Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Prayer and Flying a Plane (Illustration)

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A Historian, H.G.Wells writes, 'A historian like myself, who doesn't even call himself a Christian, finds the picture centering irrestibly around the life and character of this most significant man {Jesus}... The historian's test of an individual's greatness is 'What did he leave to grow?' Did he start men to thinking along fresh lines with a vigor that persisted after him? By this test Jesus stands first.'
An elderly Gentleman said to me recently, when you pray its like being in an aeroplane. You know there's a pilot out the front, getting you to the right destination. You don't need to know the law of aerodynamics to be able to fly on this plane as a passenger. Nor do you really ever see the pilot, but you trust that your life in is safe hands. It's like when we pray... You don't need to understand the ins and outs of prayer to pray to a God who's ready to listen. Why not start with, 'Our Father, who is in Heaven... how great you are!!'
Ministry is going well in Palmerston (NT). Our Red Shield Appeal total was up $4,200 on last year! We have Mainly Music families connecting with the life of the church, and some are coming to a Women's Bible Study during the week. We're averaging about 30 both Sunday mornings and Sunday nights, but most of all, the Holy Spirit in moving amongst us, and many are growing in their faith. We're looking to God for the Harvest for new disciples to enter into God's Kingdom (The place where he reigns and rules!).

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Twelfth Doctrine - Food

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I read recently of an officer saying that the twelfth doctrine should be 'We believe in food, eaten in fellowship'.
Many of our churches are characterised by this idea. Food can attract a crowd - it does when we have a Men's Breakfast. Food can break the ice with people - it does when I offer someone a piece of cake after Church. Food is often the centrepiece of a catchup meeting - it is when I take people out to lunch for a chat.

Food becomes a missional strategy at times, to strengthen relationships, to make people feel welcome, to create a warm environment.

In Revelation 3:20, Jesus says, 'Look! Here I stand at the door and knock. If you hear me calling and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal as friends.'
Remember the first miracle of Jesus was turning water into wine at a wedding feast.
What about the Last Supper? Those powerful words shared over a meal together.

In Deuteronomy, God asks the Israelites to bring a tithe of all their produce from their fields (10%) and bring it to the prescribed place of worship, so that everyone can share in a meal together and remember the Lord who provided for them. The bringing of the food to the place of worship was about obedience and celebration.

We must give thanks to God for the wealth and luxurious amounts of food we have in the Western world. So many starve and others have to work all day for a meagre amount of food. We don't take it for granted, and we recognise the possibilities that a simple thing like food does to help fulfill God's mission.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Measuring Church Growth

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Had an interesting thought yesterday. We traditionally measure church growth by how many come in. When reading the Great Commission, Jesus seems to measure church growth by how many go out.
Make Disciples.
The Whole World.

Coming together to worship God as a community, seems to more biblical if it is about equipping the saints for the work of ministry, and challenging the lost to follow Jesus and become a disciple. Church services cannot just be about fellowship, or songs, or sermons, but they need to ultimately challenge the body to express their love for God in their day to day lives.
We often compartmentalize our Christianity from our 'Secular work' environments, and we talk as if Sunday morning is the time we spend with God, and the rest of the week becomes about all our other goals and ambitions.
Mature followers of Jesus understand God has called them to be ambassadors all the time, and so whether gathering together as the church, or whether at work, or at home, or at the shops, we are a disciple of Jesus.

If somehow we could measure the going out of the disciples, and not just the coming in of the people for a Sunday gathering, we would find a more accurate, biblical measure of church growth.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Predestination - Will you choose to read this?

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I have been thinking a little about the theological conversations that have happened over the years regarding predestination and free will. The 16th Century saw the arrival of John Calvin, who taught on predestination, so most people would connect predestination with him, though the theological idea existed before him.
Predestination says that God has pre-elected some people to be saved; that is, God not only knows who will be saved in the end, but he has chosen those people already. Calvin came teaching something even stronger; what is sometimes called double predestination; that is, God has not only pre-elected some for salvation, but the rest he has pre-elected for damnation. That's a stong theological stance to take.

The Salvation Army tradition stems out of Wesleyanism, and John Wesley had much to say to intellectually refute this idea of predestination. One comment Wesley made was this:
"If [election] be so, then is all preaching vain. It is needless to them that they are elected; for they whether with preaching or without, will infallibly be saved. Therefore, the end of preaching--to save souls--is void in regard to them; and it is useless to them that are not elected, for they cannot possibly be saved: They, whether with preaching or without, will infallibly be damned... This then is a plain proof that the doctrine of predestination is not a doctrine of God, because it makes void the ordinance of God; and God is not divided against himself. A Second is, that it directly tends to destroy that holiness which is the end of all the ordinances of God... The doctrine [of election]... has a tendency to destroy holiness in general; for it wholly takes away those first motives to follow after it...the hope of future reward and punishment, the hope of heaven and the fear of hell."

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