Browsing articles from "April, 2011"
Apr 30, 2011
neil

The 3 great traps of leadership

Rick Warren lead us in a masterly Bible study on 1 John 2 at the exponential conference yesterday. Here are my notes. Hope you find them useful!

Love the world – don’t love the world

The Christian is to love the world because Jesus loved the world.

John 3:16 – For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

The Christian is not to love the world because Jesus did not love the world.

1 John 2:16 – Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world.

The problem in the church is that we get these the wrong way round. We don’t love godless people (the world in John 3:16) but we do love godless things (the world’s values in 1 John 2:15-16).

We do the exact opposite of what Jesus calls us to do.

That includes leaders too.

The three great traps of leadership

1. The lust of the flesh – our passions.

2. The lust of the eyes – our possessions.

3. The pride of life – success & status

The antidote to these three are integrity, generousity and humility!

1. The lust of the flesh – our passions.

Anything we go to that makes us feel good. It could be sex, food, sleep, TV, internet porn. anything we go to that makes us feel good.

They are a temptation especially to tired, busy, stressed, leaders.

In our tiredness we say to ourselves ‘you deserve to feel good!’

The lust of the flesh is essentially hedonism. One of the three great value systems of the world.

2. The lust of the eyes – our possessions.

‘I see it I want it’. Materialism.

There is an entire industry designed to feed the eyes and to create desires for more.

Pastors are not immune from the love of things and the desire to

3. The pride of life – success & status

‘I want to be ….loved, worshipped’. Secularism is the pride of life.

All three show up in the life of leaders.

How do we fight them?

1. Integrity to fight the lust of the flesh

It means being ‘a unit of one’. Refusing to compartmentalise life.

Integrity is not about being perfect but it is about being honest.

It is also about remembering that when you sin you never sin by yourself. It may be private but it is never merely personal. It always affects other people in your life.

2. Generousity to fight the lust of the eyes

The only antidote to get, get, get is to give, give give.

You are most like Christ when you give.

Everytime I give my heart grows bigger and I break the grip of materialism.

3. Humility to fight the pride of life.

Humility is not denying strengths but being honest about weaknesses.

How do you know that yuo are humble?

a) You can learn from anybody

b) You refuse to defend yourself when attacked

c) You look to Jesus to provide

Apr 28, 2011
neil

How do you live the life you want to live and what’s stopping you?

At the exponential conference I attended a workshop this afternoon led by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay of Adullam in Denver.

They like to ask this question ‘How do I want to live?’ It’s a great question. It’s an obvious question. It’s a necessary question. It’s necessary because so many leaders find themselves pulled in all sorts of directions and as a result probably not living life in any kind of balance and not living the life that they think they should live as leaders of God’s people.

Too many meetings, too many e-mails, too much management and not enough life-on-life change.

So how can we be more intentional in our discipleship decisions? How do we live the life that we want to live?

Our biggest problem is probably not laziness but lack of focus. For many of us what is stopping us is that we have never really decided what we need to stop doing as well as what we ought to start doing.

In the book Deliberate Simplicity Dave Browning observes that there is a need to make deliberate decisions to stop doing worthwhile things to focus on better things.

Here’s Jim Collins, author of Good to Great;

Most of us lead busy but undisciplined lives. We have ever-expanding ‘to do’ lists, trying to build momentum by doing, doing, doing – and doing more. And it rarely works. Those who built the good-to-great companies, however, made as much use of the ‘stop doing’ list as ‘to do’ lists. They displayed a remarkable discipline to unplug all sorts of extraneous junk.

Leaders who succeed make deliberate decisions to stop doing things.

It’s as simple as this when it comes to living the life you want to live. Browning points us to the words of Al Ries and his book Focal Point;

There are only four things you can do to improve the quality of your life and work:

1) You can do more of certain things. You can do more of the things that are of greater value to you and bring you greater rewards and satisfaction.

2) You can do less of certain things. You can deliberately decide to reduce activities or behaviors that are not as helpful as other activities.

3) You can start to do things that you are not doing at all today. You can make new choices, learn new skills, begin new projects or activities, or change the entire focus of your work or personal life.

4) You can stop doing certain things altogether. You can stand back and evaluate your life with new eyes. You can then decide to discontinue activities and behaviours that are no longer consistent with what you want and where you want to go.

The answer to Hugh Halter’s question is to stop focusing only on 1) and 3) and to give equal time to 2) and 4).

Browning sums it up like this:

By doing less of certain things, and stopping doing other things altogether, energy and resources can be reinvested in the few things really worth doing. By not being so broad, we can go deeper.

Apr 28, 2011
neil

14 insights on integrity from Darrin Patrick

Darrin Patrick is pastor of The Journey in Saint Lous and Vice President of Acts29 network. He spoke yesterday at Exponential conference on Integrity as a church planter. He preached on Galatians 5 and here are 14 key insights.

1. You can fight for change but you can’t fight it alone.

2. ‘fruit of the Spirit’ is singular. It grows together. That means you’re not supposed to look for the ones you’ve got but the ones you haven’t.

3. Change produced by the Spirit is inside out change. Behaviour modification is stuck on the outside.

4. How do you know whether your change is behaviour modification or the fruit of the Spirit. Ask ‘who really thinks I’ve changed? Those who are closest to me or those furthest away?’ Those closest to you will know whether it is inside out

5. Do you worry more about your own sin more than others?

6. Ask your spouse, ask your children what your weakest trait is?

7. Fruit grows communally and in community

8. You find your idols in your daydreams and your nightmares

9. A lot of you are planting churches because you’ve never been in a good church. That’s not a great place to be starting from.

10. Read the Bible. Please. Will you at least have it in your lap when you attend a conference.

11. Condemnation is from Satan. It pushes you away from God. Conviction is from the Spirit and says come to me.

12. ‘For every one look you take at your sin take ten looks at him.’ Robert Murray McCheyne

13. Much talk and books on integrity are a bunch of man-made rules

14. Most young ministers seek one mentor/accountability pastor. You need an army of people.

Apr 27, 2011
neil

’7 things I ask myself before I speak for God’ – Francis Chan

Francis Chan at Exponential conference in Orlando gives us seven things to ask before we speak or preach for God.

1. Am I worried about what people think of me?

2. Do I love these people?

3. Am I accurately presenting this passage?

4. Am I depending on the Holy Spirit’s power or my own ability?

5. Have I applied this message to my own life?

6. Will this message draw attention to me or God?

7. Do the people really need this message (is there a sense of urgency)?

Apr 26, 2011
neil

Rob Bell makes it into Time Top 100

Along with Barak Obama and Aung San Suu Kyi the Time magazine top 100 of world’s most influential people for 2011 includes Rob Bell.

What the feature on Bell reveals (alongside the cover article focusing on Bell’s book in the previous edition) is the fact that if it’s a tricky business for Christians to grapple with Bell’s new look at the reality or not of hell what we can be pretty sure of is that it’s not just challenging for the church but damaging to our witness to the world.

Here is how Time summarises (inaccurately admitedly) the debate in the book.

‘Is Hell real?..He [Bell] thinks we can’t know, because the biblical discussion of salvation (as with so much else) is contradictory. Some passages say only those who explicitly acknowledge Jesus as Lord will find eternal peace. Others claim that, in Jesus’ own words, “the gates of Hell shall not prevail’ and Jesus’ sacrifice means universal salvation.’

Now I don’t think Bell would want to use the word contradictory to describe Bible texts. He would no doubt prefer to describe texts that teach on heaven and hell as ‘in tension’ and should be left to sit alongside each other in such a way that cannot be resolved by us in this life.

But the damage is done when the world looks in and sees what appears to be an evangelical pastor prefering to talk of salvation as a mystery and the Bible as a book which does not speak clearly about heaven and hell. He goes so far as to say in interview with Time ‘I don’t take a position of certainty because of course, I don’t know how it all turns out.’

That Time includes an evangelical pastor in their top 100 most influential people in the world ought to be good news. The tragedy is that they include Bell because he is an evangelical who prefers to ask questions about final realities and to do so in a public way in the publishling of his book and tour.

The consequence of Bell’s position is, as the Time feature reveals, to leave non-Christians confused as to the message of the church and confused as to whether it’s possible to really know anything from the Bible which appears to be a book of contradictions.  After all if a mega-church pastor revels in the ‘contradictions’ of the Bible and finds himself with more questions than answers why should a non-Christian looking in from the outside believe they should arrive at any answers.

Apr 23, 2011
neil

The God who hides himself – how Ecclesiastes answers Easter Saturday

Did they even sleep that night? How can we ever think ourselves into the situation of those first disciples on Easter Saturday.  How can we begin to even imagine what it must have felt like to see every hope evaporate and every confidence in God shattered. Was their decision to leave everything to follow this man of God nothing but a huge mistake. Was their conviction that this man Jesus was God’s Messiah and that the Kingdom lay just around the corner nothing but a demonstration of their own collective god delusion.

Like a spiritual tsunami everything was swept away by the savage crucifixion of the very one they called ‘Lord and Master’.  Easter Saturday was a day of utter bewilderment.  It turns out that it was not only Jesus who felt abandoned by God.

The book of Ecclesiastes is a book written for Easter Saturday experiences. It speaks into those situations and circumstances in life that have the potential to rob us of every confidence that God is good and that he is ruling. The book is a book for those times when God’s providence is dark indeed and life makes no sense at all.

JI Packer in his book Knowing God writes;

What the preacher wants to show him [his younger disciple] is that the real basis of wisdom is a frank acknowledgement that this world’s course is enigmatic, that much of what happens is quite inexplicable to us, and that most occurrences ‘under the sun’ bear no outward sign of a rational, moral God ordering them at all.

Rarely does this world look as if a beneficent Providence were running it. Rarely does it appear that there is a rational power behind it at all. Often and often what is worthless survives, while what is valuable perishes. Be realistic says the preacher; face these facts; see life as it is. You will have no true wisdom till you do.

God is at work in the darkness. The promises of God assure us that he is working out his purposes. Peter would one day stand before the crowds in Jerusalem and with conviction declare;

This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.

No more so than on Easter Saturday are we reminded that

the truth is that God in His wisdom, to make and keep us humble, and to teach us to walk by faith, has hidden from us almost everything that we should like to know about the providential purposes which He is working out in the churches and in our own lives.

This is the way of wisdom. Clearly, it is just one facet of the life of faith. For what underlies and sustains it? Why the conviction that the inscrutable God of providence is the wise and gracious God of creation and redemption.

And Easter Sunday would prove how sure that conviction is.

Apr 22, 2011
neil

What Ricky Gervais knows about Easter

What is it about being famous that means you get given a platform to speak your mind on issues you don’t even understand. Journalism might reasonably be regarded as 80 per cent entertainment and 20 per cent information but if Ricky Gervais’s blog on Easter is any thing to go by I’d suggest it’s more like 95 per cent entertainment and 5 per cent information.

The blog is called  An (Atheist) Easter Message from Ricky Gervais.  But I struggled to find any reference to Easter in it at all. There’s no attempt to explain or interpret the Easter story, no mention of the cross or the resurrection just a rant about religion.

The most striking thing about the article is Gervais’s claim to have kept the law of God. Seriously. Here is a man who seems to genuinely believe he has kept the 10 commandments.  He claims to like the teachings of Jesus and yet one wonders how anyone who has ever read the sermon on the mount could think that they have kept the law. If ‘do not commit adultery’ includes as Jesus insists never even to have looked at a woman lustfully then it’s remarkable that Gervais would claim to have kept it.

The 10 commandments are really a call to perfection as Jesus insists, Matthew 5:48, ‘Be perfect as your father in heaven is perfect.’

No wonder Paul argues that the very purpose of the law for those who will see it is to make us conscious of sin and to prepare us to receive Christ.

If you think you’re able to keep God’s standards, if you can make it on your own, well there can never be anything good about a good friday.

Apr 21, 2011
neil

New Statesman discovers why 30 leading thinkers believe in God

Here’s a great article from the New Statesman that introduces us to 30 leading thinkers including eminent scientists and philosophers and asks for their reasons for faith in God.



In a follow-up article the author Andrew Zak Williams assesses their reasons for belief.

Apr 19, 2011
neil

Loving your city to life

The 2020birmingham initiative to see 20 churches planted in the city of Birmingham by the year 2020 would never have happened without the vision and generosity of Redeemer City to City. If the work of Redeemer is new to you then take a look at the video and join me in thanking God for its ministry.

What Is Redeemer City to City? from Redeemer City to City on Vimeo.

Apr 18, 2011
neil

In the end ‘Liberal’ Christianity kills everything it has ever touched.

The figures are truly dire. While non-Christian faiths have grown stronger and the evangelical Christian churches flourish, the story in the Church of England has been one of almost continuous decline since the war.

So concludes The Independent newspaper in an article today.

It’s hardly surprising when a newspaper features another article on the tragic decline in church attendance in the UK. This time it’s the turn of The Independent to question whether there is a future for the church. The author of the article is certainly no friend of evangelicals (inside or outside the C of E) and prefers to use the disparaging language of ‘sects’ and ‘fundamentalism’ when referring to Christians who hold to the faith and beliefs of the 39 articles of the Church of England. The author recognises that evangelical Christianity is growing at a time when liberal, ‘doubting’, Christianity is emptying churches but chooses not to focus on that fact nor does he devote any time to the many evangelical parishes in the Church of England where the building is full on a Sunday.

Some of the stats are certainly questionable. The report claims that only 1.7 million, or 3 percent of the population, attend church once a month. In reality the figure is much higher. A 2007 study has the figure at 15 percent.

It’s clear that the sympathies of the author lie with a vague liberal Christianity when he writes

Having an established religion on the side not just of moderation, but tentativeness, gives this strand some extra strength. But it’s not the way faith is going at the moment.’

What he doesn’t seem to understand is that what he calls ‘moderation’ and precisely what the public recognise as a gospel devoid of any real substance and a spirituality that mirrors the world. If that is what people are seeking then they also recognise that there are plenty of other places able to offer it without the need to ever set foot through the doors of a church building. In the end Liberal Christianity kills everything it has ever touched.

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