Monday, 23 January 2012

Unfriendly fire

One of the things that the internet has had the misfortune to perpetuate is the whole area of what is called Online Discernment Ministries. These are Christians who feel it is their duty to pretty much pull everything to pieces that doesn't fit with their own personal views on scripture.
I have been loathe to write this blog for some time as the last thing I want to do is fall into their way of online sniping.
I was going to call the blog "Friendly fire" but then found out that it is defined as "... inadvertent firing towards one's own friendly forces while attempting to engage enemy forces..." What I am talking about is neither inadvertent or an attempt to engage enemy forces. This is an outright attack on a fellow follower of Christ. The excuses given are often that people are in error & the Bible calls us to point out heresy.
A favourite misquoted scripture is Acts 17:11
11 Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

I see nothing noble about the often vicious diatribe that is written and spoken. There is also no eagerness to see if the message is true, rather a cruel delight in quoting people out of context and trying to find where they can point out the smallest of errors.

Yes I do believe that we need to search the scriptures to check if what is being spoken or written is sound Biblical doctrine. As a pastor I want to teach people to think, not just what to think. I want to create forums where people can ask questions and explore scripture together. Where we can help each other move forward in our relationship with God and understanding of His word. I don't see that happening with the proliferation of the modern day witch hunters.

The sad thing is, like blood-crazed dogs, they often turn on each other. Somewhere in the lust for heresy hunting, the Great Commission has been lost. People have turned from playground bullying to intellectual & spiritual bullying. A recent example I heard was of a street "preacher" bullying a young teenager because of the church he goes to????

This is not bringing people back to the cross, it is not making disciples or being salt & light to a dying world.
No wonder the world laughs at us. They can't hear the gospel because of the sound of unfriendly fire.
A Christian should be someone who reminds others of the personhood of Jesus Christ. Nothing in this reminds me or points people in my world to Jesus.
Ok rant over. What are your thoughts?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Back to basics 1

Being in Tanzania back in December reminded me yet again what is important to us as a church. 

It is fantastic seeing the beginning of another campus for NCLC. As with a baby, the 1st few years are vital for the continued development and growth of church. The more we get right at the start the less damage control we have to do later on.
Having received the blessing of Judah Caleb Cook into our family 17 months ago the basics of having a baby are fresh in my mind. Babies are thoroughly dependent on their caregiver and expect certain things from them- food, shelter, protection, love and not forgetting clearing up the mess they make. Planting a church or a campus is not too dissimilar.

As leaders we need to feed the church community, provide shelter & protection, give it love and clear up the mess that they make. When you haven't done it for a while you can forget the sleepless nights, the worry of getting it right and the cost of a newborn. Our NCLC Tanzania campus has reminded me of all this. The team of the Cotteys and the Hintons are doing a phenomenal job in getting things started but those of us who are parents all know how much easier life is when you have the support of our community around us. We also know how draining it can be when we feel we have to go through it alone. The UK NCLC campuses need to make sure that this baby and her parents over here not only know intellectually that they are connected and supported by us but also practically.

A couple of months ago Dee and I had the privilege of being in the USA and regularly phoned our kids back home. It was so good to hear their voices. Whilst in Tanzania I have Face Timed or Skyped home. The difference of not just hearing a voice but also SEEING a face has been unbelievable. Technology has made life apart so much better. The old saying "Out of sight, out of mind" is so true. The reverse is also true. With people in our view, whether in person or via technology, they are always fresh in our mind. When we connect let's try to connect with the team there visibly. They are bringing up a newborn and she is growing quickly.

Let's stay in touch with every method possible. 

My next blog will begin to look a bit more closely at how to raise a healthy baby/church community.

Tell me how you will keep the Tanzania team in sight and mind. 

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Hopelessly devoted to you.

Hopelessly devoted to you.

Today I was listening to some classic tunes from the film Top Gun. It brought back some great memories of years gone by. In the weird way my mind works at times, I ended up humming the classic Grease song by Olivia Newton John "Hopelessly devoted to you." It was sad I know but we have all done something as equally cheesy.

Anyway with those the only four words of the song that I know they began to go round in my head. I began to think about the words I was singing. 
What am I devoted to?
Is there a hopelessness about my devotion, an unrequited love.
Or is it a devotion that brings hope?

As we move into a brand new year I need to check-
  • The direction of my devotion
  • That my devotion level is high.
  • That my devotion is filled with hope.

Direction of devotion

What am I devoting my life to? Not just the grand ideas and values that I have but how does that translate to my everyday life. To my time, my finances, my language & my emotional buy-in.
The direction of my devotion must always line up with the Word of God, our plumb-line. What does the Bible tell us that our life should be devoted to?
Firstly it should be given over and devoted to God. There should be no thing and no one that comes before him. When God asked Abraham for his son God didn't want the sacrifice, He wanted to know of Abraham's totally obedience. Who was higher in Abraham's devotion, his son Isaac or his God, Yahweh. God asks us the same question. Who receives your devotion?
There are other people or things that need our devotion. Are we devoted to our spouse? Are we devoted to them above our children. Tough question but a Biblical principle. 
Acts 2 :42 informs us of what the early church community devoted themselves to.
The teaching the apostles had reached from Jesus
The fellowship- not just fellowship, but THE fellowship.
The breaking of bread- keeping what Christ had done  for them at the centre of their thinking.
Prayer- close, intimate, regular communication with God.

Does our life follow similar patterns?

Devotion level

I'm not really sure if you can measure the level of devotion. Are we just devoted or not? Whether we can measure it or not, people around us should be able to look at our lives and be able to see that there is something slightly unbalanced about our lives as devoted people are never balanced people.

Hope filled devotion

Does my devotion cause my life to be filled with hope whatever the circumstances around seem to show? Hebrews 11 shows us a group of people who were devoted to someone that caused their lives to be filled with the actions of faith and the certainty of hope. 
Lately, probably more than ever, I am filled with the hope of what Christ is doing and where He is leading us as a church. Circumstances would not seem to show this. In seven Sundays we will be without a venue, finances are incredibly tight and we are still in the grip of a global recession. 
So my hope cannot come from circumstances. My hope MUST come from someone that is bigger than my or even world circumstances.
The only way that our devotion can be hope-filled is to place it on the rock of ages, the God of eternity, the healer of the sick, the provider, the grace giver, the releaser of the captives, the forgiver of sinners, the lifter of the downtrodden, the home builder for the homeless, the only giver of hope who is totally worthy of our devotion

So my question is how will your world see the object of your devotion today?

NCLC New Year's day message 2012

New Years Day message from Andrew Flewers on Vimeo.