Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Is The God of The Bible Good?

Is the God of the Bible worth knowing? Christians claim that He is a loving, kind, and gracious God. But others who have read the Bible see a different description for God. They see the God of the Bible as mean, violent, abusive, cruel, and unfair. The God of the Bible is vicious God who is simply not worth knowing, they cry. There probably is a God- but the Bible is not the revelation of that God, they claim. At stake is:
(1) The entire credibility of Christianity,
(2) The validity of the Bible as the Inerrant/Inspired/Unique Revelation from God, and
(3) (Potentially) God's reputation.
This is therefore not just an issue for apologists like myself to answer, but a critical issue for every Christian to be able to reasonably respond to...[read the full article

Friday, 19 February 2010

Great Leaders Do This

As we read the stories of the Bible we read the stories of leaders. Nearly all of these great leaders started out as ordinary people with little to no formal leadership training. But they share certain things in common. They all had a sense of destiny. They then had a sense of the importance of their part in history. But it seems that the great leaders did two particular things that made them exceptional. Today these two tasks are essential for a leader, whether it be a Dad or Mum, Employer or Team Leader, to becoming a great leader.
Firstly, they allocated. They allocated time (to think and implement) and resources to fulfil the task and provisions for the journeyConsider King David's leadership. We read in the Psalms just how often he would go out and look up at the night sky and ponder. We read at other times he would go into the Tabernacle to meditate on God's Word and pray. It was during these allocated times that he met with and heard God. Then consider how he prepared his son, Solomon, to build the Temple. David allocated resources over the years to make Solomon's job easier. We've just about completed a building project at Legana without borrowings. This would just not have been possible if over the past few years we had not been allocating funds - even though the amounts were not initially large - to make this project a reality. Too many churches are ill-prepared for the future because they have not allocated in the present.
First Chronicles 29:19 Grant to Solomon my son a whole heart that he may keep your commandments, your testimonies, and your statutes, performing all, and that he may build the palace for which I have made provision.
As followers of Christ it is imperative that we allocate time to devote to pondering the things of God's Word. This "devotional" time is what helps prepare our souls to be able to more likely hear God's whispers.
Secondly, great leaders routinise. They develop routines. They are not erratic. When they get up in a morning they have their routine. During the day, they have certain routines. Certain days have certain routines. Certain situations trigger certain routines. Of course they are flexible enough to adapt their routines to changing circumstances, but look a little closer at a good and flexible leader and you'll see their routines. I remember going to hear Bill Hybels when he came to our city. Bill is one of the greatest pastors of all time with an amazing mix of leadership, preaching, and administrative gifts. But the thing that stood out to me when he was here was not the impressive display of these world-class gifts but: his routines. He spoke of doing his regular 5km morning walk by taking adavantage of the Zig Zag track at Cataract Gorge (one of the most beautiful walking tracks on the planet). He referred to his disciplined eating routine where he refused snack between meals and would not eat fatty foods. Having done a little bit of ministry travel in the past and with an upcoming trip to the USA in the next few weeks, I know just how difficult it can be to maintain home-grounded routines. But great leaders do. Who remembers seeing the former Prime Minister of Australia doing his morning walk no matter which city he woke up in? Leaders develop routines.
As followers of Christ it is imperative that we develop the routine of starting our days in fellowship with God through prayer and His Word. When we as a family sit down for a meal we have a routine. We hold hands and give thanks to the Lord for the food He has provided and for the company He has allowed us to enjoy it with. But there is a need for each of us to develop a private routine of devotion with Christ. Jesus called this routine of prayer and devotion our "secret place" (Matthew 6:6).
Luke 5:16 But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
Allocating and Routinising are the two essential qualities of organisation. Organised people are able to get more out of their days because they don't have to waste as much time as those who haven't allocated a place for their car keys, shoes, or sunglasses, or wallet. It is my goal to become more organised. As my life seems to be getting busier, I find I must take more "time out" to allocate where I put things, how I save for those items on my wish-list, how I plan for my future and how I delegate. And I want to develop a healthier routines that save me time in the long run. I hope that in our church we have growing leaders who develop the abilities to allocate time with their teams and routinise procedures, training, and fellowship. I think this is one of our biggest challenges that we are facing. If we get it right, we'll continue to grow and the beneficiaries will be those people who are looking for hope, answers, love and acceptance.
Father, please help us to stretch and grow in ways that will bring us closer to Christ and better able to represent Him. By Your Grace give us the ability to develop the ongoing ability to allocate what You have already given us and what we will need for the future. Show us how to discipline our lives for Your glory by developing the kind of routines that will build your Word into our lives and cause us to grow stronger in our relationships with others and especially You. Help us to become increasing aware of the needs of others around us so that You can use us to minister Your hope, answers, love and acceptance to the many people You bring into our lives. In Jesus' Name,

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Hard Work And The Soul

Do you know someone who is obviously well organised and highly productive? Chances are they work hard. These people tend to make "to do" lists. If we could see their lists we would see that the tasks they have listed for actioning reflect some clear goals they have. Over the past four months in particular I have watched several key people work very hard on two building projects. Each of these people have started their days early, proceeded through their days without wasting time and ended their days organising their next day's work. I have witnessed these amazing people combine two not-so-common activities: hard work and productivity. This contrasts with those who are busy and highly active yet not really productive.

First Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 

In the "old days" hard work meant physical activity. These days, "hard work" means thinking plus acting. It involves thinking ahead, planning and organising necessary help before its needed. But this thinking also requires implementation. Knowing what to do does not make it happen. Planning for something to happen does not make it happen. Hard work involves doing something that has to be done - even though you may not want to do it - in order to achieve what you want.

While this is true in very practical matters, it is also true in spiritual matters. Paul the apostle could say that he worked hard for the Lord. He exerted himself in spiritual activity by grace. Paul knew that salvation was not a matter of hard work- but God's grace. But he also knew that this same grace enabled him to work hard for the Lord. Perhaps this meant that there were times for Paul when praying was hard, but the grace of God enabled him to sacrifice his time, energy and sleep in order to prayerfully conduct his ministry. Perhaps there were times when Paul was exhausted and didn't feel like writing another epistle or preaching another sermon or witnessing to another seeker- but something within him enabled him at those moments to work hard.
John 4:34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.
I believe, like the Reformers, that God is sovereign but I also understand what they meant when they described the Christian response to God's Sovereignty as the Protestant Work Ethic. These Reformers understood that God's grace enabled believers to work harder than they otherwise could. They regarded work as an act of worship to God. Work was a God-given means for man to find meaning for his existence. The Christian Work Ethic meant that believers in particular applied themselves more diligently to their contribution to a society's economy in the fields of enterprise, education and entertainment. Those believers who were employees should work hard for their employers by turning up earlier than required, staying longer than asked, and working consistently without the need for supervision.
Colossians 3:23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men
Ephesians 6:5-8 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free.
The generation of believers who came after the Reformers were known as the Puritans. They coined expressions extolling the spiritual benefits of hard work and decrying the spiritual affect of laziness. "Idle hands are the Devil's tools", "Labora Ut Requiescas" (Latin: Work hard so that ye will rest). A casual reading of the Book of Proverbs makes it clear that laziness, sloth, idleness, are bad for the soul. Hard work, that combination of well planned organisation and diligent implementation, is good for the soul. When a person is deprived of an opportunity to work (whether paid or unpaid) they can suffer all kinds of maladies, none the least: depression. Depression is the removal of hope's light to a soul. It discourages. It deceives. It consumes. The Bible prescribes an antidote: hard work. Geoffrey Norman once wrote, "A lot of what passes for depression these days is nothing more than a body saying that it needs work." "Employment", said Galen, "is nature's physician, and is essential to human happiness."

If you want to kill time, try working it to death. 
~ Sam Levonson
Work is good for the soul. Much of our modern economy is built upon a type of work that can be done without passion. The type of work that is good for the soul is the type of work that we can do "heartily" (Col. 3:23). Whether this is digging ditches, cleaning the house, weeding the garden, designing web pages, serving a customer, baking a cake, selling a house, servicing a car, or writing a report, work can be done with passion and enthusiasm. This type of work results in a positive, healthy pride-
Romans 15:17 In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God.
During times of dire need the believer often cries out to God for miraculous provision. The way God usually answers this cry for help is spelt: w-o-r-k. Consider how the poor were to be treated under the Old Covenant. Rather than just giving them charity, God commanded that farmers harvest their fields once and allow the poor to glean the rest. God's answer to the predicament of the poor was not just charity, but work. Naturally, those who ignore this principle of work and attempt to gain by theft are not only injuring others, but they are damaging their own souls.
Ephesians 4:28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.
It therefore goes without saying that believers should work honestly without stealing either time, cash or property from their employers. Hard work from a believer is done for their employer as if they were working directly for the Lord (Col. 3:23). Perhaps for those believers who have an opinion of God's provision being only supernatural it might be time to consider that God normatively provides for His children by giving them work to do. Like me, you probably already have a lot of work to do. Some of this work, if not most of it, is maintenance- the type of work that needs to be done just to keep things normal. I have a small list of these jobs that need doing around my house. I have another list of jobs that I would like to do around my house. I then develop an action plan (how I will implement the completion of these jobs). In my pastoral duties I also work with lists. I recently bought some software (called "Things") which helps me to plan and organise these work items. This brings me back where I started. Hard work involves clear thinking and the effort of clear implementation. I'm not really interested in being "busy", but I am committed to working hard.
Father, thank You for Your saving grace. I pray that this saving grace will help me to work hard for Your glory. Lord, when I get an attack of the lazies, help me to overcome this with the kind of attitude that spurs me to reluctant motivation to what has to be done. Even when I am tired, help me to keep going knowing that working for You is my rest. Father, help me to plan, organise, and resource my life better so that I can be more productive in what You have assigned to me. In all my busyness may I not overlook people and their needs. May I feel Your heart for people and be filled with compassion to speak Your encouraging words and truth. May You use me to inspire those around me to have a "can do" spirit. In Jesus' Name,