Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What a General of The Salvation Army is Like

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The Salvation Army will soon elect a new General to lead this movement into the years ahead.

Well known Salvationist Geoff Ryan writes the following about what the next General needs to be like:

"We need a General with a razor-sharp intellect formed by disciplined reading and study of philosophy, theology, politics, economics, and science; a... natural leader who understands how to motivate and inspire people; a visionary who can think strategically and who understands organizational theory and the zeitgeist of post-modernity; a person rooted in the experience and understanding of the Wesleyan tradition -who knows exactly who they are and what our story is; a thinker with a deep knowledge and, .... a tough-minded but tender-hearted follower of Jesus with a burning concern for the excluded and marginalized of the world, who would be a shepherd of those sheep who have no shepherd."

Jesus, let the Holy Spirit guide the leaders of The Salvation Army in the days ahead!

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Gift

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We can buy many gifts. We can fill our stockings to overflowing. We can eat too much roast beef, and gorge on too many mince pies. We can gather together with long lost family members or give our partners a new trendy gadget. Sure. We could do all this.

I could receive a new Xbox alongside my glow in the dark toothbrush. I could swim my way through a new swimming pool or turn the key of a new fancy V8 BMW. I could smell my way through a new Lynx deodorant, or a $50 Target Voucher. But... It can't be wooed by a sale sticker, or a fancy slogan. It can't be purchased with my credit card. It can be exchanged for another but without the same benefits. The gift won't be worn, tired or broken in three weeks. Even though the gift is so great for so many, the gift doesn't  seem to find its way much onto TV. The radio hosts and TV presenters don't want to mention it much.

Friends I know have received the same gift, and sometimes we chat together about it. Mates write their status updates about it, and make quirky statements about the gift's significance in their own life. We all laugh. Some debate the gift's relevance to today, and others reply with, 'Well, you wouldn't know...' Give the gift a chance some banter. Some have been burnt by the gift - well, not burnt by the actual gift, but hurt by the one who has received the gift and not represented the gift in the way that was intended. Others are testing out the gift, and are still wondering whether the gift provides the change that others are raving about. To be honest, I once thought the gift was 'not for me', and was only for weird people who dressed funny. Actually, I'm beginning to think the gift is not only for people who dress in old, brown sweaters, but even those who dress in black, or wear burkas, or bikinis on Saturdays. I'm beginning to think the gift is not just for 50 year old females who sing, but also for 50 years old men who drink and swear. Hey, come to think of it, the gift is not just limited to religious people, but atheists, agnostics, skeptics, philosophers, tradespeople, family people, working class people and business people. The gift is even for the Gen-X family member who can't put all the pieces together, or the young girl who doesn't understand her future. What about the pensioner who can't afford the Christmas dinner, or the working poor who has no time for the family - the gift is still for them.

The gift is special. The gift is beyond comprehension and undefinable. The gift opens the sight of the blind. The gift can heal the sick. The gift can pour healing on a broken soul. The gift promises an awesome eternal life, and a life that's eternally awesome. The gift is what God sent.

The gift is Jesus Christ.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Can we call ourselves Holy?

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We're called to be a holy people.

I want to say congrats to all the "Ambassadors of Holiness" in The Salvation Army that recently were commissioned and appointed to various places around Australia to minister in the name of Jesus. What a great sessional name, a name that exemplifies the Christian life; one of holiness 'unto the Lord'.

My mind goes to a time when someone in church said to me, 'You know, I struggle with the message today. He keeps talking about the fact that we can be holy. I can't get to the point where I call myself that.'

Interesting thought. Can we call ourselves holy? I, personally don't see why not. Sure, we don't walk around with a large badge on our chest, and tell everyone we know that we are holy! Though, we know that because of the grace of the Lord Jesus, and because of our God-given ability to have faith in Jesus we can be holy. When we choose to have faith in Christ, and in his resurrection power, and when we turn from our own lives (our sinfulness), we are made holy. We are made right with God (righteousness).

Lord, I choose to be holy today. Take my ambitions, my prayers, my decisions, my dreams and make them coincide with your will. Help me always live a life worthy of being called a follower of Jesus. Forgive me for the times when I represent you in a way that disappoints. Fill me once again with your Holy Spirit.

Turn to Jesus today. Be holy as Jesus is holy...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Silence is Golden

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Sitting by the roadside eating a sandwich, in a remote town, you can hear the birds chirp and the distant sound of children playing. Holidays are bliss. Leaving the house and just travelling, you put aside the busyness of life, and enter a new frame of mind. The peacefulness of the surroundings allows you to reflect on circumstances quite often pushed to the back of the mind. The silence affords you the opportunity to hear God; and to quietly thank Jesus for his blessings in your life.

Silence is golden. Not that you can't hear God in a loud worship service, or that you can't hear God while in a busy supermarket. Though the time of serenity shoves all the distractions to the side, and you find yourself, like Elijah sitting by the mountain hearing the voice of God.

My encouragement is for you today. Find a moment to seperate yourself from the expectations of the world around you. Find a brief time apart to recharge the batteries of your mind and soul, and allow the Holy Spirit to speak once again into your life.

From Alice Springs, in central Australia. God bless.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

John C Maxwell Quotes on Leadership

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John C Maxwell Quotes on Leadership:

  • 'People don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care' - John C Maxwell
  • 'Change is inevitable, growth is optional' - John C Maxwell
  • 'Life is 10% what happens to me, 90% of how I react to it' - John C Maxwell
  • 'Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less' - John C Maxwell
Join the "Disciples in Training" Facebook Page & keep the discussion going.
  • 'If we are growing, we are always going to be outside our comfort zone' - John C Maxwell
  • 'We cannot become what we need, by remaining what we are' - John C Maxwell
  • 'When the real leader speaks, people listen' - John C Maxwell
  • 'Trust is the foundation of leadership' - John C Maxwell
  • 'Anyone can steer the ship, but it takes a leader to chart the course' - John C Maxwell
  • 'Leadership develops daily, not in a day' - John C Maxwell
  • 'Leaders touch a heart before they ask for a hand' - John C Maxwell
  • 'Momentum is a leader's best friend' - John C Maxwell
  • 'Leaders understand that activity is not necessarily accomplishment' - John C Maxwell
  • 'To add growth, lead followers - to multiply, lead leaders' - John C Maxwell
  • 'A leader's lasting value, is measured by succession' - John C Maxwell
  • 'The higher you want to climb, the more you need leadership. The greater the impact you want to make, the greater your influence need to be' - John C Maxwell
Join the "Disciples in Training" Facebook Page & keep the discussion going.

More John C Maxwell quotes on leadership:
  • 'Personal organizational effectiveness is proportionate to the strength of leadership' - John C Maxwell
  • 'You can find smart, talented, successful people who are able to go only so far because of the limitations of their leadership' - John C Maxwell
  • 'The only thing a title can buy is a little time--either to increase your level of influence with others or to erase it' - John C Maxwell
  • 'Becoming a leader is a lot like investing successfully in the stock market. If your hope is to make a fortune in a day, you're not going to be successful' - John C Maxwell
  • 'As long as a person doesn't know what he doesn't know, he doesn't grow' - John C Maxwell
  • 'No matter how much you learn from the past, it will never tell you all you need to know for the present' - John C Maxwell
  • 'If the leader can't navigate the people through rough waters, he is liable to sink the ship' - John C Maxwell
  • 'It's difficult balancing optimism and realism, intuition and planning, faith and fact. But that's what it takes to be effective as a navigating leader' - John C Maxwell
  • 'Major barriers to successful planning are fear of change, ignorance, uncertainty about the future, and lack of imagination' - John C Maxwell
  • 'It's not the size of the project that determines its acceptance, support, and success. It's the size of the leader' - John C Maxwell
John C Maxwell quotes on leadership are attributed to the writings of John C Maxwell, predominantly The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership (1998).

To continue the learning, check out this post: Stephen Covey's 4 Human Intelligences from July 2011. Click here.

Also: The differences/similarities between Leadership and Management

To join the discussion go to "Disciples in Training" on Facebook.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Up the Mountain Syndrome - Leadership lessons

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I spoke recently with a couple, hurt from a previous church, predominantly because of the senior pastor of that congregation. Without delving into discussions about particularities of the situation, here are some lessons of leadership that correlate to the hurt of this couple:

* The pastor entered an existing church, and did not acknowledge the value of the existing ministries within the church. Whether it be church or a new manager of a business, or a new foster familily, we must acknowledge the good and the bad of the situation we enter. To storm into a new situation, in which you have become the leader, and immediately voice your desire for radical change, smells of arrogance and is not a wise leadership action.
* The pastor chose to shut down vibrant ministries, not because they weren't fulfilling the purpose and direction of the church, but because they just did not fit his 'philosophy of ministry'. If you are a pastor and you are assigned (or begin a job at) a new church - if a ministry is vibrant and fits into the mission of the church, then, whether you culturally connect with it or not, surely you must resource this ministry, and find ways to make the ministry even more vibrant and successful. If the only reason you disband a youth ministry or an mature-aged social group is because 'you don't connect well' with this subculture, you have chosen to merely run ministries that YOU enjoy and that YOU are comfortable with. Now, if the program/ministry is volatile or heading in a completely different direction to the church, then the closing is probably beneficial in the long term to the growth of the church. Though, if you struggle because you live in a different cultural bubble to the existing program, then maybe delegation and support is the way to go.
* Up the mountain syndrome. Ever met someone that thinks all they must do, is pray and listen to God, and the rest will fall into place? Prayer is vital to the church, but there needs to be a balance between comtemplative prayer meetings with God, and the living out the gospel Jesus calls us to. I am inspired by the story of some of the early monastics - especially the ones that did not live their whole life seculuded from the world, but spent lots of time in prayer, and then went back to the streets and preached the gospel of Jesus and even healed the sick among them. We could argue some have 'down the mountain syndrome' and they never take time out to climb the mountain and spend time with God. We are called to have a Spirit inspired balanced between chunks of time in prayer, and time in ministry. God help us.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Women Should be Silent in Church? - 1 Corinthians 14

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Should women be silent in Church?

What was Paul thinking when he wrote to the Corinthian church? Have a read of 1 Corinthians 14:33-35 - Does it clearly make a case that women should not preach in the church?

1 Corinthians 14: 33-35 'As in all the congregations of the saints, 34women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. 35If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.'

This is a verse used by some to discredit the authority women have to preach in the church today. What is Paul saying in this Scripture? Is this a blanket statement that holds true in today's church? I argue that this verse is laden with cultural underpinnings, that need to be explored.

N.T. Wright discusses 1 Cor 14, where Paul urges the Corinthian women to be silent in Church, and while he admits it may well be an interpolation [that is a verse that was added later] from outside of Paul, he also offers another suggestion.

Back in the 1st Century Middle East, men and women would sit separately in Church, and the service would be spoken in classical Arabic, a language in which the men understood and the women did not. During the sermon, as you could imagine, the women begin chatting to themselves, slowly increasing their volume, until the point where the minister must tell the women to keep the noise down. Therefore Paul’s call for women to be silent in church was more of a practical request, so that at least the men could hear the message. To read more on N.T.Wright's article on Women in Ministry, click here.

Galatians 3:28 is known to hold the key to Paul's view on women in ministry, and while a verse plucked out by itself is not always helpful, this verse is foundational to understand Paul's view on the topic. Galatians 3:28 says, 'There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.' Paul's understanding of equality between women and men, was one that developed following his conversion to Christ, and one that goes against the grain of the male-dominated Jewish culture of his day. Taking Galatians 3:28 and feeding that into 1 Corinthians 14, says to me, that men and women are equal, and while Paul may have given a practical request to the Corinthian church, both women and men have the authority and God-given power to preach the gospel of Jesus today.

Should women be silent in the church? No.
Are women and men equal in ministry? Yes.
Are women and men equal in the eyes of God? Of course. (God shows no favourtism)

Friday, October 8, 2010

The 'I like it on ....' Facebook phenomenon


If you are confused as to what 'campaign' Pete was discussing in yesterday's blog. Here is all the inside info as to what the "I like it on ..." Facebook game is all about. This is the only information available from the source of this campaign, it is not linked with any official Breast Cancer Awareness Organisation, nor is there any indication as to whose 'brainchild' it was.

"Remember the game last year about what color bra you were wearing at the moment? The purpose was to increase awareness of October Breast Cancer Awareness month. It was a tremendous success and we had men wondering for days what was with the colors and it made it to the news. This year's game has to do with your handbag/purse, where we put our handbag the moment we get home for example "I like it on the couch", "I like it on the kitchen counter", "I like it on the dresser" well u get the idea. Just put your answer as your status with nothing more than that and cut n paste this message and forward to all your FB female friends to their inbox. The bra game made it to the news. Let's see how powerful we women really are!!!


Breast Cancer awareness/support/cure are very important issues to promote. I have huge respect for organisations that are committed to these causes and seek to support them any way I can. I have my own family connection to breast cancer which has caused me to have huge respect for those who have to cope with the horrible effects of this and other cancers.

I have one question, if the one reference to Breast Cancer was removed, what would you think about this message?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

I like it on the Rubbish Tip - Breast Cancer Awareness


We all need to become more aware about Breast Cancer. So lets use SEX as our marketing tool. It is sure to work. Women will have a chuckle as they update their facebook status:
* I like it on the staircase
* I like it on the kitchen table (supposedly refering to their handbags)

Is this good marketing or a pathetic use at using sex to sell an idea?

We very quickly become confused. Lets break it down. We use marketing technique 'A' to sell the idea 'B'. If 'A' is effective then 'B' will catch on as an idea. Now if 'B' is extremely important, and life altering, does it then matter what the substance of 'A' is? I mean if 'B' is so very important, surely it is irrelevant what the content of 'A' is? Or are they ethically mutually exclusive, and so if 'A' is wrong in and of itself, then it is irrelevant regarding the importance of 'B'.

I argue strongly here, that the Breast Cancer Awareness marketing techniques used (that is, 'A') is related to the sexualisation of women, and is moraly wrong. I am saying that this marketing technique is wrong in and of itself; and while the idea of breast cancer awareness is very important, using sex to drive home the idea is just the brain child of a lazy marketing department and it continues to pervade our culture with lustful sex and the sexualisation of women.

Please don't use the argument - "well there are more important things to worry about than this". Sure. But there always is. We could talk about a blog regarding someone with foot pain - but is this irrelevant because someone in Sri Lanka has elephantitis? We could talk about how to stop a migraine - but should we stop talking about this because there is someone who is on life-support needing brain surgery? The sexualisation of women is wrong, and this marketing technique taken on face value, is cheap and pathetic.

Ohh, I just thought of a new Prostate Cancer awareness idea - Every man drop their dacks, tack a picture of their private parts and upload it to facebook... Ohh, sorry, did I go too far that time? Or am I just creatively using sex to get my idea across?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Lessons learned on Kid's Camp

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Big Kid's Camp in the NT taught me and reminded me of some things, that even the adults need to be reminded of. Here's some of them:
* God is a BIG God, and we have seen his creation
* God wants us to have a relationship with him through his son Jesus Christ.
* Sleeping in a Tent can be the most uncomfortable thing to do
* Cane Toads and Snakes increase your prayer life
* Leadership is about participation and influence around others, and an ability to help others move towards a common goal
* Sometimes you are called to clean disgusting toilets without asking for recognition... :)
* The Apostle Paul says everyone has seen God's creation (Romans 1), and therefore we are actually without excuse before God. The ultimate revelation of God in found in God's son, Jesus.

Thank you to the Children's Leaders present at the Kid's Camp in the Northern Territory - To Jennie Shrimpton and David Shrimption, Vaughn, Sarah, Sherrie, Chris, Emmanuel, Violet, Kaye, Emily and Chris. God bless you guys. God will reward you one day for the investment you make in the lives of these children.

Lets serve Jesus from the bottom of our hearts, and make God famous in the meantime... !

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Book Review - Australian Soul - Gary Bouma

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Australian Soul (Religion and Spirituality in the 21st Century) – Gary Bouma (2006)

As Bouma unpacks cultural particularities of varying Christian expressions (:86-95), his bias clearly shows towards following orthodox traditional churches (e.g. Catholic, Anglican, etc). While he refrains from overtly expressing his opinion, he has an element of sarcasm and distain to Pentecostalism and ‘mega-churches’ to which he frequently refers. While at one point he mentions the growth of churches such as Hillsong, and those of a charismatic/Pentecostal nature, he then mentions later (: 206), that Religion and spirituality, ‘will take forms that are quieter, less charismatic and more towards to the low-temperature end of the scale of religious intensity than elsewhere’. The quote and his mentioned statistics do not correlate. Maybe his bias against emotionally laden churches vs. rational based churches is being shown; the latter being his preferred religious context. When mentioning having a memorial service, possibly outside of an Anglican Cathedral and rather in a mega-church, Bouma sarcastically writes, ‘Of course their facilities hold more people than most cathedrals, they have better sound systems and, what is more, they are more likely to have parking’ (:117-118).
 The author expresses opinions that are controversial within Christian circles. He seemingly alludes to the idea that, issues like same-sex marriages and homosexuality only fail to be acceptable because of the fundamentalism of the Christian church, and that we should let diversity reign. Bouma’s thesis appears to be, ‘If Christians were just more open-minded, there would be more room for freedom of expression of spirituality’.  He believes in diversity and that spirituality should bring hope. He mentions, ‘Some see the spread of Pentecostal Christianity and the renewed energy of Islam as signs of hope’ (: 204). It is difficult to gauge whether the author is supportive of this statement or passionately opposed to it. Does a pendulum swing towards freedom of expression, diversity, and an encouragement towards a spiritual smorgasboard of whatever suits YOU, the right way to go?  
From a literary stance, Bouma presents sound statistics and a well studied exposition on spirituality in Australia, though at times he makes assumptions, for example, ‘Few protestant Clergy are respected for their ability to make real a sense of the presence of God’ (: 100).  
He describes the downward spiral of Christianity in Australia in relation to attendance, moral values, etc. Bouma’s thesis is seemingly one of embracing this decline for the sake of religious diversity and people’s freedom of expression. So at times you are left agreeing with Bouma and interested by statistical data and other times disappointed and frustrated by liberal approaches to religious diversity and spirituality. All that being said Gary Bouma's Australian Soul (Religion and Spirituality in the 21st Century), is worth a read and will get you engaged and thinking.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Innovation, Adaptation and a Passionate Cry

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Innovation, Adaptation and the Christian Gospel

What is innovation? Does the church need it today? Can the church learn from the business world in relation to innovation? Does the Bible challenge followers of Jesus to be innovative and adaptive or is it merely a 21st Century business concept?

Innovation is not just a goal to reach, it is a mindset. Innovative people are on the prowl for breaking new ground. In Fast Thinking Magazine (Autumn 2010), Steve Rust says, 'Innovation isn't something that can be switched on at the beginning of the quarter in an attempt to boost the numbers or suddenly to counter a competitive threat. Innovation is a habit that grows with the organisation and becomes part of it fabric' (: 14). Glenn Wightwick, director of IBM Australia says that Innovation is a part of their company's DNA. The question I ask is not so much whether innovation is important to business but whether innovation is important in the Church today. 

In Fast Thinking Magazine, I recently read, from a business perspective, "There is an explosion in innovation across the board and, importantly, it's not coming from the big companies - most of the activity is now found in the small and medium arena." Why is bigger business struggling to keep up with innovation? Mostly because larger companies have stifling bureaucracies that do not encourage new exploration. They spend their time predominantly maintaining the busyness on products/concepts they have previously innovated! What striking parallelism this has to the Church universal, when we consider stifling bureaucracies, lifeless churches and drawn-out decision making by professional clergy, and our general inability to break new ground around us. 

Euguene Peterson's adapts the words of Paul in 1 Cor 9:19-22 (MSG). He writes, 'Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized—whoever. I didn't take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I've become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life.'

Paul is innovative and has the ability to adapt to the environment around him. He changes the way he speaks depending on his audience. He adapts the way he shares the message of Jesus so that the differing crowds can understand and connect with his content. Maybe Paul is the first innovative Christian in the beginnings of the Christian Church?

The Salvation Army began under the leadership of William and Catherine Booth. This couple are known for their pioneering work that began a movement that has now spread to over 120 countries and counting. They were innovative and were willing to adapt the methods of preaching the gospel to (initially) their East London audience and then many other provinces and Countries around the world. Catherine Booth writes in Aggressive Christianity of our lack of desire to be adaptable, 'We are so conservative in our relationship by nature. We have such a rooted dislike and almost hatred for anything that would disturb our carefully constructed, comfortable Christianity' (: 66). In reference to adaptation, Catherine writes, 'While the Gospel does not change, we are given complete freedom to adapt the way we bring it to people in the circumstances, times, and conditions in which we live' (: 67). 

I'm calling for the church to be passionately innovative and courageously adaptable to the culture we live in. We by no means undermine or alter the unchanging message of the Gospel, but through the power of the Holy Spirit we become missionaries in our own backyards. We are no longer building ghettos of Christian Hymn Singing, but radical, innovative expressions of Christian faith, that revolutionise the communities we inhabit.

Innovate. Innovate. Innovate. Adapt. Adapt. Adapt again. Change. Try something new.

Who knows... it might just work, and God will get all the glory.

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Romans 1:1-7 - The Beginning of Paul's Letter to Rome - Pete's Bible Commentary

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Romans 1:1-7 (NRSV) - "Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures: the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord. Through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name, including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ. To all God's beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."

Brief Exegetical Summary of Romans 1:1-7

Paul writes the letter to the Romans from Corinth around the time of late 55AD/early 56AD. In contrast to other Pauline literature, Paul knew very little Christians in Rome, and did not play a vital part in the evangelism and growth of the church. Conversely, he knew extensively about the political and religious movements in Rome.

Romans 1:1-7 is the beginning of a cohesive letter to the Romans, although some have argued against the coherency of ‘one’ letter. This letter begins with the self-identification of who Paul is, ‘a slave of Christ Jesus’, ‘called to be an apostle’ and ‘set apart’; almost an intentional self-promotion to the church at Rome, so as to build credibility for the rest of the letter. After then outlining what he is called to (the gospel), he gives a description of who he is addressing, ‘to all those in Rome’ and then a familiar Christianized greeting, ‘grace to you and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ’ (Dunn, 1988: 5).

Why does Paul not start off his letter with the name, “Saul”?

Interestingly Paul does not begin any of his writings with the name ‘Saul’. The name Saul, most likely, represents his former days as a zealous Pharisee (Phil 3:5-6), who persecuted the new followers of Jesus, and was indebted to fulfil every iota of the law of the Old Testament. Paul’s theophany of Jesus on the road to Damascus, came with a name change, and one that Paul embraced and used from that day forward.

Verse one begins with, ‘Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus...’ What is Paul highlighting to his readers?

The life of Paul is consumed by the Christ who transformed his life. Some translate ‘servant’ (δουλος - doulos) to be ‘slave’ which expresses with greater clarity the reality of Paul’s calling in life. No other calling, religion, philosophical idea or cultural idol could distract him from being a servant of this Messiah. The challenge is outlined, right from the start, to the Roman readership, that no less than full commitment to Christ is what Paul stands for, and they should consider the same.

Paul says that the gospel was promised beforehand through the prophets (v. 2). Can you recall prophecies from the Old Testament that Paul may be referring to?

Micah 5:2 says, ‘But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.’ This is but one example of a prophet who declares something of the nature of the coming Christ (see also: Prov 30:4, Is 9:5-7, Ps 2:6, 110:4, Deut 18:15, Dan 9:24-26). Paul was well versed in the Old Testament Scriptures, and was able to understand and teach that particular OT references can be now be revealed with the light of Christ shining upon them.

Why does Paul mention that Jesus is a descendent of David (v. 3)?

Paul is not the only NT writer who makes reference to Jesus as a descendent of David (see Mt. 1, Lk. 3). There are Old Testament references that explicitly outline that from David will come someone who will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. The most popular of these, no doubt, is Isaiah 9:1-7, ‘to us a child is born...’ ‘Prince of Peace’, ‘He will reign on David’s throne’, etc. Paul is declaring to his readers, that those many verses that allude strongly to the idea that from David’s line YHWH will establish his throne, has occurred in Jesus Christ.

Romans 1:1-7 is part of Pete's Bible Commentary, written by PeteBrookshaw.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Australians should eat more Camel and other News

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At times the latest Australian news keeps you informed but at times it makes you opionated:

* Australians are being encouraged to eat more camels! There are millions roaming central Australia, and The Camel Industry Association is finding ways to capitilize for our sake. Apparently the camel has 85% less fat than beef. So don't have a cow!
* To what point do Politicians stick to their beliefs and convictions or bargain and change their policies to gain support from independents?
* Greenpeace is attempting to highlight to the world that we have a TUNA problem. According to these activists, those that fish for tuna, fish excessively and also kill off turtles and sharks at the same time. John West works hard to get us the best hey?
* Paul Hogan is travelling back the USA. Tell your friends.
* 60% of all assaults in the Northern Territory and 67% of all domestic violence incidents in the Territory are caused by alcohol abuse. We have a problem here. In Australia we have come a long way to curb excessive smoking and the perception of smoking has generally changed in Australia. When it comes to drinking, the culture tells you to get sloshed and catch a taxi home. When will Aussies see this as pathetic? 

Romans 1:1 says, 'Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus...' - I serve Jesus. My life is not about alcohol consumption, strip joints and simply working 60 hour weeks to merely pay a mortgage and go on a family holiday. My life is about serving Jesus, and making him known throughout the world. Turn to him today.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Great Political Nothing


Australian eyes have been on federal politics of late, as we consider the votes we have made, the local candidates we have made MPs and the influence this may or may not have on our country. So what have we created? What has our democratic right given us? Well, following all the party politics, scare mongering and unenthusiastic political debates, we have ended up with a hung parliament. What a great democratic process; that spends millions of dollars to encourage and resource the average Australian to 'make their vote count', and yet cannot decide who should lead our country.

What's with the statement that says we need to give independents time to consider what political party they will align with? What's with that? I mean, they knew a federal election was coming and they should already have clearly thought about their stance on particular policies and whether they would lean towards Labor or Liberal. While Australia waits in limbo for a minority Australian Government to be formed, the independents and Greens candidate Adam Brandt are sipping coffees, and enjoying the new 'power' they have in federal politics. Get on with it, I say, and finish your 'talks' and show Australia who will be our next Prime Minister.

Is this a sign of how long the decisions will take under a minority Government? Everytime a particular policy is put forward, the independents will think, sip coffee, think again, have another sip, and one day make a decision on where they stand. What have we done Australia? We've created a slow, apathetic decision making Government, that will now have to weight all their policies against the political agendas of 4 or 5 politicians.       

What caused this? Was it the fact that many Australians remained undecided on who they really wanted to vote for? How many people said, 'Ahh, its really about voting in the best of the worst'? Or was it Mark Latham's pathetic cry to the public to make a donkey vote, which created the record 6% informal vote at this years election? How many simply voted Greens or Independents just because they couldn't decide whether it was Labor or Liberal's right to govern. Whatever the case may be, we are left hanging to dry, wondering if anyone will get the clothes off the line, and put the clothes back in the drawer and move on. Not for now. We're left hanging and left questioning the democratic process, and whether our vote actually made a difference. This is the Great Political Nothing.

God help us.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Introduction to the Book of Romans - Pete's Bible Commentary

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Introduction to the Book of Romans - Pete's Bible Commentary

Romans is a difficult book of the Bible to grasp. No doubt it leaves us, at times, confused and wondering what in the world Paul is getting out. Before you delve into Romans, have a read of this introduction I put together:

Without dispute, Romans was written by the Apostle Paul; even though there is conjecture on authorship related to other books, such as Ephesians. Also, without much dispute is the fact that Paul wrote Romans while in Corinth. The date of the book of Romans is most likely written around 55-57AD, and to put in context, Jesus died around 33AD, and the Gospel of Matthew was authored sometime after 70AD. Paul calls himself a ‘Hebrew of the Hebrews’ (Phil 3:5), and we know from the verses in Philippians 3, that he also calls himself a Pharisee and says that he is from the Tribe of Benjamin. Paul was also highly competent in Greek and was probably given an extensive Greek education in Tarsus (Dunn, 1988: xl). So Paul was a Jew through and through, and so what a conversion/calling he must have had on the road to Damascus to now be preaching a gospel that says, ‘to Jews first, and the Gentiles...’! What? The Gentiles? Paul’s whole foundation of theology had changed when he met the risen Christ on that road one day.

What is the purpose of the book of Romans?

The traditional view about the purpose of Romans, has been that, ‘the apostle’s chief emphasis in Romans is on God’s justification of sinners by grace, in Christ, through faith’ (Stott, 1994: 24). John Stott says that there is no doubt the book of Romans makes this point, but the bigger purpose of Romans is about: ‘God’s plan for the world and about how Paul’s mission to the Gentiles fits into that plan’ (: 25). Chapters 1-8 is almost like a preface to chapters 9-11, wherein which Paul touches on church and synagogue, and Israel and the Jewish people.

What do you think Paul is saying to the Church today, through his writings in Romans?

One day as John Wesley was reading Martin Luther’s Preface to the book of Romans, he read these words:

About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death (cited in Stott, 1994: 22).

Lord, take away our sins, and continue to shape us into the people you want us to be. Cut off the sinful nature in our lives, and the impact that sin and death has upon us. Make us new creatures, who are becoming more and more like Christ everyday. Thanks Jesus. Amen.

• Dunn, James, D. G. (1988). Word Biblical Commentary. Romans 1-8.

• Stott, John. (1994). Bible Speaks Today. Romans.

Introduction to the Book of Romans is part of Pete's Bible Commentary, written by PeteBrookshaw.

See also: Understanding the Book of Romans

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

What is Karma? Do Christians believe in Karma?


What is Karma?
Karma derives itself from Buddhism, back in 1827, and is related to the notion that, 'what goes around comes around'. Dictionary.com defines karma as an action that is, 'seen as bringing upon oneself inevitable results, good or bad, either in this life or in a reincarnation'. Often we view karma and unintentionally define it as, 'What you bring to a situation, whether good or bad, will be brought back to you in a round about way'.

Do Christians believe in Karma?
The definition of karma, according to the above statement refers to bringing upon oneself results either in this life or in a reincarnation. Christians can flatly deny the latter part of that statement, as Christianity does not hold to a view of reincarnation, in the sense of coming back to life as a different being, or someone of a different substance or even an animal. From my point of view, karma in the sense of attempting to change circumstances in the now, that will inturn affect some sort of reincarnation in the future, is not biblical and not a sound philosophical argument.
Lets consider karma then from the former part of the statement, in relation to bringing upon oneself particular outcomes, whether good or bad, in this life... Can we justify that Christians believe in karma? The Christian Calvinist would argue that we do not have the free will to bring about particular inevitable results, that rather, it is the Sovereignty of God that predetermines the circumstances we find ourselves in. If we consider not only the Reformed Tradition viewpoint and think about other Protestant theological beliefs, there are questions worth asking, like:
  • Is it karma, if we give financially to people around us, and then God blesses us back with finances?
  • Is it karma, if we sin, and then there is judgment based on that sinful act?
  • Is it karma, if we treat our brother well, and then people treat us back in a kind way?
The big difference between the buddhist teaching of karma and Christianity, is that Christians believe that Almighty God (Yahweh), is the one who allows there to be reward for goodness, or punishment for wickedness; and God is the one that blesses humanity with the cognitive ability for us to love our neighbours and treat others with respect and dignity. It is not some altered state of reality conjured up by merely doing some sort of internal meditation, but rather the fact that life has a Creator, who is involved in creation, and through Jesus, people can choose to turn away from their own lives, put their trust in Jesus and follow him and then journey with Jesus to see where life goes to! 

Your thoughts?

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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Christians should Pray THIS Prayer

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Thanks Major Steven Court for this powerful prayer from A W Tozer (originally sited at his site: http://www.armybarmyblog.blogspot.com/ )

"Lord Jesus, I come to you for spiritual preparation. Lay your hand upon me. Anoint me with the oil of the New Testament prophet. Forbid that I should become a religious scribe and thus lose my prophetic calling. Save me from the curse that lies dark across the face of clergy, the curse of compromise, the imitation, of professionalism. Save me from the error of judging a church by its size, its popularity or the amount of its yearly offering. Help me to remember that I am a prophet – not a promoter, not a religious manager, but a prophet. Let me never become a slave to crowds. Heal my soul of carnal ambitions and deliver me from the itch for publicity. Save me from bondage to things. Let me not waste my days puttering around the house. Lay your terror upon me, O God, and drive me to the place of prayer where I may wrestle with principalities and powers and the rulers of the darkness of this world. Deliver me from overeating and late sleeping. Teach me self-discipline that I may be a good soldier of Jesus Christ."

A W Tozer

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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Understanding the Book of Romans

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Climbing gigantic mountains, absailing steep cliff faces and surviving a ship wreck are the kind of daunting pictures we get when we attempt to understand the Book of Romans. This is the Apostle Paul's final letter that he wrote to the churches. This particular letter - you guessed it - was written to the church at Rome. This final letter, written in Paul's latter days, is like a composium of theological thought, that baffles most readers. So can we understand the Book of Romans?

Now, let me qualify. I don't intend at this point to offer great theological insight from what I have learnt from the book of Romans. I am very young into the journey of understanding much of Paul's writings. Though, here are some words from James Dunn from the Word Biblical Commentary in relation to the Book of Romans:
In the Book of Romans, "...we see the emergence of Christianity from Judaism actually taking place; we see Paul the Pharisee, Paul the apostle, caught in the tension between his Jewishness and the impact of the risen Christ, between his inability to escape from the Jewish conviction of God's special choice of and revelation to Israel and the impact of a gospel that came to him independently of his Jewishness and despite his Pharisaic zeal for the law. We see Paul the Jew wrestling with the implications of his own and his converts' experience of grace and Paul the Christian wrestling with the implications of his Jewish heritage..." (WBC, Romans 9-16: xvi).

Without delving into the special place that the Israelite people have before God, we can note the passion that Paul expresses about the good news of Jesus reaching everyone (Israelites and Gentiles). Paul writes in Romans:

Rom 10:12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him.
Rom 10:13 For, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved."
Rom 10:14 But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?
Rom 10:15 And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" 

Here Paul speaks of people 'going' with the message of the good news of Jesus. Paul also speaks of law and grace. He speaks of Adam sinning and so all have sinned (Romans 5). He highlights some great characteristics of a spirit filled life (Romans 12). He gives some encouraging words to people within the church at Rome (Romans 16).

In the days ahead, try and understand the Book of Romans. What is Paul saying in this letter?

Go deeper in Christ today!

If you have any questions on faith - please ask above in the chat box!

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Why should people be a Christian and not a buddhist, hindu, or scientologist? Are all faiths the same?


Thanks for the question.

I'll start with the second question - Are all faiths the same?

When we compare the belief systems of different religions we see some of the following things:

Christianity says that Jesus (Jesus Christ of Nazareth - born about 4-5BCE) is God, that he is the son of God.

Islam says that Jesus is a prophet, amongst others like Mohammed, Moses, Abramham.

Buddhism teaches that there is 'karma', which is related to good, skillful deeds and bad, unskillful deeds which produce 'seeds' in the mind that can lead to changes in life, that may lead to rebirth (reincarnation). Buddhists don't believe that there is a soul (Christianity teaches that there is), and Buddhists say that there can be no salvation or forgiveness based on one's karma, because it is an impersonal process that is simply part of the make up of the Universe. Christianity has always taught that there is a supreme being who orchestrated every aspect of the Universe and that salvation and forgiveness come through God's one and only son, Jesus, that through him you might have eternal life. See the difference? When people follow Jesus, their life should spring out with positive, good things, as an overflow of the new life they have found in their saviour, Jesus. Christians call this holiness - living the way God asks of his people through the Bible and through the guiding of the Holy Spirit. I am not saying Buddhists don't do good things for humanity, (Gandhi - being a prime example of someone who does), I am merely pointing out the difference from how these good deeds come about.

Christians are mono-theists - that is there is only one God who created the heavens and the earth. Hindus are poly-theists and believe there are many gods, the god of the sun, the god of the moon, etc. So, without delving any deeper, Christianity and Hinduism, just based on those facts/teachings are already different.

I don't know much about scientology. Within most realms outside the Church of Scientology, many people view this group as a cult, that have high demands upon the followers of its organisation and sometimes to the detriment of the wellbeing of people within that group.

The first question was: Why should people be a Christian and not a buddhist, hindu, or scientologist?

I believe that being a Christian means you are a follower of Jesus Christ ('Christ'-ian). God sent Jesus into the world, not to condemn it, but to save the world through him. Simply put - though a conscious, intentional faith/belief in Jesus I have eternal life with God, and I have the greatest opportunity for fullness of life on earth. I have the indwelling presence of God's Holy Spirit to guide and lead me, to be my conscience when I'm making decisions and to empower me through the journey. Becoming a Christian doesn't mean the worries of life subside, but through all the experiences of life, God gives us purpose and meaning in life and ultimately a place with God in heaven after we die.

Thanks for the question. Feel free to comment below.

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Friday, July 23, 2010

Throw another snag on the barbie - Connecting with Aussies


Well, grab the snags out and chuck 'em on the barbie, it's time to have a look at Aussie culture. Let's check it out guys.

Imagine - I'm an Australian:

I'm content with the ordinary life - don't worry too much about this great Australian dream. I just want a house that's paid for, a couple of kids and the chance to go on a holiday every now and then. 

We're not big on people being in the spotlight 'too' much, but if there's a battler who has hit the limelight - that's ok with us. But Eddie McGuire - too much success - we don't like it. We're ordinary Aussies.

An average day - making breaky for the kids, bringing the bin in, taking the kids to work, checking facebook before we get into the priorities for the day. By 4:30pm there's an itching to get to the local pub, or get home and throw the spaghetti in the pot and watch a bit of MasterChef. We don't mind seeing a current affair show that nabs the dodgy carsalesman red-handed. We kiss the kids goodnight, update our twitter or Excel budget sheet, and find a quiet five minutes to relax with the missus before bed. We're content with life; while wishing it was a little less hectic, we appreciate selfishly that we don't live in Ethiopia. We head off to bed, wondering what life might be like in a different time, and a different place...

We Aussies don't think of religion much. We're frustrated when religion is thrust upon us, and we conjure up memories of what organised religion did to us in the past. We're happy to live each day as it comes, and hey, when the end comes, as long as I've enjoyed the ride. Just keep that religion out of everyday life... Don't, for goodness sake, let it affect my family and my time of rest. And what's with religion and politics always wanting to be so closely connected? That annoys the heck out of me. They can keep their organised religion.


What does the life of Jesus say to an Aussie culture? What about - how does the life of Jesus, and the culture of Australia impact how Christians should live (How do we do evangelism is an effective way)? Would Jesus say to the Australian Church, hey, why not drop your nets into the other side of the boat? Try to connect around the barbie instead of putting up barbed wire. Try socialising over a drink (even if its Lemon Squash) instead of merely sipping 'the' drink. Live out your Christianity among your mates. Stop compartmentalising your Sunday Church from your Tuesday movie. Be in the world, and connect with the people and the culture. Sure - don't be of the world, but don't have some conjured up fear about connecting with everyday Aussies. We all need Jesus. We all need the saving, powerful work of Jesus in our lives, and by golly gee wizz, Aussies need Jesus!

C'mon, turn the snags over, and flip the onions. It's time to have a chat about this Jesus bloke... "So you say he rose from the grave or something...?"

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Preaching - Tips on Communicating God's Word Today

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I find myself thinking again about communication, and effective ways to communicate truth to a crowd in a way that creates change in the listener. I never want to preach to a crowd that doesn't listen, or preach to a crowd that doesn't respond. Over the last 10 years I have already had the chance to preach many times, and share the message of Jesus to many different crowds/congregations and in many different settings and environments. So what could I offer in this blog that hasn't already been said about preaching? What could Pete possibly say about communication that will inspire me? Maybe these tips on preaching and communication are just reminders, or encouragements for you, but here are some thoughts nonetheless. (Feel free to add some more below).

It is important, when preaching the Word of God, to narrow things down to ONE clear point. People won't remember the rest! Here's a test, remember these numbers: 76, 34, 53, 32, 14... Ok without looking can you remember any of the numbers? Now what about: 18, 18, 18, 18. What's the number? You remembered! If you can preach with one thought and draw all your stories, anecdotes, analysis and scripture to draw out this ONE point, people will remember! Haddon Robinson "Bibilical Preaching" calls it 'The Big Idea'. Andy Stanley in "Communicating for a Change" says to 'pick a point'. If you've got too many points to carve into one sermon then preach a series.

I stood there one morning with a piece of laminated card on my forehead. String around my head held the card up to the congregation. Some of my friends still remember the 'L' shaped letter with its bright green colour and its element of stupidity. They remember too, that morning as I spoke on the importance of leadership in the local church (I still remember touching on integrity, passion and purpose). My tip? Think about the creative factor. My wife, Jo, stole the show away when she spoke on Hosea one morning (last year), wearing a wedding dress and speaking on infidelity and sinfulness. Absolute classic!

I'm aware of the statement that says, that we don't come with wise and persuasive words, but with the Spirit's power, and I agree with that. Without God's Spirit opening up the Scriptures to us in the first place and without the Spirit revealing truth to the listeners it is just like a nice political campaign speech, 'Hi, my name's Pete, and I'm here to offer nothing of substance into your life as you listen to this...' There's a quote rolling around in my head that says, 'pray as if it all depends on God and work as if it all depends on you' (correct me if I'm wrong!). What about, 'Prepare and pray like it all depends on God, and when you preach still give it all you got!' It is naive to be ill-prepared in the, 'I'm just going to let the Spirit move this morning' kind of talks. Maybe there's a time for them; but every week?! Hey, time to do some bible study!

Communicating biblical exegesis without good hermeneutics is like being stuck in the desert without a bottle of water; you don't know where you are, where you're meant to go, and you feel dry and empty inside. The Word of God MUST speak into our everyday lives. The fact that Paul writes about peace while he's in prison, says something about the level of peace we can experience in life. When Jesus feeds the five thousand, says something of the fact that God can provide for our every need. When Elijah lifts a prayer to God and the rain comes, shows us that God answers prayer today and can use you to transform the stratosphere! If there is merely biblical insight and teaching based on what happened in Palestine, or what happened in Egypt with Moses (Biblical exegesis) and we never find an application to OUR everyday life (hermeneutics), then most of our congregations will be left wandering. It may be ok for biblical scholars and up and coming theologians, and University students, but everyday people need an everyday Bible that affects their everyday life.

For those that find themselves preaching to a crowd and communicating the message of the Kingdom of God; God Bless!

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Thursday, July 8, 2010

A change of pace... Some blogs I've enjoyed recently

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Recently, the pace has been up with blogs on different topics - see the recent list top right. So for a change of pace... Here are some blogs I've read and enjoyed recently:

* Bob Hyatt's Blog - No one remembers what you preach anyway - Preachers? Read this. http://bobhyatt.typepad.com/bobblog/2010/07/from-the-archives-and-for-bill-kinnon.html
* Next Reformation Blog - Some funny thoughts on church noticeboards  http://nextreformation.com/?p=4170
* James Thompson - Statistics on sex inside marriage and sex outside marriage. Interesting.  http://woetome.wordpress.com/2010/06/28/hazardous-sex-outside-of-marriage/
* JR Woodward (Dream Awakener Blog) A mammoth 'primer on the missional church'. Getting started in thinking about mission - read this blog entry. Love this blog from back in 2008. Have a read/study. http://jrwoodward.net/2008/11/a-primer-on-todays-missional-church/
* Stephen Court's latest blog (wed July 7th) talks about the basic fundamental Christian beliefs. Good to browse over. http://www.armybarmy.com/blog.html
* Marney Turner is blogging hard. Check out: http://jesusrevival.blogspot.com/2010/07/you-never-know-what-jesus-is-going-to.html for a blog on faith!

If you have a blog entry worth noting - drop me a line or give it a plug in the comments section.

God bless, be close to Jesus.

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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Promise of Vision - Dr. Stuart Robinson - Win a free copy


WIN a COPY of the little book The Promise of Vision by Dr. Stuart Robinson. Comment below - Tell me in 25 words or less why you think Vision is/isn't important in leadership.

The Promise of Vision - Making the impossible possible.

I once heard a quote that went along the lines - "Great things are achieved by people that didn't know they were impossible".

One of the leadership traits that urges us on to fulfill great expectations, and climb large mountains is vision. Oswald Chambers said, 'When God gives a vision, transact business on that line, no matter what it costs'. So what is vision? George Barna in 'The Power of Vision' defines vision as, 'a clear mental image of a preferable future imparted by God to his chosen servants and is based upon an accurate understanding of God, self and circumstances.' I would argue that this is more 'Christian vision' than a blanket definition on vision, but nonetheless the concept is the clear mental image of a future that is so much more preferred than the current set of circumstances.

Let me tell you of some visions I have felt have come from the Lord - some have come to pass and others haven't. Let me tell you these, not because of the visions themselves, but to inspire you about being a visionary within your own realms of influence (work, home, community, third world country, etc.).

* Saw a stadium full of Salvationists (Salvos) worshipping God, and some had uniforms, others Salvo T-Shirts, etc, etc, and they were passionate, united and excited about what God was doing - [yet to come to pass]
* Envisaged 24/7 prayer in my local Church, and we started up a 48 Prayer Marathon. Continuous Prayer. Some leaders from the Church said, 'Good luck, we've tried prayer times before and know one shows up'. Well, the vision came to pass, and people came and went all weekend long - praying and seeking out the Lord.
* Had a vision for fundraising. So I put some notes down on paper, got some people involved, and we raised $2,000 in year one and $10,000 in year two, to train Salvation Army Cadets overseas.

What are the visions God has given you? Maybe a picture of your business, or a picture of your local school, or a word about your family? Claim those visions today, that they will come to pass, just as the Lord has shown you...

Dr. Stuart Robinson writes an easy to read, little book called The Promise of Vision. As I read this a second time, I am inspired again about what you can accomplish and the moutains you can climb with belief, positivity and a God-inspired, God-given dream.

* You can climb Mt. Everest for the first time (Edmund Hillary)
* You can run the 4 minute mile for the first time (Roger Bannister)
* You can fly a plane for the first time (The Wright Brothers)
* You can change race relations in the world (Martin Luther King Jr.)
* You can advocate for the poor (Mother Theresa)
* You can start a feeding program around the world and call it World Vision (began in the US in 1950). Their vision - "to follow our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in working with the poor and oppressed to promote human transformation, seek justice and bear witness to the good news of the Kingdom of God."

Vision will inspire. Leadership without vision is like walking through the desert without a bottle of water.

WIN a COPY of the little book The Promise of Vision by Dr. Stuart Robinson. Comment below - Tell me in 25 words or less why you think Vision is/isn't important in leadership.

(I'll send it world wide for free!) Competition closes - Wed 21st July (you have 2 weeks)

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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

What is Syncretism? Examples of Christian syncretism


What is syncretism?

I walked into a Buddhist Temple one day in the humid surroundings of the Sri Lankan hills, and I found myself uncomfortable. Was I compromising my beliefs? Should I have stood at the entrance and shouted the words of the gospel of Jesus? Was it ok to be silent and be in awe of the architecture? What was Jesus expecting of me? Was he expecting anything of me at all?

Especially in times of cross-cultural ministry, Christians are faced with difficult questions related to syncretism. Harold Turner says, 'Syncretism arises in the course of presenting Jesus Christ as the sole Lord and Saviour to men of other religions [dare I say women too - my note] living in cultures not moulded by the biblical revelation. By translating the gospel into local languages, and adapting or accommodating to local ideas and customs, these are absorbed into the life of the church. Many such elements have, however, been intimately related to another religion, and it is often difficult to incorporate them without also absorbing their previous religious associations and meanings' (Cited in International Bulletin of Missionary Research, Oct 2009).

To continue the discussion go to "Disciples in Training" Facebook Page.

Lets put it in context. You enter a party full of goths, dressed in their black clothing, tattoos, consuming drugs, ear piercings, etc, etc. What extent would you go to reach these people with the life transforming message of Jesus. Now, take away the fact that personally I'm a bald headed geek who shouldn't be seen anywhere remotely close to a place where I'll just embarrass myself... What extent could I go to to interact with this community? Tattoos? Maybe - Christians are divided on this one. Black clothing? Why not? Some conservatives might argue that Jesus is light and therefore we should wear a light purple sweater... What about consuming drugs? Hmm... have we just become syncretistic? I think so.

What about reaching our Islamic friends in an Islamic country? Could I wear the burqa? Is this syncretistic? Does wearing a burqa symbolise that I hold the Islamic faith and therefore undermine my Christian beliefs, or not? Difficult questions. Let me say, wearing a Ned Flanders sweater to Church doesn't make me a Christian. Can I attend a mosque, with the hope 'that I might win some' (as the Apostle Paul puts it), and when everyone bows, I simply pray to Jesus and let them pray to Allah? Is this syncretistic or a radical incarnational model of ministry in order to reach a Muslim brother with the gospel? I'm not intending to prescribe answers here, I just want to get people thinking about their beliefs and how far they would/would not go for Jesus' sake.

Syncretism - A concept the cross-cultural missionary is faced with on a day to day basis.

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Evidence that God exists


Have you heard athiests, agnostics, curious thinkers challenge a Christian with, 'Give me evidence that God exists'? Have had the challenge recently from Twitter user @hughring wanting evidence for the claims of Christianity. Interestingly, if we want to enter into an evidentialism kind of debate, lets look at both sides of the equation. @hughring is a professed atheist and so believes that there is no 'God who created the heavens and the earth'. He wants me to provide evidence of the existence of God so that I can clearly justify my belief system and prove to him that my beliefs are not insane, illogical and outrageous. So will Hugh provide me with the same evidence of his belief in the non-existence of God? Will Hugh outline to me in a logical, scientific and intellectual way, evidence that show his holding of an atheist viewpoint is right? Why should I have to provide evidence of the existence of God, while someone can say that Christianity is fictional and be free from making any valid reasoning to why they hold to that assumption?

I know what people are thinking. So, will you give us some evidence on the existence of God anyway? Some of the atheists are saying, 'C'mon - prove to me that God really exists and that your whole faith and religion isn't just a pile of controlling, authoritarian legalism.' The fact is, whether or not I have the ability to clearly and soundly argue the existence of God does not change the truth about whether or not God exists. It will merely provide some with ammunition for rebuttal and provide others with some ideas about what they already believe.

Ahh, the existence of God. Theologian and famous Christian minister John Wesley broke up Christianity into four sources saying that within Christianity the following four tenets were imperative, and they were:
1. Reason
2. Tradition
3. Experience
4. Scripture
He argued, amongst others, that a wholistic Christian worldview was made up all of these four sections. Reason is one subsection that atheist's pounce on and demand from the Christians. Reason (http://www.dictionary.com/) 'is a statement presented in justification or explanation of a belief or action'. This is most important for atheists as empirical evidence is what is valued the most; scientific arguments/evidence for any belief/idea. The 'reason' the Christian uses to share with others, to justify and explain their belief is 'faith'. This of course is not enough for the atheist to justify such a large claim, that God exists. Maybe you're right. Maybe its a cop-out. Though many know that through faith in the Lord Jesus (that is genuine trust/belief) in Jesus is all the reasoning they need. Now, to have to provide scientific, intellectual, step by step analysis of the existence of God to prove God's existence is a presumptious, arrogant stance that scientists take. They shrug off faith like its a mosquito with malaria, and spit and shout loudly that scientific, empirical evidence is what is needed. I stammer and whinge and say, 'No! Faith's enough, in and of itself.'

Tradition highlights to the Christian the importance of the past and can help inform theology into the future, including the proof of the existence of God. 'Tradition' here is being defined as, 'a living and active process of passing on the Christian faith, rather than as a static source of revelation, indepedent of Scripture' (McGrath, 2001: 185).Quoting from Alister McGrath:
   ' "tradition" implies not merely something that is handed down, but an active process of reflection by which theological or spiritual insights are valued, assessed, and transmitted from one generation to another' (: 186). Some atheists would call this 'organized religion' and throw the baby out with the bath water. The tradition side of understanding Christianity and the existence of God is about looking and appreciating the validity of particular ideas/theology that has come from the past. We think of statements such as the Apostle's Creed and the Athanasian Creed forged within the think tanks of followers of Jesus in days gone by. But, does any of this provide evidence for the existence of God? When encapsulated wholistically with Scripture, experience and reason, tradition highlights to us, one of two options - millions of Christians and theologians got it all wrong and handed down pathetic excuses for religiosity, or there is merit and validity to the tradition of the past. It's admittedly not a strong argument, but is a justification nonetheless.

The same is said of 'Experience'. Millions of people testify their lungs out about the existence of God, through a faith response to the message of Christ. The atheist is quick to label experiential stories of supernatural experiences as either mental illness, illusions, hypnosis, lack of sleep, paranoia... the list goes on... If we labelled each and every Christian with these, quite often over the top, bogus justifications for someone's lack of true experience, then we have emerged into the 21st century on the back of millions of liars and millions of sick people who have for some reason shared with humanity a belief that is irrational and nonexistent. The millions of believers with these 'valid for them' experiences of faith have also been some of the most influential people in science, politics, religion, entertainment, the world has ever seen. I understand that a million people saying something is right, still does not necessarily make something right, though we cannot brush off the experience of many people with broad offensive comments about the validity of someones experience. Each experience should be weighed on its own merits, and possibly weighed up to the rigours of cohesiveness with biblical writings and scientific analysis.

The evidence that God exists, for a Christian is found in the continuing revelation of the power and significance that is found in the biblical writings. While atheists are fast to jump onto specific bible verses about the vengeance of God or the specific commands to a specific people at a specific time, the Christian has time and time again witnessed the outworking of Scripture in their lives. Whether it be the quiet reassurance that 'I will always be with you', or the supernatural sense of the peace of the Holy Spirit when we read, 'Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ' or the challenge we feel when we read, 'Go into all the world and make disciples'. The Scriptures and validity of them, and significance of them could obviously be unpacked with much more detail and eloquence than provided here, but suffice to say, the evidence for the existence of God comes partly though the faithfulness of the Christian Scriptures known today as the Bible.      

I'm happy for informative, constructive comments below (no matter what system of belief or non-belief you adhere to), so we can keep the discussion going. I finish with something lighthearted from Albert Einstein...
'Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former'.

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Sunday, July 4, 2010

The New Atheism - Should Christians be concerned?


The New Athiesm - Should Christians be concerned? What is it?

Since 2004 there has apparently been a resurgence of Atheism; well that's according to David Steele writing in Philosophy Now - May 2010. This is what some would call, The New Atheism. The debates between Atheists and Christians have been around for years, but the discussions have hit the ears of many in the last few years, especially with the vocal advocacy and authorship of people like Christopher Hitchens (God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything) and Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion).

So firstly what is an 'atheist'? Or what is atheism? Much seemingly pedantic discussion is made about what the true definitions of these terms are, but firstly the narrow view of atheism is this: a-theism (a - from the greek meaning  'without' and theism/theos from the greek meaning 'deity'). The narrow view is thus labelled as without a deity, or rather, a belief that there is no God. This definition is saying that Atheists do not believe there is one God; one who supremely cares for this creation. They do not believe in what is called monotheism. Ernest Nagel (1901 - 1985) says in relation to atheism, 'I shall understand by 'atheism' a critique and a denial of the major claims of all varieties of theism' (cited in Philosophy Now - May 2010, p.6). The reason this is labelled a narrow view of atheism, is because this labels those that are polytheists (many gods) as atheists. A hindu would be far from labelling him/herself an atheist! So the definition of atheism has broadened over the years. In the broad sense atheism, according to Michael Martin, standardly refers to the denial of the existence of any god or gods and this therefore encapsulates the Christian monotheism and also polytheism. This type of definition of atheism tends to be the one that the general public hold to.

Michael Martin says, 'In Western society the term atheism has most frequently been used to refer to the denial of theism, in particular Judeo-Christian theism. This [theism] is the position that a being that is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good exists who is the creator of the universe, and who takes an active interest in human concerns, and guides his creatures by revelation' - and all the Christians read this and say, 'Yep! Amen!'

Exhaustive empirical evidence does not exist to prove the existence of such a wonderful God - only faith. Faith that comes by hearing the Word of God, and a relationship that forms because of someone acting on that faith/trust and believing that Jesus is who he says he is, and does what he says he does.

Christians know there are questions that are unanswerable and discussions that are hard to 'win'. The fact is though, that failure to respond adequately to an intellectual argument about faith does not render the faith inadequate; it merely means someone is unable to respond with theological prowess that dumfounds the other! The questions exist, no Christian doubts that:
* If God knows the future, how can we have free will? (Cicero)
* What was God doing before He created the world? (Augustine)
* Must God, if he exists in the mind, also exist in reality? (Anselm)
* Can an omnipotent being be constrained by justice and goodness? (Al-Ghazali).
* Why does a loving God allow suffering to good people (the general public ask this one!)

So this new atheism, or the old, same atheism revamped in the eyes of some... Tim Madigan says this apparent resurgence in atheism is due to a variety of reasons and some of these being, the collapse of the Soviet Union, revulsion against religious fundamentalism, a concern over collusion between church and state, and the growth of the internet and the dissemination of ideas and 'free' thought that this enhances (Philosophy Now - May 2010, p. 4). Whatever the reasons, the good news about Jesus remains the same. God sent his one and only son [Jesus] into the world, not to condemn the world, but to save it, through him.

Turn to Jesus today. 

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Saturday, July 3, 2010

Holy Discontent - Bill Hybels - Book Review

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Bill Hybels presents an easy to read book about holy discontentedness. Ever watched a video about human trafficking and felt anger inside, or visited a 'boring' church and felt like God stirred something of frustration within you?
In Holy Discontent Hybels argues well and simply that the one thing that wrecks you, the one thing that keeps you up at night, is most likely YOUR holy discontent. This one thing is most likely the issue that you will spend the rest of your life focused upon.

What are some of the possible holy discontents?
* Poverty
* Faithless churches
* Poorly managed businesses
* Human Trafficking
* Gender inequality
* Poor leadership
* Fairtrade Products - lack of ethical business practices
* Worship music in church that sends even the most extravert asleep!

Fuel the fire that ignites personal vision - Thanks Bill.

What's your holy discontent?

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Friday, July 2, 2010

Australian Catholic Priest Jailed for Sex Charges

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Another Priest falls from public grace. An Australian Catholic Priest, has been sentenced to nearly 20 years jail for sexual abuse and sex attacks on 25 children. The abuse happened on boys in New South Wales between 1968 - 1986.

John Denham will serve a minimum of 13 years in jail. When you speak to the average Aussie about these kinds of things, you hear that 'There is no forgiveness' and 'This is why I hate organised religion,' 'We put our trust in these people'. I recall something of the words of Jesus about putting a millstone around someone's neck if they should ever let a young one be hurt or abused.

So what is the response from the Christian community? We cannot excuse the actions of this Catholic Priest. We cannot tiptoe around trying to protect the image of Christianity while all the more ignoring the covering up abuse and neglect. Conversely, to label all Priests/Ministers as pathetic, or dump ALL of religion down the gurgler because of the actions of this man, (and others) I believe is over the top. It does give you questions about hypocrisy in the Christian faith, sure. It raises questions about WHO Jesus was, and WHAT he would have done had he known about this situation.

In defence of the Christian faith (not in defence of this man), we may hear a story of a school teacher who has a sexual relationship with a student. The teacher is reprimanded with jail time, and the public are disgraced. The point I want to make is this: We do not then, up and leave the education system, and throw out education with the bath water and vow never to enter a school again. No. We are disgusted by the actions on this teacher, and we recognise there are many other teachers out there with integrity, passion and leadership, who make a great difference in the lives of young people.

Please feel free to comment - let out the frustrations! I tell you - I hate it. I hate how it wrecks young people's lives and how it damages families. I am annoyed by the image that is portrayed about who Jesus was and is, and how this one Catholic Priest breaks and steals away the reality of the nature of a loving and caring God who wants us all of his children to faithfully follow Jesus.

You'll find more at BBC News: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/world/asia_pacific/10485407.stm

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Thursday, July 1, 2010

Should Australia vote for an Atheistic Prime Minister?


Should Australia vote for a Atheistic Prime Minister? This is the big question around the Christian community in Australia. Two sides of the argument exist:
1. Some would argue that we need to separate Church and State, and so whether a Prime Minister is a Christian, Buddhist, Humanist or Secularist is irrelevant, as they make policies that are not affected by personally held belief systems.
2. Others would argue that any Prime Minister or politician makes policy decisions that, deep down, are affected by the belief system of that politician. Therefore, a Christian is desirable within the political arena in Australia, because that leader would make policy decisions that would not contradict the foundational beliefs of Judeo-Christian religion.

Well, this is a blog, so I will give my personal opinion. You can of course, make your own constructive comments below. If I had the choice to vote between someone who holds to my belief system, and someone who doesn't then I would choose someone who does. If there is someone who I believe will make good policy decisions, that will not contradict my Christian beliefs then that is the person I would vote for. If the policy thrusted upon the Australian government, was Religious Freedom of Speech, or Abortion Laws, or Same-sex Marriages, or even Immigration policies and rights of International Students, then someone who upholds the values of the Kingdom of God I would prefer.

Now, does this mean, this is necessarily Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott? Well, that's up for debate. I don't know where he sits with many policies, because he just spends his time 'bagging out' the Australian Labor Party. Would he uphold Christian values and ideals?

So what about the Australian Labor Party. I will say it bluntly. I am not keen on voting for Julia Gillard who is a professed Atheist. This relates obviously to believing in point 2 mentioned earlier. If you profess to hold to point 1, then you have a wider choice.

So in the next Federal Election, should Australia vote for a Atheistic Prime Minister?

Some links worth reading:
* http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/connectasia/stories/201007/s2941974.htm
* http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/julia-gillard-risks-christian-vote-with-doubts-on-god/story-e6frg6nf-1225885897505
* http://www.cathnews.com/article.aspx?aeid=22182

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Vision Casting - Our local thoughts

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Finally found a document today, outlining some brainstorming and visioning we were doing early in the year for our local Salvation Army Corps. Here's some of the words we started with (in no particular order):

* Belief
* Outreach
* Active/Dynamic
* Vibrant
* Welcoming/Accepting
* Faith
* Forgiving
* Teaching
* Love
* Inclusive
* Holistic
* Spiritually hungry

Then some phrases/thoughts about our church:

* Invading the city
* LOVE of God -> Love Revolution
* Expanding our ministries
* Signing up for the cause of the Gospel
* Refuge, Fortress, Haven

Then some important people groups:

* Families
* The needy
* Prisoners
* The broken
* Migrants
* Indigenous
* General Relationships
* Sick
* Elderly
* Children/Youth
* Street people

Then we attempted to put this vision in writing... This still needs to be edited, shortened and reworked, but here's what we came up with on that hot, humid night earlier in the year:

* We aim to be a dynamic Army of Salvation, at work helping the lost & spiritually hungry to find real love, acceptance & belonging in Jesus. We see a haven for the broken-hearted, a centre of growth equipping people for mission, a place to teach families to live holistically, a light of hope for future generations, and a revolution of God's love impacting the City of Palmerston.

Throw your thoughts our way. God bless you.

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Monday, June 14, 2010

What is Spiritual Mapping?


What is Spiritual Mapping? Find out below.
Thanks James for your stories on ministry at the Mind, Body & Soul Festival. Check it out at: http://www.woetome.wordpress.com/
Feeling anxious or stressed? Paul says in Phillipians - don't be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petetion makes your requests known to God... Then what? Then the peace of God will guard your mind and hearts in Christ Jesus. This is something to hold on to.
Someone convince me Twitter is worth it. I have lost interest recently!
God is stirring up his people. We have been talking, within our Palmerston Minister's Fellowship about Spiritual Mapping. So what is Spiritual Mapping? Here's some excerpts from the Australian Prayer Network (www.ausprayernet.org.au/teaching ):
Spiritual Mapping, "is an attempt to see our region as it really is and not as it appears to be....it is the discipline of diagnosing the obstacles to revival in a given community through fervent prayer and diligent research. Cindy Jacobs says it is the researching of a city to discern any inroads Satan has made, which prevent the spread of the gospel and its evangelization for Christ.
Victor Lorenzo is an experienced mapper in Argentine. He believes that spiritual mapping combines research, divine revelation, and confirmatory evidence in order to provide complete and exact data concerning the identity, strategies and methods employed by spiritual forces of darkness to influence the people and the churches in a given region"

It makes me think about the 12 that went out to check on this 'promised land' and what was ahead of them. What did the enemy look like? What were the obstacles? What was God saying to them? Remember Caleb and Joshua's response compared with the other 10? Let's go!! Let's do it!
There's more to life than work, rest and play. What about prayer, worship and ministry?


Monday, May 31, 2010

What is discontent?

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What is discontent? What does it mean to be discontented? Well, dictionary.com says discontent is, 'A lack of being content' or rather, 'A restless longing for better circumstances'. Have you ever felt discontented?

In September 1865, William Booth writes these words about his feelings of discontentment:
'The moral degradation and spiritual destitution of the teeming populations of the East of London are subjects with which the Christians of the metropolis are painfully conversant. Many true hearted and zealous labourers are toiling in the spirit of the Master to stop the mighty tide of iniquity and to pour the glorious light of the Gospel in upon the dense darkness everywhere abounding - yet seeing these labourers only as a faint lone star whose light but reveals the surrounding darkness. A city missionary, living in this neighbourhood, says that there are hundreds who need to be taught the existence of God...'

This is a point I want to make: William Booth has pain in his heart, a kind of discontent about the situation of East London, and God laid on his heart a response. What was the response? The response was the beginnings of The Christian Mission (1865), and then the name change to The Salvation Army (1878).

Discontent --> Response

Moses was discontent with the situations in Egypt with the Israelites in Slavery. His response was, with God's intervention, to deliver the people from Egypt.

John the Baptist was discontent about the lack of holiness of some, so his response was to preach holiness.

Paul became discontent about the persecution of these new 'followers of Jesus', and his response was to preach the Gospel to those who haven't heard the gospel.

Martin Luther (1483-1546) was discontent with the church forcing people to literally pay money for their sins to be forgiven. His response - articles, letters, books and preaching in relation to these corrupt practices.

It seems that God uses our discontent to drive us to respond. I know of evangelists, who are in pain that people haven't responded to the gospel, so they preach repentance. I know of social activists who are frustrated that human trafficking is a billion dollar industry that abuses thousands of women and children, so they become a voice for the hurting. I know of someone who is discontent that some children have no family and there is a waiting list for foster care... her response? Foster caring up to 10 children at once.

What are you discontent about? Lazy churches? Injustice? Lack of prayer? Dirty worship halls? Sexual abuse? Inhumane treatment of refugees?

Why don't you stop now... And tell us what YOUR discontent is!

Let God use this discontent to drive you to respond! 

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Inspirational Bible Verses on Faith to Encourage and Inspire

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Here are some Inspirational Bible Verses on Faith, that will encourage and inspire you!

Below are a collection of Faith statements; some inspirational Bible verses to encourage; a list of Bible verses to Inspire. Read them, ponder them, pray them, and thank God for what he's saying to you today.
  • I'll put it urgently as I can: You must get along with each other. You must learn to be considerate of another..
  • Let God work his will in you...
  • Yell a loud NO to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he'll be there in no time.
  • Lord I pray for - good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness and generous love.
  • Be strong in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  • We have the mind of Christ.
  • You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live him.
  • I've dumped everything else in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him.
  • Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray.
  • Be glad in God (again I say, Rejoice!)
  • Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives in the fullness of God.
  • Live freely, animated and motivated by God's Spirit.
  • By faith in Christ you are in direct relationship with God.
  • Christ redeemed us from that self-defeating, cursed life by absorbing it completely into himself.
  • It's news I'm most proud to proclaim, this extraordinary Message of God's powerful plan to rescue everyone who trusts him...

Do you have your own inspirational Bible verses to encourage or inspire others? Some Christian one-liners? Add them in the comments. God bless.

All Scripture references are taken from the New Testament of 'The Message' by Eugene Peterson

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