An Upside Down Kingdom!

John 12:24-25 “Truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, but whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

Jesus words are both compelling and convicting. His kingdom is an upside down kingdom to the popular voice of self-centeredness and self-absorption that we are saturated with in our culture. Jesus says that in order to truly live, you must love this temporary world less for the sake of others eternities. A life surrendered to Christ doesn’t exist for ones self but for the benefit of others. Following Jesus isn’t “me first” but “Christ first” and the application of that is in the way we relate to and treat others. 

What’s Your Life Mission?

Psalm 139:14 I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Lots of people journey through life without a clear sense of purpose and personal mission. Truth is, every single one of us can and should connect with our reason for being alive. While the ultimate reason God created us is for relationship with Him, He has wired us up with some unique strengths for a specific purpose on planet earth.

Discovering your life mission takes time and is a life long journey. The longer I live the more I discover about my purpose and reason for being wired up the way I am. If you are unclear about your life purpose, don’t fret but begin the journey today to discovering more about God and then he will help you discover more about you. If you have some clarity, then go deeper in the journey by asking some further questions of God and yourself. Engage in a closer self-examination.

Begin with God. If I want to know the purpose for a particular product, I would go to the original manufacturer and ask the all important question, ‘what on earth does this product exist for?’ The original creator of your life is God. If you don’t believe this fundamental truth,  then your first step towards your life mission is to re-examine your belief system and be open to going on a faith journey with God. God created you fearfully and wonderfully. Your destiny is not your decision, its your discovery. God is sovereign and he has a plan and purpose for creating you. Connect to your calling by connecting to God and he will give you inside information on who you are, what your wiring is and how best to utilize your strengths to fulfil your mission.

Understand your Past. Your destiny is hidden in your history. God has already been at work revealing, shaping and moulding you for your life mission. Even the painful experiences God can and will use for his glory and your testimony. Reflect and remember where God has already been active in your past.

Identify your Passion. What’s your holy discontent? What stirs your affections and passion. What makes you leap to your feet and moves you to action? Too many of us are content to stay in roles and environments that don’t really reflect the passion beating in our hearts. Connect to what it is that you love doing and love resolving and go after it.

Discover your Ability. What comes easily to you? Where do you seem to excel? What have others said to you, you are good at? What do you find pleasure in doing or being apart of? Don’t believe the lie, that you’re not good at anything. It’s rubbish. Everyone of us are good at something. Start engaging in life and see what comes to the surface of what you do well.

See your Opportunity. What doors are open to you? It could be no doors are open in your area of interest currently but if you knocked on a door, what could open up to you? Opportunities to engage in life are all around us. Discern what opportunities lie before you, even if disguised in hard work and start to take some steps in that direction.

Open your Ears. What is God saying to you? What is His still small voice impressing upon you? What are others around you saying? Chew the meat and spit out the bones of people’s comments. Listen with a discerning heart and embrace what resonates with your spirit and throw out the rest, unless God is trying to speak to you about an area of your life you need to pay attention to and grow in.

Record your research. Don’t just let important details you’ve discovered to float around in cyberspace or brain space, get it down on paper and exact your thinking with writing. Your life mission is too important to be vague and fuzzy about. Get clear, get specific and get focused.

God created you for a specific purpose. You have a life mission and God wants you and expects you to connect to it. Your life is a gift from God, what you do with your life is your gift back to him. Don’t waste another day, swimming in a sea of doubt and disillusionment. Begin the journey today to living on purpose and connecting with your life mission.

The Oracle!

5 Reasons to Preach the Tough Texts of Scripture

As a preacher, I’m called to proclaim the whole counsel of God, not just the bits that will attract a crowd or keep the polls heading north in my congregation.

In the last 12 months I’ve committed to preaching through books of the bible as the norm, rather than the exception. Many pulpits are filled with life-application, therapy sermons that avoid the tough texts of Scripture. However, my authority for preaching must come from the Scriptures alone (not my personality or influence) and all Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, rebuke, correction and for training in righteousness that the man of God may be competent and equipped for every good work (2 Tim 3:16). I am an expository preacher committed to letting the text speak for itself.

The more I preach the bible, the more my congregation take the bible seriously and the more they listen, weighing the ramifications of what God’s Word is commanding. Preacher, whatever you are excited about, the people will get excited about.

Preaching through books of the bible follows the story of the Scriptures but it also forces you to deal with issues in the text that you would never have dealt with, had you adopted a pick and choose method of reading and preaching. Some of the tough texts of Scripture include: Romans 9; Phil 1:12-30; Ephesians 4:22-33; 1 Timothy 2:8-15; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; 1 Cor 6:12-20; 1 Cor 9:1-14; 1 Cor 11:1-16; 1 Cor 14:26-40; 2 Cor 8-9; Revelation (all of it)… to name a few.

I make no attempt to convince you that I’ve got all these texts covered or neatly packed away in my theological tool box but these have been some of the key texts that I have wrestled with over the years in my ministry and I’ve observed others doing so as well.

Here are 5 reasons you should preach the tough texts of Scripture:

  1. People are curious about what ‘that’ text really means
  2. People need help understanding how to apply the tough texts
  3. People need assurance that the bible is God’s truth to us in this age
  4. People need to hear what God says about things that displease him
  5. People need to wrestle with the mystery of God
Grace!

Why Australia needs a Great Awakening!

Australia has never had a nation wide awakening of the Gospel and it desperately needs it. Why? Because the general population is dead in sin.

Throughout history other nations like Wales, Scotland, England, Nigeria, Argentina, South Korea and the USA have been awakened by God’s Spirit working through the proclamation of the gospel and the prayers of the saints.

Australia is one of the most popular and prosperous nations across the world and yet we are one of the most spiritually impoverished nations on the planet. We are steeped in materialistic comfort and spiritual apathy. We are consumed with our houses and holidays and care little for eternal matters. While we seemingly have everything, we seem to be more bored and miserable than ever before.

I had the privilege of visiting Calcutta, India in 2012 with Compassion Australia and had one of the Indian professional development program students comment, “I want India to become like Australia because Australia is heaven.” I understood where he was coming from but I thought to myself, “Ahh, you probably wouldn’t think this if you knew the spiritual climate in my nation.” I remember hearing Ps Wayne Cordeiro respond to a Chinese Christian on a ministry trip to China when it was said to him, “I’m praying that China will become like America”, Wayne said, “Well, I’m praying that America will become like China.”

There is the misguided perception that western nations like the USA and Australia have it all going on for them. While this may be true from a material perspective, it is very far from the truth when it comes to the decline in mission, church attendance and biblical fervency.

I have a strong conviction that Australia needs pastors, preachers and believers to remain on these shores and pray and proclaim the gospel and plant churches like never before. We are more pagan than ever before but never has there been such an opportunity in our history when the church can rise up and march forward into mission engagement than right now.

We are facing the same dynamics of the early church in the book of Acts. It’s in these pagan lands that the faithful, powerful proclamation of the Gospel abounds in much fruit and kingdom advancement. I refuse to believe that just because the spiritual plains seem harder here than other lands, that the Holy Spirit can’t move as he has in other countries throughout history. We have got to stop making excuses and continuing contending for the gospel, whilst we contextualize it in Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane, Hobart,  Darwin and beyond.

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chron 7:14)

Grace!

What is Mission?

Apart from being totally overwhelmed at the birth of my first child, Chelsea (now 8yrs old) I was taken back by the thought of the Son of God being born exactly like my baby 2,000 years ago. Jesus Christ was sent by the Father as a missionary to humanity. Jesus incarnated himself (literally became ‘meat’) and contextualized his entire life with the culture of his day. There is no religion that gives any revelation of God like the bible gives of Jesus. Jesus is the only God that identifies with his creation to the point of death. Jesus’ mission was a covenant of grace, forgiveness, atonement and eternal life for those who would believe.

Just as Jesus was sent to us, Christ has now sent us (Church) into the world on mission to preach the gospel and make disciples of Jesus (Matt 28:18-20, Mark 16:15). The Gospel cannot be heard if Christians don’t go and preach it in word and deed (Rom 10:14-15). We have been sent out with a message of truth, faith, love, repentance and forgiveness of sins.

The power of the Gospel is the same today as it was 2,000 years ago (Rom 1:16), so why aren’t we seeing the same results, particularly in western countries, as in the book of Acts? I love the church but I want to share with you a few reasons why:

  • Some of the church is too slow to go to the culture and preach the gospel
  • Some of the church is too self-focused rather than others focused
  • Some of the church is apathetic about the reality of hell (Shows up in our preaching and apathy)
  • Some of the church doesn’t take the bible seriously enough
  • Some of the church has drifted away from passionate love for Jesus

We must know, understand and pursue the mission of Jesus.  For more insight on mission read John 1:1-18 and Mark Driscoll’s book titled, “The Radical Reformission”.

Grace!

Recommended Reading: Church Planter

I’ve just finished reading a fantastic book titled ‘Church Planter’ written by Darrin Patrick who pastors ‘The Journey’ in St Louis, Missouri and is a part of the rapidly expanding Acts 29 Network.

The book focuses on the Man, the Message and the Mission of the Church Planter. From the outset it is challenging as it addresses the issue of ‘men only elders’ in the context of the New Testament teaching on the subject (1 Tim 3:1-11 and Titus 1:5-7). This is quite controversial in light of the current liberal trend of interpreting the bible, particularly in western churches. The issue is rooted in how you read the bible, rather than in what is the popular cultural opinion of the day.

The first section is on the Man – The chapters in this part of the book focus on the type of man required to plant and lead a church. Because I have planted a church and continue to pastor the same church, I could identify with both the challenges and requirements of a church planter. At the core a church planter needs to be rescued by Jesus Christ, called by the Holy Spirit, qualified in character, dependent on God, skilled in preaching, pastoring and leading, with a Shepherds heart and determined to never quit.

The second section is on the Message – The preaching of the Gospel in our current culture has been so diluted that much of the original message has been lost to accommodate itching ears, lusting after a self-serving gospel (2 Tim 4:3). Darrin calls us back to the historical, salvation-accomplishing, Christ-centered, Sin-exposing and idol-shattering message of the Gospel.

The third section is on the Mission – As the church is God’s missionary to the world, we need to be on mission contextualizing the gospel in such a way that people can get a living, breathing, authentic encounter with Jesus that will transform their lives. Darrin shares from Mark Driscoll, “Contextualization is not making the gospel relevant, but showing the relevance of the gospel.” (Pg192)

The book summarizes by focusing on Jesus being the Man, the Message and the Mission. Darrin shares,

  1. “Jesus is the Man. The ability for us to change into the men God has called us to be is dependent upon our surrender to the Man who has perfect character. All of what we hope for in the men who lead our churches is found in the perfect life of our Lord.
  2. Jesus is the Message. The power for others to change is rooted in the gospel, which both rescues the sinner and grows the saint. All that we need to know, experience, and proclaim is found in the person and work of Christ.’
  3. Jesus is the Mission. The hope we have for this world to change is rooted in the resurrection, which both empowers the church to live and proclaim the gospel but also previews the to the world how God makes all things new. Our only hope for a broken, jacked up world is restoration, and our only hope for restoration is found in the One who forever conquered the radical effects of sin through his resurrection.” (Pg236)

This is a Christ-exalting, Gospel proclaiming tour de force on the Church Planter and I would encourage any pastor, leader, church planter and potential church planter to read voraciously with an open heart and mind to be shaped by a biblical reflection on one of the most important needs of our time, Church Planting.

Grace!

What Makes Ministry Effective?

My observation of the current climate of ministry, particularly, in the western world is that it is saturated by trends and techniques rather than by the power of the Gospel. In light of this, what makes ministry effective?

Does the right program make ministry effective? If you run the right seeker sensitive service, evangelistic program, recovery program and community social program, will you get the results you are looking for? I’m not against programs at all. I think they can be very helpful and in many cases are needed to compliment the mission of the local church but I don’t think they help ministry be most effective.

Does eye-catching and compelling marketing make ministry effective? Well, I think good marketing helps but plenty of churches and ministries have great marketing that no-one is really paying attention to. At Activate we have a marketing director and take this area of our church seriously with the resources God has entrusted us with but when I started the church with 13 people and no budget in our lounge room, we needed something more than slick marketing.

Does ministry credentials make ministry effective? Do I really have to answer this question? Give me a break.

Does being connected to influential people make ministry effective? Well, as they say, it’s not what you know but who you know. How does this line of reasoning work for a pastor in a 3rd world country who is isolated and neither connected to people of influence or even basic technology? There are many stories of incredible ministry happening in isolated regions where God breaks out in a powerful way, without the latest and greatest rock star preacher traveling through.

Does theological knowledge make ministry effective? Now, personally, this is something very close to my heart because I do believe to my core that our theology (the way we think and talk about God) affects everything we do, however, I know plenty of people who have high IQ’s with more theological degrees than a thermometer and couldn’t share their faith with a stranger while stuck with them in a wet paper bag.

Does a ‘spirit of excellence’ make ministry effective? Presenting things well is a great and important goal to have but you can have the form (external presentation) without the power and nothing change. So what?

So, what makes ministry effective? Consider Jesus disciples. They spent approximately 3 years with Jesus, learning, observing and practicing ministry with the master in the closest possible way and yet Jesus still told them to wait in Jerusalem until they had received the power of the Holy Spirit. Acts 1:8 follows this up by saying, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” 

Unfortunately, we often mistakenly think that having power in our ministry means we ought to see results like Billy Graham or Smith Wiggles-worth but it is not so. The local church pastor who has a gift-mix of leadership, teaching and wisdom needs the demonstration of the power of the Gospel in their ministry just as much as the healing evangelist in the revival tent.

The Apostle Paul said, “The kingdom of God does not consist of talk but of power… Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power… I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you, except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” (Holy Bible, ESV)

What makes ministry effective is the power of the Spirit working through the power of the Gospel in our lives. Martyn Lloyd Jones says it like this in his Tour De Force on ‘Preaching and Preachers’, “The addition of the power of the Holy Ghost, (to God’s Word) is what ultimately makes preaching effective. This is what produces converts and creates churches, and builds up churches – power, Holy Ghost, and much assurance.”

Grace!