May 11, 2011
neil

How do a couple cope with losing a child? An extraordinary testimony

This very honest and deeply moving account of losing a child and yet refusing to blame God is a story to read. Holding onto hope in the most severe trial is a testimony to the power of Christ in us.

‘The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.’ Job. 1:21

May 9, 2011
neil

8 lessons in church planting from the forallseasons conference

On Thursday and Friday of last week ‘for all seasons’ church planting conference took place in Birmingham co-hosted by Acts29 Western Europe and 2020birmingham. Audio and video from the conference will be available soon. But here are eight take homes for me from the two days.

1. God is doing amazing things in our nation(s). To have 400 people all seriously thinking about church planting (and a further 220 at a London based conference on planting the day before) highlights a transformation in the church scene in the UK and Western Europe.

2. The atmosphere at the conference was just fantastic.  A real unity was evident and the whole time was remarkably free of tribalism and suspicions of others. There was just a huge desire, borne out of a spirit-filled generosity, to bless others. The attitude was one of ‘how can I help you? How can I bless you?’ By passing on freely anything and everything we really wanted to help others be better planters!  At a dinner with Mark Driscoll on the Thursday evening we had representatives of New Frontiers, FIEC, the Anglican Diocese and Elim Pentecostal all sitting down together thinking how we might work together to get the gospel to the city of Birmingham!

3. Our failure to attempt great things for God is often borne out of fear of men. That means we need to recognise that ‘it is a sin to take too much of a risk in planting but it is as much of a sin not to take a risk out of fear.’ Mark Driscoll

4. On a similar theme it’s not enough for a small church to think we can’t do anything when it comes to church planting. True a small church may not be able to plant itself but it can contribute to a bigger vision (prayer, finances, wisdom and knowledge of a community or city).

A church planting conference should not just be full of church planters any more than a missions conference should be full of people about to head off overseas. As Rick Warren has said elsewhere ‘it is not a sin to be a small church but it is a sin to be a small church with a small vision’.

5. It really does matter what motivates us in church planting. To have a healthy church plant we need a healthy church planter and the gospel at the heart of our motivates is essential.

Steve Timmis challenged us with the question ‘Are we looking to church planting for our justification? Looking to church planting for our place in the world?’ And when that is a danger the antidote to that is remembering ‘church planter, our identity is ‘in Christ’’. And that has huge implications because succeed or fail (humanly speaking) I am secure in who I am.  ‘My church plant can break up into a 100 different pieces but nothing can change the fact that I am ‘in Christ’ Steve Timmis.

6. ‘Every year you plant your church again’. Mark Driscoll reminded us that the way to grow your church plant and be effective in leadership is never to stop being a church planter but to look to the same mindset to keep growing.

7. The 2020birmingham initiative reminded us all that it takes a big vision to impact a big city. If our vision is to plant a church, even a large church, it has to give way to God’s vision which is nothing less than his global fame. If our vision is to reach our cities for Christ rather than plant a church that requires a paradigm shift in our thinking. In the past 10 to 15 years we have undergone one important shift from accidental planting to intentional planting. Now we need the second shift from intentional planting to intentional partnerships in church planting. Working together to fulfil a vision that no one church is equipped to make on its own.

8. Finally, church planting must, if it is to be true to the gospel, never be about empire building. ‘How do I live out my identity? By being a lover of God and a lover of others. Whoever it is about it is never about me.’ Steve Timmis

May 8, 2011
neil

Five words to guide you in any conversation

Justin Taylor‘s blog is one to follow especially for news about good books. His post yesterday included this short extract from Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson’s new book Give them grace to be published soon. The book is a look at grace-filled and grace-fueled parenting. But as you will see from the extract below this advice transcends parenting to discipleship more generally and especially to discipleship of children at church.

Here are five simple words for you to take with you every day: Manage, Nurture, Train, Correct, and Promise. The beginning letters of these five categories are MNTCP. You probably know how making an acrostic can help you remember certain important facts. This is one that will help you remember these categories and will also remind you of one more very important aspect of your parenting—prayer . . . . The acrostic can also stand for Moms Need To Constantly Pray.

  • Does this circumstance simply call for management?
  • Now that the situation has calmed down, do I have an opportunity to nurture his soul with the gospel?
  • Is this the time to train him in how to apply what Jesus has already done for him?
  • Do I need to correct her attitudes or actions so that they are more in line with the good news?
  • Should I remind him of God’s promises, either of blessing for faith or of punishment for unbelief?
  • Finally, is this just a time for me to pray and ask the Lord to show me how the gospel applies to my own heart? Do I need clarity to understand why my child is struggling or resisting right now? Do I need clarity into my heart’s responses so that I am not sucked down into her unbelief, anger, and despair? What is it that bothers me about his attitude? Why?
May 6, 2011
neil

The City Limits

Beautiful. Profound. Inspiring. Time-lapse video of 5 great cities of the world.

With thanks to Andy Shudall for pointing me to this.

May 4, 2011
neil

14 reasons to pray for your pastor this weekend from Richard Baxter

Richard Baxter may have written  The Reformed Pastor in a very different age and time but it’s hard to find a better description of what is involved in the preaching of God’s word Sunday by Sunday. And in his definition of preaching he gives us 14 different reasons to pray that this Sunday the Pastor, in preaching God’s word, would achieve the very end for which it was written.

We are seeking to uphold the world, to save it from the curse of God, to perfect the creation, to attain the ends of Christ’s death, to save ourselves and others from damnation, to overcome the devil, and demolish his kingdom, to set up the kingdom of Christ, and to attain and help others to the kingdom of glory. And are these works to be done with a careless mind, or a lazy hand? O, see, then that this work be done with all your might!

May 2, 2011
neil

Photo from inside the Situation Room of the White House

This official White House photo was taken during the operation against Osama bin Laden. A reminder of the responsibility of governing.

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority.

1 Timothy 2:1-2

May 2, 2011
neil

Should we be glad Osama bin Laden is dead?

So Osama Bin Laden is dead. And what should be our response?

Three responses that I’ve observed in the hours since the news broke.

1) Gloating. There are a lot of people taking what I would describe as a perverse pleasure in the death of a man. That should not be so with the Christian. For at least two reasons

a) Our doctrine of creation reminds us that Osama was a man made in the image of God, made for a relationship with him. That is the reason the Lord says in Ezekiel 33:11 ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. ‘

b) Our doctrine of salvation reminds us that we too are sinners. Our sins alone would have taken Jesus to the cross. Any gloating would suggest a self-rightousness that is a denial of the gospel.

2) Sadness. Many Christians have rightly commented that we shouldn’t wish a man dead and have recognised that in lots of ways we are no better. They have suggested that we should grieve over the death of a sinner.

3) Rejoicing. Other Christians have argued that we should rejoice that justice has been seen to be done. That God in his sovereign will has brought an end to a life dedicated to wickedness and to a life that was behind much of the persecution of Christians in the Muslim-majority world.

So what is the Biblical response?

The question as Christians we have to ask is this; is it ever appropriate for Christians to rejoice in the death of the wicked? I would want to argue that the Bible says ‘yes’ it is. In an excellent book, entitled ‘Crying for justice, what the Psalms teach us about mercy and vengeance in an age of terrorism’ John N. Day looks at what are called the imprecatory psalms in which God’s people cry out for God to bring justice and through which God’s people call for vengeance. Such psalms contain verses such as

Break the teeth in their mouth, O God; tear out, O Lord, the fangs of the lion!’ Psalm 58:6

And

Happy is he who repays you for what you have done’ Psalm 137:8

Day comments:

Christians are continually called to seek reconciliation and practice long-suffering, forgiveness, and kindness after the pattern of God. Yet there comes a point at which justice must be enacted – whether form God directly or through his representatives, such as the state and its judicial system. This response is likewise patterned after the example of God. The inhabitants of Canaan, for instance, experienced God’s long-suffering grace for four hundred years. But then their iniquity became ‘complete,’ and judgment fell.

When God’s people find themselves suffering from gross or sustained injustice, they are in principle justified in calling for divine justice and appealing to divine vengeance.

The Christian must embrace the tension inherent in reflecting both ‘the kindness and severity of God’ (Rom. 11:22)

What can we learn on this day as we reflect on the death of Osama bin laden?

1. I should certainly have prayed more for Osama’s conversion than his death. I should pray for God’s enemies and seek their salvation remembering that I too was an enemy of God.

2. My rejoicing should be a ‘sorrowful rejoicing’ remembering that the Lord does not delight in the death of the wicked. There is no room for gloating.

3. I should remember that in God’s will sometimes justice is seen to be done and that the enemies of God’s people and agents of extreme wickedness are destroyed. God uses human agents to enact his justice.

4. I should remember that where justice is not seen to be done it is right

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.

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