Monday, 31 December 2012

Final thought for 2012

John Piper (2005): "I am forgiven by faith alone, and I have the imputed righteousness of Christ by faith alone, and now I have the Holy Spirit within me by faith alone, so now I will continue to make my focus Jesus Christ every day, and I will look to him for everything my soul craves. And from my union with Christ, nurtured hour by hour by focusing on Christ as my great Savior and mighty Lord and infinite Treasure, I will love people. Christ will be my focus, love will be my fruit."

Friday, 28 December 2012

Where was God in 2012?

Great post on Desiring God today about our reflection on where God is. We so often look at the negative but just think about this...
How can God be righteous and do so much good to us who are so unrighteous?
Where was God in 2012?
Where was God when nine million planes landed safely in the United States?
Where was God when the world revolved around the sun so accurately that it achieved the Winter solstice perfectly at 5:12 AM December 21 and headed back toward Spring?
Where was God when the President was not shot at a thousand public appearances?
Where was God when American farms produced ten million bushels of corn, and 2.8 million bushels of soybeans — enough food to sell $100 billions worth to other nations?
Where was God when no terrorist plot brought down a single American building or plane or industry?
Where was God when the sun maintained its heat and its gravitational pull precisely enough that we were not incinerated or frozen?
Where was God when three hundred million Americans drank water in homes and restaurants without getting sick?
Where was God when no new plague swept away a third of our race?
Where was God when Americans drove three trillion accident free miles?
Where was God when over three million healthy babies were born in America?
Go to to see the whole article.

Friday morning focus

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”
The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.
I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.
He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.
Revelation 22:16-21 ESV

Last Friday of 2012, and so here are the last verses of our Scripture, they look forward with great blessings and promises.  Praise Jesus.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Disputing Historical Jesus

Here's an interesting article for your to read on Christmas Eve.  From the ABC Australia website
"It is time for the evangelists of unbelief to give up the nonsense that the figure at the heart of Christianity may have never even lived. 
There are plenty of good arguments against the world's largest religion, but claiming Jesus never walked the roads of Galilee isn't one of them. To make such a claim is to turn what should be a world heavyweight contest into a lightweight sideshow..."
Go and see the entire article here... it's a good read.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

My Christmas Fruit Cake

I mentioned I was baking a cake yesterday, well here it is - a little proud of the effort, and a lot relieved it actually worked :-)

Merry Christmas

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Our community is like a fruitcake...

Former WMAC students may well shudder when reading the title of this post. When I was at high school the fruitcake was the favourite analogy of our principal.  Time and time again we would hear that our school was like a fruitcake - I'm sure each new year level thought it was a good comparison but after 5 years, when we were in grade 12, we knew it by heart.

I think the main idea was that a fruitcake is made up of a whole multitude of different ingredients.  Even once joined together you can still see the individual ingredients (well most of them) but it is the unity which forms the cake.  I remember by grade 12 we had realised that there were lots of nuts in our high school cake (most of them teachers...) and we use to fight about who got to be the cherry on top.

But today as I made my own fruitcake - for Christmas - I was reminded of Mr Claridge's analogy and after so many years I can see how dBay Baptist is a bit like a fruitcake too (yes even with the nuts :-p)... but not only that the whole church is fruitcake like, because we all work and minister as individuals - people still see single Christians - but it is our unity that holds the Church together.  Even more so, God's love and grace, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the very heart of our fruitcake (or possibly that cherry on top for all to see).

Merry Christmas.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Friday morning focus

Now I watched when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say with a voice like thunder, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a white horse! And its rider had a bow, and a crown was given to him, and he came out conquering, and to conquer.
When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword.
When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a black horse! And its rider had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard what seemed to be a voice in the midst of the four living creatures, saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius, and do not harm the oil and wine!”
When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider's name was Death, and Hades followed him. And they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth.
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.
When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”
Revelation 6 ESV

I highly doubt today is going to mark the end of the world. But one day Jesus will come back.  Revelation gives many images of things that will take place at that time, and there are many interpretations. Yet this paints a picture of a time (which we may well be in right now) that shows much hurt, pain and disaster before Jesus returns to bring peace.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Only choice: a response.

John Piper: “Obedience does not consist in paying God back and thus turning grace into a trade. Obedience comes from trusting in God for more grace — future grace — and thus magnifying the infinite resources of God’s love and power.”
Everywhere I turn at the moment I am being reminded that we need to be asking God for more of him, more of his grace.  Again and again I see how little I can do to influence my salvation.  Not even obedience measures up.  All we can do is respond... respond to God's love and his gift.  Our worship is a response, our obedience is a response (and also part of our worship).

All we can do is glorify God's name, through our words, actions and obedience - like Piper says, that then magnifies his name and the 'infinite resources' of his love.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Some days are hard...

...some days are just plain awesome!

Took a gaggle of the youth from dBay Baptist to the beach today (yes I believe the official name for a group of teenagers should be a 'gaggle' :-p).  It was a good day at the beach, but even a better day for just hanging out in a casual way and building relationship.  I think just spending time with each other (it doesn't have to be in super serious study of the Bible all the time) is really important.

And did I miss being in my office all day??? Not too much to be honest :-)

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Mind over heart...

This is so true for many Christians today.  It is not a case of horribly sinning, but a case of just doing nothing of worth.
I believe the greatest trick of the devil is not to get us into some sort of evil but rather have us wasting time. This is why the devil tries so hard to get Christians to be religious. If he can sink a man's mind into habit, he will prevent his heart from engaging God.
~Don Millar - Blue Like Jazz

Have a relaxing Christmas

Merry Christmas - don't over exert yourselves

Friday, 14 December 2012

Friday morning focus

But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. 
Galatians 2:17-21 ESV

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Grace Through Ourselves

As Christians we believe that because of the cross we are saved by God's grace.  It is grace alone that gives us peace with God - so does the idea of self examination, or then rejoicing in our gifts and talents point to an attitude of 'works based faith'?   Should we simply refer back to God's grace and Jesus without ever looking at ourselves?  Some would say yes, but I think there is a good opportunity to display the grace Jesus brought through looking at our own actions.

Neither self-denial (a repudiation of our sins) nor self-affirmation (an appreciation of God's gifts) is a dead end of self-absorption. On the contrary, both are means to self-sacrifice.  Self-understanding should lead to self-giving.The community of the cross is essentially a community of self-giving love, expressed in the worship of God... and the service of others... It is to this that the cross consistently and insistently calls us.
~John Stott - The Cross of Christ p330

Just as Stott says, when self-denial and self-affirmation are aligned as a means to self-sacrifice not self-absorption then the focus remains, and in fact, highlights God's grace.  In looking at our own actions in a humble and selfless manner we are actually referring back to Jesus just as we should be.  Christmas and the end of the year is a usual time of reflection.  When you do so, make sure you allow your reflections to bring glory to God,.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

The utmost importance of grace.

“The grandest discourse ever delivered is an ostentatious failure if the doctrine of the grace of God be absent from it.” - Charles Spurgeon

Monday, 10 December 2012

Where is the focus, on the essence or the form?

I have been exposed to many 'forms' of worship over the years.  Not any one had quite felt a complete fit for me, but some have allowed me to express my true feelings more than others.  Now as a pastor I find myself overseeing parts of worship, usually with people who have completely different forms of doing it than I would.  It has been very challenging, and for me this quote of John Pipers has become increasingly true.

"Few of us have had or will have the luxury of escaping the 'worship wars'. The 'wars' are usually waged over forms and styles, not overt the essence of what worship is.  But leading your people into the essence is all-important. So I want to call you to put your focus and energies in the most fruitful place for the glory of God. Focus on the essence not the form."
~John Piper - Brothers We are not Professionals

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Give Life

Watoto Child-care Ministries is one of my favourites. I love the ministry they provide to the orphaned kids of Uganda.  It's completely holistic, not only are kids fed, clothed and housed, but they receive a whole new family, a mother who will love them for life, as well as brothers and sisters. The Gospel is shown not just through preaching but through the life experience of such great Christian men and women.

We see the choirs here in Australia, but here's a video from Baby Watoto - the orphanage that provides for kids who are two young to go into the villages.  Watch the video and remember each of these kids has come from complete poverty, lost one or both parents to AIDS or war.  Watch and have your heart warmed as these kids are being given life!

So good.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Friday morning focus.

Who has believed what he has heard from us?
And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
(Isaiah 53:1-5 ESV)

All Scripture points to Jesus - some much more obviously than others - this is one of my favourites.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Looking up to someone.

I've been a 'youth pastor' for almost a year now.  My role at Deception Bay is wider than just youth, but that's where most of my responsibilities lie, and where most of my pastoral relationships have formed.  What I've noticed most is how much young people search for others to look up to.  I am constantly hearing the latest news about different sports people, singers, or movie stars - young people are constantly watching people they admire and, whether they understand or realise it themselves, they begin to emulate those people.

What is sad is how bad a role model a lot of these people are.  Teens are just doing what is natural to their social development, but it is the adults (or even teens these days) who are in the spotlight who let the whole thing down.

For Christians I think there's an even greater element.  How can we expect someone who does not have a Gospel base to be a proper example of life for our Christian teens? It doesn't matter how much charity work they do, how many African kids they adopt, money they give away, people they house or feed... or if they don't drink, swear or fight - they still don't live a life aligned with the Gospel.  Jesus gave us the Gospel as a foundational truth for the entirety of our lives.  It's not an option, or a perspective, it is the truth.  There really can only be one truth (think about it, if there's more than one truth, then some part of each can not really be true... because if they differ then they cannot both be true), and the Gospel is that truth.

As a youth pastor I find the biggest weight on me is to be a proper example of a Gospel filled life. After a year I do see young people looking to me - and I don't feel special, or authoritative or especially gifted and skilled... I feel scared.  But then I realise that more than being a perfect example of a Gospel follower - I am a perfect example of God's grace.  I still stuff up, but because of the Gospel God's grace is sufficient.

If you are a Christian who interacts with young people - make sure you're willing to be an example (no matter your age) of God's grace.  Don't show young people what you can do on your own... show them what you can only do and be because of God.  Young people need examples like that to take the place of these famous people who simply can't be that example, because they don't understand that grace.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

The Inkeeper

Another Christmas video, but this is a must watch! John Piper wrote a poem about a fictional character, based on the Inkeeper from the Christmas Story.  This poem gives an idea of what it may have cost that man to let Mary and Joseph stay in the stable.  There's a part of the story in the Gospels that we can sometimes gloss over, and that is where Herod orders the murder of all the boys - how horrible that would have been.  And how much Jesus would have cared for those who had been hurt, just as he cares for all who hurt.
In the poem called The Innkeeper, I tried to imagine what might have happened when the soldiers came. And what Jesus might have said if he showed up 30 years later to talk to the innkeeper about it. It’s fiction. But its aim is truth and hope and joy.
~John Piper
It is a powerful poem.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Crazy Love - Chapter Ten

Here's the final video for our Crazy Love studies.  Hopefully these videos have added extra depth as you've read through the book.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Narrow Path

I'm just watching the V8 Supercar qualifying at Homebush on the road course in Sydney and what is really apparent to the need for the drivers to all stay on a very specific path as they navigate the circuit.  You see it had been raining just before the cars all went out so the track was wet.

All the drivers started on 'wet tires' (tires with a grooved tread to displace the water), but within a few laps the tires had done their job, moving the water to the side an a distinct dry line appeared.  The rest of the track was still wet but one narrow (barley a car width wide) path had dried out because of the cars all following the same path.

Drivers then came in and put their normal tires on, and when they headed back out it was very important for them to keep on that dry line.  Their slick tires couldn't handle any wet track and the slightest deviation from the best path round the circuit meant instant loss of traction, a slow lap time and for some a hard hit into a concrete wall.

28 cars on the track and only 1 line.  Only a few could get it right, it lead to a very mixed up top 10, some of the best drivers in Australia missed the line and were slow.

It got me thinking, we've all heard the Christian life called the narrow path - Jesus himself defined it as such.  And when we look at life as a whole maybe those the world sees as the 'best', the most professional, gifted and able don't actually find the narrow path.   For us as Christians we should be looking for others on the narrow path for guidance, and example - not just those who have earnt their fame away from the path.

Also just like the slightest deviation caused the V8 drivers this morning to wreck their lap times, so does any sin cause us drastic deviation from the narrow path.  Thankfully God's grace is sufficient  but we need to be aware of the exact path we need to follow when we're following Jesus.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Friday morning focus

On this last day before we move into December... let's start focusing on what it meant that Jesus came.

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
(Isaiah 9:6-7 ESV)

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Wanting more...

"O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need for further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made thirsty still. Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, so that I may know Thee indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. Say to my soul, “Rise up my love, my fair one, and come away.” Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered too long."
~A.W Tozer 

 What an incredible prayer! I came across this on Tuesday and have committed to praying it each morning for the rest of the week (at least). I feel God has used it to open my eyes even further to His love for me. His love is so great that He earnestly desires for me to love Him. We know this because it was His love that caused Jesus to come and die on the cross for us—opening the way for us to be free and have a relationship with Him.  But there is nothing we can do, apart from Jesus, to make ourselves right with Him. Even as Christians we still need to ask God to continually draw us to him, because our sinful nature continues to drive us away.

Psalms 4:7-8 says; “You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new win abound. I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.” So no matter how good the world looks, how much better off people seem to be in their worldly ways, we know that even when their material wealth abounds, and ours may not, that God fills our hearts with a joy (from his love) that is of such greater worth! It is that peace with God that makes everything else pale in comparison. And Romans 5:1 tells us that this peace only comes through Jesus Christ.

I think Tozer had come to a realisation of this peace when he knew he needed God’s help to continually want more and more of him. Our human lives still wear us down, but God will help us if we continue to ask it of him. The more we know of His love, the more we will desire it. Tozer was brutally honest and humble in his understanding of himself, and that drove him to depend on God all the more. I am trying to get to a point when I can be that honest about myself before God—it is a tough process of giving up much of myself. But I have felt the example of Tozer has guided me in the right direction.

 I hope it may do the same for you.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Crazy Love - Chapter Nine

Second last week of this amazing study series, and we get to hear a great testimony of someone who is obsessed with Jesus.

Take a look, hear the example and accept the challenge to live life like this man.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Friday morning focus

After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out, 
 Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, 
 for his judgments are true and just; 
 for he has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality, 
 and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.” 
(Revelation 19:1-2 ESV)

What Scriptures have you read this morning.  Share them so we can get a good dose of it today.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Shine your light.

"The Gospel is a light that attracts the lost, if we get rid of the churchianity bushel under which it's hiding."
~Mark Driscoll

It's a provocative statement, but in the case of the Western Church it is also a current challenge.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Jesus Obsession

This is paraphrased and taken from ideas of Chapter 8 of Crazy Love by Francis Chan.  It's a great reflection I think...


People who are obsessed with Jesus give freely and openly, without censure.  Obsessed people love those who hate them and who can never love them back.  They aren't consumed with their personal safety and comfort above all else.  Obsessed people care more about God’s kingdom coming to this earth than their own lives being shielded from pain or distress.  They live lives that connect them with the poor in some way or another.  Obsessed people believe that Jesus talked about money and the poor so often because it was really important to Him.

Obsessed people are more concerned with obeying God than doing what is expected or fulfilling the status quo.  A person who is obsessed with Jesus will do things that don’t always make sense in terms of success or wealth on this earth… They know that the sin of pride is always a battle.  Obsessed people know that you can never be ‘humble enough,’ and so they seek to make themselves less known and Christ more known.

People who are obsessed with Jesus do not consider service a burden.  Obsessed people take joy in loving God by loving His people. They are known as givers, not takers.  They genuinely think that others matter as much as they do, and they are particularly aware of those who are poor around the world.  They think about heaven frequently.  Obsessed people orient their lives around eternity; they are not fixed only on what is here in front of them.

A person who is obsessed is characterised by committed, settled, passionate love for God, above and before every other thing and every other being.

People who are obsessed are raw with God; they do not attempt to mask the ugliness of their sins or their failures.  Obsessed people don’t put it on for God; He is their safe place, where they can be at peace. They have an intimate relationship with Jesus.  They are nourished by God’s Word throughout the day because they know that forty minutes on Sunday is not enough to sustain them for a whole week, especially when they will encounter so many distractions and alternative messages. They are more concerned with their character than comfort.  Obsessed people know that true joy doesn't depend on circumstances or environment; it is a gift that must be chosen and cultivated, a gift that ultimately comes from God.

A person who is obsessed with Jesus knows that the best thing he or she can do is be faithful to their Saviour in every aspect of their life.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Things we just take for granted.

In case you were unaware; today was International Toilet Day.

That seems strange to us here in the western world, but the whole idea is to raise awareness to the fact that the majority of the world do not have access to the same kind of facilities we take for granted.

One World Vision Facebook post I saw today said this;

Diarrhoeal diseases are the second most common cause of death among young children in developing countries, killing more than HIV/AIDS, malaria and measles combined.

That's just shocking, the fact that something so easily combated is such a gigantic killer.  The fact that 2.5 billion people do not have access to safe and sanitary toilets is just silly, when a lot of those people do have access to social media like Facebook.  Where is our focus?

There is more we can all do to help fight poverty... but this has to be one of the easiest things we can fix worldwide!

Crazy Love - Chapter Eight

Chapter 8 of Crazy Love gives us a great insight into how people live when they are obsessed with heaven.  When they have a constant 'eternal perspective'.  It's a great picture of life, yet I still think it's a great challenge when we size up how our lives look right now.

Understanding Jesus

"Jesus is not safe"

Read this article on The Resurgence this morning.  I think it ties in nicely with both the preaching series and the Bible studies I am doing with the young adults.  Don't get a wishy-washy, soft view of who Jesus is.  Understand who he is and what he said... don't try and smooth it over to make it easier.  Jesus is who he is, and we can't change that.

The article refers to C.S Lewis' The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe where a reference to Aslan states he is not safe, but he is good.  That's a great understanding of who Jesus is too.

Jesus didn't say that if we wanted to follow him, we needed to take up our mattress, but rather take up our cross! If you are going to follow Jesus:
  • You are going to upset some people (Matthew 10:34-36). 
  • He will bring out changes in you (Luke 19:1-10). 
  • We cannot meet him and stay the same! He is going to challenge you to look straight ahead and not behind, no matter how good or bad it may have been (Luke 9:62). 
  • You are going to have to lay some things aside (Mark 1:18). 
  • He will impact every area of your life (Romans 12:1), and you cannot pick and choose your areas of surrender when you are abiding in him. 
  • You are going to hear his voice clearly and accurately (John 10:4). 
  • You are going to experience abundant life, and your life will not be wasted (John 10:10). 
  • You are going to have to stop messing around—literally (1 Corinthians 6:18-20). In fact, following Jesus may make your dating life seem quite “boring” to others. 
  • You are going to have to surrender your wallet (Matthew 6:19-24, Luke 16:10-13). 
  • It is going to take a willingness to change the way you think (Romans 12:1-2). 
  • It is going to move your heart to care about and reach out to people that he deeply cares for (Matthew 28:18-20). I cannot say I am a follower of Christ and be unconcerned with the things that concern him.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Friday morning focus.

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! 
(Psalm 133:1-2 ESV)

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Crazy Love - Chapter 7

Here's the Chapter 7 video for Crazy Love. Hopefully you got something out of the study last night and can apply this today.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Defining the idea of 'Loving Jesus'

What does it look like for you to love Jesus??

What do you do that shows it?  Shows it to him, to yourself and to others?

I'd love to see some practical ideas - especially for the benefit of young people who are still trying to figure it all out.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Crazy Love - Chapter Six

It's chapter's 6 and 7 this week at the Youth and Young Adults Connection Group. Last week was a really tough one; something that I think shook us all a little bit, shocked us - in a sense - into really questioning our faith, and what it should look like.

Hopefully this week's reading started to rebuild your ideas and hopes.  The ideas of love and faithfulness in these two chapters should encourage you all the more after studying chapter 5 last week.

Here's the week 6 video, and I'll post the chapter 7 video on Wednesday as it's a good challenge to be sent out with after we do the study tomorrow night.

What is the true impact of the church at the moment?

This is another Keith Green video I was going to use at the end of my sermon yesterday.  However God led me in a different direction, but I thought I might still share it here.

In so many cases the church in the West is just a hapless social club - if we're honest can we really say we are impacting and changing the local community around us?  I think every church may on a small scale - certain groups or ministries within a local church do a good job, but on the whole we could be having such a bigger impact.

This song "Asleep in the Light" has the most challenging lyrics of any song I think I've ever listened too. The truth about the church Keith Green saw around him (and in some cases it is still very true today) sinks to the core of who I am, and wanting to make sure that I am never like that.

It really has made me think, what is the true impact the church is having right at this time in Australia?

Sheep and Goats

I preached on Matthew 25:31-46 yesterday morning, Jesus talking about the day of judgement and separating the nations like a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  It's such a powerful passage and gives a clear idea of the results of our faith.  The natural outflow of living a Christ-centred life is that you do all that Jesus tells the sheep they did.

It's not legalism, or works based salvation; it is a clear indicator of someone who has put their full faith in the one who saved them and proclaims him as Lord.

I used the following Keith Green clip to do the reading and intro the sermon.  Love it!

Friday, 9 November 2012

Friday morning focus.

And when a great crowd was gathering and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable, “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.” As he said these things, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, he said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’ Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience. 
(Luke 8:4-15 ESV)

I've been meditating a lot on this parable and its explanation this week. My conclusion is that only those in the good soil are actually saved... so many times in Western Christianity we try and make it 'easier' for us to say we are true Christians.  However in every case other than the good soil the plant dies.  Tie it with other parables like the Sheep and Goats (Matt 25) and you see that producing fruit is a natural bi-product of true Christianity. If you are being 'choked' by the world, or you're on rocky ground this morning, honestly check your commitment to loving Jesus.  Are you just pretending, giving him lip service to appease those around you?  

Are you saying you're a Christian because you don't want to be punished for you sin? Or because you want to be freed from your sin?  So many people just don't want the punishment, but still want to control what they do, and be allowed to sin.  Jesus said turn from your sin, and do it no more.  Jesus' offer is better.  It's the good soil.  We just have to make sure that our lives are responding to his love, not a presumed get out of jail free card (cause it's not).

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Personal Update

Just thought I'd mention that a week or so ago I completed the process to become a registered pastor as part of the Baptist Union of Queensland.  After a fairly long process of writing out my doctrine of faith, having a full psychological assessment (of which I was found to be abnormally well balanced I'd like to add...) and many other things, it all accumulated in what has been dubbed the "7 deadly doors".  One Friday all those who were at the final stage of registration went through interview day; 7 interviews over about 4 hours on all different aspects of ministry and personal spiritual lifestyle.  At the end of those 7 interviews we were told if we had been accepted by the registration reviewers.

I'm happy to say I was, and found the entire experience quite affirming.  I couldn't deny God's call on my life, so felt that the whole process must affirm that (who are the Baptists to tell God what to do eh?), yet to actually go through and find that was just one more level of seeing the call God has placed on my life.

Prayer for healing...

How then should we pray regarding physical illness? Certainly it is right to ask God for healing, for Jesus tells us to pray. "Deliver us from evil" (Matt 6:13), and the apostle John writes to Gaius, "I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in health:" (3 John 2).  Moreover, Jesus frequently healed all who were brought to him, and he never sent people away, telling them it would be good for them to remain ill for a longer time!  In addition to this, whenever we take any kind of medicine or seek medical help for an illness, by those actions we admit that we think it to be God's will that we seek to be well. If we thought that God wanted us to continue in our illness, we would never seek medical means for healing! So when we pray it seems right that our first assumption, unless we have specific reason to think otherwise, should be that God would be pleased to heal the person we are praying for - as far as we can tell from Scripture, this is God's revealed will...
How then should we pray Certainly it is right to ask God for healing, and we should go to him with the simple request that he give physical healing in time of need.  James warns us that simple unbelief can lead to prayerlessness and failure to receive answers from God: "You do not have, because you do not ask" (James 4:2).  But when we pray for healing we should remember that we must pray for God to be glorified in the situation, whether he chooses to heal or not.  And we also ought to pray out of the same compassion of heart that Jesus felt for those whom he healed.  When we pray this way, God will sometimes - and perhaps often - gran answers to our prayers.
Wayne Grudem "Systematic Theology" p 10066-1067
The thing I like about this quote is that when we are praying that God be glorified we are acknowledging that even if someone's physical body fails God's glory is much greater... his gift of forgiveness is enough, and our physical well being is an added blessing.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Crazy Love - Chapter Five

BOOM.  What a smashing chapter! Even this video is a sucker punch to our luke-warm/materialistic/Australianised faith. I hope this chapter and this video really encourages you to strive to follow Jesus even more.

Remember it's not about legalism, and having to do something for our salvation.  Instead it's about understanding the crazy love God has for us, and what he did so we can relate to him, because then our response should be with our own crazy love; leaving no room for luke-warmness.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Planned events...

Why do we need 'planned events' to be seen as doing ministry?  Last night our plans for youth group were to simply go and hang at the Settlement Cove Lagoon down at Redcliffe. Parents were invited as well so we were a slightly larger group, but all I had planned was to turn up there and let people do what they wanted.  I think it worked well. I didn't feel the need to organise games, or have a set structure for how things go.  The whole idea was just to let fellowship happen naturally.  It did, and I thought it was good, yet it's funny how people expect you to have specific plans for how the 'event' will run.

Initially I think both the youth and some of the parents felt a little uncomfortable when left to come up with what they'd do on their own.  Actually some of the parents kind of tried to lay down some structure, yet once we were able to move past that I think we had a good and comfortable time together - and it didn't feel forced.

I'm all up for doing more of that... I just hope people don't think I'm being slack for not planning huge 'events' - I just think fellowship happens better naturally.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Friday morning focus

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me. 
(Philippians 2:14-18 ESV)

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

The inherent attraction of living like a Christian

I had a dream the other night.  In this dream I was on holiday with a whole heap of people I have known over the years, right back to high school.  These friends are all non-Christian people, and we were staying in a high rise apartment together, the way the dream worked was that the negative sides of people's attitudes were hyper intensified.  One friend I remembered being a little grumpy, was a complete anger-infused depressant, one who was a bit of a womaniser was an absolute jerk, one whom I remember had a temper and was a bit of a bully had become a completely violent psychopath in my dream. I was just normal me - no super powers or extra suave or anything exciting really.

In the dream there was lots of interaction with hotel staff, and what the dream showed me in an incredibly vivid way was the general response to a life that is committed to serving Jesus and upholding his moral standard.  I didn't preach in the dream (in many dreams I do...), but the hotel staff naturally gravitated their time and energy to me.  I befriended many of them (while enjoying my holiday with my friends and staying completely engaged with them as well), and I woke from the dream feeling a real sense of understanding the simple witness we have as living lives worthy of the Gospel.

I don't weigh too heavy on the 'meanings' of my dreams (last night I dreamt about an end of the world disaster and we were just trying to stay alive for another hour), but this 'holiday' dream left me feeling very secure in the grace of Jesus, and reminded me of the simple truth of living well.

How have you gone today on following Jesus in your actions.  Everyday life should still be seen as service to Christ, because when you do you'll find people are inherently attracted to your way of life.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Crazy Love - Chapter Four

Here's the chapter 4 video.  We'll be looking at both chapters three and four at Connection Group tomorrow night.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Preaching from a tablet.

I used my new Galaxy Tab2 to preach from this morning for the first time.  I've wanted a 7" Tab2 for a while, mainly for this purpose, so I was glad to finally have the opportunity to give it a go.

I found it a much easier way to handle my sermon notes.  I decided to not even use the pulpit, but just rest the Tab on my Bible.  Reading the notes was easier, and I could enlarge the print quite a bit more (8 pages of notes is nothing on the Tab but would have been a handful if printed out) so finding my place again after looking up to engage the congregation was much easier.

I had been contemplating the different issues of transitioning to a tablet while preaching, but all in all I think it was a really positive experience.  Do any other pastors have any insights into using tablets to preach?

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Next week...

Well since last night's Connection Group didn't happen (only one person turned up), we'll leave the chapter 4 video until next week.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Crazy Love - Chapter Three

This week at Connection Group we're going to be looking at both chapters 3 and 4 of Crazy love.  But I think I'll leave the chapter 4 video until Wednesday to provide some further reflection on a rough topic.

Before group tomorrow night, I hope you've read both chapters, but watch this video on chapter 3 so the image of God's desire for intimacy is fresh in your minds.

Holidays - actually having a break.

Well I'm back from just over 2 weeks off work, and have enjoyed stopping for a period of time.  This is my first break since beginning as Youth Pastor at Deception Bay Baptist in February and the thing I noticed most was how much my mind needed a break.

People think Pastors just sit in their office, write sermons, drink coffee, counsel people and plan events.  But there is so much more than that. I realised over my holidays that while I am working I am constantly thinking about 'church things'.  I mean all the time, every part of the day and night, even on my days off.  My mind constantly works through conversations I've had, or need to have, devotions that will be done, sermon ideas, or just random things and how they could be used as illustrations for devotions or sermons.

On my first day of holidays I realised I had nothing to do for the next two weeks, and my mind relaxed - I didn't start considering things coming up in a few weeks time, I didn't see some amazing thing of nature and immediately start thinking how I could use that to share the Gospel with someone.  My mind had a break, and I was able to see these things and think about their affect on me personally.

I now have a much greater appreciation of how my mind has been working as I work as a pastor.  I will be more conscious to give myself a break, but if you are not a pastor, then spare a thought for your pastor and understand the stress the calling puts on every aspect of their life - even recognition of this helps I think.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

I am not forgotten

For those who didn't make it to Clontarf Baptist last Friday this is what you missed.

My heart aches for these kids - I have such a passion for the work Watoto do. To think each of these children have lost one or both parents to AIDS or war, yet still sing to Jesus that they "are not forgotten" is incredible.

Jesus saves, and these kids remind me more of that than almost any other thing.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

How Great is Our God - World Edition

For those who missed it on Sunday night here's the video we started the service with.

It was an amazing experience to watch this live earlier in the year.  Realising how many people were worshiping God world wide at the same time, via the amazing technology of live streaming, gave the feeling of the entire Church worshiping its God at the same time.  The phrase "How Great is our God" trended world wide on Twitter during this session of the Passion Conference 2012.  It was incredible, unifying and glorifying to God.  I still get shivers on my spine when I watch this video.

Friday, 28 September 2012

New DB Youth Advert

Friday morning focus

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. 
(Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV)

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Ever think you never get anything good?

"If we are legitimate children of Almighty God, we have a pretty ridiculous upside. Grow up into His greatness and love." ~ Louie Giglio

We've got the good deal - no matter how you look at it.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Check your fuel.

A car might have a new engine, great body work, smart looking interior... but with no fuel in the tank, no one's going to expect it to get very far.  It's the fuel that allows it to reach its destination. If we want to get ahead in life, we need to spend less time on our outward appearance.  We need to be more concerned with what's going on inside, making sure the tank of our lives is constantly topped up with the right fuel.  Just like if you fill a car up with rotten fuel it isn't going to run right (or at all), filling our lives with the wrong thing will also cause us pain. Many times we find ourselves in rotten situations and wonder how we got there - sometimes things are just unfair, but other times what we put in leads us to trouble.

Life often doesn't turn out as we think it will, so how do we keep going through disappointment and confusion?

"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."
Hebrews 11:1 ESV

Making sure the fuel we fill our life with is full of faith is essential to leading a life according to God's purpose.  If we are living according to God's purpose then we will not find ourselves in self-induced trouble.

After going through a list of great examples of faith, the writer of Hebrews sums up our position like this:

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God."
Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV

Jesus is the founder, the very foundation, of our faith; but he is also it's perfecter. There is nothing greater than Jesus, no 'extra knowledge'; no purer fuel.  Fill yourself up with faith in Jesus, and see how your life runs.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Healthy Habits

I like the story of the little boy who fell out of bed.  When his Mom asked him what happened, he answered, "I don't know. I guess I stayed too close to where I got in."
Easy to do the same with our faith.  It's tempting just to stay where we got in and never move.
Pick a time in the not-too-distant past. A year or two ago. Now ask yourself a few questions.  How does your prayer life today compare with then? How about your giving? Have both the amount and the joy increased? What about your church loyalty? Can you tell you've grown? And Bible study? Are you learning to learn?...
There they are.  Four habits worth having. Isn't it good to know that some habits are good for you? Make them a part of your day and grow. Don't make the mistake of the little boy. Don't stay too close to where you got in. It's risky resting on the edge.
Max Lucado "Let the Journey Begin" p27

Good practical advice there.  How's your survey of where you were a few years ago?

Kid's Ministry is Important.

Recently I was asked to provide the number of people who are under 18, not connected with our church, yet would come in contact with one of our ministries each week. Amidst the business of the week I quickly tallied up the numbers in each of our groups and replied back ‘approximately 200’. Then I stopped and looked at that number… 200!... that couldn’t possibly be right, it appeared way too high.

So I revisited my tally; thought about each group; and realised that yes, 200 is a valid idea of how many people under 18 come in contact with our church each week. The biggest contributor to this is R.E in D’Bay State School, with 4-6 classes of 25-30 students each week. Then we can add in KidsHope, youth group, boy’s club, kid’s club and kid’s time who all have a number of ‘youth’ who aren’t already connected to our church and suddenly a number like 200 is a reality. It really opened my eyes to what a huge target area of ministry we have in evangelism when it comes to children and teenagers. However all these ministries are struggling to get the help and leadership they need to run effectively.

It amazes me the connection we have with young people in our community, even though it doesn't appear to be a main focus in the way we do things.  Most people in the church would not be involved in children's or youth ministry, yet our impact is still great.  But I wonder if it is sustainable without more help.  With no leaders next year some of those ministries will have to either change or close down entirely.  I'm praying for more to step up - since it's apparent God has been working with the young people in Deception Bay.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Jesus Son of God.

Cannot escape this song, or it's lyrics at the moment - God is speaking and I am being blown away.

Jesus Son of God - Chris Tomlin
You came down, from heaven's throne 
This earth You formed, was not Your home 
A love like this, the world had never known 
A crown of thorns, to mock your name 
Forgiveness fell upon Your face 
A love like this, the world had never known 

On the altar of our praise let there be no higher name 
Jesus Son of God 
You laid down Your perfect life, You are the sacrifice 
Jesus Son of God 
You are Jesus Son of God 

 You took our sin You bore our shame 
You rose to life You defeated the grave 
A love like this, the world has never known 
You took our sin You bore our shame 
You rose to life You defeated the grave 
A love like this, the world has never known 

 On the altar of our praise let there be no higher name 
Jesus Son of God Y
ou laid down Your perfect life You are the sacrifice 
Jesus Son of God 
You are Jesus Son of God 

 Be lifted higher than all You've overcome 
Your name be louder than any other song 
There is no power that can come against Your love 
The cross was enough 
The cross was enough

Friday, 21 September 2012

Friday morning focus

The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel:
To know wisdom and instruction,
to understand words of insight,
to receive instruction in wise dealing,
in righteousness, justice, and equity;
to give prudence to the simple,
knowledge and discretion to the youth—
Let the wise hear and increase in learning,
and the one who understands obtain guidance,
to understand a proverb and a saying,
the words of the wise and their riddles.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction.
(Proverbs 1:1-7 ESV)

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Using Technology for Ministry and Mission

I just watched a live stream of the Passion 2013 Link Night.  There was praise music, prayer, Louie Giglio preached and there was even a Skype chat between him and another preacher.  All this took place in Atlanta, Georgia in the USA.  Yet I could sit and be involved while I wrote my Bible study for tonight's group in my office in Deception Bay.

Technology is incredible! Let's not take it for granted!  Even these studies we are going through with the dBay youth and young adults rely heavily on technology.  We watch DVD segments each week, there are videos on youtube to watch for each chapter, and even in writing the book Francis Chan directs you to webpages and videos.

I think I'm being slightly overwhelmed at how good some people use technology in their ministries. Are we a bit afraid to in our day-to-day local ministries? I sometimes wonder if we are.  We may not have the resources 268Generation or Francis Chan have, but I'm beginning to have a think about how we could possibly use it better, even here in dBay.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Crazy Love - Chapter Two

Here's the online video for chapter 2 of Crazy Love. It might be good to watch this one before you read the chapter just to give you some insight into how it's going to go.  Though if you've been reading the chapter through the week just stop for a bit now and watch this video.

Support or Employment?

What role does a congregation have in the calling of a pastor?

Is a pastor simply applying for a job, and offered employment by the congregation, in turn then working for the congregation as they see fit?  Or when a pastor recognises a call to a congregation must there also be some level of call on the congregation as well to say that they see the pastor as God-lead to come and lead, look after and shepherd them?  If that's the case then should the congregation allow the pastor to work as he feels led by God (having already recognised God's call), and the money they pay him is not then employment, but support?

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Just Stop and Think

Here's a 15 minute video that changed my week. We showed it in church this morning and I hope it impacted the congregation.  It's not earth shatteringly new information, but it is earth shattering when you stop to think what it means for our lives.

Well at least it was for me.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Friday morning focus.

Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few.
 (Ecclesiastes 5:1-2 ESV)

Do you think about what you are doing before you approach God in prayer?

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Is it right to go and see a One Direction concert?

...the good news (if you're a fan) is that this boy band phenomenon of 2012 is rumoured to be returning to Australia for extra concerts later this year.  
But before you grab your parent's credit card and head online to buy tickets, it's a good time to stop and ask yourself the question: is it right to go to the One Direction concert?

This article is a great look at how Christians should respond or at least consider the youth culture around them.  I hope all my youth can look at the world this way, read the article then practically consider these things with every decision they have to make.

Go check out the article.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Responding to the magnificence of God

"I sometimes struggle with how to properly respond to God's magnitude in a world bent on ignoring or merely tolerating Him. But know this: God will not be tolerated. He instructs us to worship and fear Him."
Francis Chan, Crazy Love, p28

Monday, 10 September 2012

Crazy Love - Chapter One

Since we used the Chapter 1 video for the intro study, today I'm posting the "Awe Factor of God" video we're told to go and watch during the chapter.

If you haven't read the chapter yet, do so, then watch this video when Francis mentions it.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Sunday Afternoon

What was the main point of your pastor's sermon this morning?

What were his key points? Can you even remember the passage he spoke from?

As someone you preaches regularly now, I often wonder just what people are taking in, and if they are even listening at all when I preach.  I think we need to recognise a call from God to preach his Word.  So if you're listening to a preacher, remember he has felt a significant Word from God about the passage he's talking about (well at least I would hope he had). If even a few hours later you can't remember the key points, main theme or even the passage, then have you done him and God a dishonour by not hearing the Word and taking it to heart?

Sunday Morning

Well it's about 20 minutes before the start of the service here in Deception Bay, I've been preparing the sermon for this evening's service and it's had me thinking about worship.  I'm preaching on Exodus 25-27 about all the instructions God gives for the tabernacle, the place where he will dwell and where the Israelites will worship.

In thinking about how it affects us today I have been dwelling a lot on the way we worship.  Our focus on services seems ok - God set forth quite an orderly worship schedule - yet it was to be done in an environment of every day obedience.  The tabernacle and the law cannot be separated.

How do we link these ideas of obedience and worship in our services today?

Friday, 7 September 2012

Friday morning focus.

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.
(Romans 6:1-19 ESV)

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Crazy Love - Preface Study

Here's the chapter 1 video for our Crazy Love study. We used this as a bit of an introduction to the book, and I'm now posting this to give you guys an idea of how each week I'll post the video before our Tuesday night Connect Group.

If you weren't there last night check out the video and meditate on some of the ideas.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

How can we be too busy for God...

...when God meets us where we are?

This idea really struck me this morning while I was using a rowing machine at the gym (note the self indulgent little promo that yes, I went to the gym this morning :-p). I was working away on this machine with my iPod playing music into my ears.  A song came on which had amazingly relevant and worshipful words and I found myself interacting with God, even while I did my workout.  I wasn't planning on that, but God came and met me.  I just had to be aware of it enough to respond.

I don't know how many times I've heard people say that they're too busy for a devotion time, or to read the Bible.  It always annoys me because I see reading God's Word as the priority - cut other things (even work or study) before you cut that.  But this morning just highlighted to me how musicians have composed the Word of God into music, and I was able to have a quiet time while rowing at 33 strokes a minute.  It may be in the car, or even on the job site - but I don't think we really have any excuse to say we haven't spent some time with God today.  Because God has been trying to spend that time with us all day (it doesn't have to be music, God uses so many different ways to get out attention), we may just not have been in tune enough to be aware of it

Monday, 3 September 2012

What will happen, what do we do about it?

You are in your car driving home.  Thoughts wander to the game you want to see or meal you want to eat, when suddenly a sound unlike any you've ever heard fills the air.  The sound is high above you. A trumpet? A choir? A choir of trumpets? You don't know, but you want to know. So you pull over, get out of your car, and look up. As you do, you see you aren't the only curious one.  The roadside has become a parking lot. Car doors are open, and people are staring at the sky.  Shoppers are racing out of the grocery store.  The Little League baseball game across the street has come to a halt.  Players and parents are searching the clouds.
And what they see, and what you see, has never before been seen.
As if the sky were a curtain, the drapes of the atmosphere part. A brilliant light spills onto the earth.  There are no shadows.  None.  From whence came the light begins to tumble a river of color - spiking crystals of every hue ever seen and a million more never seen.  Riding on the flow is an endless fleet of angels. They pass through the curtains one myriad at a time, until they occupy every square inch of the sky.  North. South. East. West. Thousands of silvery wings rise and fall in unison, and over the sound of the trumpets, you can hear the cherubim and seraphim chanting, "Holy, holy, holy."
The final flank of angels is followed by twenty-four silver-bearded elders and a multitude of souls who join the angels in worship.  Presently the movement stops and the trumpets are silent, leaving only the triumphant triplet: "Holy, holy, holy." Between each word is a pause.  With each word , a profound reverence.  You hear you voice join in the chorus. You don't know why you say the words, but you know you must.
Suddenly, the heavens are quiet.  All is quiet. The angels turn, you turn, the entire world turns - and there he is.  Jesus.  Through waves of light you see the silhouetted figure of Christ the King.  He is atop a great stallion, and the stallion is atop a billowing cloud. He opens his mouth, and you are surrounded by his declaration: "I am the Alpha and the Omega."
The angels bow their heads. The elders remove their crowns.  And before you is a figure so consuming that you know, instantly you know: Nothing else matters.  Forget stock markets and school reports.  Sales meetings and football games.  Nothing is newsworthy.  All that mattered, matters no more, for Christ has come...
Max Lucado, "When Christ Comes", p xv, xvi

Lucado paints a lovely picture on what the return of Jesus may look like.  If nothing else is going to matter at that point, what does that say about our priorities now?

Friday, 31 August 2012

Friday afternoon at the church

The sky looks great out over Deception Bay this evening. Just thought I'd share.

Friday morning focus

Save, O LORD, for the godly one is gone;
for the faithful have vanished from among the children of man.
Everyone utters lies to his neighbor;
with flattering lips and a double heart they speak.
May the LORD cut off all flattering lips,
the tongue that makes great boasts,
those who say, “With our tongue we will prevail,
our lips are with us; who is master over us?”
“Because the poor are plundered, because the needy groan,
I will now arise,” says the LORD;
“I will place him in the safety for which he longs.”
The words of the LORD are pure words,
like silver refined in a furnace on the ground,
purified seven times.
You, O LORD, will keep them;
you will guard us from this generation forever.
On every side the wicked prowl,
as vileness is exalted among the children of man.
(Psalm 12 ESV)

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Studying Crazy Love

Here's the next book study we're doing with dBay Young Adults and Youth. This should take us through to the end of the year and I'm hoping inject a good dose of passion and focus into us as we head into a holiday break and new year.

I read Francis Chan's Crazy Love at the beginning of the year.  I really enjoyed the book and was challenged by its content.  Recently I've seen the immense amount of online content Chan created to accompany the book as well as another 'study' guide and DVD.  I'm hoping by using all of these tools I can create a study on the book tailored for where we are in Deception Bay right now.

Check out the video, I think its a great book to study in home groups and could be used in most contexts.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Motivating a Spiritual Workout

Gyms are a place where we group together a whole heap of exercise machines in one spot so you can do a range of physical workouts at your own convenience.  In recent years the gym industry has boomed.  Why? Well I think it's having a location to go to, which you pay for, away from your home that motivates you to actually go and do a physical workout.  At home it's too easy to relax and slack off.  But if you know you're having 90 minutes at the gym, most of that will be used up on the machines.  Plus if your paying $10 or more a week for the privilege of using that equipment you're going to want to go numerous times a week so you get your money's worth.  In the lifestyle of today people are paying for that 'motivation' just as much as they're paying for state-of-the-art exercise equipment.

So what's the Spiritual equivalent? Churches? Home groups? Personal devotions? I'm not sure any of those completely portray the motivation a gym represents.  Churches should, but it's too easy to slip into a routine laziness every Sunday, turn up, sit down, sing, 'listen', have a cuppa, go home.  Home groups are great, but again it's very easy to miss a few weeks, not do the readings during the week and not really take home anything of substance for the week ahead apart from a Tim Tam and coffee you had for supper.  I heard somewhere last week that a recent survey states 80% of Australian Christians don't have a regular quiet time.

I'm wondering what the answer is.  For me I do find it in my personal devotion times - I have a very systematic way of working through passages and marking/highlighting different parts of the passage with different colours according to how it is speaking to me.  I find this approach works to not only devotionaly encourage my faith but also stimulate my mind and spirit in teaching, correcting, trust and faithfulness.

So how do we as pastors, leaders, or teachers facilitate a motivating spiritual workout in Church and Home Group which will at least encourage people to do their own spiritual workouts.  People don't have the motivation of money spent, and personal devotions don't have the motivation of going somewhere away from home.  What's the balance, and what's the added element to motivate our congregations to want greater Spiritual strength and knowledge?

Monday, 20 August 2012

For the Glory of an Indescribable God!

Make sure you take 3 minutes out of your day just to sit and watch this video.

3 minutes is nothing, yet sit and reflect on what this video tells us about God, and about our relationship with him.

Sharing Ideas

Anyone got some good ideas on venues or activities that would cater for Youth Groups North of Brisbane?  dBay Youth are going 10 Pin Bowling this Friday nights at AMF Kippa Ring, and it got me wondering if there were any unique ideas out there for places to take a youth group.

If you've been somewhere, or have some ideas comment here and let me know.


Friday, 17 August 2012

Finding the Truth Yourself.

I love this clip of Francis Chan telling on an encounter he had with some Jehovah Witnesses. It really highlights a) how well Francis knows his Bible and how much better I need to; b) how expected he is that God works in his life and how excited he is to share it with anyone; but mainly how important it is to know and understand the Bible for ourselves.

As a Pastor I'm finding that people just seem to nod their heads at what I'm saying during a sermon or Bible study, they just accept what I'm talking about - usually I think out of a general notion of good manners, knowing they need to know the Bible so just sitting and listening to what someone employed to tell hem what they need to know.  At times I am sure people listen and agree out of a respect they have for my studies and the relationship I've developed with them as a pastor.  Even so - I still wish that instead of sitting and nodding, they would be reading and studying themselves. Discovering the truths themselves and having them confirmed, challenged and encouraged when they come to hear a sermon of study.

Friday morning focus

"I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church. 

 Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God. Demetrius has received a good testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself. We also add our testimony, and you know that our testimony is true."
(3 John 1:9-12 ESV)

Again a bit of a different idea this week, but the Bible isn't all about uplifting and emotional hype.  It is full of nitty gritty life applications.  This one is a great one for churches. Sometimes one or two people in the church (or a small group in larger churches) 'put themselves first'... this is obviously not what Jesus had planned for his church or its mission.  It's a huge hindrance and John here equates it with being 'evil' and not really knowing or even having seen God at all.

Let's make sure that a) our own motives are clear whenever it comes to Church business and b) we ensure our leaders are both humble and respected by the entire congregation.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

A good place to start.

After a very in depth look at the theological ties between the Old Testament and Jesus, explaining the new covenant and Jesus as the fulfillment of the old, the writer of Hebrews then states.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. 
Hebrews 10:19-25

I love passages in the Bible that start with 'therefore' (or 'οὖν' for those Greek Geeks out there). It is always a reminder to go back and see what is causing the action we're now being asked to do.  In this case it is the majesty of Christ, and his worthiness as the Son of God and Great High Priest which compels us to undertake this next bit of advice the writer is going to give.

And since that is the point where all Christianity starts (acknowledging Jesus as Lord and Saviour) then this passage is a great place to look at the very essence of what Christian and Church life should look like.  Let's 'draw near' to Jesus - we have the chance to have an intimate relationship with God, that's something of great worth that we should never take for granted.  Then we must hold 'unswervingly' to the faith we now proclaim, it's like we have this goal now that God has promised us through faith and we must head towards it - directly and in a straight line, never deviating no matter the cost or pain.  I love that idea, just steadfastly doing life by the faith I profess, but only doing it because I know God who has promised that my life is safe in him is completely faithful, so no matter the pain or trials I go through I know God has my life safely in his hands and serving him is better even than my own body staying safe and unhurt.

Then comes the critical role that we all have as a church, to 'spur one another on toward love and good deeds'.  As a congregation, and even as the world-wide church, our focus to each other must be encouraging each of us to hold unswervingly to that faith.  It may mean discipline, teaching, rebuking, empowering, training or realigning, but the underlying motive of all those things must be to spur the other person on for their faith.

So that is the a great place to start when considering how we do Christian life together, and how we run our churches.  It's also a great place to start to see the motive of preachers and teachers, understanding their motive is to spur you on, not cut you down.

Hopefully you can see this in your own Church, and emphasise it in your own life.
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