• Where did the Concept of Evil go?

    A few years ago I was chatting with a friend who once was a Christian. She told me her reason for rejecting the Christian faith and it wasn’t one of the usual suspects. Her reason for rejecting Christianity was sin. Not sin in the Church or sin in her own life. No, she rejected Christianity because the Bible speaks of people being sinful and yes evil. She thinks that we can’t label anyone evil anymore.  “What about Hitler I asked?” She pointed out that he probably had a troubled childhood and that it is wrong if us to judge him.

    My friend is taking to its logical conclusion the vibe that is out in our culture that is trying to lose the word evil. All too often we say the person is crazy or sick but we are reluctant to call anyone or anything evil except for the most heinous of people and or acts.We are to quick to to talk about a person’s upbringing and how that made them do what they did rather than describe some act or someone as evil.
    In the movie The Silence Of the Lambs the serial killer, Hannibal Lecter, says this to Clarice Starling when she asks what happened to him:

    “Nothing happened to me, Officer Starling. Happened. You can’t reduce me to a set of influences. You’ve given up good and evil for behaviorism… nothing is ever anybody’s fault. Look at me Officer Starling. Can you stand to say I’m evil?”

    Lecter is denying that he is a result of his environment or his upbringing. He is saying that he himself is evil and this is the very thing that Agent Starling or our culture does not want to say. We don’t want to brand someone as evil we want to say that there were outside factors and they are responsible but this person is not evil.

    But the Bible gives a different picture. The Bible never downplays the fact that outside influence shape behaviours. But it does call people evil and behaviours sinful.

    When our culture denies that there is evil or tries to explain away sin and evil behaviours we have lost the ability to call things right and wrong. We have lost our moral compass. We live in an age where we should have the freedom to call behaviours/thoughts wrong or evil because evil is a word which has the most explanatory power in some situations

    .As a Christian I can also say that evil has an finish date. Evil’s time will be up when Jesus comes back and rids the world of the evil that is destroying it. The very evil that our world tries to argue away.

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  • How to be a Not Perfect Christian

    Many Christians are burdened with the the untrue idea that we have to be perfect for God to love us.Of course we know this idea not to be true but it still feels like we have to live it out.  It seems like all we remember are the times we have screwed up and not what Jesus has done for us. In response to this so many of us feel this dread when we think of God/Church/Jesus because we don’t feel like the super Christians we should be. Our lives aren’t what they should be because we are weighed down by guilt.

    If there is anyone who knew something about guilt it was Martin Luther. Luther was a German monk who was converted out of Catholicism.  In his monk days he would berate himself for the sins he committed but when he started studying the scriptures in order to lecture the University of Wittenberg he found that tht Bible taught he was saved by grace through faith. So Christians stand before God only because of what God has done for us! This is great news!

    But this begs the question  what should we do about our current state? We are forgiven but we are also sinful. What should we think about ourselves when we are caught up in sin? Here is what Luther says:

    “A Christian is at once a sinner and a saint; he is wicked and pious at the same time. For so far as our persons are concerned, we are in sins and are sinners in our own name. But Christ brings us another name, in which there is the forgiveness of sins, that for His sake sins are remitted and pardoned. So both statements are true: There are sins, for the old Adam is not entirely dead as yet; yet the sins are not there. The reason is this: For Christ’s sake God does not want to see them. I have my eyes on them. I feel and see them well enough. But there is Christ, commanding that I be told I should repent, that is, confess myself a sinner and believe the forgiveness of sins in His name. For repentance, remorse, and knowledge of sin, though necessary, is not enough; faith in the forgiveness of sins in the name of Christ must be added. But where there is such faith, God no longer sees any sins; for then you stand before God, not in your name but in Christ’s name.”  – Martin Luther, The Freedom of a Christian

    The great news is that wherever you are, if you have faith in Jesus your sins are forgiven and God sees you as perfect. Therefore it would be wrong to come away from reading this passage of Luther’s remembering your own sin more than what the saviour has done for you! The first step in overcoming  sin is to remember and take hold of who you are and what Christ has done for you. Only when you have remembered those things will you be able to deal with your sin under grace.

    Are you perfect in your own strength? No. But God has made you perfect through the death and Resurrection of his son. Therefore live in response to what he has done.

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  • 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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  • Successful People Plan

    One of the things that doesn’t come naturally to me is planning. I am a spur of the moment guy which is fun for me and not so fun for those people around me who aren’t like me. But leaders and successful people plan and so I try to plan well and I try to lead Resolved in planning for the future.

    The other day I read through Proverbs to see what it said about planning. Here are a few verses that hit me as I was studying this great book:

    1. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
    2. “Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure.” (Proverbs 4:26).
    3. “For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the Lord, and he ponders all his paths.” (Proverbs 5:21).
    4. “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.” (Proverbs 11:14).
    5. “The wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way, but the folly of fools is deceiving.” (Proverbs 14:8).
    6. “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” (Proverbs 15:22).
    7. “The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord. All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit. Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” (Proverbs 16:1-3).
    8. “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9).
    9. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” (Proverbs 16:25).
    10. “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” (Proverbs 16:33).
    11. “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” (Proverbs 19:21).
    12. “The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.” (Proverbs 20:5).
    13. “Plans are established by counsel; by wise guidance wage war.” (Proverbs 20:18).
    14. “A man’s steps are from the Lord; how then can man understand his way?” (Proverbs 20:24).
    15. “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.” (Proverbs 21:5).
    16. “For by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory.” (Proverbs 24:6).

    There are a few things that I glean from these verses:

    • God is absolutely Sovereign and all planning we do is done with the acknowledgement that he can do whatever he wants with us and our plans
    • We plan in humility knowing God is the one who will ultimately make our plans succeed or fail.
    • Good planning takes time. The successful planner ponders and reflects as they plan
    •  The successful planner plans in consultation with others
    • The successful person plans

    What about you what do you get out of these verses about planning?

    Do you plan well? If so why/why not?

    “Those who don’t plan plan to fail.” – John L. Beckley

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  • What is Your Church Doing to Raise and Train up the Next Generation of Leaders?

    Below is a photo of the Catalyst Crew and I taken a few weeks ago. Catalyst is a program that we run at Resolved for university students to train them to be next generation of leaders of the church.

    Catalyst started because I was challenged by Mark Dever (sorry to name drop) to start training the next generation of leaders. When He challenged me to start some kind of training program I said “I don’t have time right now.” To which he replied “You’ll never have time.” After this conversation I  felt compelled to start training the next generation of leaders. So I planned out what we were going to do, I got some guys together and we started at the start of this year.
    All we do at Catalyst each week  is read a section of the Bible (we went through Romans this year), talk about a section of a book or an article that we have all read during the week and work on a ministry skill i.e. how to have a pastoral conversation. (If you want the program of what we did this year email me at hans@resolved.org.au) There was some legwork in planning all this out and putting it together but I am glad I have done it and I am looking forward to Catalyst starting again next year.
    What is your church doing to raise and train up the next generation of leaders? What if you got some young keen beans together for a few hours each week and you read a section of the Bible together, you talked about a section of a great book (maybe Knowing God by Packer)  and you trained them in a ministry skill?
    Would it take time? Sure but what are you going to do with your time? Read more blogs?
    Would it be hard work? Well if you call reading the Bible and great books with people hard work I guess so.
    Would your church reap the benefits in the future? Definitely!
    What are you doing to train the next generation of leaders for the church?
    This post is dedicated to Rachel, Coen, Hannah, Alie and Steph for being the first Catalyst group. You guys are awesome and I am so looking forward to next year! I can’t wait to see what God is going to do through you both next year and into the future!
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  • 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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  • Why you Shouldn’t Tweet During Sermons

    It seems like tweeting during sermons is the thing to do these days. On Sunday night my Twitter feed is clogged with the ubiquitous hash tag #sermonhighlights. Usually the tweets are a little quote from the sermon which has hit the tweeter. The tweeter is trying to share what they are learning with their followers. This is a commendable thing.
    I used to tweet during sermons until a friend of mine challenged me about it. After his loving challenge I stopped tweeting during sermons.
    Here is why I think you shouldn’t tweet during sermons. You shouldn’t tweet during sermons because God is speaking! If God is speaking we shouldn’t be distracted. If God is speaking we should be intently hearing his word and applying it to our lives.
    The fact that God is speaking means that we should focus on his word. Come to church, turn off your phone and focus on his life giving word!
    Anyway, no one really cares what you put on Twitter.
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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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  • This is an Early Candidate for Dunk of the Year!

    I love Basketball and I love the Golden State Warriors. I have followed the Warriors since the 93-94 season when they drafted Chris Webber. Since then they have only been to the playoffs once and there have been many many dark days for Warriors fans. But since Joe Lacob and Peter Guber bought the Warriors things have been looking up.

    A huge bright spot this year is the play of their rookies. In my opinion the Warriors nailed the draft and I love the way the young guys have been playing.

    This clip is of one of the rookies, Harrison Barnes in what I am calling the dunk of the year so far.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FjECOakCpt8

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  • How do You Know if You Are Falling Away?

    In many and various places the scriptures warn us not to fall away from Jesus (e.g. Hebrews 6:4-6, Revelation 2:4-5). Therefore as Christians we should be rightly concerned with the real threat of falling away.  But how do you know if you are falling away?

    A while ago I came across this blog by Joe Thorn. He summarizes Richard Owen Robert’s book, Revival, where he lays 25 evidences of a backslidden Christian:

    1. When prayer ceases to be a vital part of a professing Christian’s life, backsliding is present.

    2. When the quest for biblical truth ceases and one grows content with the knowledge of eternal things already acquired, there can be no mistaking the presence of backsliding.

    3. When the biblical knowledge possessed or acquired is treated as external fact and not applied inwardly, backsliding is present.

    4. When earnest thoughts about eternal things cease to be regular and gripping, it should be like a warning light to the backslider.

    5. When the services of the church lose their delights, a backslidden condition probably exists.

    6. When pointed spiritual discussions are an embarrassment, that is certain evidence of backsliding.

    7. When sports, recreation and entertainment are a large and necessary part of your lifestyle, you may assume backsliding is in force.

    8. When sins of the body and of the mind can be indulged in without an uproar in your conscience your backslidden condition is certain.

    9. When aspirations for Christlike holiness cease to be dominant in your life and thinking, backsliding is there.

    10. When the acquisition of money and goods becomes a dominant part of your thinking, you have clear confirmation of backsliding.

    11. When you can mouth religious songs and words without heart, be sure backsliding is present.

    12. When you can hear the Lord’s name taken in vain, spiritual concerns mocked and eternal issues flippantly treated, and not be moved to indignation and action, you are backslidden.

    13. When you can watch degrading movies and television and read morally debilitating literature, you can be sure you are backslidden.

    14. When breaches of peace in the brotherhood are of no concern to you, that is proof of backsliding.

    15. When the slightest excuse seems sufficient to keep you from spiritual duty and opportunity, you are backslidden.

    16. When you become content with your lack of spiritual power and no longer seek repeated enduements of power from on high, you are backslidden.

    17. When you pardon your own sin and sloth by saying the Lord understands and remembers that we are dust, you have revealed your backslidden condition.

    18. When there is no music in your soul and no song in your heart, the silence testifies to your backsliding.

    19. When you adjust happily to the worlds’ lifestyle, your own mirror will tell the truth of your backsliding.

    20. When injustice and human misery exist around you and you do little or nothing to relieve the suffering, be sure you are backslidden.

    21. When your church has fallen into spiritual declension and the Word of God is no longer preached there with power and you are still content, you are in a backslidden condition.

    22. When the spiritual condition of the world declines around you and you cannot perceive it , that is testimony of your backslidden stance.

    23. When you are willing to cheat your employer, backsliding is apparent.

    24. When you find yourself rich in grace and mercy and marvel at your own godliness, then you have fallen far in your backsliding.

    25. When your tears are dried up and the hard, cold spiritual facts of your existence cannot unleash them, see this as an awful testimony both of the hardness of your heart and the depth of your backsliding.

    It is a challenging list. Do you agree with all of them?

    Can you see some of these evidences in your life?

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