Browsing articles from "May, 2012"
May 31, 2012

Should unmarried Christian couples holiday alone together?

It’s becoming more common for dating couples to go off on their own for holidays. Peter Ko offers biblical wisdom on the  matter.


May 28, 2012

20 ways to keep the 5th commandment – honour your father & mother

Preaching through the 10 commandments I sought out some advice from friends and family on what it means to honour our parents.  Here’s what we came up with.

20 practical ways to honour your father and mother

  1. Show gratitude for the ways they have shown love – however imperfectly — thank them for their love in sacrifice, commitment, care, concern.
  2. Visit often
  3. Phone home. One guy said to me ‘ I phone both of my divorced parents at least 3 times a week during my walk home from work it’s because I know that communication and keeping in touch is important to them and makes them feel valued. This doesn’t come naturally to me (difficult relationship with my parents sometimes) but I continue because honouring is important.’
  4. Continue to seek out and then listen well to their advice – even if you choose a different path. Mark Twain once said ‘When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished by how much he’d learned in seven years.’
  5. See they are well cared for in their old age (that may mean saving for their future, moving your home, etc.)
  6. Pray for them (if they are Christians ask how you can be praying for them).
  7. Tell them how great Jesus is (if you and they are Christians they will be blessed more than you can imagine…if not their salvation!)
  8. Say you’re sorry if you can look back and see ways in which you did dishonour them and thank them for their patience with you
  9. Repent of any attitude that wishes they were out of the way…to free up more time or because you want your inheritance now!
  10. Encourage and facilitate active grand-parenting! Let them in to your lives even more as grand-parents.
  11. Don’t talk negatively about them behind their backs or grumble against them to others.
  12. Speak positively about them to others
  13. Value your parents as most parents give their best to their children. I know this isn’t always the case but as a mum myself, I know we do the best we can’
  14. Expect the relationship to improve. ‘The beautiful thing about growing older is that my mum and step dad have become my friends.’
  15. Ask her Dad’s permission before you propose.
  16. Value what is most important in them especially if they prayed for you and encouraged you in your faith.
  17. Remember important dates…birthdays, anniversaries, Mother’s day, Father’s day
  18. Place photos of them in prominent places in your room
  19. Accept them for who they are even if you wish they were different.
  20. Don’t take what you have been given for granted – a secure, loving, lifelong relationship


Ask yourself: ‘would we be happy if our young children treated us like we, now grown, treat our parents?’ Kevin DeYoung


May 26, 2012

Why are so many young men addicted to porn & gaming?

A very heplful post from Justin Taylor‘s blog

May 25, 2012

Why church must be the primary place for evangelism

In a recent blog post my very good friend John Stevens made some comments about the presence of non-Christians in church services. So for example he writes: We need to face up to the fact that we have to take the gospel to people, and not just invite them to come to where we preach it.

I think to a man we would all  a big amen to that. No church can afford to limit its evangelism to a ‘they have to come to us’ rather than a ‘we go to them’ model.

But John goes further than the strategic question of how best to gain the gospel a hearing to state a theological conviction that ‘inviting to church’  is not how we should look, primarily, to do our evangelism. He writes:

This doesn’t seem to be the New Testament model. In the NT,  church” is the gathering for committed believers, designed to encourage and edify them. Occasionally an unbeliever might come in amongst them (1 Corinthians 14v24). The gospel is to be taken and proclaimed outside of the church

Andrew Evans has written a thoughtful response raising a number of points that broadly speaking I have sympathy with (John’s reply is also available here).

I want to push a little further so for what it’s worth here is the first of two posts on Why church services need to be the primary focus for our evangelism. I want to make the case that church ought to be the primary place for our evangelism both for the sake of the non-Christian AND for the sake of the Christian. Today I’ll focus on the non-Christian.

For the sake of the non-Christian

Although there are lots of ways in which a non-Christian can here the gospel preached through personal evangelism, enquirer courses, social or evangelistic events, the non-Christian needs to hear the gospel preached to the Christian and for that they need to be in a predominantly Christian environment.

Why do I say that? The same gospel of justification is God’s means of both conversion and transformation. It changes the lives of non-Christians and Christians and the non-Christian is greatly helped towards faith in Christ when they hear something of why and how the gospel is God’s power  to not only save but to transform. They grasp how the gospel sets you free from idols of self (money, sex or power) they learn how forgiveness towards another human is possible because the resources for forgiveness are there in the gospel, they grasp how the gospel enables and strengthens marriage as the Christian is challenged from the Bible to love their wives as Christ has loved the church.

No-one has modelled preaching the gospel to Christian and non-Christian at the same time in recent years than Tim Keller. He has demonstrated that an attractional model can work in an extremely secular, hostile environment. It takes a great deal of skill and almost a whole new method of preaching to do this well but it works. New Frontiers, perhaps the fastest growing Reformed church-movement in the UK works almost entirely on this model too and God has greatly blessed their work.

As we teach non-Christians how the gospel of grace saves (justification) so they know exactly what response is required of them but then as we teach Christians how the gospel of grace continues to save (working out salvation in sanctification) so non-Christians grasp the life-changing, transformative power that is in the gospel.

In my experience non-Christians are thinking  ‘what difference does the gospel make’, ‘how does it work’, ‘what impact would it have on my life’, as they listen in to preaching aimed at the Christian so they learn in real time and through real experience the answer to their questions.

Secondly, as Francis Schaeffer once said the greatest apologetic is love. Only as a non-Christian enters the Christian community can they see, taste and experience both how Christians love one another and also how loved and welcome they are amongst God’s people. How many non-Christians upon conversion talk of how this dynamic of love and acceptance has struck them as unique to the church?The market-place, or the office water-cooler for that matter, is simply not a place where this dynamic can be experienced.

Thirdly, the unity in diversity of God’s new community is unlike anything we can experience anywhere else. A church full of all sorts of people, across all cultural divides and age and race barriers is a phenomena that is humanly inexplicable. Here is the gospel in glorious technicolour! We need to invite non-Christians to see it for themselves.

I could go on with at least three more reasons but I think this is enough for now.

I’m not surprised that more people are converted at City Church by coming along to our church Sunday by Sunday than by attending A Passion for Life (not that I am anything but an enthusiastic supporter of such initiatives!).

What does this mean for City Church Birmingham?

We expect non-Christians to be present in our services.

We speak as if non-Christians are present

We work very hard in our sermons to speak to both Christian and non-Christian at the same time.

We encourage Christians to simply bring their friends and they do!

One final reflection: I think the attractional model works well amongst younger people in urban contexts than some other settings. I agree with John that it is harder to get people into churches than a generation ago but in a city like Birmingham where 37% of our population is 25 or under, church remains my primary focus for evangelism.

I was converted when a friend had the courage to invite me to go with him to a normal Sunday service and I thank God that he did.

May 22, 2012

Why I’m not keeping Sunday special

I’m preaching a series through the 10 commandments at City Church at the moment. Last Sunday it was on the 4th commandment ‘Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy’. Here are the five reason I gave as to why as a Christian I am not a Sabbatarian and how the 4th commandment is fulfilled in Christ.

From Sabbath to Lord’s day

Reading the story of the early church in the book of Acts and other parts of the New Testament  you discover that the earliest Christians, many of them Jews, changed the day on which they met to worship from Saturday (the Jewish Sabbath day) to Sunday a day that was called the Lord’s Day.

Something remarkable happened as a result of the resurrection of Jesus — all those first Christians who were Jews began to reorder the pattern of their weeks from Saturday to Sunday.

Three texts highlight the change:

Acts 20:9 – On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight.

1 Cor.16:1-2 – Now about the collection for God’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.

Revelation 1:10 – On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet.

But might that just mean that Christians keep the commandment simply by shifting the day from a Saturday to a Sunday?

The Sabbath commandment is not repeated in the New Testament

Looking through the New Testament you discover that the Sabbath commandment is the only commandment of the 10 commandments not repeated for Christians.  Nor is there any evidence of it being practised.

For at least the first 300 years of the life of the church the first day of the week, the Lord’s day was just a normal working day as it still is for Christians meeting in many Muslim countries today. Christians who met on the Lord’s day did so after work.

And what that also means is that

For many Christians Sabbath observance was not possible

Why is that so? Looking again at our commandment in Exodus 20:9-10 and it is clear that everyone was to stop work for the Sabbath. Men, women, sons, daughters, servants, animals and foreigners. In other words Old Testament Israel was told everyone had a day of rest.

But as the early church grew so most Christians in the ancient world didn’t live in Israel and many of them were gentile slaves. No less that two-thirds of the ancient world were slaves and their ability to even take a day off was entirely at the discretion of their masters. They were simply unable to keep a Sabbath. Time-off was at the mercy of their masters.

Israel as a nation were commanded by God to observe the Sabbath, Christians around the world were simply unable so it seems to me unthinkable that God could command his people to do that which humanly speaking they could not do..

Not until the first Christian Emperor Constantine declared that Sundays would be a day off.

But it’s not the Sabbath no longer has any relevance for it finds its fulfilment for us in Christ.

We enjoy our Sabbath-rest by resting in Jesus.

In our second reading tonight (Hebrews 3:7-4:13) we saw something of how the 4th commandment is fulfilled in Christ.

2 ways in which the 4th commandment finds its fulfilment in Jesus

We experience Sabbath rest now by trusting in Jesus

Now we who have believed enter that rest – Hebrews 4:3 (NIV)

If you are a Christian then you enjoy rest now. We rest in Christ and enjoy peace with him. Jesus described his very purpose in coming as giving us rest with God through thegospel (c.f.Matt 11:28-30). Only the Christian enjoys God’s rest in that we rest from our efforts to be saved by our works. The message of the gospel is not that we work for God but that he worked for us.

We will experience God’s eternal rest by trusting in Jesus

Hebrews 4:9-10 ‘So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.’

There is a future day in which we will rest in God’s presence in glory for ever. We will stop working as the church. No more evangelism, no more sermons to prepare, no more chairs to put out, no more missions and church planting.

So Christians don’t ignore the Sabbath command but experience it’s fulfilment in Jesus

The New Testament treats Sabbath observance as a matter of conscience

Wherever the Old Testament Sabbath is mentioned it is in the context of a freedom of conscience.

Paul writes to the Colossians: Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. (Col. 2:16-17)

In Romans he writes: One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.


So there we have 5 reasons why I’m not a Sabbatarian. In my next post however, I’ll say a little bit about why I do keep Sunday special as a Lord’s Day man.

May 21, 2012

Dig deep and dwell deep – a must watch interview with JI Packer

Carl Trueman unearths nuggets of pure gold from Jim Packer.

May 16, 2012

It really hurts to be told you’re useless

Tim Minchin, comedian, musician and actor was well worth the listen on Desert Island Discs this week.

What stopped me in my tracks as I listened was his incredibly honest reflections on receiving a disastrous review by Phil Daoust in the Guardian as a new-comer to British comedy back in 2005 and especially the insight into the fragility of the human ego.

Michin said:

People are quite contemptuous of artists who are not good at dealing with reviews but I think it’s completely disingenuous because it hurts being told that what you’ve worked on is useless.And I’m probably particularly not good at it. Which is why I don’t read them anymore.

Imagine you had to get up, you the listerner, dear listener, had to get up every night and do a whole lot of jokes that you already know that you don’t find funny any more, write a whole lot of songs that you don’t like the tunes of anymore because you wrote them yourself, sing with a voice that you loathe because its your own voice. These are all normal human things right  to not like your own material.

And someone in a national newspaper, your newspaper, the one you respect and read makes specific criticisms of specific bits in the show and doesn’t say that this could do with work but says this makes this person not deserve to be on stage.

How would you feel at the point, you get to that point in your show that night? How do you get up on stage and get to that joke again with that guy’s words ringing in your head?

It wasn’t the worse thing in the world but it was very, very hard to recover from it.


May 15, 2012

How do I know if I’m truly repentant?

What’s the difference between being sorry about by sin and being repentant of my sin? A very helpful post by Jared Wilson on the nature of a true repentance.

May 12, 2012

Keller @google on marriage

For a one hour summary of Tim Keller’s Meaning of Marriage you can’t do better than this lecture given to the staff at the Google office in New York.

May 10, 2012

How do you know if you should be a Pastor? Dave Harvey’s advice on assessing ourselves and others

Dave Harvey has a new book Am I Called: The summons to pastoral ministry. Jim Packer writes ‘This is the fullest, most realistic, down-to-earth, and genuinely spiritual exploration of God’s call to pastoral ministry that I know. I recommend it most highly.”

This interview on BetweenTwoWorlds with Dave  is a very helpful introduction to the book and to the questions we need to ask ourselves as we consider full-time ministry.









To read Matt Chandler’s foreword and the first chapter of the book go here.

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