Aug 4, 2011

The truly brave and selfless act of an ordinary hero – what we learn from events in Sydney yesterday

Yesterday in a wealthy suburb of Sydney the most terrifying events were unfolding. An 18 year old woman was disturbed in her own home by an intruder who placed a suspected explosive device round her neck.

It took the Police 10 hours to remove the device which mercifully turned out to be a ‘very, very elaborate hoax’.

The Police confirmed that a note was attached which warned that any attempt to call the police would result in the device being detonated.

The story is horrifying. But even in the midst of such darkness there is also a story of extraordinary courage and sacrifice.

Two Officers who were on general duties in the area that day responded when the woman called the Police.

What they saw was a very distressed young lady with what we believed to be at the time an improvised explosive device attached to her body,” Mr Murdoch, New South Wales Police Assistant Commissioner, told Fairfax radio.

The young female officer, Constable Karen Lowden, stayed with Ms Pulver for the first two hours whilst her colleague evacuated the area.

She was not wearing any protective clothing or equipment, she wasn’t trained as a negotiator, but she made the decision herself, this young officer, to stay with Madeleine and make sure she tried to remain calm and she wasn’t left alone, provided moral support for her, and she did an outstanding job in that regard.”

That this Police Officer choose to risk her own life for a stranger is an inspiring example of the fact that we still see the image of God in the lives  of ordinary people.

The BBC website reports

“The New South Wales Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione commended Constable Lowden for her “truly brave and selfless act“.

Mr Scipione said he had spoken to the officer and congratulated her. “She is a humble, quietly-spoken woman who did not see herself as a hero,” he said.”

As Christians we mourn over such a shocking example of depravity in our world and we marvel at the extraordinarily ‘selfless act’.  We find in it the echoes of Christ’s work of selfless humility and maybe too we can take this opportunity to remember that the call of duty is that we too be willing to lay down our lives in the service of our great Commissioner even as we humbly serve.


Aug 3, 2011

What happened when Facebook met the fear of death

How would you know that someone was really afraid to die?

At a superficial level we are tempted to think of it in terms of a fear of the moment of death itself. Perhaps the last few weeks of a terminal disease or the moments on board a plane as it plummets to the ground after a major malfunction. It’s this kind of fear of death that made Woody Allen quip  ‘I’m not afraid to die, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.’

So when we think of the fear of death we tend to reduce it to the fear of dying. But I’m not sure that does it justice. I want to argue that the fear of death is a much bigger idea that pervades more of life. It’s better expressed in another quote this time of Leo Tolstoy who said

My question – that which at the age of fifty brought me to the verge of suicide – was the simplest of questions, lying in the soul of every man … a question without an answer to which one cannot live. It was: ‘What will come of what I am doing today or tomorrow? What will come of my whole life? Why should I live, why wish for anything, or do anything?’ It can also be expressed thus: Is there any meaning in my life that the inevitable death awaiting me does not destroy.

To the secularist the vague notion that maybe we actually live on in the afterlife has been rejected. So what hope now? Well we find the fear of death at work in surprising ways. In the vain hope that we can continue to be present, if not in reality, then through a computer programme that interacts on Facebook, etc., on our behalf. That, if you like, pretends that we have not gone forever.

So here we find the fear of death expressed in surprising ways as exemplified in this TED talk  by Adam Ostrow entitled  After your final status update

The fear of death is seen in increasingly desperate attempts to hold onto life. In our unwillingness to  leave this life.

How do we respond as Christians?

It’s easy to want to laugh, maybe it all makes us want to cry but surely it reminds us that our message of the one who has defeated death and promised life to all who are in him is a message every human soul is primed to need to hear.

The writer of Ecclesiastes says in chapter 3:10-11

I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart

It is that burden we see expressed in the world and it is that burden that only the gospel answers. Peter in his first letter writes;

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you

Let us then be bold to continue to speak of him who alone has beaten death and conquered the grave.  The one who alone has the answer to the fear of death however it might reveal itself.

Aug 2, 2011

The top 20 reasons why Christians struggle to live the Christian life

Bloggers love to make lists and blog-readers love to read them. It would be easy (and probably helpful) to create a list of the biggest battles Christians face in being the Christians they want to be. Battles with pride, lust, materialism. etc. but there is something that such an approach would actually mask and it’s this; there is only one problem Christians face and that is the struggle to believe the gospel. At the heart of all issues of sanctification is the battle to believe.

Tim Keller highlights what Martin Luther describes below when Keller says the problem with Christians is that we believe and yet don’t believe the gospel at the same time. The goal of Christian thinking and living is to work out the gospel in all of its dimensions. That is Paul’s message in Romans 12v1-2. Here is Luther from his Preface to Galatians commentary;

There is a righteousness that Paul calls “the righteousness of faith”. God imputes it to us apart from our works–in other words, it is passive righteousness…So then, have we nothing to do to obtain this righteousness? No, nothing at all! For this righteousness comes by doing nothing, hearing nothing, knowing nothing, but rather in knowing and believing this only–that Christ has gone to the right hand of the Father, not to become our judge, but to become for us our wisdom, our righteousness, our holiness, our salvation! Now God sees no sin in us, for in this heavenly righteousness sin has no place.  So now we may certainly think, “Although I still sin, I don’t despair, because Christ lives, who is both my righteousness and my eternal life.” In that righteousness I have no sin, no fear, no guilty conscience, no fear of death. I am indeed a sinner in this life of mine and in my own righteousness, but I have another life, another righteousness above this life, which is in Christ, the Son of God.

Christians never completely understand [this] themselves, and thus do not take advantage of it when they are troubled and tempted. So we have to constantly teach it, repeat it, and work it out in practice. Anyone who does not understand this righteousness or cherish it in the heart and conscience will continually be buffeted by fears and depression. Nothing gives peace like this passive righteousness. The troubled conscience has no cure for its desperation and feeling of unworthiness unless it takes hold of the forgiveness of sins by grace, offered free of charge in Jesus Christ, which is this passive or Christian righteousness….Once you are in Christ, the Law is the greatest guide for your life, but until you have Christian righteousness, all the law can do is to show you how sinful and condemned you are. But if we first receive Christian righteousness, then we can use the law, not for our salvation, but for his honor and glory, and to lovingly show our gratitude.


Jul 31, 2011

100 ways to engage your neighbourhood

Tim Keller has written

There are only two kinds of churches;

One kind says to its community: ‘You can come to us, learn our language, learn our interests, become like us and meet our needs.

The other kind says to its community: ‘We will come to you, learn your language, learn your interests, join in your life and try to meet your needs.’

It is pretty obvious which approach will do most to gain the gospel a hearing as we take Christ to the world.

Josh Reeves is planting a church in Round Rock, Texas. There’s nothing like planting a church to stretch your thinking as to how you and the church family can make the most of opportunities to develop community relationships.

Recently I made a list of 100 ways to engage your neighborhood. I have found that it is often helpful to have practical ideas to start engaging the people around me in order to be a better neighbor. Most of the things on this list are normal, everyday things that many people are already doing. The hope is that we would do these things with Gospel intentionality. This means we do them:

  • In the normal rhythms of life pursuing to meet and engage new people
  • Prayerfully watching and listening to the Holy Spirit to discern where God is working.
  • Looking to boldly, humbly, and contextually proclaiming the Gospel in word and deed.

For a look at Josh’s top 100 ideas visit here

Jul 30, 2011

How do you know you’re called to ministry?

Whether you’re thinking about future ministry or helping others as they consider what role God would have them play in the local church this 2 minute video is a brief summary by Dave Harvey of the different factors that help us assess whether leadership in the local church might be where God is calling us.  Dave Harvey is the author of the soon to be released Am I Called? The summons to pastoral ministry.

Jul 28, 2011

John Stott memorial video

Surely the most influential British evangelical of the past 100 years John Stott went to be with the Lord yesterday at the age of 90. There will be a memorial service at St. Paul’s cathedral in due course. Here is a short video produced by the Langham Partnership (John Stott Ministries in the US) in celebration of his life.



One of the marks of the man was the recognition and respect he earned from those who may not have agreed with his theology but could not fail to admire his humanity. Here is a short piece from the New York Times in 2004 entitled Who Is John Stott?


Jul 27, 2011

Co-habiting couples 6 times more likely to split – The argument for marriage


John Hayward of the Jubilee centre said:

All the evidence suggests that families headed by married, biological parents who have not previously lived together provide the best environment for both the individuals involved and their children.

‘This has huge personal, social, economic and political consequences for us all.’

See Hayward’s response to the recent study on the value of marriage by the Institute for Fiscal Studies here





Jul 26, 2011

Norway massacre – was Brevik a ‘Christian terrorist’?

The murder of so many young poeple in Norway on Friday was a national tragedy and evil beyond words. What could ever lead a man to kill in such a way? There has been a great deal of speculation regarding the motives of Anders Behring Breivik. Even the BBC suggested earlier on in its reporting that he was influenced by extremist Christian views.

Now that Brevik’s  1500 page manifesto has been poured over the idea that he was in any meaningful sense a Christian is clearly false.  Here are a few articles worth reading or passing on to any who may have concerns that Christianity lay at the heart of such a tragedy.

Anders Breivik is not Christian but anti-Islam by Andrew Brown of the Guardian

Breivik’s Manifesto Denies True Faith in Jesus by Nicola Menzie in the Christian Post

The Norway Massacre: Born of Ideology or Belief? by Arnie Fjeldstad



Terrorist proclaimed himself ‘Darwinian,’ not ‘Christian’ on World Net Daily




Jul 25, 2011

What happened when Tim Keller spoke at Google

Jul 24, 2011

The need to learn to lead – taking your great ideas forward

I always think anyone can have an idea. Anyone can have a great idea. There are a million ideas out there. A zillion ideas. And some of them are amazing. But if you can’t execute it properly, it’s worth zilch.

So says Christopher Bailey, Chief Designer for Burberry in this month’s Vogue magazine (quote courtesy of my wife’s holiday reading!)

Neither my formal theological training nor my in-ministry training has done a great deal to help me 1) spot a great idea  2) communicate a great idea to a church family and then 3) implement a great idea.

From buying a building to developing a new outreach ministry to re-structuring mid-week groups to launching a website to raising the finances to send more mission partners into the mission field  just how do you anticipate and deliver through good and godly leadership? There are some things in life for which all of the Greek and Hebrew in the world cannot prepare you!

Bill Hybels’ Global Leadership Summit is an attempt to strengthen leadership in the church so that we are better equipped to implement great ideas. What’s particularly noticeable is that the conference provides a platform not just for Christian leaders to train, inspire and inform others but leaders from the secular world.

This year’s line up includes Howard Schultz (Chairman, CEO, and President Starbucks Corporation) and Seth Godwin (author and marketing blogger).

As Mark Driscoll often says the church leader must be prophet, priest and King. As prophet he must preach God’s word, as priest he must care for God’s people and as King he is called to rule/manage God’s household. That means that whether it comes naturally to us or not we must learn to lead.

Here’s Hybels on the need to lead

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