Monday, April 26, 2010

Struck by a plague of insects - well one.

Thought we were an accursed people this Sunday - thought the Lord had declared His final say upon us. I guess you probably need me to explain. IT APPEARS WE WERE STRUCK BY A PLAGUE OF INSECTS! Well not really - just one, and a little one at that, but he/she did enough to bring the morning service at X1 to a halt.

Humorously, the exact timing of us as a people needing to gather our things and rush to the nearest fire exit was dead in the middle of me leading us in a corporate prayer of confession using David's prayer in Psalm 51. There I was down at the front of Vue Screen 7 reading out this stunning prayer and one of our key coordinators for Sunday mornings comes running up to me (I have to say I just did not know what was going on) and says, "The fire alarm is going off they are evacuating the building. Well there you go - one of the down sides of meeting in 'public space' was that we had to respond, gosh we couldn't even pass it off as some form of desperate final attack by the enemy to stop us meeting and stand against with raised voices and vociferous faith, we just had to up and leave.

Back to the 'plague.' After a few moments standing outside with everyone from the other screens the fire crew checked the building, declared it safe for re-entry and we were back in. Turns out that our creche lights were the problem - to be more exact a bee roasting away in one of our creche lights (and as we know there's no burning bug without smoke - or is that smoke without fire, mmm...) which set the alarm off and brought all proceedings to a stand still.

Bit of a laugh really, and I am actually so proud of the people of X1 for there patience and togetherness. All part of 'worship' I guess.

Oh yes here's a pic of the unfortunate perpetrator of the pestilence


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Joshua's Gilgal and Calvary

A true joy of being called to 'feed' the flock God has enabled us to lead as an Eldership here at X1 is that of searching deeply multiple resources to provide the most beneficial sustenance possible. I love this, even when it is a chore (as it can be demanding spending 10 - 15 hours a week preparing a sermon) as the input it gives to me personally is great - I only pray it will have the same effect on those who hear the sermon weekly.
With that said I want to highlight a brilliant quote from one of the commentaries I am using for the "Living Life without the Fear" series here at X1 in relation to the camp of Gilgal as a 'Spiritual Home Base' for the Israelites. The quote is from the British Expositor Alan Redpath and it gives a 'fascinating parallel between Gilgal and Calvary:

"May I remind you of the great words of NT truth and salvation which have their roots deeply imbedded in Gilgal. Here they are; refresh your memory. It was a place of rememberance, where all of God's people together went down unto death; it was a place of resurrection, where together they came up with their leader into life. It was a place of renunciation, where they cast off the carnal existence of the wilderness; it was a place of restoration, where they came again into fellowship with the lord. It was a place of realization, where they began to taste of the strong food of the land; it was the place of revelation, where they met their captain with a drawn sword.
The Christian life has its own roots firmly imbedded in Calvary, the place where we died with Jesus and rose with Him, where we have deliberately renounced carnality and have entered into a living fellowship with our Lord, where we have begun to take the strong food of His Word and to realize every moment of our lives that the Captain of the Lord's hosts is with us.

Yes o Yes - the great victory of Calvary!


Monday, April 19, 2010

Moses deals a reality 'double-whammy.'

Tucked away in 'my happy place,' yes half of you guessed it, Starbucks and taking time to look into God's word - good times! I try and dip into the Psalms as regularly as possible as part of daily devotional time and got into Psalm 90 a few moments ago. It is written by Moses and is laced with healthy 'anti-humanistic' reality.
We need that every so often you know? Do you know? We are locked into a man worshiping, self-exalting society that can lead to a desperately skewed view of reality which is basically upside down. God is a man-made creation to serve us and our agendas, whereas the biblical view (seen here in Psalm 90) is the antithesis of such a 'reality.' What am I saying? Well let me expose you to just two thoughts from Moses the great man of God (note men that does not mean perfect, he failed, but he still was great in God's eyes for he sought to lead his people faithfully - our calling) in this Psalm - a reality 'double whammy' so to speak:

"For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night. You sweep men away in the sleep of death; they are like the new grass of the morning - though in the morning it springs up new, by evening it is dry and withered." (vs. 4 - 6)

"The length of our days is seventy years -- or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away." (vs. 10)

* The maths - A 'day' to God is 12 1/2 times the lifetime of the 'man of strength.'
* The dawning - every day of our life takes effort and strain to 'fully live' and yet in His serene, glorious, self-existence God expends NO energy to survive!

As Calvin wonderfully states at the outset of his Institutes - seeing who we are really allows us to see who He is. In the immortal words of Wayne and Garth (Wayne's World 2) "You big, we small."

O and get this, He does love His children more than we could ever estimate! Wow.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

'Saved' as a Whole - there's no other salvation

I am currently taking a journey through the scriptures that I have wanted to for some time now. For upwards of two years I have wanted to do an in depth theological/devotional study through Paul's epistles to the Corinthian church. Thanks to the love and generosity of a dear member of X1 I am now the very delighted user of Logos 4 (WOW!) and this bible program is the wonderful vehicle through which I am partaking of this journey.

I read something today in relation to Paul's writing on Sexual Immorality within the church (cf. I Cor. 6) and found that this quote really stood out. Why? Well I fear too often we do not realize that we are 'saved'/made new/'born again' as a complete whole and this false understanding can lead to destructive practice and seriously jilted theology (some of which I encounter repeatedly as a pastor). Often, even today, we are affected/infected by a form of gnosticism that seems to elevate the activities of our 'spirit' as followers of Christ over and above the activities of our 'body.' This is not NT theology... okay enough of me, I hope this helps you:

Humans do not have a soul; they are a soul (cf. Gen. 2:7). Related to this is Paul’s understanding that believers do not have a body; they are a body. This is possibly a theological development from Genesis and against Greek thought that depreciated the physical body as evil. The OT and the NT affirm a physical resurrection which is a way of affirming the goodness and eternality of human corporal existence. Later gnostic libertine or antinomian teachers would separate the physical aspects from the mental aspects, thereby affirming salvation as knowledge instead of godliness or righteousness. Paul affirms that the gospel is
1. a person to welcome
2. a truth about that person to believe
3. a life of that person to emulate

These cannot be separated! Humans are a unity! Salvation is comprehensive. The kingdom has arrived. There is an unbreakable bond between faith and obedience. Initial sanctification must lead to progressive sanctification. Righteousness is both a gift (INDICATIVE) and a command (IMPERATIVE).

(Utley, R. J. D. (2002). Vol. Volume 6: Paul's Letters to a Troubled Church: I and II Corinthians. Study Guide Commentary Series (76). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.)


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Musings on Politics

Let me assure you I am no expert on politics and tend to shy away from any significant comments regarding the political milieu of the UK or any other nation for that matter. But it is that season again here in England - it is Election year.

There is no form of media to which you can turn at this time without being confronted with political leaders and/or 'experts' giving their analysis on the ideas of various political parties. TV, Internet, Newspapers and more are displaying the presentations of the political promises of each party vying for the votes of the public. This year is marked by an undercurrent of dissatisfaction within the nation due to the effects of the 'recession' so the promises and the duels for our 'x in the appropriate box' are more vociferous then normal it appears.

I have caught myself wondering if I, as a preacher presenting promises etc, am tarred with the same brush as these men and women by some. I guess some individuals would feel free to do that - assuming that in the end it is only about the art of rhetoric and letting people hear my voice louder than others.

The truth though could not be any further from such an assessment. Typically their promises are rooted in secular-minded initiative whereas my promises are rooted in the revelation of the redeeming, restoring supernaturally-empowered person of the Trinitarian YAHWEH (even in how that sounds and looks there is a marked difference). Typically their approach is aimed at appealing to voters to give them more of the temporary pleasure that they think they crave; whereas my approach is to appeal to the eternal imprint of God upon the very soul of the human-being to give them a life more abundant than they could have imagined by looking past temporary craving and seeing eternal joy in the presence of creator God.
The list I'm sure is far greater than that, but I guess this goes someway to appease my own curiosity in regards to why I'm different to a politician and that my goal, my heart, my ambition is far, far more than polished rhetoric for more votes.
I've received the vote of the only One that counts, and as Paul the apostle states to the church in Galatia, 'if I were in this to please man I'd need to give in immediately!'
(Please allow me some generalization in this post - there are some wonderful Christ-centered politicians I know.)


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Behaviour in Leadership

Far too many people, sadly many of these are believers with an aspiration for leadership, seem to think that behaviour has no part to play in their leadership 'calling.' They seem to refer primarily to the role of motives (now in one sense this is true, but in another it is so far from the truth - as I said recently to our men, "DON'T BE GODLY DO GODLY!") in Christian leadership. Today I found these excellent, convicting, inspiring words from Andy Stanley in his brilliant book Visioneering.

"Every great leader, every successful father and mother, anybody who has ever received and followed through successfully with a God-given vision has possessed a form of authority that rests not on position or accomplishment, but on an inner conviction and the willingness to bring his or her life into alignment with that conviction. It is the alignment between a person's convictions and his behaviour that makes his life persuasive. Herein is the key to sustained influence.

The phrase that best captures this dynamic is moral authority... Moral authority is the critical, nonnegotiable, can't-be-without ingredient of sustained influence...
Moral authority is the credibility you earn by walking your talk. It is the relationship other people see between what you say and what you do, between what you claim to be and that you are. A person with moral authority is beyond reproach. That is when you look for a discrepancy between what he says he believes and what he does, you come up empty. There is alignment between conviction and action, belief and behaviour.

Nothing compensates for a lack of moral authority

What does your life say about what you believe. How do your actions, your behaviour, portray your leadership 'calling.'


Monday, April 5, 2010

Eugene Peterson on 'Training a Pastor for the modern Christian Consumer'

As mentioned in my last post, I am sharing a quote read by Matt Chandler in a sermon I have listened to this morning (the context of the quote was to rebuke modern pastors who tend to just pursue technique to try and grow church rather than pursuing substance and being like the heroes of Hebrews 11).
The challenge of this quote is laid squarely at us as Pastors - how easily we can mislead and 'grow' church in the wrong way - but also quite definitely at the feet of the modern Christian with their expectations of a leader - how low they can be with regards to the things that TRULY count rather than the often-overemphasis on minor things that really don't.

Here's the quote from a book entitled Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity

For a long time, I have been convinced that I could take a person with a high school education, give him or her a six-month trade school training, and provide a pastor who would be satisfactory to any discriminating American congregation. The curriculum would consist of four courses.

I: Creative Plagiarism.
I would put you in touch with a wide range of excellent and inspirational talks, show you how to alter them just enough to obscure their origins, and get you a reputation for wit and wisdom.

II: Voice Control for Prayer and Counseling.
We would develop your own distinct style of Holy Joe intonation, acquiring the skill in resonance and modulation that conveys and unmistakable aura of sanctity.

III: Efficient Office Management.
There is nothing that parishioners admire more in their pastors than the capacity to run a tight ship administratively. If we return all phone calls within twenty-four hours, answer all the letters within a week, distributing enough carbons to key people so that they know we are on top of things, and have just the right amount of clutter on our desk—not too much, or we appear
inefficient, not too little or we appear underemployed—we quickly get the reputation for efficiency that is far more important than anything that we actually do.

IV: Image Projection.
Here we would master the half-dozen well-known and easily implemented devices that that create the impression that we are terrifically busy and widely sought after for counsel by influential people in the community. A one-week refresher course each year would introduce new phrases that would convince our parishioners that we are bold innovators on the cutting edge of the megatrends and at the same time solidly rooted in all the traditional values of our sainted ancestors.

(I have been laughing for several years over this trade school training with which I plan to make my fortune. Recently, though, the joke has backfired on me. I keep seeing advertisements for institutes and workshops all over the country that invite pastors to sign up for this exact curriculum. The advertised course offerings are not quite as honestly labeled as mine, but the content appears to be identical—a curriculum that trains pastors to satisfy the current consumer
tastes in religion. I’m not laughing anymore.)

Let us pursue, and expect, ministry that pleases the Lord and is built off of character and devotion to the Lord and not that which pleases man built off of modern style-based initiatives.

In Him

A Wife's Blessing, a Pastor's Rebuke/Exhortation

My beautiful wife has absolutely blessed my socks off this Sabbath morning by taking the kids out and leaving me to invest time devotionally with my Lord. What I chose to do was listen to a sermon by Matt Chandler, who hopefully, prayerfully, will be coming to share at our Newfrontiers Prayer and Fasting on May 11th. Matt Chandler is a special guy and a guy I met almost 8 years ago now on a youth summer camp in Galveston Texas - but whom God has used powerfully to lead a speedily growing church in Dallas Texas called The Village Church.

I looked in my 'theResurgence' rss feed in my Mac mail program and found a list of sermons based on the Acts29 media page. I chose to listen to this one: 'Ministry for the Long Haul & Ambition' (click here to listen yourself). I was not disappointed and was significantly rebuked and exhorted to search my own heart as a Leader of God's people.
What a joy to have a morning spent receiving a Wife's blessing and a Pastor's rebuke!

On my next entry I want to read a quote Matt read out from Eugene Peterson that may be a bit more challenging to the flock rather than the Shepherd.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Revival Thoughts from Finney - Breaking the 'fallow ground' or confession of sin

Ok now Finney is starting to get just a little inappropriate, highly un-PC should I say for our contemporary-Christian liking. O I'll just write what he states regarding confession of sin:

"You must honestly look at yourself, using your bible as your checkpoint. Do not expect God to miraculously break up your fallow ground [remove sin from your heart] for you. You must actively participate, and you must submit your will. If you look at yourself accurately, taking note of your sins, you will definitely feel something. You cannot see your sins for what they are without feeling something...

... Start your work now. Resolve that you will not stop until you find you can pray. You will never have access to the full power of the Holy Spirit dwelling within you unless you completely confess your sins. Let there be this deep work of repentance and full confession, this breaking down before God.

My my my, Lord Jesus what has been my experience of 'the spirit of prayer' up till now as I feel I am barely tasting such?

Are we hungry for revival?


Revival Thoughts from Finney - The Role of the Church & it's 'Minister'

Yesterday, one of the zealous young men that God has blessed X1 with recently came to my home for breakfast, giving a book to me that he noted was just 'burning him up.' I promised to read the copy he was giving me and set to it this morning. The book is 'Experiencing Revival' by Charles Finney (an updated, abridged version thus easier for us all to read). Finney was an alarmingly gifted evangelist but also a theologian and a man of the word, so a good read indeed.

On the early pages he states the demands upon the people of the church and the 'minister' of the church in expecting/allowing revival within the church. A taster:

"A revival is when Christians begin to confess their sins to one another. Usually they confess in a general, halfhearted manner. They may do it in eloquent language, but it means nothing. But when there is an honest breaking down and a pouring out of the heart in confession of sin, the floodgates will soon burst open, and salvation will flow everywhere [O please precious Lord!].

A revival can be expected when Christians are willing to make the sacrifices necessary to carry it on. They must be willing to sacrifice their feelings, business and time to help the work. Ministers must be willing to expend their energy. They must be willing to offend the impenitent [proud, self-righteous, 'sinless' members of your congregation] by plain and faithful speech and perhaps offend many members of the church who will not repent. They must take a stand regarding the revival, whatever the consequences. They must be prepared to go on with the work even though they risk losing the affection of the impenitent cold members of the church.

I know Terry Virgo has urged the leaders and people of Newfrontiers to start praying deliberately and passionately for revival. I guess I better get down to it, more importantly better prepare myself/us for what it may require!