A Place of Rest!

Joshua 1:13 “..The Lord your God is providing you a place of rest and will give you this land.”

Modern life is becoming increasingly complex and in part, it’s our own fault. We are besotted with the notion that ‘more is better’ and so we lead frantically busy lives accumulating more than we need and searching for the next experience or achievement that will satisfy the void in our hearts. There must be a better way to live. There is, it’s found in the person and presence of Jesus. For Israel, thousands of years ago, their place of rest was found in God’s promised land of Canaan. God had promised the land to His people and in it they would find rest from their slavery in Egypt and nomadic wandering in the wilderness. For us, while holidays in Noosa and the Caribbean are wonderful but temporary places of rest and recreation, true rest is found when we cast our burdens on the Lord and spend time being still in his presence. The powerful reality about God’s presence is that you don’t have to jump on a plane to experience it, you can dive into his rivers of living water wherever you are, at any time of the day. While practically stopping and resting is an important and necessary part of the weekly rhythm of our lives, Jesus has made every provision for our hearts to find its rest in his lavish grace poured out for us on the cross. Instead of running to accumulate more, walk into God’s promised land of rest for your life by faith in Jesus Christ. Selah!

Is the Church still the Pillar of Truth?

1 Timothy 3:14-15 “I’m writing these things to you so that you may know how to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.”

The Apostle Paul identified the church as a ‘pillar and buttress of the truth‘. If there is any group of people on the planet that needs to know and represent the truth of Jesus Christ well, it’s the people of God. Representing the teachings of Jesus well doesn’t mean selecting a few verses out of the gospels that suit your position on the latest social issue but requires understanding the whole context of the bible, including the Old Testament, the epistles, as well as the historical and apocalyptic literature that make up the New Testament. Unfortunately, we are witnessing a shift away from truth as the bible reveals, within the church, because of pressure from the surrounding culture. The antichrist spirit is gaining momentum across the media and culture at large, making it easier for fence sitters in the church to choose the broad pathway that leads to death instead of the narrow pathway that leads to life. More and more believers are using Jesus name to justify ideologies that aren’t even in the ball park of what the Scripture teaches. This demonstrates poor exegesis and a growing ignorance of the fundamental teachings of the Word of God. It appears that some believers are basing their beliefs on feelings to suit their conversations with family, peers and voices in the media rather than on the solid rock of God’s Word. It’s becoming a case of the blind leading the blind. The universal church, by and large, has held onto essential orthodox beliefs for 2,000 years because the truths underpinning these beliefs have been painstakingly clear in Gods Word for 2,000 years. It’s only been in recent times that we are now seeing such liberal views of Scripture infiltrate the church on a mass scale. This is a time for the church to be revived in its passion for God and truth, and not only for people and grace. This is a time for the church to be revived in its belief in the authority of Scripture, interpreting it and applying it in a way that honours God first and foremost, whether it’s popular or not. Explosive Insights!

Follow the Light!

John 8:12 “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

All of us search for answers to life’s big questions. Many of us look for these answers in all the wrong places. Some of us stumble and bumble our way through life, feeling like we are lost, confused and in the dark. Jesus said, “whoever follows me will not walk in darkness”. One of the reason’s why many of us are wandering around in the darkness is because we aren’t willing to follow Jesus as Lord. We want to be Lord over our own lives and masters of our own destinies but as long as this is true, darkness will mark our journey. Jesus is the light of the world. He was the only person to have ever claimed to be the Son of God. Either he was completely crazy or totally authentic. Billions of people over the last 2,000 years have discovered Jesus to be who he said he was, “the light of the world”. I’ve discovered for myself that when life gets dark, it’s usually because I’ve started following myself and not Jesus. When I get my eyes back on Jesus, light illuminates my path and God’s peace fills my heart. Follow Jesus and you will not walk in darkness. Explosive Insights!

The Compass of Life!

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????I look at my life through the metaphor of a compass.

In the centre of the compass is God. My relationship with him is the epi-centre of my life. God impacts my identity, character, ministry, finances, relationships, activities and everything in between. God is on the throne of my heart because out of my heart flow the springs of life.

True North on my compass is my Family. My family is always in my focus. Everything I am and do impacts on my family and I want to protect the integrity of my relationships with my closest loved ones. If it doesn’t work first at home, it simply doesn’t work.

East is my Health and Fitness. Apart from time, my health and well being is the most precious commodity I have. If my health goes, everything goes with it. Nutrition, Sleep and Training make up the core ingredients of this pillar.

South is my Ministry. From preaching to writing to studying a masters degree and mentoring others, my working life is super busy but I love the opportunity to be used by God to change someone’s life through my gifts.

East is Finance. This has come into greater focus for me the older I get. What you do with your money can make or break you in more ways than one. I think God cares more about this than many of us care to acknowledge. From savings to giving to investments to expenses, this is a must in my compass.

Does the compass metaphor work for you and if it does what would you include as your north, south, east and west?

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!

Rethinking Christian Progress!

The one thing the bible promises us regarding life in this world is that it will be hard and filled with trials, temptations and tribulations. Nowhere does the bible promise that we’ll have our best life now (as popularized by Joel Osteen). in 2 Timothy 3:12 Paul tells Timothy, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

This morning I tweeted an important phrase from pastor Tullian Tchividjian’s book Jesus + Nothing = Everything and it is the idea of an “over-realized eschatology”. I want to use this term to say, too many Christians live with an “over-realized eschatology” expecting  now on earth what God has promised only later for eternity. This causes us to live with unrealistic expectations for what we will and won’t face in this world.

In light of this how do we approach growth and progress in our faith?

The Gospel didn’t just ignite my faith but it’s the fuel that keeps it going and growing me everyday. The Gospel has “delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col 1:13-14). Progress begins with understanding that in Christ, we’ve already been qualified, delivered, transferred, redeemed and forgiven. Working out your salvation with fear and trembling is focusing on working out what Christ has already given to us and worked into us by his will and for his pleasure.

Our natural instinct as believers is to almost exclusively measure Christian growth around behavioural improvement but the greater issue is what is behind the good or bad fruit of our behaviour? Bad behaviour happens when we fail to believe that everything we need, in Christ, we already have. On the other hand, good behaviour happens when we daily rest in and receive the finished work of Jesus in deeper and deeper ways, destroying any need to secure for ourselves anything beyond what Christ has already secured for us.

The hard work of growth we are called to is to believe again and again the gospel of God’s free justifying grace everyday and resting in what Christ has finished on our behalf. I think real spiritual progress happens when our natural understanding of progress is rooted out and it’s not about first behaving better but believing more fully what Jesus has already accomplished.

Gerhard Forde, in his work, Justification by Faith, once said, “It’s not our movement toward the goal but the movement of the goal on us” that helps us progress in the Christian life. Pastor Tullian (Pg173) says, “Sanctification involves God’s daily attack on our unbelief – our self-centered refusal to believe that God’s approval of us in Christ is full and final.”

When we stop narcissistically focusing on our need to get better, that is what it means to get better. The more we focus on our need to get better, the more neurotic and self-absorbed and worse we actually get. I have to admit that I’ve been too pre-occupied with myself for most of my life and my pre-occupation with my performance over Christ’s performance makes me increasingly self-centered and distant from God and others.

Christian progress is forgetting about yourself! So, aim for progress but remember what it isn’t, your personal improvement and moral progress. Progress is washing your hands of you and resting in Christ’s finished work for you, which will inevitably produce personal improvement and spiritual growth.

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!

The Disciple Making Church

The BIG idea of why the church exists is found in Matthew 28:18-20. The church exists at the core to make disciples of Jesus. You must be convinced that disciple making is for everyone, and not just a few elite people who have the gifting and passion for it.

Why is making disciples so important? Jesus has commanded us to disciple and Jesus has modeled to us what disciple making looks like. The early church lived and breathed it and unless the church makes disciple making the main agenda, world evangelization won’t take place.

It’s not enough for the church to have an overseas mission program and neglect mission at home base. Weak mission at home weakens mission thrust in foreign lands. When the local church prioritizes disciple making, Christians become healthy and start to reproduce more disciples.

Technically, every Christian is a disciple of Jesus and called to make disciples. God expects every believer to be a mature, reproducing disciple. Disciple making isn’t an even, it’s a process and a lifestyle. Jesus Christ is our chief example of disciple making. Jesus wasn’t random in his ministry. He had a plan, priorities and goals. So important was the mission to Jesus that he made 5 Great Commission declarations throughout his ministry. If it’s worth saying once, it’s worth saying over and over again.

There were 4 key statements in the Gospels that help us focus in on the disciple making process in the life of the local church:

  1. Come and see = Invite people to activities that introduce them to Christ and the church.
  2. Come and follow me = Show people how to follow Christ and do it with them in a life group.
  3. Come and be with me = Train disciples to lead others and let them do it themselves
  4. Remain in me and Go and make disciples = Send disciples out to make more disciples
In order for this process to work every believer must shift their focus outward, rather than inward. The more we keep focused on our own little worlds, the more dysfunctional we become but the more outward focused we are, the more healthy we become.
Insight!

Cross the Line!

Luke 19:10 “For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.”

There comes a point in every Christians journey when they need to decide what sort of Christian they want to be. What am I talking about? Jesus said, “Which of you desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man who began to build was not able to finish.”

There is a cost and a call involved in following Christ. You can decide to play it safe and be a nominal Christian who attends Church but doesn’t actively live out their faith and evangelize others in the gospel or you can choose to CROSS THE LINE and be the real deal and embrace the cost and reach out to people who don’t know Jesus.

The cost of following Christ can look like persecution and criticism from others, both close and far to you and the call looks like laying your life down to make disciples of others. I have experienced the reality of both of these in my walk with God.

As a full time pastor of a local church I could very easily hide behind the facade of the pulpit and not venture out past my own office to reach out to people far away from Jesus but the truth is, everyday I have a choice to make regarding the thousands of people that walk past Activate Church in our local shopping centre. Not only that but I could choose to not embrace all of Jesus teachings and develop a safe reputation within my local community or I could choose to cross the line and lay my life down for Jesus regardless of what people may say.

You can’t truly follow Jesus and do it half-heartedly. You are either all in or all out. One of the blessings of my life is being raised in a strong Christian home but at the same time one of the challenges of my life is being raised in a strong Christian home because I can easily forget the reality of being completely separated from God and what that feeling must be like.

I was sitting in a staff prayer meeting the other day and my eyes were opened again to the full realisation of the life Jesus has called me to. In my spirit, all I could hear was, “Cross the line… cross the line… cross the line…” I had a choice to make, Was I going to play it safe in my office or venture out and talk to someone about Jesus? Was I going to preach what God really wanted me to preach on Sunday or tone it down so that it was more tasteful from a religious perspective?

I can’t play it safe. I’m either all in or all out. I’ve crossed the line. How about you?

Insight!

Doing Church with guests in mind!

Acts 10:23 “So he invited them in to be his guests.”

Acts 10 is an important chapter in the history of the early church because it transitions the church from focusing on itself and it’s own cultural heritage to focusing on the Gentiles and God’s heart for all people, not just the Jews. Peter’s vision of the great sheet descending with all kinds of animals to eat was a powerful metaphor for ministry to the Gentiles. Peter’s encounter with the men from Joppa, with Cornelius and the outpouring of the Spirit accompanying the proclamation of the Gospel gives us insights today into doing church with guests in mind.

What direction is your vision heading in? Too often our vision is focused inward, rather than outward. Peter’s vision from God was about others, the Gentiles. Authentic visions from heaven will be more about others, than they will be about us. Check the compass of your vision. If your vision is more about you then it is about others, you may have the wrong vision.

God will send guests your way if your vision is in alignment with his plan – Immediately after Peter’s vision, the Holy Spirit sends three Gentiles to Peter to ask him to come and share God’s Word with them and their master, Cornelius. Why should God send guests to a church where no-one in the church has them in mind? They’ll only get disappointed and potentially hurt. When our vision is in alignment with his plan for the salvation of lost people, guests will be sent our way.

Presume that God is already at work in guests lives – Peter was told that Cornelius had a supernatural encounter with an angel. Often we think that God’s not at work until we meet them cause apparently we are God’s answer to the world’s problems but the truth is, people are more ready than we realize. Trust that God has already been at work in their lives and gone before you to prepare the way for your ministry to them.

Invite outsiders in to be your guests – Peter invited the three men to be his guests. Build an invitational culture into your life and ministry. Make it easy for guests to connect with your life group and church. Don’t make guests jump through 10 steps to access the gospel, take them straight to it and bring them into your world.

One guest is a doorway to a whole new network of people – When Peter met Cornelius, his influence expanded to everyone that Cornelius knew. One of my team said to me once, “I don’t know where the people are going to come from.” I said, “That’s easy, through the relational networks of the next guest that walks into our church.” Everyone of us has a network of people that we are connected to that also has a network of people that they are connected to. One person is a doorway to many other people. As God works on one person, he also creates space for you to minister to the other people in that persons life.

Keep the focus on the message of the Gospel – Peter didn’t teach some weird doctrine to his new friends. He kept the message simple and straight = Jesus Christ and him crucified. He kept true to the Gospel and to what he had personally witnessed to. The Gospel works but we need to stay centered on it.

Don’t shy away from the supernatural – As Peter was speaking to them, the Holy Spirit pours out powerfully on them and they start to speak in tongues. Now right here is where many seeker-friendly churches draw the line because it’s presumed that this is not what people are looking for but it’s what God does when he is given room to move in people’s lives. As people hunger for God, He shows up and performs the miraculous. Never make excuses for moving in the power of the Spirit. Let God be God and get out of the way.

Lastly, be prepared for criticism from religious people – When Peter returned to Jerusalem with news of what God had been doing amongst the Gentiles (11:2-3) he was severely criticized for hanging out with the uncircumcised party let alone ministering to them. Satan hates people getting free and he will even incite religious people to look down their nose at you to try to stop you from doing church with guests in mind. Love these people and be gracious with them but keep doing church with guests in mind and God will continue to bless your ministry.

Insight!