Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Is our overwhelming busyness our own fault?

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
Luke 10:38-42
An overwhelming thing I keep hearing from people these days is about their overwhelming busyness.  Unable to commit to anything, because their life is so busy, unable to help with even minor ministry tasks, let alone coming onto a ministry team, or just not even able to consistently attend services or prayer meetings.

I am aware the church asks a lot of people, I look at my week and see how many night I am out doing different ministry groups or events, and I think it's a little overwhelming, and people who aren't in ministry full time would probably find it even more insane.  However, I'm not talking about the church making people too busy, but people making themselves too busy to the point that they neglect their relationship with Jesus... that they don't take time to sit and listen to Jesus... and that is what drives the lack of commitment we are seeing in our churches today.

Running around with things we think are important... and a lot of those things being almost worthless  - there is worth in things like social media for friendship connections, entertainment for rest and relaxation, and work for financial stability, but when they become over emphasised and make us too busy for other more important things they create a worthlessness as they overshadow the Gospel.

Just as Jesus tells Martha that her running around is making her anxious, but there is one thing that is necessary... He wants to tell us the same thing. There is one thing that is necessary, and that is sitting at Jesus' feet and hearing from Him.  That might be in a church service, a prayer meeting, a personal devotion time... but whatever it is, it needs to be prioritised, and it needs to be consistent. If it is prioritised then everything else will fall into place.

The very solution for our busyness is not to try and time manage and cut things from our schedule, but it is to cut everything but sitting at Jesus' feet and then seeing what He says should be our priority.  I truly believe that if we do that He'll guide us into more Gospel ministries, even around our commitments and we won't feel busy or over pressured about it.

Because we start sitting at His feet.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Church Family

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. (Ephesians 2:19-21 ESV)

I was humbly presented with the care and unity of the church family yesterday.  Just as I was pulling into the church my car broke down.  The water pump failed, causing the cooling belt to come off, which shut down pretty much everything - the engine overheated, the power steering failed, the alternator stopped charging the battery - I just managed to man-handle the thing into an easy spot for a tow truck to come pick it up.

But then I was blessed by the church family, these fellow citizens of saints, who together are members of Christ's household who care for one another in exceptional ways.  My student pastor gave me the phone number of a mobile mechanic who goes to another church but who is always willing to help out when needed.  No tow truck necessary this guy would come and repair the car on the church property.

When he got here and we figured it was the water pump and not just the belt, he admitted it was too big a job for him to do right then, but he would come back early the next morning (before work hours) to get it done before he had other appointments to go to. What mechanic opens up early just to complete a  unbooked job?  Hugely blessed!

Then as soon as one of the administrators heard I wouldn't be getting my car fixed till the next day, she hands me her keys. She knew there were things I'd needed to do that day which had meant driving around to see people, but she didn't just lend me her car for that, she told me to take it home, and just leave it back at the church the next day when I came to get my car. WOW!

It was incredibly humbling to have people do such big and selfless things for me. I wasn't looking for any special treatment and had already planned on walking home and cycling in the next day.  But the church family cares for each other... not just because it's family - but because "Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord."  We are a family built on Jesus, and Jesus is completely compassionate and generous.  Who just gives someone else their car? I remember doing it for my sister, my mother and my father in the past... because we were living together and it was just natural that when they needed it I could lend it.  Yesterday has opened my eyes a little more to this idea that that is how we should be with members of our Christian family as well!

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

The significant change of the Gospel

This just highlights the deeper root of sin doesn't it... not just how we act but who we are. That's what makes the Gospel so life changing... it doesn't just change how we act, it changes who we are!

Monday, 15 August 2016

Celebrating Every Victory

My team, the Essendon Bombers, have had just about the roughest year an AFL team can experience.  Twelve players suspended for the entire season before the season even begins - players who were let down by the club and in most common senses were treated unjustly. With the loss of pretty much their entire senior list of players the Bomber's weren't expected to win a single game in 2016.

Round two came as a surprise then as the Bombers put it all together to beat Melbourne.  As a fan (and club member) a ray of sunshine shone over 2016 - maybe the young guys could pull it together... was this 1993 again and the Baby Bombers doing the impossible?

No... no it wasn't.

Loss after depressing loss was to follow - in round 8 I sat in the members section at Etihad Stadium as North Melbourne walked the Bombers over the park for the first half of the game (the score at half time was 54-4).  There was a comradery among us members sitting in the top row of the stadium... united in our support for a team that had no hope.  But the second half was so much better, the Bombers played well, they pulled the margin all the way back to almost winning, only to lose by 14.  It felt like a win though and I even got a hug from some guy I'd never met just in that moment of celebration.

Then yesterday, round 21 - after 19 straight losses - Essendon beat the Gold Coast Suns. It wasn't a decisive win, it wasn't pretty even... but there was resolve, there was passion, and when the win came there was intense celebration.

The season is still a right off - we'll be the wooden spooners for sure, but even in the small victories, there must be celebration, it wouldn't be worth it if you didn't.  Even back in round 8, we lost by 14 but the way the team played was a victory, and as fans we celebrated what we could - and it felt great!

Celebrating the victories is so important.  Especially when the tide is against you, and you're not in a place to even compete most of the time - like my team in 2016 - then enjoying the wins (even if technically on the scoreboard it may not look like a win) is key to pushing through to a better tomorrow.

In so many cases of ministries in church we are hard up against the world... how can small youth groups compete with the entertainment industry of a consumeristic world?  How can your average church music band compare against the music and pop culture pretty much everyone is influenced by?  Simply the challenge of calling people to something uncommon creates an environment in our world today that makes the tide feel very much against us.

But celebrating any victory is vital - because there is an element for the Church that is not found in the sporting world, and that is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit.  The victory is Jesus' - it always has been and always will be - and He puts the playing field in our favour, no matter how hard pressed we feel.

And so to celebrate the wins is to give Jesus the glory for his victory - and that lifts us.  Sometimes we are so focused on our planning, on the next event, or simply on continuing Gospel work that we don't stop to celebrate when Jesus works.  We need to stop, sing the team song, praise the One who is actually at work, and enjoy the moment where we see His hand acting in victory.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Who is Jesus to you?

Another good reminder that it is Jesus, and who He is as Lord and God and Saviour that gives us the foundation for our faith.

Our salvation is not secured in what we do, what we have, or even the amount of faith we have.  It is secured in who Jesus is.

Theology is important to our faith, because it gives us knowledge about who it is we worship, submit to and serve.

And that security allows the deepest roots of our joy to be pure.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Culture Change is Tough... but Worth It.

I watched "Remember the Titans" last week - a movie I've seen many times, a movie I really enjoy (if you haven't seen it I highly recommend it - but I may just ruin a little of the story line for you as you keep reading).

Coach Boon (Denzel Washington) is placed in a pretty rough spot... in 1971 the desegregation of schools in a town in Virginia creates a boiling pot of emotion... someone high up has decided race is no longer a boundary (which we all know is the right thing), but it hasn't been realised in the practical workings of society yet where ignorance continues to feed horrid racism. And here is Boon, a black man, given the role of head coach over the school's new mixed football team.

The whole scenario is complete chaos. yet Boon approaches the whole situation with a clear vision of what the team will be - and a unwavering resolve on what he expects his football team to be. No matter black or white... no matter the chaos race and racism has created... his team will reach the goal he has set from the vision he has of what his team can be. But in the middle of the chaos what does he need to do? Lay down his standard. It's no longer black and white... it's defence and offence (I love that scene where he makes them get off the bus and reorganise themselves). He makes them bunk with someone from the other race and get to know their all their teammates, not just those they want to hang out with. What he does is put them in uncomfortable positions to break the current culture and set the tide for the new better culture (and what we know today as the proper and right culture).

The first part of the movie depicts really well how tough culture change is - how chaos turns into unrest as order is forced upon it. How some people can't take the pressure of that unrest and walk away - both boys on the team and even some of Coach's own staff decide that they can't change to fit the new culture... and Boon let's them go - even when he's hurt that they are going and doesn't want them too. Some of the boys need to be benched and rested - taught to support the team and not be in the spot light for their own glory. Some need to learn that they need to sacrifice for the good of others... All of them need to learn that there is authority and order in the world and are the better for learning to come under Coach's authority as it teaches them something about the real world too.

And when it clicks... when that new culture takes shape and Boon's vision for the team comes to fruition then they are a mighty force to behold, and produce the perfect season.

At different times in our ministries culture needs to change. I'm dealing with that at multiple different levels over different ministries at the moment, some of them just growing and changing and some of them sitting in a space of chaos that needs to find order and restitution.  Not that our ministries reflect the aims and goals of football - but if we consider that we are on a mission, that Jesus set us to, about going into the world and making disciples of all nations, and all that entails, then we have a distinct goal to reach - and that creates a vision of what we see God has planned for our ministries.

So when the culture of the ministry doesn't fit the vision of what it could be, then it needs to change.  And change only happens if the leader holds unswervingly to the vision of what it can be.  They lay down the structure and standard of what is needed, and they take their team along with them, guiding them to catch that vision too.  Like in the movie, this can cause unrest - order to chaos always does - and it can even mean some people who can't catch the vision moving on...

But when it clicks... when the vision is grabbed and it surges forward to work in the way it is meant to, then it's a great place to be, it's effective, and in our circumstance... it is when God will be most glorified.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Going deeper - a Pastor's responsibility.

After my late night pondering on the surface level nature of our culture and even interactions in the church, today I have been starting to delve a little into some books that may help me develop some ideas on breaking that surface and going deeper.

In his book Brothers We are not Professionals, John Piper has reminded me that, as always, the change needs to start in me.  As pastor and shepherd if I am not willing to break my surface and let people see my deep emotions and passions then how can I expect to see others'? Piper uses Jeremiah's lament over the fall of Jerusalem as a brilliant example of this.
Lamentations is a deeply emotional book. Jeremiah writes about what means most to him, and he writes in agony. He feels all the upheaval of Jerusalem in ruins. There is weeping (1:2), desolation (1:4), mockery (1:7), groaning (1:8), hunger (1:11), grief (2:11), and the horrid loss of compassion as mothers boil their own children to eat them (2:20; 4:10).  If there ever was intensity and fervor int the expression of passion from the heart, this is it... 
After reading Lamentations, we can no longer believe that unpondered prayers are more powerful or real or passionate or heartfelt or genuine or alive than prayers that are thoughtfully and earnestly (and painfully?) poured out through a carefully crafted form.  The anger of formalism is real.  Prayers and sermons that are read from a manuscript are usually stiff and unnatural and artificial. But the danger of spontaneity is also great.  If the heart is without passion, it will produce lifeless, jargon-laden spontaneity. And if the heart is aflame, no form will quench it... 
Emotions are like a river flowing out of one's heart.  Form is like the riverbanks. Without them the river runs shallow and dissipates on the plain.  But banks make the river run deep.  Why else have humans for centuries reached for poetry when we have deep affections to express? The creation of a form happens because someone feels a passion.  How ironic, then, that we often fault form when the real evil is a dry spring... Many pastors are not known for expressing deep emotions. This seems to me especially true in relation to the profoundest theological realities. This is not good, because we ought to experience the deepest emotions about the deepest things. And we ought to speak often, and publically, about what means most to us, in a way that shows its value.
~John Piper - Brothers we are not Professionals - p146-149
And so it's not just about spontaneous, in the moment, passionate reactions... it is about diligently forming my emotions, passions and feelings into my sermons and prayers.  Actively planning to share my personal life and reactions publically as part of what God has said to me about what God is wanting to say to the church through the preaching of His Word.  This creates an environment where people will expect me to go deeper when they ask for help, because I have been going deeper publically already.

Monday, 1 August 2016

Peeling back the surface...

Our culture today is happy with the surface level, well actually I don't think it is - people are longing for intimate and deep relationships that truly connect at a heart level, but we seemingly have lost the ability to do so, so we settle with the surface level.

But when there is hurt, when people seek help, there is an ache to get to the heart of the matter. I'm not entirely sure how, but we as the Church need to get better and peeling back the surface and really helping.

I think this is my next little project in my ministry, how do I get to the heart, and really help people who are crying out for it.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Good tips for running a worship ministry

As I settle more and more into running a worship ministry across two campuses I see more and more how these points by Austin Stone's worship director, Chris Collins, are incredibly helpful.  As I read this article I was encouraged to see his points as things I have been attempting to implement in my time here at Birkdale, so thought I would share the article wider so other's can read and be helped to.  And they are good points for single campus churches too!

Check it out.
Pastoring Worship Leaders in a Multi-Campus Model

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Freshening of my spirit, with the Spirit.

I was reading through Ezekiel 36 last night - sitting in a prayer and worship time with young adults from my church, and here I was totally absorbed in God telling Ezekiel to prophesy to the mountains of Israel which had been run down by the invading armies.

God tells the mountains that they will be renewed, because their people are coming home, and will live on them once again.

I sat there hearing God speak to me.  I have been feeling a bit run down recently, caught in the culture of the world, and the expectation of what the world thinks a pastor is.  I think I'd been enjoying my new role in my new church so much I'd allowed myself to become a bit complacent about the call to holiness and set-apartness that I am called to first as a Christian.

At the beginning of the prayer time I had asked Jesus to personally speak to me as I worked hard to focus on Him - because I had felt over the past few weeks I had been almost acting on autopilot, doing the things people needed to see a pastor do, but not focusing on connecting to Jesus through those things myself.  And that's when He too me to Ezekiel 36.

In some sense I was the mountain.  As a pastor I am a person people come to, or look to to find guidance - and the world around me had run me down.  God was promising to renew me first, so that I could be the renewing of His people by His Spirit.

As Ezekiel 36:26-27 says He first needed to give me a new heart and new Spirit, for me to be empowered by Him to live according to His statutes and obeying His rules, and then for His Name, He could use me to do that in other people too.

It was an incredibly empowering time, and then as I turned the page I remembered what Ezekiel 37 was all about - the vision of the valley full of dry bones - and so I read it allowed to the young adults there, feeling God calling me to pray that those who were there that night feeling dry (just as I had at the beginning) would be refreshed and have the breath of God reenter them and the Spirit renew them.   It was a specific call from God to speak to people at that time and moment, and it was powerful, because I saw straight up the work God had done in me, so that He could work through me.

I encourage you to go and read Ezekiel 36 and 37 if you are feeling dry in your faith - let God speak to you as He promised Israel He would refresh and renew their faith for His glory!

Monday, 18 July 2016

Real interactions...

Last week as most of the world reverted back to the 90's with the latest Pokemon craze, I found myself feeling like it was the 90's for a whole different reason.

With being out of the office a lot, having my internet connection go down at home and then being away for TeenStreet I used up my data allowance for the month on my mobile, I have a high allowance so usually breeze in each month, but this time I had a good 6 days where instead of paying for extra data I decided to turn it off and wait it out.

So last week my phone could only do two things... make phone calls and send text messages.

What I found was that though I did get annoyed if there was something I needed to post or wanted to share but couldn't, most of the time I felt much less of a need to have my phone in my hands and whenever I had a spare moment I spent more time observing what was going on around me.

Over the years of having a smart phone it has just become natural that whenever a spare moment comes up I pull out the phone and browse... but without the ability to do that I was much more present in the real world.  I walked places and looked in windows, smiled at people walking the other way (if they weren't on their phone) and generally interacted better with what was around me.  I chatted with the lady making my kebab for lunch, instead of ordering then checking Instagram. Most of all I wasn't bored or disconnected because I didn't have my phone... I was just engaged with the world around me.

Since getting my data back on the weekend I feel less of a need to constantly be checking things on my phone - I'm glad to have the ability to share something or be in contact with someone if I need - but I am going to try and be more absorbed in the real world around me than the virtual space social media creates.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

The Lord helps!

The Lord has helped us in the past, He is helping us in the present, and we believe that He will help us all the way through. He will help you too, if you just follow His Word and by a simple faith do the right thing
~Charles Spurgeon
I'm glad as the passionate, responsible, empowered and driven pastor that Spurgeon was, he was able to proclaim this great truth for himself and extend it to others as an offer of what God offers us all through Christ.

Today, may I (as a pastor) proclaim this truth in my life as well, and extend it to all who read as what God is offering you right now through Christ!

Monday, 27 June 2016

Receive and Enjoy

It's the tragedy of the effect of sin - which has seriously broken this world.  Even pastors find themselves wrestling with this brokenness, don't ever feel like you are alone in your brokenness. We should all deal with it together, in unity, and under the grace of Jesus which we need to keep encouraging each other to simply receive and enjoy!

Monday, 20 June 2016

Lazy in your Busyness

I was at a conference recently, listening to Karl Faase speak about leadership, specifically speaking to pastors who were parts of ministry teams at their churches - so there was a distinct leadership/working together feel to his focus.

At one point Karl spent time talking about laziness - about an inherent laziness that is in all, not just leaders, and one of the things leaders have to deal with is motivating people to actually buy in to whatever ministry or commitment it is they are seeking help with.  However, it is not a laziness that sees people doing nothing and being completely pathetic and lethargic.  In fact the majority of our laziness comes from somewhere else entirely;
"A good example of laziness is not just doing nothing, but being absolutely flat out doing useless things"  - Karl Faase
When we honestly take stock of our lives I think we'll realise that those things we spend a lot of time doing are really quite useless.  The endless scrolling of Facebook walls, finding the funniest meme of the day, viewing that next funny cat video... and then the next one... or just expectantly being consumed by waiting for that next notification on your phone.  All that may add up to us actually appearing very busy, but in fact it is the height of laziness.
Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.  - Ephesians 4:28 
Do we ever think about our laziness as being stealing?  Stealing time and profit from our employer, stealing time and relationship from our families, friends, and most importantly, God? And that our business in useless things is the key contribution to our thieving?

Part of this is also attributed to the fact that we are never intentionally quiet and engaging with God.  In our laziness to connect with God we actually make ourselves so busy so that we don't "have time" to have a quiet time, or prayer time, or even to read our Bibles. That is stealing from God!

It made me ask the question, where do I do nothing in quiet except commune and interact with God?  In preparation for sermons, meetings with leaders, guiding people spiritually I spend lots of time interacting with God - and that is not a useless thing - but then when it is my own time I probably want to 'switch off' and so I turn to my phone, my computer or my TV... and so my intentionality to personally spend time with God is probably lacking. And so I want to stop stealing.

Do you want to be a thief?

If not then you need to think through this as well.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Romans 12:11

Some great words in this verse, and when you put it all together gives you a knock on your head about the attitude you have to life at the moment.

slothful - an inherent laziness, to the point of uselessness.

zeal - passion that drives to action.

fervent - displaying passion intently.

So do not let laziness become so ingrained in your lifestyle that it murders the actions of your passion... instead intently display that passion you have in the Spirit by serving the Lord.

Friday, 3 June 2016

Prepping for Ministry

When we think of preparing for ministry we think about meetings, strategies, reading, whiteboards, band practice and all those things we do to ensure our event or sermon or service goes well.

When you think about sports they have that element of preparation too - training, strategy meetings, game play lessons - but they have another important part of preparation too, which I think we forget about when it comes to ministry.

Part of their prep... is recovery.

Ice baths, cool downs, recovery sessions in pools/ocean, massage, physio.  They're all things done directly after a match, and then after training through the week, to ensure that through recovery their bodies are prepared for the game the next week.

So now I am looking at my ministry, and the ministries in my church which I have responsibility over, and I am wondering; "What is my equivalent to an ice bath, or a massage, or even just a cool down?"

If you don't have recovery... people burn out.  Recently I've had people stepping down from positions, and I think it's got a lot to do with the fact they feel they've worked hard and now want some time out... so they drop the entire responsibility. That's not healthy for them... or the ministry.

The Austin Stone Worship blog has a great post on Biblical & Practical Applications for Establishing Sabbath Rest - which I think goes a long way to providing the recovery sessions we need in ministry as part of our preparation for ministry.  It is an old article (2014), which makes me think it's a continuing problem in churches - I'm glad Austin Stone have thought about it, and I'm hoping by thinking about it now my church will have healthier people in healthier ministries in years to come.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Good resource - The Purple Book

I am currently trying to develop a strategy of taking our new converts and giving them the best possible chance to be discipled into mature believers in Christ.  We celebrate our new converts, but sometimes I wonder a few weeks later if we've been investing in them properly.  I think at the moment it all comes down to where they land within the social construct of the church; if they fall in with a strong group of believers they grow and stay; if not we tend to slowly see them disconnect.

I want to be much more strategic about how we engage new believers, and journey with them along the path of discipleship.

I've been looking at Rice Broocks & Steve Murrell's "The Purple Book" recently.  It's a comprehensive group of studies and questions which really outline a lot of the Christian faith, and reasons for belief and disciplines within the church.   As a pastor looking in, it looks good, I'm not sure how it practically works out because I haven't led anyone through it, and don't really know anyone who has led anyone through it (I would love to hear from someone who has been using it).

On the whole though it looks like a great resource to at least base a discipleship strategy off, if not use it to run people through.  It would take a long time to run through all the studies... but discipleship isn't a quick 6 week course is it? It's a life-long journey, and if we can pair new believers up with mature believers for a life long journey then we're really giving them the best shot aren't we.

My other thought was maybe coming up with a team of "Purple People" who could be brought along new converts, then once they have finished the studies maybe have a 'passing on' to say a small group or other mentoring kind of program - so though they don't journey life-long with someone, we are still ensuring they will have someone to continue, before becoming a mentor themselves.

That's a long-term vision though... just wanting to see something start off soon at the moment.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Jesus Only Jesus...

Just a great reminder to always keep Christ and His Gospel central, and in its self-sufficient entirety in all we do. In our personal lives, in our interaction with others, in our ministry and especially in our preaching.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Being a Pastor is about who I am, not what I do.

As a pastor it is very easy to evaluate life and work by what you do, moreso than who you are.

I am extremely guilty of this. I have a type-A mindset that tells me my worth is based on the things that I do, instead of whose I am. When Jesus says in Luke 10 that the necessary thing that I must do is sit at His feet, I scoff. When Jesus says in John 15 that when I abide in Him my joy will be made complete, I try to justify a 15-minute quiet time in the morning as me abiding faithfully because I am just too busy for more. Do you see my hypocrisy?
~Kenny Klinglesmith

This article on the Austin Stone Worship blog reminded me once again that as a pastor it is who I am that is really important, and that will in turn drive what I do.  It's not the other way round.

Go and read the rest of the article here - God is the one in whom our identity must lie, He calls us to rest in Him so that we find out who we are, we are His, and then we go and do His work - because of what He wants... not what we feel we need to be.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Refreshed like having a fresh wind blowing the dust away

Even as a pastor I deal with sin... at times I deal with complacency and a sense of worthlessness in my own life. Simply put I am human... and though I spend a lot of my time specifically working to build up the faith of others, sometimes I come to realise mine has wavered.

It's times like that I need refreshing. I need a retreat, or some specific time to go and work on my personal journey with Jesus.  A lot of times preparing sermons helps me in that, because how can I preach this stuff to others if it hasn't personally affected my life?  Tonight I am preaching from Romans 2 on the judgement of God, that has certainly made me reflect on things in my life at the moment.

This morning on the way to church this song came on in the car... and it was a beautiful refreshment of my spirit, because I realised it was a prayer I needed to pray to God today.

Rushing wind blow through this temple,
Blowing out the dust within,
Come and breathe you breath upon me,
I've been born again.
Holy spirit, I surrender, take me where you want to go,
Plant me by your living water,
Plant me deep so I can grow.  
Jesus, you're the one, who sets my spirit free,
Use me lord, glorify, your holy name through me. 
Separate me from this world lord.
Sanctify my life for you.
Daily change me to your image,
Help me bear good fruit.
Every day you're drawing closer.
Trials come to test my faith.
But when all is said and done lord,
You know, it was worth the wait. 
Jesus, you're the one, who set my spirit free,
Use me lord, glorify, your holy name through me.  
Rushing wind blow through this temple,
Blowing out the dust within,
Come and breathe you breath upon me,
For I've been born again.
Keith Green "Rushing Wind"

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Wisdom... not just knowledge

Information is constantly accessible these days.  It's at our fingertips every moment of every day. It makes for everyone thinking they are an expert on just about anything. No longer can we give advice, because how dare we contradict what someone has searched for on their phone.
There is no fool so great a fool as a knowing fool…to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom. - Charles Spurgeon
Knowledge is easy... wisdom is still the challenge, and should be our goal. People these days need to learn how to take the vast amount of information they have access to... and use it to come to the best outcome without bias... and ultimately find the truth.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Psalm 22

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.
Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
Psalm 22:1-5
This was read in church last night, and I was left reflecting on this idea that so often we focus on our feelings.  We feel lonely... we feel abandoned... we feel hurt... or in trouble, unrest or distress.  But God doesn't change.  God is always holy, always trustworthy, He is always the deliverer and rescuer.  He made us those promises through Jesus, and what Jesus did on the cross.

Maybe sometimes (like the psalmist did here) we simply need to take our eyes off our feelings, and put them on the actions of our unchanging God.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Thinking about sacrifice.

Christians today like to play it safe. We want to put ourselves in situations where we are safe 'even if there is no God.' But if we truly desire to please God, we cannot live that way. We have to do things that cost us during our life on earth but will be more than worth it in eternity.
~Francis Chan, Crazy Love p114
Hebrews 11 is a fantastic chapter of encouragement, giving us a great testament to what God has done throughout history through people who had faith in Him. Able, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David and many many more.  Accounts of their faith, about what was promised to them and what God did through them are there so that now we can, as it says in Heb 12:1-2;
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.
We have a greater centre to our faith than what any of these 'heroes of our faith' had, because Jesus is the 'founder and perfecter' of our faith. In Jesus we are given the full revelation of God.  In Jesus is the fulfilment of the promises to made to those heroes of faith.  The promise of Abraham's decsendents is fully realised when grace is offered to all the world because of Jesus; Noah's promise for salvation is fully seen in Jesus dying for all sin; God told Moses that He would be Israel's God and they His people, making them a kingdom of priests and a holy nation - this is fully fulfilled when Jesus sent His Holy Spirit to dwell within His people.  We have a greater motivation, encouragement, challenge and intimacy because of Jesus. And surrounded by that cloud of witnesses, we should cast off all those things that hinder and surge on in good works for God as we were created to do.

Yet I feel Francis Chan's quote at the beginning of this post rings true about the greater number of believers in this day and age.  Hebrews 11 is a great chapter of encouragement for us as we see what God has done, however it should also be noted that all of these heroes of our faith gave up much for the faith they are now famous for.  Caleb was murdered because he brought a more acceptable offering; Noah built an ark - a giant work of many years of hard labour - at a time when an ark looked like the last thing anyone would need; Abraham packed up his family and left to a completely foreign land; Moses was hiding from the law, with a wife and a simple life, but went back into the land where he was wanted for murder to be a spokesperson for God... and on and on.

I think many Christians today want to be connected to Jesus. They understand that He is the only one who can save them from the consequences of their sins, and they certainly don't want to have to deal for the consequences for their sin.  Some get to a point where they are really convinced of the price of their sin, and the cost it was to God to send Jesus, and the cost of the cross, and are truly sorry for their sin - that it would cause that much pain.  But I fear the Christians Francis Chan are talking about don't go as far as realising Jesus is our Lord, that means He's the King.  He said this himself...
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me." (Matt 28:18)
Philippians also defines the status of Jesus now that He has risen...
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)
Even if you look at human kings, they demanded that their subjects give up much for them, and their rule.  The king made decrees and people obeyed.  The king went to war and his people just got up and went with him. If the king wanted a feast the people brought him their animals and crops, because at the end of it all the king owned those animals and crops anyway.

So do we as Christians think of Jesus in that way? What He says we do, where He sends we go, what He requires we give.  The big question is are we willing to sacrifice our lives for our faith?  That's not going to the extreme of dying for our faith, but simply sacrificing things we want, for the sake of what Jesus calls us to.

This is where most get caught up I think, this is where a lot of people these days say, "I'm happy to hear about Jesus, to sing the songs, to feel the love, to understand the guilt of my sin and the grace I've been shown... but!!! But I am going to live my life my way... you can't expect me to sacrifice my happiness, my wealth, my want for relationships, my sense of comfort."

The simple fact is yes I do expect you to do that, because Jesus expects you to do that and He is the King.  Jesus is the King who did that for us in such a way we can never fully conceive, and never pay back - so praise Him He's given it as a free gift.  But to accept His free gift and not be willing to sacrifice is not living in a way that is worthy of that sacrifice He made for us.

Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:1-3;
"I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."
I love that! 'Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called...'!!!!! That means sacrifice... that means honouring your King by letting Him command.  It is not about earning your freedom or salvation, we've already been called into that, but because of that salvation we now have something of such great worth we need to be willing to sacrifice for it.

It just makes sense to me, and I get so frustrated when it doesn't for others. Human selfishness (though I recognise I fall into it too) is the single most frustrating thing in my ministry. It is the single biggest road block in people living a life for Jesus. It is the single biggest challenge to people finding true happiness - even though they think keeping things for themselves will make them happy.

In this day and age I think the biggest call I make as a pastor is for people to sacrifice their lives for Jesus... even when talking to Christians.  It is something I constantly preach to myself, I understand I need constant reminding of it too - but if we were all reminding ourselves of it more often I feel the Church would experience extraordinary growth!

Maybe today ask yourself what you are keeping for yourself, what are you refusing to sacrifice... because I tell you that will be the thing stopping you from serving and loving God more!

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

The best ministry starts small.

Over the last couple of weeks I've had many different discussions with many different people about starting ministries, or wanting to be involved in ministries at our church.  First off that is hugely exciting, because it really shows the life in my church, and that the Holy Spirit is actively involved in the lives of people in the church.

And the thing I am realising, that even in what can be defined as a 'large' church (not by American mega church standards, but at least the biggest church I have been involved with), the best way to begin a ministry is small and simple.

We have a lot of resources as a bigger church, and we have some very big and successful ministries already established.  That can lend itself to thinking we need to start anything new big and well structured... or that people who want to get involved in ministry need to do so in some formal and well defined way.

However again I say, I believe thinking small, but intentional is still the key to starting a good ministry.

For example I encouraged someone this week not to think about formalising a specific mentoring interaction to start something they felt God calling them to do, but to instead subtly, yet intentionally start investing in the person God has laid on their heart.  Instead of going and asking if they can be their mentor and start discipleship catchups with them, they are simply going to intentionally engage that person in conversation every Sunday and build relationship over time. I am confident if they are committed to doing this then a discipleship relationship will naturally develop... and be healthier for its organic beginning.

The key to ministry is relationship, not programs. If we start with programs it can be really hard to develop proper relationships... but if we start with building relationships from the outset then those relationships can define what kind of programs we put in place to facilitate them... and the ministry may grow to be very large - but it will be much healthier because it started small.

Monday, 29 February 2016

Shifting our view on suffering.

So true! When we look at the here and now - at the situation in the present - it is so easy to take our eyes off God and to think Him unfair or even cruel for allowing us to suffer or experience the pain we find ourselves in.

At those times though, we need to stop, we need to step back and look at our suffering with an eternal perspective. Because with the view of eternity we see two main things.  We look back and see that God's love for us is unmeasurably, overwhelmingly great.  Because when we look back we see the cost Jesus paid so that we might live - we see what He suffered because he took the punishment for sin upon Himself on the cross.  The second thing we see is the final result for us of Jesus' acts on the cross.  We look forward to peace, we look forward to glory and we see ourselves in the future place, doing what we were created to do... praising God.

With those two things as an eternal backdrop, we can take on a completely different perspective to the misery and suffering we are experiencing in the moment.

Monday, 22 February 2016

In it to End It 2016

 I have been supporting The End It Movement for years now, and it has been amazing to see the work that has been done to end slavery in our generation.

The power of awareness is amazing, because awareness brings advocating, and advocating really does bring change.  This year a bill is being put to the U.S congress to set 11 million dollars towards a global disbandment of human trafficking... and that bill has been created because senators became aware of millions of students advocating the End It Movement's "Shine a Light on Slavery Day".  That's incredible!

This year's Shine a Light On Slavery Day is Feb 25th. So go and check out http://enditmovement.com to see all the latest figures on slavery world-wide, get informed, and then on the 25th draw a red X on your hand. During the day if people ask you about it you can tell them that you are in it to end it when it comes to slavery.

END IT is a Coalition of the leading organizations in the world in the fight for FREEDOM. Each of our amazing Coalition Partners are doing the work, on the ground, everyday, to bring AWARENESS, PREVENTION, RESCUE, and RESTORATION.
[End It Movement Website

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Resurrection changes everything...

I saw the new movie Risen last night. I highly recommend it as an inquisitive and thought provoking story revolving around the resurrection of Jesus.

Not to ruin the story line, but the movie follows the story of Clavius, the Roman solider second only to Pontious Pilot in Judea in AD33.  Clavius oversees Jesus' crucifixion and when his body goes missing three days later is charged with finding those who stole it, and bringing proof that the tales of a resurrection are false.

I felt the movie gave a very real depiction of the Roman occupation of Judea, a very correct description of crucifixion and treated Scripture with great respect and humility.

However the big thing that came out over and over again for me was the fact that if Jesus did actually rise from the dead that changes everything!!  The claim is huge, but if Jesus really did rise from the dead, then that is revolutionary... no one has ever done that... it means everything He said is true... it means He truly must be the Son of God - God Himself!

Even the non-believing Clavius is forced to wrestle with this... there may be many rumours, but if true that means even his loyalty to Rome has to change, if Jesus is really alive then his whole life must change too.

It left me thinking about how often I wrestle with the completely incredible fact that Jesus did rise from the dead.  No matter what anyone ever says, I know that happened - it is one of the objective truths of the Gospel.  Yet even-so I come to take it for granted. I lose my wonder, I spend more time thinking about my own life, than the fact my life is resurrected like Jesus was.

Risen helped put me in the scenario of a community learning someone has risen from the dead.  The disbelief, the indignation that people were lying, the slightest glimmer of wonder if this had really happened, the contemplation of what it means if this thing that is so unbelievable actually happened.  It has given me a new sense of wonder at my Lord, and what He did.  It moves me way out beyond a human perspective of the world - because a human perspective cannot account for someone who was dead for three days being alive again.

It really does change everything.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Long term efforts... big results

It is inspiring to see the work of Watoto Childcare Ministries. I have been involved and supporting Watoto since 2004, and it is great to see the long term effects this mission group is having on children, and in turn, the nation of Uganda.

This article just highlights how Watoto kids are growing up well, and moving on to work towards bettering their nation.


Check out the inspiring stories of three students, who have been blessed by God and are now going out to bless their nation.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Updating Me

I've updated my "About Me" page :-)

It's been a few years, and with the recent change of job/ministry I thought it would be a good idea.

If you're new to my blog check out the About Me link and get a little of an idea of the person behind the ramblings you've been reading.

Working on the Mission to see people Worship Jesus

Francis Chan is one of the biggest influences on how I do ministry.  His raw faith and humble outpouring of what God is saying in his heart radically illustrates to me how bland I allow my vision and life to be at times. I find it easy to fall into this default mode of just going with the flow... and within the consumeristic culture we have today the persistence of a desire to be entertained constantly threatens to invade the church.  Being comfortable, being happy and having it easy are excused by 'being joyful', 'praising', and 'offering our best'... but if offering our best means spending millions on buildings and sound equipment that only those in the church will experience then it is an excuse, not a truth.

I need to be constantly reminded that while on earth our objective is mission, because there are people out there who don't worship Jesus - and we were all created to worship Jesus! If there are people not doing that, then the greatest form of our worship is to go and show others what they have been created to do.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

What is your social media speaking to others?

But the things that come out of a person's mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. (Matthew 15:18 NIV)
You know the saying, 'what comes from your mouth is a sign of the state of your heart', but these days I think we can expand that to what we see on your Facebook timeline. Social media has very much become the mouthpiece of our lives hasn't it?
“For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. (Luke 6:43-45 ESV)
There are times when I am greatly disappointed when looking through my Facebook feed - or Instagram feed - or Snapchat story... because I see people who profess a faith in Jesus posting some pretty worldly stuff, some pretty terrible language and sometimes quite hateful and unkind material.

If questioned about it most times people simply use the excuse that they've just 'shared' it... not actually written it themselves, but why is that any less disappointing?  It has your name on it now... when people see it they connect it to you...

The one that gets me the most is when people think it's fine to use acronyms to insinuate swearing, or blasphemy... but because it is just 2 or 3 letters that makes it ok?  No!  My mind reads that out in full, and so I am sure everyone gets what you're saying... even if you're not meaning to say it. What a pathetic excuse.

On the most part I think we all need to clean up out act on social media.  If we're wanting to shine Jesus in our lives, then we can't taint that by what people read on our walls.  If your Facebook feed is full of bad fruit then you need to question how good a tree is rooted in your life.  It may be time for some serious pruning!

Friday, 22 January 2016

A Wonderful Life

It's a good reminder isn't it?  In our age of social media and celebrity influence we are often bombarded with illusions of perfection.  Often social media is the place to share the things you want people to see - you want people to know you met that person, went to that place, ate that amazing food.  And so often social media shows a very 'one-sided' view of life.

A result of that is we come to thing our life is only good when everything is perfect.  We need to remember there is actually only One who is perfect - and His love means that though my life may not be perfect... my life is wonderful because of Him!

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Here's my heart Lord take and seal it!

Come thou fount of every blessing 
Tune my heart to sing thy grace 
Streams of mercy never ceasing 
Call for songs of loudest praise 
Teach me some melodious sonnet 
Sung by flaming tongues above 
I'll praise the mount I'm fixed upon it 
Mount of thy redeeming love 

Here I raise my Ebenezer 
Hither by thy help I come 
And I hope by thy good pleasure 
Safely to arrive at home 
 Jesus sought me when a stranger 
Wondering from the fold of God 
He, to rescue me from danger 
Interposed His precious blood 

O to grace how great a debtor 
Daily I'm constrained to be! 
Let thy goodness like a fetter, 
Bind my wandering heart to thee 
Prone to wander Lord I feel it, 
Prone to leave the God I love 
Here's my heart, O take and seal it, 
Seal it for thy courts above

Been reflecting on the words to this old hymn over the past few weeks and really resonating with the imagery they lead me to.  Music, lyrics, melodies and rhyme can push home theological ideas with great potency. The idea of tuning my heart to sing God's grace, and being taught to focus by song makes sense to me - I see that I get out of tune... kind of like my guitar, needing an adjustment quite often to be back on the right path.

Remembering that Jesus sought me when a stranger, when I was wondering from the fold of God is key for me, because I realise so many times I turn away again, but Jesus comes to find me, it's not like I'm written off until I perform some pious act to make myself worthy again. Because I am prone to wander... I do feel that.. I am prone to leave the God I love.  So the imagery of Jesus continuing to seek me out brings a sense of peace and comfort that is saturated in His love.  And so like a 'fetter' (a chain used to tie and bind) I embrace His goodness pulling my heart back and connecting it to Him once again.

So every time I sing or hear this song, the final lines become an offering anew... take my heart again Lord, forgive me, renew me, seal me to your plans and will once again.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Blowing away self focused Christianity.

In a world that is out to get the Christian, there are some who say we need to fight, we need to stand up, we need to defend and we need to drive out those who are coming for us.

But didn't the Bible say this was going to happen? Doesn't the Bible tell us we will die for Jesus? Didn't Jesus himself talk about people hating us? And then there was his whole 'turn the other cheek' thing...

The threat ISIS is on the world is serious, and should be dealt with - but not because Christians need to fight for their lives.  That's not our focus is it?

John Piper brought  a very challenging message about the Lamb's Book of Life at Passion this morning. He questioned what the Christian's focus must be.

Looking in eternity past we see that the Lamb was always going to be slain, and His book of life was written before the foundations of the world - the plan was always to offer salvation to the saints.  And in eternity future those saints will be with the Lamb, crying out how worthy He is, because He was slain.  In that light why are our lives so much of a focus for us? Shouldn't it be Jesus? Shouldn't it be our love for Him?

Jesus didn't focus on staying alive, much to our benefit - so if loving Him is our focus then our lives should be considered forfeit as well. That changes the way we look at the threat of terrorism, of how we handle refugees to our nation, how we hold onto the very culture of our nation. Our focus must be being in love with Jesus! And Jesus loves the poor, the destitute, the lonely and the refugee!

Sunday, 3 January 2016

From Victim to Victor!

I hadn't thought about it in that way before.  Louie Giglio kicked off the 2016 Passion Conference by speaking about those amazing words "He is Risen" that were spoken by the angel sitting on the stone after it had been rolled away from the tomb entrance.

Louie's right, not long after this Jesus turned up in a locked room to show himself to the disciples... a locked room - he basically came through the wall - so he didn't need to sit there and wait for someone to roll the stone out of the way so he could leave the tomb hey!

But God had huge plans for His followers, and those plans start with the substitution of His Son on the cross for us, but lurch forward with the victory of the resurrection.  Jesus was a victim of death, but then he became the victor over death.  The same goes for us, we were once a victim of sin, but at some point something fundamentally changes and we become victors over sin because of Jesus. And so God had the stone rolled away so we could come and see what He had done, we could see a victory, become part of that victory.

I often blame my humanness for my constant sin, and though my humanness does continually cause me to sin, I get to the point of using it as a crutch, almost an excuse to sin... that is not right!  I am a victor, not a victim!  We have been let in and we need to live fundamentally changed lives that represent that!

I praise God for His Word, and for people like Louie Giglio and conferences like Passion which bring to me completely new revelations of the Gospel!

Friday, 1 January 2016

In the 'new' beginning...

Welcome to 2016.  A new year brings the opportunity for a new beginning and a refocusing of mindset.  I must admit I lost my way a little in 2015. It was a year of change,; a year of trials and difficulties that forced some significant life changes for me.  During that time I kind of retreated into myself, shut myself down (both socially and spiritually) and became very self-centred and hardhearted.

Over the last month or so I'd been feeling I was slowly reemerging, that God was doing His best to break through, and that though in some ways my humanness was trying to hold out, it couldn't possible resist the love and grace God was constantly showing me.

Christmas is a hugely busy time for a pastor, but once carols, and lights and the 'events' were over I had a week where I could reflect on the what Jesus did, what love this celebration was forged in, and I found myself really connecting again with what Jesus did for me, and what He's called me to do for Him.

So more than ever, New Years Day feels like a new beginning this year. I'm committing to a Bible Reading plan - something I have never really liked, but I feel I need the discipline - I'm using it as a 'fast-paced' reading technique which I hope will encourage my 'slow-paced' reading which really fell away last year.  It's a chronological plan so obviously today's reading was Genesis 1-3, I was centered again on how God speaks and things happen.  My prayer is He speaks into my life this year so that things happen.

For others considering how to embrace a new beginning this year I found this article from Desiring God really helpful.

Advice for Another Year of Bible Reading

Happy New Year everyone...
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