Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Arts & The Church

Thoughtful and constructive piece by Kevin DeYoung on some of the issues previously discussed on this blog...

Monday, October 19, 2009

A prayer for our children

Heavenly Father

I want to pray for my child(ren) and lift them up before you now.

I pray not that they might have wealth, or be academically outstanding, or have a successful career. I pray not that they will be popular - or even that they will live comfortably and be free of stress and harships.

But I pray that they will know you, love you and serve you - that they will be followers of Jesus, men and women of God with the hope of heaven in their hearts. Grant it that they might know none of this world's achievements if they would in any way come between them and following Jesus Christ wholeheartedly.

Lord, you know that even as I pray these things that a huge part of me is pulling away from them. My motives are mixed - I want it all, and fear the cost of discipleship for myself & my children. But Lord hold me to my word - and honour those right and true things I have prayed for - even when other parts of me were crying 'no'.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

No getting away from it!

But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. (Luke 5:16)

He was a very busy man - But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

He only had a limited time in which to complete His work - But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

He faced constant demands and requests from people - But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

He had great gifts and abilities that the world desperately needed - But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly Response

Luke 4:16-30

Jesus comes to His hometown. Nazareth is gripped by expectancy as its most famous son returns – the news of His exploits elsewhere on everyone’s lips. He begins to read from the book of Isaiah – the message is all about ‘good news’. It’s a message of freedom & favour. The people love it, ‘All spoke well of him’ (v22). Jesus it seems has struck just the right note – everyone feels uplifted & encouraged. The speaker has been a hit – 'let’s make sure we get Him on the programme next year!'

But – CLUNK – Jesus doesn’t take the chance to say ‘Amen’ and hit the buffet on a high. No – He goes on and the atmosphere suddenly changes. The message becomes a little personal – it starts to challenge the congregation’s presumptions about who ‘Isaiah’s blessings’ are for. Jesus turns the screw on them – His words now are not so reassuring but warning and challenging. The response: ‘All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this’ (v28). And it had all been going so well….

Jesus is our model for ministry – He tells good news but doesn’t side-step the bad news. We want to have ministry that stops at v22 – so our sermons skip over v’s 23-27. We want the feel good verses so we read out a Psalm in church – but stop when we get to the verses about the wicked or wrath, etc.

If we adopt a church culture that is all about the nice stuff in God’s Word while missing out the tough stuff we will eventually develop an unBiblical worldview - a Christian worldview that is distorted, incomplete and wanting. So don't be afraid of ministry that isn’t all ‘pats on the back’ – you’ll be in good company!

Friday, October 02, 2009

The eXcellent Factor (again)

After stirring up a bit of debate on the subject of ‘excellence’ recently (thanks to those who posted comments) – let me add a further thought on this topic.

Excellence is good – we rightly enjoy and praise excellent food, music, football, woodwork, etc etc. We may not always be able to define exactly what ‘excellence’ is but we know it when we see (hear) it. However, appreciating when things are excellent and, as it were, requiring excellence need not go hand in hand. Because if we make the attainment of excellence central to how we do things in ministry – we risk ‘professionalising’ ministry and only attaching real value to the contributions of a highly gifted elite in the church.

The church is described in the NT as a family – so what is good and true our domestic families should hold good in the church family. So what therefore is the place of excellence in our homes? Do we forbid our children to pray at the dinner table because they're not, let’s be honest, very eloquent? Is the best reader in the house the only one who can read the Bible out loud at bed time? Should Mum always cook the dinner because she has the most experience?

I’m much more comfortable the idea of people doing their best and being appreciated for that (even when it’s not ‘excellent’). The church is a family – and families need to give space and time for its members to develop gifts, make mistakes, have off-days and grow in an environment of encouragement, support and appreciation. You know that feeling you get when your child is excluded by other kids from taking part in something (because ‘they’re rubbish’) – I wonder how God feels when it happens to His children?

Thursday, October 01, 2009

The Ups & Downs of Temptation

Interview with David Walliams in The Times Magazine (26/9/09).

“Low self-esteem,” he goes on, “draws you to something like performing. I remember reading a book about Robbie Williams, it said, ‘He’s got low self-esteem but a big ego’. That’s probably what most performers have got. Otherwise you wouldn’t look to this external thing to make you happy.”

The Lord has really been opening up the first chapters of Luke to me of late. In ch.4 we have recorded the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. In the second temptation Satan offers Jesus not, as I always thought, all the kingdoms of the world – but ‘all their authority and splendour’ (v6). Interesting. The devil has been given ownership of their ‘authority and splendour’ – and he can give those things to whoever he wants (v6). It should, at the very least, make us revisit our amibitions in life – whether personal, business or Christian. We are so easily dazzled by the bright lights of ‘success’ – ‘it must be ok or the Lord wouldn’t be blessing it’, we say. But who is ‘blessing’ the cults, pagan religion, Hugh Heffner, Saudi Arabia….etc – with their manifestations of ‘authority and splendour’? The devil wants to give us ‘authority and splendour’ – but beware of his terms & conditions (v7).

Finally, at the end of the temptations we read that the devil left Jesus ‘until an opportune time’ (v13). As I thought about what those ‘opportune’ times were, two immediately came to mind. Firstly, on the eve of Calvary – Jesus said, ‘the prince of this world is coming’ (Jn 14:30). At the point of greatest stress, in the face of inescapable suffering– the devil makes a move on Jesus – but, praise His name, ‘He has no hold on me’.

But, secondly, the other ‘opportune time’ that came to mind was, on the face of it, an unexpected moment. A moment of great affirmation, recognition and break-through for Jesus – the moment Peter finally acknowledges Him as the Messiah, the Son of God (Mt 16:16). And it is precisely at that moment of ‘success’ in ministry – that Satan also makes a move on Jesus ....Because Jesus, as you are this special & amazing person you ought to get special treatment, not for you the way of the Cross, no, no, no… But there is no chink of pride or ego to be played upon in the heart of Jesus Christ – and the seduction is rebuked out of hand (v22-23).

We, however, do not generally fare so well under either aggravation or adulation – the devil sees opportunities to bring us down in both. A wise saint once prayed: ‘give me neither poverty or riches, but give me only my daily bread. (Pr 30:8). He knew the pitfalls of the extremes (v9).

Our prayers would be seasoned with much wisdom if they asked: ‘Lord, give me neither low self-esteem or a big ego’.