• Make Sure You Avoid These Mistakes in Leading People at Church

    Leading people is always a tough job. One of the hardest things to do as you lead people is to assess where people are at spiritually. This is hard because spiritual growth is usually unseen. One of the ways I have assessed spiritual maturity and growth in the past is by seeing how much people are serving in church. If they are serving a lot I would think they are mature and growing in their faith if they aren’t serving much or at all that must mean that they are immature and not growing.

    But as Greg L. Hawkins and Cally Parkinson show in their book Move: What 1,000 Churches Reveal about Spiritual Growth. Judging spiritual maturity or growth on the hours one puts in at church can be misleading. Here is what they say about being active in church and the spiritual disciplines:

    Never let the passion to serve eclipse a commitment to personal spiritual disciplines. Since those Growing in Christ are very active volunteers, it’s easy for leaders to affirm this segment’s high levels of serving as a clear measure of their spiritual growth. But leaders must not lose sight of the need to affirm and challenge these individuals in their commitment to personal spiritual disciplines such as prayer and reflecting on Scripture. Spiritual growth is about more than being involved in church activities; among other things, it also requires spending time with God.

    Here is what they say about high levels of service and qualifications for leadership:

    Don’t confuse high levels of service with qualifications for Christian leadership. The fact that some people serve a ton in your church does not by itself mean that these individuals are ready for leadership roles—especially ones that require spiritual leadership over a group of people. Their high degree of involvement does not necessarily mean they are mature followers of Christ. We wish this were not the case. It would be much easier and a lot more convenient to just ask people about their previous serving experience and then place those with the most impressive resumés into leadership. That is how it works in most organizations, and some people in a congregation assume that is how it should also work in the church. They tell us all about what they are involved in and how successful that involvement has been as justification for a leadership position in the church. But we can’t let that influence us. Instead, it’s vitally important to shift the focus from activities and accomplishments to the condition of the heart. We need to listen between the lines to make sure they are in love with Christ and not just the church. Have they organized their lives so they can spend time with Christ, the one they love, when no one else is watching? It’s tempting to settle for a record of service as qualification for leadership—especially when you’re trying to find ten or twenty new small group leaders—but resist the temptation.

    What the authors are not saying is that church involvement isn’t an indicator of spiritual growth and or maturity they are saying it is not the only one.

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  • Is God Immoral for Being Jealous?

    In the Bible God is described as a jealous God (Exodus 20:4-5). But this seems to be petty right? When we think of jealousy we think of young kids who are jealous of each other for some stupid reason. So, it goes to reason that God shouldn’t be jealous because jealousy should be beneath him right? Not quite. Here is what Paul Copan says in his great book Is God a Moral Monster?: Making Sense of the Old Testament God about God’s jealousy: 

    Jealousy can be a bad thing or a good thing. It’s bad to protect the petty; it’s good to fiercely guard the precious. If jealousy is rooted in self-centeredness, it is clearly the wrong kind of jealousy. A jealousy that springs from concern for another’s well-being, however, is appropriate. Yes, jealousy can be a vice (Gal. 5:20—“enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger”). Yet it can also be a virtue, a “godly jealousy,” as Paul put it: “For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin” (2 Cor. 11:2). Paul was concerned for the well-being of the Corinthians. His jealousy didn’t spring from hurt pride or self-concern. Throughout the Bible, we see a God who is a concerned lover. He’s full of anguish and dismay when his covenant people pursue non-gods. In the prophetic book of Hosea, God—the loving husband—gets choked up when his wife, Israel, continually cheats on him: “My heart is turned over within Me, all My compassions are kindled” (Hosea 11:8). When can jealousy be a good thing? In God’s case, it’s when we’re rummaging around in the garbage piles of life and avoiding the ultimate source of satisfaction. It reminds me of a comic strip I once saw of a dog who had been drinking out of a toilet bowl. With water dripping from his snout, Fido looks up to tell us, “It doesn’t get any better than this!” Instead of enjoying fresh spring water, we look for stagnant, crummy-tasting substitutes that inevitably fail us. God laments over Israel: “For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water”


    So God is jealous for us because he loves us and we are his and this is actually for our good.

    Does this help you think better of God being a jealous God?

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  • Tim Keller on Evangelism in the 21st Century

    Check out this video of Tim Keller talking about evangelism in the 21st century.

    What do you agree with? What do you disagree with? What would you like to ask questions about?

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  • Why Preaching Morality Doesn’t Work

    As a pastor I want to see people’s lives change. But when I am not being refreshed by the gospel I preach morality rather than  grace. I preach that peoples morals need to change rather than preaching the gospel and showing how the gospel changes morality. The difference is subtle but the outcomes are huge. In the end the very moral change I want to see in my people won’t come if I preach morality but, if over time, I preach the gospel the change will come. This is exactly what Tim Keller shows us in his great book Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City:

    Moralistic behavior change bends a person into a different pattern through fear of consequences rather than melting a person into a new shape. But this does not work. If you try to bend a piece of metal without the softening effect of heat, it is likely to snap back to its former position. This is why we see people who try to change through moralistic behaviorism find themselves repeatedly lapsing into sins they thought themselves incapable of committing. They can’t believe they embezzled or lied or committed adultery or felt so much blind hatred that they lashed out. Appalled at themselves, they say, “I wasn’t raised that way!” But they were. For moralistic behaviorism — even deep within a religious environment — continues to nurture the “ruthless, sleepless, unsmiling concentration on self that is the mark of Hell.”5 This is the reason people embezzle, lie, and break promises in the first place. It also explains why churches are plagued with gossip and fighting. Underneath what appears to be unselfishness is great self-centeredness, which has been enhanced by moralistic modes of ministry and is marked by liberal doses of sanctimony, judgmentalism, and spite. To complete our illustration, if you try to bend metal without the softening effect of heat, it may simply break. Many people, after years of being crushed under moralistic behaviorism, abandon their faith altogether, complaining that they are exhausted and “can’t keep it up.” But the gospel of God’s grace doesn’t try to bend a heart into a new pattern; it melts it and re-forms it into a new shape. The gospel can produce a new joy, love, and gratitude — new inclinations of the heart that eat away at deadly self-regard and self-concentration. Without this “gospel heat” — the joy, love, and gratitude that result from an experience of grace — people will simply snap. Putting pressure on their will may temporarily alter their behavior, but their heart’s basic self-centeredness and insecurity


    How can you remind yourself to preach the gospel for change and not just moral change itself?

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  • Great Books on The Holy Spirit

    The Holy Spirit is always a contentious topic among Christians. People are generally confused about his person and work and so it is important to have some great books on the Holy Spirit to help us along as we explore what the Bible says about the Spirit. I have found the following books immensely helpful for studying what the Bible says about the Holy Spirit.

    Keep in Step with the Spirit: Finding Fullness in Our Walk with God by J.I Packer. This book is awesome for those looking for both biblical/theological in put on this Holy Spirit as well as pastoral application. If you only buy one book on the Holy Spirit buy this one.

    He Who Gives Life: The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit by Graham Cole. This book is an in depth theological look at what the Bible says about the Holy Spirit. Good for pastors and those who are in Bible/Theological College or are going to College.

    Engaging with the Holy Spirit: Real Questions, Practical Answers by Graham Cole. This is a super practical book which answers a lot of the common and controversial questions about the Holy Spirit in a readable and theologically informed way.

    The Holy Spirit (Contours of Christian Theology) by Sinclair Ferguson. This is another great book on the Holy Spirit whose strength is explaining the theology of the Spirit.

    Showing the Spirit: A Theological Exposition of 1 Corinthians, 12-14 by Don Carson. This book looks that those tricky passages in 1 Corinthians 12-14 with a view to pastoral application of those passages. It has boat loads of great application for those thinking through charismatic theology and the Holy Spirit.

    Jonathan Edwards: On Revival by Jonathan Edwards. Buy this book for the chapter Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God. It is very practical and relevant for our times in working out what is true revival or a move of the Holy Spirit and what isn’t.

    What books on the Holy Spirit would you add to this list?


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  • Bible Reading Plan For June

    Many people only have read the first few chapters of Genesis but when we do that we are missing out! Genesis is a wonderful and book which helps us come to grips with who our God is and what this world is like. It is very dark in places where it shows human depravity at it worst. But those passage which speak of human depravity should point us to our great saviour Jesus! So for the month of June we will be reading through the great book of Genesis!

    As always the instructions for using this Bible reading plan are below. Please give this plan away to anyone who would profit from it. If you want a hard copy you can get it here Resolved Bible Reading Plan For June

    Read the Bible passage that is assigned for the day of month (e.g. read 1 on the 1st of June and 15 on the 15th of June) and meditate on what hits you from the passage about God’s love. Thank him for his love for you and then pray the prayer below that is based on Hebrews 13:20-21 for yourself and two other people at Resolved. Tweet what you are getting out of these readings using the hashtag #ourgreatgod!

    1. Genesis 1
    2. Genesis 2
    3. Genesis 3
    4. Genesis 4
    5. Genesis 6
    6. Genesis 7-8
    7. Genesis 9
    8. Genesis 11
    9. Genesis 12
    10. Genesis 13-14
    11. Genesis 15
    12. Genesis 17
    13. Genesis 18-19
    14. Genesis 21-22
    15. Genesis 24
    16. Genesis 25
    17. Genesis 27 -28
    18. Genesis 29-30
    19. Genesis 31
    20. Genesis 32
    21. Genesis 33
    22. Genesis 34
    23. Genesis 37
    24. Genesis 38
    25. Genesis 39
    26. Genesis 40-41
    27. Genesis 42-44
    28. Genesis 45
    29. Genesis 46-47
    30. Genesis 49- 50

    Pray this prayer based on Hebrews 13:20-21 for yourself and two others at Resolved every day for the month of June.

    To the God of peace,

    I pray that you God, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip ____ with everything good for doing his will, and may God work in ______ what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.


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  • Piper, Carson, Deyoung and Keller on Did Jesus Preach the Gospel?

    There seems to be a growing move within Evangelical Christianity that preaching of the gospel that I have been saved from hell and wrath through the death and resurrection of Jesus is, in some cases, seen as an individualistic reduction of the gospel and in other cases it is seen as not being what Jesus and the Bible is really on about. Jesus preached the Kingdom of God which contains the gospel outlined above but if we only preach the gospel as outlined above we are missing the heart of the teaching of Jesus and the whole scriptures. The participants in the video (Don Carson, Kevin Deyoung, John  Piper and Tim Keller) address these issues head on by answering the question “Did Jesus Preach the Gospel?”. This is an important video that is well worth the hour it takes to watch it.

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  • The Trap of Materialism

    We live in a very materialistic society. We work jobs we don’t like to buy stuff we don’t need to impress people we don’t like. Mark Driscoll in his book Who Do You Think You Are?: Finding Your True Identity in Christ shows us the problem of our culture’s incipient materialism:

    Today, with television tours of the world’s wealthiest people’s homes, we no longer compare our possessions to those of the generations before us or our neighbors but rather to the elite’s. The results are coveting, overspending, and debt fueled by advertising. Some sociologists call this “competitive consumption,” which forces average people and families to work harder, spend less time with those they love, and live more miserably enslaved to debt in an ongoing effort to prop up some false sense of identity and personal value. Third, products are not simply valued for their usefulness but rather play a central role in the cultivation and maintenance of our identity. This is a powerful explanation for why consumer goods are so much more than objects we use; they are things for which we will fight and sometimes even kill. The point is that in today’s consumer culture, our goods are carriers of meaning. They define us, send social signals to others, and construct our identities. Subsequently, wearing non-designer clothes, driving an old car, and using anything but the latest technology somehow devalues us as human beings. Put bluntly, when consumerism is your religion and stuff the object of your worship, “the things you own end up owning you,” to quote Tyler Durden from the movie Fight Club(1999).

    Where can you see materialism in your own life?

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  • An Interview With Tom Wright on Paul, Justification, Critics and New Books

    Tom Wright is one of the most influential figures in contemporary theology. He has three books coming out on Paul. I had the opportunity to interview him and here is the interview:

    You are coming with three different book on Paul and his theology. What are you trying to achieve in each book?

    The first book, Paul and the Faithfulness of God, is actually two volumes and is the major work on Paul. The second, Paul and His Recent Interpreters, is the story of recent Pauline scholarship which explains in effect what the debates are to which the book is contributing. The third, Pauline Perspectives: Essays on Paul, 1978-2013, is a collection of all the articles I’ve written about Paul over the last 35 years except for those which are in Climax of the Covenant: Christ And The Law In Pauline Theology (1991).

    How do the three books compliment each other?

    They complement one another because the articles offer detailed back-up for the major exposition (e.g. there’s no room in the big book for a 50-page article on Abraham in Romans 4 and Galatians 3!) and explain where the discipline of Pauline studies has come from.

    What do you hope that readers get out of the books?

    I hope and pray that readers gain a big, big picture of who Paul actually was in his full and wider culture – Jewish, Greek, Roman, religious, philosophical, cultural, political and above all spiritual – and will be stimulated to get stuck into fresh readings of his letters for themselves.

    How has writing these three books impacted you spiritually?

    It has been a major and wonderful task of prayer as much as thought. Several friends have been praying for me all the way and their prayers have really helped as I have wrestled with huge issues and tried to make them clear. Again and again the insights I’ve needed to take the book forward have been as much a matter of prayer as of study. That doesn’t mean they’re right, of course . . .

    Some of your perspectives on Paul has been have been critiqued quite strongly, in what ways will these books help you answer some of your critics objections to your work?

    These books will set my perspectives on Paul in a MUCH larger context than before so that the controversial issues will be approached from many different converging angles. For instance: ‘justification’ and ‘the law’ are set where they belong in Paul’s wider world, which is the revision, through Messiah and spirit, of the Jewish doctrine of God’s people (= ‘election’).

    Whose critique of your work have you most profited from and why?

    That’s difficult. I covet good criticism but many conservative critics haven’t really taken the trouble to understand what I’m saying and most of the more liberal critics have hardly noticed my work! I hope this will make a difference.

    What do you see lacking in the contemporary reformed position on justification and how do you outline justification in these books?

    Justification is the hugely important central feature of Romans and Galatians, two of the most stunning letters ever written. When we place it – as Paul does – within the story of Israel, and the inclusion into that story of believing Gentiles, we discover how many-sided it really is. It all depends of course on the utter free grace of God given in the death and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah and made effective through the spirit: placing chapter 10 of my book (election, including justification) right after chapter 9 (the revision of monotheism through Messiah and spirit) enables Paul’s fully Trinitarian framework to be seen as the framework for justification too; and then chapter 11 (eschatology) shows that likewise you need the full story, right through to the end, to understand what justification is. Within that larger framework, justification is God’s declaration that his people are ‘in the right’. God made that declaration over Jesus the Messiah when he raised him from the dead; he will make that declaration over all his people at the last when he raises us from the dead. Present justification is held between those two events, founded on the first and anticipating the second. To believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus as ‘for me’ is to believe that God is already saying, over ‘me’, what he said over Jesus in his baptism: ‘this is my beloved child’. This is the ground of Christian assurance and also of all ecumenical work, since justification is the same for all of us. That’s one of the main points Paul is making.

    You have written a quite vastly, if someone has heard of you but never has read one of your books what would be the best book for them to start with?

    Depends entirely on where they are coming from! For someone who likes good big chunky books, I’d say, start with The New Testament and the People of God Volume 1 . For someone who reads shorter books, start with either Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense or How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels. For someone facing bereavement or puzzled about the’rapture’ and all that – read Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church

    How many books are there still to write in the Christian Origins and The Question of God series and what will they be on?

    Supposedly, two more: one on the gospels and one on the early Christian mission as a whole. Don’t hold your breath, though!

    Thanks again for your time, I really appreciate it!

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  • 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


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