Thursday, 29 April 2010

Children of what?!

As I look back on my life through the lenses of scripture I find it difficult as come to terms with the clear verdict. It is so different to what I was told growing up.

Dead in sins Eph 2v1
Following this world against God 2v2
Influenced by Satan 2v2
A son of disobedience 2v2
Living by my own selfish desires 2v3
A child of wrath 2v3

Separated from Christ 2v11
Alienated from his promises 2v12
With no hope 2v13
Far off 2v13
Hostile to God and his people 2v16
A stranger to God 2v19

I was born 'In Adam'. Sinful by nature and choice.

Golf is good for my soul...

I heard on the grapevine that to be a New Frontiers Pastor you have to either play golf or be bald. I decided to take up golf.

Why golf?

My main motivation for playing golf is to spend time talking to and learning from people outside of the Church. I love to hear the stories of others and their experiences to help shape my thinking and teaching. This continues to be my main motivation. Both my Mum and Dad play golf and I have particularly enjoyed playing with them recently. I have also had some good times playing with friends inside and outside of the church.

Here are my reasons to play golf:
1) Meet with those in my city who I want to connect with.
2) Spend time with friends and family.
3) Have leisure in my life.

Current progress

I have now had nearly ten lessons. I have bought a membership I'm getting 9holes in at least once a week. As a former professional sportsman I myself had high expectations and others around me continue to tell me that I will be good. I am not good. I'm getting worse.

I cannot play this game without a lot of help. I keep booking more lessons and I am still not good. I had taken my driver out of my bag to remove temptation and focus on the basic shots. Today I have taken all the woods out of my bag. Back to basics I go.

I am very frustrated. My talent is limited and so is my time so I expect I will continue to not be very good. Last night I even resorted to getting my wife to film my swing in the garden to try to sort myself out. It just made me worse.

Result

I have been humbled. CJ Mahaney writes In his book Humility, "Play as much golf as you can." (When you aren't exploring the attributes of God, the doctrines of grace, and the doctrine of sin.) He writes, "Yep, golf. In my athletic experience, I don't think there is a more difficult or humbling sport. Rather make that humiliating - because if you play it at all, you know all about those shots that result in laughter from your partner and humiliation for you."

I have scuffed off the tee, missed the ball, landed in sand and water. I particularly enjoy scuffing the ball in front of the club house or at the first tee with the people behind you watching. :-) I did not think it was possible to slice the ball as many times in a row as I have done.

It is with a renewed sense of humility and limitation with which I leave the golf course every week. I am committed to keep trying. I am convinced that it will help my walk with God in every way, but it is very very frustrating right now. My pride is being eroded. Praise God.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Ephesians - Sunday 2nd May

On Friday we had a lot of fun shooting our sermon for next week. I felt we improvised well in the office! Despite Andy and Matt's best efforts to continually make me laugh, we were able to film an intro/welcome from me and a message from Andy.

We we unable to find a large venue for this date. Our friends Network Church who share our venue are literally going to be on the streets! We wanted to keep meeting together and continue with our series in Ephesians. We will be meeting in our homes across the city as we do midweek. We recommend that you watch the sermon, break bread, pray for one another and then have lunch together. I'm hoping that in my group we'll even have Andy on the big screen....

Friday, 23 April 2010

Predestination

One of the guys in Church recently passed me this book on the topic of election. I'm enjoying reading through it. I'd say its well worth a read for this topic. As we go through Ephesians, I'm sure many questions will be raised.

I have found CJ Mahaney particularly helpful on this topic. Here is a great sermon to listen to. http://www.sovereigngracestore.com/ProductInfo.aspx?productid=A1251-00-51 Below is a sample. Old but classic stuff.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Learning is Ugly

When I first became a Christian I was told that to be a disciple of Jesus Christ means that you become a learner. To become a Christian you put your 'L plates' on and you begin to learn to follow and walk with Jesus Christ. Jesus continues to teach us and train us throughout our lives.

Learning is Ugly

If you try to write your name with your other hand, kick a ball with your other foot or even adjust your golf swing we all have the same feeling. Err! You feel self conscious and it does not look or feel good! In honesty it creates a mess and makes us feel a bit silly. This is the nature of learning. It is ugly. I think this is something that disciples need to be comfortable with in every area of life if we are to continue to learn. In fact, I can't think of an area of life where I do not need to be aware that learning is ugly. Learning to love Jesus, learning to be a good husband, loving, cherishing, releasing and supporting my wife, building a healthy sex life, be a godly Dad, learning to be a pastor, teacher, leader, mentor and learning golf! Man, my short game needs work....

I will make mistakes

By nature of being a learner I know I will make mistakes. This is helpful to come to terms with. In life I must be prepared to apologise to people! I will not get it right all the time. I will wrong people intentionally and unintentionally so one skill that I know I will need is the ability to say sorry and ask for forgiveness. This is tough. In the context of marriage this is something that I feel I'm increasingly familiar with!

I must listen

As a learner I am in need of instruction. In fact, I really need help all the time! If I have any sense at all I will spend time listening to those who can help me learn to follow Jesus. I read His word, listen to sermons, talk to wise people and read books according to what God has called me to. It takes humility to ask for help. It takes recognition that you have not got it worked out. I think one of the dangers among people who I love is that we all think each other has it all sorted so we don't ask for help. Learners will need to ask for help - regularly.

I am secure in Christ

A deep conviction of the grace of God and who we are in Christ I think releases us to be learners. Knowing who He is, that we are His, that He chooses us because He is kind, that we have an inheritance, that we have nothing to prove, that our Father loves us unconditionally in Christ, increasingly releases us from insecurities. Knowing that He has promised to complete the good work that He started in us gives us the faith to keep going. This gives us the strength to admit areas of weakness and struggle while remaining filled with joy that He continues to work in our lives.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Paul in Ephesus


Paul had been a Christian for nearly twenty years and had just travelled over 500 miles when he arrived in Ephesus (Acts 19v1).

The Action Begins

On arrival Paul was straight into the action. He met some ‘disciples’ who had heard of John the Baptist but they had not yet been baptized into Jesus or received the Holy Spirit. Paul saw the Spirit come in power as he laid his hands on these twelve men. God was on the move (Acts 19v2-6).



Paul spent three months preaching in the Synagogue before he left to teach daily in the Hall of Tyrannus. It’s thought lectures were held here every day from 11.00am – 4.00pm during the hottest part of the day. Paul did this for two years and the message flowed from this stage across the entire region (Acts 19v8-10).

Riots and Fires

Paul saw amazing signs and wonders and had a huge impact on those who were involved in other forms of spirituality (Acts 19v11-20). An estimated £30million worth of books were publicly burnt by new believers and a riot was provoked in the city because of the impact he was having on the religion and profiteers of Artemis. After the riot had died down Paul encouraged his brothers, said farewell and headed for Macedonia after spending over two and a half years in Ephesus (Acts 20).

Emotional Farewell

Paul later sent for the Ephesians elders (Acts 20v17). During an emotional meeting Paul appealed to them on the basis of his time with them, and his example, to care for ‘the flock’. Fearing real danger for the Ephesians, Paul strongly warned of ‘wolves’ and shed many tears with them before heading for Jerusalem (Acts 20v19-38).




The writer of 'Ephesians'...

A Dangerous Man

Paul was a dangerous man. He hated, hunted and arrested Christians
. He grew up as a devoted Jew receiving religious and cultural respect as a Pharisee (Philippians 3v4-6) and was standing by as Stephen was murdered (Acts 7).

Paul then had a supernatural confrontation with Jesus (Acts 9v4). He turned from being a hostile opponent of Jesus to one of the most famous and effective Christian leaders in history. God gave Paul a unique and specific mission as an Apostle as a gift to the Church (Acts 9v15, Romans 1v1).

A Transformed Man

Paul travelled across continents preached the gospel, planted churches, taught about Jesus and told as many people as possible about Jesus! He himself suffered and faced tough conditions from which he wrote to encourage others who suffer for the gospel (2 Corinthians 11v21-29).

A few years later Paul wrote from prison to the Christians in Ephesus to share revelation which he received from God (Ephesians 3v1, 4v1, 6v20 & Ephesians 3v1-13). It is thought that he was imprisoned in Rome at this point (Acts 28).

A Spectacular Letter

Written by Paul, accepted by the early Church, the letter was probably carried by
Tychicus (Ephesians 6v21-22) known by both Paul and the Ephesians. Just as Paul’s preaching spread from the city to many, so it seems the letter was expected to be circulated to many people.

Paul wrote a spectacular letter. It has been referred to as, ‘the crown of Paul’s writings’. John
Stott writes ‘Nobody can read it without being moved to wonder and worship.’ John Hosier observes the book as containing ‘one of the Everest peaks of the New Testament’.

Ephesus 62AD

In 62AD Ephesus would have been more than double the size of Exeter. The major port city was one of the biggest cities in the world. Business was good in the city thanks to its strategic positioning and Roman protection.

Gladiators, sport, drama, a library and varying spiritual experiences were on offer in the city. Ephesus had a theatre which could hold around 25,000 people (five times the Albert Hall) and a stadium which was probably built under the Roman Emperor Nero. Today you can still visit the ruins of the Celsus Library, fountains, monuments, baths, the museum and much more.



The Ephesians’ temple of Artemis was one of the Seven Wonders of the World and was famous across the empire. Ephesus also had temples to Roman gods, was influenced by Egyptian, Asian and Persian religions and was well known for its spirituality and interest in magic. There was also a Jewish presence in the city.



Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Web developments

It looks like we'll be having our branding and website developed by local company Sound in theory.

With the tag 'honest design' they will give us a branding package, revised logo, style guide for all we produce and a website which meets our current needs as a church.

Their offices are on Gandy Street and as a company they value building lasting relationships with clients. I'm glad to be working with a company based in the heart of our city. Check out http://www.sitdap.com/

New Series

This Sunday we kick off our new series which we've called, 'He is at work'.

Andy and I will be preaching through Ephesians 1 & 2.

How do people become Christians? What has God actually done for Christians? What is God doing in the world? Who cares about the Church? What does the future hold? Why should we keep going?

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

8 reasons to vote

I picked up a little booklet in Wesley Owen called 'Just Politics' with Krish Kandiah. I found it helpful to motivate me to engage with the upcoming election. Here are 8 reasons for Christians to vote:

1) Voting publicly recognises that we submit to the authority of the political system in our nation as established by God. (Romans 13v1-7)

2) Voting recognises the equality of all people and their right to speak and be heard. (Deut. 10v17-19)

3) Voting is one way that we can obey God's command to seek the good of those around us and our nation as a whole. (Jer. 29v7)

4) Voting shows that we care deeply about who our leaders are as we are urged to offer prayer and intercession on their behalf. (1Tim2v1-2)

5) Voting is a simple yet significant way we can do something about politics in our nation. 'All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing', Edmund Burke (Psalm34v14)

6) Voting makes a difference the way a grain of salt makes a difference, and that is how we are to influence society. (Matt 5v13)

7) Voting is a privilege not to be taken for granted. Those of us who reap the benefits of living in a democracy should play a part in upholding the principles of democracy.

8) Not voting is a form of voting, as it will influence the outcome. We need to take responsibility for our actions, as well as our lack of actions. (Luke10v25-37)

"Voting, then, is not simply a right or a responsibility, but is part of our worship of loving service to God and our neighbour. Voting integrates the theological and the political. We vote, not simply for what is best for us, but for what is best for others." Votewise Now

I'm looking forward to seeing the TV debate Thursday. (ITV 8.30pm) I found this site interesting. It matches your values with a political party: http://www.votematch.org.uk/