Month: July 2010

Guidance

  • What should I do with my life?
  • Who should I marry?
  • Is God calling me to mission?
  • Which University should I go to?
  • Where and when should I plant a church?
  • What should I invest my money in?
  • Which job should I apply for?
  • How should I respond to the trial(s) I’m facing?
  • Should I go to that party on Friday?

It’s fair to say that guidance is one of the most common issues that I get asked to address by members of my church, young people who I mentor and by my friends in general. Sometimes the answers are very simple:“No, I don’t think you should be a crack dealer!” More often than not, however, helping people to discern the will of God for their life is a complex, time-consuming process requiring wisdom, patience and courage. Being asked to speak into people’s lives in this way is a real privilege, but also a huge responsibility as the implications of conclusions reached and decisions made will often affect the course of people’s lives. However, I take great comfort in the knowledge that God is alive, He is loving, He is actively involved in His world, He has a good plan for His people and He still speaks today.

Therefore it’s my intention to do a short series of posts through which I want to highlight 6 ways in which I believe that God speaks and guides us today. These 6 ways are:

  1. The Bible
  2. Personal Circumstances
  3. Prophetic Intervention
  4. God-given Burden
  5. Wise Counsel
  6. Silence

Hope it’s going to be helpful to you…

Advertisements

The Doctrine Of Adventure

Last Friday I took my beautiful wife away for the evening to the Cwrt Bleddyn hotel – a ridiculously posh hotel near Usk. In fact it’s so ridiculously posh I could never ordinarily afford it (God bless the generosity of our friends at our favourite church-away-from-church – you know who you are!!)

As we sat down for our evening meal in the swanky restaurant (feeling considerably under-dressed and shamelessly chavish [if that’s a word]) and pondered what starter to have – one dish really caught my eye: Grilled Wood pigeon and nectarine!! Despite feeling I was betraying the memory of my mam (a proud member of the Gwent Ornothological Society) it just sounded so nuts I had to go for it…and trust me it was absolutely RANK!!!

Literally filth on a stick!

But the thing is I’m still glad I tried it.

It’s not the first time and it won’t be the last time that I take a risk and opt for the “dangerous option.” I’m genetically predisposed to seeking new experiences, exploring fresh territory, trying new things out and opting for adventure over safety, sanity or orthodoxy. I personally blame my dad for this tendency (and I love him for it too!!)

Ever since I can remember he always ordered the craziest dish on the menu. When most blokes were down the pub after a hard days graft he was jumping off mountains (with a paraglider attached). When people shut themselves in their homes to shelter from thunderstorms he was charging to the top of the local mountain to get a better view! When all my mates were playing for the local kids football team we were out with dad canoeing rapids, jumping off cliffs or climbing back up them. Even now after just celebrating his 65th birthday my dad’s currently in the middle of a 6month trekking tour of the Greek islands – just something he wanted to do – so he did!!

I love that about my dad – his life is an adventure – it always has been!

Now some might argue that I took the whole ‘adventure’ thing too far and that if I’d been a bit tamer perhaps I would have had fewer visits to the hospital and fewer scrapes with the police over the years. And there may be some truth in that. However, for every tale of broken bones, subsequent operations and mistakes made in the name of adrenaline, I can point to countless more stories of unprecedented excitement, limits pushed, boundaries crossed and dreams fulfilled – none of which would have happened if I hadn’t craved adventure and had the example of a dad who encouraged me to have the guts to make those cravings a reality (at least the legal ones!!)

And I’m buzzin that when I got saved almost 18 years ago, God didn’t eradicate that sense of adventure.

He sanctified it.

I might not be jumping down flights of steps on my skateboard anymore, or travelling to Bulgaria with no money to go snowboarding, but I’m preaching the gospel where Christ is not known (and really getting up satan’s nose while I’m at it!) And trust me I’ve never felt so under cosh and out of my depth, yet so alive and so energised all at the same time!!

Life’s more of an adventure now than it ever was – cos I get to do it with Jesus!

See, here’s what I’m really trying to get at in this post – when I read the Bible I don’t see the life of a disciple of Jesus as a tame, bland, predictable or ordinary life. No. When I read the Bible I smell adventure on almost every page! I literally couldn’t fit all the biblical examples that have just flooded into mind in the last 10 seconds into this post – but I dare you to spend a bit of time hanging out with gospel heroes like Moses, Joshua, David, Daniel, Peter, Paul, and above all Jesus and tell me if terms like ‘comfortable’, ‘safe’, ‘bland’ or ‘ordinary’ fit the bill!

You’re having a laugh!

Whether it’s following a cloud of fire through the desert (and the sea itself), going on SAS-style spying missions, slaying giants, getting fed to lions, walking on water, getting ship-wrecked or carrying a cross to your own execution (only to bust out of the grave 3 days later) there is a doctrinal theme that is running through the Bible that I’m concerned is all too often over-looked – the doctrine of adventure!

Now hear me right, I know that there’s bigger and more important doctrines in there (the Trinity, the atonement, the resurrection etc.) but I’m going to argue that this one is nonetheless important too. Here’s why…

  • Too many Christians these days are timid little saps who hide in church buildings rather than storm the gates of hell.
  • Too many Christians these days haven’t got the faintest idea what to do with their lives so they just conform.
  • Too many Christians these days are simply bored senseless.
  • Too many Christians these days allow fear to prevent their God-given dreams becoming reality.
  • Too many Christians these days genuinely think excitement is for younger people, different people or dead people!

The trouble is that while adventure is rarely encouraged or even mentioned within our churches, the craving for it is hard-wired into us all, especially men. Therefore countless Christians are now searching for it in all the wrong places – seedy online chatrooms, downloading illicit pornography, or engaging in sexual fantasies and extra-marital affairs.

That’s tragic, not least because the short-term buzz you get from messing around with that stuff is nothing next to the adventure of living in the reality of the abundant life of Jesus.

Let me therefore round off this ridiculously long, random and rambling post by asking you whether you subscribe to, or live in light of the doctrine of adventure.

Here’s 10 questions to help you think it through:

  1. Would you describe your Christian life as exciting?
  2. Would other people describe your Christian life as exciting?
  3. When was the last time you stepped out in faith to the point that you were literally freaking out and praying like your life depended on it?
  4. When was the last time you ferociously clung to a scripture such as “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (Josh1v9)?
  5. What God-given dreams have you seen fulfilled or are passionate about seeing fulfilled?
  6. When was the last time you cried – with excitement, fear, despair or relief because of the mission God’s called you to?
  7. If someone asked you what’s the most nuts thing you’ve ever done as a Christian what would your answer be?
  8. Who are the heroes (either in the Bible or church history) who most inspire you?
  9. Which character in the Bible would you most liken yourself to?
  10. When was the last time you ordered the craziest thing on the menu?

My encouragement to you as you read this is get a grip of the gospel again. Let the God who stepped out on the most inspiring rescue adventure in history capture your heart and your imagination again. Let your love, worship and honour for Him propel you into the adventure of your life. And may His final words of grace forever ring in your ears and give you courage until your own adventure is over:

“behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt28v20)

What’s Wrong With The Gospel?

Last week a mate of mine was telling me that his local parish church was so desperate to get people to cross the threshold that they’ve just launched ‘Bring Your Pet To Church Sunday’. Apparently preaching the gospel is not enough these days! Quite how Pet Sunday works logistically is anyone’s guess (though the mental image of a vicar darting between pews with a pooper-scooper is a funny one!) I’m seriously tempted to go along with Boaz, just to see what effect the addition of a 7stone canine freak into the mix would have! Joking aside, however, when churches are so empty, so powerless and so dead that they start pursuing your pets, you need to start asking questions.

While still reeling from the craziness of Pet evangelism, I came across this event advertised as part of an outreach campaign in another part of South Wales:

“Enjoy a good singsong with a pint in your hand! An informal and relaxed event, with NO preaching!”

I didn’t capitalise the the word ‘NO’ – the advertisers did that, I assume to reassure you that there’ll be no annoying preacher to put you off your pint! Now this isn’t a rant about whether or not it’s appropriate to have an outreach event that involves alcohol – that’s a whole other post! (I’m personally not bothered either way!) What this is about is asking the question to the Pet Shop Parish and the Preacherless Pint Posse – what’s wrong with the gospel?!!

1. To the Pet Shop Parish – If you faithfully preach the true gospel you won’t need to coax people in via their pets because the power of God will be unleashed in your midst to such an extent that people will be compelled to come:

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. “ (Romans 1v16)

2. To the Preacherless Pint Posse – You are essentially putting on an event where there is a significantly higher chance that those in attendance will leave drunk and dead in their sins than saved and filled with the Spirit of God. That’s outrageous!!

NO preacher = NO salvation:

“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’…So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10v14, 15+17)

I am more convinced than ever that while the gospel alone is becoming increasingly uncool, unpopular and unacceptable – it is still all we need. We don’t need to add anything to it. We don’t need to replace it with something more culturally relevant or politically correct. We simply need to preach it faithfully, passionately and continually – then get ready for God to do His stuff! For what it’s worth, by God’s grace that’s all you’re ever going to get from my lips! So whether you turn up at Hill City Church with a pooch or a pint of Guinness – please know that all you’re ever going to get in return is the gospel, cos that’s all you truly need!

“Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1Corinthians 9v16)

I’m still here honest…

It’s been so long since I posted anything on the Rant that I thought I should just whack something up just to reassure the world (well anyone who cares) that I’m still here honest…

This last month has been incredibly tough and I must confess that both spiritually and emotionally I feel like I’ve taken the mother of all kickings recently. I wouldn’t say I’m burnt-out, but I would definitely say that it has been a huge battle to even keep my head above water at times. Currently, keeping a blog updated is not top of my priority list. Worshipping Jesus, loving my family and trying to serve the church I lead is much more what I’m focussed on right now!

Anyway, once things have calmed down a bit, I’ll be back on blogging duty as per usual. Got a whole catalogue of things to Rant about, so watch this space. In the meantime, however, I’d really value your prayers for my family, my church and myself.

I want to leave you with a Psalm that has really blessed me over recent weeks (You can listen to the sermon I preached on it last Sunday here).

PSALM 62

To the choirmaster: according to Jeduthun. A Psalm of David.

1 For God alone my soul waits in silence;
from him comes my salvation.

2 He only is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.

3 How long will all of you attack a man
to batter him,
like a leaning wall, a tottering fence?

4 They only plan to thrust him down from his high position.
They take pleasure in falsehood.
They bless with their mouths,
 but inwardly they curse.

Selah

5 For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
for my hope is from him.

6 He only is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.

7 On God rests my salvation and my glory;
my mighty rock, my refuge is God.

8 Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him;
God is a refuge for us.

Selah

9 Those of low estate are but a breath;
those of high estate are a delusion;
in the balances they go up;
they are together lighter than a breath.

10 Put no trust in extortion;
set no vain hopes on robbery;
if riches increase, set not your heart on them.

11 Once God has spoken;
twice have I heard this:
that power belongs to God,

12 and that to you,
O Lord, belongs steadfast love.
For you will render to a man
 according to his work.