Leviticus your neighbour

No, it’s not a naughty word, nor is it the title of a film about the life of Nelson Mandela 😉

It’s the 3rd book of the Bible. It’s one of the bits with all the gory sacrifices and (seemingly!) obsolete laws and rituals.

This time of year, many Christians make resolutions and plans to read through the Bible in the coming year. It’s a commendable goal and regular bible reading (& study, in context, history and genre etc) is part of the life of anyone who is serious about knowing, believing in, trusting and living for God. However in an average reading plan, of a few chapters a day (8-15min) many people come unstuck somewhere around the end of January.

Continue reading “Leviticus your neighbour”

Pastor Fired by Church

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Re-posted from 2011: Charles Stone introduces his book, ‘Five Ministry Killers and How to Kill Them‘ with a story of how a Church fired their Pastor. As I started the first paragraph, I thought it was a fictional parable used to kick off the main topic of the book.

I read a little further and started to feel a little awkward. Some of the issues were a little too close to home for me. Then, the surprise (for me anyway!). The pastor is a real person and Stone is talking about real struggles that defeat many men and women who are in Christian Ministry.

The pastor in question, faced difficulties with power struggles, salary controversies and questions about his leadership style. His visitation policy was considered questionable and he was accused of “not loving the people.” Why? Because he made a decision to concentrate on his strengths and gifts in preaching and teaching instead of following a routine visiting program.

After some time, one particular man lead a bullying campaign that would eventually see the pastor fired from his job. The pastor made a decision to introduce changes in the Church policy about the expectations of the character of those that wanted to become Church members. He was called to question for this stance. He was threatened with losing his job. He stood his ground and they fired him.

Stone closes off this account of the pastor, “Jonathan”, as follows:

Ten years later, because Jonathan had so graciously responded to his critics and his dismissal, one of his main detractors admitted that pride, self-sufficiency, ambition, and vanity had caused the contention. The pastor’s handling of his ministry crisis left such and impression that eventually the church publicly repented of their actions, exactly 150 years after they sent him packing.

Who was Jonathan? Jonathan Edwards, arguably America’s greatest theologian.

Dear Pastor friend, if it happened to Edwards, chances are you will face similar challenges. Are you ready to meet them with a godly, gospel oriented approach?

Dear Church Member friend, if you have a Pastor that has different ideas about leadership style and ministry emphasis are you able to model gospel oriented flexibility and serve alongside him for God’s glory?

Related Articles:

Ed Stetzer – Church Leadership Book Interview: Charles Stone on 5 Ministry Killers and How to Defeat Them

Check out this recent post by Don – a supplement to the comment he made on the original post from 2011.
Firing Your Pastor

A Tremendous Love Hate Relationship with Reading

You’re doing it now! Perhaps because you saw a link in Twitter or on the WordPress Dashboard, Facebook or maybe you’re a subscriber to this blog. But you’re doing it. You’re reading.

If you keep reading this post, I’m going to give a list of good reasons to come back and read other posts, articles, books, magazines and all. Not all of them will be on this website. Some you will be able to find out here, others will be recommended from someone else.

Is it fair to say, if you’ve read this far that you agree reading is a good thing to do? Whether for learning, leisure or lets see, what’s another “L” word … I don’t know, locating, something? I can still remember what Charles “Tremendous” Jones said when speaking in my College Chapel service in 1990, “You will be the same person in five years as you are today, except for two things: the people you met and the books you read.” Reading books will influence the way you think and the way you live. Not all books are good books, but they will all influence you somehow.

Tim Challies recently posted a list of 4 reasons why Christian men need to be readers. Here are a few excerpts.

Read to Know
There are many people who are intimidated by reading theological works. However, we are well-served with entry-level and mid-range books. It doesn’t matter who you are, there is a book written at your level. One of the problems with allowing ourselves to be intimidated away from difficult books, books that are just a bit beyond us, is that we can begin to believe we’ve got God pretty much figured out. 

If you do not read, you deny yourself a great way to learn who God is and how he acts in this world. There is no study more satisfying and more enlarging than this.

Read to Grow
There are three kinds of growth I want to point you toward: Growth in areas of weakness, in areas of strength, and in areas of responsibility.

If you don’t know where you are weak, read a book on humility. Whatever your weakness, there is almost definitely a book that answers it specifically and well.

… push yourself to grow beyond the basic principles and move to advanced works.

Wherever your responsibilities are, find books that will allow you to fulfill them with greater skill and greater understanding of biblical principles.

Tip: Biographies can be very helpful in each of these areas. A biography of a great leader will allow you to be a better leader; a biography of a great leader who was a terrible father will teach you how to avoid succeeding in one area but failing in another.

Read to Lead
The unavoidable fact is that your convictions determine where you lead and how you lead. You will not lead opposite to your convictions and you won’t lead better than your convictions. Therefore, you need to continually define, develop and refine those convictions. Mohler says “When you find a leader, you have found a reader. The reason for this is simple—there is no substitute for effective reading when it comes to developing and maintaining the intelligence necessary to lead.”

Read to Love
While we tend to consider reading as a personal pursuit, it can also be a means of loving others. Here are three ways to love others by being a reader.

Read to understand. I have already said that we should read in order to know the Lord better, to grow in personal development, and to be a better leader. This kind of reading does not benefit you alone, but also those around you. That is all important, but there is a second kind of understanding I want to direct you to—understanding other people.

Read to recommend. You can love others by recommending books that will help them in their circumstances. This may involve reading books that will apply more to others than to yourself. Reading widely allows you to help people in very directed ways.

Read toward discipling. Even better than reading books for people is reading books with people. When you read books with others, you can let the author be the “Paul” and you and the people you read with can be “Timothys.” I learned to do this from men who took the time to read good books with me.

Conclusion
Reading is a pleasure worth learning to love and pursue, even if it requires some effort at first. However, whether it is pleasure or pain, commit yourself to read to know, read to grow, read to lead and read to love.

Still with me? Where do you start? One place could be the full Challies article above. Do an Amazon search on some of the books he mentioned. Pick one, buy it or borrow it and read it! Alternatively, you might like to read a bit more about reading itself. Check out a book called, “Lit!: A Christian Guide to Reading Books” by Tony Reinke. It will help you think about how to read in a way that will meet the goals Challies listed as well as enable you to be more discerning in what you read to maximise your pleasure and benefit in so doing.

Whether you love it, hate it or hate loving it or love to hate it, you’ll be the same person in five years that you are today…

Praying for Sydney Mardi Gras

One of the most polarizing events in Sydney’s cultural calendar is the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. What started as a political advocacy and protest march has grown into a major Australian tourism extravaganza. It regularly attracts international celebrity and acclaim. Locally it’s a popularly promoted festival and gives rise to various protests and campaigns in reaction and response from the more conservative, usually Christian, members of the Sydney community (although not exclusively these days), who are concerned about the tone, message and lifestyle mardi gras promotes.

I wonder though, how Jesus, friend of sinners, would react and respond to the occasion. I don’t see any precedents in the New Testament that indicate he would be a red-faced, screaming, placard holding protester. Neither, do I see the Son of God off his face at the after party having popped a few of whatever may be the latest party drug or stimulant. I suspect his action would be one of grace, love, compassion and service.

Local Sydney Pastor, (among other things), John Dickson, penned this prayer. I think Jesus would be the one who would model how this prayer is answered and lived out to the glory of God.

For my friends, who are at Mardi Gras tonight, and, well, if you read this at all, are probably doing so late Sunday afternoon or Monday at the earliest, hear the words of this prayer as my prayer for you AND me.

A PRAYER FOR THE NIGHT OF MARDI GRAS – by John Dickson

Dear Lord,
God of the righteous and the wicked,
Have mercy on your people, the church,
for their wickedness:
for allowing biblical convictions about love and sex
to justify unbiblical words and actions
toward men and women made in your image.

As it rains on tonight’s parade,
may this speak not of your judgment
but of your promise to cleanse and forgive
all who turn to you for grace.

And teach our nation,
especially your church,
to follow Jesus, the Friend of Sinners,
that we would learn how to care deeply
for those with whom we profoundly disagree;
through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Amen.

Out of the mouth of babes

Psalm 8:2, (quoted by Jesus in Matthew 21:16) says

Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger. ~ (King James Version)

The other day I had a conversation with some Youth Leaders about how much Bible content kids should know after 6 or 7 years of weekly Sunday School lessons. I jokingly said that my 6yro daughter would know more than most 12yro. Now, this was partly a joke and partly a little fatherly boast. However, last night, my daughter surprised me with an acrostic poem she wrote for a school project. It is a Christmas project and she has been a bit nervous about writing the poem as she struggled, at first, with the concept of an acrostic. So we talked about that and I gave a simple example using “Mum” as the inspiration:

Marvellous
Understanding
Mum

Thinking she would do something similar with “Christmas”, i.e. one word per line. I left it at that. This is what she came up with. I’ve typed it out so you can read it as the colours in the photo don’t show up too well. I haven’t modified the content (just spelling for legibility). It’s all her own work. There was no coaching or consultation. This is just the product of her processing what she has heard from us as parents and her Sunday School teachers and School teachers. Which is interesting, particularly on the subject of hell. As, at the risk of incurring the wrath of my fellow Sydney Evangelical tribesmen, this isn’t something we’ve spent much, if any, time on in our discussions with her about spiritual things. Anyway, that discussion for another time. Here’s the acrostic. What would your kids write?

Christmas is the time of year that Jesus has his birthday
He has lots of celebrations, like Christmas, Easter and when he was born
Right around the world, people don’t know about Jesus or God
I believe in God and Jesus and you. Most of the people in Australia love God and Jesus now and then
So if you love Jesus and God and trust God you will be a Christian and you will go to heaven and have all again another life and you don’t you will go to hell
Trust God, love God and if you do, you are a Christian
Merry, merry Christmas to all of you
A Christmas is a birthday party for Jesus
Say a prayer before dinner and breakfast.