jesus. Perhaps I can talk people into praying a prayer, but I cannot talk anyone into falling in love with Christ. I cannot make someone understand and accept the gift of grace. Only the Holy Spirit can do that. So by every measure that actually counts, I need the Holy Spirit. Desperately.”

    Chan, himself an ex megachurch pastor, says that God is more concerned with people being on fire for Jesus than having a massive church full of people that are turning up to a show. Therefore, Chan says, we need the Holy Spirit desperately.

    Think about this question:  What is going to make your church great?

    Chan’s answer is: Your church will be great if people are full of the Holy Spirit. Because when people are full of the Holy Spirit they will be on fire for Jesus.

    Imagine having a church full of spirit filled on fire for Jesus Christians? Wouldn’t that be awesome? But if you had a church like that I think numbers would take care of themselves wouldn’t they?

    Do you think God cares about how many people go to your church?

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  • Two Distinct Errors in Thinking About the Holy Spirit

    A while ago I went to a wedding. The bride looked beautiful, the groom had actually showered, the music was great and there was a lot of happiness to be shared around. It was a Christian wedding and so there was the usual Bible readings, sermon, prayers which were all Gospel centered. I was talking to an old friend of mine after the service and he pointed out that there wasn’t one mention of the Holy Spirit in the service. Not one.

    Another time I had a conversation with a pastor who told me he was sad a particular minister was leaving town. When I asked why he replied “Because he is interested in the things of the Holy Spirit.” I was taken aback. Shouldn’t he have said he was interested in proclaiming Jesus?

    We Evangelicals have reacted against the excesses of the some brothers and sisters in the church who are not only spirit filled Christians but Spirit centered Christians. But we have reacted so strongly that sometimes we are wary of anything that feels charismatic.  Some of us over react and therefore we have not defined ourselves by what the Bible says but we define ourselves by what we are against. This means that our preaching and our churches are silent on the Spirit. He is, as Francis Chan has said “the Forgotten God”

    Wherever we think about the Holy Spirit we need to heed John Macarthur’s words on the spirit very carefully:

    “Two errors regarding the doctrine of the Holy Spirit have clouded the contemporary church’s understanding of His person and ministry. On the one hand, the charismatic movement is obsessed with the Holy Spirit, tending to focus all doctrine and worship on Him exclusively. The danger with an undue stress on the gifts and leading of the Holy Spirit is that personal experience is often elevated over the objective truth of Scripture. On the other hand, many non-charismatics tend to ignore the Holy Spirit altogether. Perhaps weary of the controversy, confusion, and subjectivity of the charismatic movement, too many have responded by going to the opposite extreme. They simply avoid the Holy Spirit in their teaching and study.”

    John Macarthur, The Silent Shepherd: The Care, Comfort and Correction of the Holy Spirit. 

    Are you and your church more likely to fall into Charismatic errors or Conservative Evangelical errors when it comes to the Holy Spirit?

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  • Pastors who do you perform for?

    As pastors we have so many people looking at what we do and making judgments about it. What many people don’t realize is that we are our worst critics and so when we get an outside critique it can hurt and wound. But the other side is when we get praised. Getting praised feels so good, maybe a little too good. With all this in mind I read this quote this morning in a book called Replenish by Lance Witt:

    “A reporter once asked an insightful question when interviewing a woman from the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra: “How does it feel to get a standing ovation from the crowd at the end of your performance and then wake up in the morning to a negative review from the newspaper?: He response was even more insightful. She said over time she has learned not to pay attention to the applause of the crowd or the disapproval of the critics. She was only after the approval of her conductor. After all, he was the only person who really knew how she was supposed to perform.”

    I wonder what would happen to our inner voices if we were only concerned about what God thought of us?

    How would we preach if we were only concerned about what God thought of us?

    How would we lead if we were only concerned about what God thought of us?

    What conversations would we have if we were only concerned about what God thought of us?

    It is my prayer that we would perform for one and one only!

  • Character v.s Talent

    He was sitting across from me and I was frustrated. I had asked him to do very simple tasks that he didn’t do. In fact this was a constant theme in our relationship. I was frustrated he was angry at me for being frustrated. It was a lose lose situation.

    The problem was I was enamored with his talent. I was so enamored with his talent that I would consistently excuse his character flaws.

    It has been interesting following Joe Lacob, Mark Jackson, Jerry West and Bob Myers as they have sought to rebuild my favourite NBA team The Goldenstate Warriors.one of the things that they have been harping on us getting high character guys. The three guys they drafted were high character guys and any free agents they are going to pick up are going to be high character guys.

    The Warriors brass know that talent looks good in the short term whereas character will impact both the short and the long term.

     

    As a leader, what impresses you the most? Talent or character? For me talent is impressive in the short term because it is easily seen. It is character that takestime to be seen. Character is only seen over time because character is about consistency of action despite the circumstances. It is about doing what you say you will do no matter what it costs. It is about keeping your word always.

     

    As leaders we need talented eople but we need people with character more.

  • Ed Young Jr, Calvinists and truth

    The twittersphere has blown up because of a video of Ed Young Jr attacking Calvinists. If you havent seen the video you can view it  here about a quarter down the page.

    Pastor Young’s rant leaves me asking a lot of questions:

    Why does he think Calvinist are cool? I thought Pastor young’s church would be a ‘cool’ church and by saying this I mean no disrespect. I don’t care whether churches or not are cool but I thought Pastor Young’s church would be like Hillsong which is the ‘cool’ church in Sydney. I also think most Calvinist leaders (John Piper, Mark Dever, Matt Chandler, Albert Mohler) are not cool. This once again is no disrespect to them, I love these men and have been helped by their ministries but I wouldn’t call them cool.

    Why did he choose to rant on this issue? Has he lost a bunch of early college age kids to a Calvinistic church nearby?

    Who does he talk to in the Calvinist community? In the very small dealings I have had with American Christianity it seems like there are cliques like the Gospel Coalition/ T4G Clique, the Willow Clique, The Emergent Clique etc. So it would seem odd that Pastor Young has had the kind of conversations with Calvinist leaders that he claims he has had.

    But questions aside we need to realise that there is is some truth in what he was saying.

    1. We Reformed guys are sometimes angry young and dudes who are super critical of everything. This negative, angry spirit is sin and we do need to work at being more loving and humble all the while holding onto the truth and lovingly pointing error out.
    2. Sometimes Reformed churches  are not evangelistic. The gospel should motivate us to tell people about Jesus especially when we believe God is sovereign over salvation.
    3. Some young Calvinists do emphasize election to the detriment of all other theology and therefore are Hyper-Calvinist and not truly Calvinist. On this point Red Iain Murray’s great book Spurgeon Vs Hyper-Calvinism. True reformed theology holds election and human responsibility in tension. Just like Jesus did. Some young Calvinists have just read one blog or chapter on election and then this becomes the piece of theology which dominates everything else.

    But there were some huge issues with Pastor Young’s rant.

    1. It was a rant. This is not how people should be rebuked.
    2. He said he and reformed guys are preaching a different gospels. If that is true what Gospel is he preaching?
    3. He seemed to equate Calvinists with those in the social gospel movement. This is baseless. Calvinists attack the social gospel movement as a derivation from the gospel. He probably should read What is the Mission of the Church? by Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert.
    4. It showed an insecurity which I found troubling. He mentioned a number of times young people going to reformed churches. I am assuming that people from his church are leaving and going to reformed churches. Young’s church would have to number in the tens of thousands and if this number is accurate why is he caring about a few people from his college ministries going down the road to the local Reformed church? Is it because he finds his identity in his church and when people leave it his identity comes into question?

    There will be a lot more responses to Pastor Young’s rant. But please let’s keep it gracious and loving.

     

  • You Have Never Felt More Insignificant, You Have Never Felt More Alive

    Have you ever just looked up at the stars in the sky and just thought about how far away they are? What happens when you do is that you start to realise how small you are, and how insignificant you are. I remember when I was in Moree. Sometimes me and a few mates would go down to the local sports field at night and lie on our backs and stare up into the stars. Yeah, there wasn’t much to do in Moree. But what Moree did have is no pollution or city lights. So the sky just lit up before you. I remember one of my mates saying, “I love coming down here and staring up into the sky. It is when I feel the most insignificant and yet I feel the most alive.”

    Think about it why do you go to places like in that example? Why do people go to the Blue Mountains and look out over the vast valley? Why do people stare up in space, and feel at the same time, insignificant yet never more alive? Because written into your DNA is the truth. That you and I weren’t made to be made much of.  We were made to make much of God, your heart won’t be stilled or satisfied, you will never be truly joyful until you find total rest in him. It is only in God that you will find your true and ultimate joy. And the first step to finding that joy is to come to grips with your own insignificance. Because when you feel your own insignificance you won’t want to make much of yourself, but you will want to make much of your God.

     

  • Mohler on homosexuality and the gospel

    One of the clearest thinker of our time is Albert Mohler. In this video he answers a question from Peter Lumpkins about the nature of homosexuality. He says that it is not a choice but it goes far deeper than that. If you would like to read Mohler on Homosexuality read his essay in Sex and the Supremacy of Christ on Homosexual marriage. What do you think of what Mohler said?

  • People don’t drift towards holiness

    Hard work is not the opposite of grace, it is the result of experiencing grace.

    D. A. Carson explains:

    People do not drift toward Holiness.

    Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord.

    We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.
    (For the Love of God, Volume 2, paragraphing mine)

    Thanks to Josh Etter for this post