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.
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.
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)?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A great short video designed to show that how we say things often matters as much as what we say.
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