Companion in Suffering- Devotion Revelation 1:9

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Revelation 1:9, I John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.

It’s incredible to think of the kinds of trials the early believers and apostles were called to endure. To think that the apostles could be numbered on three hands, and yet those who were martyred and killed for their faith in Jesus, would fill all most likely the fingers on two of those hands, is a phenomenal thought. So for any believer living in the first Century taking their lead from Jesus, it shouldn’t surprise us that John called himself a companion in the suffering and Kingdom and patient endurance.

There are many things one might think of when describing Christians. If you walked into a Christian bookshop today, unfamiliar with the Christian faith, one may get the idea that Christians are winners, positive, over comers and succeeders in all aspects of life. Even listening to Christian music thats especially popular today, one may choose words like joyful or happy to describe the life of the Christian. And while being children of God certainly invites affections of Joy and happiness, its not a joy that comes from a life of ease free from suffering or hardship, but is suppose to be a joy in spite of suffering and hardships we face as Christians. And so John chooses and uses this title for himself as a companion of the early Christians in their suffering. John tells us he is imprisoned on the Island of Patmos, history shows us most likely isolated and alone just with the bear essentials to stay alive.

And so we see the shape of Jesus Kingdom was one of Jesus coming to earth as a man of sorrows, carrying his cross up a hill to suffer and die. There was a crown received after his ascension, but only after patiently enduring the sufferings of the cross. And the word Christian means followers of the way, those who follow in the way of Jesus, and Jesus himself called his apostles and all who follow Him to pick up their cross and follow patiently enduring the suffering of our lives before entering the Kingdom and sharing in his Resurrection glory. So right out the blocks of the Christian faith, the first believers were those who saw themselves as fellow sufferers, fellow travellors and fellow companions to one another on the path filled of suffering.  

The difference between Jesus suffering and our suffering as believers, is that Jesus suffered completely alone. He had no companions who could really understand what he was going through or truly say they suffered alongside him. Simon of Cyrene carried the cross for Jesus physically, but he never died on it, and even the two thieves who died alongside him, died on the cross physically, but only Christ simultaneously drank the cup of God’s wrath suffering spiritually in his soul what none of us could ever endure or even imagine. So we have, in Jesus, a God and Savior who is familiar with suffering, he was acquainted with much grief and sorrow and is familiar with all our weaknesses, and because of that He is able to help us in our time of need.

So for us as believers, our suffering is of a different nature to Christ’s, while serious and severe, at times physical and deeply emotional, we know that we do not travel through life’s dark valleys alone, but Christ is there with us sympathising in our weaknesses and providing comfort, and even alongside him, the entire Church of fellow believers are our companions in our sufferings too.

So as believers, in the words of John Stott, we are a people living with a foot in two worlds. One foot is figuratively resting on the golden pavements of the Kingdom of Heaven, where we are spiritually seated with Christ in the Heavenly realms enjoying fellowship with him as we read his Word and pray, enjoying the presence of the Spirit and the knowledge that God is our Father and his Kingdom is coming soon. But the other foot is still in the soil of this world, it feels the aches and pains and heartaches of the thorns of suffering and the struggle of needing to patiently endure times of crisis or difficulty. 

But what an encouragement that Johns offers here when he says that our sufferings and our place in the Kingdom and even the patience endurance needed to get there, come from Jesus himself. So we not to think of the Christian life as our performance for God needing to do the right things to be accepted, or having to rely on ourselves to get through times of trials. But we are to think of the Christian life as one that because we’ve been accepted through the sacrificial death of Christ and filled with his Spirit, he now ensures that we have everything we need to get through the trials, to get to the finish line where there we will see him face to face, and no longer then will we need a companion in suffering, because we will be companions Co-Heirs in Christ’s Kingdom. So John is calling us to Keep going, to not give up in the trials and challenges of life, and when you find yourself becoming weak or your spiritual battery feeling low, remember you have other Christians who are your companions-reach out to them, they with you, and better even than that-you have Christ as your Companion in this life.

The Desire for the Far Off Country- CS Lewis works

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Recently I’ve revisited some of CS Lewis works in my personal reading and found his work on the weight of Glory very encouraging to me personally. One of the challenges of Lewis though, is that being a brilliant Oxford academic he uses quite a bit of complicated language in his writing, which can be difficult for easy reading or to really follow all of his arguments, but nevertheless their certainly is treasure buried beneath the Victorian language. So I thought I would share some of the encouragements I’ve found from his work, in my own words that will hopefully be a bit easier for one to understand.

We feel shy talking about heaven, and even mentioning it sometimes, because we are talking about a desire we have in us for something we have never experienced. But just because we don’t talk about it, doesn’t mean it isn’t a real desire inside every human being. Did you ever think that the times you thought back over your past and longed for some moment or experience you had had, is actually a longing for another world, a far-off country neither you or I have ever visited.

Almost all our education has been to convince us that the good of man is to be found on this earth in the here and now. And the underlying belief is that we can satisfy our inner longing, by creating a kind of heaven on earth for ourselves, to rid our hearts of this sense that we are not at home in it. And because we all have a sense that heaven hasn’t arrived on earth yet, we keep moving the goalposts of hope to believe that it is still coming, just maybe in our children or grandchildren’s generation. But the underlying belief of the secular individual is that the world is on an upward trend of making steady progress. This is an incredibly convenient belief when the world is making some kind of progress, but when it visits regular cycles of recession or war or plague, this belief is quickly debunked, and brings a sense of disillusionment over its holder.

So the fact that we have this desire for happiness that cannot be found on earth, becomes a pretty good indication of evidence for there being a paradise. For instance, by way of example, if a newborn baby has a hunger for his mother’s milk, then it makes pretty good sense to believe such a thing does exist. In the same way, if we have a desire for paradise within our souls, then it wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume such a place does exist.

I think one of the fundamental differences between the Christian world view and the humanitarian world view, is that the Christian view is a belief that a better world can come, in as much as Gods Kingdom can partially come on earth as it is in heaven, but simultaneously remembering it will never fully come until Heavens King comes to earth. In contrast, the humanitarian view of progress believes a good and better state of the world will eventually be reached here and now, through collective human effort in education, medical and technological advance, and goodwill. And the big difference being that secular hope for progress goes no further than hope in the human spirit alone, and sees no need for prayer or reliance on a “Sovereign” from outside to give it any help. Whereas the Christian believes if God was to with-drawer his hand from this world even for a moment, it would disintegrate into cosmic fire, and so our call is to call on God to do on earth only what only He can do in restoring it through its King Jesus.

Keeping our eyes on one day of the calendar- Devotion in Revelation

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In this series of devotions in Revelation we saw how this letter written by John was a prophecy and revelation received from Jesus, and that John then sent it to seven real churches in the Roman Province of Asia in the first century. And those letters were then copied and distributed widely, globally and eventually to us down through history.
And so far in chapter 1, he’s introduced us to the eternal God, our Father and his Son Jesus Christ, who was and is and is to come, and reminded us of his great love shown at the cross to free us from sin for a life of serving him.

Revelation 1:7-8 Look he is coming with the clouds, And every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the people of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”

So in this verse John is making reference to the definite return of Christ at the end of history. There is a suddenness about the way he’s written this, but his emphasis is not on the soon-ness of his return, as much as the importance of that moment, the massiveness of this event when the King is revealed from heaven on the judgment day.

If we think of the outbreak of Covid 19 it is something that has literally got the attention of the entire world, where if you turn on the TV or radio or go online you’ll see over and over again Covid 19. I was thinking the other day about how when you do a live stream on facebook or YouTube, you can see how many people are viewing it. Well if we had to think about the day when Christ returns, every eye of every person who has ever lived will view it. Daniel 12:2 talks about that day saying, Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt”.
And so this will be a day of judgement for all, our deeds will be recalled, a day of distinguishing between all those who trusted in Christ, and those who didn’t. So When Christ comes again there will be no one who misses it, there will be no one who can deny it, there will be no one whose eye is not captured by that moment. And it will not just be a moment of importance, but the moment of eternal importance for everyone who’s lived on the face of the earth. And so John tells us wherever we find ourselves on earth, and in whatever stage of human history we are in, we should keep our eyes focused on that day.

Now, the reference he makes to the clouds doesn’t imply we should stand outside gazing into the sky as the disciples were told to stop doing by the angels, but the clouds are a reference to the way he left, in Ascension and so we’re to realise he will return in the same way that he left. The difference is that when Christ left, only a handful of disciples saw him, but when he returns every eye will see him. John says even the eyes of those who pierced him, the eyes of the Roman soldiers who drove those cruel nails through his hands on the cross will see him.

Sometimes when we speak of the judgment day we speak about it as a day of celebration, trumpet sounds and feasting, and it certainly will get to that. But we mustn’t forget that it will also be a day where all the people of the earth will mourn. And the Greek word there is describing a personal sense of loss that pierces the heart as people who have mocked Jesus throughout their lives, and dismissed him as an unnecessary individual, will weep with eternal regret when they see Him. So the Bible says, people who reject Jesus in their lifetimes, on that day will regret it for eternity. Whereas those who have come trust in Christ in their lifetimes, will find their tears wiped away by their Saviour on that day.

And then John says “So Shall it be, Amen” Remember this is prophecy, so this is not Johns’ wishes of what might happen, or his hopes of what could happen, but this is God’s Word of what will happen. Its not us as Christians thinking “I hope Jesus is going to come back one day” where hope is a vague and uncertain wish. No John says this is how its going to happen, its only a matter of time until we see him with our own eyes.

And so John is emphasising that all of history is heading to this single day when the King will declare as verse 8 says that he is the alpha and omega, that referring to the first and last letter of the Greek alphabet, reminding us that he as the eternal God was there before all, he made all, and he will be there after it all. And so if you have Him, you have life with him after his return, but if you don’t have Him, Johns claim is that not only will you loose him, but everything else because he is the beginning and end and everything in between.

And so the challenge I want to leave with us is this. If the Bible is true and I believe it is? Then it says your eye will be there too, your eye will be wide open on that day and it will be full of tears at the sight of Christ. And the question to ask ourselves is this, Will they be tears of mourning and regret for having rejected him,or will they be tears of Joy that your Saviour has finally come?

Please leave or comments or thoughts on this scripture below.

The Cross blood for you

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What did the blood of Jesus achieve for us? You may have grown up hearing about the details of the death and crucifixion of Jesus on the cross. But perhaps you wonder what did it accomplish in the life of someone who trusts in it? Is it just a vague sentimental attachment to Jesus as a past figure in history, or did it really do something to change our life in the present and for eternity. The Apostle John shares in the book of Revelation, what the death of Christ means for our past, and what it means for our future here on earth.

Revelation 1:5-6 To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a Kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father- to him be glory and power forever and ever! Amen

Now John refers to himself in the gospel of John, as the disciple who Jesus loved. And often time’s people take that as John being arrogant, or over-confident of him being Jesus’ favorite. But often in the names that Jesus gave his disciples, they were not given primarily to distinguish one disciple as better than others, but rather to remind them of something important they personally would need to cling to, in their faith journey with Christ. The Apostle Peter was given the name “the rock”, and this was not to stroke his ego into thinking he was more courageous or impenetrable than the other disciples, but rather to remind him of his need to stand firm in the suffering he would need to endure as leader of the Church of Jerusalem. And so here, John, given the title, “the one who Jesus loved”, was given the name by Jesus knowing there would be a season of suffering in his life, where the fact that God loved him would need to be treasured in his heart. And he now shares that treasure with suffering Christians who need to hear that phrase “To him who loves us”

I know for myself personally, one of the doctrines I tend to forget first, is that God actually loves me. And the word John uses here for “love” has at its root, the Greek word Agape, which is Gods unchanging and steadfast love, not dependent on our love for him or our behaviour, but because he’s chosen to love us with his eternal love. And John wastes no time in moving to the greatest display of this love in Revelation 1:6 saying “and has freed us from our sins by his blood”

Now both Jewish and gentile First Century readers were very familiar with the theme of redemption traced throughout the Story of the Old Testament, including the events of Gods redemption out of slavery in Egypt, where the smeared blood of the lamb on the doorpost, became the means of freedom firstly from Gods punishment of taking the firstborn son because of their idolatry in Egypt, , and secondly from the ongoing commands and demands of King Pharaoh.

And so this side of the cross, we look back to the blood of Jesus that was smeared from his hands and feet on the wooden cross, which literally in that moment, freed those of us who trust in him, from the punishment of God for all our sins, and also freed us from the ongoing slavery we were under to Satan because of our sinful nature. So the death of Christ, has rescued us from punishment for our past sins, but also rescued us from the power of ongoing sin.

As believers, you know as well as I do, that we are not sinless, and as Christians we have as much potential to sin, as even non Christians. But the language here is of us being loosed from the necessity to sin. As Christians, we have been given, through the redemption of Christ, the option not to have to sin, and a new nature that in opposition to the old, doesn’t want to sin. A sinful nature untouched by the redemption of Christ, will always slavishly choose disobedience, but a person who has been freed by the death of Christ, will find the growing freedom through the Holy Spirit to increasingly choose not to sin.

Charles Spurgeon shared an illustration, and I summarise it, that there was once a tyrant who summoned his slave to make a chain. And the slave was by trade a blacksmith, and began to hammer together the links of this chain. And when he was finished, the tyrant ordered him to double its length, and each time he returned to his master with a longer and longer chain, being commanded again to double it. The commands were getting more and more demanding. And after bringing it to the tyrant one last time, it was ordered for him to be bound hand and foot by the chain of his own making.

And that is the control Satan had over us. He ruled us through his temptations, and because our sinful nature was under his tyranny, we manufactured our own chain of sinful choices, leaving us responsible to bear the consequences. But this passage reminds us we have been freed from the total capture of sin, both from being chained, and from making the chain.

But we haven’t been freed to simply say no to sin, and sit around twiddling our thumbs as believers until Jesus return, but we have been redeemed for a purpose. We’ve had the prison clothes and the chains removed, and now John tells us we’ve been symbolically dressed as priests, Revelation 1:6 “and has made us to be a Kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father”

Why did he redeem us? This is one point where Christianity differs from every other religion. In many religions, there is God, and then there are priests whose job it is to stand between God and the people. So if you are into any eastern religion, there’s a priest that intercedes for you to the gods.

The diagram below shows how even the Old Testament priesthood functioned through intermediaries.
The Old Testament Priesthood

But the new Testament priesthood has been radically restructured, where there is one High Priest, Jesus Christ, who stands between us and God. And those who come to him, become priests in his Kingdom to serve his God and Father on the earth. Now, not every believer is called to serve God in the exact same way, we have a variety of different gifts. Some people have gifts of preaching and teaching, others may have gifts of encouragement or serving through acts of mercy. We don’t all serve in exactly the same way, but one thing is we are all saved to serve.

New Testament priesthood

Before the resurrection, only some were ordained into the ministry of the priesthood within the temple. And one had to be from the tribe of Levi, and even then, you may only serve at certain times of the year, or within certain positions within the temple. But, now this side of the resurrection of Jesus, a multitude of priests has been unleashed on the earth, all those who trust in the death of Christ, are called to serve.

Action Steps
1.Have you remembered your redemption from any sin that haunts you from your past?
2.Ask God to empower you to say no to the temptations of sins that chained us in our past
3.In what ways can you serve God at home, or within your family, and in other places in your life?

“The Risen Ruler King” Devotion Revelation 1:5

Audio Link: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1UarTDHwL4rPyJBmIpvqp1MHxohYMhfp8

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So we’ve been working through the first chapter of Revelation, and last time we saw how God had given this prophecy to the apostle John for the entire global church at the time, represented by the seven churches addressed in the letter, and that it is for the encouragement of all believers in the church throughout history. And he began by reminding us of these two things we enjoy in our relationship with God through Christ, Gods grace and Gods peace, that come from his throne as the eternal God.

And we continue in Revelation 1:5, which says that this grace and peace is not only from the eternal Father in heaven, but also from the eternal Son “from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.”

And so the very first title that John gives to Jesus Christ, who he’s already told us in vs 1 is the one this revelation is all about, is this title, the faithful witness. Which is probably a term very comforting to many of these First Century believers, who as the book later develops are facing an onslaught of persecution for their faithfulness to Christ. And some in extreme cases even facing martyrdom and death for their faithful witnessing to Jesus Christ. And here John is reminding us that no Christian in the world will ever be called to endure more than their master Jesus did. The one who died in faithful witness to his Father in heaven. And so it’s incredibly encouraging for Christians who are suffering to remember that Jesus has been before us in his suffering.

But at the same time of reminding them of the suffering and death of Christ, he also reminds them of Jesus resurrection from the dead. The second title he gives is the firstborn from the dead. Which not only means that he was the first to ever rise from the dead, never to die again, but in the Greek, also means that he’s the inheritor of the resurrection life, and can share these resurrection rights with all those who trust in him. With this last Sunday being Easter Sunday, a time where historically we remember all Jesus resurrection means for us. What a thought, that as Christians we are in the family of the one who defeated death, we are in the family of the one who’s inherited the title deeds to the new heaven and new earth.

But just in case, we tempted to think as Christians, that our only hope is beyond the grave, and we are powerless victims who can do nothing until we depart and leave this world. John slips in this third reminder, that the risen Lord Jesus Christ isn’t just alive and waiting in heaven to take the scepter to rule over the earth, but presently, in this very moment of history, is the ruler of the kings of the earth.

What a thought that is. To think that this morning, every president on planet earth, every military leader and general, every department leader in government, is breathing at the command of their ruler Jesus. It doesn’t mean every leader on the face of the earth acknowledges his rule over their life. But John is reminding us of the sovereignty of Jesus from his throne now, that he is ruling over everything in the world. If we just think of the events of the last few weeks, we see Jesus has the power to halt every activity under the sun. He has brought sport, and business, and schools and even churches to a standstill. He’s shown us throughout history that he has the power to remove people from leadership, and power to raise people to positions of leadership. It reminds us of Proverbs 21:1 which says, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.” In other words, even the things the leaders and Kings of the earth are doing in their offices and administrations, are in the hands of the Lord Jesus.

So while the world has been thrown into what seems to be chaos, and has left every political leader in confusion and uncertainty. Its important for us to remember that there is one ruler who is not confused, and not uncertain, and His name is Jesus Christ.

And we see in these verses, a basic outline of the gospel in this verse. Reminding us that Jesus was the one who came and lived a faithful life to God, a life we could never live in our flesh. Remembering that he died for our sins, and then rose three days later from that death, and sat down on his throne in heaven, and from there he is ruling over all the affairs of the earth. He has his fingerprints all over the details of our lives in our homes and families, and he has his hands firmly on the affairs of the entire world.

Action Steps
1.Begin by reflecting on how faithful Jesus was in witnessing to his Father throughout his life
2.Lets confess the times we have been faithless, but remember Jesus death for us in our place.
3.Commit to praying for your president and other political leaders around the world asking Jesus to lead through them.

Devotion 2- Revelation 1:3

Here is the audio link: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1xCNAEvTmz3-m4oFWC8yFk7aFJOGNMUSN

We started looking at the first few verses of the book of Revelation written by the apostle John. And we said it was a book about the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. That it was his Word to John, and it was also Johns testimony about the risen Christ. And the reason God gave his Word to John to write down, was so that we reading it in the coming generations of the church, will be able to see Christ in our hearts and minds and imaginations, the way John saw him in reality on that island.

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Revelation 1:3 Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.

The word Blessed is a word that means to be happy or filled with Joy. And so we see that to be someone who has been given both the privilege, and the desire to read Gods Word is someone who is blessed beyond understanding. Maybe if we had to think what it is that we think would make us happy, how many of us would say reading Gods Words in the Bible?

Now its not just a promise of happiness to those who read the words of prophecy in a general way. But here, it’s a specific promise attached to this book of prophecy in revelation. That’s not to say, we wont be blessed in a similar way by reading other parts of Scripture. But Johns wetting our appetite for the 22 chapters and 404 verses of this prophecy of Revelation. To realise that every sentence of it, every word in it, is directly from the mouth of God in heaven. Its prophecy to be read, and to be listened to.

And so maybe at this point, with many of us being restrained from going places we usually would go, or seeing people we’d usually see. A question to ask oneself is, I am using my time, to read the one thing, that has a promise attached, of blessing to those who read and hear it.

Now, there’s something very important when it comes to bible reading, and bible studying in this verse. You’ll notice John includes an “and” that is of eternal significance. He doesn’t just say “Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it…But he includes the phrase “ and take to heart what is written in it.”

So John draws our attention here not just to the importance of reading the bible in a ritualistic way of just reading for the sake of ticking off a list of something we think we should be doing as a Christian. But he awakens our senses, to the need to “take the Word of God to heart”. And that phrase has a meaning of keeping the words we hear, obeying them and applying them in our lives. James 1:22 similarly says “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”

And so we see its possible to deceive oneself spiritually, to be reading much of the Bible, and growing in knowledge of the Bible, but if we not taking the words of the Bible to heart, we are not growing in the Christian life. The apostle John saw growth in the Christian life, as a 2 step process of reading Gods Word and applying Gods Word. And so John is calling us to do that with these words, that he’s written down as Scripture.

Now John gives us a final motivation in verse 3, before writing further, as to why reading this specific prophecy brings blessing into our lives. He tells us the reason, at the end of vs 3, is because the time is near.
What time is near? Well we know from the end of the book of revelation, that it ends with the Lord Jesus saying, “I am coming soon” so the day circled on the calendar in this book written by John, is the judgment day, that day of Christ’s return.

Now, there are some Christians, who think they can predict the time when Jesus will return. And they look at things happening in the world, and they make predictions, and issue all sorts of precautions to Christians, as to things they should and shouldn’t do. But we must be very careful of going beyond what is written. You see, not even John, the apostle closest to Christ, knew when the end would be. You’ll remember in Matthew 24:3 the disciples tried to get the answer out of Jesus, but he gave them no conclusive dates or years, or decades. But all he told them over and over again, is that it will be sudden, and it will be unexpected. And No one knows the time or the place. And so people who say they know when the end of the world will be, are arrogant, because even Jesus said while he was on earth, that these things were only known by his Father. Not even angels of heaven know, nor even the Son Jesus knew when the end would be.

But I don’t know about you. I find Christians today, in reaction to that wrong view of the end. Respond by often not wanting to give any thought to the end at all. We don’t like to reflect on the fact that Christ is coming, and that everything in this world, will be stopped, not just for a season, like we experiencing in this lock-down, but forever. And a new heaven and new earth will appear. And maybe, its because we don’t want to be seen extremists, who see the end of the world around every corner. But Johns words here in revelation, remind us that if the end was near for him, how much more is it near for us. If 2000 years ago, John imprisoned on an island of Patmos, wrote urgently on a scroll to the early church, telling them that the end of all things was very near. How much more should we as Christians today, live with that urgency, that Christ’s return is nearer today than it was yesterday, and that we must be ready for him.

Are you ready for the end of all things? If Christ came today, would you be ready for him? And the way we get ready for Christs’return is by reading and hearing his words, and praying to him, and putting our faith in what he did on the cross to save us from that day-the Judgment day.

Action Steps
1.Pray asking God to make you happy through reading this prophecy of Revelation
2.Consider a strategy that will help you take to heart and apply what you read in the bible.
3.Reflect on the nearness of Christs return and pray for yourself and others to be ready for it.

Devotions in Revelation (Revelation 1:1-3)

Audio Version Link here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1wvh9TZNgPNhyJ5sYUK1GuFfAJMUeZVN_

Revelation 1:1 The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw- that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.

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The first thing to notice about this book of revelation is that it is a revelation of Jesus Christ. Many people tend to think of Johns’ writing as a revelation of the end times specifically, but firstly before it is that, it is a revelation of the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. In other words, its God the Father, pulling back the curtains of the heavenly realms to see the person of the Lord Jesus in his post ascension form, firstly for John, and then for all those who will read these words, servants of Christ in all the coming generations of the Church. And as we see Christ, the way John saw him, we will better understand his sovereignty and control over the stage human history we find ourselves in.

In addition to this, Revelation is a future orientated book. While the first book John wrote, known as John’s gospel is a past oriented book, pointing back to the life of Jesus on earth, his death on earth and resurrection on earth. The book of revelation is focused on what Vs 1 says ‘ what will soon take place.’ In other words, Johns head is turned in the opposite direction, from looking back in history, to looking forward in history, ultimately in the direction of the return of Christ from Heaven.
Now we are not exactly sure of when everything in the book of Revelation has taken place or will take place, even the best scholars wouldn’t make such a claim, but what we can be sure of is that its referring to events that will take place, at some point, between the time when John is on the island of Patmos in the first Century, and Jesus ultimate return at the end of History.

So all that Heaven wanted John and us to know, is that these things will soon take place. So the emphasis in this book is not precision of when the exact dates and times of these things will be, but rather on the definiteness about the fact that they will take place soon. So there should be an urgency for us as Christians living after Christs ascension and before his second coming, that we are living in the times when things are happening in the world, because they have been pre-determined and prophesied in advance by God.

We must be careful of thinking that we are living in a modern age, over which Jesus Christ has no control, but rather remember afresh, that we are bang in the middle of the unfolding of Gods plans for the world. We should always be living with an attentiveness to the fact, that the things happening in the world around us now, are in fact being done by God, because he decreed them to take place long before they ever did.

With such an uncommon revelation as this one, it was sent by an angel from heaven. And the angels count it a great privilege to be messengers from the throne room of Christ.
And note it was given to John, the apostle of Christ. It wasn’t given to a group of believers but specifically to him. Some people say, this may be because he was the last living apostle on earth, but we don’t have any evidence for that, but what we are told is that he received it during a Sabbath worship time on the island of Patmos where he was imprisoned (Revelation 1:9-10).

A couple of things to notice about what was revealed to him. Firstly, John tells us that he testified to “everything” he saw. In other words, the written words on this scroll are the full revelation that John received. There’s nothing missing from what John saw, compared to what we have written down in this book. That shows us that the purpose for which God gave it to John, was that it would be written down and recorded as scripture. It wasn’t that John shared some of this revelation, and kept some back secretly to be accessed in other ways apart from the Bible. But we can know that the full revelation God wanted us to have is what is written down in Revelation. That’s why the book warns us at the end, not to add or take away from it, because it is the complete revelation- it is the everything that John saw.

The second thing to notice, is that in verse 2, we are told that this is the word of God, and the testimony of Jesus Christ. So, this wasn’t simply Johns interpretation of the things he saw, or his opinion of the meaning of the things he saw,but its his eyewitness account of the things he saw in the Spirit on the Lords Day (Rev 1:10). And this brings to mind an incredible thought, that John saw with his eyes things through the Holy Spirit, that he wrote down on a scroll through the Spirit, so that with the Spirits help today, we might see the things in our minds and imaginations, that he saw on that day. Now our mind and imagination will be involved as we read through Revelation. Its an exciting book full of colour and imagery, and unseen territory, but just like a train is guided within its train-tracks, our imaginations are lead and limited by the tracks that John has laid down for us.

Call to Action:
1. Lets thank God that we can access the person of Jesus through his Word.
2. Lets search the Scriptures knowing they have everything we need to serve Christ in this life.
3. Lets take heart that the things happening in the world in our day, have been decreed by Christ and in his control.

The Resurrection could be our Biggest Problem

open-grave-shutterstock-Mordechai-Meiri-e1427440502964

On this day people around the world will remember an event.  A happening called the Resurrection of Jesus.

The Greatest Events of History are those which effect the greatest number of people for the longest periods of time. By such a measure, there is no other single event that has affected so many people throughout human history as the Ressurection of Jesus Christ. For two millenia, the inertia of the stone that rolled away from Jesus tomb (as sighted by the first eyewitnesses)  has continued to have an ongoing affecting on peoples lives. Today people from every nation on earth, from a kaleidoscopic array of languages, cultures, and previous religious convictions and world views will gather to worship their God Jesus who rose from, and conquered death.

Some people will say today that this is some fallacious legend or myth that some primitive people still believe. But given the unfolding of transformation in Jerusalem, Judea and its sweeping effect throughout the Roman Empire continuing now throughout both modern and postmodern History. The patterns of the Resurrection event have all the signs of an event that sparked exponential conversion of belief systems through convictions of a resurrected Jesus. Myths and Legends do not grow in such a manner, but grow far more slowly over multiple generations. Given the fact that the eyewitness accounts of the Resurrection are considered the most trustworthy documents by leading academics in historical reportage dated early within 30 years of “the event”, adding to this, the sheer size of these copied manuscripts vouching for their credibility, as well as not having a single piece of Jewish or Roman writing with a single sentence contradicting the Resurrection in this time frame. What would we have to say to someone who believed the Resurrection was a myth or legend?

Well, Firstly we have to ask them if they genuinely are ready to name the most influential event of human history a “non-event”. Thats a huge call and the danger of CS Lewis’ chronological snobbery is crouching.  In order to do this, they would need to not only prove that the Resurrection didn’t happen. But also they would need to explain what did happen in its place, to lead to such a sudden and swelling influence as their supposed “Non Event” of the Ressurection had.

But secondly, I would ask them to consider whether they would for one day of their lives, put aside any preconceived bias toward the Resurrection of Jesus and anything else they’ve been told in a lecture theatre or classroom growing up, cause I was told it too. And just start with an hour of research, giving themselves permission to read and assess any piece of writing written in the first Century about Jesus Resurrection. If after doing that, they conclude that the Resurrection for them is a “non-event” with substance worth considering further, then we will have to part ways with different conclusions, but if that person would open themselves to the possibility of a risen Christ in history who is alive and intercedes with people today, what a hope, what a purpose they might find.

 

 

Calvin on Justification by faith

Last week in our annual Church gathering for Reach SA pastors and leaders in Cape Town South Africa. We were given the charge by our Bishop Glenn Lyons to remember and return to our Reformation roots as next year will be the celebrating 500 years of Reformation History.

In response, I turned to Calvins Institutes on “Justification by faith” which was the heartbeat of the birth and growth of Reformation history.

Calvin reminded me that Justification is the beginning, middle and end of Salvation as a christian. It is the foundation on which our Christian Identity, our assurance and Church stands. Christ was given in kindness by God the Father. And Christ is received only by faith.

The benefits of Justification are two-fold in Calvins chapter. The first being the benefit of being Reconciled to God which means God now interacts with us as his children as an indulgent father, rather than a judge. The second benefit is that we are sanctified by Gods Spirit to grow in integrity and purity of life.

It is important to remember that “Justification by faith alone” is not an excuse for ungodly living, but a fueller of godliness and true good works out of the assurance created in the engine room of being made right with God by faith.

As one writer puts it “We are justified by faith alone, but that faith does not remain alone”

Getting tired of praying

31-Mt-Waddington-Summit-Area.jpgPsalm 61:2 “From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I”

Sometimes when we try pray. We feel the need to shout to God. Or raise our voices as if we shouting from one side of the Coast of the Atlantic Ocean to the other. The majority of Christians testify to feeling distant from God at points in their Spiritual life. Sometimes we begin to feel faint crying out to God. Perhaps questioning why he isn’t answering, but at the same time remembering countless other times he met us at our point of need in faith. Are you feeling faint because of something in your life you screaming to God for an answer for? Psalm 62:1 encourages us not to grow faint or weary. There is someone higher than you. Making requests on your behalf. His name is Jesus Christ. He is our rock. An ever-present help in trouble. When we feel ourselves losing touch or contact with God in our prayer-life. Our cry should be: “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I” As we’re taken to Christ in that higher position than we are in the heavenly places. He will hear the concern of our spirits and interpret the groans of our soul here on earth. And whisper it into the ear of his Father.

 

A Vote of Conscience

A general view of South Africa's Parliament in Cape Town is seen during a motion to impeach President Jacob Zuma after the constitutional court ruled that he breached the constitution

I believe the major campaigning by political parties is being unleashed today. There is no doubt that these elections will be followed with interest historically in our countries near history. Our countries people are very passionate about who they will vote for especially in the upcoming election. The passion is so strong one could almost say there is a religious element in the soul that begins to turn white hot the minute the topic of the vote or the elections is mentioned. I suppose there are so many factors smoldered into the one mark of an X that our future emotionally, financially, even spiritually could be affected by such a vote.

I was reminded by a christian friend around a fire one night a week ago that a Christians vote should never be predictable to the world around them. A Christians vote is not determined by what skin colour they have, or what LSM they in, what level of education they have received or even what neighborhood they are in. A Christians vote should be determined by conscience. Can I with good conscience vote for a particular party? It would be interesting to know how many Christians in our country vote according to conscience. I wander sometimes if the instincts of financial safety and security are not what rises first as we put our pen to X on paper. My friend told me that he could not with good conscience vote for any political party that supports actively or passively abortion on demand in our country. I respected my friends boldness and honesty. I had to ask myself how much of our countries political parties policies I am even aware of or whether I just go on a hunch of who I thinks best. Maybe I even get my twister board out and spin deciding yellow, red or blue. But then change my decision anyway. A good question to ask myself was Have I ever personally investigated, read or compared different political parties policies on different issues to one another? When I started reading up on different political policies, I started to realise I had been wrong on so much of my presumed ideas of what different parties stood for and realised that Christian conscience could be violated on a number of different fronts.

A generation of South African Christians will not be remembered for who they voted for. Such a generation will be forgotten and never remembered. But a generation of Christians who vote for what they stand for will never be forgotten. Even if we are in the minority, the marks made by conscience will not be forgotten by the author of conscience. I hope that as Christians in this country we will vote with conscience,not just voting for outcomes that benefit us, but those that benefit the poor, the homeless, the foreigner, the orphan and the unborn. It is better to stand alone in history with good conscience than stand with the masses uninformed.

 

The next time you look at the sun

I wonder what you say when you watcNamibiaSunseth a beautiful sunrise or sunset on the horizon. I wonder if we just say “Oh nice” or whether we truly let it seep into our souls and hear what its saying. The other day I realised just how long it had been since I went outside at night and actually lifted my head to look at the stars.

Psalm 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 

The writer of the Song is speaking about what we would refer to as space or the expanse of sky in which we find the sun, moon and stars. He’s telling us that the stars are communicating aspects of Gods brilliance and weighty power to our souls.

The Sheer size alone of the sun fitting 1,3 million earths inside it. As well as its incredibly intimidating energy levels which a meer second of, would provide enough power to energise South Africa for 9 million years. To even begin to think that God spoke it into existence via his mouth (Psalm 33:6) and that he then juggled it like a hot potato in his hands till it was just the right distance from where he would put the earth, that a couple of meters closer it would melt us like wax, yet a couple of meters further would leave us frozen over. It could only shout something of the greatness of its maker.

But in speaking about the sun. Incredible power was not all the psalmist noticed as he sat outside his tent scribbing the words of psalm 19 on an expensive scroll. For as he looked at the sun it reminded him of 3 things about God.

  1. God has created the sun for our beauty and enjoyment. Psalm 19:5 It (the sun) is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber. A groom getting out his car on his wedding day is usually one of the most attractive looking days of his life. If the sun is seen from many other places or planets in out of space, it often has a hideous, terrifying look about it. It should be interesting that it is such a beauty to the exact distance of the human eye on earth. Surely this screams to our souls that a good creator placed the sun within sight of our eyes for our enjoyment.
  2.  God has left traces of order in the skies. Many people today seem to hold a conviction that everything in the universe is random chaos and no order can be seen. Such a conviction ignores the motions and paths the earth takes around the sun. As each day providing us adequate rest, the sun comes up on the horizon and sets in the same place daily. The sun reminds us that their is mostly patterns of order in the skies because an ordering being designed them.
  3. God cares about sustaining life It is interesting how much life forms there are on planet earth compared to other planets in our solar system and galaxies. I remember the dimmer switch in my bedroom as a child on the light. My dad use to come in and dim the light to exact right place where I could sleep comfortably. In a similar way you can imagine God dimming the sun up or down until its at the perfect heat and light to provide multiple forms of life on earth with the nourishment they need. From the earthworm under the soil, to the snowcapped mountains melting in the afternoon sun to water the rivers and fields below. There is great evidence in the sun that there is a God who cares about sustaining detailed specific life.

Perhaps tonight or tomorrow go outside and let the skies and heavens declare something to your soul.

 

Getting Kids into the Bible

20121011 Read.gifGetting Kids excited about a book they’ve not read much of or a book that isn’t portrayed very positively in Popular Culture is not an easy task. But the good news is that the Book of the Bible is exciting in and of itself and God has spoken through it to children across the world and through the centuries. Its sometimes just getting kids in it which is the challenge.

Here are a couple of points taken from Wayne Stocks’ article on the Ministry to children Website entitled “10 Ways to Get Kids Excited about the Bible.

  1. Hold the Bible

Many times depending on the age group you are teaching, you may choose to creatively tell a story from the Bible. For example, the story of David and Goliath. Sometimes we might put the Bible under the chair or on a table in the corner of the classroom while we do it. Its important to keep holding your Bible as you tell the story. Opening it up is even better. This way, kids see where you getting the story from, and if something you’ve said really strikes them, they will know where to read more about it.

  1. Teach them How to use the Bible

We should no longer take for granted that just because children are in our church Building, they should know how to find their way around the Bible. It is a very daunting book to find your way around for the first time and especially for kids. We should keep an eye on kids struggling to find the passage reference and use it as a Bible training time talking about the two testaments and how to find Bible Books in the concordance, as well as explaining how the Big and Small numbers work. Its a perfect chance to get the Bouncy kid whose grown up in the Church to help the kid struggling.

  1. Get Excited about the Bible

Children are incredibly perceptive of adults. They pick up on patterns of emotion quickly. The Children most likely respect you and are watching you to see what excites you. If when you get to the time of reading the Bible, you are passionless and disinterested, the kids will take away that the Bible isn’t a fun or interesting thing to read. Build up your lesson to that moment and let the kids see how serious it is to hear God speak to you.

  1. Visuals from the places in the Bible

Sometimes an exciting way to draw a child’s interest in before reading the Bible could be to print out or show them an image of the place where the Bible Story you are telling happened. If you doing the Sermon on the Mount, print out a picture of a mountain in Judea. Not only does it spark their imagination with a visual image, but it also reminds the kids that the Bible is a true story that happened in a real place on earth in history. The advice is to always try and use real life images rather than cartoon images with children to authenticate the story as true.

  1. Find a launching point

This is a bonus point, but sometimes it helps to find what the Kids you teaching the Bible to are interested in. There are a number of themes in the Bible and you could direct Kids to those sections to read things that they already enjoy. For instance, if a grade 5 group of boys are talking each week about war or fighting games they play on Xbox and the details are getting a bit gory. It might be a good connection to tell them about the book of Judges or Joshua which is full of gory war stories which also point the Kids to the greater story of Gods Salvation.

George Whitefield Questioning the soul

George Whitefield (1714-1770) was one of the most famous preachers of the 18th Century. It is well known that he and others in his generation would probe their soul and spiritual life with questions.

Proverbs 4:23 Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

Before retiring to bed every night, he opened up his journal with a leaflet of questions on the inside. (Here they are)

Have I,

1. Been fervent in prayer?

2. After or before every deliberate conversation or action, considered how it might tend to God’s glory?

3. After any pleasure, immediately given thanks?

4. Planned business for the day?

5. Been simple and recollected in everything?

6. Been meek, cheerful, affable in everything I said or did?

7. Been proud, vain, unchaste, or enviable of others?

8. Recollected in eating and drinking? Thankful? Temperate in sleep?

9. Thought or spoken unkindly of anyone? 10.Confessed all sins?

Why Christianity is not in decline?

 

There seems to be a general mood at present among Christians and Churches with a more Western heritage or predisposition that Christianity is in decline. We could understand such inclinations given certain events  (not new) that seem to have finally  surfaced that undermine the principles and systems of Christian thinking and ethics in Western history. While there has certainly been a downward trend in mainline denominations in the West, and a subtle growing hostility toward Christian propositions and statements about truth, that is seen in certain public statements made by prestigious academics as well as the loudest voice of opinion in our times- the arts. In spite of this, some think it may be premature to blow the trumpet on the demise of Christianity in the West.

While Christians in the West ponder and speculate about a slow dissolve of Christendom,  or a soon revival of the Christian faith in the void of unanswered questions in our existential age. One thing is categorically undeniable, and that is that Christianity in the world is far from being in decline.

After Reading Church History in plain language by Bruce Shelley, he draws on years of academic research that explores the growth of the Church in certain parts of the world in the last Century. He shows how in 1900 only 10 percent of the worlds Christians lived in the continents of the South and the East, but only a century later 70 percent live there. To give a few examples at present, there are more people in Church on Sunday in communist China than in all of Western Europe or in North America. More Christians worship in Anglican Churches in Nigeria weekly than in all the Episcopal churches of Britain, Europe and North America combined. To take the South for example, areas once thought of by the West as third World have become the largest strongholds of Christianity. The worldwide weight of Christians is now described as “pear shaped” with Africa bursting at the seams. At the dawning of the twenty-first century there were recorded 480 million Christians in Latin America, 360 million in Africa, 313 million in Asia compared to only 260 million in North America.

Philip Jenkins, a distinguished professor of History at Baylor University said at the time that religion in the new century even showed signs of replacing ideology as the prime animating force in human affairs. He suggests that at the exclusion of the liberal West a worldwide Christian revolution is long underway that will change how the world interacts globally.

What this means as a whole is that as Westerners who have claimed the legacy of Christianity, we will no longer be able to do so with a growing force of Christianity emerging in other parts of the world that will express concerns about our internal inconsistencies and hypocrisies regarding  the very foundations of our world view in Western thought.

I think its also an encouragement for Christians living in the Western world not to loose heart in our faith in the truth claims of Scripture. The fact that Christianity has survived 2000 years of history and travelled voluntarily across almost all known borders of geography cause us to think long and hard about whether we should toss out Christian thought for constantly revised constitution that makes it possible to accommodate the momentum of the decade. It should also cause us to be alarmed at those who simply dismiss Christianity as irrelevant and bigoted without having given thought to a movement of such magnitude and influence worldwide.

Africa

How we should see our stuff as Christians

Recently I’ve really been thinking about different passages in scripture. Sometimes it may seem as if two or more passages are directly or indirectly contradicting each other in our Bibles. We struggle with this because we say “Surely this is Gods Word and how can he say two things that contradict each other.” I believe if we just wrestle and keep fighting to find the answer. God in his providence will guide us into all truth through his Spirit.

One such idea has been how we should think about our possessions as Christians. I’ve wrestled with passages in Luke’s Gospel like Luke 18:22, where Jesus told the Rich young ruler to sell everything he had and give to the poor, then he will have treasure in heaven. Earlier in his historic gospel account Luke also makes specific mention of how Jesus disciples “Left everything, and followed him.”

But then I’ll read passages like 1 Timothy 6 speaking to a pastor with fairly wealthy (Passage says rich) congregation members and he is encouraging these Christians to use their wealth to be rich in good deeds and lay up a sure foundation for the coming age (1 Timothy 6:18-19). We can assume there were Christians in the New Testament Church with large amounts of money and assets to be referred to as rich.

Confronting and holding these passages alongside each other in our hearts and minds can leave us feeling uneasy about how we should live and conduct our lives as followers of Jesus without being hypocritical or disobedient.

There was a quote from David Livingston (1813-1873) which I stumbled across which helped put this theology of stuff and possessions and wealth into clearer perspective for me. David Livingston was a missionary to Africa who spread the gospel of Jesus Christ there, as well as worked for the bettering of human lives in Africa.

Shortly before setting out on his journey he wrote these words: “I place no value on anything I have or possess, except in relation to the Kingdom of Christ”

This reminds me of another Christian preacher who was preaching on the parable of the treasure in the field recently. He expounded and explained that this passage describes the Kingdom of Christ as a treasure discovered in our lives. It is of such value, that we are prepared to sell everything for it. In the outworking of this in our real lives often Jesus gives everything we have sold for the Kingdom back to us. But now its been given to us not as an end in itself to build our own sense of value and Kingdom of self, but its ours for the sake of his Kingdom. He mentioned that in some ways its harder than just selling everything, because now you really have to show with your stuff what your treasure is.

A challenging question would be. If someone looked at my life from the outside as many looked into David Livingston’s life and found that quote in his diary to be true of him. Would others looking in at my life say I am living placing no value on anything I have or own, but that I see everything in relation to the Kingdom of Christ?

What I wish I had known sooner about teenagers today.

I recently stumbled upon an article on the internet composed by Christian Smith and the national Study of Youth and Religion. What I read about religious teenagers simply blew my mind and has given me more understanding on certain things I could not previously make sense of in listening to things people were assuming in conversations about God.

The experiment conducted focused in on researching the religious beliefs held by American Teenagers. Conducting over 3000 interviews with American Adolescents was no doubt a difficult task. They describe how many of the teens responded to questions about their faith with a shrug and the words “whatever”. The research found teenagers in general struggled to put their faith into words. Not that they are stupid, for they found they simultaneously had an abundant knowledge of their favourite musicians, TV shows and what they needed to get good marks at school. But the research showed many of the teens do not even understand what their religious traditions believe, or don’t particularly care to believe it. One researcher explained, “For most teens, nobody has to do anything in life, including anything to do with religion. “Whatever” is just fine, if that’s what a person wants.”

Facebook displays belief and faith names as Religious Views

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well after wading through the research. The shocking discovery made was that they found the faith held and described in the interviews by most of the teenagers came down to something described by the researchers as “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism”

As middle class South Africans, I feel that our present teenagers are almost a type of American in their world view of convictions and core beliefs due to the enormous amount of time being spent watching American movies and TV Shows and the music they listen to,. As well as being a developing democratic country trying to keep up with our big constitutional brother.

Smith Described it as a type of creed subscribed to by American teenagers in these 5 core beliefs. (In other words, this is what the majority of religious teenagers believe about God)

1. A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.
2. god wants people to be good, nice and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
4. god does not need to be particularly involved in ones life except when he is needed to resolve a problem.
5. good people go to heaven when they die.

You’ll notice I used a small “g” for god, as these assumptions clearly go against the grain of what Biblical Christianity embodies. This suggests that the majority of teenagers who have grown up attending church and calling themselves christians may have a different “god” in mind when they think of him to the God portrayed in the Bible. In future articles I hope to go into more detail about how each of these points was discovered and how it works its way out in the way people talk and behave.

Mackelmore “Same Love”

It has been most interesting watching Mackelmores’ video “Same Love”. I was impressed with the quality of music Mackelmore is able to produce as well as the film chosen to accompany the track.

Mackelmore makes no secret that he is using music as a platform to voice his opinions on homosexuality. I think it is good when people voice their opinion because it allows us to evaluate it and decide for ourselves whether we hold to it or not.

 What did I like about this video

  1. Mackelmore is clear that calling “homosexual people” names like faggot or using the word “gay” as a negative adjective is degrading and a form of oppression. I completely agree with this. As a follower of Jesus, one of our strongest values is love. Because we believe we should love all people regardless of sexual preference. I believe all people are created equal in dignity, value and worth and we should love all people as God himself loved us. Which was a great deal in sending his Son Jesus to die for us on the cross.

What made me feel uncomfortable about this video

1. Mackelmore comes across rather judgmental and unloving towards Christians. At points he stereotypes all Christians as fundamentalist, right wing conservatives. Putting “all Christians” in the same boat is a little bit presumptuous and even hypocritical. I feel this is unfair as most Christians I know are incredibly understanding of people’s struggles and very loving towards people who would call themselves gay.

2. Where Mackelmore argument falls apart is when he talks about “Christians” as people who paraphrase a book written 3500 years ago. This is very strange as  many humble scholars who dedicate their lives to studying ancient texts, admit to not being able to date all the books of the Bible exactly. The idea that christians paraphrase the book is also not very fair. People paraphrase literature all the time as a way of summarizing large bodies of information, but the Bible is a source freely available with the original writings and manuscripts on display for people to examin themselves. But what really surprised me, was to see Mackelmore quote from the same book of the Bible at the end of his song to justify his argument. He quotes 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 which from my experience of sitting through many weddings is a Bible text often misquoted and not understood in context of the entire text. I’m surprised that whoever was editing the video didn’t pick up on this inconsistency of him using the same book he himself rubbishes as outdated.

3. The third thing I felt uncomfortable with was when Mackelmore presents a debatable fact as an absolute truth. In a certain point in the video he mentions that homosexuality is a predisposition from birth. From the research I have done, there is inconclusive evidence that same sex attraction is from birth or childhood. It would seem rather narrow minded and intolerant for him to suggest that people who disagree with his unproven fact are narrow, judgmental fundamentalists when he himself comes across as being rather narrow.

4. The last thing that really shocked me was the unnecessary use of emotion to manipulate people to see his view. Throughout the video he likens the struggle of the oppression of black African Americans to the struggle of gay people. He uses this as one of his main arguments for supporting his view. I find this difficult to accept because he is not black and from looking at his background, has a very limited view of what being an oppressed African American is like. Little does he know that the majority of black Africans around the world are not in agreement of homosexuality as being something designed by God. What Mackelmore is doing is actually calling the majority of black African people narrow, judgmental, and right wing conservatives.

In conclusion, Mackelmore saws off the branch he is sitting on. He is saying damn right I support it, but gives no good reason to anyone to believe whats he’s saying.

Struggling to praise God

Psalm 48:1 Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised.

Why is it that so often our praise in Church is described as okay or fairly good? Why don’t we walk out of a Sunday worship Service saying: “We praised the Lord Jesus greatly this morning”. Why after a Saturday night of greatly cheering for our favourite soccer team or rugby team, do we come and gently sing to the one we pronounce as the giver of every breathe and gift we have? Could the reason be found in Psalm 48:1? The command of the Lord God being greatly praised follows after the true statement that The Lord is Great! Could it be that when we come into Sunday gatherings, our hearts have not desired the God we say we worship? Or our minds have not thought about how great he really is? Or our tongues have not been trained during the week in praise toward our creator? Or our spiritual eyes have not been sitting in front of the Bible beholding the glory of God in the face of Christ?

Questions for reflection

  1. What is your personal routine of getting ready for Church?
  2. Do you come to Church spiritually prepared or are you expecting Church to Spiritually prepare you?
  3. Do you find yourself often singing with a dry heart towards God?
  4. Do you ever find yourself wondering why someone else is enjoying the music so much at Church when you’re not?

Perhaps we should consider the great Lord before we get in the car to go to Church expecting great praising to take place.

Prayer: God please prepare my heart before I go to Church this morning. Help me see something of your greatness before the first note is played.

Have you ever thought of being in Jesus

The Bible is full of amazing promises of what has happened to us.

2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

Notice if anyone is in Christ. It can be anyone. You don’t have to be really important. Or really rich. Or really educated. Or from a really successful family. But if anyone is in Christ. Regardless of past sins, past experiences, past back-stories. If anyone is in Christ.

I remember Eric Tucker once explained to me in Bible study that we can think of being in Christ in terms of two equally important polar opposites. We understand the concept of Christ being in us. Christ takes up residence in our hearts through the presence of the Holy Spirit. This is a doctrine we are very familiar with in modern day evangelicalism. But I wonder if we are as familiar with the polar opposite of that. The idea of us being in Christ. If you are in someone, you are completely covered and protected by them. You are surrounded with them and their identity. You effectively become one with that person. That person is now the dominant personality in the relationship making decisions, leading etc. And so is our relationship with Jesus. We have become one with him.  Whatever identity we had (The old self) has been swallowed up in our new identity in Christ- a new creation.

 

A daydream about a farmer kept me going

The other night in my quiet time, my mind drifted into “Cinema mode” as I started daydreaming about a farmer. I always try my best to pursue these imagination kernels as often as possible as I have found them incredibly edifying in my walk with Christ. Even sometimes I might see a direct application to a part of the Bible I have been reading.

The image was of a farmer. Who plants a seed in his field. Every single day the farmer takes a measuring tape with his watering jug and waters the little seed. He then unravels his measuring tape attempting to measure the little plant. Every day for 3 months he tries measuring the plant. And he despairs over how small it is. Many times he thinks of quitting his job. He personalises the fact that his little seed has not grown because of his failure as a farmer. He looks over the farm fence at the next door neighbours farm and wishes he could have a crop as big as that one. He fantasises about another field. He tries a hundred different farming methods from Farmers weekly. He despairs over his weaknesses as a farmer and often thinks things might have worked out better if he had taken up painting.

God revealed to me that I am often like that farmer. We live in a world where everything is high-speed and instant. This has filtered into the Church in the way we approach ministry. We think that if we plant the Word of God in the hearts of men. That some kind of instantaneous evidence should be given us as a kind of receipt approving us of what we have done. But the Kingdom of God is never described like this in Scripture.

In fact Jesus shared a story quite opposite to this.

26 He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground.27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. 29 As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.” (Mark 4:26-29)

I am reminded so often from this parable. That Kingdom growth is

1. Definite– vs 26 suggests that if the seed of the kingdom is scattered. Notice it doesn’t say carefully planted, or even watered. But it simply says scattered. If the Word of Christ is scattered in the ears of people. Or scattered on the internet. Whether its been done intentionally or accidentally. It tells us the Word will sprout and grow. It is not something we could can stop, even if we tried.

2. Something that grows independently of the planter– notice vs 27 describes the farmer as carrying on with normal life. It doesn’t grow because he’s daily standing next to the seed, or daily measuring its progress. It grows independently of the farmer. He sleeps, has breakfast, brushes his teeth. But the seed itself has life in it and so there is no life support required from the farmer to create growth.

3. Beyond our understanding or measurement- imagine the farmer after a few months pulls up in his bakkie (truck) and discovers the seed has sprouted and grown. Vs 27 says “though he does not know how” It seems as if the farmer cannot explain why the seed grew the way it did. Often when ministries succeed, we see manuals being written, books being published and a hundred other desperate Church leaders trying to understand how to contruct Kingdom growth. But this passage seems to suggest that when the Word of Christ does sprout in peoples lives. The truth is the farmer says: “How the heck did that happen”. He can try document what he did for instance: “I watered it twice a day” “I took photos of it weekly” But even those procedures leave the farmer scratching his head as to how?

4. Sustainable Kingdom growth is Gradual- The way vs 28 describes the growth of the seed is almost like watching a National Geographic clip on plant growth. You know those clips filmed that have been sped up 1000 times, to show in a few seconds the seed sprouting, the head appearing and ultimatley the plant unfolding. It suggests that Kingdom growth can’t be watched in normal time. It can only be viewed in retrospect in high speed fast forward. Its gradual. I think God works this way to prevent the farmer from becoming conceited in his quick growth.

5. The farmer does not decide on the harvest- Kingdom growth is something to be rejoiced in when its here. But it is not guaranteed. And it cannot be stored for later or necessarily replicated. When the harvest is ready, the King brings his sickle and gathers it for his purposes. This encourages us to enjoy Kingdom growth when we see it. But never depend on it to give us our significance. It is a good gift to be enjoyed, but never an expected outcome to be assumed.

What to look for in a Youth Pastor?

I had the priviledge of spending 2 Grace filled days reflecting on the gospel with other pastors in and around Cape Town at the 2013 Rezolution Conference on Monday and Tuesday.

In one of the Panel Discussions, Ligon Duncan gave 3 requirements he looks for in a Youth Pastor/Kids Pastor. Here they are.

 

  1. Do they have a love for the gospel and the Word of God.
  2. Do they see their job not to replace parents but to assist them.
  3. Does their ministry work to unify the kids to the bigger Church body or segregate them further.

 

They made the extra point that a Youth Pastor who is working in close partnership with the head pastor is also a very crucial thing to look for as youth ministry should never be trying to form another Church separated from the larger Church body.

So in being evaluated as a Kids Pastor those would be 3 useful criteria for Parents and people to consider.

The Face of Jesus for Kids

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In 2002 Popular Mechanics released a very curious article about the real Face of Jesus. In teaching children, it is often necessary for us to use illustrated pictures of Jesus. I have often wondered if we are being faithful in this. Someone like John Calvin presents us with a warning that such depictions or images of God in the flesh are idolatrous. At the same time in reading “children finding Faith” Francis Bridger points out the importance imagination plays in faith. In other words, God has given us the ability to imagine the stories of Jesus. And part of imagination sprung from faith, will be having at times a picture in our minds of Jesus. I’ve noticed a number of children’s Bibles strike a good balance by showing Jesus always with his back to the reader. They intentionally leave room for the mystery of the Messiahs face.

The article in Popular Mechanics however pointed out that we need the most accurate picture of Jesus in our minds as possible. In other words, the common assumption that many of us make is that Jesus was a white western male with long flowing hair, clear skin and was slightly taller than his disciples. This is very far from the realistic picture of who Jesus would have been. This is according to forensic anthropologists who have done investigation and research into the real face of Jesus. They used the same kind of research that criminal investigators use to solve murder mysteries, and after detailed investigation, they discovered the most probable picture of what Jesus would have looked like.

To do this they analysed skull structures, hair colours, eye colours of the people group in which Jesus would have been born and the area from where Jesus was from. There conclusive findings which struck me were that Jesus would not have had long hair, but rather curly short dark brown hair. His face would not have been clear, but would have been weather beaten, rather tough looking, looking much older than his age. He most likely would have had a beard in keeping with the Jewish tradition of rabbis in Jesus day. And he would have definitely not had blue eyes but brown. And his skin would not have been white, but middle Eastern in complexion.

The picture above depicts a more accurate view of a middle eastern man of Jesus age in the 1st Century. The writer of the article suggests rather strongly that to assume or depict Jesus as being of our culture stems from our sinful tendency to centre our own culture as of most important.

In thinking through this, it has left me thinking of how often I have used pictures in Bibles or illustrations of Jesus being slightly British. Recently this has made me feel more and more uncomfortable as more of the kids we are teaching are from different cultures and race groups. I need to be more intentional about finding visuals and teaching aids that add rather than take away from what Jesus really looked like.

What do you think about this article?

-Chris Ebden

John Calvin Institutes

It was CS Lewis who said out of every 3 books, 2 we read should be from outside our own century. We seem to be blind to the blindspots of our day and Century. Keeping them safely in the shadows. While talking up the things already in the light that men have seen and prized.

Its with this motivation that I have started reading Calvins Institutes. I often call myself proudly a Calvinist without having taken on deeply the pillars of truth that Calvin put forward out of Scripture. When I get a chance to post articles. I will be rewriting portions of the institutes in my own words having processed them in my own heart. And this will hopefully help me in the working out of my own salvation. And the building up of others who may read these. I hope you enjoy.

Whats up News for Kids?

ImageI wanted to share a light hearted idea about something I’m sure we’ve all struggled with in Kids Ministry. How do I make those announcements that I need to make to the kids? Telling them about important things like when to hand in camp forms, or what time concert practice is, or in my case to encourage the kids to stop stealing the Church Bibles and taking them home (which we now give a warning for). One of them is yawning after being up till 2 in the morning at a family Braai. The other is jabbing his best friends in the ribs. The grade 7 girls start chabbering about their weekend activities. And all this between the time I’ve welcomed them till the time I’ve finished making announcements.

I always thought making announcements was one of my strengths. But after kids have heard your voice every Friday and Sunday for 48 weeks of the year, you could be Frank Senatra and they’ll be bored of you.

This was when I thought its time for a change.

Firstly, you might want to get different leaders to open up with prayer and notices. This can help but I have always felt that as the leader it is one thing I am reluctant to hand over. It is one of the defining moments of the evening or morning which sends a message to the kids as to why we meet around Jesus (See Ken Moser “Creative Christian ideas for Youth ministry”pg 9). Also often as the overseer you know the notices that need to be made and while the other leaders might be hilariously funny, you kind of cringing at all the important information they forgot to tell the kids like what time the bus leaves.

Secondly, Another option may be to introduce a 3 minute slot on a Sunday morning called Whats Up? Get an old bookshelf, knock the backboard off, paint it up nice and put a shiny Whats up sign on it. Tell the kids its going to be the newsroom for the morning. Explain that every week one of them will get a chance to read the news. The preference is given to the grade 6 and 7’s so they feel involved of course. They get to choose their costume for the morning like gold cowboy hat and scarf etc. Type out on an A4 piece of paper all the notices, announcements, funny things that happened on Friday night or last week. Make up a few stories about the leaders that may or may not be true. Refer to things they learnt about last weekend or things that happened in the games. Keep it personal mentioning specific peoples names and specific things they’ll remember.

When I first tried it, it felt like a stupid idea to get me out of the pain of making announcements. But when we took it away for a term, the kids kicked up such a fuss that I had to bring it back.

Let us know if you have any other ideas about making announcements.

Why is the Big Picture of the Bible Important?

  Its important as Christians to see the Bible as one big story. The big story helps us understand what the little stories and verses are all about. And how we fit into the story of the Bible ourselves.

Like one puzzle piece on its own tells us very little. We can assume what the puzzle picture is.  But until we get a snapshot picture from the puzzle box, we wont see where the small piece fits in, or what part it plays in the bigger picture.

Biblical Theology is the framework for the Big Picture of what the Bibles all about. We can think of the Big picture of the Bible as God’s plan to redeem his people and the world he has made.

Craig Bartholomew has written (2004:12), “The Bible … is a unified and progressively unfolding drama of God’s action in history for the salvation of the whole world”. So at the centre of the plan is the person Jesus Christ.  The Bible is all about Jesus!

Luke 24:27 “ … beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures (i.e. The Old Testament) concerning himself”, and again (Luke 24:44) “Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms (i.e. in the Old Testament).”

We can think of the Old Testament as a big neon sign (Vegas style) pointing back to creation and forward to Jesus. And the New Testament as a big neon sign pointing back to Jesus and forward to the new creation. The Old Testment has a lot of promises. Which then come true ( Are Fulfilled) in the New Testament.

For more on What is Biblical Theology? By Ross Anderson

Lifestyle Evangelism with Bruce Nygaard

 

Bruce Nygaard who works with the Navigators on UCT Campus shared with us for 3 weeks on lifestyle Evangelism. He shared a number of biblical motivations for our enthusiasm and encouragement to continue to plant words of truth in our friends, neighbours and families lives. His focus was to persuade us from scripture to actively see ourselves all as evangelists in the times and places God has put us in. Through the Holy Spirit, he awakened in us a sense of Gods plans and purposes to use us through prayer in our everyday spheres of relationships and influences.

 

 

 

Here are some of the practical tips drawn out from the series.

 

 

 

Evangelism takes different forms.

It is incredibly important to pay attention to the form that is working best in our present day and bearing lasting fruit. Bruce stressed some of the dangers of seeing evangelism as merely an event, and us thinking that suffering disgrace for the gospel is having your Church invitation refused.

 

 

 

Bruce reminded us that the two forms of evangelism are Reaping and Sowing

Reaping is what most of our Churches are good at. Spotting an opportunity to create a gathering where we can bring people to hear the gospel. While Bruce mentioned this as an effective tool for evangelism, he mentioned that it becomes defective if not combined with a radical plan of sowing. Sowing would be all the necessary word ministry in a persons life before the point that reaping (conversion) is able to take place.

 

 

 

It may even be dishonest to expect someone to entrust their entire life to someone they don’t know

 Asking someone to entrust their life to King Jesus more often than not requires patience and persistence. People today are becoming more and more unfamiliar with the God of the Bible.

 

 

 

This is where relational evangelism is so key in the entire process

 Its our responsibility to steward and build relationships in trust and closeness with the people God made and loves. Through the Spirits wisdom and guidance, it reaches the tipping point where we ourselves introduce them to the Jesus of the Bible. Bruce reminded us that in some cases it had been years of reading the Bible with someone before they crossed the line of faith. The ultimate goal of every relationship is to read through a gospel with them and to use the Bible as the tool for creating faith.

 

 

 

Introducing people to Jesus rather than our Church

 

It is crucially important to keep the priority in the relationship to introducing people to Jesus rather than to our specific Church. Already by making friends with you, they are being introduced to the Church. We are not making converts to our specific Church, but to the body of Christ. Non Christians can sniff motive a mile away and if our objective is to prop up our church attendance, we are on a slippery slope of having zero effectiveness in evangelism.

 

 

 

Don’t pounce on people like a cat

 

Bruce shared some great stories of how not to do things. I believe we need to understand the psychology of how people work. We don’t like salesman pouncing on us with events and promises. We need to respect people’s space in the sowing process. Bruce suggested that we empathise with peoples difficulties with the claims of Christianity. He encouraged us not to feel the need to answer every question immediately, but to create mystery and suspense with our unbelieving friends. One way of doing this would be to reply to a question by saying: “That’s a good question. We should chat about it again sometime, but I need to be somewhere now. Maybe another time.”

 

 

 

Natural relationship development

 

Bruce stressed the need to allow natural relationships to shoot, bud and flourish, like every other human relationship. When you go on a date with someone. Your intention is not to propose immediately, but to earn another date. And then to earn a second and a third. We should be seeking to earn the right for people to listen to us and hear our gospel. Because it is the power of God to save all who will believe.

 

Questions our kids asked on Heaven

Over the last three weeks we’ve been doing a series on heaven for kids (Ever Ever Land) based on the book by Randy Alcorn called “Heaven for kids”. We had a Question and Answer section in the kids booklets and these are some of the questions taken as is, unedited to give you a sense of the kinds of questions kids ask when they start thinking about the world to come.

 

 

Questions Ever-Ever Land

  1. If Jesus is God then how can Jesus be sitting on the right hand side of God? (Danni)
  2. At first I thought that Heaven was going to be a huge sky scraper high up in the sky made of gold, copper, silver, ruby, saphyer and diamond, but when I went to the Gods city room, and they told me that heaven was going to be a like cape town but just better. that is not going to have any sin. But I was hoping that it was going to be a huge field with trees, hills streams and grass. So now I’m confused? (Simon)
  3. Can fruit heal itself? (Wendy)
  4. What if you fall will you laugh or what? (Wendy)
  5. Will there be one way Kids in heaven? (Wendy)
  6. Who made questions? (wendy)
  7. One kid wrote for Gods king what he learnt about heaven is that theres war?? (Dylan B)
  8.  Who made God? (Nicole Botha)
  9. Can you get married in heaven? (kurt)
  10. Is there bicycles in heaven? (kurt)
  11. Is there cars in Ever-Ever land? (JP)
  12. Will we fly in heaven? (Devon)
  13. Can we get pie there? (Liam )
  14. What would the world be like if adam and eve never sinned? (Danni)
  15. How is God gonna talk to everyone if there are so many people in heaven? (Danni)
  16. Do you get old in heaven or do you stay the same age? (Adon)
  17. Is there any trick bikes in heaven? (Luke)
  18. Do you get old in heaven? (luke)
  19. Will there be PsP’s and animals in heaven? (Tristan)
  20. Will there be technology in heaven? (Garyn)

We’ll be attempting to answer some of these next week in our Q+A session with the kids.

Crossword Kids Camp 2011

The Western Cape 2011 Crossword Kids Camp took place over a weekend in April this year. It happened at the Rockland’s campsite which besides a few leaders and baboons was for Grade 5-7 kids.

Rudi Swart did a great job in preparing our camp material taking us through the Bible Book of Romans showing us what the gospel is. Our aim for this years camp was to share the basics of the gospel in an easy and understandable way for all. So that unbelieving children would put their faith in Christ and so believing children could know they don’t have to ever be ashamed of the gospel.

Gladiators was our theme this year and so it was a laugh to see Grade 5 boys acting like Russell Crowe from the movie Gladiator for most of the weekend. As always the leaders were fantastic in getting involved and really spent time building friendships with the kids in their groups.

Our sessions were really blessed by God as we enjoyed worshipping in song, hearing a testimony, reading God’s Word, an introductory talk and watching the Roman Dungeon, a GWC Studios Production. We had small group discussion times which were a wonderful opportunity for leaders to engage and discuss what the gospel means in everyday life with the kids.

We enjoyed a Gladiator challenge on Saturday where in and amongst other things, the kids got to wack each other with pool noodles and fire tennis balls half way across the field from our very own homemade Roman slingshot.

Keeping with the rhythm of the Cricket World Cup, we had a cricket challenge on the Saturday night where kids got to show us their skills with the bat and ball playing some indoor cricket. The crowd sang songs like Shoshaloza and the National Anthem with pride as they edged their team mates on. There were some umpire (Andre Visagie) decisions that were queried but all ended well.

A highlight this year was making some changes to try to reach children from all our churches. As children’s workers we brainstormed and decided that we would have work books available in Xhosa, Afrikaans and English. Our talks were also translated in sessions from English to Xhosa by Katleho Meslane, which the kids thoroughly appreciated. We were able to provide proper transport for our township and Cape flats churches. We also enjoyed singing songs in different tongues and it was a great reminder to us that the gospel is for all and makes us all one in God.

Many thanks to our director, Andre Visagie, and secretary, Melissa Byne, who made our camp a great success. Overall it was a wonderful time where God was glorified. We pray that many kids came to know Christ and that others were strengthened in their relationship with him.

– Chris Ebden

One Way Kids and TV

On average, western children are watching more and more TV. Personally I don’t think TV is a bad thing. I think it’s a good thing that can open up windows and avenues that kids would never have been able to see in the past.

For instance, I thought CARS 2 did well to expose kids to different parts of the world when I watched it this week. But like a knife can be used for good and bad. TV can be used in a similar way.

I think the problem I’m having with kids watching TV is when it is uncontrolled and unsupervised. Looking around at aftercares and chatting to kids in our community. It sounds as if TV is the default thing to do when people don’t really want to spend time with them. They have been programmed since a young age to sit in front of the TV when they don’t have anything else to do or mom and dad are busy.

These statistics bothered me a little bit from research done.

By the time the average child finishes primary school.

• They will have witnessed 8000 murders on TV.

• They will also have seen and comprehended 200 000 violent acts by age 18.

• As well as have performed thousands of murders on playstation and Xbox themselves.

• On average by age 65 they will have spent 9 years glued to the TV.

Chatting to my wife who is now a teacher and reading some of the research being done seems to be showing that kids don’t learn that much from television because they disengage with the content. With the pace of information flowing out the TV and into their ears, there is no time to think or comprehend new things that they hear or see. I’ve seen an increasing passivity among kids in general because possibly they are not being stimulated in other areas of learning.

Some advice

1. Schedule specific times for kids to watch TV rather than being uncontrolled about it.

2. Keep an eye on the games your kids are playing on Playstation and XBOX. (little white and black signs on the back- parental, explicit violence warnings etc. be careful)

3. Find out what the aftercare is doing with your child.

4. Engage with your child about what they are watching. Talk about a movie after you watch it. What could we learn? What was good? What was bad? What do we as a family that loves Jesus think about it?

The Bible gives a good challenge in all this.

Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers (moms and Dads), whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things (Or expose your children to such things)

 

127 Hours

This was an intense movie, well directed with some great camera work.

I was challenged recently chatting to Frank Retief about making the most evangelistically of the movies people are watching.

This is one of those movies that has an underlying message behind it. The movie is about a guy called Aaron, an adult man who works and lives a busy individualistic city life. Choosing a work har, play hard lifestyle. On weekends he retreats to the mountains with his mountain bike and backpack to escape on his own.

As his mountain adventure progresses, he slips climbing down a canyon and gets his arm caught between a big boulder and a cliff face. With no one around, he screams for help and then tries to free himself by force, but cannot. He gargles down a quarter of his bottle of water. Little did he know he would be stuck there on his own for the next 127 hours.

He manages to keep calm and collected, but as the reality kicks in of his imminent death, and his water bottle begins to empty, he for the first time begins to reflect on who he is.

He has a number of flashbacks of his life. How he treated his family and isolated himself from them. He begins laughing at stupid things he did. But begins to envision strong regrets like not returning his moms calls, missing his sisters wedding and selfishly allowing his girlfriend to leave him. When it all gets too much, these feelings rush forward to where he is- all alone.

Starring into his video camera, he realises his life has been one where selfishness has reigned supreme. He confesses to have thought of himself as a hero who didn’t need anybodies help.

By the end of the movie, he is forced to cut off his own arm with a cheap pen knife and getting free, he says thank you to an unknown character. That unknown character reminded me of God and the deep seated realisation that our lives must be in his hands.

For the first time in his life as he is descending down the mountain holding his bleeding arm, he shouts help with all his might to a hiking family passing by.

What is interesting about the movie, is that in talking to himself through the 127 hours, he understands that the entire trajectory of his life lead him to this point. He conveys that he is receiving nothing more than what he deserves. He cries out: I chose this! I chose this!

He chose an independent life free from relationships and all alone, he has no one but himself to blame.

This reminded me of our lives. How we choose a life on independence, not just from other people, but from God. We innocently go about our lives, enjoying our stuff and the things of this world. But we do not acknowledge the God who is there. When death finally meets us head on, we begin to realise we are getting what we deserve. As we have chosen a life independent from God.

It was God himself who came to search for us and save us from the place we have got stuck under-our own sin. Jesus himself took the weight of our independence from God and set us free through his death on the cross.

Apart from being a gory movie, this would be a great one to cause people to search their hearts and lives before presenting the good news of Jesus. 

Bullying (Establishing Awareness)

In response to many kids in our community who have expressed concerns about being bullied. I have copied and pasted this article to assist any parents who want to understand bullying.

Bullying (Part I): Establishing Awareness

by KRISTIN CHARLES on FEB 25TH 2011Print PrintShare on Facebook

Posted in the category CHILDREN’S MINISTRY IDEAS

Educate yourself about the bully situation that many children are facing today. This article outlines the common types, possible effects, and warning signs of bullying. Click here to leave a response.

Among the issues plaguing our children today is the predominance and escalation of bullying.  Bullying has pervaded our social media, schools, and youth programs.  Researchers estimate that 20 to 30 percent of school-age children are involved in incidents related to bullying, as either the perpetrators or victims.  Yet these statistics only include reported cases.  We have reason to believe the numbers are much higher than that, closer to 60 to 80 percent.

As individuals who work with children on a regular basis, we need to be aware of the magnitude of bullying, its definition, its warning signs, and its effects.  This particular post will address these specific components.  In future posts, we will focus on intervention for both bullies and their victims, and practical ways to address the subject in your children’s ministry with a proactive stance.

What It Looks Like (Types of Bullying)

As we all know, teasing is an integral part of childhood.  Children find humor in just about anything and many times in their peers. Light hearted teasing ends with each party in hysterics over a silly word spoken, an action, or a shared experience.  However, teasing becomes bullying when it is a repeated aggressive behavior or when there is a conscious intent to hurt another child, physically or mentally.  Bullying involves continual victimization for the purpose of exerting power or force over another individual.

It is said that bullying can begin as early as preschool or kindergarten and extend through college, worsening in the transitional years.  Typically, bullies target children who are more introverted and sensitive than their peers.  Victims can be targeted for any number of reasons:   physical stature, their family’s social status, race, faith, athletic ability, intelligence, and/or low self esteem.  Bullies consider targeted victims to be safe prey, mostly because they do not retaliate and they do not alert trusted adults to the problem at hand.

With younger children, physical bullying may look like shoving, tripping, throwing items, hitting, or making obscene gestures at one person.  As bullies grow older, their actions tend to escalate into more intimidating and humiliating behaviors, including punching, provoking to make a scene, and ganging up on an individual.

Verbal bullying may sound like name-calling, derogatory labeling, threat-making, rumors, gossip, slander, obscenities, ridicule, and cruel jokes. Forms of social media including Facebook, instant messaging, emails, and texts are playgrounds and platforms for verbal bullying.

What Its Effects Are

If your child or a child in your ministry is the victim of a bully, it can have devastating effects on their developing identity.  Children cannot grasp that they are “fearfully and wonderfully made” if a bully is relentlessly attacking them for their unique character qualities. This is a tender and formative age for their sense of self-worth.  If a child is being bullied, he/she will often carry those feelings of inferiority and insecurity with them through adulthood and may even struggle with depression and/or suicide because of them.

Often, a victimized child feels as though he/she deserves such harsh ridicule because of an inherent flaw of some sort.  Instead of reaching out for the help of a trusted adult, the child takes the punishment upon himself/herself because there is a perception that it is deserved.  The child may think, “If only I weren’t so clumsy (or) if only I looked like all the other girls than all of this wouldn’t be happening to me.”

A child may also resist confiding in an adult if the adult showed little concern for past grievences, if the adult urges the child to retaliate with aggression, or if the child feels seriously threatened by their perpetrator.  The child in this case may think, “If I tell someone what he did to me, it’s only going to get worse.”

Though the child may have a hard time confiding in an adult about the repeated acts of physical or verbal aggression, they will most likely be exhibiting symptoms of the problem.  Included here are warning signs of this victimization.

Warning Signs

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) identifies these possible warning signs for bullying:

  • Child comes home with torn, damaged or missing clothes, books, or belongings
  • Unexplained cuts, bruises, scratches
  • Has few friends, if any
  • Seems afraid to go to school or take part in after-school activities
  • Takes a long “illogical” route when walking to and from school
  • Has lost interest in school work or suddenly begins to do poorly
  • Appears sad, moody, teary, or depressed when he/she comes home
  • Has trouble sleeping and/or frequent bad dreams
  • Experiences a loss of appetite
  • Appears anxious and suffers from low self-esteem
  • Recurrent complaints of physical symptoms such as stomach-aches or headaches with no apparent cause
  • Sudden change in language (calling herself a “loser” or a best friend a “jerk”)

The children in our homes and ministries deserve our awareness in the struggles that they face on a daily basis.  Even if they may not be the targeted victims, they most likely see bullying occur and are at a loss for what to do about it.  It is our responsibility to take the lead on every issue related to this subject.  The first step in tackling the problem is educating ourselves, opening our eyes, and being made aware.

References:

Stop Bullying Now! A resource published by the HRSA
What Do I Do When Teenagers Encounter Bullying and Violence, by Steve Gerali

For as the rain and snow come down from heaven

 

Today is one of those days. Where I woke up excited, but slightly worried about having  to preach at a concert to 400 parents of which I only know a few and of whom I am sure many of them don’t want me to come.

Praying this morning I was reminded of one of the few times a group of people from a ministry team laid hands on me and spoke scripture like a knife into my heart. It came from Isaiah 55.

For as the rain and snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

Isaiah 55:10-11

I was reminded this morning that sometimes when we preach the word, it comes like rain. Its impact is fast and flooding achieving its purpose immediatley. But many times Gods Word is like snow. It lands on the grass and it can take sometime before it melts and achieves its purpose of watering the grass and producing vegetation. For instance many times we preach and it seems as if little or no impact was made. But God promises that his word will achieve the purpose for which it was sent. Sometimes it may be hours or weeks or even years before the sun rises to melt the snow and carry out its purpose. And the Holy Spirit is the sun that melts the word into peoples hearts and lives. He is the after preacher. And so I can preach tonight knowing that even if no immediate results come. The Word that goes out will not return empty by the time the Spirits finished with it.

The second thing that struck me from these verses is Isaiah 55:10 “giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater”. And it made me realise that the preaching of the word, after some time of producing plant, then produces new seed for the sower. So that other people then have seed to go and spread and sow with. And so I was encouraged that the preached Word of God produces words in other peoples lives so they can take it and multiply it.

And so regardless of how I feel whether its anxiety, nerves, excitement. One thing I will rest in today is that the Word is not mine, but on lone to me from Jesus. And he promises it shall not return to him empty.

What if Jesus never died?

Just imagine. Where would you be now if Jesus had never died on the cross for our sins?

There would be no common Grace. There would be no kindness. There would be no satisfaction for Gods Wrath. We would be running from an angry omnipotent and omni-present God.  The running would never end and you could never escape such anger and devastation. I wouldn’t have a relationship with God.There would be no such thing  as prayer, no communion, no worship, no joy, no waking up to a warm sun. No idea of what it means to be loved unconditionally. No cross cultural relationships and friendships. There’d be no Word from God without it being a Word of Judgement. There would be an enormous escalation of sin, violence, crime, no repentace for the wicked. No justice without punishment. There’d be no hope of heaven. No life to come. No share in the Glory of Christ. No Holy Spirit. No comfort, No hunger for heaven, but a fearful expectation of hell and the wrath of God.

What a God we have. Who did not consider equality with God something to be grasped. But made himself nothing! Jesus. Thank you for coming. Thank you for suffering a measure that cannot be known. Thank you for going to the cross physically, emotionally and spiritually for me. Open my eyes to the grace you purchased for me.

The Backing of Gods Word

Why when we speak about the Bible do we call it Gods Word?

Well as I’ve been reading the Trellis and the Vine by Collin Marshall and Tony Payne, I’ve been reminded of why we call it Gods Word. Growing up in a church where it seems all that was ever drilled into me was “Gods Word above all things” I haven’t done lots of thinking on why its so powerful and so true.

Gods Words in the Bible are backed by someone. It is a supernatural backing. As a R10 note or $10 bill are backed by the reserve bank and ultimatley a claim on gold in reserves. So Gods words as they appear in the Bible or as they are spoken by men are backed by God himself. The Words of God are claims made by God himself. The Holy Spirit has pledged to fully back the gospel of God.

1 Corinthians 2:2 says that Paul decided to know nothing among the Corinthians except Christ and him crucified.

In 1 Corinthians 2:3-5 Paul explains that even though he was there in weakness and he was stumbling over his words and not particulary brilliant in the worlds eyes. vs 5 says it was in demonstration of the Spirit and power.

You see the Holy Spirit and the gospel are like two railway tracks. They cannot exist inseparably. Where the one goes, the other follows.

It was encouraging for me to think that when the gospel of Jesus Christ is coming out my mouth or being read to the kids I work with, or to the church I preach to, that the Holy Spirit is backing that message with great power. The same power that God used to raise Jesus from the dead.

Ministry to Children Website

I wanted to share this resource for anyone who is doing gospel work with kids. It is a blog by Tony Kummer from Madison called Ministry-to Children. It doesn’t surprise me that Tony has over 200 000 readers who benefit from his content online. The greatest part is that he is just an ordinary childrens pastor/evangelist working with his own small group of kids in his home town. I have found him to be firmly rooted in Gods word with the aim always to give the kids Jesus. He writes much of his own material with much emphasis on tugging the heart of the child while giving a healthy diet from Gods word. He uploads videos, games, object lessons, childrens talks, lessons and links to many other kids resources worldwide. I wish I had found someone like this earlier.

Finish the dating sermon…

These are all the points I didn’t cover on Sunday night. Many of them were taken from the Religion saves book- chapter on dating.

Be reasonable- Don’t have too high or too low expectations

–         mr perfect doesn’t exist.

–         Guys- theres something called photoshop. Those models in magazines don’t exist.

–         Don’t hold out for the supermodel. Be realistic.

–          “People have to throw away this absurd Vera Wang shopping list which says of a man that he has to earn R300 000 a year, that he has to be able to cut down a tree, play the Spanish guitar, make love all night and cook a cheese soufflé”

–          Dont settle for first guy- who buys you a flower or calls you beautiful.

Let the men be men and women be women

The Bibles clear (Eph 5) that the man is the head of the wife and family.

Frank Retief- said “Find a man with a plan”

From the starting blocks of a romantic relationship- the men need to lead.

“But he’s shy, he needs my help.” Don’t do it ladies- he’s going to be doing that his whole life. You’ll be pulling him along by the hair.

Open your eyes- to who God puts in front of you

If no one- then wait. God may have plans to work on you personally in your life-stage.

Or put yourself in front of someone who loves Christ. The way Ruth got dressed up and put herself in front of Boaz. It resulted in one of the greatest love stories of all time.

Feel free to date people in other churches, but agree on theological convictions.

Agree on Gospel issues- like the death of Jesus.The Truth of the Bible. Authority.

Other things- family. Gender issues- head of the home etc. Very important to build a life on.

Pursue someone you are attracted to

Song of Songs- physical attraction does play a part.

But also a character attraction- mans name. Song of Songs1:3 “Your name is like perfume poured out”

Song of Songs- it was the person who stood out among the rest.

“The Lily among thorns.”

Marry someone who loves you

Song of Songs- the lover calls his wife his darling and praises her.

Proverbs 30:21-23-Under 4 things the world cannot hold up- an unloved woman when she gets a husband.

How do I know who to marry?

Closed handed issues– dont compromise on these, for example a member- opposite sex. A Christian- growing in relationship– God.

If you a Man– ask Is this someone I find easy to love?

If you a Woman– ask Is this someone I find easy to follow?

Consider your life ambitions etc.

Open handed issues– eye colour, hair colour (you are free to choose these things)

How do I know when to marry?

Marriage= responsibility.

Are you able to be responsible for yourself?

If not- you may be a boy- not a man.

Marriage is for men. Its time to step up in marriage.

If you a Girl-who is not  ready to follow someone. Then marriage is not for you either.

Wisdom issue as well- studies, work, dreams.

Isn’t living together important to get to know someone

Johan answered this well. Popular idea– living together makes a stronger marriage. Evidence shows otherwise.

Report shows more conflict after marriage for those who live together.

SA- more people living together- but at the same time there is an increase of divorce.

Reflection- selfishness– not about me going into a relationship to become more holy.

Now about that person giving me what I want. And what I need.

Causes break down because relationship functions best around giving.

Marriage is for holiness before happiness

Sinner+sinner does not =less sin.

Sanctification. Lots of conflicts+ things to work through.

Marriage is not the end but the beginning of a lifetime of being made more like Jesus.

Church family matters

1 tim 5:1-2 Treat younger woman like sisters, in all purity.

Would you sleep with your sister?

Will you watch out and protect the girls in your church.

Father- in home- the buck stops with you. Physical and emotional protection of your daughter.

Questions to ask:

1. How is your relationship with Jesus?

2. What do your mature Christian friends and family think? Song of Songs 1:4 “We will praise your love more than wine”

Maybe Jesus is calling you to wait and to grow your relationship with him first.

Is your goal in dating to meet someone who you can grow in your relationship with Jesus with?

2010 Upward Soccer Clinic

We are getting excited for the World Cup coming to South Africa. I am getting even more excited for the great opportunity we have to share the gospel with children over this time.

The host country of the world cup is hugely exposed to abuse and evil during the World Cup. Children are largley the target, as Child trafficking poses a huge threat.

We at St Johns Church (CESA) are wanting to host a Soccer Clinic in Partnership with Upward Soccer Ministries over this time in Bothasig, a suburb on the fringe of the city, about 15 minutes from the Cape Town CBD.

Our vision is to bring light into darkness by sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ over this time and seeking to bring redemption in the hearts and lives of children.

Our mission is to provide a place for children to feel safe and to be encouraged in the game of Soccer, while at the same time introducing children to the person and work of Jesus Christ.

The Clinic is scheduled to kick off on Youth Day the 16th of June and end on Sunday the 20th of June.

We are expecting and praying for local children, children from the surrounding communities as well as orphan children from a surrounding township, and a group of children from safe houses in our community.

If you have any questions about our mission please do not hesitate to ask me.

Mark Driscoll in Cape Town

To anyone around Cape  Town in March. This is really worth considering.

Mark Driscoll in Cape Town

I wanted to post this link to the urban force website with the provisional plans for the Mark Driscoll conference in March this year. Looks like its going to be a good one. He is going to be accompanied by some great South African speakers like PJ Smythe, Rigby Wallace and others.

How to Have A Not So Quiet Time

Since I became a Christian I have attempted a number of different ways of spending personal time with God. After listening to a sermon by Tim Keller on Personal Prayer I have attempted the following. It has truly transformed my time spent with God. And I hope it is helpful to the rest of you.

How to do it?

Step 1: Reading the Bible

Three questions to ask yourself

  1. What does this passage tell me about Christ and God?
  2. What does this passage tell me about myself?
  3. Is there a promise or command

Step 2: Meditate

Meditation is not reading the Bible or prayer. It is talking to yourself about God. (See an example in Psalm 103:1)

Questions to ask in meditation

A How would my life be different if I really believed this?

B Why is God showing me this today?

Step 3: Prayer (Apart from prayer for daily needs,

pray the scripture)

A-     Adoration- What can I praise God for from this passage?

C-    Confession- What sin and heart idols can I repent of from this passage?

T- Thanks- What can I thank God for in this passage?

S- Supplication (Asking)- What can I ask God for from this passage?

Step 4: Memorise scripture (As much as you can)

Start with one verse a week and keep refreshing.

Is your Church a Religious cushion?

I came across this post Is your Church a Religious cushion by Scott Thomas, Director of the Acts 29 Network.

To Quote the article directly,

Jack Miller was the director of World Harvest Mission and pastor of New Life Presbyterian Church near Philadelphia and professor at Westminster. In his book, Outgrowing the Ingrown Church (one of the best books I have read in a while), Jack described the church as a “Religious Cushion.” He characterized the religious cushion church:

  1. Resembling a retreat center,
  2. Practically being fellowship-driven and not mission-driven,
  3. Consumer congregants demanding worship as a separate dish ordered aside from the mandate of making disciples,
  4. Preachers without the courage to confront the missional apathy of the church, and
  5. A church only doing missions in far away lands.

As we make disciples, we lead them to be Spirit-led followers of Jesus who are life-long learners, obedient to Jesus and who are then making disciples of all nations who make disciples. It’s lather, rinse, repeat.

As a missional leader, you have the responsibility to continually remind the people of your gathering to go into the Lord’s harvest fields. Like Jesus, you have to continually point them to the gospel message of redemption through a sent people. As a band of missionaries, you have to engage the lost, not as a means to build your church, but to follow the mandate of Jesus, the One sent by God to seek and to save the lost for the glory of God.

C.H. Spurgeon said, “You do not love the Lord at all if you do not love the souls of men.” [John Blanchard, Gathered Gold (London: Evangelical Press, 1984), 299.] The people in the churches where I was pastor quickly strayed away from the harvest like a runaway criminal on the chain gang. They wanted to work on the building, have fellowship dinners, potlucks, and men’s breakfasts. They wanted to read books, sing songs—as long as it was in the style they preferred—and start programs for their own kids. MOPS, AWANA, VBS, BSF and home school CO-OP. Whatever kept them away from S-I-N-N-E-R-S.

Jack Miller calls this missional leader the “Pacesetting Pastor.” A pacesetter, according to Miller, is a runner who moves ahead of the pack and sets the example that gets others moving. This is not a comfortable position unless you are called to make disciples of all nations and you are called to lead a group of believers to be radical followers of His mission. The pacesetting pastor keeps the mission of Jesus as the focus of the gathered community. I like “A United Gospel Community on Mission to all people for the glory of God” as a slogan. It is simple, understandable and easily remembered. A pacesetting pastor cannot let the mission become an elective of the church. Most of all, the pacesetting pastor cannot be sucked back into the pack and lose the influential role as the leader of the mission.

Michael Jacksons This is it

michael-jackson-this-is-it-movieLast night my wife and I went to watch “This is it”. The movie started with interviews of men and women who were selected to dance along side Michael Jackson in his upcoming concert.

One of the guys interviewed trying to hold back the tears said : “Life is so hard, and I suppose I have been searching for something greater. And I think I’ve finally found something to believe in. This is it!”

He said it with such belief and conviction that my heart really went out to him. I began to think of what it must be like for him when the thing he thought he had found was taken from him.

I suppose life is like that. We spend our lives searching and looking for some reality greater than the one we presently find ourselves in. We are constantly seeking for a more fulfilling life and satisfying existence. It is a sad thought that so much of what we derive our fulfillment from can be taken away from us in a moment and leave us completely shattered.

I suppose that is why John (One of Jesus disciples) wrote about Jesus in the way he did. I can just imagine him writing with tears, and absolute conviction and belief that he had found something that could never be taken from him.

As he wrote about Jesus he said in John 20:31 “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

When John speaks about life he is talking about a continual living in and through Jesus who died on the cross. But what was different about Jesus was that he rose to life showing that he indeed is the bringer of true and satisfying life. If we derive our joy and pleasure from him then it can never be taken from us.

In Michael Jacksons last song of the movie “This is it” He referred to himself as the light of the world. It is interesting that Jesus was first to refer to himself as the light of the world.

Pauls balance between culture and counter culture

What amazes me about Paul is his balance between culture and counter culture. In Ephesians 5:21-33 on marriage, Pauls structure is one that follows in thread and grain of the cultural houshold codes of the day. Paul acknowledges the structure of the codes and retains what is good while at the same time identifying the pitfalls in the cultural norms and expectations.

He maintains that woman should respect their husbands which in Greco Roman culture was a generally accepted standard while at the same time he pushes the boundaries by explaining that only within a gospel framework can true submission really work and function.

What he is doing well is contextualising the gospel into a certain framework. He does not flush the culture but rather examines it. With a sculpal he dissects the cultures writings finding the truth that is there. And then shows the readers why that truth is flawed unless it fits into the puzzle of Christ and his church.

In a similar way in the culture it was considered a good thing to love your wife. But Paul stretches it and shows that it is a command to husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church. This leaves the reader understanding that marriage has been designed to function like a well oiled machine within the love and under the headship of Jesus Christ.

Free Tim Keller Sermons

080208_so0xkeller_vl-verticalHave to make it known that there are now 150 free sermons available at the redeemer sermon store. Tim Keller is a pastor in New York City. He has probably been one of the most influential Christian leaders in shaping my thinking about the gospel. I have benefited from listening to many hours of his preaching and hope to benefit from more time spent listening to his sermons on my Ipod.

Leadership unravelled

imagesI’ve just finished listening to an MP3 by PJ smith from Johannesburg available on the common ground website. I’ve been truly blessed this week by the guys at common ground listening to Rigby Wallace speak to us yesterday about being a pastor at the Cape Town ACTS 29 Conference.

PJ spilled some shiny pearls of wisdom in his talk on leadership.

Here are a few.

Branson said “Screw it, just do it!”

Billy Graham- Ruth Graham said it was his sense of destiny that attracted her to him. At Bible college some Friends Found him face down in the grass hitting the ground saying “let me do something for you God. Let me do something great.”

Winston churchhill fighting the Sudan wrote to his mother- on the battle front- “I road my pony into the battle enemy and dispatchd two with my pistol and turned around and road again and dispatched two more. Near A bullet touched my pony, tunic or person. I believed I was preserved for higher things. For great things I’ve been preserved.

The point PJ  Smith made was that we must hold the promises of God believing that he has a purpose for our lives as Christians to do great things for God. As David realised as he slay Goliath that God had chosen him to do unimaginable things, so we must accept our calling from God and proceed in faith leading our people with certainty in the vision God has given us.

Time Magazine thinks Calvinism is Changing the World Right Now

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This article Time Magazine thinks Calvinism is changing the world right now was found on Robs blog the awakening grace blog.

Could a wave of resurgence be on the horizon or even already on the beach according to top trend spotting Magazine Time. You dont have to like a trend to admit that its there. But Time has definetly spotted a new wave of Calvinism sweeping its way through the world with guys like John Piper, Tim Keller and Mark Driscoll being labelled as the ring leaders.

New Calvinism was number 3 on the list. I was as surprised as many to think that a gospel movement has dominated cultural trend setting. But maybe we should have known better after Jesus said the gospel will stretch to the ends of the earth.

Rob said

In an interesting little piece by Time Magazine, ten cultural trends are isolated and identified as “The Top Ten Ideas Changing the World Righ Now.”  To my delight and surprise I saw that the “New Calvinism” is #3 on the list.  While I’m more concerned with being Biblically faithful than I am in being lumped in with a new cultural movement, I am nevertheless excited to see the God glorifying theology of John Calvin making a global resurgence in our day and age.  The article is a bit of a caricature laced with sarcasm, nevertheless it was quite a thing for the secular magazine to identify Calvinism as a world changing idea in our time.  Check out an excerpt of  the article below with a link to the full feature at the bottom.

Gospel Familiarity Breeds Missional Contempt

This article by church planting novice called Gospel Familiarity Breeds Missional Contempt nails an issue I have been wrestling with and  thinking through in terms of more traditional church setups. For so long struggling to understand how a church can be sitting in missional neutral mode with very few members excited about mission or even spreading the gospel over itself. The rabbit hole goes very very deep in this articel as it expresses the concern that a mere familiarity with the gospel and a past conversion experience may not be a true conversion as the gospel has not dug deep under the surface of a persons heart and life. This really stuck out for me from the article.

“There are many people who believe that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. They know that the story of Christ can be found in the Gospels of the New Testament. They know that belief in that Jesus can get you to heaven and out of hell. They know where to find that message preached. They may even “attend” a church, repeat the catchwords of grace, but have very little understanding of the gospel of grace. They have become too familiar with the gospel.

“When we are too familiar with the gospel, we scorn the church and her mission. If we don’t need the gospel every day, then why spend time with the church or attempt to advance the good news through mission? Lovelace writes:

Thus their pharisaism defends them both against full involvement in the church’s mission and against full subjection of their inner lives to the authority of Christ.

Familiarity with the gospel breeds missional contempt. If we know the gospel as a set of spiritual facts and a code of morality, then we have very little use for the Church and her mission, the community and evangelism. But if the Gospel is deeper and more honest than we have imagined, then we must be desperate for more. More gospel talk from our friends, more gospel community from church, more gospel songs with fellow saints, and more gospel news for our neighbors. If the gospel is this great, then is must be shared.”

This article shook me up because what I originally perceived as a possible stagnation in the life of a church may in fact be a large makeup of unconverted people wearing the “Christian costume” terrifyingly thinking that they are what constitutes a Christian. An unconverted pharisaic heart will push a person from involvment in spreading the gospel as well push them from wanting the gospel to water their own heart. Thus real christian community is never achieved or even desired.

Driscolls new book out

Saw that Mark Driscolls new book Religion Saves and nine other misconception is out. This book is timeless truth with very timely application. Topics range from dating, the emerging church, Grace, humour in church etc. I really enjoyed listening to the sermons online and I think it will be a great read also. religion-saves1

Bold Christian Apparel

image

I came across this cool clothing company C28. That has a whole selection of clothes branded with the gospel. Really cool designs. It makes Christians look cool.

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